Corinthians

28 Days - Day 26

Paul recognizes his place in relation to God as just another in a long line of clay pots to be used by God.  His newfound perspective and identity is evidenced by his spiritual character.

Humble…2 Cor 4:7

It is about God and not about Paul.
It is God’s doing and not our striving.
It is His power at work in us and through us.

Humility is not about us being self-effacing but it is about us glorifying God.

 

BUT CONFIDENT…2 Cor 4:8

Paul is transformed in his thinking that allows him to face adversity and shortcomings.

  • • He could face pressure and not be crushed because of Christ.
  • • He could be at his wit’s end but he would not lose faith and despair because of Christ.
  • • It might look like he was at the brink of defeat but he was not defeated because of Christ.
  • • He might be facing hard times but he was not alone because God was with him.

Paul was able to have this outlook because of his encounter with Christ and because of his continual pursuit of encountering God daily.

Our encounters with God should build our faith and confidence.  In Christ we are made strong.

SELF-SACRIFICING…2 Cor 4:10-11

He was willing to sacrifice his life for the cause of Christ.

Paul is saying…“suffering is a purposeful sacrifice that results in the power of God being unleashed in our lives.”  

That is transformation because  that is not a human response.

FRUITFUL…2 Cor 4:12

All this sacrifice and suffering should lead to fruitfulness in our lives.  Our encounter with Christ leads to transformation that makes us more like Christ and helps us to fulfill the calling of Christ – to go make disciples.

Any encounter with God should lead us to fruitfulness in our mission of multiplying Christ-followers everywhere.  

 

Is transformation taking place in your life?


2 Corinthians 13

Test yourselves to see if you are in the faith; examine yourselves...

"You have been putting me under intense scrutiny," Paul writes, "it would be more appropriate to put your own lives under that kind of scrutiny."  Do you ever notice that those who are quick to scrutinize and condemn others are often guilty of worse sins themselves?  I guess the adage that the best defense is a good offense is what these people hold fast to.  If you point out other people's faults it makes you look better.  But Paul encourages the Corinthians, and us by extension, that we need to stop and examine our own lives to see if we are genuine Christians. 

The truth is that there are many in the church who believe they are Christians but are not.  They are intellectually convinced of the truth of the gospel but they are uncommitted to Christ and it is important that we taketime to examine ourselves and test the genuineness of our profession.  But how?

If we are truly in Christ then it is a work that transforms our hearts and minds.  Beginning on the inside it works it way out in the way we live our lives. 
It is a desire to please God and a desire to know Him intimately. 
It is the progressive change of habits that exemplified the "old man" to behaviors and habits that reflect our new life in Christ. 
It is the witness of of the Holy Spirit in our hearts.  (Romans 8:8, 16)
It is our love for the family of God demonstrated in our forgiveness and desire to be with them.(1 John 3:14)
It is living out a life that reflects the nature of God and not the nature of this world. (1 John 5:4)

These are just a few of the ways that we can examine ourselves.

Let us take time to pray as David did in Psalm 139:23-24 

  • Search me, O God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts.  See if there is any offensive way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting.

2 Corinthians 12

God will use whatever measures necessary to mold us into His image and to make us effective in fulfilling His will.  At times He will use blessings, but the problem is that if we only have blessings we tend to become proud.  So God must use suffering as well.  Paul admits that God used suffering in His life to bring about holiness and Christ-likeness.

There is no simple answer for why must there be suffering.  Sometimes we suffer simply because we are human.  Our bodies change as we grow older and we are vulnerable to the vagaries of life.  Our bodies grow older and begin to have aches and pains, and depending on how we have taken care of it, it begins to break down.  We suffer because we live with other people in a sinful world.  People who are selfish and out to get their own way, so in the process they hurt and wound us and break our hearts.

Sometimes we suffer because we are disobedient to God.  Because of decisions we made we find the consequences are painful and we must walk through them.  The good thing is that while God may discipline us and allow us to have to face the consequences the truth is He is with us the whole way.  As Warren Wiersbe says, "In His grace, God forgives our sins; but in his government, He must permit us to reap what we sow."

Suffering is also a way God uses to build his character in us.  We look up to Paul as a man of great godly character but that character was built in the many painful experiences of his life.

In one of the Bibles that I read this chapter in the heading was "A Special Blessing In Paul's Life" and I believe that is how we must view suffering in our lives.  Embrace the suffering as a blessing from God to help us develop godly character and not from the position of "why me?"


2 Corinthians 11

True love is never envious, but it has a right to be jealous over those who are loved. A husband is jealous over his wife and rightfully resents and resists any rivalry that threatens their love for each other. Likewise, a father (or a mother) is jealous over his or her children and seeks to protect them from anything that will harm them.

The picture here is that of a loving father who has a daughter engaged to be married. He feels it is his privilege and duty to keep her pure, so that he can present her to her husband with joy and not with sorrow. Paul saw the local church as a bride, engaged to be married to Jesus Christ (see Eph. 5:22ff and Rom. 7:4). That marriage will not take place until Jesus Christ has come for His bride (Rev. 19:1-9). Meanwhile, the church—and this means individual Christians—must keep herself pure as she prepares to meet her Beloved.

The peril, then, is that of unfaithfulness to her fiance. The engaged woman owes her love and allegiance to but one—her betrothed. If she shares herself with any other man, she is guilty of unfaithfulness. The word translated "simplicity" in 2 Corinthians 11:3 means "sincerity, singleness of devotion." A divided heart leads to a defiled life and a destroyed relationship.

The person behind the peril was Satan, pictured here as the serpent. Satan is a liar and tries to get us to listen to his lies, ponder them, and then believe them. This is what he did with Eve. First, he questioned God's word ("Yea, hath God said?"), then he denied God's word ("Ye shall not surely die!"), and then he substituted his own lie ("Ye shall be as gods") (see Gen, 3:1, 4-5).

Satan, of course, is crafty. He knows that believers will not immediately accept a lie, so the enemy has to "bait the hook" and make it easy for us to accept what he has to offer. Basically, Satan is an imitator: he copies what God does and then tries to convince us that his offer is better than God's. How does he do this? By using counterfeit ministers who pretend to serve God, but who are really the servants of Satan.

The preachers of this false gospel (and they are with us yet today) are described in 2 Corinthians 11:13-15. They claimed to have divine authority as God's servants, but their authority was bogus. They claimed that the true servants of God were all impostors; in Paul's day, they said this about him. They even claimed to be "super-apostles," on a much higher level than Paul. With their clever oratory, they mesmerized the ignorant believers, while at the same time they pointed out that Paul was not a very gifted speaker (2 Cor. 11:6; 10:10). How tragic it is when unstable believers are swayed by the "fair speech" of Satan's ministers, instead of standing firm on the basic truths of the Gospel taught to them by faithful pastors and teachers.

Paul proved his love for the church by protecting it from the attacks of false teachers; and yet the members of the church "fell for" the Judaizers and let them come in. The Corinthians had "left their first love" and were no longer giving single-hearted devotion to Jesus Christ. It was not only that they had turned against Paul, but they had turned away from Christ; and that was far more serious.

 

Bible Exposition Commentary 


2 Corinthians 10

18 For it is not the one who commends himself who is approved, but the one whom the Lord commends.

We may commend ourselves or be commended by others, and still not deserve the commendation of God. 

How does God approve our work? By testing it. The word approved in 2 Corinthians 10:18 means "to approve by testing." There is a future testing at the Judgment Seat of Christ (1 Cor. 3:10ff), but there is also a present testing of the work that we do. God permits difficulties to come to local churches in order that the work might be tested and approved.

Over the years, I have seen ministries tested by financial losses, the invasion of false doctrine, the emergence of proud leaders who want to "run the church," and the challenge of change. Some of the churches have fallen apart and almost died, because the work was not spiritual. Other ministries have grown because of the trials and have become purer and stronger; and, through it all, God was glorified.

Certainly our ministries must keep records and issue reports, but we must not fall into the "snare of statistics" and think that numbers are the only measurement of ministry. Each situation is unique, and no ministry can honestly be evaluated on the basis of some other ministry. The important thing is that we are where God wants us to be, doing what He wants us to do so that He might be glorified. Motive is as much a part of God's measurement of our work as is growth. If we are seeking to glorify and please God alone, and if we are not afraid of His evaluation of our hearts and lives, then we need not fear the estimates of men or their criticisms.

Bible Exposition Commentary


2 Corinthians 9

  • 2 Corinthians 9:6-7 (MSG) 6 Remember: A stingy planter gets a stingy crop; a lavish planter gets a lavish crop. 7 I want each of you to take plenty of time to think it over, and make up your own mind what you will give. That will protect you against sob stories and arm-twisting. God loves it when the giver delights in the giving. 
  • 2 Corinthians 9:11 (ETRV) 11 God will make you rich in every way so that you can always give freely. And your giving through us will make people give thanks to God.

Generosity, sacrificial giving…these seem like foreign concepts to us today.  As we shared on Sunday, the wealthier we have become (as a nation) the more we have become selfish and self-centered, not thinking of others but focused more on ourselves and what we want.  Paul tells us that the more generous we are the more God gives back to us.  Many of us tend to latch on to that part of the deal and miss the motivation behind it all.  For too many the motivation to give is so that God will give back to us, so it is more of a get rich quick scheme.  But the real motivation for generosity should be what verse 11 says, we should be generous so that God will give back to us so that we can always be prepared to give freely.  The motivation for generosity is so that we can be even more generous, and our generosity not only affects those who are believers but those who are not believers as well, which in turn gives us the opportunity to share the Good News with them.

Another thought about giving…be thoughtful in your giving.  Your giving should not be under compulsion and arm-twisting but thoughtful, prayerful and purposeful.

As you consider God's directive to be generous I would encourage you to consider starting with giving back the tithe to God.  This is a great first step in thoughtful, prayerful and purposeful giving.  If 10% seems like too big a jumping off point then I encourage you to consider the priority, percentage  and progressive approach.

  • Make it a priority to be give back to God.
  • Choose a percentage that is just between, "I can do it," and "Oh man this is a step of faith!" and begin to give that percentage faithfully.
  • Over time, increase your faith by progressively increasing the percentage.  Don't stop at 10%, remember that this is just the starting point of generosity.  

I hope you are ready for the increase in your life as you choose to be generous.


2 Corinthians 8

22 In addition, we are sending with them our brother who has often proved to us in many ways that he is zealous, and now even more so because of his great confidence in you. 23 As for Titus, he is my partner and co-worker among you; as for our brothers, they are representatives of the churches and an honor to Christ. 24 Therefore show these men the proof of your love and the reason for our pride in you, so that the churches can see it.

One of the things that Paul consistently modeled in the New Testament is this idea of working together to accomplish the plans and purposes of God.  Paul was a team builder and team player.  He was always looking to recruit people to the work of the ministry and then train and release them to serve.  Paul was probably gifted enough to do much of the work on his own but he always worked with others, building relationships. 

Today we tend to think of ministry as getting a job done instead of realizing that ministry is an excuse for fellowship and discipleship.  It is in the context of serving together that we build deep and lasting friendships.  When we work together in ministry we will have problems and issues because we may get offended by someone else, or we may not like the way that they are doing something.  That is par for the course.  How we respond makes all the difference.  In our loving response, looking to keep the "unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace" we help each other grow and we demonstrate true fellowship. 

Don't be lone rangers.  Let us choose to work together with people for the sake of the gospel and so that we can experience the kind of community that Christ intends His church to have.


2 Corinthians 7

Even if I caused you sorrow by my letter, I do not regret it. Though I did regret it—I see that my letter hurt you, but only for a little while— yet now I am happy, not because you were made sorry, but because your sorrow led you to repentance. For you became sorrowful as God intended and so were not harmed in any way by us. 10 Godly sorrow brings repentance that leads to salvation and leaves no regret, but worldly sorrow brings death.

There are times in life when we must give strong confrontational words to those we love. They are heading down the wrong path and casual comments you made have been left unheeded. If they continue down this path it will end badly for them so we must step in and confront. But once we do that the rest is up to the person to respond. Paul was on pins and needles after he wrote his letter of rebuke to the Corinthian church because he did not know what their response would be. The rebuke was intended to cut to the quick but would that sorrow they experienced from his rebuke lead to repentance or a hardening of their hearts and a loss of relationship?

Thankfully the Corinthian church were sorrowful to the point of repentance (godly sorrow). Their response was not a worldly one of self-pity, of getting caught, of despair, bitterness and wounded pride; their sorrow led them to change their behavior. They made a 180 degree turn in what they were doing to embrace what God desired them to do. No rationalization or justification, just godly sorrow that led to repentance (a genuine change in their behavior).

So often when we confront we want to manipulate the change as well and so oftentimes people do one thing in front of us and then continue in their bad behavior behind our backs and in the end no real repentance has occured. Sometimes we don't want to confront because we are worried about making people sad but there are times when we must confront in order to bring about godly sorrow. In the end we must always remember that we cannot control people's behavior, repentance must be an inside-out job, or else is will not take.

Speaking of repentance, remember that our response to godly correction is pivotal. When confronted we can either be offended and justify our actions or we can allow the Holy Spirit to convict us so that the sorrow at realizing our sin leads to a turn around in our actions.
Godly sorrow produces a repentance without regret leading to salvation, but the sorrow of the world produces death.


2 Corinthians 6

During this last week I have been busy planning for our November Grateful Gatherings.  It is a time we set aside to honor people and appreciate them for who they are and their hard work.  Whether we like to admit it or not  we desire appreciation, it should not be our motivation for doing things but it sure is nice when people acknowledge our hard work and sacrifice.

As you read 2 Corinthians you get the impression that the church did not really appreciate Paul and the hard word he had done among them.  When they should have been defending Paul he was being forced to defend himself.  In this chapter Paul reminds them of the ministry he had with them.

He came preaching the Good News when no one else was.  Through him the church was founded.

Paul also talks about the example of Christ-living that he set for them.  He reminded them of the hardships he endured in order to bring the Good News to them.  He talked about the fact that he lived a life of purity and patience and although he was slandered and regarded with suspicion he continued to live out the life of Christ in a way that allowed the church to be founded and to thrive.  These things are worthy of gratitude.  

Many people who give their lives to serve people are willing to face great hardship and trials and they never give up, but sometimes the greatest discouragement to those people is when the people they have sacrificed so much for either turn on them or never stop to say thanks.  People like Paul did not do what they did for the thanks of people but those people's appreciation go a long way in encouraging them.  Consider taking some time to thank the people around you who sacrifice much on your behalf.


2 Corinthians 5

I remember the day that I experienced the baptism of the Holy Spirit.  I was 12 years old and I had been at a church retreat.  As we were praying and worshipping God there was suddenly this sensation of waves of electricity going through me and I started speaking words that were not intelligible to me.  All that was great but the amazing part was that in that moment I was filled with an inexplicable joy.  There was a joy and peace that kept me in an emotional high for weeks afterwards.  That joy has not gone away, (it is not the same "feeling" as that day I was baptized in the Holy Spirit) instead over the years of serving God, that joy and peace has sustained me through many difficult moments in this temporary dwelling place of life on earth.  I resonate with what Paul says in his writing in 2 Corinthians

  • we know that when these bodies of ours are taken down like tents and folded away, they will be replaced by resurrection bodies in heaven—God-made, not handmade—and we’ll never have to relocate our “tents” again. Sometimes we can hardly wait to move—and so we cry out in frustration. Compared to what’s coming, living conditions around here seem like a stopover in an unfurnished shack, and we’re tired of it! We’ve been given a glimpse of the real thing, our true home, our resurrection bodies! The Spirit of God whets our appetite by giving us a taste of what’s ahead. He puts a little of heaven in our hearts so that we’ll never settle for less.

We are not of this world and to remind us of that God has given us the Holy Spirit as a deposit guaranteeing what is to come.  Whether we know or not, our spirits (the eternal part of us) yearns for that heavenly dwelling.  Sometimes though we cover up that yearning with earthly things and we must stay in tune with the Spirit of God who reminds us of the joy and peace that is to come.  So don't settle for less that God's best!