We are studying Paul's second letter to the Corinthians and our study brings us to chapter 2, verse 5. From this verse through to the end of chapter 3 is a very diverse portion of the letter. If you analyze it in terms of the type of material Paul presents, you find three different things... I find, however, as I look at this section and reflect on these three things, that they also describe what God is doing in the world. And because they speak of what God is doing in the world, they speak about the most important thing that is happening in the world today.

He uses the word sealed which is often used for the work of the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit is God's seal on us. A seal indicates ownership. When an important document was signed in antiquity it was often accompanied by a seal. A man would wear a ring that served as his own seal. When that man wrote a document he would seal it with wax and press the ring into the wax. That would indicate that the man who wears the ring stands behind the contents of the document.

If we really are serious about following God’s will and going in the way he wants us to go, then we will surrender to his change of plans in our lives. We might say to God, "God, your way does not look like the shortest way. My way appears shorter. But if you attempt to do things your way, it will create a detour. God knows that you cannot see the path ahead. You do not know what is coming. But when he changes your path, it is because he knows that doing so is really the quickest way to get you where you are going. Paul had learned to follow God’s leading, even when it did not look like the right way to go. Paul knew that if God’s way did not look right to him, the trouble was his own perception.

One of my predecessors at Tenth Presbyterian Church, Dr. Donald Grey Barnhouse, used to compare the conscience to a sundial. A sundial gives a good approximation of time when the sun is shining on it. But, if the sun is not shining on it, it does not give good time at all. If you go out in the garden at night and look at a sundial when the moon is shining on it, it might say, 7 a.m., but it is not 7 a.m.; it is the middle of the night. Unless our conscience has the Word of God shining on it, the contrast is between the world's wisdom and God's wisdom, between our natural ability to figure things out and biblical revelation. Unless we examine our conscience by God's Word, we can make our conscience say anything we want.

Yesterday we saw that Paul’s change of plans gave rise to unreasonable and destructive criticism. It is hard to believe that people who had benefited by Paul’s ministry would be as petty as that or, even if they were not the ones who made the slander, that they were petty enough to at least listen to it. But, that is the way it is. This is true in Christian work. I regret to say it, but there is a great deal of petty criticism leveled. Sometimes we are forced to change plans and people say, "That is somebody who just can’t be trusted. And if they cannot be trusted in little things, how can we believe them when they talk about the Gospel or about Jesus Christ?" That sort of thinking was exactly what Paul had to deal with here, and does so in his second letter to the Corinthians.