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2nd CORINTHIANS 12:20-21

"For I fear, lest, when I come, I shall not find you such as I would, and that I shall be found unto you such as ye would not: lest there be debates, envyings, wraths, strifes, backbitings, whisperings, swellings, tumults: and lest, when I come again, my God will humble me among you, and that I shall bewail many which have sinned already, and have not repented of the uncleanness and fornication and lasciviousness which they have committed."

 

 Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth.
II Timothy 2:15

 

INTRODUCTION:

These two inspired verses teach us several great truths!

They certainly tell us how Paul prepared a Church for one of his upcoming visits!  In fact, Paul is coming to visit the Believers at Corinth for a third time. See 2nd Corinthians 13:1 --- "This is the third time I am coming to you."  Paul did not have an "advance" man or a "forerunner," so he often just wrote a letter instead!

The verses also give us Paul's view of sin ... at least sins in the Church.  That is ... the Churches over which he had oversight.    He took a rather "dim" view of church members living in iniquity!

Then the text shows us Paul's response to sin in the Church!  He is humbled and embarrassed by such! 

Next we are here shown that Paul is not passive toward such worldliness!    He plainly says that if he finds blatant sin in the Assembly ... he is then not going to be in the "mood" or "frame of mind" the Corinthians would have wanted!  He plans to deal with both the sin and the ones sinning!

Lastly we are shown Paul's determination and resolve to visit a place where he is disliked and mocked and has enemies!   Corinth has nearly turned against the Apostle in some ways!   But, personal feelings aside, the work of God must have priority!   The Person of Jesus must be the focus in Corinth ... not the personality of Paul!

With these things in mind ... let's get started:

 

LESSON 1:

Paul has such a practical way of expressing things.

He is planning to visit the Corinthians again.  This will be his third time to minister in their presence.  In 2nd Corinthians 13:1 Paul clearly states: "This is the third time I am coming to you."

Yet there are some problems in the Church at Corinth.

Some have tolerated immorality in their midst.

Others have sued their brethren before lost judges.

Still a few more were confused about God's order and plan concerning sex.

And they couldn't tell what was "right" or "wrong" about much of their food and drink.

They too had argued about spiritual gifts.

And had languished over the "love offering" they had promised to receive for the poorer Brethren in Jerusalem.

Plus they had allowed false teachers to enter the church who tried to bring many back under the law of Moses!

And some had even turned against Paul, calling him names and demeaning him before the whole Church!

Into this chaotic situation Paul had to return ... to "straighten" things in accordance to the Word of God!

And his expected "arrival" could be a bit tense!

Strained!

Awkward!

So he writes:  "For I fear, lest, when I come, I shall not find you such as I would." (2nd Corinthians 12:20) Paul here is really expressing a fear.  He is concerned that when he arrives ... things will still NOT be what they should!  

Some might be still living in sin, having unrepentant hearts!

Still arguing and accusing and lusting and being stingy!

The verb "would" (in Greek = "thelo") simply means "to desire."  Paul WANTS things to be right when he gets there!   But he is realistically concerned that they might not be!

And IF Paul comes and things are in a spiritual mess, Paul is NOT going to be pleased!

He will be one upset Preacher!

"And that I shall be found unto you such as ye would not" he promises!  (2nd Corinthians 12:20 again)

Paul so wanted this third and likely final visit with the Corinthians to be pleasant, a time of love and fellowship around the things of God.

But if they had not done right ... Paul was going to ... roughly if necessary ... reprove, rebuke and exhort them in no uncertain terms!

I would to God that there were still some Preachers like that around this nation!

Well, thank God, there are a few ... but not as many as in years past!

Men who would become spiritually indignant ... mad ... at sin!

Men who would not inflate everyone's ego ... right or wrong!

Men who were not back-scratches or ear-ticklers!

Prophets of God!

The Old Testament cried, "Where is the Lord God of Elijah?"

Today I am asking, "Where are the Elijahs of the Lord God?"

Sin upset Paul!

Today too many of us don't even notice it!

Tomorrow, Lord willing, we shall see what Paul feared might still exist in the Corinthian Church!

It's quite a list!

In fact, instead of sounding "Greek," the sins of these saints sound "modern" and "American" and entirely too "contemporary!"

                                                                              --- Dr. Mike Bagwell

 

 

LESSON 2:

Paul, just before his third visit to the Church at Corinth, wrote these words: "For I fear, lest, when I come, I shall not find you such as I would, and that I shall be found unto you such as ye would not: lest there be debates, envyings, wraths, strifes, backbitings, whisperings, swellings, tumults."  2nd Corinthians 12:20

The expression Paul used here, "lest there be," suggests that these sins likely already exist in the Corinthian Assembly.

And Paul knew it!

He had been given several reports from the Church since his last being there.

Titus was the most recent "messenger."

"Debates" translates "eris," a Greek noun meaning  "quarrels" or "arguments."

"Envyings" (in Greek = "zelos") are heated feelings of passion ... usually associated with wanting something someone else possesses!  "Zeo," its root verb means "to boil!"  Pretty "hot!"

"Wraths" ("thumos") indicate outbursts of extreme anger!  Its root verb, "thuo," means to breathe hard!    In Greek two words generally define anger.  "Thumos," used here, means anger that comes suddenly, quickly explodes, says its piece, and is done with it!  The other word, "orge," is an anger that builds slowly ... but once it's here ... watch out!  It lasts and lasts and lasts! 

"Strifes," an interesting word for sure, is "eritheia," and means something like "a spirit of divisiveness," a desire to make "cliques" in a Church, running for "office" ... a "popularity" contest sort of thing!  Its root source, "erithos," means one who is for sale! 

And "backbitings," in Greek "katalalia," just means "talking" ("laleo") "down" ("kata") about someone!  Verbally tearing them to shreds!  Gossip!  Slander!  The other time it is used in the New Testament (only found twice) Peter calls it "evil speaking."  This is defamation of character and it often happens in most Baptist Churches!

Then "whisperings" are mentioned.  "Psithurismos" means sneaky (on the quiet side) but harmful communication!  Again the sins of the tongue are in view.  You know, the old "don't tell anybody this" syndrome!  Some teachers believe the word is derived from a form of "pseudomai" and, if so, it means to speak an untruth ... quietly and subversively!  Like:  "I'm not absolutely sure about this but I heard ...."

"Swellings," are what my Dad used to call "pouting" and "sulking" kinds of acts! The root word, "phusioo," indicates being inflated (like a baloon about to "pop"), all blown up!  This could insinuate real anger or petty little temper fits or days of staying in one's room, not coming out for anything!  It also could typify pride, being "stuck up!"

Then Paul slows down a bit and adds just one more sin to their list!  "Tumults" is a picturesque word.  "Akatastasia" means "not" ("a") to "stand" (stasia") in one's place ... "under" ("kata") the proper authority!  Just being "out of place!" God has a place for each of us ... in the home, on the job, at Church ... everywhere.  To be out of place constantly indicates the heart of a rebel!  And such activity will ruin a Church!

What a list the Holy Spirit has complied here!

Things to AVOID ... if you want revival!

By the way, rest assured, if these things existed (or still existed) when Paul finally arrived at Corinth ... war was "on!"  He challenged each sin and the devil behind it ... and attacked viciously, with the Word of God!

Shouldn't we do the same?

                                                                             --- Dr. Mike Bagwell

 

 

LESSON 3:

The Apostle Paul, just before his third visit to the Church at Corinth, writes: "And lest, when I come again, my God will humble me among you, and that I shall bewail many which have sinned already, and have not repented of the uncleanness and fornication and lasciviousness which they have committed." 2nd Corinthians 12:21

If Paul arrives in Corinth ... and finds unconfessed sins and unrepentant church-members ... he will be impacted two different ways!

Here comes Paul's attitude toward the "sins of the saints!"

First of all, he says through such carnality in the Church, God will "humble" him!  The verb here, "tapeinoo," means "to be made low."  To "be abased."  To "be reduced." 

Paul, who had "pastored" at Corinth for well over a year (18 months) ... had, as do all Pastors, the goal of helping the Corinthians overcome sins, those petty little things that so beset true believers.

But at Corinth something was different!

Some of these professing Christians had not make a clean break with the world as they should have done!

I believe Paul thinks many of them not to be truly saved!

Such dirty living in a Church of Christ Jesus, especially one "planted" by Paul, would indeed be a devastating experience for the godly preacher!

Paul feels crushed!

I fear many Preachers today could care less about the spiritual quality of the lives their people live!

As long as the "pay" is good and the atmosphere "friendly" ... what else can a Pastor want?  Or so it seems many think!

Well, here's Jesus' goal for His Flock:  "That he might present it to himself a glorious church, not having spot, or wrinkle, or any such thing; but that it should be holy and without blemish."  (Ephesians 5:27)  What a thought!

A sinless Saviour of course longs for a purified Body, His Church, His Bride!

Paul, according to 2nd Corinthians 11:29, got "hot" when his people were overcome by sins!  "Who is weak, and I am not weak? who is offended, and I burn not?" 

Secondly, Paul will "bewail" over those who have sinned without repenting! This verb, "pentheo," means "to grieve," as if someone was dead!  To mourn! To be sorrowful!  It is derived from "pascho," the verb indicating an intense feeling, usually one of pain!  Such sins at Corinth made Paul "suffer pain!"

Again I say ... much to our shame ... that we seldom react to sins as did Paul here!

Sin was serious business to this man of God!

How dare we "play" with it?

                                                                      --- Dr. Mike Bagwell

 

 

LESSON 4:

Paul was fearful that when he arrived in Corinth for his "third" visit, things might not be as they should!  He suspected sins were being too mildly tolerated in the Church. 

Paul would be greatly disturbed if ... many had "sinned" and not "repented" before God!

"And lest, when I come again, my God will humble me among you, and that I shall bewail many which have sinned already, and have not repented of the uncleanness and fornication and lasciviousness which they have committed." 2nd Corinthians 12:21

The verb "sinned" is unusual.  It is only used by Paul in all the New Testament and even then only here in 2nd Corinthians.  It is spelled "proamartano" and means "having sinned beforehand."  It is formed here as a Perfect Participle in the active voice.  These church folks had sinned on their own!  No one made them do it.  These sins did not supernaturally overwhelm them!  They chose to sin!  That's what the "active" voice here reveals.

Also the sins they committed were done in the past, prior to Paul's writing ... yet had continued even until the very present moment as Paul held the pen in his hand! 

This is a serious situation!

Adding to their guilt, these "many" professing Believers in Corinth had not "repented."  Here is a classic case of Christians needing to repent, or at least so-called Christians!

The verb "repent" is "metanoeo," and means to change one's mind!  To change your thinking about an issue ... with a resultant change in behavior! 

This had not happened in one of Paul's dearest Churches. 

No doubt the whole Church was not living in sin, but "many" were.

When a true saint of God sins ... "conviction" will grip him or her, Holy Spirit induced conviction!

Sorrow and grief will ensue.  It has too!  The Holy Spirit has been grieved and quenched!

These things will lead to "repentance," that change of heart and mind we just discussed!

And the sin or sins will be "confessed" to the Lord!  "If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness."  1st John 1:9

After such confession, we will also "forsake" those wrong doings!  "He that covereth his sins shall not prosper: but whoso confesseth and forsaketh them shall have mercy."  Proverbs 28:13

Then sweet communion and fellowship with the dear Lord, broken by our "sins," can and will be restored!   King David knew this well.  Listen to him:  "If I regard iniquity in my heart, the Lord will not hear me."  Psalm 66:18

Any other course of action concerning our sins, anything less than confession and separation, is inferior to God's perfect plan for our lives.

Neither Paul, nor any other godly Preacher, will settle for unholy living!

                                                                                    --- Dr. Mike Bagwell

 

 

LESSON 5:

Paul's greatest fear just may have been these last three sins he listed!  I mean the possibility that they were common in the lives of some professing Corinthian Believers!

Let's read our verse one more time:  "And lest, when I come again, my God will humble me among you, and that I shall bewail many which have sinned already, and have not repented of the uncleanness and fornication and lasciviousness which they have committed."  2nd Corinthians 12:21

Paul strongly suspects that some immorality still remains in the Corinthian Church!

Remember, this is the place that tolerated either incest or fornication/adultery in one of its families!  Paul wrote to them back in 1st Corinthians 5:1 ... "It is reported commonly that there is fornication among you, and such fornication as is not so much as named among the Gentiles, that one should have his father's wife." 

Corinth was a wicked place and many of the new Christians there had been converted from such immoral backgrounds.

BUT after Paul's ministry there ... and Titus' preaching too, some things should have changed!  After all, Paul reminded them:  "If any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new."

He had also commanded them to:  "Be ye not unequally yoked together with unbelievers."  And to ... "Come out from among them, and be ye separate, saith the Lord, and touch not the unclean thing." 

Yet "many" of them had yet "committed" such sins as lasciviousness, which we are about to define.

"Committed" is "prasso" in Greek.   It means to practice something!  To exercise oneself in a matter!  This indicates not a one-time "fling" or "affair," but a lifestyle of wickedness!

Paul will not have it in the Church!

This is deadly serious business!

The three sins Paul specifically mentions are now to be discussed.

"Uncleanness" is in Greek "akatharsia" and means NOT WASHED or NOT PURGED.  The word at first just meant dirty ... like an upswept floor or a soiled garment.  Then it came to mean "ceremonially" unclean ... as when a man had touched a dead body therefore could not worship at the Temple.  Next it implied "moral" impurity!  Sexual sins!  And that is exactly how Paul is using it here.

"Fornication" translates "porneia" and means harlotry.  It's "root" verb is the word "to sell!"  This is sex for sale!  Not just for money either!  Perhaps just for pleasure!  Or a better job!  Or a free night in a motel!   Or a wild party down at the heathen temple!

Then, finally, "lasciviousness" is listed.  This word, "aselgeai," means NOT SELF CONTROLLED!  But it has an even darker shade of meaning that that.  It indicated sin that has become so bold and so wanton that it flaunted all rules of decency!  This person just did not care who knew what was happening in his or her life ... and was proud of the sins being committed!  Not ashamed at all!

It sounds to me like some unsaved people had somehow crept into this church congregation! 

And I believe that's exactly why Paul writes just a few verses later:  "Examine yourselves, whether ye be in the faith; prove your own selves. Know ye not your own selves, how that Jesus Christ is in you, except ye be reprobates?" 2nd Corinthians 13:5

I say "Amen!"

If one has been truly saved ... these kinds of sins will wither and die!

These folks must either repent ... or face the consequences!

                                                                                     --- Dr. Mike Bagwell

 

 

CONCLUSION:

The Text we've just studied contains two lists of "sins."  Do notice them carefully:

"For I fear, lest, when I come, I shall not find you such as I would, and that I shall be found unto you such as ye would not: lest there be debates, envyings, wraths, strifes, backbitings, whisperings, swellings, tumults: and lest, when I come again, my God will humble me among you, and that I shall bewail many which have sinned already, and have not repented of the uncleanness and fornication and lasciviousness which they have committed."  2nd Corinthians 12:20-21

The first list might be called "social" sins.

The second list obviously consists of "sexual" sins.

And therein we have the two areas of disobedience into which Paul's "vice lists" always seem to fall.

Some folks battle social issues ... sins of the tongue and the like.

While others face bodily challenges, sensual in nature.

Either way ... these things are "wrong" and have no place at the House of God!

But, Brother Bagwell, what does Paul want from his people?

He has already plainly told the Corinthian Church his goal.

"For I am jealous over you with godly jealousy: for I have espoused you to one husband, that I may present you as a chaste virgin to Christ."  2nd Corinthians 11:2

What a "job description" for a Pastor!

Holy living!

God, help us to follow Thee.

To that we must all say a hearty "Amen!"

                                                                          --- Dr. Mike Bagwell

 

MAY THESE BIBLE STUDIES PROVE TO BE A HELP TO YOU AS YOU LIVE FOR JESUS!  THAT IS OUR PRAYER.

 

 

 

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