What is it that keeps us from being sounding gongs or clanging cymbals? Agape, the very love of God poured out in our hearts by the Holy Spirit. Does our God’s-love compulsion mean our message will always be welcomed? Alas, I am afraid not. Witness Jesus, who was labeled a heretic. And Paul, whose apostleship was questioned by the flesh-driven Corinthians. Let’s focus on him for a bit.
Paul spent about eighteen months at Corinth (Acts 18:1-18). After he left, sin cropped up from the infants in Christ there. 1 and 2 Corinthians (and probably another letter in between along with a visit or two) resulted. This Spirit-filled apostle was positively seized and compelled by the love of God (2 Cor 5:14) to bring people not only to Christ for salvation, but to bring them to maturity, even to the full measure of the stature of Christ.
The modern/post-modern church is not accustomed to the direct and sharp words that Paul used in his letters to Corinth (nor could we stomach a message from Wesley, Finney or Ravenhill). The kind of language used by Jesus Christ and Paul and Wesley and the rest is God’s true “love language,” beloved brothers and sisters. If the Corinthians had been left to their sinning ways and Paul had said, “Well, I’ll just let the Spirit convict them eventually,” what would have happened to them? Their very salvation was in danger. Paul had a godly jealousy for them, to present them to Christ as part of His blameless and spotless bride. Oh, his love for Christ was Christ’s actual love in his heart, and he loved the church as Christ loves her! It is out of that love that Paul spoke and wrote the Holy Spirit’s strong words. It was no fun for him to be attacked by a church he loved. But that didn’t stop him. He was compelled, he was jealous for them. That’s God’s heart, even for today’s church.
I, too, am absolutely compelled and seized by the love of God, praise be His holy, holy name. It is not my own doing, but because of Him I am what I am. I have used strong words from time to time. Did everyone receive them? Those who were my disciples took them in and were changed. They weren’t my words, after all. I am convinced that they were the Lord’s, because they were from His Word — woe to me if I editorialize! I have far too great a fear of God for that. I tremble when I speak the words His Spirit gives me! Who is adequate for these things (1 Cor 3:16)? But my adequacy is from God (1 Cor 3:5).
Paul was harassed and accused by many in the church at Corinth. But he continued to love them – God knows he did (2 Cor 11:11)! And so do I, dear church for whom I most heartily pray, and whom I exhort and reprove! I’ll add another post, and it will be my great dilemma from 1 Corinthians 5. I pray all who read it will detect God’s love in it.