Indeed, this is our boast, the testimony of our conscience: we have behaved in the world with frankness and godly sincerity, not by earthly wisdom but by the grace of God—and all the more towards you. For we write to you nothing other than what you can read and also understand; I hope you will understand until the end— as you have already understood us in part—that on the day of the Lord Jesus we are your boast even as you are our boast.
Since I was sure of this, I wanted to come to you first, so that you might have a double favour; I wanted to visit you on my way to Macedonia, and to come back to you from Macedonia and have you send me on to Judea. Was I vacillating when I wanted to do this? Do I make my plans according to ordinary human standards, ready to say ‘Yes, yes’ and ‘No, no’ at the same time? As surely as God is faithful, our word to you has not been ‘Yes and No.’ For the Son of God, Jesus Christ, whom we proclaimed among you, Silvanus and Timothy and I, was not ‘Yes and No’; but in him it is always ‘Yes.’ For in him every one of God’s promises is a ‘Yes.’ For this reason it is through him that we say the ‘Amen’, to the glory of God. But it is God who establishes us with you in Christ and has anointed us, by putting his seal on us and giving us his Spirit in our hearts as a first instalment.
But I call on God as witness against me: it was to spare you that I did not come again to Corinth. I do not mean to imply that we lord it over your faith; rather, we are workers with you for your joy, because you stand firm in the faith.
“There’s been a change of plan.” If you’re an organised sort of person, the heart sinks. Why can’t people stick to what’s already been arranged? For most of us life is complicated enough as it is, and we really want to know just where we are.
So we can guess the Corinthians’ sense of frustration as Paul’s travel plans seem to change yet again. His supporters will no doubt rejoice at the promise of a double visit, either side of his trip to Macedonia; but others it seems are asking if he’s going to stick with these plans or change them yet again. It’s no surprise then that Paul is quick to defend himself. But we would hardly expect a few comments on his own reliability to lead into so deep a reflection on the very nature of Christ.
Paul recognises that we make plans by weighing up the consequences of our possible actions, saying ‘yes’ to some and ‘no’ to others. But once we ask God to be with us in the choices and decisions we make, our carefully nuanced “on the one hand this, and on the other hand that” thought processes no longer function. Paul believes that God has been with him in the plans he has made (even over matters such as should the journey be by sea or by land), and he is convinced that God never mixes up “yes” and “no”.
Central to Paul’s life, as the power and the inspiration behind his mission to sometimes awkward and obstreperous people like the Corinthians, is the person of Jesus Christ. And he, Paul declares, is the way in which God has said a resounding “Yes”. There’s no room for doubt, and no hint of change in God’s plans. In Jesus Christ, it is “Yes” all the way!
Loving God help me to be true to my word and stick to the plans you have helped me to make that even in my life others may see the Christ who is your unfailing YES.
The Rev’d John Durell, retired minister, member of Waddington Street URC, Durham
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