‘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.’ — 2 Corinthians 1:12
What are you most excited about? What have you accomplished or gained that you’d like to boast about if you could? Think about that desire to tell others something amazing you have received for Christmas.
In 2 Corinthians 1:12, Paul explains what he is rejoicing in (‘our rejoicing is this’). In his heart of hearts (‘the testimony of our conscience’), he wants to let the Corinthians know that he conducted his ministry and lived his life (‘had our conversation in the world) by three principles:
1. In simplicity and godly sincerity. The idea here is that Paul was honest, straightforward, and pure in his motives. Paul sought to live his life with genuine focus on doing one simple thing – pleasing the Lord. He knew that he would answer to the Lord one day, and so he was not ‘complex’ in the sense of serving God and something or someone else.
This is a great goal for us. How ‘simple’ are we in our focus on the things of God? Is there is a Godly sincerity about our lives? Or do we have ulterior motives lurking in our hearts? Before we assume that we are sincere, let us open our lives to the Holy Spirit and the Word of God to reveal the thoughts and intents of our hearts (Heb 4:12). Very likely, there is some complexity, some hypocrisy or some insincerity there.
2. Not with fleshly wisdom. Paul also confessed that from the depths of his heart he sought to live in a way that was not reliant on wisdom that comes from the flesh, human skill or knowledge. As a very educated and driven man, Paul no doubt knew all the tricks of the trade when it came to fleshly wisdom. He could have relied on his worldly knowledge and skills to impress and influence people. But he did not seek to run His ministry by the power or knowledge of the flesh.
Let us reflect on this for a moment. How often do we seek to live by fleshly wisdom? Do we rely upon our own understanding or the wisdom of the world to get things done? Or have we ceased to rely upon the arm of the flesh? Have we come to realise that it is not by might, nor by power, but God’s Spirit that we prevail?
3. By the grace of God. Finally, Paul let them know that His effectiveness, His strength, and His method is the grace of God. Everything he accomplished he attributed to the grace of God working in Him (1 Cor 15:10). He knew that he was saved, changed, empowered, directed, and enabled to endure great suffering through the grace of God.
And this ought to be the way we live as well – ‘by the grace of God’. What challenges are we facing? What fears are we battled? What obstacles do we need to overcome? What suffering do we need strength for? We will overcome them all BY THE GRACE OF GOD!
What a blessing to know that God is there for us! If we trust in the Lord with all our hearts, don’t lean on our own understanding, and acknowledge Him in our ways, He will direct us and strengthen us and empower us. His grace is sufficient!