This morning we return to our study of 2 Corinthians after what has been a somewhat interrupted look. We started out fast and furious, and stayed on track, and over the summer, it has been very difficult because of the business of my own personal schedule and being gone so much. But we now find ourselves back in 2 Corinthians chapter 7 and some marvelous and wonderful things yet to come.
But as we pick up the text in chapter 7, we find ourselves dealing with verses 5 through 16. Chapter 7, verses 5 through 16. And that, as you might guess, is a longer passage than I like to deal with in one message or, for that matter, in one month.
That is a lot to cover. It will not take as long as it might, because it’s not really a lot of doctrinal information but some very practical and some very personal things that are very, very important and very instructive for our own lives. It has to do with Paul’s relationship, again, to the Corinthian church.
I suppose if we were going to title verses 5 to 16 in the most generic way, we could title it “Comfort out of Conflict.” It’s really about relationships. What produces joy in an otherwise difficult relationship? What brings back the comfort from the conflict?
But if we wanted to be more specific and less generic, we would be better off to title it “Restoring the Grieving Pastor’s Joy.” Restoring the grieving pastor’s joy, which sounds like a puritan title, but it isn’t at least to my knowledge. It’s all about Paul and his sadness over the disaffection of the Corinthian church and how his joy was restored.
I don’t think I need to beg the issue by spending a lot of time to say to you that ministry can be very, very difficult in itself. The demands of preparation are very, very difficult if one is going to interpret the Word of God and rightly divide it, week in and week out, through the years of one’s life.
You add to that the need to continually read the Word of God so that you’re exposed to God’s revelation and allowing the Spirit of God to refine your own life and your own thinking. You’re constantly reading theology so that you understand all the nuances of theology and can give an answer for the hope that is within you and confront error, because we are required to do that to refute those who teach error as well as build up those who are under the hearing of the truth.
Then beyond that, we are endeavoring to build the church through the development of leadership and training. And then there is the need to counsel and to restore and to rebuild those things that are broken and fallen, and to pick up the wounded, and to help the failing and the weak, and to sort of hold off the strong and the rebellious – all kinds of things that go into ministry.
And the great redeeming reward of that ministry, apart from the reward of heaven, is the positive relationships that develop between the one who ministers and his people. What makes ministry so rich and so fulfilling is changed lives and people-filled with appreciation and gratitude who grasp the truth, who apply the truth, who proclaim the truth, who walk the truth.
And when a pastor has the love and the response, the obedience, the submission, the support, the encouragement of his people, ministry - in spite of its difficulty, in spite of its relentlessness, in spite of its unending demands - can be a tremendous joy, a tremendous privilege. And it should be. It should be.
But at this particular point in the life of Paul and, in all honesty, most of the time in the life of Paul and, in all honesty, most of the time in the life of those who minister, it falls short of being what it should be. And ministry can be grief upon grief. And I’m not talking about the grief of the task itself, for what could be more exhilarating, and what could be more wonderful than spending all of your time studying the Word of God, endeavoring to know God better, know his Word better, live it out more faithfully? That in itself is exhilarating and joyous.
But ministry is fraught with grief because of difficulty in relationships between sheep and shepherd, people and pastor. And that’s where we find Paul as he writes 2 Corinthians. And there has not been a pastor, I don’t suppose, in the history of the Church, and there certainly – there certainly aren’t any today who don’t know the grief of trouble that comes to their heart when the people in whom they invest the most return the least.
At the time that Paul wrote this letter, right up until the very time he took the pen and sat down to write, he had been nursing a broken heart. You might assume that that broken heart came because of the tremendous outside pressure of a hostile world. And I mean he had really had to endure a lot. And he chronicles that in this letter.
Let me remind you, back in chapter 1, verse 4, he talks about his affliction. Verse 5 of chapter 1, he talks about his sufferings. Verse 6, again his affliction. Down in verse 8, his affliction, “being burdened excessively beyond our strength, so that we despaired even of life.” Verse 9, “We had the sentence of death within ourselves.” Verse 10, he was delivered from a great peril, a peril of death.” And you’re really not very far into this epistle until you get the picture that this man is in the midst of severe persecution from a hostile world.
We come down to chapter 4, in verse 8, and he continues to chronicle some of this, “We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not despairing; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed; always carrying about in the body the dying of Jesus” – that is to say he was always on the brink of death for the same reason Jesus gave His life, and that is the preaching of the truth.
Verse 11, “We are constantly being delivered over to death for Jesus’ sake.” Verse 12, “Death works in us.” Over in chapter 6, he goes back through the litany again, verse 4, “Endurance, afflictions, hardships, distresses” – verse 5 – “beatings, imprisonments, tumults, labors, sleeplessness, hunger.” And down in verse 9, he says, “As dying yet behold we live, as punished yet not put to death, as sorrowful yet always rejoicing, as poor yet making many rich, as having nothing yet possessing all things.” I mean that was life for him. There was tremendous external persecution and difficulty.
Over in chapter 11, verse 23 – you know this section; he talks about his labors, imprisonments, his beatings – so many beatings he couldn’t even remember them, the danger of death. Five times receiving 39 lashes, 3 times being beaten with rods stoned, 3 times shipwrecked, a night and a day in the deep. And then he talks about the dangers from every quarter in verse 26 and 27.
And then over in chapter and verse 10, he says, “I have learned to be content with weaknesses, insults, distresses, persecutions, and difficulties. And that was basically his life. And that might have been, at least in some people’s mind, enough to make a pastor lose his joy and be discomforted. But that wasn’t really the difficulty that broke his heart; that wasn’t really the hard thing to deal with. What was really difficult - chapter 11, verse 28 – “Apart from such external things is the daily pressure upon me because I have such care for the church.” It wasn’t what the world did to him that crushed him; it was what the church did to him.
Back in chapter 2 and verse 4, he says, “Out of much affliction and anguish of heart I wrote to you with many tears.” The world really never made him cry that I know of. None of his persecutors made him cry; it was his people that did that. This Corinthian group to which he had given over a year–and-a-half of his life where he had deposited the truth, and himself, and his heart, and they had kicked it around as if it was a football.
They allowed false teachers to come into their church and attack his character and malign him. And some of the people joined in and believed it. And there was even one member of the church who was a ringleader of the mutiny that joined with the false apostles. That one individual is probably the messenger from Satan he calls his “thorn in the flesh” in chapter 12.
And he had made a visit to Corinth, and upon that visit, that individual had confronted him face to face and, in an unkind and an unfair way, mistreated that great apostle. And the church hadn’t done anything about it. And they didn’t do anything with the man who did that. In fact, they had just allowed this whole conspiracy to elevate itself and joined in on some of the assaults of his character.
The visit, brief as it was, has been referred to by commentators as the sorrowful visit, because Paul says in chapter 2, verse 1, “I came, but I’m not coming again because I don’t want to go back through that sorrow again.” In fact, the brief visit was designed to find out about how they were doing - how they were doing in response to 1 Corinthians which dealt with so many issues, and how they were doing with the effects of the false teachers, and what was going on with this rebellion and this disloyalty, and this lack of discernment, and this tolerance of iniquity and disaffection toward himself. But the visit proved counterproductive and made things worse. The issue was not resolved. They had not dealt with the mutiny; they had not dealt with the man who so offended Paul publically and sinfully. And the ache in his heart was greater after the sorrowful visit than before. After that very discouraging visit, he didn’t want to go back he says in chapter 2, verse 1. But he did want to write them a letter.
And so he wrote them; he refers to it in chapter 2, verse 4, as I just read, “A letter wrote out of anguish of heart and tears,” and he addresses the issue of their disaffection, disloyalty, lack of love toward him.
He sent Titus also, his son in the faith, who could represent him. He sent Titus, perhaps with that letter, perhaps following that letter, we don’t know. But Titus went to find out what their response was. There weren’t any faxes in those days and no phones. And so, you had to send somebody and wait till he came back to give you the report firsthand.
Titus no doubt went with fear and trepidation, not knowing what might happen to him since he represented Paul, and Paul waited for Titus to return. While Paul was waiting, he was restless. Go back to chapter 2. Very restless.
In fact, he was so restless, he couldn’t minister effectively. And that’s exactly what Hebrews 13:17 means when it says, “Obey those who are over you, submit to your leaders for they have to give to give an account. And you want to submit to their leadership so they can do it with joy and not with grief, because if they minister with grief, it’s unprofitable to you.” Why? Because they don’t have a heart for it. It takes the heart out of their ministry, takes the joy out of their ministry, and they’re not going to be effective. And that is exactly where Paul was because of the disloyalty of these Corinthians.
Look in chapter 2, verse 12. Here he tells us a little about the situation that prompted the writing of the letter. “When I came to Troas for the gospel of Christ, and when a door was opened for me in the Lord” – he comes to the city of Troas; the Lord kicks the door of ministry wide open. A tremendous opportunity is there. But verse 13, “I had no rest for my spirit” – why? – “not finding Titus my brother. I couldn’t minister because I hadn’t had a report from Titus about the condition of the church. And in that anxiety, I couldn’t minister.” That is exactly what Hebrews 13:17 is talking about. Somebody who has so much grief it’s unprofitable to the people who could benefit from his ministry.
And so he says, “Taking my leave of them, I went to Macedonia. I couldn’t wait.” So, apparently, the rendezvous point was Troas. Paul got there on schedule. Titus didn’t. Paul, impatient and grieving deeply, could not wait. And so he started toward Macedonia himself, hoping to intersect Titus somewhere on the road.
He was restless. Would they listen? Would they repent? Would they deal with the man who had confronted him? Would they deal with the false apostles? Would they be kind to his beloved son in the faith Titus? Would they be loyal to him? He waited to hear, and as long as he didn’t hear, his restless heart couldn’t stand still. And so, he headed for Macedonia.
At that point, chapter 2, verse 13, the narrative breaks off. It stops. And in verse 14, he starts to talk about his minister. Chapter 2, verse 14, he just stops the narrative right there with the words, “I went to Macedonia.”
And then from chapter 2, verse 14 all the way to chapter 7 verse 4, he talks about his ministry. And in chapter 7, verse 5, he picks up the narrative. So, this has been a long digression about his ministry. But now, here in our text, chapter 7, verse 5, he returns to the story about why and how he wrote the letter.
Verse 5 of chapter 7, “For even when we came into Macedonia, our flesh had no rest, but we were afflicted on every side: conflicts without, fears within.” Guess what? He left Troas and headed for Macedonia, chapter 2, verse 13. Chapter 7, verse 5, he came to Macedonia – nothing changed. Nothing. He hadn’t found Titus; nothing changed. No relief. Still concerned about the anti-Paul faction and the need for church to deal with the man who sinned so viciously against him. He admits – look at it, verse 5, our flesh had no rest. That’s exactly how chapter 2, verse 13 put it. The words there, “There was no rest for my spirit.” Here he says, “Our flesh had no rest.” Now, I don’t want to make too much of a distinction between the fact that he says “spirit” there and “flesh” here, and somebody might assume he means something different; he doesn’t. When he used spirit there, he was simply referring to himself. And here, when he uses “flesh,” he’s simply referring to himself. Me. I. Myself. Had no rest, still worried about the breach caused by the church’s sin, worrying that that breach might be irreparable. The letter, he feared, might have made it worse, and Titus might have been rejected. And if Titus got rejected, he could be in some severe danger, not only from the church and the false apostles, but keep in mind, Corinth could be a hostile place for a lonely preacher. Paul knew the threat of persecution that faced him in his months there. And Titus, without the protection of the Corinthian church, could be highly vulnerable to a persecuting society.
Well, the effect of all this anxiety was that his human nature, his flesh – his human nature, subject to pain and the stress of life, had no relief. It’s reminiscent of Proverbs 13:12, where it says, “Hope deferred makes the heart sick.” His frail, human self, his feeble nature was deeply troubled. This tells you something about a shepherd’s heart, doesn’t it? The disobedient believers, the unfaithful churches were breaking his heart. And that’s the way it is. And people still do it, and churches still do it. Whenever I get together with a group of pastors, it’s always a collection of brokenhearted people. Disloyalties, frankly, abound. And I’m not talking about churches that make a proper assessment of an unfaithful pastor; I’m talking about churches that are disloyal to a faithful one. They cause them to live with a heavy burden of grief that takes the joy of their minister and cripples it.
In Paul’s case, he was still enduring the compound problems. Notice in verse 5, “We were afflicted on every side” – and then he defines it – “conflicts without, fears within.” The conflicts without, what would that be? Well, the word is machē– machē. It’s an interesting word; it means fightings. I don’t know, but it may be related to a word machaira, which means a sword. It’s used of quarrels and disputes, opposings, and probably has to do more with these persecutors who opposed the truth and wanted Paul silenced.
And no doubt he was suffering the same things the Macedonian churches were suffering. Look at chapter 8. The end of verse 1, he talks about the churches of Macedonia. Then, in verse 2, he says they were in a great ordeal of affliction.
So, obviously, in Macedonia, there was persecution of the church. Paul arrived and no doubt got hit with the same persecution, probably cranked up a few notches. After all, the Macedonian authorities may well have remembered Paul, because it was only just a few years earlier that he had caused a public riot in Philippi, that he had demolished the city jail in an earthquake, humiliated the civil authorities by demanding a public apology for his wrongful imprisonment. And it certainly wouldn’t be in the lest surprising if the Macedonian immigration officers were very anxious to get rid of this guy as soon as possible and were applying some great pressure to achieve it.
And in addition to that which was pretty much normal in his life, he says, “Fears within.” Phobos from which we get phobias. Anxieties. And what was the anxiety on the inside? It was concern for the church. He was troubled; he was troubled. In fact, his trouble is defined in one word in verse 6, “But God, who comforts the depressed” – he was depressed.
So, here we have the grieving pastor. Wandering all over, unable to minister effectively because of the grief of his heart, left one place, went to another place, left that place, went to another place. And we often see that with grieving pastors. They become peripatetic; they can’t land anywhere. The disloyalty and the lack of love of the people turns their heart so cold and unable to serve that they just pack up and go, hoping somewhere else they’ll find a greener pasture. This is the grieving pastor.
But that’s not really the theme of this text, because the narrative doesn’t end there. Notice verse 6, “But God, who comforts the depressed, comforted us by the coming of Titus.”
So, what do we have, then, in this text but the grieving pastor’s joy, comfort out of conflict. The rest of the text, from verse 6 on down to verse 16 is all about joy. It look how it ends, verse 16, “I rejoice that in everything I have confidence in you.” So, this whole section is bracketed by his joy.
Back to verse 13, “For this reason we have been comforted.” In fact, the word “comfort” appears in this section, in some form, six times. And the word “joy” five times. So, the coming of Titus at last brings joy to the grieving pastor’s heart.
Now, it doesn’t mean that there were no problems in Corinth. Hey, the false apostles were still there, and he addresses them in chapter 10, 11, 12, and 13. A long section. And frankly, at the end of chapter 13, he addresses the people in the congregation, though they may have been few, who were still not sure where they stood and may well not have even been Christians, and he calls on them to examine themselves to see if they’re even in the faith. But the report is that the vast majority are reaffirming Paul, and that’s what brings back his joy.
Now, as we consider what comes in this very, very personal section, this is a great insight into relationships. The relationship of a man to his people, obviously, in this context, but it works for any relationship. Here are the ingredients that restore broken relationships. What was it that Titus reported that brought back his joy? What was it that Titus said? That’s what we’re going to find out.
A smile breaks out on Paul’s face. His step has quickened a little. His heart races. His body relaxes because Titus has arrived. I suppose, in one sense, it would have been enough to just have Titus there no matter what the report was. Because even if it was a bad report, at least you had somebody to cry on, somebody to commiserate with. And after all, they were deep friends and co-workers, and just the fellowship alone would be wonderfully rich and rewarding.
But it was more than just the coming of Titus. He says that in verse 7, “Not only by his coming, but also by the report that he brought.” In verse 6, he says, “But God, who comforts the depressed, comforted us by the coming of Titus.”
The word “depressed,” by the way, is a very interesting word – tapeinos. Just so you understand it, in case you ever run into that word somewhere, it doesn’t refer to those who are spiritually humble, it refers to those who are humiliated, and you want to make that distinction. It’s one thing to be spiritually humble; it’s something else to be humiliated. It has to do with people who are lowly I the economic sense, in the social sense, or in the emotional sense. People who are down and out, downcast. People who literally elicit compassion by their very condition. That’s how it’s used in the Scripture. In fact, it’s used many times in the New Testament with that kind of perspective in mind.
It says, for example, in Romans 12:16, using the same word, “Associate with the lowly.” People who are down on the bottom. We might say in the pits, in the dumps, emotionally downcast. And that’s where Paul was. He was among the tapeinos, the people down in the dumps. “But God, who comforts the depressed” – I have to stop there and just say that’s an attribute of God. God is a comforter. It is characteristic of God that he comforts depressed people. I would suggest that if you ever get depressed, that’s probably the best place to go, since the comfort would be the greatest, most magnanimous, far-reaching, and wise.
And by the way, back in chapter 1, God is introduced, in this book, by this very attribute. Verse 3, “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our affliction.” I mean this whole period in Paul’s life is a period of deep grief, overwhelmed by divine comfort. And by the time he sets that pen in motion, all he can think about is that God is a God of comfort, because he writes the letter after Titus and he meet, and his heart is comforted, and he writes.
The only qualification, by the way, necessary to receive the comfort of God is that you’re his and you need it. That’s the only requirement. Just be suffering, and God, the God of all comfort, will come to alleviate your suffering if it’s not chastening for your sin.
Different, by the way, from the false gods of paganism, who are cruel, uncaring, apathetic, indifferent, without compassion, without affection, and without love. They are to be feared, they have the dominant propensity to harm, and so you spend your time in the false religions of the world trying to appease these otherwise cruel deities. We shouldn’t be surprised by that, after all, because all the false God’s of the world are connected to satanic system. And fallen as Satan is, and all of his angels are, as wicked as they are in their fallen and unredeemable condition, you would assume that they would be wicked in the way that they would treat people. And so, the systems of religion they develop reflect their own wickedness.
But God is not a God who has to be appeased because he’s always angry. God is by nature a God of comfort and who does comfort. Here was a man in the pits, totally depressed, and God comforted him. And God did it by bringing Titus. The word “coming of Titus” is parousia. The presence of Titus. “Titus arrived, and I was comforted.” Does he mean just by the fellowship of Titus? Well, in part. Surely in part. I mean it was wonderful to have Titus there and to embrace him as a friend, and to have somebody to commiserate with and to share your burdened heart with, and to pray with and all of that.
But in verse 7, he says, “Not only by his coming, but by his report.” Sure, for the moment it was good to have Titus, and to find out he was in one piece, and he’d been well treated. And the dangers that were there had passed. The potential of a heartbreaking rejection by the church had passed, and it was just so good to have Titus back and to embrace him again in friendship. That’s all very, very important. But that’s really not what was going to bring back the grieving preacher’s joy. I mean all that would happen, if Corinth hadn’t changed was, you’d have two grieving preachers who feel better because somebody else is there to cry on.
So, it’s only a passing point that Paul is comforted in fellowship with Titus. The real issue is he was comforted by what Titus had to say. He was comforted by the church’s response.
Now, the rest of the text chronicles that response. What you get here is Paul interacting with the information he got from Titus in the letter – 2 Corinthians – which he sends back to the church. And you’re going to find here – I’m going to give you seven before we’re done – seven ingredients that restore the grieving pastor’s joy. Seven elements that bring back a broken relationship. Very, very practical. Wonderful. Let’s just take one of them this morning: loyalty. Loyalty. We don’t need much time to cover this one. Verse 7, Paul says, “It is God who comforts, and he comforted us by the coming of Titus; not only by his coming, but also by the comfort with which he was comforted in you, as he reported to us your longing, your mourning, your zeal for me; so that I rejoiced even more.”
What am I saying? “I rejoiced even more about the report than I did about the coming of Titus. It was exceptionally comforting to see Titus, but it was far more comforting and cause of far more joy to get the report that he gave.”
And he starts out by saying, “By the comfort with which he was comforted in you.” How they treated Titus was very, very important. Titus needed comfort. He shared Paul’s anxiety; he shared Paul’s concern over the Corinthian defection. And he, no doubt, went with fear and anxiety, not knowing just what to expect. And the fact that he came back, and it was clear from his demeanor that he was comforted, was so greatly encouraging to the apostle Paul.
Obviously, the Corinthians had opened their arms and hearts to Titus. They gave Titus comfort; they gave Titus joy with their new attitude. They had a right response to the sorrowful visit and the severe letter that followed it. They finally got their act together. The worst hopes of – I should say the worst fears of Titus were not realized. Titus found a good response, and he came back with a wonderful report. What did he report? This is so good; “He reported to us three things: your longing, your mourning, your zeal for me.”
Can I just take you to “for me” first? That’s the issue here. It’s not about theology. It’s not about church organization. It’s not about ministry modes and models and techniques. It’s about a relationship. And the little phrase “for me,” by virtue of the Greek construction, connects to all three of the prior statements. “Your longing, your mourning, your zeal” are all connected to “for me.” It was your longing for me, your mourning for me, your zeal for me that caused me to rejoice even more than in the coming of Titus.
It wasn’t that he liked them better than he liked Titus. It was that the relationship with Titus was intact; the one with them was not. Now here’s a wonderful, wonderful definition of loyalty – of loyalty. By the way, that’s a word you don’t hear much today. I don’t know if it’s in contemporary vocabularies. Loyalty? Hard to – hard to hold onto loyalty in a society where everybody does whatever he wants. There seems to be no loyalty to marriage. No loyalty to family. No loyalty even to churches, no loyalty to friends. Loyalty seems to somehow have gotten lost in this post-modern, most Christian culture.
But if you want to know what loyalty is – and it is a virtue, may I go beyond that and say this? It is the greatest virtue in any human relationship or for that matter in any divine one. It is the greatest virtue in any relationship. I have believed that through the years. The most desirable virtue in all relationships is loyalty.
How do you define it? First, your longing. What is that? You know what longing means – yearning. It is intensified by the addition of a prepositional prefix. “Your longing for me.” What do you mean by that? “Your longing to see me again, to hear me again, to sit under my teaching again, to have the relationship restored to what it was.” This was wonderful news to a man who didn’t want to go back again because he was already sorry enough about the relationship, and he couldn’t deal with any more sorrow. And he just didn’t even want to deal with them. He just separated because he couldn’t really take any more pain.
And now he finds out that they have a longing for him. Not a tolerance, but a longing, a yearning to see him, and to hear him, and to touch him again, and to sit under his teaching and have the relationship restored. That’s a component of loyalty: personal longing for fellowship, mutual ministry, mutual caring, mutual benefit.
Secondly, he mentions “your morning.” “I’m so happy about your mourning.” What is that? Paul wrote them with tears and anguish, as I mentioned in chapter 2, verse 4, he says that. He cried when he wrote that letter. He cried, and he left the stains of his tears all through it. And I’m sure they read it, and they felt the tears as if they were falling on the floor of the church as it was being read. They could feel the anguish of his heart, and they had anguish, too. And they lamented.
They were sorrowful. Over what? Over their sin against Paul, over their breach of that relationship, over what they had done to bring him pain. That’s loyalty. Loyalty on the positive side is an intense yearning for that individual, for fellowship, communion.
On the negative side, it is an intense mourning over anything that might be done by you to violate that relationship. They regretted that they had mistreated Paul. They regretted that they had not confronted that man who viciously withstood him. They regretted the grief they had brought to his heart. They regretted that the man didn’t have enough pain traveling around doing what he was doing, but they had to add more to it so that they literally caused him not to be able to effectively minister. They grieved over that. They wept over their foolish sin against Paul and against his Lord. That’s loyalty.
You know you’re loyal to someone when you have a longing and a yearning to be with them, to see them, to hear them, and when you grieve in your heart over anything that you might have done that would send them the message that you were no longer faithful to that relationship.
Thirdly, your zeal. Zeal is a fascinating concept. Zeal has two sides to it. The best way to define it is not by some word or some synonym. You can try the word “passion,” but passion is fraught with all kinds of meaning from the legitimate to the ludicrous with perfume thrown in the middle.
So, it’s better, probably, to define it some other way. The way I like to define zeal is to understand that zeal is a combination of two emotions equally strong: one is love, and one is hate; one is solicitude, and one is hostility; one is peace, and one is anger – not necessarily exact opposites.
What do I mean by that? Zeal is a combination of such strong feelings, such strong affection, such strong love for someone that you hate anything that harms that individual. So, it’s a combination of love and hate. Where you have zeal, you are drawn out of yourself with an overwhelming affection, and at the same time, an overwhelming protection.
And the best illustration that I know of it would be starting in Psalm 69:9. You don’t need to look it up; I’ll give it to you. David. David is looking at the temple, the house of God, the place of worship. And he says, “Zeal for Your house has eaten me up.” It’s a strange statement, but it really gives you the crux of the definition. “I love the temple. I love your courts, O Lord.” Doesn’t he say that? “The birds have found a nesting place. I love to be in the courts of the Lord. I love Your house. But zeal for it is eating me up.” What do you mean by that? “There are people who are desecrating, dishonoring, blaspheming Your house, and it’s tearing me up. I can’t stand it.” And so, you see, on the one hand, this love, this affection; on the other hand, this hostility and hatred for anything that touches that which he so deeply loves.
And John 2, Jesus comes to Jerusalem at the beginning of his ministry, and he makes a whip, and he goes in the temple. Do you think He loves the house of God? Sure He loves the house of God. And I’ll tell you something. Because He loves the house of God, He hates the terrible iniquity going on in it; so, he makes a whip and cleanses the temple. In Psalm 69:9, “Zeal for Your house has eaten me up.” That’s zeal.
Real loyalty has such yearning for the individual that it hates anything that affects negatively that individual, the object of that love. In other words, we could say, in a simple vernacular, loyalty sticks up for whoever it’s loyal to.
Here these false apostles came into the church; they started criticizing and undermining the integrity of Paul, and people started buying into that stuff. That is overt disloyalty. There’s no zeal there. They should have run to his defense. They should have jumped on the bandwagon to defend him immediately. They knew the man that he was. There was no question about that.
Loyalty is at the heart of every relationship. Every relationship. You don’t ever want to be able to conduct a relationship with someone that has real depth and real integrity if you don’t believe they’re going to be loyal. Loyalty sometimes means you say what has to be said. Paul had a loyal love for the Corinthians and hit them right between the eyes when he needed to fire the guns of conviction.
But loyalty is crucial in a relationship. Loyalty means you have a yearning for that individual; you mourn whenever you do anything at all that could harm that relationship, because it’s so precious, and where your longing and your yearning and your desire for that object of your loyalty is so strong that you literally go to battle to defend that person against any attack.
I hope you’re loyal to your spouse that way. I hope you’re loyal to your children that way. I hope you’re loyal to your friends that way. I hope you’re loyal to your church leaders that way. That’s what makes strong and fulfilling relationships.
Well, no wonder Paul was encouraged. He found out they were loyal. That’s the beginning of the grieving pastor’s joy. He says, “So, I rejoiced even more.” If you want to crush somebody, be disloyal to the relationship. You want to crush your pastors, be disloyal to them. It just takes the heart out of people. It just cuts the heart out. When you give and you pour out, and you trust, and you care for, and you lead people, and you feed people, and you nurture them, and you pray for them, and you endeavor to have an influence in their life, and you come to the end of yours – like Paul did – and you have to say, in the last paragraph you ever wrote, the last letter you ever wrote, “No one stood by me at my defense. Demas has forsaken me. All who were in Asia have left me. Please come and see me and bring my coat,” that’s sad, isn’t it? But that’s how it is.
And God, who comforts the depressed, has his way of sending comfort. But nothing is as comforting as loyalty. To the one who is loyal to God, you must give your unwavering loyalty. And so, he was thrilled that even after so much opposition and confusion and such strong confrontation, the people were loyal to him.
I wish we had time for the second point, but we don’t. Let’s pray.
Father, this is so helpful to us. We would never ask these things in a self-serving way, and yet they’re so important for the life of Your Church and Your people. Thank You that You’ve put them in the Word here. Thank You that You’ve given us this revelation. And I suppose rarely is it ever preached, rarely is that little section of Scripture and these profound insights ever discussed, and yet how important they are.
What a treasure Your Word is. Sometimes we rush to the profound theological sections and think that the good things are there when the good things are just tucked into these little expressions of personal relationships that are superintended by You.
Thank You, Lord, that we have to live our lives in relationships, and You’ve reminded us again of the need for loyalty. Help us to turn around and go the other way if we’ve been disloyal. May You somehow use us to be the messenger of comfort, as You, the God of all comfort, dispense it to Your children who are downcast.
Thank You that You’re there to do that always. And we give You praise in Christ’s name, amen.
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