Following the Pattern
By: Scott Morton
2 Corinthians 4:1-6
Therefore seeing we have this ministry, as we have received mercy, we faint not;  But have renounced the hidden things of dishonesty, not walking in craftiness, nor handling the word of God deceitfully; but by manifestation of the truth commending ourselves to every man's conscience in the sight of God.  But if our gospel be hid, it is hid to them that are lost:  In whom the god of this world hath blinded the minds of them which believe not, lest the light of the glorious gospel of Christ, who is the image of God, should shine unto them.  For we preach not ourselves, but Christ Jesus the Lord; and ourselves your servants for Jesus' sake.  For God, who commanded the light to shine out of darkness, hath shined in our hearts, to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.
It is important for us to think about who our pattern, or role model, should be. The world likes to set role models for individuals, which usually fall into the categories of athletes, actors, or musicians. These are not the people we should be trying to follow in our Christian lives. There is one who has been set up for us to have as a role model for how to live the life God intends for us today. This is the Apostle Paul, as he identifies himself in this way:
1 Corinthians 11:1
Be ye followers of me, even as I also am of Christ.
He tells us what we are to do. We are to follow the Apostle Paul, as he followed the Lord Jesus Christ. He followed him through the information provided, which is the material we find written in Romans through Philemon. These books contain the information needed for someone to follow the Apostle Paul in this manner, which is a reference to the ministry he makes a reference to. This ministry is to make all men see what is the fellowship of the mystery (Ephesians 3:9), which means the gospel which saves an individual today (1 Corinthians 15:1-4).
This information is something which had been hidden before the foundation of the world (Romans 16:25-26) and is only now being revealed to man through what has been given to the Apostle Paul by the Lord Jesus Christ (Galatians 1:11-12). This is the only message which can be preached which would be considered pleasing to God.
It is important for us to realize this is the only ministry which could be pleasing to God today and is the reason why there can even be a discussion of having received mercy. We are not appointed to wrath (1 Thessalonians 1:10), which is the only thing man had deserved due to the rejection of the offers of the kingdom. Today, there is an extension of grace and peace, which is why all of the epistles which are written to the churches by the Apostle Paul contain this phrase at the beginning of them. The focus is not on the failures of man, but on what the Lord Jesus Christ accomplished for us and how we are to rest in this in order to be pleasing to God.
Prior to the Apostle Paul and the information which had been revealed to him, there was information which would have shown that man was deserving of wrath and not peace. Leviticus 26 shows the courses of judgment against Israel because of their failures to follow the program which had been given for them. They did not follow the Word of God as it had been given to them and failed over and over again. This is why it is important to note what happened when Stephen was preaching in Acts 7:
Ye stiffnecked and uncircumcised in heart and ears, ye do always resist the Holy Ghost: as your fathers did, so do ye.  Which of the prophets have not your fathers persecuted? and they have slain them which shewed before of the coming of the Just One; of whom ye have been now the betrayers and murderers:  Who have received the law by the disposition of angels, and have not kept it.  When they heard these things, they were cut to the heart, and they gnashed on him with their teeth.  But he, being full of the Holy Ghost, looked up stedfastly into heaven, and saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing on the right hand of God,  And said, Behold, I see the heavens opened, and the Son of man standing on the right hand of God.  Then they cried out with a loud voice, and stopped their ears, and ran upon him with one accord,  And cast him out of the city, and stoned him: and the witnesses laid down their clothes at a young man's feet, whose name was Saul.
Stephen was preaching to them and identifies the Lord Jesus Christ as standing at the right hand of God the Father. This is what leads to them immediately stoning him. The first reason for this is because he was declaring Him to be the Messiah, which they had rejected and considered to be blasphemy if someone was teaching this. The second reason behind their action was the statement of Him standing. They knew from Isaiah 3:13 what this meant, as He would be standing to plead and to judge. This could only be a reference to the coming judgment upon them because of their failures to follow the Word of God. They would have had an understanding of this, which is why they showed their full rejection of what was being said.
Since we are not facing the wrath of God and have peace, the ministry the Apostle Paul had was to let people know this is what is happening. This is why he speaks of his ministry in this manner:
Unto me, who am less than the least of all saints, is this grace given, that I should preach among the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ;  And to make all men see what is the fellowship of the mystery, which from the beginning of the world hath been hid in God, who created all things by Jesus Christ:
Paul saw his ministry to include the issue of making all men see the fellowship of the mystery. He knew it was his responsibility to go out and preach the gospel which had been given to him (1 Corinthians 15:1-4) and to give this information to all men. There was a need to make all men see what the fellowship of the mystery is. While Paul could not accomplish this task on his own, he knew the importance of teaching others (2 Timothy 2:2) so they would be able to teach this message. This is how the message is able to go out and reach all men.
As a result of receiving this ministry, there is a change which is supposed to happen in the life of the believer. While the law, as a performance-based acceptance system, required a person to do certain things and not do certain things to please God, it failed miserably. Israel was not able to keep the law and continuously was breaking the law. They proved their unfaithfulness time and time again.
In this dispensation, we have been made free from the law. While we no longer have this system to prove our righteousness, there are changes which should occur. Ephesians 2:10 states we are created for good works. Paul states in Titus 2:14 we are to be zealous of good works. While they are not required for salvation, there are certain things which should happen, as they are pleasing to God and are a good testimony for others. If a person has the appearance of evil (1 Thessalonians 5:22) and is trying to share the gospel with someone, they are going to be ineffective in this task. This is why the Apostle Paul states in our passage there are certain things we need to get away from.
The first of these is dishonesty, or lying. This is a pretty easy one to figure out why this is necessary. If a person is lying all the time, why would someone trust the gospel this person is trying to share? It is why the Apostle Paul states in Ephesians 4:25 we are to put away lying. It is not to be a part of who we are as members of the Body of Christ. Instead of relying on what we say, we rely on the Word of God, because God does not lie (Romans 4:5).
The Apostle Paul then states we are to not walk in craftiness. This would be scheming on our part to make sure things go our way. While this seems to be a good thing, it really is not. Craftiness would involve manipulation of things to allow for the outcome to benefit us, which is what Satan actually did:
2 Corinthians 11:3
But I fear, lest by any means, as the serpent beguiled Eve through his subtilty, so your minds should be corrupted from the simplicity that is in Christ.
Satan did not come right out and state what was going to happen the moment they partook of the fruit from the knowledge of the tree of good and evil. He knew what God had said and knew what the consequences were going to be. In his subtilty he asked a question and let the answer drive the conversation to where he wanted it to go. This is craftiness, as he was able to get the goal he wanted out of the situation.
A big one here that many people struggle with is the concept of handling the Word deceitfully. This is making a reference to someone who knows the truth, as they are the only ones who can truly be deceitful. Someone who doesn't have any understanding of the truth is not really being deceitful, as they don't even have a clue of what the truth is. These individuals are just ignorant and really shouldn't even be teaching things related to the Bible and attempting to share the gospel with individuals, as nothing good can come from someone who doesn�t understand the gospel (1 Corinthians 15:1-4), but still tries to teach the Bible.
However, it is worse for individuals who do understand the truth, yet still teach contrary to it. These individuals have understood the gospel and right division, but are teaching things which are contrary to it. There were many who were even doing it in Paul's day:
2 Corinthians 2:17
For we are not as many, which corrupt the word of God: but as of sincerity, but as of God, in the sight of God speak we in Christ.
There were individuals who were out there actively corrupting the Word of God. The Apostle Paul makes a reference to these individuals, as they even started to send letters as if they were written by him (2 Thessalonians 2:1-2) that were having an effect on the faith of these individuals.
There is a reason why these people do get away from the message:
1 Thessalonians 2:3-5
For our exhortation was not of deceit, nor of uncleanness, nor in guile:  But as we were allowed of God to be put in trust with the gospel, even so we speak; not as pleasing men, but God, which trieth our hearts.  For neither at any time used we flattering words, as ye know, nor a cloke of covetousness; God is witness:
These people often are more worried about pleasing man rather than pleasing God. They will teach whatever they think is going to be pleasing to man in order to get the accolades that come from this. They want the money, fame, and celebrity that come from teaching the things which man wants to hear. This is why the Apostle Paul warns individuals who are teaching that people will have itching ears (2 Timothy 4:3), wanting to hear information they want to hear, rather than the truth.
The sad thing is when someone who is teaching in a denominational church, where they are teaching a different gospel, has the truth presented to them. These individuals will make a statement at times that they understand this, or have already understood what is being presented to them. They will then say there is no way they will be able to teach this information to their assembly. When asked why this is the case, they will state that the people will want to get rid of them and they would lose their job. All of the earthly things which come with this job are more important to them than standing for the truth and teaching God's Word.
This is why it is so important for those who do understand right division and the message which has been given to us as the members of the Body of Christ. It is this message which we are to hold fast to and is our responsibility to preach. If we are preaching the message which has been given to us, we are going to build gold, silver, and precious stones at the Judgment Seat of Christ. If we are handling the Word of God deceitfully, the only thing which can be built is wood, hay, and stubble, as this action can never be pleasing to God, as the believer is not doing what God would intend for us.
This is why the Apostle Paul brings up the idea of conscience at this point. Every individual has a conscience in them, as they are descendants of Adam (Genesis 5:3), since Adam had eaten from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil (Genesis 3:1-6). This knowledge is what a conscience is and every person had this inside of them. It is why even those who state they don�t think there is a God will still try to set up a system of what is right and wrong, as they have this conscience inside of themselves.
But now, after that ye have known God, or rather are known of God, how turn ye again to the weak and beggarly elements, whereunto ye desire again to be in bondage?  Ye observe days, and months, and times, and years.  I am afraid of you, lest I have bestowed upon you labour in vain.
The Apostle Paul is speaking about what has happened to some of the individuals who are in the churches in Galatia. He had gone into these churches and had taught them how they were free from the law and did not have to follow anything which was contained in the law. After he left, others came in and taught the exact opposite. They were telling the members of these churches that they needed to follow the law if they were going to be pleasing to God.
Those who were in the churches decided to follow the new information which had been shared with them, even though it went contrary to what had been taught to them by the Apostle Paul. He states he is afraid of them because of the fact they have gone contrary to the sound doctrine which had been taught. These things are nothing but a shadow of what was to some (Colossians 2:16-17) and are never intended for us to apply to our lives. We have been made free from the law system.
The Apostle Paul then starts to speak about how the gospel is hid to some individuals. This appears to be a contradiction to what we would say. It is God�s will that all would be saved (1 Timothy 2:4) and if the gospel is hid to some, this would appear to state that some individuals are not going to be given the opportunity to be saved. The gospel is the power of God unto salvation (1 Corinthians 1:18) and individuals during this dispensation are going to be judged according to his gospel (Romans 2:16). If this is the case, how can the Apostle Paul state that the gospel is hid to some individuals?
2 Thessalonians 2:9-10
Even him, whose coming is after the working of Satan with all power and signs and lying wonders,  And with all deceivableness of unrighteousness in them that perish; because they received not the love of the truth, that they might be saved.
This reference speaks of a time where the judgment is going to come upon those people who have not put their trust in the gospel. There is a consequence to this, as those who have not put their trust in the gospel will have to face the judgment of God. The Apostle Paul does state why individuals are in this condition:
And you hath he quickened, who were dead in trespasses and sins;  Wherein in time past ye walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that now worketh in the children of disobedience:  Among whom also we all had our conversation in times past in the lusts of our flesh, fulfilling the desires of the flesh and of the mind; and were by nature the children of wrath, even as others.
Those who understand dispensational theology will use the time periods of time past, but now, and ages to come to help show the distinctions God has made in His dealings with man. This is not what this passage is making a reference to. Here, the Apostle Paul is making a reference to the time before someone was actually saved.
Before salvation, man walks according to the course of this world. Everything is motivated by the fleshly desires and has nothing to do with what God would have us to do. Nothing we are doing of ourselves is ever going to be pleasing to God, as it is done by the flesh and there is nothing good in the flesh. This is why we are told we have to be transformed by the renewing of our minds (Romans 12:1-2) after salvation in order to avoid these things.
When someone is in this condition, they are not following the program of God and are not saved. If they continue in this manner, they will not receive salvation. This is what Satan would want, as he is trying to do things to stop the plan of God from having the impact on the world today, along with stopping the ultimate plan of the reconciliation of heaven and earth. This is why Satan functions in this manner:
2 Corinthians 11:13-15
For such are false apostles, deceitful workers, transforming themselves into the apostles of Christ.  And no marvel; for Satan himself is transformed into an angel of light.  Therefore it is no great thing if his ministers also be transformed as the ministers of righteousness; whose end shall be according to their works.
Satan appears as a minister of righteousness and is preaching a gospel which would not bring salvation to people today. This is how Satan is blinding the people to the true gospel. When a person looks around at what is known as Christianity today, there are not a lot of people who are preaching the gospel (1 Corinthians 15:1-4). If you called the denominational churches in your area (along with most of the non-denominational ones) and asked them what a person would have to do to be saved, the chances of hearing the gospel that saves someone today is going to be pretty close to zero. There will be many people who will put some for of a work attached to the gospel because of the confusion they have.
This is why the Apostle Paul makes the conclusion he does for us. The function we are to have as the members of the Body of Christ is to preach the gospel so the light will shine through to those who are lost. This is why he can state the following related to how we are to function in our daily lives:
For it is God which worketh in you both to will and to do of his good pleasure.  Do all things without murmurings and disputings:  That ye may be blameless and harmless, the sons of God, without rebuke, in the midst of a crooked and perverse nation, among whom ye shine as lights in the world;  Holding forth the word of life; that I may rejoice in the day of Christ, that I have not run in vain, neither laboured in vain.
We are to function as lights to those who are lost. Since we have the gospel, we are to be sharing this information to others so they can have the same thing. This is why he can state we are light in the Lord (Ephesians 5:8). God is light and this is why the truth of His Word can shine as a light unto us.
The members of the Body of Christ are to function in the manner that is pleasing to God, which would involve us following what His Word says. We are to share this message with others so they can access to the blessings God has for us today.