II 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."
This morning, true contentment wanes daily. When something simple and yet profound comes along, man will many times reject the thought outright due to the inherent simplicity of it. Recently at work, I had opportunity to discuss theological topics with a co-worker. As we travelled down the road on the subject of salvation, he was dumbfounded by the basic thoughts that I presented as my viewpoints on the subject. At one point, he exclaimed, "There's got to be more to it than that!" In a nutshell, he saw the concept that God had done everything necessary to secure the ransomed souls to heaven too simple a thought to be correct. Surely, he declared, we have to do something! Inherently, there may have been other impediments to his understanding, but the one he confessed was a rejection of the concept due to its simple nature. Likewise, many things about the Lord's ways, His book, and His church seem too simple for many to consider as right and proper.
When looking at Paul's conversations to the church at Corinth through his two lengthy epistles to them, we see a devoted servant of God that fervently desires that they walk circumspectly and away from many of the things that they engaged in. As he draws to the close of his second epistle, he sums his thinking on his exhortations to them for repentance and correction from their errors. He mentions that Satan is ceaselessly working to spoil their fellowship, and he declares that Satan would desire nothing more than to remove their simplicity from them.
Oftentimes, we talk about the simple nature of our worship in the house of God. Due to the beauty and glory that Christ has set there, we need not look to find additions and augmentations to it. While additions and augmentations oftentimes improve situations and processes in the world, they can only bring down the church since the Lord Jesus has equipped her will all the necessary items for her journey through the seas of life. As one of my fathers in the ministry likes to say, "What will grow the world will kill the church." Sadly, we have seen some of these items destroy healthy and devoted churches when they adopted the ways and means of man. However, even though we serve and worship the Lord in His courts in a very simple manner – something for which we should never be ashamed of – Paul's word usage in our study pertains to a more over-arching principle.
The word "simplicity" in our study verse pertains not to the complexity of a thing but the unity of it. Paul's desire was that the church unify around the principles he expounded to them. Their future and spiritual wellbeing depended greatly on standing unified as a church body in the right way and manner. When looking at the etymology of the word Paul employed, there are several very insightful illustrations that open a window to some rich insights into church relationships and behaviours. We hope to examine some of these fertile fields in this segment.
One of the illustrative definitions for simplicity is "singleness." Therefore, Paul exhorted the church to remain in the simplicity of one harmonious unit and body. As he illustrated to the Roman church in Romans 12, the church is much like a physical body that functions as a unit with different parts serving much like our different body parts function together in one unit. When people view a church body, the goal is that they see one harmonious unit that works together with each filling their function. Satan delights in stealing away this characteristic of church interaction. Whether he beguiles us through pride, jealousy, or some other means, his aim is to displace certain parts of the body to the injury of the whole.
Another illustration for simplicity means "liberality." Liberality – in a Biblical sense – equates to generosity. What should people see as they view a church? They should view kind, compassionate, and abundantly generous people. One of the biggest compliments someone can pay a church is to say they willingly give themselves to others seeking no gain or return. When people give of their time, attention, and other things to those in need, we see a group of believers that show forth pure religion and undefiled. (James 1:27) Satan oftentimes beguiles through the visage of begrudging one another. The body cannot function to its full potential when people are not willing to give of their time, service, and themselves for and to one another.
The last definitive illustration for the word means "honesty." Churches should function with honesty and "above board" behaviour. Not only should those that perceive us see us as generous and unified, they should perceive the most honest folks too. In days past, it was recorded in different histories that Primitive Baptists could always trade and do business on the frontier on credit. Reason: those that dealt with them knew that they were honest enough to pay their lawful debts. That level of trustworthiness is a hallmark characteristic of faith that God's children should exhibit in this world. Therefore, it should shine brilliantly and vividly within the pavilions of God's church.
Bringing these definitive illustrations together, some have used the illustration of sword making to draw these points together. In ancient times (when swords were prevalently used for warfare), some ingenious techniques were fostered to make durable and trustworthy blades. Some of the ancient people of the east developed the technique of folding hot metal over and over on top of itself to strengthen and ultimately sharpen the blade. Some of the most proficient ones could heat the metal and fold the blade hundreds of times before allowing it to cool. Of course, when the process was complete, one could not determine – from cursory examination – how many folds had been employed to arrive at the finished product.
By the world's perception, someone should be recognized for their accomplishments. Someone should get the credit for their accomplishments, qualities, and successes. In a church sense, the world would think that certain groups should be singled out especially whether it be by age or some other manner. Satan delights in segregating the flock any way that he can – whether through dishonesty, grudging, or disharmony. Even with the best of intentions, we should not employ anything in the church that promotes the disharmony of the flock.
Indeed, the church has a very simple order of service, but consider what anything else but that order would bring about. Anything other than what we have robs us of the singleness, honesty, and liberality of God's church. If we do things not contained in the word of God to do, then we fail the honesty test. If we do things to promote ourselves, we fail the unity test, and if we do not do things to advance ourselves, we fail the liberality test. May our simplicity abound in God's courts, and may our thoughts be attuned to the advancement of His cause and betterment of our brethren. Such thoughts keep the roaring lion away from disturbing the peace and rest found in Zion. Paul desired fervently that Corinth have it, and we should pray to the Lord with equal ferventness that we have it as well.