Posts Tagged ‘sin’

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.”

2 Corinthians 6:1-5

In 2 Corinthians 6:1-5 Paul builds on the reconciliation offer from God through Christ he talked about in the previous chapter. Paul makes clear that we are not on our own as an ambassador for Christ – we are partners with Him in that ministry of sharing the Gospel. It isn’t that God needs you or me to get the word out. Instead, God’s plan is for us to work with Him because it is for our good. “Working together with him, then, we appeal to you not to receive the grace of God in vain.” As ambassadors we work with the One who sends us. God delegates power and authority to us as ambassadors and then reveals His agenda to an ambassador empowered to fulfill that agenda.

The Corinthian church had received the grace of God. But they were potentially guilty of receiving it but not acting as ambassadors to those around them. They had received it in vain. God’s grace isn’t given because of any works, past, present or promised; yet it is given to encourage work, not to say work is unnecessary. God doesn’t want us to receive His grace and become passive. Paul knew that as God gives His grace, we should work hard, and then the work of God is done. “For he says,”In a favorable time I listened to you, and in a day of salvation I have helped you.” Paul has helped the church discover God’s grace, and now he is trying to create a sense of urgency for them to live as ambassadors for Christ.

Paul’s ministry was blamed and discredited by the Corinthian Christians. That has been an ongoing way of treatment. But Paul is clear that they are wrong for that approach. Paul has done much to assure he was not a stumbling block:

  • He was willing to forego his salary as a minister of the gospel
  • He was willing to allow others to be more prominent.
  • He was willing to work hard and endure hardship.
  • He was not afraid to offend anyone over the gospel of Jesus Christ
  • He would not allow his style of ministry to offend anyone.

We put no obstacle in anyone’s way, so that no fault may be found with our ministry, but as servants of God we commend ourselves in every way: by great endurance, in afflictions, hardships, calamities, beatings, imprisonments, riots, labors, sleepless nights, hunger;”

Paul could not do anything about false accusations except live in such a way that any fair-minded person would see those accusations as false. He uses the experience of his life to make the point that he’s endured a lot of challenges to be an ambassador for Christ. Look at his resume. He endured:

  • Afflictions
  • Hardships
  • Calamities
  • Beatings
  • Imprisonments
  • Riots
  • Labors
  • Sleepless nights
  • Hunger

The list of trials and sufferings Paul has endured is impressive. His life has been filled with stress and pressure, but he has faithfully carried on as a minister of the Gospel. Any normal human would have struggled to continue with the mission, but not Paul

2 Corinthians 5:18-21

In 2 Corinthians 5:18-21 Paul gives us the 50,000 foot view of God’s plan for us – Jesus Christ. The work of reconciliation that makes us a new creation leading to an eternal destiny with God is based on one thing and one thing alone – the death, burial and resurrection of Christ on the Cross. This is all God and requires nothing from us except believing and receiving the gift of grace God offers. “All this is from God, who through Christ reconciled us to himself and gave us the ministry of reconciliation;”. God uses us to share the message of Jesus with those in our patch. That should be our response to His plan to save us.

This reconciliation came at an extreme cost to God. At some point before Jesus died, before the veil was torn in two, before Jesus cried out “it is finished,” an awesome spiritual transaction took place. The Father set upon the Son all the guilt and wrath our sin deserved, and Jesus bore it in Himself perfectly, totally satisfying the justice of God for us. “….that is, in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting to us the message of reconciliation.” As horrible as the physical suffering of Jesus was, this spiritual suffering – the act of being judged for sin in our place – was what Jesus really dreaded about the cross. That was the real pain and suffering He endured.

So Paul has made clear the plan of God for mankind. Jesus is the way, the truth, and the life. There is no plan B. It’s Jesus, or you are on your own and will stand before God as a condemned sinner. For some reason, God chose us to be His messenger of truth to those in our patch. We are to be ambassadors for Christ. We serve God in a land that is not our long term home, serving the One and only King. But we should not just receive the gift of grace for ourselves. We need to let God use us to shout His answer to sin from the mountaintop. “Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, God making his appeal through us. We implore you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God.”

As an ambassador Paul makes a simple, strong, direct plea. It’s the same plea we need to make to everyone around us – that they need to be reconciled to God through Jesus. God’s already done that painful and costly work through the Cross. All we have to do is believe and receive it. Jesus took our sin to the Cross and the resulting gift offered to us is amazing. “For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.” Through the simple act of faith in Jesus, we can immediately change from sinner to a righteous saved person.

Spurgeon said it this way: “What a grand expression! He makes us righteous through the righteousness of Jesus; nay, not only makes us righteous, but righteousness; nay, that is not all, he makes us the righteousness of God; that is higher than the righteousness of Adam in the garden, it is more divinely perfect than angelic perfection.” And Harris wrote “Not only does the believer receive from God a right standing before him on the basis of faith in Jesus (Phil 3:9), but here Paul says that ‘in Christ’ the believer in some sense actually shares the righteousness that characterizes God himself.” What a Savior!  What a God!

2 Corinthians 2:8-11

In 2 Corinthians 2:8-11 Paul tells the church that even though this member was living deep in sin, he has repented and now they need to love him again. They were slow to discipline his sinful lifestyle, but once they did they are now equally slow in allowing him to return to the body even with the correction and repentance. Paul tells them it is time for love and healing.  They needed to reaffirm their love to him. “So I beg you to reaffirm your love for him.” Hodge explained “When the offender is made to feel that, while his sin is punished, he himself is loved; and that the end aimed at is not his suffering but his good, he is more likely to be brought to repentance.”

Paul wrote strongly in his first letter about the need to discipline this man, and the Corinthian Christians met the test by doing what Paul said to do.  Now, he puts them to the test again, telling them to show love to the now repentant brother. “For this is why I wrote, that I might test you and know whether you are obedient in everything.” Paul wanted the Corinthian Christians to be obedient in all things. Would they find it easier to be obedient when it came to being “tough” than when it came to being loving? Often we are more willing to discipline than to allow someone who repents to be restored to the body.

Forgiveness is one of the hardest things we do as individuals, but also as the body of Christ. Even if the church must treat one as an unbeliever, we must remember how we are to treat unbelievers: with love and concern, hoping to win them to Jesus, anxious for repentance. Paul models forgiveness in how he responds to this man. “Anyone whom you forgive, I also forgive. What I have forgiven, if I have forgiven anything, has been for your sake in the presence of Christ, so that we would not be outwitted by Satan; for we are not ignorant of his designs.” Satan is looking to take advantage of our mistakes, as a church and as individuals. Lack of forgiveness is definitely one of the ways Satan can divide the church.

Paul warns the church not to let Satan outwit them around this area of forgiveness. His words have the idea of being cheated by someone out of something that belongs to them.  When we are ignorant of Satan’s strategies, he is able to take things from us that belong to us in Jesus, things like peace, joy, fellowship, a sense of forgiveness, and victory. Satan is out to destroy the church, plain and simple. And division in the body is one of his main ways of doing exactly that. Guzik writes “Satan’s strategy against the man was first of lust, then of hopelessness and despair.  Satan’s strategy against the church was first the toleration of evil, then of undue severity in punishment.  Satan’s strategy against Paul was to simply make him so stressed and upset over the Corinthian Christians that he lost peace and was less effective in ministry!” He’s out to destroy all of us. We must stand together against him.

1 Corinthians 15:6-8

In 1 Corinthians 15:6-8 Paul is telling the church what happened as part of the gospel story. Just to be sure we understand the gospel, it is not insightful teaching or good advice. At the core of the gospel are things that happened – actual, real, historical events. The gospel isn’t a matter of religious opinions, stories, or fairy tales; it is about real historical events. The most important event of all is that Jesus died on the Cross. Dead. Real dead. And his body was removed from that Cross and put into a tomb where it stayed for three days before being resurrected and returning to life.

It is important to remember that our sins were responsible for the death of Jesus. He did not die for a political cause, or as an enemy of the state, or for someone’s envy. Jesus died for our sins. Jesus did not die as a mere martyr for a cause. He took our sin and carried it into death that we might be able to be set free from the penalty of sin which is eternal separation from God. So this is a big deal and the very foundation of our salvation through Christ. Jesus took our punishment for sin on the cross, and remained a perfect Savior through the whole ordeal – proven by His resurrection. That is the foundation of the gospel. His death, burial and resurrection created a way for you and me to be set free from our sin.

Yesterday we saw that Jesus appeared to a few, primarily His Apostles. That would have been plenty to validate His resurrection. But it wasn’t a small group that experienced the risen Christ. “Then he appeared to more than five hundred brothers at one time, most of whom are still alive, though some have fallen asleep. Then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles. Last of all, as to one untimely born, he appeared also to me.” Jesus’ work for us didn’t just come out of thin air; it was planned from all eternity and described prophetically in the Scriptures. The resurrection fulfilled what had been prophesied long before.

No one saw the actual resurrection of Jesus. No one was present in the tomb with Him when His body transformed into a resurrection body. However, many people saw the resurrected Jesus. And after Peter and then the Twelve, Jesus shows up in front of over 500 people to validate the gospel story. This wasn’t something made up. Jesus rose from the grave and showed Himself to over five hundred folks. And it went further as he appeared to all the apostles. Jesus met with many groups of apostles after the resurrection. These meetings were important in proving to the disciples that Jesus was who He said He was. And finally Paul gives his own testimony to the gospel and Jesus resurrection. Lots of people experienced the risen Christ!

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 10:13-14

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 10:9-13

In 1 Corinthians 10:9-13 Paul reminds the Corinthian church not to test Christ. He recalls the story from Numbers where the writer describes the incident that occurred in response to the complaining of the people, God sent fiery serpents among the people. In their case, complaining hearts show them to be self-focused and more concerned with their own desires than God’s glory – the same issues causing trouble with the Corinthian Christians, who will not yield their right to eat meat sacrificed to idols for the sake of another brother. “We must not put Christ to the test, as some of them did and were destroyed by serpents, nor grumble, as some of them did and were destroyed by the Destroyer.”

The Corinthian Christians regard the issue of eating meat sacrificed to idols and thereby causing their brother to stumble as a “small” issue. Paul wants them and us to know that it reflects a selfish, self-focused heart, which is the kind of heart God destroyed among the Israelites in the wilderness. It may have been a relatively small symptom, but it was a symptom of a great and dangerous disease. “Now these things happened to them as an example, but they were written down for our instruction, on whom the end of the ages has come.” Paul makes it clear that we need to learn from the sins of those who have gone before us so we don’t follow the same path. We have a greater responsibility, because we can learn from Israel’s mistakes.

For the Corinthian Christians to resist the temptation to be selfish and self-focused, they must first understand they are vulnerable. The one who thinks he stands will not stay on guard against temptation, so he may easily fall. “Therefore let anyone who thinks that he stands take heed lest he fall.” Temptation works like rocks in a harbor; when the tide is low, everybody sees the danger and avoids it. But Satan’s strategy in temptation is to raise the tide, and to cover over the dangers of temptation. Then he likes to crash you upon the rocks that are now covered by water and not easily seen. God promises we have the ability to stand firm, but we must not allow pride to get involved.

Here’s a promise from God we should cling to, and live by. “No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man.” We often want to excuse our particular tempting circumstances as “very unique” and a “special exception,” but God reminds us that our temptation is not unique. Many other men and women of God have faced the same or similar temptation, and have found the strength in God to overcome the temptation. Jesus Himself faced temptation from Satan directly in the wilderness under much more trying circumstances than you or I will ever face. Sin happens when we choose to disobey God’s ways and fall to temptation. It will come – but the choice in how we deal with it is ours alone.

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.

1 Corinthians 6:16-20

In 1 Corinthians 6:16-20 Paul concludes his teaching in this chapter to the church at Corinth about sex. He calls it out clearly – sex is more than a physical act. When we have sex, we become one with that person. It is God’s design for sex – that it be an intimate event that brings two people together to become ‘one flesh’. So we can’t dismiss it as something we do that is disconnected from who we are as a spiritual being. That’s not how it works. “Or do you not know that he who is joined to a prostitute becomes one body with her? For, as it is written, “The two will become one flesh.”

Paul warns us that the sexual activity we engage in impacts us. In the heat of lustful passion, spiritual things may seem far away. Yet, at the root of most lustful passion is the desire for love, acceptance, and adventure – all of which is far better, and more completely satisfied in our relationship with the Lord instead of with sexual immorality. We can never gain true love in the bedroom. But Jesus went to the cross as an act of true love and we have been offered the opportunity to become one in spirit with Him through grace and faith. It’s the most powerful relationship we can ever have. “But he who is joined to the Lord becomes one spirit with him.”

Paul’s advice? Run from sexual immorality. He doesn’t tell us to be brave and resist the lustful passion of sexual immorality, but to flee from its very presence. Many fall because they underestimate the power of the flesh, or think they will “test” themselves and see how much they can “take.” They have convinced themselves that they can always just walk away if things go too far. Joseph showed us how to flee – he ran from sin. Paul doesn’t tell us to flee from sex – after all it is a gift from God to mankind. It’s the immorality that we can fall into that we are to flee from. “Flee from sexual immorality. Every other sin a person commits is outside the body, but the sexually immoral person sins against his own body.”

Paul ends with a principle and a command regarding sexual purity. We have to understand that our body is a temple of the Holy Spirit – He dwells within us. Our bodies are not our own. They completely belong to God to use as He desires, not to fulfill our personal wishes. With God living within us, we have power over sin. The principle here is that the Holy Spirit is in us and will equip us to resist sexual temptation. “Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God? You are not your own, for you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body.” The command is clear. We are to glorify God in our body. Harry Ironside wrote, “Glorify God in your body and the spiritual side will take care of itself.”

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