Archive for the ‘2 Corinthians’ Category

2 Corinthians 11:1-4

In 2 Corinthians 11:1-4 Paul asks the Corinthian church to bear with him as he makes a point. Paul does not call the defense of his apostleship folly because it is stupid or nonsense. He calls it folly because he does it reluctantly, knowing his time and effort could be spent on far better things. He calls it folly because he knows that the things he believed to be honorable about his apostleship would be regarded as foolish by some of the Corinthian Christians. He views it as a waste of time, but necessary because of the obsession that some in the church have questioning his authority and leadership.

It is important that the Corinthian Christians understand and trust Paul’s apostolic credentials because Paul is jealous with a godly jealousy for their hearts. Paul’s godly jealousy is a good thing. “I wish you would bear with me in a little foolishness. Do bear with me! I feel a divine jealousy for you, for I betrothed you to one husband, to present you as a pure virgin to Christ.” Paul is like the friend of the groom, who watches out for the bride in the period between the betrothal and the wedding. The time of betrothal wasn’t taken lightly in Paul’s culture. If someone was unfaithful during the betrothal period, it was considered adultery, and a betrothal could only be broken by divorce. Paul is committed to helping the church be ready for their meeting with Christ at judgment day.

Paul’s concern was based on the experience of mankind with the enemy. Satan began his campaign to destroy mankind back in the Garden when he deceived Eve and has had all Christ Followers in his sights ever since. Paul wants to make the church aware of the attacks and schemes so they don’t fall prey to the cunning way the enemy attempts to derail us. “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.” Paul understood that Satan’s deception of Eve in the Garden of Eden is an example of Satan’s deceptive tactics. His lie to Eve was surrounded by half-truths and enticing deception. It’s how he works to deceive us.

The troublemakers among the Corinthian Christians who stirred up contention against Paul didn’t only attack Paul; they also attacked the true Jesus by preaching another Jesus. “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.” Paul warned against receiving another Jesus. There is one Jesus, one spirit, and one gospel. There are false teachers in the church today; the problem is that the church puts up with them and embraces them. Christians of this generation, like Christians of many generations, will have to answer to Jesus for their lack of discernment and willingness to allow false doctrine to be taught.

2 Corinthians 10:13-18

In 2 Corinthians 10:13-18 Paul teaches us that God assigns us to certain areas of influence and ministry. “But we will not boast beyond limits, but will boast only with regard to the area of influence God assigned to us, to reach even to you.” Paul’s authority in the church was not unlimited. God had granted him a sphere of authority, and that sphere included the Corinthian Christians, especially since he had founded that church. But he wasn’t going to go outside the area he knew God had ordained as his responsibility. It is important for the person in authority to not exercise that authority outside the sphere, and it is important for the person under authority to recognize the sphere of authority they are under.

Paul is clear that what God originates, He will orchestrate. He doesn’t call the gifted, He gifts the called. Paul knows that he is doing ministry under the power and authority of God. “For we are not overextending ourselves, as though we did not reach you. We were the first to come all the way to you with the gospel of Christ.” Paul and his team were there by God’s authority with the purpose of reaching the Corinthians. They brought the gospel of Jesus Christ to the area and were the first to minister to them founding a church to make sure the ministry would continue. But Paul knows it was by God’s grace and power that they were successful.

Paul is pleased with the work that had been done in Corinth. But he’s looking beyond the success they had here. “We do not boast beyond limit in the labors of others. 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.” As the Corinthian Christians grew in maturity and in outreach, their church would grow and plant many other churches. This would, by extension, enlarge Paul’s sphere of authority. Paul was looking to take the gospel further because of the Corinthian church.

Paul uses a quotation from Jeremiah 9:24 and rebukes the Corinthian Christians who found their glory either in Paul or by being against Paul. He sweeps all that away, showing we should not take glory in ourselves, in another, or against another – we should only glory in the Lord. “Let the one who boasts, boast in the Lord.” For it is not the one who commends himself who is approved, but the one whom the Lord commends.” It doesn’t matter how you testify about your own accomplishments. It is what God says about us that matters and will endure. We have to live for an audience of One. Nothing else matters. It is only what God has to say that will stand the test of eternity!

2 Corinthians 10:9-12

In 2 Corinthians 10:9-12 Paul addresses those who were trying to discredit and undermine his ministry. Paul’s critics among the Corinthian Christians felt they had “evidence” against him. The “evidence” was that Paul seemed to be tough in his letters but weak and unimpressive in person. So they used this as “evidence” to despise him as weak and two-faced. “I do not want to appear to be frightening you with my letters.” Paul’s humility and complete reliance on the power of God instead of the power of his own personality, coupled with his strong letters, were being used against him. They said Paul was like a dog that barks like crazy at a safe distance but is a coward when confronted face to face.

Their mistake was in relying only on outward appearance. These critics focused on only the style and presentation of his sermons, not the message itself. “For they say, “His letters are weighty and strong, but his bodily presence is weak, and his speech of no account.” They didn’t listen to the truth Paul shared with the church – only the way he delivered that truth. Paul may have been quite ill during his time with the Corinthian Christians, and his condition may have made him appear this way. At the same time, whether Paul’s weakness in bodily presence and speaking ability was temporary or permanent, it didn’t bother Paul. He knew that when he was weak, it gave God’s power all the more opportunity to work.

Paul knew that in our weakness God is shown strong. So he continued to write strong letters and speak truth when in person. He didn’t allow anything to derail his preaching of the gospel of Jesus Christ. “Let such a person understand that what we say by letter when absent, we do when present.” Paul writes to his critics with perfect clarity. Be careful what you ask for, because Paul was ready to bring it. “If you want the ‘tough’ Paul, you will get him. I will come to you with all the authority I have shown in my letters.” Paul was clear that he was ready and able to deliver the same message in person that he did through his letters.

Whoever Paul’s opponents and critics were among the Corinthian Christians, they certainly thought highly of themselves. Paul wasn’t going down that road. He would continue to lead with humility and grace and stay away from the nonsense that a few in the church wanted to pursue. “Not that we dare to classify or compare ourselves with some of those who are commending themselves. But when they measure themselves by one another and compare themselves with one another, they are without understanding.” These critics were simply measuring themselves by themselves and only comparing themselves among themselves. This means two things. First, it means making yourself the measure of others. Second, it means making others the measure of yourself.

This was wrong for at least two reasons. First, there did not seem to be a lot of really spiritual people among the Corinthian Christians to give a good comparison to. Comparing to those who were weak as Christ Followers does not give a very  good measure. How much of a compliment could it have been to be the most spiritual person among the Corinthians? Not really much to have pride about there. Secondly, it was wrong because it only measured on a human scale, focused on outward appearance. When we let the Holy Spirit measure us through God’s Word, He measures us on God’s scale, and He looks at the heart. We should only ever compare ourselves to God’s Word (the unmovable measuring stick) and how we are living life compared to God’s plan and expectation for our life. It’s not about comparing ourselves to anyone else ever!

2 Corinthians 10:5-8

In 2 Corinthians 10:5-8 Paul is clear that he and his team were going to protect the gospel. They weren’t just going to dispute it – he’s going to destroy any argument or opinion that is contrary to God’s truth. He’s going to knock down every wrong thought or perceptions, contradicting the true knowledge of God and the nature of God. “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.” So taking action against the negative was only part of the answer.

Paul goes on to teach us that we have to take every thought captive. To defeat this carnal way of thinking and doing, our thoughts must be brought captive and made obedient to Jesus. He alone has to be the center of what and how we think. We must stop our thoughts, take control of them in Jesus, and not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Paul was ready to do battle and punish disobedience. But he sees no point in coming to confront disobedience until those who have obeyed Jesus have made up their mind to do so. That’s when our obedience to Christ is complete – when we confront disobedience and the attacks on God’s truth.

Paul challenges the church to open their eyes and see what was in front of them. They are looking only at the outward appearances, and by outward appearances, Paul was weak and unimpressive. “Look at what is before your eyes. If anyone is confident that he is Christ’s, let him remind himself that just as he is Christ’s, so also are we.” Paul is saying, “If you claim to belong to Jesus, look at yourself. You may not be mighty in outward appearance, yet you belong to Jesus. Well, we are Christ’s as well.” Our outward appearance is not important when it comes to being a Christ Follower. It is our relationship that makes us His.

Paul is a humble man who doesn’t like to write about his place of authority. He wants there to be no chance that people would look at him as some super powerful authority. “For even if I boast a little too much of our authority, which the Lord gave for building you up and not for destroying you, I will not be ashamed.” Paul realizes how much better it would be if the Corinthian Christians would just recognize his authority so that he wouldn’t have to exercise his position but rather simply fulfill it. Authority is not given to tear down, but to build up and that is why Paul had the position he did. God’s intent was to build up the Corinthian church through his authority, not to destroy it in any way. But Paul is not timid about calling out what needs to be changed either.

2 Corinthians 10:1-4

In 2 Corinthians 10:1-4 Paul begins a new tone and pleads for the Corinthians to hear what he has to say. He writes to them in humility and with gentleness the way Christ would interact with them. In these next few chapters, Paul will get a little “rough” with the Corinthian Christians. “I, Paul, myself entreat you, by the meekness and gentleness of Christ – I who am humble when face to face with you, but bold toward you when I am away!” He has tried to be humble when in their presence, but when he is away and writing his guidance he speaks boldly in order to get the message across.

Clarke explained “Having now finished his directions and advices relative to the collection for the poor, he resumes his argument relative to the false apostle, who had gained considerable influence by representing St. Paul as despicable in his person, his ministry, and his influence.” Paul is accused of walking in the flesh because of the perceived contradiction between his gentleness and his severity. “I beg of you that when I am present I may not have to show boldness with such confidence as I count on showing against some who suspect us of walking according to the flesh.” These accusations where likely from a vocal minority in the church, but certainly shows how disruptive a small group can be.

Paul will admit that he walks according to the flesh in the sense that we all do. He is a flesh and blood human being, and he struggles with the same things the Corinthian Christians struggled with. Scripture is clear that all of us struggle as human beings with our flesh. However, Paul wants to make it clear that he does not war according to the flesh. “For though we walk in the flesh, we are not waging war according to the flesh.” Struggling with the flesh shows we are normal humans. The enemy continually attacks us with temptation that is designed to cause us to walk in the flesh. Our response, like Paul’s, needs to be of warfare against that temptation.

When Paul fought this battle, his weapons were not material but spiritual, suited for spiritual war. “For the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh but have divine power to destroy strongholds.” In Ephesians 6, Paul lists the spiritual weapons he used: the belt of truth, the breastplate of righteousness, the shoes of the gospel, the shield of faith, the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit. To rely on these weapons took faith in God instead of any human material defense.

Guzik explained that the Corinthians Christians had access to the weapons Paul described but used something completely differently:

  • Instead of the belt of truth, they fought with manipulation
  • Instead of the breastplate of righteousness, they fought with the image of success
  • Instead of the shoes of the gospel, they fought with smooth words
  • Instead of the shield of faith, they fought with the perception of power
  • Instead of the helmet of salvation, they fought with lording over authority
  • Instead of the sword of the Spirit, they fought with human schemes and programs

God’s  spiritual weapons are ignored by the world but feared by the enemy. When we fight with true spiritual weapons, then no principality or power can stand against us.

2 Corinthians 9:11-15

In 2 Corinthians 9:11-15 Paul makes clear that the Corinthian Christians would be enriched by their giving, both materially and spiritually. And then he goes on to explain the why: the reason the Corinthian Christians would be enriched in everything was not for their own riches or lavish lifestyles but for their generosity – that is, for all generous giving. “You will be enriched in every way for all your generosity, which through us will produce thanksgiving to God.” And after the giving is done there is an outcome that happens – thanksgiving to God who enables and provides all that we have and are able to give freely.

First, on the most practical level, the giving of the Corinthian Christians will supply the needs of the saints. This is a good thing in and of itself, but their giving did far more than that. “For the ministry of this service is not only supplying the needs of the saints, but is also overflowing in many thanksgivings to God.” Secondly, their gifts also caused thanksgiving to God. They were giving more than money for food; they were giving people a reason to thank God. As we give generously, God is able to use those gifts to impact people and cause them to overflow with thanks to God.

The impact continues. The giving of the Corinthian Christians was evidence of God’s work in them. When those in need received the gift, they would glorify God for the obedience of the church to give generously. “By their approval of this service, 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.” If a person does not have a generous heart, there is a sense in which they are not obedient to the Gospel. Giving is part of being filled with the Spirit.

The ancient Greek word translated sharing (generosity in the ESV) is koinania. This is the same word used for the ideas of fellowship and communion – it means the sharing of things in common.

  • When we share our lives, koinania is called fellowship
  • When we share remembrance of Jesus’ work for us through the Lord’s Supper, koinania is called communion
  • When we share our resources so none would be destitute, koinania is called sharing

The fourth benefit from the gift of the Corinthian Christians was that it would prompt the Jerusalem Christians to pray for them. Gratitude often translates to prayer and when we give the return is often that the receiver is not only thankful for the gift but also the giver. We need to also be appreciative of the opportunity God gives us to give. “Thanks be to God for his inexpressible gift!” Paul wants to leave the discussion of giving by reminding us again that God is the greatest giver. He gives the gift beyond description in Jesus Christ and we have the opportunity to share the great news of that gift with all in our patch!

2 Corinthians 9:8-10

In 2 Corinthians 9:8-10 Paul continues to explain God’s economy of giving. As we give, we must be persuaded that God is able to reward our giving. Just as God is able to make the sowing of seed abound to a great harvest, so God is able to bless our giving. “And 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.” Materially, God may bless our giving by promotions with better pay, unexpected gifts of money, or by making things last so we don’t suffer the cost of replacing them. Spiritually, God may bless our giving by freeing our hearts from the tyranny of greed and materialism, by giving us a sense of blessing and happiness, or by storing up rich reward in heaven. God is able to bless us in many ways.

Paul makes it clear that when we give, we will have sufficiency in all things at all times. The ancient Greek word for sufficiency (autarkeia) may also be translated contentment. God gives a special gift to the giving heart: always… all contentment in all things. That is a lot of all! It’s easy for many Christians to say they have this contentment; but whether they have it or not is often more truthfully known by their spending and shopping habits. When we live and act without contentment, we are trying to fill needs in our lives. It might be the need to be “somebody,” the need to feel secure or cared for, or the need to have excitement and newness in our lives. Most people try to fulfill these needs with material things, but they can only really be met by a spiritual relationship with the God who made us.

But wait, there’s more goodness that results from freely giving. We are blessed so that we can be a blessing to others. God wants us to be channels of blessing, not reservoirs of blessing. “As it is written,”He has distributed freely, he has given to the poor; his righteousness endures forever.” God gives to us so that we can be a vessel that He can use to give freely to others. We are not to be like the Dead Sea, with only things coming in but no outlet. The result of that is that things are dead. Paul is not trying to say that generous giving makes us righteous but gives evidence of a right standing with God. When we have Jesus as our Lord, we give.

Paul recognizes God as the great supplier. Whatever we have to give was first given to us by God. He owns it all and provides to us that we may give freely as He directs. We should never pat ourselves on the back for what we give – because it all comes from God. Paul prays that what is given will be multiplied which is what God can do with what we give. “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.” Paul prays that God would increase these fruits that grow from their giving. Giving is a powerful way to be used by God to bear fruit and bring in a harvest!

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