O ye Corinthians, our mouth is open unto you, our heart is enlarged.
Ye are not straitened in us, but ye are straitened in your own bowels.
Now for a recompence in the same, (I speak as unto my children,) be ye also enlarged. 2 Cor. 6:11-13
It is not easy to keep an open heart. As children of God there are many situations that come our way and tempt us to close our hearts. Concerning the purity of our hearts, we are constantly ‘kept on our toes’, so to speak. The Bible clearly tells us to be vigilant. We must be vigilant in guarding our hearts because there is an enemy who wants to pollute them.
It was not easy for the Apostle Paul to keep his heart open and pure towards the Corinthians. This was a church that was a big headache to Paul. True, they had an overflow of the gifts of the Holy Spirit; but we know that these are not always a reflection of the work of Christ in men’s hearts. They are gifts, mark that. But the work of the cross in our hearts requires obedience of a different kind.
The Corinthian church was not carrying the cross well. In other words, they were not “boasting” in the cross. They were not careful to nail their flesh to the cross, and as a result the flesh had a field day terrorizing that church (more like Goliath did to the Israelites before David despatched of him).
Let us do a partial listing of the things that were wrong with this mega-church of the early days.
In the first place, there were false apostles in their midst who were doing all in their power to discredit Paul’s ministry. They wanted to “overthrow” Paul because they thought the Kingdom of God was about competition.
Secondly, this church was filled with every kind of sin, as we saw in our last post. Rivalry, envy, discord and many other such things flowed liberally from their hearts.
Thirdly, as a result of their bad hearts, the Corinthian church was the stingiest church on the planet. One year after they had promised to raise financial support for the poor saints in Jerusalem, they hadn’t sent a dime! You can read about all that in 2 Corinthians chapters 8 and 9 – and contrast that with the large-heartedness of the Macedonian church that we read of in the same chapters.
And yet despite all these problems, Paul’s generosity of spirit towards them did not waver or lessen. He was rich in grace, and he directed this richness towards them.
The classic example of this is Paul asking the Corinthians to forgive the brother they had earlier thrown out of church for sleeping with his father’s wife. That was love in action.
We can learn something from Paul and the apostles. We can learn to desire the grace of God in our hearts so that we may know how to deal with sin in the church with a heart of love.
Much of the time we are men and women of law. We have no grace in our hearts and we therefore end up “crushing” people. We react with anger and indecision. We lash out at that brother or sister, forgetting that love strives to feel the heart of the sinner.
But when we have grace, we can bring healing even to the most odious of situations. This was why Paul’s ministry was so powerful.
Paul says, “Receive us; we have wronged no man, we have corrupted no man, we have defrauded no man” (2 Cor. 7:2). Not many ministers of the gospel can claim those words for themselves. But Paul was bold towards the Corinthians because he carried grace towards them.
In the final analysis, we are called upon to minister to one another with a heart of love. There was no other way the Apostle Paul could have become an effective minister to the Corinthians apart from carrying an open heart, a heart of grace. That is what a working of the cross does to us – it gives us a heart of grace.