There’s nothing like being able to spend time with a genuine Christian who isn’t perfect but who shows that even if they face challenges they are determined to ultimately do what pleases the Lord. Based on what we see in Paul’s writings, that’s the type of person he was thanks to the Lord doing mighty works in his life. Despite his facing death threats and many other troubles, Paul was able to share these words:
12 For our rejoicing is this, the testimony of our conscience, that in simplicity and godly sincerity, not with fleshly wisdom, but by the grace of God, we have had our conversation in the world, and more abundantly to you-ward.
13 For we write none other things unto you, than what ye read or acknowledge; and I trust ye shall acknowledge even to the end; 2 Corinthians 1
He was hated by many, slandered and defamed by many, attacked by many, and had many other troubles, but was able to rejoice in the fact his conscience in himself and before God was completely clear. How did he manage that? By his simplicity and godly sincerity that he had in his conversation (i.e. his lifestyle–public and private) as he submitted to the grace of God.
What was this simplicity and godly sincerity Paul speaks of? It was his inner, Holy Spirit-led determination to stay true to the Lord’s will no matter what. His simplicity meant, as explained by the 1828 Webster’s dictionary, that he had “a fair open profession and practice of evangelical truth, with a single view to obedience and to the glory of God.” Paul was so focused on the Lord that he was not double minded. He did not vacillate or contradict himself or God. He wasn’t wishy-washy with his morals. What he distinguished as sin or righteousness months before were the same things he pointed out as sin or righteousness in the present. That’s why he avoided fleshly wisdom, which is marked by contradictions, instability, and ungodly compromises.
The ability to stay focused on simplicity brought forth his godly sincerity. He was genuinely, sincerely in tune with the Lord’s wishes. Paul sincerely communicated with the Lord who sincerely communicated back to him by the Holy Spirit. He knew how to lovingly “keep it real” for the Lord’s sake and this led to his God-blessed lifestyle (conversation) of spiritual gifts to flow “more abundantly” to churches, like Corinth, that he ministered to. And that abundance not only flowed to churches back then. It flows out to us today if we follow Paul’s example, embracing and acknowledging the words he wrote by the Holy Spirit’s inspiration.
That’s how we can rejoice like Paul did in the testimony of his conscience. It’s sad to see when churches avoid these simple principles. For example, this church in Alabama, that is now suing its pastor after he admitted to having affairs with women in the church while he had AIDS and then admitted to abusing drugs. The signs of his evil doings must have been seen somewhere along the way since he was pastor since 1990. Now this pastor has gone rogue and changed the locks to the church facilities and attempted to freeze the board out of the church bank accounts. All of this could have been avoided if they had used spiritual discernment years ago.
Nevertheless, Paul’s words and examples like this church can serve to encourage us that we can be better and do better with the Lord’s help.
Harry A. Gaylord