2 Corinthians

2 Corinthians Chapter 13

How frustrating for Paul to be challenged on the same information 3 times. He was also being questioned as to whether or not he was being used by God to deliver his message. Paul still humbles himself by letting them know that he too is weak yet strong through Christ. He has pulled all stops to get them to follow. Now I understand his frustration. Raising my girls brought out the same frustrations as we as parents would, with good intention, present them with our insight as to which way to go in life. However I do not think we met with nearly the same resistance as these disciples did. 

Ah! examine ourselves. Great idea. I do not think I do that enough. Paul is asking them to perform an examination letting them know that if they find they are strong Jesus is in them. If they are not, he is absent. After all his teaching He wants to rest in the knowledge that even though he may feel he has failed that the people have in fact heard the word of God and have been built up. Paul makes it clear he does not want to have to return and be harsh in his dealings with them.

Now after all this worry, Paul leaves them with the most loving of instructions. He tells them that with all this new found blessing to REJOICE.  He tells them to restore and encourage one another, be of one mind and live in PEACE. May we all listen to Paul's words and take this Godly advice. We will then receive the blessings of God, a life of peace and joy only given to  the believer who loves and seeks after our amazing Lord.

 

2 Corinthians Chapter 12

"To keep me from becoming conceited because of these surpassingly great revelations, there was given me a thorn in my flesh, a messenger of Satan, to torment me."  2 Corinthians 12:7

Pride is defined as "a feeling of deep pleasure or satisfaction derived from one's own achievements, the achievements of those with whom one is closely associated, or from qualities or possessions that are widely admired" and conceit is defined as "excessive pride in oneself."

Paul was not immune to the dangers of pride.  None of us are. But I wonder what Paul's visions and revelations from the Lord looked like to him and then sharing them to others could be considered suspicious or believed or something in between.  So in order to prevent coming across as superior or of an elevated status, he was given the thorn in his flesh as a way to show he too suffered.  Was the thorn given to him by GOD and Satan was present and happily afflicting Paul with this thorn and was this a way to keep Paul from showing conceited pride and being raised above others? So once again, GOD had a plan, a perfect plan and despite Paul praying to GOD repeatedly, three times in fact, he had to be wondering what GOD was trying to tell him.  

As I continued to read through this segment on Paul's vision and his thorn, and getting to the end after GOD spoke to him and said "My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness", it is clear to me that GOD wanted Paul to know that instead of removing the thorn from his life,  GOD gave and would keep giving his grace to Paul and that grace would be sufficient for Paul to meet his every need.  

How often do we  question the challenges and tough times we are faced with and wanting GOD to provide a solution, and a fast one at that?  And when that doesn't happen, we question whether GOD is there, listening to us?   We need to be reminded over and over again, that even when Paul was desperate in his desire to find relief from his burden,  it can come by removing the load or by strengthening the shoulder that bears the load.  Instead of taking away the thorn, GOD strengthened Paul under it, and GOD showed his strength through Paul's apparent weakness.

Isn't it amazing that we really don't believe GOD's grace is sufficient until we believe we are insufficient?  It's so hard for us to learn to receive GOD's strength at times and we tend to do it more when we recognize our weakness and insufficiency. His hope is for us to always just trust in him and to know his grace is always sufficient.  We need to trust that he has a plan and he will provide.  Paul certainly showed that over and over with all he went through as he spread the Good Word. 

2 Corinthians Chapter 11

In 2 Corinthians 11, Paul continues to defend his ministry to the people of Corinth and others.  He expresses his thoughts and feelings openly, and he painfully explains how he has endured hardships, and danger for the church people under his care.  Through correspondence, Paul has become aware the church in Corinth has come under the influence of false teachers even from inside the church in Corinth.  He wants his beloved church at Corinth to distinguish between those who follow Christ and those who disguise themselves as servants of righteousness.  As a founder of the church and overseer of their faith, Paul gives the Corinth church instruction in discernment so they can consider the ideas and actions of the current false teachers from within in light of God’s truth and character as revealed through Jesus Christ.  Paul uses himself and his own life as an illustration to the church and offers a willingness to be criticized if necessary so that Christ’s glory can triumph. 

Just as then in the early church, so now 2000 years later, false teachers may operate within and outside the church and disguise themselves as followers of Christ.  Paul admonishes us this is not uncommon and we need to be watchful.  He reminds us that even Satan has disguised himself as an angel of light.  

What are some ways according to Paul that we can discern true servant-leaders of Christ from others? 

Paul tells us to examine the message:  The false teachers preach a different Jesus or a different kind of gospel than the one we in the church have received from the Spirit.  Each of us can relate to this instruction because we have heard messages that do not ring true with the message of the Gospel.  Paul reminds us that a skilled, polished speaker does not equate to a true message being delivered.  

Paul also tells us to examine our behavior resulting from the message:  False teachers can “enslave us, take advantage of us, take control of everything, and slap us in the face.”  Some extreme modern-day examples we have heard reported in the news are Jim Jones and his followers who committed suicide and poisoned their own children.  Other examples have been televangelists who advised listeners to send money to the personal cause of the televangelist as a proof of faith or a guarantee of healing.  More recently false teachings come today from the internet, media and popular opinion.  

As Paul reminded the church then and us also, our examination of behavior should be ongoing: As then in the church at Corinth, so too now we need to study and understand the Gospel message in order to compare it to messages from false teachers so our faith is not turned away from God. We should continue to examine our lives and our behavior to determine if our actions have veered off from behavior that represents faith in Christ.   We should also be prepared to explain the Gospel and our hope with its truth.  According to 1 Peter 3:15-17, we, as believers, must always be ready to give an explanation for our hope and do so in a gentle and respectful way.  Then if false leaders speak against us or our belief in the true gospel, they will see it lived out in our lives.  

2 Corinthians Chapter 10

"We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ." (2 Corinthians 10:5)

As I read 2 Corinthians 10, one phrase and verse in this chapter really started me thinking--- “take every thought captive to obey Christ.”  Take captive every thought means to control, to conquer, to bring into submission.  We are told to make every thought obedient to Christ and to bring it under control.  

But how do you do that? How do I make my mind mind?  My mind is often disobedient. It is often very rebellious. It wants to go in a different direction. When I want to think a certain way, it wants to go another way. To quote Rick Warren, “when I need to ponder, it wants to wander.  When I need to pray, my thoughts want to float away”.  Does this sound familiar?  How do we capture and control every thought?  That sounds impossible!

 Scripture teaches us so much and it teaches us that one way we can guard our hearts and minds is, “in everything”,  to pray.  “Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God” (Philippians 4:6) 

Notice that he says to pray about everything. If I were to pray as much as I worry, I would have a lot less to worry about. Don’t worry about anything, but pray about everything. This kind of prayer is like a running conversation with the Lord.  Obviously, this does not mean we must close our eyes and kneel to pray but just keep that line of communication open as we go about our days.  It also says to be thankful! Every day before the feet touch the ground thank the Lord for our many blessings!

2 Corinthians Chapter 9

Another chapter on giving?! 

Embarrassingly, I confess I felt a bit of this sentiment as I transitioned from 2 Corinthians chapter 8 to chapter 9. However, if you intentionally pause here for a meaningful moment then you won’t be disappointed.

“Each of you should give what you have decided in your heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver.”  2 Corinthians 9:7 (NIV)

This chapter is initially dominated by a theme of accountability – specifically, Paul provides a stern reminder to the Corinthian believers regarding the importance of fulfilling their promise of financial support for the poor in Jerusalem. This tough message transforms nicely into insightful instruction – even wisdom and encouragement – regarding giving. 2 Corinthians 9 includes the following DO’s and DO NOT’s of giving:

DO give…

Generously (vv. 5, 6)

From the heart (v. 7)

Cheerfully (v. 7)

Freely (v. 9)

DO NOT give…

Grudgingly (v. 5)

Reluctantly (v. 7)

Sparingly (v. 6)

Under compulsion (v. 7)

Great list. Nice talk. Next chapter.  Wait, what? Did Paul say to give CHEERFULLY?

Absolutely!

We are to give from the heart, generously, in cheerful obedience. This is not about how much we give – our all-powerful God is able to do as he wills with our gifts (v. 8). Rather, this is about how we give – a prostrate mindset of open-handed offering.  In this manner, our gifts address human needs and bring glory of God(v. 12).

Finally, and most importantly, we are to be confident in God’s divine linkage of giving and grace – the gift of Jesus Christ given to sinners like us. There is no greater giver than our Heavenly Father and no greater gift than Jesus Christ.

“Thanks be to God for his indescribable gift!”  2 Corinthians 9:15 (NIV)

How did the Corinthian believers respond to Paul’s encouraging letter? Refer to Romans 15:26 for the answer! 

Paul is speaking to us today. Will your response be characterized by the “DO” or “DO NOT” words in 2 Corinthians 9.

2 Corinthians Chapter 8

Paul writes to the Corinthians from Macedonia to commend the Macedonians for their generosity in giving to help the people in Jerusalem during a critical time (Romans 15:27ff).  Why? Apparently the Corinthians needed to e encouraged to et their act together as well. Paul tells them while they were excelling in their faith, speech, knowledge, earnestness and love for him and his companions (v.7), they needed to excel in their giving as well.

The lesson in giving is not necessarily how much we give as much as our attitude for giving.  Giving is often a sore topic for many as it hits our treasures or what we want to control, money, time,  and talents/energy.  My take away is my willingness to give is more important than how much I give, my trying my best to fulfill my financial obligations, giving to others in need will bless me with satisfaction and bless God who did not withhold anything in His love for me by giving me Jesus.

So, what is it about money that people have so much anxiety or even fear of parting with it?  I think it is more than money. It seems to me that it is our possessions that people are hesitant to part with for fear that they won’t have enough to live on. Really?  We here in the United States have more than most of the world’s population-even those who are considered under the poverty line are better off than most of the world.  Belief/trust in a good God is what we hear in our churches, but do we really believe that? Verse 8 through 15 sums this up nicely. “And God is able to make ALL grace abound in you,  so that in ALL things, at ALL times, having ALL  that you need, you will abound in every good works.”

2 Corinthians Chapter 5

As I read this chapter, verse 16 stands out to me.  “So we have stopped evaluating others from a human point of view.  At one time we thought of Christ merely from a human point of view. How differently we know him now!”

The human point of view is often de-humanizing.  We often evaluate others in terms of their job, their wealth, their status, their power, their race, their looks, their car, their house, their education and the list goes on and on.  Or worse, we see people as competitors, rivals, enemies, irritants, nuisances, frustrating, a sale and the list goes on and on.  Although I don’t consciously try to do this, I think I often evaluate people based on what they can do for me – do they make me feel good, do they like me, can they give me status, and the list goes on.  All of this is de-humanizing, but Paul says we “stopped” doing this.

Why did Paul stop evaluating others from a human point of view?  The word “So” in the beginning of verse 16 points us backward to verse 15 – “He died for everyone so that those who receive his new life will no longer live for themselves. Instead, they will live for Christ, who died and was raised for them.”  Christ died for everyone.  A personal encounter with Christ changes everything, gives us new life, transforms us from living life for ourselves to living for God and others.  If Christ died for everyone, how can we see anyone as anything less than an image bearer of the God?

Maybe the more important question is how did Paul stop de-humanizing others?  Intellectually I know that Christ died for everyone, but I need the transformation that enabled Paul to stop judging others from a human point of view.  I think verse 14 gives us a clue – “Christ’s love controls us”.  And further down in verse 17 – “Anyone who belongs to Christ has become a new person.  The old life is gone; a new life is begun”.  Daily submission to Christ, and living into the spiritual reality that we are truly new people because of what Christ did (and not my performance) has the power to move me from the human point of view to the Godly point of view.

At the end of the chapter, Paul tells us that we have a wonderful message of reconciliation to share with the world.  We are Christ’s ambassadors.  God is making his appeal through us.  And the only way we can be successful in carrying this message forward is to stop evaluating others from a human point of view.  Instead, we need to let the love of Christ control us daily, remember that we have become new people in Jesus (even when we don’t feel like it) and that the message of reconciliation is for everyone everywhere.

2 Corinthians Chapter 4

When I saw the title of this chapter, “Treasure in Fragile Clay Jars”, my mind instantly went to terra-cotta clay pots. The ones most used in the garden, they’re often my first choice when planting flowers because they are simple, sturdy and will take a beating. They are a great heat conductor that helps seedlings grow. The pots have simple lines that do not distract you from the beautiful flower or plant that is growing inside the pot, from a simple daisy, a green fern or a beautiful and often finicky orchid. They come in many sizes and can take a lot of hard knocks. The clay pots still work even if they have a crack, a chip or are weathered. They have stood the test of time. 

2 Corinthians 4 for me is a great picture of who we are in Christ. Our bodies may be fragile on the outside, but oh what’s on the inside is what matters. Our exterior comes in many shapes and sizes, with some being polished and others scarred and messy. What our exterior looks like doesn’t matter to Christ; rather it’s what is in our hearts that matter. We are His treasures. Christ Jesus sacrificed it all for you and me. 

Becoming a believer in Christ doesn’t mean that I will have a perfect life or that all my prayers will be answered. Nor does it mean that all the chaos in my life will just disappear. What it does mean is that through all of my trials and tribulations God is with me.  Verse 7 clearly states, “We now have this light shining in our hearts, but we ourselves are like fragile clay jars containing this great treasure. This makes it clear that our great power is from God, not from ourselves.” Becoming a believer in Christ to me means that as a Christian living in the world I need to choose to be in the world or of this world. When I live in the world I leave room for Jesus to live in me so that His light that lives in me can shine through for all to see. Living in the world allows for the Good News to be shared. Being a servant for Jesus allows Him to work through me for good. When I choose to live of this world I get lost in my agenda and my comforts making things about me and forgetting to share God’s truths and putting the glory on me. When I live in the world I will still encounter hardships, rejection, and at times I may be under constant attack. Verses 8-9 tell us, we will be surrounded by troubles, but not crushed. We will worry but not lose hope, be chased, knocked down, but God will never abandon us. Verse 15 says, “All of this is for your benefit. And as God’s grace reaches more and more people, there will be great thanksgiving, and God will receive more and more glory.” As one of Christ treasures I will continue to spread the seeds of hope, share the good news for all to hear and bring glory to HIM.  

2 Corinthians Chapter 3

In Chapter 3 Paul is explaining his ministry to the believers in Corinth.  Because the false teachers had been challenging Paul’s personal integrity and his authority as an apostle, Paul was sensitive to the fact that everything he wrote or said was liable to be twisted and used in a hostile manner.  Those false teachers often needed letters of recommendation.  Paul needed no such recommendation and he stressed to the believers that their lives served as their recommendation.  “Your lives are a letter written in our hearts; everyone can read it and recognize our good work among you.  Clearly you are a letter from Christ showing the result of our ministry among you.”

Paul then goes on to explain the glory of the new covenant.  The new covenant gives us confidence to be very bold.  If the old covenant was glorious, how much greater the new covenant is.  “For the Lord is the Spirit, and wherever the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom…And the Lord-who is the Spirit- makes us more and more like him as we are changed into his glorious image."   Praise God we have this new covenant to provide us the confidence and freedom to spread the word about Jesus our Savior!

2 Corinthians Chapter 2

Many years ago I worked in an office with about 20 other people.  I really enjoyed the people I worked with and felt that they enjoyed working with me as well.  So that is why I was puzzled when week after week a group of co-workers would go out for “happy hour” on Fridays.  Finally, I worked up enough nerve to ask one of the gals why they never had invited me to join them?  Much to my surprise she said to me, “ Well we know you’re a Christian and we didn’t think you would want to come with us.” I laughed!  I had made up all of these stories in my head of why they didn’t want me to join them but NEVER did I guess that would have been the reason!  

I went from disappointed to thrilled!  I had recommitted my life to the Lord about 6 months prior to this but never stopped to think about the ripple effect of my walk.

In verses 15 and 16 Paul talks about being the aroma of Christ.  Praise God it was my aroma that set me apart in my co-workers mind from worldly activities.  You just never really know who will be affected by your personal relationship with Jesus