21 May, 2024

May 5 Study | Integrity

by | 29 April, 2024 | 0 comments

INTRODUCTION TO THE MAY LESSONS: We move from a study of 1 Corinthians to a study of 2 Corinthians. Scholars debate how many letters were written to this troubled church (1 Corinthians 5:9; 2 Corinthians 2:3-4, 9; 10:9-10). But the completed canon of the New Testament includes these two. The word troubles could be used to summarize 1 Corinthians. Second Corinthians could be summarized with the word character. Someone said, “Reputation is what others think of you; character is what you really are.” Paul did not have the best reputation, but he did have outstanding character; his character is on display in 2 Corinthians. Students will learn that integrity, perseverance, hope, and generosity are key qualities of character. 

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Unit: 2 Corinthians
Theme: Character
Lesson Text: 2 Corinthians 1:12-24; 2:12-17
Supplemental Texts: 1 Timothy 3:1-13; 2 Corinthians 4:2
Aim: As God is faithful, make your word “yes” or “no,” but not both.

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Download a PDF of this week’s lesson material (the study by Mark Scott, the Application by David Faust, and Discovery Questions): LOOKOUT_May 5_2024

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By Mark Scott

Integrity means to live only one life. It means to be consistent, not a vacillator or one who is fickle. It means to be unmixed, uncompromised, and ethically honest. Integrity is a moral compass. The apostle Paul experienced unjustified criticism of his integrity from the church in Corinth.  

After the opening greeting of this Epistle (2 Corinthians 1:1-2), Paul praised God for the comfort that he gives his people (1:3-7). Paul himself needed that comfort because of the afflictions he had to endure (1:8-11). One such affliction Paul had to endure was to often be misunderstood by the people he desired to serve. So, in verse 12, Paul began to defend his ministerial integrity.  

Change of Plans Does Not Equal Lack of Integrity
2 Corinthians 1:12-17, 23-24 

Paul’s critics took undue advantage of him when he changed his plans. They pointed to those changed plans as evidence of dishonesty. Paul’s defense was to say that his life was an open book. He lived one life. He lived with integrity (single-hearted devotion) and godly sincerity (pure and honorable motives). He did not rely on worldly wisdom. He instead relied on God’s grace. He hoped that God’s grace would speak for him to the people. 

The problem was, Paul was sailing back and forth across the Aegean Sea as he made his way between the churches in Asia Minor and those in Macedonia and Achaia. He ultimately wanted to return to Judea with an offering for the saints there. But his plans were derailed for a number of reasons, not the least of which was his anxiety for the church at Corinth. Paul was so concerned about the church (he could not get them off his mind) that he changed his travel plans (cf. 2 Corinthians 2:13). Paul rebuffed his critics’ charges by saying that he did not flippantly say “yes” to things and “no” to things without thought, prayer, and a concern for the church. The language is similar to Matthew 5:37. Paul desired to spare the church; he did not desire to lord it over the church.  

The Triune God Is the Epitome of Integrity
2 Corinthians 1:18-22 

Paul rooted his confidence for ministry and his integrity in the Triune God. All three members of the Trinity are mentioned in this paragraph. God is faithful. Jesus is the amen of the promises. The Holy Spirit is the deposit for the future. Paul had integrity because God saved him and sanctified him.  

God is not a vacillator. His faithfulness, evident in his message (logos), was not yes and no. And Jesus and the gospel that Paul preached about him was not yes and no. Before Paul defined the Holy Spirit’s role in his ministry, he paused to offer an excursus about Jesus. Jesus was always the “Yes” man for God. In fact, all the promises of God find their yes in Jesus. (That reality may actually be somewhat of a hermeneutical construct in the Bible. Many of the promises in the Old Testament that many people relate to Christ’s second coming might actually refer to his first coming.) Jesus is the grand amen of God because, as Christian educator Tom Ewald said, “He is God’s dynamic affirmative to every negative dimension of life.”  

God made Paul stand firm, anointed him, sealed him, and placed his Spirit on Paul as a deposit (like a down payment on a house) to guarantee what would come later. If God was behind Paul’s ministry, then that ministry must be filled with integrity. 

Concern for Followers Is Evidence of Integrity
2 Corinthians 2:12-17 

A hireling or false teacher would care nothing about his followers, but Paul was genuinely and deeply concerned about the Corinthian believers. In fact, he was so concerned that even though God had provided him an open door (for evangelism?), his spirit was restless. Paul was going through Macedonia to see the Corinthians when he ran into Titus (see 2 Corinthians 7:6).  

Titus brought Paul such a good word about the Corinthians that Paul broke out in praise to God in a several-chapter discourse about the ministry of the new covenant, the nature of the ministry of reconciliation, and the suffering that the gospel brings to its workers (2:14—7:16). Using the imagery of a Roman army returning from a victorious battle, Paul spoke about the aroma of God in the gospel. It is a good aroma to those who are saved, but a bad aroma to those who are lost. That means some will embrace the message while others will not. But Paul’s mind was pure and his conscience was clear. He did not peddle the word of God for profit (as some did). He served God with sincerity and integrity.  


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