Archive for the ‘2 Corinthians’ Category

2 Corinthians 13

2 Corinthians 13 has Paul finishing his letter to the church in Corinth.  He writes about coming to see them yet a third time.  On his first visit to Corinth, Paul founded the church and stayed a year and six months (Acts 18:11).  His second visit was a brief, painful visit in between the writing of 1 Corinthians and 2 Corinthians.  Now he is prepared to come for a third time.  His work is not quite done with them.  This time he warns that he comes as a judge to point out what needs to be corrected.  Christ is going to deal with the sin in their lives.  “He is not weak in dealing with you, but is powerful among you”.

Some think that Christ going to the Cross was a sign that He was not in fact in control.  Yet the truth is that Jesus went willingly to the Cross as part of God’s plan to provide grace to all who would believe.  His crucifixion is what provided victory over death.  Before He could rise and live victoriously, He had to submit to death, so He chose to be weak for He could be strong.  “For He was crucified in weakness, but lives by the power of God”.  Jesus chose weakness so He could ultimately demonstrate eternal strength.  We need to make sure we are walking with him.  “Examine yourselves, to see whether you are in the faith.  Test yourselves. Or do you not realize this about yourselves, that Jesus Christ is in you”?

As a Christ Follower, He lives in us through the power of the Holy Spirit.  Paul wants the church at Corinth to understand that they need to live differently than the world around them.  The same is true for us today.  We should not merely blend in and be undetectable from those in our patch.  As followers of Jesus, our lives should reflect His authority in us.  “I write these things while I am away from you, that when I come I may not have to be severe in my use of the authority that the Lord has given me for building up and not for tearing down”.  Paul doesn’t want to be the heavy to those who are in the church as Christ Followers.  We need to examine ourselves and be sure we are living His way.

SO what does that look like?  Paul gives us a list:

  • rejoice – be happy and exalth the one who gives us life
  • Aim for restoration – resolve differences and be right with all around you
  • comfort one another – life is hard and we need to do it together and help each other with the hard things
  • agree with one another – unity is God’s desire, not division.  We need to find common ground and focus on that
  • live in peace – even in disagreements we need to focus on the greater good and God’s ultimate plan
  • Greet one another with a holy kiss” – maybe not something culturally accepted today, but we need to be joyful in our greetings

And what will be the result of living God’s way every day?  “And the God of love and peace will be with you”.  We sometimes think we have to give up too much to follow Jesus.   I think not.  What is a life of love and peace worth?  Isn’t it worth giving Him your all and all of you?

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2 Corinthians 12

2 Corinthians 12 has Paul again focused on being humble and an instrument in God’s hands.  The story is not about him, but the One whom he serves.  Paul has been given insight into God’s Word and His plans and had plenty of reasons to think he himself was the real deal.  But he doesn’t go there.  He keeps his life in perspective to the God he serves. Paul was not immune to the danger of pride.  No one is. “So to keep me from becoming conceited because of the surpassing greatness of the revelations, a thorn was given me in the flesh, a messenger of Satan to harass me, to keep me from becoming conceited”.

Paul is clear that he’s got a thorn that is keeping him from a simple and painfree life.  The root word Paul uses for thorn here describes a tent stake, not a thumbtack.  This wasn’t a simple little inconvenience.  It was a major distraction and Paul wants it gone.  “Three times I pleaded with the Lord about this, that it should leave me”.  Paul prays and asks God to set him free from the thorn that was afflicting him.  Paul did exactly what he told others to do in a time of trouble.  To ask God to set him free.  Does God answer his prayer?  Not exactly the way he would have liked.

God in fact leaves the thorn but provides the means to live with it.  “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness”.  God doesn’t rush to set Paul free from his ‘thorn’. When he suffered, his first instinct was to ask God to take it away. We don’t know what the thorn is. Some think it a physical ailment like an earache or headache, some a spiritual affliction like lust or some other sinful pattern, and others a disease like malaria.  The wildest thing I read was that the thorn was his wife or a family member.  But Paul accepts God’s answer to prayer even though it is not what he wants.

For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong”.  Paul accepts the life God has given him, knowing that it allows God to be strong through him.  And even though content with his place, he knows it may not be over. He has to address the thorns in those he is ministering too. “I fear that when I come again my God may humble me before you, and I may have to mourn over many of those who sinned earlier and have not repented of the impurity, sexual immorality, and sensuality that they have practiced”.  Sin has to be addressed, even if the sinner and those around him don’t see their sin.  Paul knows it is part of God’s call on his ministry.

2 Corinthians 11

2 Corinthians 11 has Paul defending his work for the Lord.  He points out that we as Christ Followers are under attack.  “But I am afraid that as the serpent deceived Eve by his cunning, your thoughts will be led astray from a sincere and pure devotion to Christ”.  The enemy certainly doesn’t want us to know or follow Christ.  And he will use whatever tactics possible to deceive us.  “For if someone comes and proclaims another Jesus than the one we proclaimed, or if you receive a different spirit from the one you received, or if you accept a different gospel from the one you accepted, you put up with it readily enough”.  We are quickly and easily pulled away from Christ by the deceit of the enemy or his messengers.

Paul makes it clear that “the truth of Christ is in me”.  He is sharing God’s truth and that is his calling.  “What I do I will continue to do, in order to undermine the claim of those who would like to claim that in their boasted mission they work on the same terms as we do”.  There were plenty of false teachers around during Paul’s ministry.  The enemy had all sorts of distractions going on.  “For such men are false apostles, deceitful workmen, disguising themselves as apostles of Christ. And no wonder, for even Satan disguises himself as  an angel of light”.  We need to be on guard to the false truth that still today the enemy throws at us every day.

Paul makes it clear that he is qualified to teach Christ and Him crucified.  “Are they Hebrews? So am I. Are they Israelites? So am I. Are they offspring of Abraham? So am I. Are they  servants of Christ?  I am a better one—I am talking like a madman—with far greater labors, far more imprisonments, with countless beatings, and often near death”.  In case there was any question about Paul’s commitment to the gospel, he makes it clear that he is all in – not only in commitment but also in qualification.  Paul is God’s messenger to the churches of the truth of the gospel.

His resume of sacrifice is almost unbelievable.  After reading this, no one should question whether he was on God’s mission.  “Five times I received at the hands of the Jews the forty lashes less one. Three times I was beaten with rods. Once I was stoned. Three times I was shipwrecked; a night and a day I was adrift at sea; on frequent journeys, in danger from rivers, danger from robbers, danger from my own people, danger from Gentiles, danger in the city, danger in the wilderness, danger at sea, danger from false brothers; in toil and hardship, through many a sleepless night, in hunger and thirst, often without food, in cold and exposure. And, apart from other things, there is the daily pressure on me of my anxiety for all the churches”.  Wow – that is one committed Apostle.  Many would have thrown in the towel long ago.  But not Paul.  He stayed the course and carried the Gospel to all who would listen, and some that wouldn’t.  Oh that we would be faithful like Paul was in showing others the love of God through Christ!

2 Corinthians 10

2 Corinthians 10 has Paul defending the work of his team in ministering to the church at Corinth.  Some among the church felt there was inconsistency in what was written when compared to what they said and did when present.  Paul reminds them that what they see is not a simple challenge – we are all in a real war.  “For though we walk in the flesh, we are not waging war according to the flesh”.  We face a very real enemy that is extremely effective at using our human nature to try and draw us away from God.  And if we try and deal with the battle on our own, we’ll lose.  Fortunately God has equipped us to be able to succeed.

For the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh but have divine power to destroy strongholds”.  We can overcome the enemy and his attempts to put us in the spiritual ditch.  But it requires some discipline on our part.  “We destroy arguments and every lofty opinion raised against the knowledge of God, and take every thought captive to obey Christ, being ready to punish every disobedience, when your obedience is complete”.  The war happens in our heart and mind, and we have to control what we allow to get into our mind, and what we focus on as we live moment by moment.  Success in walking with Christ begins by how we think.

There were some in the church pointing fingers at Paul and his team, accusing them of strong written words but a weak message when present.  Paul makes it clear these two things align – but not in an in your face way when they were with them face to face.  “Let such a person understand that what we say by letter when absent, we do when present”.  Paul’s life was consistent with His writing.  He just lived it in a calm and quiet way, not in a way that challenged people directly by getting in their face.

He does share what their goal is for Christ Followers.  “But our hope is that  as your faith increases, our area of influence among you may be  greatly enlarged, so that we may preach the gospel in lands beyond you, without boasting of work already done in another’s area of influence”.  The reality is that as we grow in our faith, we should seek spiritual leadership more and more.  We need to submit to and follow spiritual leaders who can help us in our walk with Jesus.  Paul wanted to expand their influence in the church.  But as Christ Followers, we have to seek out that leadership and follow with passion!

2 Corinthians 9

2 Corinthians 9 has Paul continuing to teach about the importance of giving.  He begins with a spiritual truth that governs much of life: “whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows bountifully will also reap bountifully”.  Scripture teaches this concept in different ways throughout, but the bottom line is that we will reap what we sow in every area of life.  It is a reality that applies to our money, and our time, and every other part of our existence.  We need to give it freely, not hold on to what God has entrusted to us with a closed fist.

The bottom line of giving God’s way means we give with the right attitude.  “Each one must give as he has decided in his heart, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver”.  Giving is not about how much we give, but rather how we do it.  God’s concern is always about our heart.  He doesn’t need our money after all.  He does care about the how and why of our giving.  “God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that having all sufficiency in all things at all times, you may abound in every good work”.  God wants us to be part of His plans.  He doesn’t need us either, just like He doesn’t need our money, but He is able to provide us what we need to be part of His good works.

God has a plan for the world He created long ago.  Adam and Eve blew it in the garden, but that didn’t change God’s desire to have people live with Him in obedience leading to godliness and righteousness.  “He who supplies seed to the sower and bread for food will supply and multiply your seed for sowing and increase the harvest of your righteousness”.  If we learn to walk in obedience with God, He’ll provide what we need to bear a harvest that honors Him.  It isn’t dependent on us, but through Him.  We are merely an instrument in His hands.  “You will be enriched in every way to be generous in every way, which through us will produce thanksgiving to God”.  God desires to make a difference through us.

Giving is a key part of God’s plan.  “For the ministry of this service is not only supplying the needs of the saints but is also overflowing in many thanksgivings to God”.  God wants our heart to be moved by the potential of ministry to others that they may come to know Jesus.  As we give and serve, “they will glorify God because of your submission flowing from your confession of the gospel of Christ, and the generosity of your contribution for them and for all others, while they long for you and pray for you, because of the surpassing grace of God upon you”.  When we give, others will see God’s grace alive in us.  It is evidence of Jesus Christ in us.  The world doesn’t understand the ‘why’, but God has a plan that allows giving to be a tool He uses in us and through us.

2 Corinthians 8

2 Corinthians 8, Paul continues teaching the church in Corinth about walking with Christ in obedience.  His focus in this chapter is around giving.  He describes what it really looks like to be a cheerful giver.  “For they gave according to their means, as I can testify, and beyond their means, of their own accord, begging us earnestly for the favor of taking part in the relief of the saints—and this, not as we expected, but they gave themselves first to the Lord and then by the will of God to us”.  The faithful were not just givers of money, even beyond what they really could give, but they also gave themselves to the work of the ministry.

When we think of tithing we can get hung up on what that truly means.  For some, it means 10% of our money – that’s what we owe God.  But is it?  Tithing really should address all of what God has entrusted to us.  First of all, everything we have already belongs to Him.  We are stewards of God’s blessing and don’t own any of it ourselves.  But tithing should not be just a financial measurement.  It is about our time, our energy, our gifts and all that God has bestowed on us.  And we should give until it hurts.  It shouldn’t just be from our excess.  Giving should be driven by the heart and should cost us something.

Paul’s desire for the Corinthian church was that they excel in how they give.  “But as  you excel in everything—in faith, in speech, in knowledge, in all earnestness, and in our love for you — see that you excel in this act of grace also”.  Giving is not something we have to do. It should be something we want to do.  Jesus set the example of what true giving is all about.  Not just money, but even our life, all of it.  “For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sake he became poor, so that you by his poverty might become rich”.  Jesus traded all He had and was that we might experience all that God is and has for us.

But Paul also makes it clear that giving has to be accompanied by transparency and accountability.  “We take this course so that no one should blame us about this generous gift that is being administered by us, for we aim at what is honorable not only in the Lord’s sight but also in the sight of man”.  Anyone who handles money for ministry must be accountable in how they manage those funds, and must do it in a way that meets God’s standards and is transparent to man.  There is much responsibility with handling money that is given for God’s ministry.  Paul wanted to be very clear that he and his team were handling it in a way pleasing to the Lord and man.

2 Corinthians 7

2 Corinthians 7 has Paul building off what he wrapped up in the previous chapter.  “Since we have these promises, beloved, let us cleanse ourselves from every defilement of body and spirit, bringing holiness to completion in the fear of God”.  God has given us many promises that we need to cling to and claim, but those promises should also drive us to live differently and clean up our life.  There is a cleansing that God alone does in our lives, but there is also a cleansing which God wants to do in cooperation with us.  Here, Paul is writing about a cleansing that isn’t just something God does for us as we sit passively; this is a self-cleansing for intimacy with God that goes beyond a general cleansing for sin.

God cares about our holiness.  Not just forgiveness of sin, but living a life worthy of the Lord.  A holy life, one that is focused on walking in obedience with Him driven by our fear of God.  It’s not about being afraid of God, although we should have that kind of fear too, but the fear of God we need in our lives is a very healthy understanding and respect of His holiness and righteousness and what He wants to do in our life.  There is an aspect of cleansing which God looks for us to do with the participation of our own will and effort; not that it is our work apart from God, but it is a work that awaits our will and effort.

This aspect of cleansing is mostly connected with intimacy with God, and usefulness for service.  God has a plan for us but we have to be in right standing to be used by Him in the way He intends.  Our pride, our legalistic lifestyle, our self-focus, our self-righteousness, our bitterness, the judging you do of others and our hatred can all be far worse to deal with than the more obvious sins of the flesh. God wants to clean up all our life, not just the things we might clearly call out as sins.  He cares about our heart and what our motives are as much as the actions we take.

Paul was glad for what he saw in the Corinthian church.  “I rejoice, not because you were grieved, but because you were grieved into repenting….For godly grief produces a repentance that leads to salvation without regret, whereas worldly grief produces death”.  We have to repent of all our sin, known or not, public or private, obvious or hidden – God is going to deal with all of it.  He uses a 2X4 to address some of it directly, but some of it He desires to have us participate in cleaning up our life and getting right with Him.  God has a plan for us.  We need to get on board!

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