Thursday, August 13, 2020

Thursday – 2nd Corinthians 13 - Careful Christianity


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PPARENTLY, the Corinthian believers were somewhat critical of Paul and his ministry (vs. 3). Never mind that he was their spiritual mentor. They acted like spiritual teenagers: a little defiant and a lot too big for their own britches. In fact, if you read between the lines, you will notice that Paul turns the Corinthians' own critical gun against them. They were questioning Paul's position and the rightfulness of his authority. He accepted this up to a point, but then he challenged them to use the same attitude of caution and zealous differentiation while looking in the mirror (vs. 5). It seems that they had expressed concern over whether perhaps Paul and his companions in ministry were reprobates, or true teachers. So Paul asked if perhaps there were reprobates in Corinth. He was literally allowing for the possibility that some of those who claimed to be his converts were still lost and on their way to hell.

 

One thing is sure, the next time he made it to Corinth, Paul intended to preach a rather stinging hellfire and brimstone message in order to purge the church of what he perceived to be an unclean spiritual element. Paul did not relish such an occasion, but he was willing to exercise his apostolic responsibility in order to promote spiritual perfection in this church.


As already stated, Paul loved the Corinthians dearly. In closing this letter, his farewell remarks gently express his loyalty to true doctrine & to the persons of the Godhead. Yet shining through is Paul's sincere desire for wholeness & holiness among his friends (vs. 10-14). He offered a simple yet perfect balance of orthodoxy & compassion. Paul expected & demanded that truth be accepted continually yet he was noticeably patient with his friends in the faith.

Wednesday, August 12, 2020

Wednesday – 2nd Corinthians 12 - A Mixed Bag

  

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HERE are certain sentiments expressed by the Apostle Paul that are obviously classic, and intensely human. His perspectives feel very familiar. In this chapter, for example, Paul combines quite an admixture of good and bad into one context. Here he mentions his own heavenly visions (although he does at least thinly mask his own identity), but then he follows that up with reflections upon his earthly afflictions as well as his frustrations at the evil that he perceived to be around him.

 

The spiritual walk is indeed quite the mixed bag. We have the greatest gift imaginable. We are God's children; adopted into His family by His own good grace and mercy. We have the Spirit of Christ in us. We have His full written revelation and a certain promise of eternal bliss. We even have access to an infinite source of holy spiritual power. Yet, our lives are still spattered with frequent temptations, failures, and frustrations. Struggles drag us down and prohibit us from soaring. Paul could have soared. He was an apostle. His journey was a rich one, with many close encounters with God. He was told things that nobody else got to hear; things so wonderful he was not even allowed to write about it. Yet, he wrote, "I will only glory & rejoice because of my infirmities... my limitations, inhibitions and difficulties." Why? Because we are all apt to revel in & relish those few mountain peaks that have been reached, while abhorring & complaining about the many valleys between the peaks.

Tuesday, August 11, 2020

Tuesday – 2nd Corinthians 11 - An Open Book & the Value of Truth


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ISTENING to (or reading) unadulterated frankness can be incredibly refreshing, and humbling. Yet Paul called his own openness "folly" (vs. 1, 16-18, 21, 23 & 30). Apparently, the context of Paul's transparency was the threat of false doctrine from false teachers. In combatting errors and in resisting those who taught those errors in Corinth, Paul needed to defend himself and his own ministry. It wasn't personal. It was spiritual. He was jealous over the Corinthians, but his jealousy was wholesome and good (vs. 2). He was concerned that they might become distracted; that they would lose sight of the gospel. In defense of the true gospel of Christ, Paul spoke of his own sacrifices in ministry. None of Satan's ministers had a testimony even remotely comparable.

 

On the surface, it sounds like Paul is just bragging. But Paul had a defining perspective that helps us to understand the context of such claims. He knew that every good thing that he possessed was a product of God's grace. So, in this passage, he puts on his finest suit and presents his own resume. He included many troubles that he had endured. But he was not complaining. Neither was he full of himself. He was simply willing to risk much in order to give the Corinthians some perspective on what a true and loyal servant of Christ looks like. Since the integrity of the messenger certainly validates the accuracy of the message, Paul gave his ministerial credentials.

Monday, August 10, 2020

Monday – 2nd Corinthians 10 - Obeying our Gentle Christ


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F anyone asks my mother to quote a verse of Scripture, she will always quote 2nd Corinthians 10:5. What a marvelously relevant passage, not just for my wonderful Mom, but for all of us!  Each of us struggle (to some degree) with our thought life. Even if a person has mastery over lustful thoughts (Job 31:1, 2nd Timothy 2:22 & Matthew 5:28) and jealousy (which are truly two of the most destructive thought patterns we could possibly fall into) there are so many other insidious ways that our old nature can creep into our way of thinking and bring defeat into our spiritual lives. So, Paul admonishes us all here to attack our own evil thoughts violently and without mercy (Romans 13:14). We must learn to capture and subdue any and every thought that has any potential to threaten or to eclipse our fellowship with Christ. Obedience starts with attitude. Attitude is produced by a manner of thinking. For us to obey our gentle Lord, we must begin by submitting our minds to Him.

 

As motivation, Paul reminds us of Jesus' meekness and gentleness. Can we snub the Savior who treats us so generously? Paul demonstrated these same attitudes (meekness and gentleness) toward the Corinthians. In fact, it was the Spirit of Christ in Paul that made these sentiments possible for him. Paul was simply trying to produce continual obedience in the Corinthians; and in us. So, he reminds us all that obedience begins on the inside, with our internal reactions to and interactions with the Holy Spirit. In obeying God and in preaching the gospel of Christ, we must look continually upward and inward before we look outward (vs. 12-16).

Friday, August 7, 2020

Friday – 2nd Corinthians 9 - Accountability: Keep Commitments


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ONCERNING our giving to others, there can be a little distance between our decision to help and the actual giving and collecting of our gifts. In that intermission, our fleshly mind (and the devil himself) can get in the way of our noble goals. Paul wrote this chapter to deal with and hopefully prevent that exact brand of failure.

 

The Corinthians had been touched by reports about the troubles and hardships that other believers were enduring. With tremendous zeal and passion, they had evidently made some rather large commitments to help those who were in need. Yet, while Paul had spoken publicly about the largeness of the hearts of the Corinthians, he must have eventually recognized that when it came time for them to make good on their large commitments, there could be a very real temptation for them to back out. Paul was not trying to produce a burden in these believers; they had already caught a vision of the need. What Paul was working on here was simply the importance and impact of follow through.

 

What is it that we can do to help ourselves follow through? Well, here Paul used something that we commonly call accountability.

Thursday, August 6, 2020

Thursday – 2nd Corinthians 8 - Material Equality in the Church

 

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AVING attended good Bible believing churches all my life, it is sad that I have never heard a message on material equality in the church. It is strange because material equality was present in the first church (Acts 4:32 & 2:45-46). It is strange because Paul clearly addressed this issue here in 2nd Corinthians 8. Paul was certainly not preaching modern socialism of communism of any sort (especially not by coercion or administered by secular government). The equality that Paul promoted (vs. 13-15) was supposed to be a natural outgrowth of Christian love. It was a voluntary thing (vs. 12). And Paul was an ardent proponent of hard work (Ephesians 4:28 & 2nd Thessalonians 3:10-12).

 

Now, while we are referencing support passages (1st Tim. 6:17-18), let's include the wisdom of Solomon from passages like Proverbs 3:27-28 & 19:17. And Moses addressed this topic as well in Leviticus 19:10 & 23:22. There it is recorded that the Jews who had plenty were supposed to share with folks who had so much less. Jesus preached this generosity as well in His strong support for the giving of alms (Luke 11:41& 12:33-34), & of general generosity (Luke 6:38).

 

It's not complicated. God had something that we needed, so He shared. Now He enables us to follow His example. Those of us who have more than we need should be obliged to give to others who have less than they need. Here Paul complimented the Corinthians on their compassion & their generous intentions; their "ready mind" (vs. 19). He bragged unabashedly about the gracious generosity, benevolence, & philanthropy of the Macedonians.

Wednesday, August 5, 2020

Wednesday – 2nd Corinthians 7 - Because We Care

 

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OMETIMES the only thing that matters is that people know how much we care. I'm not discounting principles and power. Certainly, it is not my desire to marginalize diligence or substance, or to just be emotional. But it is unmistakable that Paul expressed this exact sentiment here in this chapter (vs. 12). In this case, the thing that mattered most to him was that the Corinthians knew that he cared. The context of this letter was Paul’s desire to comfort the believers in Corinth with love.

 

In vs. 1 Paul calls the Corinthians his "dearly beloved" ones. He was promoting holiness and faith among them, but it was his love for them that he used as leverage to move them in that direction. In vs. 3-4 Paul basically gushed about his intense concern for their spiritual wellbeing. With open fondness, Paul rehearsed Titus' testimony concerning the interest that the Corinthians had showed concerning his (Paul's) wellbeing (vs. 6-7). And, concerning the sorrow that had been produced in the Corinthians by Paul's first letter, here he assured them that it was not their sorrow that he sought; it was their holiness. He only rejoiced in their sorrow because of the repentance which it had produced in them. His desire had not been to break their heart. He had only been willing to break their heart in order to bring them into full fellowship with the Father and with all other saints. If they walked in errors, there would have been a gap in their spiritual relationships. Paul was practicing tough love – not because he enjoyed being tough, but because he realized that tough love was what his friends in Corinth needed. Although his pen was sharp, Paul's heart overflowed with gentleness and kindness.