“For the time past of our life may suffice us to have wrought the will of the Gentiles, when we walked in lasciviousness, lusts, excess of wine, revelings, banquetings, and abominable idolatries: Wherein they think it strange that ye run not with them to the same excess of riot, speaking evil of you:”
The Bible is filled with reminders that we are to stand out as different in the world. The contrast between us and the unregenerate ought to be sharp, distinct, and unmistakable. This is precisely what the Lord prayed for. “Sanctify them through thy truth,” He prayed to His Father, “Thy word is truth” (John 17:17). Nowhere do we see a better example of a sanctified life among Christ’s people than great apostle Paul. In the sixth chapter of his second epistle to the Corinthians, Paul encourages his readers not to receive the grace of God in vain (6:1). That is, we should not make God’s kindness in forgiving and reconciling us to Himself useless in that we refuse to live sanctified, transformed lives. What follows this brief introductory statement are three short blocks of Scripture in which Paul describes and defends his ministry. This is important to us because as God’s special representative, Paul sets an example that we are to emulate (1 Corinthians 4:16; 11:1; Philippians 4:6; 1 Thessalonians 1:6-7; 2 Thessalonians 3:9). In the first block of text, Paul uses the preposition “in.” His ministry under Christ was carried out “in much patience, in afflictions, in necessities, in distresses, in stripes, in imprisonments, in tumults, in labours, in watchings, in fastings.” In addition to these outward displays of his ministry’s legitimacy, he adds the inward testimony of his work being performed, “in pureness, in knowledge, in longsuffering, in kindness, in the Holy Ghost, in love unfeigned.” All of this was accomplished “in the word of truth” and “in the power of God.” In the second block of text, he uses the preposition “by” as he moves on to discuss those things through which he carried out his God-ordained ministry work. He did so “by the armour of righteousness on the right hand and on the left, by honour and dishonour, by evil report and good report.” Fully equipped, Paul marched forward undaunted, whether he was honoured or dishonoured, whether people spoke well of him or slandered him. Lastly, Paul uses the preposition “as” to describe and contrast popular conception of him and his work with the actual truth of the matter. “As deceivers,” he wrote, “and yet true, as unknown, and yet well known; as dying, and, behold, we live; as chastened, and not killed, as sorrowful, yet always rejoicing; as poor, yet making many rich; as having nothing, and yet possessing all things.” Despite being misunderstood and even slandered, Paul kept his perspectives and priorities right before God. May God help us to so walk before Him, for His glory and the good of others, even in these last of days.