No Underhanded Ways
One of the promises we make to you at this church is that we will strenuously avoid using gimmicks to grow the church. This ought to be clear across the landscape of scripture, but it snaps our head back in 2Corinthians 4:1-2.
Therefore, having this ministry by the mercy of God, we do not lose heart. But we have renounced disgraceful, underhanded ways. We refuse to practice cunning or to tamper with God's word, but by the open statement of the truth, we would commend ourselves to everyone's conscience in the sight of God. (2 Cor. 4:1-2 ESV)
Paul is writing about the ministry of the gospel. For him, this was his apostolic work, which though different, certainly shares much in common with the work of the local church. We are in the same work of the kingdom. We are preaching the gospel.
What are we renouncing?
Paul speaks of renouncing methods that are disgraceful, underhanded, cunning practice, or tampering with Gods’ word. He’s telling the Corinthians that he refused to trick them in any form. Whatever could be considered manipulative sleight of hand was off the table.
What are the things that count in that category today? It’s a bit like art. You can’t define it, but you know it when you see it. One of the keys is the word Paul uses when he says “tamper with God’s word.” That word was used of people who diluted their goods to have more to sell you. I think that tells us a lot.
We dare not stay away from subjects and teachings of scripture simply because it might offend. The gospel does offend. We don’t try to make it so. It just is. But if we soft-pedal sin, hell, judgment, sanctification, holiness or any other key doctrine of God’s word so that people won’t get mad and leave, then that is underhanded and shameful. What are we to do? We are to handle the word of God truthfully, full strength, appeal to men’s consciences by that word and let God do His work.
What are we affirming?
In contrast, Paul states that the core of his ministry was an open statement of the truth and a commending of themselves to each person’s conscience. Paul relied on the power of God’s word, the appeal of the gospel to men, and the power of the truth to do the work. He didn’t confuse that with smoke and mirrors or anything even close to chicanery.
This can sound arrogant if we are not careful. We don't want to have the wrong spirit about this. Rather, in humility, we have to say, this is all we can do, for God allows nothing more.