Revival: The Purpose of Ministry

2 Corinthians 7:2-16

The Word of God is like a prism: one beam of light shines into it, and a rainbow shines out of it. I would like to reconsider these verses from a different perspective. We discussed the meaning of these verses last time, but now I would like consider a pertinent principle and some applications.

While we cannot concede there are Christian churches in as dire shape as the Corinthian church was, the Church of Jesus Christ in the 21st century appears to be far from where she should be. In the book of Acts, the Holy Spirit fell on a handful of people, who began to bear witness for Jesus Christ, and they “turned the world upside down.” The early Church grew exponentially and did mighty exploits for God. What has happened in the intervening two thousand years? Why does the Church seem so impotent? Why do even so-called Christians feel that attending church services is at best an option and at worst unimportant to their relationship with God? Every pastor and church leader must ask themselves these questions.

In these verses, I believe, we can see the end-goal of ministry: revival. That seems like such an elusive thing; churches bring in evangelists and speakers and musical groups in hopes that their ministry will result in a revival breaking out. Many a pastor has come to see these types of ministries as the keys to revival in his church; bring in the right preacher at the right time and and a revival will follow. But is that what revival is all about?

Let’s consider these verses in light of the revival that happened in the church at Corinth, and see what precipitated that revival.

1. The Foundation for Revival, 7:2-6

Make room for us in your hearts. We have wronged no one, we have corrupted no one, we have exploited no one. I do not say this to condemn you; I have said before that you have such a place in our hearts that we would live or die with you. I have great confidence in you; I take great pride in you. I am greatly encouraged; in all our troubles my joy knows no bounds.

For when we came into Macedonia, this body of ours had no rest, but we were harassed at every turn—conflicts on the outside, fears within. But God, who comforts the downcast, comforted us by the coming of Titus.

All the hurt that this congregation had inflicted upon Paul and all the hours of prayer that he had offered up on their behalf finally yielded positive results. The church at Corinth had repented, and apparently God had sent a revival to them. The foundation for this revival was a faithful minister. Faithfulness is a absolute necessity if there is to be a revival in a church. The church at Corinth was a deeply troubled church. Let’s review some of their problems:

The were a church filled with:

divisions, Cor. 3:3
pride, Cor. 3:8; 4:18; 8:; 14:37
immorality, 1 Cor. 5:1
fraud, 1 Cor. 6:8
questionable practices, 1 Cor. 8:1ff

The abused:

the Lord’s Supper, 1 Cor. 11:17 ff
Spiritual gifts, 1 Cor. 12-14

They also denied the bodily resurrection of believers, 1 Cor. 15:12 ff.

The Corinthians also had some members who were leveling all manner of false charges at Paul; from being poor speaker, to stealing offerings to living an immoral life.

If ever a church seemed to on the downhill skids, it was this one. If ever a church appeared to be teetering on the verge of apostasy, it was the Corinthian church. If there was ever a church that a pastor would be right to walk away from, it would have been the Corinthian church. And yet, a great revival came to this church because of the faithfulness of its minister, Paul. We that faithfulness in these four verses.

(a) Paul’s desire was to be received by his church and be reconciled to those who were in opposition to Him. Consider what he wrote:

  • He did not fight with his opposition, but rather he appealed to them and wanted to make peace with them.
  • However, Paul did not cave under the weight of their accusations; he declared in no uncertain terms that has innocent of all the charges leveled at him.

If ever there was a preacher who practiced what he preached, it was Paul. Note what he wrote the Romans, for example: Romans 12:17; 13:8, to name but two verses.

(b) Paul loved this congregation and that’s how he wrote to them. Notice his choice of words:

  • Make room for us in your hearts
  • you have such a place in our hearts that we would live or die with you
  • I take great pride in you

(c) Paul never once shirked from proclaiming the truth. When you consider all the wrong in this church, how easy would it have been for Paul to just throw in the towel and simply shake the dust from his feet and have nothing to do with this congregation. But then consider the profound letters he wrote to them, both the ones we have and the ones we don’t have. His boldness is clearly seen in ever verse he wrote. This is a key ingredient for a revival: the proclamation of God’s truth, with boldness, rightly applied to the church. Regardless of the opposition or the state of the church, the Word of God must be proclaimed and the people must be taught how to rightly divide the Word and apply it to their lives. Then and only can it do its work in the hearts of the people.

(d) Paul believed in his people. He knew they would respond positively to the Word. Notice what he says to them: I have great confidence in you; I take great pride in you. I am greatly encouraged. Is Paul making this up? No! Paul genuinely knew that his people would repent, and that knowledge–ahead of the fact–caused him great joy. What kept Paul going back to these people? What kep Paul from giving up on them? He had confidence in them and he had hope. One of the easiest lessons for a church leader to forget is that nobody is hopeless. If people are hopeless, then there is no need to preach.

Confidence, hope, and belief in the church are essential if the minister is to stay after the people. Revival comes only as a minister perseveres after his people, believing that they will repent commit themselves to God. Note 1 Thessalonians 2:19-20

(e) Paul’s strength came from God. God was his strength and his comfort. God never ceases to meet the needs of all His servants. Remember the words of verse 6:

But God, who comforts the downcast, comforted us by the coming of Titus…

God will always meet the need of His faithful servant. Sometimes it will be dramatic, sometimes it will be in a most natural and ordinary way. But note this: Paul had to endure heavy trials for a long time before God moved. Like Christ before Him, Paul had to learn obedience by the things which he suffered-

Although he was a son, he learned obedience from what he suffered. (Heb. 5:8)

Yes,. God does meet the need of his servant, but He grows His servant while He meets that need.

2. Repentance=Revival, 7:7-12

The revival in the Corinthian church began with a godly sorrow which led to repentance. These verses give us some insight into what brings about a revival within a corrupt and divided church.

(1) The church had a genuine desire to correct its wrongs, verse 7

(2) The church experienced sorrow. Paul told them what they needed to do make things right; they wouldn’t let him do it behind their pulpit, so he wrote it down in a letter and sent it to them. But the letter hit its mark, for the majority of the members had been stricken with a sense of great sorrow, verse 7. There are eight results of godly sorrow:

  • An earnestness to correct the sin and the wrong.
  • A cleaning of oneself. The church acknowledged and turned away from its sin and repented. It dealt with the the leader of the the opposition against Paul (verse 12), and dealt with the other problems.
  • Indignation with sin: there an anger at the fact that sin was ever allowed to creep into the church in the first place.
  • Fear: there was a fear of God’s wrath or punishment if they did not set things right, as well as a realization that their sin had hurt the whole church.
  • Vehement desire: there was a fervent desire to correct all that was wrong.
  • Zeal: there as a zealous commitment to tackle the task immediately because so much wrong had been done.
  • Justice: there was return to church discipline; of punishing wrong doers. This was necessary if some persons persisted in their sin and in attacking the minister, and in disturbing the peaceful fellowship of the church.
  • Innocence: the church, by its godly sorrow and repentance, had cleared itself. As corrupt and polluted as it was, when true repentance came, God cleared them of all things.

3. Revival=Renewed Spirit, 7:13-15

The revival within the Corinthian church had an unexpected consequence: it brought about a renewed spirit to another young preacher, Titus. Revival always stirs a renewed spirit within young believers.

(a) Titus had the privilege of being one of God’s instruments in bringing revival to the church. Being caught up in the middle of this church-wide repentance had eased his concern for the church and given him a refreshed and renewed spirit. In fact, Titus was so affected by the revival that his joy overflowed onto Paul!

(b) Titus had heard about the goodness within the Corinthian church from Paul. Titus had doubtless heard Paul share his expectation of God granting a revival of true repentance among the Corinthians. Titus had the the privilege of witnessing the proof of a true church: the Corinthian church proved worthy of Paul’s boasting.

(c) Titus rejoiced over the Corinthians submission to the Word of God. He had delivered the letter Paul had written, but he also preached to them himself. The church responded with much fear and trembling. They realized that they stood before a hold and a righteous God who loved them and who demanded repentance.

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