A L O O K I N T O T H E A P O S T L E ' S H E A R T
Paul was a minister of the new covenant. He brought with him the good news of the gospel, the freedom found only in the Spirit, and foundational doctrines that shaped the early Church.
We live in a day and age when right and wrong, truth and error, conviction and principle are fairly non-existent. However, Paul was a man of greatness. And just like all men and women who accomplish great things, he had a distinct set of ethics. While many of these principles were evident from his life and actions, he gives us a short list of them here in II Corinthians. So let’s take a look at these codes of conduct and see what we can learn from the Apostle Paul.
Therefore, having this ministry by the mercy of God, we do not lose heart. But we have renounced disgraceful, underhanded ways. We refuse to practice cunning or to tamper with God’s word, but by the open statement of the truth we would commend ourselves to everyone’s conscience in the sight of God.”
~II Corinthians 4:1-2
Did Not Lose Heart
Paul had many trials and afflictions throughout his ministry that could have easily caused him to despair, become discouraged, and lose heart. But he didn’t. Paul refused to become laden down with the trials, persecutions, and difficulties of his work. He did not give up the fight or the work God had set before him. Why? Because of the mercy of God. Paul knew that his ministry was actually God’s ministry, and no matter what the world threw at him, nothing would detour him from his assignments from God.
What can we learn from this? Well, we also experience hard times in life. While they may not be anywhere near as big as Paul’s afflictions, they are big to us. But no matter how hard the going gets, keep looking to the goodness of God and don’t lose heart! Discouragement often leads to compromise, and the last thing we want to do is compromise our life, witness, and testimony.
Disgraceful, Underhanded Ways and Cunning
Being steadfast and unmoved by discouragement and trials is the foundation to living by good morals and principles. The next tenet of Paul’s code of ethics was the things that he refused to participate in: disgraceful, underhanded ways and cunning. These were attributes prevalent among the false teachers and Judaizers of the first century, and Paul is sharing that he—and his co-workers—refuse to participate in these manipulative practices.
Can we say the same? Or are we drawn in by the clever marketing tactics of the world and seek to use the world’s way of combining truth with falsehood in our own lives? Do our lives reflect the fact that we also have renounced disgraceful, underhanded ways and refuse to practice cunning?
Tampering with God’s Word
Another practice Paul and his associates refused to participate in was tampering with God’s Word. This is huge. For as a leading teacher among the first century Church and author of a large part of the New Testament, Paul could have easily edited and “revised” the message God gave him. However, he refused to even consider the notion but always taught 100% truth and did not sugarcoat or attempt to make more palatable God’s message of coming wrath and redemption in Christ.
Now what about us? We live in an era that tampering with God’s Word and using Scripture out of context is rampant. Are we guilty of it? Or have we, like Paul, purposed to refuse to practice this abominable deed?
Statement of Truth
Finally, Paul shares with us the one principle he operates his life around: the statement of truth. In all things, at all times, in all situations, he resolves to openly state the truth whether people want to hear it or not. And not everyone liked the truth that Paul had to share. In fact, he was arrested, beaten, and eventually killed because of his faithfulness to state the truth. Nevertheless, he did not fail in his mission and boldly proclaimed the truth to everyone he came in contact with.
This ought to be such an example and encouragement to us! For we live in a culture that wants to eradicate truth and silence those who dare to speak out with it. So will we fearlessly, boldly, and lovingly be faithful to openly state truth as Paul did, even if it costs us popularity, “friends”, income, or our career? Will our commendation be the fact that we never shy from sharing truth?
I hope so. Paul lived a successful Christian life in the sight of God and was a useful tool in God’s hands. We want the same to be said of us. Therefore, we ought to pay attention and learn from Paul’s code of ethics and the principles that governed his life. So let us heed, let us glean from, and let us implement these practical tools that we also may live successful Christian lives before the One who knows and sees all things.
“Brothers, join in imitating me, and keep your eyes on those who walk
according to the example you have in us.”