Posts Tagged ‘Jesus’

2 Corinthians 4:8-10

In 2 Corinthians 4:8-10 Paul reminds us that being a Christ Follower does not mean we won’t face some difficult challenges. In today’s world, the COVID-19 virus has certainly given us something new and different to work through. This verse is used in a number of songs to set the reality of what life is like – there are problems and suffering, but Jesus dies to give us victory. “We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed…..” Paul’s life was hard, and it was hard because of his passionate devotion to Jesus Christ and His gospel.

Look at the way he describes life:

  • Afflicted
  • Perplexed
  • Persecuted
  • Struck down

Just looking at that makes it seem like Paul’s life was a disaster. Yet it wasn’t the whole story at all.

He goes on to tell us that in addition to being

  • Afflicted – he was not crushed
  • Perplexed – he did not despair
  • Persecuted – he was not forsaken
  • Struck down – he was not destroyed

The good news is that while Paul had some real suffering in his life, God did not leave him alone to deal with it. Paul knew the power and victory of Jesus in his life because he was continually in situations where only the power and victory of Jesus could meet his need.

Paul wanted to have Jesus evident in his life every step of the way. He wanted Jesus to shine through him. There are some aspects of God’s work in our lives that only happen through trials and suffering. “…..always carrying in the body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be manifested in our bodies.” The death of Jesus was not only a historical fact, it also was a spiritual reality in his life. Paul rejoiced in knowing both the suffering and the glory. He knew the two were connected. And he knew that there were lessons for the Corinthian church that could only be taught through the suffering and real life struggles he faced.

2 Corinthians 4:6-7

In 2 Corinthians 4:6-7 Paul continues to talk about the Gospel and the struggle with the prince of darkness – Satan himself. Paul did not preach himself or a gospel of moral reform or a list of rules you must follow to be right with God. He preached Jesus and Him alone. “For God, who said, “Let light shine out of darkness,” has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.” Guzik wrote “Paul is saying, “The Lord God who created light in the physical world can fill your heart with spiritual light, even if you are blinded by the god of this age.” Satan’s work of blinding is great, but God’s work of bringing light is greater.”

Every Christian should have some knowledge of the glory of God. And our focus should be on learning more about God’s glory through the Gospel of Jesus so we can shine brightly to the world around us. God gives us the light of the knowledge of God, and we have the responsibility to shine it brightly to those in our patch. Guzik writes “Imagine a man in a sunny room who enjoys the sunshine so much he wants to keep it all to himself. He says, “I’ll shut the curtains so that none of this light gets out!” and puts himself back into darkness. When we try to hoard up the light within ourselves, we will certainly lose it.” When we try to hold onto the Gospel ourself, we actually lose its power.

Paul reminds us that God has given us a treasure – the Gospel of Jesus. There is nothing that can compare with the greatness of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, and the glory of God made evident through that Gospel. It is the very light of God shining in the world around us, and the light of the knowledge of the glory of God, reflected in the face of Jesus Christ. This is the greatest treasure in all creation! “But we have this treasure in jars of clay, to show that the surpassing power belongs to God and not to us.” God has chosen to put the greatest gift of all – the Gospel of Jesus – into those who will receive it.

So who is worthy to be a “container” for God’s light and glory? The smartest person isn’t smart enough, the purest person isn’t pure enough, the most spiritual person isn’t spiritual enough, and the most talented person isn’t talented enough. We are all just clay pots holding an unspeakably amazing treasure that we don’t deserve nor can ever earn. The power of the Gospel has nothing to do with us. We are merely instruments that God chooses to use to share the light and glory through. We need to ask Him to mold us into a vessel that can be used to help those who are blinded by the enemy to see the light and come to God through His power and plan.

2 Corinthians 4:4-5

In 2 Corinthians 4:4-5 Paul makes clear that there is a battle for our minds. Satan absolutely wants to keep everyone from seeing the Gospel of Jesus as it is. Men love the darkness, and choose the darkness, but Satan still works hard to keep people blinded to the glorious gospel of light and salvation in Jesus. “In their case the god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelievers, to keep them from seeing the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God.” It is the minds of the unbelieving that are blinded. It is a strategy of Satan to work hard to make people think less and learn less and use their minds less.

This also explains why God has chosen the Word to transmit the gospel, because the Word touches our minds and can touch minds Satan has blinded. It is reality that Satan today has a hold on much of the world. Satan can only blind those who do not believe. If you are tired of having your mind blinded by the god of this age (Satan), then put your trust in who Jesus is and what He did for you. Then Satan can’t blind you anymore. If we see the Gospel for what it is, we will no longer be blinded but will see the light. Knowing this should affect how we pray for the lost. We should ask God to shine His light, to bind the blinding work of Satan, and to give faith to overcome the unbelief that allows people to be blind to the Gospel.

Paul is clear that the message they proclaimed was not their own, but Jesus as Lord. Paul didn’t climb into the pulpit or stand before an audience to preach about himself. He wasn’t the focus. Jesus was the focus. “For what we proclaim is not ourselves, but Jesus Christ as Lord, with ourselves as your servants for Jesus’ sake.” Paul and his co-workers were servants of the body – not the main event. Not everyone who opens a Bible and starts talking is preaching Christ Jesus the Lord. Many well-intentioned preachers actually preach themselves instead of Jesus. They don’t focus on Jesus, but tell stories and worldly wisdom rather than the Gospel of Christ.

A.T. Robertson said the preaching of one’s self was “Surely as poor and disgusting a topic as a preacher can find.” It’s not that a preacher can never tell a story or share something funny, but the focus much remain Jesus. While many like to have an intimate relationship with the person speaking, and want to have focus placed on the personal challenges and issues they may be facing – God has called us to shine the light of Jesus brightly on the blinded. Satan’s whole approach is to keep the blind from ever seeing the light, because if they do, they will be drawn to it and once the hear the story of Jesus and the Gospel Satan will lose his hold.

1 Corinthians 15:21-24

In 1 Corinthians 15:21-24 Paul reminds us that our current condition was caused by one man. Adam (by a man) is one “head” of the human race, and all mankind was brought under death by Adam. The second Adam, Jesus Christ (by a Man) is the other head of the human race, and Jesus brings resurrection to all that are “under” His headship. “For as by a man came death, by a Man has come also the resurrection of the dead.” Christ is the first who returned from the jaws of death to tell of immortality and light. It is His resurrection that truly is the foundation of the Christian faith and the basis of eternal life with the Father.

Paul is clear that all of us will die. It is 100% certain (unless Christ returns) that we’ll experience death. “For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ shall all be made alive.” But Paul is equally as clear that everyone will be alive and have eternal life. All will be resurrected in the sense that they will receive a resurrection body and live forever. So, all are resurrected, but not all will receive the resurrection of life. Some will receive the resurrection of condemnation, and live forever in a resurrected body in hell. These are completely opposite outcomes determined by how we respond to God’s offer of grace through Christ!

Christ was the first to receive resurrection, which is what He deserved as the Son of God. And because He has created a way for all the rest of mankind, it was His firstfruits. We will receive it at the Second Coming if we belong to Him through faith. “But each in his own order: Christ the firstfruits, then at his coming those who belong to Christ.” The resurrection of Jesus leads to the resolution of all things. “Then comes the end, when he delivers the kingdom to God the Father after destroying every rule and every authority and power.” Paul reveals God’s eternal purpose in history – to deliver those who receive His grace to eternal life.

But more than that, Jesus squares everything when He comes again. For now, God has granted a measure of rule and authority and power to men, to Satan, even death itself. But all that is temporary. Jesus will take His rightful place as the blessed and only Son of God, the King of kings and Lord of lords. After the resurrection, God will resolve all of history according to His will. Jesus takes His place at the right hand of God and will reign with Him. Fee wrote “In raising Christ from the dead God has set in motion a chain of events that culminates in the final destruction of death and thus of God’s being once again, as in eternity past, ‘all in all.’”

1 Corinthians 15:9-11

In 1 Corinthians 15:9-11 Paul continues talking about the gospel story and Jesus’ appearance to many after He rose from the tomb. Paul writes that he was the least of those to be called an apostle. Remember that he wasn’t part of Jesus ministry the last three years of His life like the Twelve were. And the Corinthian church had some misconceived ideas about Paul and his leadership and place in the church. “For I am the least of the apostles, unworthy to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God.” They actually called him a paulus (“little”) apostle. None of that matters, because Paul definitely was an apostle and follower of Christ in ways that few men ever achieved.

Paul would argue in some situations very hard for his apostolic credentials, because he knew he had to be respected as an apostle. But he had no desire to compete with other apostles for the “Most Valuable Apostle” award. He would gladly say, I am the least of the apostles. In fact, Paul believed he was not worthy to be called an apostle. For some, this would just be spiritual sounding talk, which showed more pride than humility. But Paul meant it. He regarded himself as the least of the apostles because he persecuted the church openly. Paul always remembered how he had sinned against Jesus’ church. He knew that he was forgiven; yet he remembered his sin.

Paul gave the grace of God all the credit for the change in His life. “But by the grace of God I am what I am, and his grace toward me was not in vain. On the contrary, I worked harder than any of them, though it was not I, but the grace of God that is with me.”  He was a changed man, forgiven, cleansed, and full of love when he used to be full of hate. He knew this was not his own accomplishment, but it was the work of the grace of God in him. The grace that saves us also changes us. Grace changed Paul. You can’t receive the grace of God without being changed by it. The changes don’t come all at once but God will complete His good work in us over time.

Paul compares himself to the other apostles. He was not shy about saying he worked harder than any of the other apostles did. “Whether then it was I or they, so we preach and so you believed.” Conceivably, if Paul had not worked as hard as he did, the grace of God would still have been given to him, but in some measure it would be given in vain. Grace, by definition, is given freely. But how we receive grace will help to determine how effective the gift of grace is. Grace isn’t given because of any works, past, present or promised; yet it is given to encourage work, not to say work is not necessary. God doesn’t want us to receive His grace and become passive. Paul knew that God gives His grace to us, we work hard, and the work of God is done. We work in a partnership with God, not because He needs us, but because He wants us to share in His work.

1 Corinthians 10:29b-33

In 1 Corinthians 10:29b-33 Paul wraps up this chapter of his letter to the Corinthian church by reminding them that the food itself is not the problem, no one should judge another Christian who can eat meat sacrificed to idols, as long as they don’t violate their own conscience or someone else’s. It’s never been about the meat. It is about the relationship of the meat in the environment of idol worship, along with the impact the decision to eat that meat has on others around them in their patch. “For why should my liberty be determined by someone else’s conscience?” The principle here is that we have to recognize that what we do matters, not just for ourselves, but for those we influence.

Paul is working to help the church understand that the surface problem of eating meat offered to idols isn’t really the issue at all. Idols are powerless and nothing at all in comparison to God. Yet the perception related to eating that meat in a pagan temple is a problem because those circumstances make the appearance of idol worship. And further, if it impacts others in your patch because their conscience doesn’t allow them to eat sacrificed meat, then it becomes your problem again. So this is not complicated, it just means we have to open our eyes and understand the impact our decisions will have on others around us. “If I partake with thankfulness, why am I denounced because of that for which I give thanks?”

Paul gives us the key principle of this entire chapter – do everything for the glory of God. It is really that simple. The purpose of our lives isn’t to see how much we can get away with and still be Christians; rather, it is to glorify God. If the Corinthian Christian would have kept this principle in mind from the beginning in regards to this issue, everything would have made simpler! “So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.” While we don’t live to please others, we still need to be sensitive to how our choices impact them. We need to live to please and audience of One, but to do that, we can’t ignore how our actions might cause another to stumble.

Our ‘innocent’ choice may cause another to stumble even leading them to fall into sin. Our behavior should never cause another to sin. We have to make choices that build up the body of Christ, not give them cause to even consider making a sinful decision. “Give no offense to Jews or to Greeks or to the church of God, just as I try to please everyone in everything I do, not seeking my own advantage, but that of many, that they may be saved.” Paul wanted to please men, but he truly had only one focus. Paul’s concern was not focused on self, but on doing whatever he could to bring people into the Kingdom that they might be saved!

1 Corinthians 10:15-19

In 1 Corinthians 10:15-19 Paul challenges the church in Corinth, who think they are wise and know the truth, to carefully consider what he is saying. “I speak as to sensible people; judge for yourselves what I say.” Of course, all of Paul’s teaching needs to be compared to scripture as the ultimate authority of what is true and right. That’s the judgment Paul wants them to do. Paul continues to teach them around the culture they were participating in – eating at a pagan temple which was really fellowshiping with the altar related to idols. It was not behavior that was acceptable for a Christ Follower.

Just as the Christian practice of communion speaks of unity and fellowship with Jesus, so these pagan banquets, given in the honor of idols, spoke of unity with demons who took advantage of misdirected worship.“The cup of blessing that we bless, is it not a participation in the blood of Christ? The bread that we break, is it not a participation in the body of Christ?” Their intent was not to be a partaker of idolatry in all likelihood, but to eat at the same table with someone indicated friendship and fellowship with that person. By eating at the pagan temple banquets, it appeared to others that these Corinthians Christians were worshiping idols.

And since they ate of one bread, that made them one body, because they shared the same food at the same table. So to eat at the table of a pagan temple restaurant was not as innocent as it seemed. “Because there is one bread, we who are many are one body, for we all partake of the one bread.” The symbolic outcome of the decision to eat meat sacrificed to idols is that the person was aligned with idol worship. It sent the wrong message to everyone. “Consider the people of Israel: are not those who eat the sacrifices participants in the altar?” Actions mean things, and sometimes how we act brings a message that does not align with what we mean to communicate.

Paul’s been clear that idols are dead – nothing at all in this world. He isn’t changing his position here, but he does say demonic spirits take advantage of idol worship to deceive and enslave people. Without knowing it, idol worshippers are glorifying demons in their sacrifice. “What do I imply then? That food offered to idols is anything, or that an idol is anything?” The Corinthian Christians thought, “Since an idol is not real, it doesn’t matter what we eat, and it doesn’t matter where we eat it.” Paul answers by agreeing that an idol is in itself nothing, but also explains that demons take advantage of man’s ignorant and self-serving worship. So while it isn’t technically an issue to eat it, the act sets one up for other issues much more severe.

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