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The Obstacle of Insincere Motives

Putting No Obstacles Before the Gospel – Day 1 Session 1



One of the striking features of Paul’s writings is the way he intentionally draws the attention of his readers to the fact that his life and ministry were driven by pure and sincere motives (see, eg, 2 Co 2:2; 1 Th 2:3-6), and to the various ways this fact was made known and put on open display (see, eg, 2 Co 6:3-10). In Paul’s mind, “secret and shameful ways” (2 Co 4:2, NIV) or “underhanded methods” (2 Co 4:2, NLT) put his ministry at risk of being “discredited” (2 Co 6:3, NIV), “blamed” (2 Co 6:3, HCSB), and found “at fault” (2 Co 6:3, ESV, NET). Sincere motives on the part of God’s servants—demonstrated in context to trial and difficulty—are themselves a powerful argument in favor of the truth and credibility of gospel. The converse, tragically, is also true: Insincere motives put the gospel’s credibility at risk of being called into question, and therefore constitute a serious stumbling block to its advance. In this session Tim will discuss how extremely important it is for us to allow God to “test our hearts” (2 Th 2:4), so that when we proclaim and represent the gospel, it is clear to all that our appeal “does not spring from error or impure motives” (2 Th 2:3, NIV).




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Download Obstacle of Insincere Motives Conference Notes.

The Obstacle of Insincere Motives



  1. 3We put no stumbling block in anyone’s path, so that our ministry will not be discredited (“blamed” [HCSB]; “so no fault may be found” [NET]). 4 Rather, as servants of God we commend ourselves in every way… (NIV 2 Co 6:3-4)

3We live in such a way that no one will stumble because of us, and no one will find fault with our ministry. 4In everything we do, we show that we are true ministers of God. (NLT 2 Co 6:3-4)

A. “You know what kind of men we showed ourselves to be”

2We give thanks to God always for all of you, mentioning you in our prayers constantly, 3remembering your deeds prompted by faith, and your hard work motivated by love, and your perseverance produced by hope in our Lord Jesus the Messiah, before our God and Father; 4 being certain, brothers loved by God, about his choice of you, 5because our gospel came to you not merely with fine-sounding talk, but indeed with acts of power and with the Holy Spirit and with complete conviction of its truth—just as you know for certain what kind of men we showed ourselves to be while we were with you in order to help and serve you. 6And as for yourselves, you followed our example, and that of the Lord himself, because when you accepted the message, you did so, despite great trial and suffering, with the joy that comes from the Holy Spirit, 7and as a result you became an example to all the believers in the provinces of Macedonia and Achaia. 8In fact, from you the message about the Lord has echoed forth not only throughout Macedonia and Achaia! No, the news about your faith in God has spread everywhere—so much so that we don’t even have to tell people about it. 9Indeed, they themselves are telling others about the fruitful results of our visit to you and how you turned to God from idols, so that you could serve the God who is living and true 10and wait expectantly for his Son to come down from the heavens, whom he raised from the dead—Jesus, who rescues us from the wrath to come.1Like those believers elsewhere, you yourselves know that our visit to you was not, brothers, without result. 2No, just the opposite: Despite the fact that we had previously suffered and been treated shamefully, as you are aware, in Philippi, we still boldly dared with the help of our God to declare the gospel of God to you in the face of fierce opposition. 3The appeal we make, you see, doesn’t spring from deluded ideas, or filthy motives, or an intent to deceive. 4On the contrary, just as we have been examined and approved by God to be entrusted with the gospel, so we declare it, not to please mere men, but God, who continually examines our thoughts and motives. 5Yes, we never used, as you know, flattering talk, or some greedy scheme to get your money—God himself is our witness—6nor did we seek honor, again, from mere men—not from you or from anyone else. 7Although we could have insisted, since we are apostles of the Messiah, on our own importance, instead we humbled ourselves while we were with you. Like a nursing mother tenderly caring for her own children, 8having such great affection for you, we gladly chose to share with you not only the gospel of God, but our own lives, too, because you had become so dear to us. 9Indeed, surely you remember, brothers, how hard we worked and toiled! Working night and day and day and night, so that we would not impose a financial strain on any of you—that’s how we proclaimed the gospel of God to you. 10You are witnesses, and so is God, of how holy, and how righteous, and how blameless our conduct was toward you who believe. 11As you know, we treated each one of you as a father would his own children, continually exhorting you and encouraging you and warning you12to live your lives in a way that agrees with the holy character of God, who summons you to his own Kingdom and glory. (BHT 1 Th 1:2-11)

B. “We show that we are true ministers”

And he has committed to us the message of reconciliation. 20 We are therefore Christ’s ambassadors, as though God were making his appeal through us. We implore you on Christ’s behalf: Be reconciled to God… 6:11As God’s fellow workers we urge you not to receive God’s grace in vain. 2 For he says, “In the time of my favor I heard you, and in the day of salvation I helped you.” I tell you, now is the time of God’s favor, now is the day of salvation. 3 We put no stumbling block in anyone’s path, so that our ministry will not be discredited. 4 Rather, as servants of God we commend ourselves in every way (“we show that we are true ministers” [NLT]): in great endurance; in troubles, hardships and distresses; 5 in beatings, imprisonments and riots; in hard work, sleepless nights and hunger; 6 in purity, understanding, patience and kindness; in the Holy Spirit and in sincere love; 7 in truthful speech and in the power of God; with weapons of righteousness in the right hand and in the left; 8 through glory and dishonor, bad report and good report; genuine, yet regarded as impostors; 9 known, yet regarded as unknown; dying, and yet we live on; beaten, and yet not killed; 10 sorrowful, yet always rejoicing; poor, yet making many rich; having nothing, and yet possessing everything. (NIV 2 Co 519b-20, 6:1-10).

C. “When we speak, it is with pure and sincere motives”

14To God, however, be thanks, to the one who, like a general at the head of his victory procession, puts us on public display in the Messiah continually, and discloses through us everywhere the very fragrance of the knowledge of him. 15What we are is a fragrant aroma, offered to God by the Messiah (cf Rm 12:1; Php 2:17; Col 1:24) in the presence of those heading toward salvation and in the presence of those heading toward utter ruin. 16Though in the eyes of the latter we are more like the stench of death leading to greater death, in the eyes of the former we are the sweet smell of life leading to greater life. And as for such a calling, whose lives are truly up to standard (“qualified” [ISV]; “adequate” [NET]; Gk hikanos-“meeting adequate standards for a purpose” [BSL, 2 Co 2:16, sv]? 17We are not like the many who use tricks and deceit to make money off of the word of God, you see (“hucksters who peddle the word of God for profit” [NET]; “commercializing God’s word” [ISV]; “handle God’s message as if it were cheap merchandise” [TEV]; “market God’s message for profit” [HCSB]). No, when we speak, it is with pure and sincere motives, as people sent from God and accountable to God, that we do so, on behalf of the Messiah himself. (BHT 2 Co 2:14-17)

D. “I hope it is clear to your consciences”

11We present our appeal, therefore, since we know the fear of the Lord, to mankind. The truth of our lives is already clear and obvious to God himself, moreover, and I hope it is already clear and obvious, too, to your consciences (BHT 2 Co 5:11)

  • God knows what we really are, and I hope that in your hearts you know, too. (NCV)

E. “Ministers of a new covenant, not of a law code… but of the Spirit”

1Is it beginning to sound as if we are again trying to establish our own credibility? Surely we don’t need, do we, like some, letters from others that prove our credibility to you, or letters from you that prove it to others? 2You yourselves are our letter, written on our hearts, continually known and read by all. 3It isn’t difficult to see that you are a letter produced by the Messiah, the result of our ministry, written not with ink, but by the Spirit of the living God; written not on tablets of stone, but on a tablets of human hearts. 4Such is the confidence, yes, that we have through the Messiah in the presence of God. 5I want to make it clear, though, that it certainly isn’t because of our own strength and ability that we are able to do all that we do, as if to consider the results of our work as having their source in us. No, our ability comes from God, 6who has enabled us as ministers of a new covenant, not of a law-code written out on scrolls, but of the Spirit. The written code condemns to death, you see, whereas the Spirit gives new life. (BHT 2 Co 3:1-6)

F. “We refuse to resort to clever schemes”

17Now, “the Lord” here means the Spirit, and, where the Spirit of the Lord is present, there is freedom. 18We, moreover, all of us, with our faces unveiled, at the glory of the Lord gazing face-to-face as in a mirror, are being transformed with greater and greater glory into his very image—a transformation likewise produced by the Lord, the Spirit. 1That is the reason why, having stewardship of this ministry because of God’s great mercy toward us, we don’t give up. 2In fact, quite the opposite, we have firmly resolved ourselves against shameful and secretive practices (“we have rejected shameful hidden deeds” [NET]; “we have renounced secret and shameful ways” [ISV, NIV]; “we reject all shameful deeds and underhanded methods” [NLT]), refusing to resort to clever schemes, refusing to distort the word of God, but rather, by an open display of the truth, presenting the credibility of our lives and message before every person’s conscience as messengers accountable to God… 6For God, who said, “Out of darkness let light shine forth,” is the one who shined on our understanding to give us the light of the knowledge about the glory of God in the face of the Messiah. 7At the same time, we have stewardship of this treasure as weak instruments, like vessels made of clay, so that it will be absolutely clear that the extraordinary power present in our ministry belongs to God and not to ourselves, 8on every side being hard-pressed, yet not crushed; often seeing no way out, though not so to the point of despair; 9persecuted, yet not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed; 10from place to place displaying in our bodies the very death of Jesus, so that in these dying bodies of ours the very life of Jesus, too, may be put on open display. 11Yes, we who are experiencing new life are at the same time constantly being handed over for Jesus’s sake to death, so that the life of Jesus may likewise be openly displayed in these weak and mortal bodies of ours.12So then, constant risk of death is what we ourselves face, yet life is the result for you. (BHT 2 Co 3:17-4:2, 6-12)


Tim Miller (124 Posts)

Tim is founder of the Daniel Training Network. His passion is to see followers of Christ embrace a life of the cross. He, his wife Emily, and their four children itinerate regularly as part of their ministry, and are presently living in New Mexico.

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