As the Apostle Paul served the Lord, he was conscious of the fact that there was a cruel enemy to contend with. Wherever there is a work of God, the evil one will not be far away Indeed, it has been so from the Garden of Eden until now. While the foe is mighty, we need not despair, for our God is Almighty. It is good for us to consider what things would be like if Satan had his way unhindered. Paul asserts as he writes to the Corinthians, “We are not ignorant of his devices” (2 Cor 2:11). His wiles and intentions were known to Paul as they will be to the spiritually enlightened. In this meditation we shall consider seven areas where there would be a great lack if the evil one had his way.
1. A Lack of Sensitivity
In the context of 2 Corinthians 2, attention is drawn to a brother who had to be put out of fellowship. Paul could see the danger of him being swallowed up in overmuch sorrow if he were kept out of assembly fellowship. Paul makes a threefold plea for the brother who was on the “outside”. “Forgive him, comfort him and confirm your love toward him” (2 Cor 2:7-8).
There are weighty lessons in this passage; the discipline carried out by “the many” was with a view to recovery and not to getting rid of the brother. There was a swing from slackness in the first Epistle to severity in this passage, and Paul appeals for consideration of the brother’s excessive grief.
2. A Lack of Separation
The Lord would have His people to be separated unto Himself. Satan will contest this, and many of the ills that befall us are because of our lack of separation unto the Lord from the world and all its confusion. When Israel was in Egypt, the Lord sent Moses to liberate them. Pharaoh was in no mood to let them go. The Lord sent plagues upon Pharaoh and his people. While the rebellious king was under pressure, he made four subtle suggestions to counter the three days journey into the wilderness demanded by the Israelites.
a. “Remain in the land” (Ex 8:25). Moses, the spokesman for God, would not bow to this suggestion. Pharaoh being a picture of the devil and Egypt a picture of the world, rendered the king’s suggestion untenable. In NT language, the whole idea was “too worldly”. As well, there was the danger of the Egyptians stoning them.
b. “Not very far away” (Ex 8:28). This was with the purpose of keepin.g them close enough so the king could pull them back into the land again. Moses was not interested in this proposal and left Pharaoh with a word of warning relative to his deceitful dealing (v 29). Some dear souls live as “borderline” Christians when they ought to be “strangers and pilgrims”.
c. The next subtle suggestion was that the men only should go (Ex 10:11). When this suggestion was rejected, Pharaoh turned rude and aggressive, and Moses and Aaron were driven out from his presence. Men in the wilderness with their wives and children in Egypt would never do. It is a great help to men serving the Lord when their wives and children are likeminded. A great burdens of many believers is to see children saved and separated unto the Lord. d. Pharaoh was not giving up easily, and the next suggestion was that the flocks and herds were to stay in Egypt. If this were the case, how could there be any sacrifice unto the Lord? (Ex 10:34-26). Moses then uttered the memorable words, “Not a hoof shall be left behind.” Are we prepared to sacrifice unto the Lord?
3. A Lack of Strength
Samson was a mighty man and did exploits in delivering Israel. He was blessed with godly parents who had his welfare at heart. However, Samson had weaknesses which militated against him and ultimately brought about his downfall. As Samson dabbled with Delilah, she found the secret of his strength and had the Philistines shave off his Nazarite locks. As a sad result, he became weak “like any other man’ (Judges 6:18). Poor Samson did not understand that his strength was gone, and all his “shaking” was to no avail as the Philistines took him and put out his eyes.
Samson’s experience has very solemn lessons for us: the Philistines were “wallowers in the dust” (Judg 14:1 Newberry) and they were always out to pull down the people of God. Although Samson did great things, he had unrealized potential due to his spiritual weakness. It would be good for all of us to realize our potential for God in walking in separation unto Himself. We like to appeal to younger believers in particular to avoid the tragedy of a misspent life. At the end of life’s little day, it would be grand to look back over the pathway and have no regrets (2 Tim 4:7).
4. A Lack of Sweetness
The path of disobedience and departure is a costly one. This is illustrated in the case of Naomi as she lost her husband and two sons in the land of Moab. When she returned to the town of Bethlehem with her daughter-in-law, Ruth, there was quite a stir. “They said, is this Naomi?” And she said, “Call me not Naomi, call me Mara: for the Almighty hath dealt very bitterly with me” (Ruth 2:19-20). The Lord was gracious unto Naomi, and sweetness returned as she nursed her grandson.
5. A Lack of Serenity
As Paul wrote to the assemblies in Galatia, he warned them of the danger of internal strife, “But if you bite and devour one another (in partisan strife), be careful that you (and your whole fellowship) are not consumed by one another” (Gal 5:15 Amp. Bible). Biting and devouring is not for the child of God; the Word of God exhorts us to “Pray one for another” (James 5:16). It is truly a blessed thing to be a promoter of peace and unity among the people of God.
6. A Lack of Stability
The gifts given by the Risen Head to the church are intended to have a stabilizing effect (Eph 4:11-16). Paul admonishes, “That we henceforth be no more children, tossed to and fro, and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the sleight of men, and cunning craftiness whereby they lie in wait to deceive” (Eph 4:14). It is so necessary to be grounded in the truth of God. “A double minded man is unstable in all his ways” (James 1:8). While Jacob said positive things about some of his sons, he referred to Reuben as being “unstable as water” (Gen 49:4). May the Lord help us to be marked by spiritual stability!
7. A Lack of Substance
The local assembly was likened to a building by Paul (1 Cor 3:9-16). He was a wise masterbuilder and had laid a good foundation and appealed to his brethren to be careful what kind of material they built into the assembly. Six materials of construction are mentioned. Gold, silver and precious stones are durable and able to stand the fire, whereas wood, hay and stubble lacked durability and would be burned up. The items that grew above the ground were large and had show, but the fire would make them small.
This portion of Scripture reminds us of the Judgment Seat of Christ, when all work will be tested.
“Deeds of merit as we thought them,
He will show us were but sin,
Little acts that we’d forgotten,
He will tell us were for Him.”
Paul was a good example of one that labored in view of the Bema, and later on in writing the second Epistle, he brings up the subject again, “For we must all appear (and be revealed as we are) before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each one may receive (his pay) according to what he has done in the body, whether good or evil, considering what his purpose and motive have been, and what he has achieved” (2 Cor 5:10, Amp. Bible). In the little while between now and the end of the journey, may we not be ignorant of Satan’s devices, but “seek to serve the Lord acceptably with reverence and godly fear” (Heb 12:28)!