Posts Tagged ‘sin’

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 7:13-16

In 2 Corinthians 7:13-16 Paul recounts the blessing of Titus’ visit to the church at Corinth. His carrying of Paul’s letter and subsequent impact of it was a blessing to Paul. “Therefore we are comforted. And besides our own comfort, we rejoiced still more at the joy of Titus, because his spirit has been refreshed by you all.” The experience Titus had in Corinth, and the report he brought back to Paul, was more than encouraging. It showed that Paul’s attempts to drive repentance had worked and God had done a work in the church through Titus and the letter. It was cause for rejoicing and celebration.

Paul had been “hopefully” boasting to Titus that the Corinthian Christians would respond well to the severe letter.  But it is unlikely that Titus was equally as sure!  “For whatever boasts I made to him about you, I was not put to shame. But just as everything we said to you was true, so also our boasting before Titus has proved true.” But Paul’s boasting to Titus was found true! Paul had to encourage Titus to make the trip and carry the message. But I’m sure after much prayer and intercession, the outcome was achieved and Titus delivered exactly as Paul had boasted that he would.

Titus likely went to Corinth with some fear and trepidation. He wasn’t sure what to expect. But now, Paul assures the Corinthian church that Titus loves the church more than ever. It’s likely that Titus had seen a lot of ugliness among the Corinthian Christians.  Titus may have had a “chip on his shoulder” against them.  So Paul wants them to know that after he saw and reported their repentance, Titus loves them more than ever now! “And his affection for you is even greater, as he remembers the obedience of you all, how you received him with fear and trembling.” Titus had witnessed the power of repentance and see how the church moved to obedience of following God’s Word in how to treat Paul and the ministry team.

Paul ends this chapter with rejoicing. It could be questioned – was it sarcastic that he would rejoice over this very stubborn and challenging church? Unlikely as Paul, even with the frustration and pain he has endured, has seen God move among them through Titus’ visit and heard of the repentance that moved through the church. He is giving them the benefit of the doubt that they are changed. “I rejoice, because I have perfect confidence in you.” Paul’s ultimate concern was his relationship with the people he ministered to. This shows that people were just as important to Paul as ministry.  He didn’t want to do “ministry” at the expense of his relationships with people.

2 Corinthians 7:10-12

In 2 Corinthians 7:10-12 Paul continues his explanation about why he did not regret sending his confrontational letter to the Corinthian church. He wanted repentance – a turning around and going the opposite way of sinful behavior. It sounds like a harsh word in the world we live in today. But it is an essential aspect of the Gospel – without it there can be no forgiveness of sin. “For godly grief produces a repentance that leads to salvation without regret, whereas worldly grief produces death.” What was it that the Corinthian Christians had to repent of?  Take your pick!  It could have been any number of things, but no doubt it also included this: there were probably some “anti-Paul” people who criticized the absent apostle severely and unfairly, and the Corinthian Christians did not defend their godly spiritual father before these detractors.

Paul made the Corinthian Christians feel bad for their sin.  But he did it in a godly way.  He used the truth, not lies or exaggeration.  He was honest, not using hidden agendas and manipulation.  He simply told the truth in love. “For see what earnestness this godly grief has produced in you, but also what eagerness to clear yourselves, what indignation, what fear, what longing, what zeal, what punishment! At every point you have proved yourselves innocent in the matter.” Paul knew he could succeed in making them feel bad (sorrow).  But the relationship you have with that person will suffer loss.  You can win the “battle” yet lose the “war.”  Paul wanted to protect his relationship with the Corinthian Christians, so he would only make them sorry in a godly manner.

All the time he had repentance as the target outcome he was seeking. Repentance must never be thought of as something we must do before we can come back to God. Repentance describes what coming to God is.  You can’t turn towards God without turning from the things He is against. Spurgeon wrote “People seem to jump into faith very quickly nowadays.  I do not disapprove of that happy leap; but still, I hope my old friend repentance is not dead.  I am desperately in love with repentance; it seems to be to be the twin-sister to faith.” Paul was looking for the Corinthians to be set free from the impact of sin, and repentance is that path.

Paul again reminds them of his choice to write a letter rather than come in person. But the focus of his letter wasn’t to call out the ring leader in the church that was stirring people up against him. The purpose of the letter also wasn’t to make Paul and his team out to be victims. He wasn’t trying to take sides but rather to demonstrate his love and concern for the body of Christ. “So although I wrote to you, it was not for the sake of the one who did the wrong, nor for the sake of the one who suffered the wrong, but in order that your earnestness for us might be revealed to you in the sight of God.” Clarke wrote “From all appearance there was never a Church less worthy of an apostle’s affections than this Church was at this time; and yet no one ever more beloved.”

2 Corinthians 7:6-9

In 2 Corinthians 7:6-9 Paul talks about how God had helped lift their spirits with Titus. In spite of all his frustrations with the Corinthians and in the midst of all his afflictions in ministry, Paul had real confidence and hope because Titus brought him a good report of how things were going in Corinth. “But God, who comforts the downcast, comforted us by the coming of Titus, and not only by his coming but also by the comfort with which he was comforted by you, as he told us of your longing, your mourning, your zeal for me, so that I rejoiced still more.” This was Paul’s life in ministry. It was a life of great blessing but also a life of many conflicts and fears.

Here is the reality of Paul’s life. On the outside, Paul was constantly in conflict with enemies of the gospel and worldly minded Christians. On the inside, Paul daily battled with the stress and anxiety of ministry. He wrestled with the need to rebuke the Corinthian church, and struggled with whether that would work. But he chose to do it and while done with some fear and stress, he went ahead and did it. “For even if I made you grieve with my letter, I do not regret it – though I did regret it, for I see that that letter grieved you, though only for a while.” Paul knew his letter would make them feel some pain and shame, but he knew it had to happen.

Guzik wrote “It helps if we remember the sequence of events. Things were going badly among the Christians in Corinth, and in an attempt to get them on track, Paul made a quick, unplanned visit that only seemed to make things worse (the “sorrowful visit” mentioned in 2 Corinthians 2:1). After the failure of this visit, Paul decided not to visit Corinth again in person at the time but instead sent Titus to them with a strong letter of rebuke. Paul was very worried about how the Corinthians would receive the letter and whether it would turn them to Jesus or just make them angry. When Titus came back with good news from the Corinthian Christians, Paul was greatly relieved.”

Paul’s motive with the Corinthian church was not to make them feel bad. He wasn’t trying to put them down and make them subservient to him. He had one motive in the letter he sent to the church via Titus. He wanted repentance of their sinful ways. “As it is, I rejoice, not because you were grieved, but because you were grieved into repenting. For you felt a godly grief, so that you suffered no loss through us.” Paul makes a clear separation between sorrow and repentance. They are not the same things! One can be sorry for their sin without repenting from their sin. Sorrow describes a feeling, but repentance describes a change in both the mind and in the life. Paul wanted the Corinthians to repent!

2 Corinthians 7:1

In 2 Corinthians 7:1 Paul builds upon what he had just told the Corinthian church to do – the need to separate from worldly influences so that we can live a close life with God. “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.” Paul then tells them there are two things they need to do in light of what God has promised:

  1. Cleanse ourselves from every defilement of body and spirit
  2. Bring holiness to completion in the fear of God

As Paul gives these two items for the church to take action on, he includes himself in the equation when he uses the word ‘us’ in his instruction.

He begins with what we need to take away – things that defile us. There is a cleansing that God alone does in our lives, but there is also a cleansing that God wants to do in cooperation with us. The main aspect of cleansing comes to us as we trust in Jesus and His work on our behalf. Our sins are cleansed from us and we are made white as snow. This work of cleansing is really God’s work in us and not our work. But here, Paul writes 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.

There is another aspect of cleansing that 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 where we are to cleanse ourselves. This aspect of cleansing is mostly connected with intimacy with God and our usefulness for service. Clarke explains “How can those expect God to purify their hearts who are continually indulging their eyes, ears, and hands in what is forbidden, and in what tends to increase and bring into action all the evil propensities of the soul?” Our pride, our legalism, our self-focus, our self-righteousness, our bitterness, and our hatred can all be far worse to deal with than the more obvious sins of the flesh. We need to cleanse ourself from all ot these things to have holiness.

Paul continues to tell us what we need to add. Paul isn’t writing about us becoming sinless or perfect. Paul does tell us we are to bring holiness to completion which will make us whole. The admonition here is to focus on cleansing ourself, not play Jr Holy Spirit and concern ourselves with cleansing others. That’s not our job. Most of the time we are more concerned with the holiness of others than our own holiness! Spurgeon wrote “I suppose that, the nearer we get to heaven, the more conscious we shall be of our imperfections. The more light we get, the more we discover our own darkness. That which is scarcely accounted sin by some men, will be a grievous defilement to a tender conscience. It is not that we are greater sinners as we grow older, but that we have a finer sensibility of sin, and see that to be sin which we winked at in the days of our ignorance.” We need to focus on cleaning up our own life and becoming holy in God’s sight.

2 Corinthians 6:14-18

In 2 Corinthians 6:14-18 Paul explains some of the underlying issues that were impacting the Corinthian church. They had allowed unbelievers to influence the church and pull it away from God. Paul tells us not to be bound to an unbeliever. “Do not be unequally yoked with unbelievers. For what partnership has righteousness with lawlessness? Or what fellowship has light with darkness?” This is often pointed at marriage, where the interpretation is that marrying an unbeliever will cause some challenges in staying faithful in your walk with God. But Paul’s talking about much more that that here.

It really applies to any environment where we let the world influence our thinking. When we are being conformed to this world and are not being transformed by the renewing of your mind we face a likely risk that will pull us away from God. The underlying issue Paul is focused on is the issue of influence. Paul’s not saying we should never associate with unbelievers. We just must be aware that being in the world should not cause us to be of the world. It can happen subtly unless we have our spiritual radar on. “What accord has Christ with Belial? Or what portion does a believer share with an unbeliever?”

Idolatry is one way that this can reveal itself. When we have idolatry in our life, it influences our thoughts and actions and definitely can get between us and God. The Corinthian church was wrestling with it. If we are honest, we likely do too. “What agreement has the temple of God with idols? For we are the temple of the living God; as God said, “I will make my dwelling among them and walk among them, and I will be their God, and they shall be my people.” Redpath wrote “It is not a question simply of trying to empty your heart and life of every worldly desire – what an awful impossibility! It is rather opening your heart wide to all the love of God in Christ, and letting that love just sweep through you and exercise its expulsive power till your heart is filled with love.”

So what are we to do since we live in the world? We have to make sure we love the right things – beginning with God. We need to focus on loving that which is eternal rather than the things of the world that the enemy puts in front of us at every turn. Paul makes clear that this message comes from ‘the Lord Almighty’, a Greek word only used here and in the book of Revelation. “Therefore go out from their midst, and be separate from them, says the Lord, and touch no unclean thing; then I will welcome you, and I will be a father to you, and you shall be sons and daughters to me, says the Lord Almighty.” Hodges explains the real point of this message: “A man cannot accept reconciliation with God and live in sin; because the renunciation of sin is involved in the acceptance of reconciliation. Paul never assumes that men may accept one benefit of redemption, and reject another. They cannot take pardon and refuse sanctification.”

2 Corinthians 6:6-13

In 2 Corinthians 6:6-13 Paul has just given us a long list of the challenges he had to endure to be a faithful ambassador of Jesus. But even as he gives us a long list of those struggles, he quickly moves on to tell us how he used the resources of God through the Holy Spirit that enabled him to faithfully carry on. “…..by purity, knowledge, patience, kindness, the Holy Spirit, genuine love; by truthful speech, and the power of God; with the weapons of righteousness for the right hand and for the left;” Paul uses both offensive and defensive weapons as he battled the attacks of the enemy against the Gospel of Christ.

As Paul concludes his resume, he gives us a list of how the world thought of him vs the way God viewed His faithful ambassador. Look at the contrast:

God’s view vs the world’s view

  • Honor vs dishonor
  • Praise vs slander
  • True vs imposter
  • Known vs unknown
  • Alive vs dying
  • Not killed vs punished
  • Rejoicing vs sorrowful
  • Rich vs poor
  • Everything vs nothing

“…..through honor and dishonor, through slander and praise. We are treated as impostors, and yet are true; as unknown, and yet well known; as dying, and behold, we live; as punished, and yet not killed; as sorrowful, yet always rejoicing; as poor, yet making many rich; as having nothing, yet possessing everything.”

So which of those views is correct? According to the things which are seen, the world’s estimation was correct. According to the things which are not seen, God’s estimation was correct. Paul certainly lived for an audience of One. While he had to endure the attacks and sufferings that were put on him by the enemy and the world, he kept his eyes on the prize of serving God and sharing the message of Jesus Christ. As fellow believers who have also been given the role of an ambassador, we have to choose how we will live. Will we live to serve God and be viewed through His eyes, or will we cave and live in a way to make the worldly view the one we care about?

Paul is practicing what he preached and prepares to speak the truth in love with an open heart. He loves God’s people, but He loves the truth more and won’t be swayed in his mission. “We have spoken freely to you, Corinthians; our heart is wide open.” The Corinthian church has played the victim card in the past. Paul’s not buying it. Their issues came by their own choices. “You are not restricted by us, but you are restricted in your own affections.” They loved the world too much, and Paul will deal with that in coming verses. He challenges them to be open to putting any selfish and worldly attitudes behind so they could be healed as a body. To do that they have to open their hearts. “In return (I speak as to children) widen your hearts also.”

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