Posts Tagged ‘Obedience’

Galatians 2:1-2

In Galatians 2:1-2 Paul begins by describing the second trip he made to Jerusalem. His first was three years after meeting Jesus on the road to Damascus as described in the last chapter. “Then after fourteen years I went up again to Jerusalem with Barnabas, taking Titus along with me.” Now he reminds the church at Galatia that it was fourteen years later that he made the trip again. Paul hadn’t been sitting there learning the Gospel but rather out in the world sharing what Jesus had revealed directly to him many years previously. Two very respected leaders, Barnabas and Titus went with him.

Paul made the trip because God directed him to do it through a revelation. “I went up because of a revelation and set before them (though privately before those who seemed influential) the gospel that I proclaim among the Gentiles, in order to make sure I was not running or had not run in vain.” Paul likely carried a gift from Christians outside Jerusalem to help them deal with the famine occurring in their city. In addition, he assured the leaders there that he was obeying God in how he ministered the Gospel to the Gentiles and that his sharing of the Gospel was having an impact and not in vain.

There was discord among Christians as to whether or not Gentiles could be saved if they didn’t become a Jew first. For some, that meant Gentiles had to be circumcised before they could be saved. Luther explains “The believing Jews, however, could not get it through their heads that circumcision was not necessary for salvation. They were encouraged in their wrong attitude by the false apostles. The result was that the people were up in arms against Paul and his doctrine.” Knowing the differences in opinion existed, the Jerusalem leaders wanted to understand the Gospel that Paul taught which he shared with them.

Paul knew he had the true gospel; but he didn’t know how leaders in Jerusalem would receive it. Paul knew there may be confrontation with some that ‘seemed influential’. Paul addressed the topic privately and did not make a spectacle of it in front of the entire church. He had no interest in embarrassing the leaders of the Jerusalem church. Paul wants to avoid public conflict and make sure his hard work of planting churches across the region was not undone by the false teachers who might leverage a public confrontation as a way to attempt and paint Paul as one who was not preaching God’s truth making all Paul’s hard work be done in vain.

2 Corinthians 13:5-8

In 2 Corinthians 13:5-8 Paul prepares the Corinthian church for his visit. Paul asks the Corinthian Christians to consider a sobering question: “Am I really a Christian?” “Examine yourselves, to see whether you are in the faith.” We should be concerned that every believer have the assurance of salvation, and know how to endure the attacks that come from Satan in this area.  At the same time, we also understand that there are some who assume or presume them are Christians when they are not. Paul issues a challenge to all all of us – do we pass the test of being a Christian?

Redpath writes “We are often very ready to examine and test others.  But first, and always first, we must examine and test ourselves. “That was the trouble at Corinth.  They criticized Paul and failed to examine themselves.” Test yourselves. Or do you not realize this about yourselves, that Jesus Christ is in you? – unless indeed you fail to meet the test!” Redpath continues “To examine yourself, in fact, is to submit to the examination and scrutiny of Jesus Christ the Lord – and this never to fix attention on sin but on Christ – and to ask Him to reveal that in you which grieves His Spirit; to ask Him to give you grace that it might be put away and cleansed in His precious blood.”  Self examination “takes the chill away from your soul, it takes the hardness away from your heart, it takes the shadows away from your life, it sets the prisoner free.”

Spurgeon wrote “Now, ‘prove yourselves.’ Do not merely sit in your closet and look at yourselves alone, but go out into this busy world and see what kind of piety you have.  Remember, many a man’s religion will stand examination that will not stand proof.  We may sit at home and look at our religion, and say, ‘Well, I think this will do!'” “I hope you will find out that we have not failed the test.” This is not about perfection, in ourselves or in others; but we should see real evidence of Jesus Christ in us. We need to have Christ alive in us. Spurgeon described it this way: “Now, what is it to have Jesus Christ in you?  Christ in the heart means Christ believed in, Christ beloved, Christ trusted, Christ espoused, Christ communed with, Christ as our daily food, and ourselves as the temple and palace wherein Jesus Christ daily walks.”

But we pray to God that you may not do wrong – not that we may appear to have met the test, but that you may do what is right, though we may seem to have failed.” Paul knew there were some among the Corinthian Christians who were disqualified for eternal life and salvation.  Their thinking was worldly because they were of the world, not of the Lord.  This is a hard truth to confront, but it is better to know now than when it is too late! “For we cannot do anything against the truth, but only for the truth.” Paul refuses to sugar coat the reality in the church. He does what he has always done, speak the truth. Is Jesus alive in you? Or just someone you know about in your head but not in your heart?

2 Corinthians 12:18-21

In 2 Corinthians 12:18-21 Paul continues to defend his past dealings with the Corinthian church. Some were falsely spreading rumors that he and his team were taking advantage. He defends Titus and the rest, along with his own actions. In every way they had acted appropriately and never done anything financially inappropriate regarding the Corinthian church. He is becoming very frustrated with these false accusations by false teachers. “I urged Titus to go, and sent the brother with him. Did Titus take advantage of you? Did we not act in the same spirit? Did we not take the same steps?”

Paul makes clear that what he’s been telling the church is not making excuses because he has nothing needing an excuse. He makes clear that he is speaking the truth before God, who is the One he answers to. And even as some falsely accuse him, his pastoral heart shines through. In the midst of accusation he is still focused on building up the church at Corinth. “Have you been thinking all along that we have been defending ourselves to you? It is in the sight of God that we have been speaking in Christ, and all for your upbuilding, beloved.”

Paul’s heart was for the church, not for his own well being. He’s still concerned that the same problems that have plagued his interaction with the church all these years will continue to be a problem when he comes again. Paul calls out the behaviors that have been issues in the past, and makes it extremely clear that those things are not Christlike and are completely unfounded. “For I fear that perhaps when I come I may find you not as I wish, and that you may find me not as you wish – that perhaps there may be quarreling, jealousy, anger, hostility, slander, gossip, conceit, and disorder.”

Paul’s planning his third visit, and is afraid the church will have the same old problems that haven’t been repented from. Sin gets in the way of all that God wants to accomplish. The sins Paul calls out are not unique to this church, and certainly are areas that churches wrestle with confronting. But Paul doesn’t want to waste a trip ministering to ungodly people that pretend to be Christ Followers. “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.” Paul’s anger and mourning would not be directed to those who had sinned, but those who have sinned and failed to repent and return to right standing with God. He’s not asking for perfection, but he is requiring repentance!

2 Corinthians 12:11-13

In 2 Corinthians 12:11-13 we realize that Paul has not only accepted the thorn in his flesh, but has used it to bring strength into his life. Jesus exhibited this very thing on the Cross. Redpath wrote “Could anyone on earth be more meek than the Son of God to be hung on the cross, hung in our place that He might redeem us from our sins?  As that point of absolute weakness was met by the mighty power of God as He raised Him from the dead, I wonder if the pressure of the thorn in Paul’s life was a reminder of the power of the cross.” God’s grace is not automatic. We have to be willing to let go of self and focus on Jesus to access it. But when it is upon us, look out.

Paul, even though he has plenty to talk about, is not what he wants to do. The Corinthian church and the false teachers in it have forced Paul to spend time validating himself as their spiritual leader and shepherd. He sees it as a waste of time and focus, but it was necessary to address the claims and charges from the false ‘super-apostles’ in the church. “I have been a fool! You forced me to it, for I ought to have been commended by you. For I was not at all inferior to these super-apostles, even though I am nothing.”

Paul still is trying to deflect the focus from himself. He didn’t want the limelight on himself, but he also didn’t want these masquarading false teachers to get credit for things they certainly had nothing to do with. Paul and his ministry team had been patient and worked diligently to teach God’s truth and carry the Gospel to the church. And there were plenty of signs and wonders and mighty works that had been done among them. And Paul wants it to be clear that it was God who performed those things in and through him and his team, and not at all done by the false apostles of the day. “The signs of a true apostle were performed among you with utmost patience, with signs and wonders and mighty works.”

Paul addresses the concern of the Corinthian church that he hadn’t treated them as well as other churches under his care. Paul makes it clear that if there was a hint of truth in that charge, which there wasn’t, the only difference was really that the Corinthian church had not supported Paul and his ministry team at all like the other churches. Paul’s difference in treatment was that he hadn’t requested or taken any money from Corinth. “For in what were you less favored than the rest of the churches, except that I myself did not burden you? Forgive me this wrong!” Paul sarcastically asks their forgiveness knowing that he’s done his part to care for the church like all the others under his shepherding.

2 Corinthians 11:15-19

In 2 Corinthians 11:15-19 Paul continues to explain the way the enemy works. We know from scripture the plan he has for each of us as humans is to “kill, steal and destroy” as Jesus told us in John 10:10. So it’s no wonder that the servants of Satan, his doers of evil and destruction, will try and look appealing and someone to trust. “So it is no surprise if his servants, also, disguise themselves as servants of righteousness. Their end will correspond to their deeds.” Clarke wrote “It is generally said that Satan has three forms under which he tempts men:

  1. The subtle serpent.
  2. The roaring lion.
  3. The angel of light.

He often, as the angel of light, persuades men to do things under the name of religion. And he positions his servants to do the same.

The Corinthian church has had a faction that continued to be antagonistic against Paul. As he writes, it is easy to sense both Paul’s sarcasm and his hesitancy to promote himself.  He would rather talk about Jesus, but that message is hindered by the church’s disregard of his credentials as a true apostle, a true representative of Jesus. “I repeat, let no one think me foolish. But even if you do, accept me as a fool, so that I too may boast a little.” He doesn’t really care what they think about him as a person. But he cares deeply about the Gospel and the truth of Jesus Christ. That’s when his ire gets raised.

Paul really dislikes talking about himself and this is an uncomfortable conversation for him to have. He also doesn’t like to discuss his resume or credentials, yet is forced to by the small group that continually works to undermine him. He’s not on a campaign to raise his stature with the church. He wants to preach Christ and Him alone, and put this nonsense behind him so he can minister truth without all the politics and subversion. “What I am saying with this boastful confidence, I say not with the Lord’s authority but as a fool.” He doesn’t claim to be speaking for Christ, but letting his life speak for itself.

Paul gets personal with the Corinthians here. The group that claimed superiority – the so called ‘super apostles’ – had no problem boasting about their credentials and place of authority in the church. It wasn’t based on God’s call, but their own desire to puff themselves up. Paul uses sarcasm to call the church out. “Since many boast according to the flesh, I too will boast. For you gladly bear with fools, being wise yourselves!” He basically says if the Corinthian Christians are wise enough to listen to these self-inflated fools, surely they can listen to him for a while! Ultimately that is all Paul wants, for the church to listen to God’s truth which he delivers as God’s called.

2 Corinthians 9:5-7

In 2 Corinthians 9:5-7 Paul encourages the Corinthian church to makes their gifts as they had promised. Paul wanted the whole business of the collection completed before he arrived so that there would be nothing even remotely manipulative in his receiving the collection. “So I thought it necessary to urge the brothers to go on ahead to you and arrange in advance for the gift you have promised, so that it may be ready as a willing gift, not as an exaction.”  Paul was very concerned that giving be a matter of generosity and not a matter of grudging obligation. To be generous, in the Biblical idea of the word, has more to do with our attitude in giving than with the amount that we give, so God wants a willing attitude from givers.

Paul is clear that being a skimpy giver doesn’t produce much return. He uses the illustration of a farmer to make his point. A farmer sowing seed may feel he loses seed as it falls from his hand to the ground, and we may feel we are losing when we give. But just as the farmer gives the seed it in anticipation of a future harvest, we should give with the same heart. “The point is this: whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows bountifully will also reap bountifully.” Reaping bountifully means we receive blessings that are both material and spiritual. God promises to meet our needs materially. But spiritually He has given us a reward both now and for eternity.

We are never the losers when we give to God. The Lord can never be in debt to any man, and we should never be afraid of giving God “too much.” Spiritually or materially, you can’t out-give God. Calvin wrote: “This harvest should be understood both in terms of the spiritual reward of eternal life and also referring to the earthly blessings with which God honors the beneficent. Not only in heaven does God reward the well-doing of the godly, but in this world as well.” God wants us to share what He has given us (after all – it all belongs to Him anyway) with an open hand and a willing heart.

But beyond the amount, He cares about how we give in our heart. Paul says that ‘each one’ should be a giver. It is part of what being a Christ Follower is all about. We won’t all be able to give the same amount, but we can all give something. And even small gifts can be important when given with the right kind of heart. “Each one must give as he has made up his mind, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver.” Giving should never be manipulated or done for any reason than a cheerful heart. We should never force anyone to give, but it should flow out of the abundance of our love for God.

Clark explains the giving in Paul’s time this way: “The Jews had in the temple two chests for alms; the one was of what was necessary, i.e. what the law required, the other was of the free-will offerings. To escape perdition some would grudgingly, give what necessity obliged them; others would give cheerfully, for the love of God, and through pity to the poor. Of the first, nothing is said; they simply did what the law required. Of the second, much is said; God loves them… To these two sorts of alms in the temple the apostle most evidently alludes.”

1 Corinthians 10:20-23

In 1 Corinthians 10:20-23 Paul continues to teach around the eating of meat offered to idols. Some of the Corinthian church felt that by their participation in the Lord’s table, they were safe in Him. But Paul answers that they disgrace the Lord’s table when they fellowship with idols. “No, I imply that what pagans sacrifice they offer to demons and not to God. I do not want you to be participants with demons.” The seemingly innocent fellowship of some of the Corinthian Christians with demons, by participating in the dinners at the pagan temples, will provoke the Lord to jealousy. He has a right over all our worship, and has a right to be offended if we give our fellowship to demons. Our worship must be His and His alone.

We can’t have a split loyalty in our worship. Jesus demands to be the only One we worship. We can’t have it both ways. “You cannot drink the cup of the Lord and the cup of demons. You cannot partake of the table of the Lord and the table of demons.” It doesn’t matter that the Corinthian Christians didn’t intend to worship demons at these heathen feasts in pagan temples. If a man puts his hand into the fire, it doesn’t matter if he intends to burn himself or not, he is burned just the same. Just the act of eating based on food offered to idols was participation in idol worship and Paul is clear it has to be stopped.

Why, you ask? Because God along is worthy of our praise. He has the right to demand and require that it be His and we are not free to spread it around. If we do, we will provoke Him. “Shall we provoke the Lord to jealousy? Are we stronger than he?” The argument from the Corinthian Christians was that they had the right to eat at the pagan temples because of their strong faith. But that does not excuse wrong behavior. And when that faith is put alongside God, which will be stronger? We don’t want to be in a position of provoking God’s jealousy by our actions. He is far stronger than we will ever be.

Paul boils it down to a principle – don’t just avoid things that are harmful, but do the things that are good. It’s really pretty simple. Life is full of choices that we face each day. We have to choose wisely. The Corinthian Christians focused on their own “rights” and “knowledge,” only asked one question: “What’s the harm to me?” Instead of only asking that question, they needed to also ask, “What good can this be for me?“ “All things are lawful,” but not all things are helpful. “All things are lawful,” but not all things build up.” Just because something is permitted does not mean it is beneficial. The Corinthians did not seek the helpful things, or the things that would build up the body of Christ. Instead of wanting to walk with Jesus as much as they could, they wanted to know how much they could get away with and still be Christians. That’s the wrong approach!

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.

1 Corinthians 10:13-14

In 1 Corinthians 10:13-14 Paul is teaching a key principle and promise we all need to cling to. God is faithful – He will never let us down. If we fall to sin it is because we made that choice, not because God failed us. God has promised to supervise all temptation that comes at us through the world, the flesh or the devil. He promises to limit it according to our capability to endure it – according to our capability as we rely on Him, not our capability as we rely only on ourselves. “God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your ability…” Remember that Satan’s desire for you and me is to “kill, steal and destroy”. He would destroy us in a minute if God would let him.

But God doesn’t just let him destroy us. Like a mom who keeps her child from the candy aisle in a store, knowing the child couldn’t handle that temptation, God keeps us from things we can’t handle. But what we can and can’t handle changes over the years. God has promised to not only limit our temptation, but also to provide a way of escape in tempting times. He will never force us to use the way of escape, but he will make the way of escape available. It’s up to us to take God’s way of escape. “…but with the temptation he will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it.”

The way of escape does not lead us to a place where we escape all temptation (that is heaven alone). The way of escape leads us to the place where we may be able to bear it. We will be tempted, that’s clear because the enemy wants to destroy us and temptation that he can use to lead us to sin is his chosen way to do that. But Paul reminds us that to be tempted is not sin, but to entertain temptation or surrender to temptation is sin. It is the choice we make regarding temptation, which is totally our own, that determines whether temptation becomes sin or not. When we bear temptation, Satan often condemns us for being tempted, but that is condemnation from Satan the Christian does not need to accept. It is merely a lie of the enemy.

Paul then tells the Corinthians to flee from  the idolatry at the pagan temples. It was there and happening around them every day. “Therefore, my beloved, flee from idolatry.” Though the Corinthian Christians had the liberty to buy meat at the pagan temple butcher shop and prepare it in their own homes, Paul tells them they should flee from idolatry in regards to the restaurant of the pagan temple. Using the example of Israel, and their lapse into idolatry, Paul tells the Corinthian Christians not to participate in the dinners served at the pagan temple. It may seem harmless, which is how Satan always positions temptation, but there are consequences that we must be wise to so we can resist.

1 Corinthians 10:5-8

In 1 Corinthians 10:5-8 Paul continues his history lesson on the days of the Exodus. He reminds the Corinthian church that despite all the blessings and spiritual privileges give to the Israelites in the wilderness, they did not please God. In light of all those blessings, gratitude should have made them more pleasing to God, but they were not. “Nevertheless, with most of them God was not pleased, for they were overthrown in the wilderness.” “Most of them” is a significant understatement. Only two men from the adult generation that left Egypt came into the Promised Land, that being Joshua and Caleb. The rest never made it in.

The displeasure of God with the Israelites was evident because they never entered into the Promised Land, but died in the wilderness instead. For all their blessings and spiritual experiences, they never entered into what God really had for them. Paul warns the Corinthian church to beware, because just as Israel was blessed and had amazing spiritual experiences, they still perished – and the same could happen to some of the Corinthian Christians as well! Clarke wrote “It seems as if the Corinthians had supposed that their being made partakers of the ordinances of the Gospel, such as baptism and the Lord’s Supper, would secure their salvation, notwithstanding, they might be found partaking of idolatrous feasts; as long, at least, as they considered an idol to be nothing in the world.”

We can, and should, learn from Israel’s failure in the wilderness. “Now these things took place as examples for us, that we might not desire evil as they did.” They failed in that they could not say “no” to their desires, and so we must not lust after evil things as they did. The Corinthian Christians who insisted on eating meat sacrificed to idols, even though they led other Christians into sin, just couldn’t say “no.” “Do not be idolaters as some of them were; as it is written, “The people sat down to eat and drink and rose up to play.” Israel failed to keep their focus on God, and they started giving themselves to idolatry. Some in the Corinthians church made an idol out of their own “knowledge” and their own “rights.”

But wait, there was more to learn from their example. Israel, in their idolatry, surrendered to the temptation of sexual immorality. “We must not indulge in sexual immorality as some of them did, and twenty-three thousand fell in a single day.” We know the Corinthian Christians were having trouble with sexual immorality and it is connected with their selfish desire to please themselves. God made clear how he felt about the disobedience of the Israelites as 23,000 died in a single day. They sinned, and God responded. Paul is warning the Corinthian church that God is still on the throne and they are putting their future are risk by indulging in sexual sin.

%d bloggers like this: