– overheard this past Sunday from yet another disgruntled member of the church in Corinth
Like wildfire on the ponderosa, this criticism of Paul has spread through the church. So how does the apostle respond?
Well, there were a number of things he could have done in the flesh. But Paul points them to the stability of God as seen in this one fact: he brought them the gospel that has given them eternal stability. In the gospel, he says, Christ and the Father have given 4 gifts to the Corinthian Christians, all derived from the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.
Here’s what He gives:
1) He Establishes: “He who establishes us with you in Christ (2 Cor. 1:21)
To be established is to stand firm in the truth, and this is a work of God. The word had a legal meaning, as in an agreement to sell what was promised. It was a sellers guarantee, after all, we’ve all bought something only to receive less than something from the seller. It was either less than what was advertised, or less than what was promised.
But this is establishment, and in ancient Greece it had a specific use: That of a guarantee from the seller to the buyer, that he would give the buyer exactly the thing he purchased. Not an imitation, and proof that what was being sold didn’t actually belong to someone else.
Here in 2 Corinthians, you are guaranteed that being established is an ongoing ministry of the HS to confirm you to the end, complete and entire perseverance, and that you will never be let go.
2) He Anoints: “He who anointed us is God” (2 Cor. 1:21)
In the Old Testament kings and priests were anointed with oil to set them apart to their tasks, and once an Israelite king was anointed, he obtained legal authority to rule over Israel. Once done, it was irreversible.
Just like the anointing all Christians receive from God.
Jesus was anointed with the Holy Spirit to do His ministry, an anointing “without measure” (John 3:35). It too was irreversible.
Just like the anointing Christians receive.
The anointing for you happened when you believed in the gospel, and once done, was irreversible. Indeed, the gospel anoints all equally who trust in it. You are forever set apart for God and His purpose, and have been set apart to God from the world and Satan!
3) He Sealed Us: “who also sealed us” (2 Cor. 2:22)
The seal was a stamp, a wax impress, authenticating legal ownership, and it connotes great security. Not only that, it also verifies authenticity – you really are God’s children! Even today, seals are pressed onto legal documents as a sign of legal authority
4) He Pledged Us: “gave us the Spirit in our hearts as a pledge” (2 Cor. 2:22)
The pledge was another legal guarantee, like a down payment. You get some now, but more to come later. The Holy Spirit is the down payment on your glorious future.
He’s the first installment, and God guarantees that after the first installment, more follows! Like what? Like heaven, a glorified body, a sinless eternity in glory.
Paul’s point is pretty simple to the charge he’s fickle. It’s this: “I brought God in the gospel to you, and He isn’t fickle.” He’s saying, ‘look, if my gospel is trustworthy, so am I.’