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2 Corinthians

May 16, 2009

Background

I. Introduction as The Lord’s Representative II Corinthians 1:1-11

  1. One’s Calling Card                         II Cor. 1:1-2
  2. One’s Training                                II Cor. 1:3-7
  3. One’s Experience                          II Cor. 1:8-11

II. Paul’s Change in Travel Plans II Corinthians 1:12-2:4

III. Forgive and Restore Your Fallen Brother II Corinthians 2:5-11

IV. Paul’s Ministry II Corinthians 2:12-6:13

  1. Its’ Fragrance                          II Cor. 2:12-17
  2. Its’ Results                                II Cor. 3:1-6
  3. Its’ Glory                                   II Cor. 3:7-18
  4. Its’ Characteristics                II Cor. 4:1-18
  5. Its’ Reward                               II Cor. 5:1-10
  6. Its’ Purpose                              II Cor. 5:11-6:2
  7. Its’ Hardships                          II Cor. 6:3-13

V. Keep Yourself Pure II Corinthians 6:14-7:1

VI. Paul’s Joy II Corinthians 7:2-16

VII. Divine Giving II Corinthians 8:1-9:15

  1. The Lord’s Divine Work           II Cor. 8:1-5
  2. The Lord’s Divine Will              II Cor. 8:6-9:5
  3. The Lord’s Divine Way             II Cor. 9:6-15

VIII. Paul and Church Politics II Corinthians 10:1-18

  1. Issues and Weapons                   II Cor. 10:1-10
  2. Characteristics and Purpose   II Cor. 10:11-18

IX. Paul Expresses His Love II Corinthians 11:1-12:13

  1. Paul Shares His Concern             II Cor. 11:1-15
  2. Paul Shares His Suffering            II Cor. 11:16-33
  3. Paul Shares Another’s Experience II Cor. 12:1-6
  4. Paul Shares His Weakness           II Cor. 12:7-10
  5. Paul Shares Himself                       II Cor. 12:11-13

X. Paul’s Upcoming Visit II Corinthians 12:14-13:13

  1. To Love Them II Cor. 12:14-18
  2. To Strengthen Them II Cor. 12:19
  3. To Reveal Their Sin II Cor. 12:20-21
  4. To Hold Them Accountable II Cor. 13:1-8
  5. To Perfect Them II Cor. 13:9-10
  6. To Unite Them II Cor. 13:11-13

Background

The Apostle Paul is the author. He has completed his ministry of three years
in Ephesus [probably driven out] and has traveled to Macedonia for a short time
before visiting Corinth for three months prior to his trip to Jerusalem [see
Acts 20:1-6]. Paul is collecting an offering from the Macedonia and Corinthian
churches for the church in Jerusalem. Paul writes II Corinthians from Macedonia,
most likely Philippi, in the fall of 56 AD.

Much has happened at Corinth since Paul’s first letter to the Corinthians.
It’s possible I Corinthians, written from Ephesus, was written in the spring
of 56AD [6 months prior to II Corinthians] but because of the known activity
and hints given in I and II Corinthians, most scholars believe 1 ½ years
separate the two known letters. Here is a brief summary of Paul’s interface
with Corinth during his third missionary journey.

  1. I Corinthians is written from Ephesus.
  2. Paul follows up with what he calls a “painful visit”. II Cor. 2:1
  3. Paul writes the Corinthians church a “severe letter” [lost letter]
    most likely delivered by Titus. II Cor. 2:1-4
  4. Paul leaves Ephesus for Macedonia. Acts 20:1-6, II Cor. 1:15; II Cor. 2:1
  5. Titus, who has returned to Corinth, later meets Paul in Macedonia. II Cor.
    2:12-13
  6. Paul writes II Corinthians.
  7. Titus returns to Corinth. II Cor. 8:16-18
  8. Paul travels to Corinth.

[note: The “lost letter” could either have been too personal or
it was lost. There are several theories. I and II Corinthians are specific to
that church but they are also general enough to be distributed for all to read
as was done with many of Paul’s letters. The “lost letter” just may
have been too personal and specific to be distributed for others to read.]

II Corinthians talks more about Paul [his calling, his ministry, his purpose]
than giving specific instructions or encouragement to the Corinthian church.
I have identified only four specific exhortations, the last being implied more
than commanded.

  1. Forgive and restore your fallen brother.             II Cor. 2:5-11
  2. Keep yourself pure                                                        II Cor. 6:14-7:1
  3. Place emphasis on your gift to Jerusalem.          II Cor. 8:6-9:5
  4. Be Discerning                                                                    II Cor. 11:1-5

Titus has reported and confirmed that the Corinthian church has resolved their
problems. The biggest concern Paul has is for those who visit Corinth and are
attacking Paul’s apostleship, authority, and gospel message. So this letter
is written in preparation of Paul’s upcoming visit and ministry at Corinth.

Introduction as the Lord’s Representative               II Corinthians 1:1-11

I have chosen to approach these eleven introductory verses differently. Most
of the introductions to Paul’s letters are very much the same and a little different
depending on the circumstances. But this introduction caused me to think of
a sales person calling on a client. He presents his calling card and/or business
card. And then he proceeds to tell the client/customer his qualifications, his
training and his experience, which will grant him credibility in the mind of
his client or customer. There also seems to be some familiarity with the petitions
in the Lord’s Prayer. So read this as if you were a Corinthian church member
and have a visiting pastor knocking on your door to present himself to you.
Then this introduction can no longer be considered as dull and routine.

We will consider three issues with each of these three divisions. They are:

What is being presented or discussed.
Who is being represented.
What are the characteristics of the person being represented.

One’s Calling Card                                       II Cor. 1:1-2

Paul is presenting his calling card. He is representing our heavenly Father
and Lord. The Lord’s characteristics are Our Savior who provides us with grace
and peace. The calling card represents our work, our job, our vocation. We are
to present it to everyone with whom we come in contact. It says I’m here to
do the King’s work. That work is represented in the Lord’s Prayer by the phrases
“Our Father, who art in heaven, hallowed be thy name. Thy kingdom come,
thy will be done; on earth as it is in heaven.”

How then shall we respond? We are to respond in loving obedience to Him and
in continuous sharing with others.

One’s Training                                              II Cor. 1:3-7

Paul continues to explain his training. He has been trained by The Comforter
so he can bring comfort to others. The Comforter is our sustainer providing
our daily physical and spiritual needs. His providing for our daily needs means
that we are being paid for our work daily. It is our wage for working in and
for His Kingdom. This wage is represented in the Lord’s Prayer by the phrases
“Give us this day our daily bread. And forgive us our trespasses as we
forgive those who trespass against us.”

How then shall we praise? We are to praise Him by expressing our thanks to
Him and by being compassionate to one another.

One’s Experience                                        II Cor. 1:8-11

Paul continues by telling of his experience. Training is important but first
hand experience is more important. He has first hand knowledge that God, our
Lord and Savior, is also our Deliverer. He not only sanctifies us but rescues
us, cares for us, and protects us. In the workplace we would call this our benefit
package. These benefits are represented in the Lords Prayer by the phrases “Lead
us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil. For thine is the kingdom and
the power and the glory forever.”

How then shall we live? We are to live with undying hope in Him and in unceasing
prayer for one another.

In summary, we are delivered when we humble ourselves to the point we understand
who HE Is [Savior and Lord] and what HE does [grants peace grace, compassion,
comfort]. Because:

  • ” He gives grace, we must be graceful.
  • ” He gives peace, we must be peaceful.
  • ” He comforts us, we must comfort others.
  • ” He provides for us, we must provide for others.
  • ” He care for us, we must care for others.
  • ” He protects us, we must protect others.
  • ” He delivers us, we must deliver others.
  • ” He called us, we must call others.
  • ” He forgives us, we must forgive others.
  • ” He prayed for us, we must pray for others.
  • ” He first loved us, we Love.

We are employed by Christ Jesus to offer His forgiveness, grace, and peace.
Our retirement is eternal life in heaven.

Paul’s Change in Travel Plans II Corinthians 1:12-2:4

Now that Paul has established his credentials in verses 1-11, he tells them
of his travel plans. He begins by stating he is adhering to the Lord’s Will
and not to worldly wisdom. His plans are always subject to God’s grace. It has
always been that way. It was so when he had visited and ministered among them
previously and it is so now.

Paul originally believed it was the Lord’s Will that he visit Corinth first
after leaving Ephesus and then again after leaving Macedonia for Jerusalem.
But Paul states that God changed this plan and has approved a different plan.
Paul is being obedient to that plan just as they would obey a change in plans
because they [Paul and Corinth] had been anointed by God to preach the gospel.
They are owned through His blood and through the Holy Spirit, and they have
been guaranteed the hope of eternal life.

Our lesson is to never be apologetic, never be afraid, and never fail to change
our plans or priorities to line up according to the Lord’s Will. Following the
Lord is an exercise in faith [demonstrating that it is strong] which brings
great joy.

So Paul is going to avoid the previously planned third visit which would have
mirrored his “painful” second visit. I believe Paul sent Titus in
his place with instructions to meet him in Troas. But Titus was delayed in Corinth
and did not meet Paul in Troas but in Macedonia [II Cor. 2:12-13]. Paul does
not specifically state this because II Corinthians is written after Titus meets
Paul and reports on the positive steps the Corinthian church has made regarding
Paul’s directives. Paul was grieved by their lack of spiritual and moral discipline.
He confronted them firmly, grieving for them, and expressing his love for them.
We are, by nature, hesitant to confront wrong doing in the church, in our families,
and even in the workplace. It is difficult to confront and discipline for wrong
and improper actions without breaking the bond of friendship and love that holds
us together. Paul tells the Corinthian church that what he did was not easy
but it was necessary. It caused much grief. In some cases their bond of love
was broken and Paul wants to assure them that regardless of what’s happened
and even though his travel plans changed, he, Paul, is writing to them in love
and that he still loves them.

Confront wrong. Stand firm for what is right. Have faith. Be patient. Grieve.
Pray. And above all, love one another unconditionally. Paul did. Christ did
and still does. Therefore, do likewise. Confronting wrong is difficult if not
impossible to practice beforehand. Do what is necessary and don’t forget to
follow-up. Follow-up is critical for success. That’s what Paul did through Titus
when his plans changed.

Forgive and Restore Your Fallen Brother                 II Corinthians 2:5-11

Paul interrupts his thought flow from changed travel plans into discussing
his ministry in II Corinthians 2:12 with his first exhortation in this letter.
I believe he is referring to the fallen brother Paul wrote about in I Corinthians
5. It could be someone else but Paul uses some of the same words such as grief
and Satan. I am of the opinion that the Corinthians church was slow to act on
Paul’s original recommendation thus generating his “painful” visit
and his “severe” letter. This whole situation concerning the “immoral”
brother caused tremendous grief to Paul and to the church in addition to harming
their testimony of Jesus Christ.

But now things have changed. The situation is corrected. The “immoral”
brother has repented and changed his ways. Thus, it is time to openly express
and demonstrate the forgiveness of Christ Jesus and restore this person to fellowship.

We all cause grief to others from time to time because of our disobedience
to the Lord’s commands. Sometimes the only way to get a person’s attention in
order to bring about repentance is to expel them from fellowship. One of the
things we humans desire is to be a part of a group, to feel valued, to feel
loved. So expelling a person in love to clear the way for repentance, forgiveness,
and restoration can and does work. After all, restoration and reconciliation
is the primary purpose of the Gospel. So Paul is now encouraging them to proceed
forward in love so that Satan can not point to any failure on their part in
carrying out the will of God.

Let me state a key principle concerning our faith.

One can return to the Lord from outside the fellowship of believers [in fact
we were all called by Him when we were outside the fellowship] BUT one can not
stay in the Lord without the fellowship of believers.

Paul’s Ministry                                                            II Corinthians 2:12-6:13

Its Fragrance                                                         II Cor. 2:12-17

Paul resumes his discussion on his changed travel plans and on his ministry
in general by telling about his work in Troas. Troas was where Paul was called
to Macedonia on his second missionary journey [Acts 16:6-10]. It is doubtful
he spent enough time there to preach the gospel at that time. But he has ministered
in Troas now because the doors were open for them to hear the Gospel. Even so
he did not stay long because of his personal concern for Titus.

Evidently Paul’s ministry was very effective and the Gospel reached the hearts
of many people. He equates his ministry in Troas [and everywhere for that matter]
as a fragrance which spreads everywhere. It’s like the fragrance of fruit trees
with spring blossoms. Fruit will be born; fruit for the Kingdom of God. The
Gospel fragrance brings life or death to those who accept it or reject it respectively.
It is a sweet smell to those who accept it and a pungent odor to those who reject
it. You either wallow in it or run from it.

Paul notes that his ministry is not for profit but for God’s Kingdom. He is
fulfilling his call to preach. Growing/building God’s Kingdom is his priority.
It is to be the priority of all who place their trust in Jesus Christ as Savior
and Lord.

Its Results                                                                     II Cor. 3:1-6

The Corinthians have personally experienced the same acceptance of the Gospel
as those in Troas. In fact, they are a “letter of recommendation”
for Paul’s credibility and the Gospel’s credibility. The Gospel has the power
of the Spirit to change lives and offer hope. Such change is not possible through
human intellect but only through the person of Jesus Christ. It’s true that
programs like AA are able to change lives too but they rely on God or a higher
power to aid them. But true freedom from the control of sin is realized only
by faith in Jesus. He gifts us, He gives us faith, He trains us, and He has
sent the Holy Spirit to fill us. The results of Paul’s ministry [and ours’]
are Christ’s alone. The results are because of Christ’s power, Christ’s death
and resurrection, Christ’s promises; of Christ alone. Thanks be to God.

We must never take credit for the success of any ministry in which we have
participated. Recognize that God is the harvester and we only sow. Give God
all the credit. Give Him all the glory. Give Him thanks. Thank God with a humble
heart. Thank God with a generous heart. Thank God with an obedient heart. Thank
God with a loving heart. Thank God always.

Its Glory                                                                  II Cor, 3:7-18

Paul compares the Glory of God’s ministry through the Law given to reveal
our sin to the greater Glory of God’s Son given to save us from our sin. The
word glory is mentioned at least eleven times in these verses. We who belong
to Christ reflect His Glory. But how? What does this glory we reflect look like?
How can we describe this Glory? True it is freeing, it is loving, and it is
of the Spirit. Consider the following diagram to help make this portion of scripture
more understandable and meaningful.

2_corinthians_gods_plan_for_manifesting_his_glory

Its Characteristics II Cor. 4:1-18

Paul points out that we are ministers because of God’s mercy and we minister
with a sense of responsible ownership. The Lord owns His Ministry but we who
believe in Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior are stockholders in that we are His
children and possess His gift of eternal life.

The Lord’s ministry is transparent and available to all. At the same time
it is hidden from those who refuse to consider it, those who refuse to consider
Jesus Christ as Lord God. The foundation is Jesus Christ. The Gospel message
is the cornerstone. The Gospel is enlightening to both our hearts and our minds.
We are able to know the Lord and His Glory. The Gospel is powerful. It is Christ
Jesus. Our mortal bodies reflect His immortality, our immortality, and the promises
of our resurrection. We are now and will be in the presence of God, Jesus Christ.
He has filled us with grace and thanksgiving. We are being renewed and sanctified
for eternal glory.

These are heavenly characteristics, not earthly. These are eternal characteristics,
not temporary. There is only one way to receive eternal life and fellowship
with the Lord forever and that is to accept and believe the Gospel, that Jesus
Christ is God incarnate, Messiah, who came to earth to die for our sin. His
resurrection is true and He is alive today at the right hand of God the Father
on behalf of those who believe and trust in Him.

This Gospel is the most valuable gift we can possess. We are responsible for
sharing it with others, giving hope for eternity to all who receive it. It is
alive, authentic, and we are to never tire of sharing it with others. There
is no greater gift. There is no greater ministry. There is no greater work.

Its’ Reward                                                              II Cor. 5:1-10

Our reward is a heavenly body custom built by the hand of God. This promise
keeps us focused on the future instead of mired down in the present. It’s our
motivation. It is guaranteed. We are already winners. We know where we are and
we know where we are going. We are going home. Before we get there, we are to
please Him because we will all appear before His Judgment Seat concerning what
we did while on earth.

Only those who have placed their faith in Christ live with such assurance
of eternal life. We are always looking forward. The present or past has no influence
on our future. This is another aspect of being free in Christ.

Its’ Purpose                                                            II Cor. 5:11-6:2

To fear the Lord is to respect Him, obey Him, to be subject to Him, to submit
to him, to revere Him, and to worship Him. Our being revolves around Christ,
His death and resurrection; not self. We have a heavenly perspective instead
of an earthly perspective. Our treasure and our home is in heaven, not in the
world. We have been recreated on earth in preparation for heaven. This is possible
through God’s work of reconciliation through Christ Jesus.

His work is also our work, that of reconciling others to God through Christ
Jesus. We represent Christ and we serve Christ as we share the Gospel with others.
As Christians we are in the reconciliation business. It is our purpose. We have
no choice. It is expected and it is encouraged because the time is short. Don’t
procrastinate. Work, share, and love. Fulfill the purpose for which you were
created, for which you were re-created.

Its’ Hardships                                                         II Cor. 6:3-13

Endurance is a key attribute of the Christian. Life on earth is not easy.
Paul’s life is a great example. Through hardship Paul was sustained by the Holy
Spirit, the love of God, and the power of God. He rejoiced because he knew the
future.

Love for and fellowship with one another is very important. One can not endure
without the love, comfort, compassion, and encouragement of others. We can do
this because His Spirit indwells us, we know God loves us and is faithful,
and we see His power and sovereignty in our lives.

Keep Yourself Pure                                                          II Corinthians 6:14-7:1

This is Paul’s second exhortation to the Corinthians in this letter. He challenges
them to be separate by not entering into any personal long term relationships
with unbelievers. We as Christians are in the world but not of the world [see
John 17]. We are called to be separate, sanctified, and holy. This separation
is to be practiced in joint business relationships, in choosing a spouse, and
even in choosing close friends because our common bond is with the Lord and
His promises.

This does not mean we can not associate with unbelievers. After all, Jesus
associated with unbelievers to the chagrin of the Pharisees. The Pharisees refused
to associate with sinners and it even aided their unbelief. Jesus ministered
to the unbelievers in love. We are to do likewise. It is impossible not to associate
with unbelievers. Our association, though, should be in the role of a friendly
loving minister. Unbelievers will be business associates, friends, acquaintances
etc. put in our path so we can befriend them, love them, and share the Gospel
with them. It is a role to which we are assigned but too often a role in which
we refuse to participate.

Choosing to associate in close intimate relationships with unbelievers creates
tension because of differences in priorities. Believers value different things.
We have a different focus and/or vision. We have a Godly perspective, a Biblical
perspective, and an eternal vision.

This separation serves one very important purpose. It is necessary for us
to become like Him, pure and holy. It aids the Holy Spirit in His sanctifying
work. It is necessary if we are to mature in our faith and desire to please
God in all things.

Be wise in choosing with whom you enter long term relationships. One’s choice
will either aid you or detract you from spiritual maturity. If you want to grow,
if you desire close loving relationships, choose to associate with people who
have the same Lord as you do; the same objectives, the same purpose, and the
same vision.

Paul’s Joy                                                                        II Corinthians 7:2-16

Paul loves the Corinthians. He would give his life for them. He has confidence
in them even though they have disappointed him from time to time. He is proud
of them and is filled with joy. He has the emotions of a father for his children,
the Corinthians. All he asks is that the Corinthians acknowledge their love
for him and his work among them.

Titus has returned to be with Paul in Macedonia. He has comforted Paul with
his own arrival [he was supposed to meet Paul in Troas] and by briefing Paul
on his successful visit to Corinth. The church in Corinth longs to see Paul
and expressed concern for his well being. Paul is “valued” by the
Corinthians [see comments of Philemon] such that his heart is filled with joy.

Paul is sorry he had to write such a “severe” letter to them but
the Corinthians accepted it, expressed their sorrow [repentance], and corrected
the error of their ways. Titus reports that they repented and expressed a Godly
sorrow for their sin such that they became eager to correct their problems and
see justice done. Paul is not only filled with joy but is encouraged by their
spiritual growth.

The Corinthians have accepted Paul’s letter delivered by Titus, taken positive
action to repent and make things right, and provided comfort to Titus and refreshed
his spirit. As a result of Paul’s boasting and his confidence in the Corinthians
[all of which proved to be correct], Titus has developed a love for them too.
A love just like Paul’s.

Love, joy, confidence; these three emotions are expressed in the heart of
Paul, Titus, and the Corinthians. All this is possible because all three now
have the same objectives, the same focus, and the same vision for serving the
Lord. They all love God and love the brethren. Their priority is to obey God
and to trust Him. They now have the unity in Spirit that was previously missing
[see I Corinthians] because the Corinthians refused to acknowledge and deal
with the sinful behavior in their midst. The Corinthians have recognized the
wisdom of Paul’s advice, repented, and made things right. They not only accepted
Paul’s letter, they accepted Paul’s co-worker, Titus.

Tough love is not easy but always necessary. Titus [knowing what he was sent
to do] arrived in Corinth with an uneasy feeling. But his uneasiness turned into
acceptance turned into love resulting in joy. Titus was filled with joy, Paul
was filled with joy, and I’m sure Corinth was filled with joy. True repentance
always brings forth joy. We need to let God search our own hearts, repent, and
make things right. Then we will experience JOY flooding our hearts. Everyone
rejoices, including the angels and the Lord God. Joyful hearts always follow
repentant hearts.

Divine Giving                                                           II Corinthians 8:1-9:15

The Lord’s Divine Work                             II Cor. 8:1-5

Paul, who writes this letter from Macedonia, tells about the grace God has
given those churches to be generous and joyful in spite of their persecution
and poverty. They gave much beyond what anyone would reasonably expect. It reminds
us of the story about the widow’s mite told in Mark 12. They gave of their own
accord [no one asked them] counting it a privilege to share with the saints
in Jerusalem. They gave first to the Lord and then according to His Will.

We speak of GRACE meaning God’s Riches At Christ’s Expense. Here we have God’s
riches at Macedonia’s expense. They gave out of love to God without considering
their own needs. They gave themselves to the Lord first. In other words, their
giving was founded on God’s Grace resulting in their gift of grace because of
their joy and desire to do the Lord’s Will.

The Lord’s Divine Will                                II Cor. 8:6-9:5

Paul is sending Titus back to Corinth to aid them in finishing the collection
they had promised to give to the Jerusalem church. Macedonia has completed their
unexpected and generous gift. Paul challenges the Corinthians to finish their
collection, excelling in it as they do in faith, speech, knowledge, earnestness,
and love. Giving is not a command but demonstrates the sincerity of their love
for they too have been gifted with God’s Grace. They evidently started assembling
their gift earlier but lost interest in completing their pledge. Paul is urging
them to complete their gift, to keep their original commitment. This is Paul’s
third exhortation to the Corinthian church.

The purpose of their giving is not to provide others with an “easy life”
at their expense but to bring equality. In other words, everyone ones needs
are met so that the Lord’s work can go forward on all fronts without hindrance
or concern for one’s well being. Their gift to Jerusalem will benefit that objective.
Corinth can give of their wealth to Jerusalem and Jerusalem will return a gift
for the needs of Corinth. Jerusalem’s gift will most likely be in the form of
teachers training in the tradition and knowledge of Christ, endurance, perseverance,
faithfulness, loving the brethren, and the written Word. God has given Corinth
a specific task. God has given Jerusalem a specific task. These churches are
to share the fruit of their tasks with each other and, thus, the whole Church
benefits for the glory of God. They are to “scratch each others back”
and both benefit.

Paul tells of his boasting about the Corinthians in Macedonia concerning their
desire to give, expressing confidence in them. In fact their desire to give
actually activated the Macedonian churches to do likewise. Paul expresses some
concern that they may not be able to follow through on their commitment so Titus
and another brother are being sent ahead of Paul so that their commitment is
completed and there is no possibility for embarrassment. Paul is using the principles
of the human competitive spirit to assure what was promised will happen.

The Lord’s Divine Way                                             II Cor. 9:6-15

Paul begins listing the principles of giving and ends with thanking God for
His indescribable gift, His Son, Jesus Christ, the Gospel which makes His Grace
available to all granting eternal life to all who believe. Generosity is defined
as:

  • Giving willfully from your heart.
  • Giving cheerfully.
  • Giving faithfully without concern for yourself.
  • Giving expectantly.
  • Giving with thanksgiving and praise.
  • Giving obediently.
  • Giving prayerfully.
  • Giving repeatedly.
  • Giving gracefully.

That’s what Christ did and more. The result is The Lord’s Divine Fruit.

Below are more lessons gleaned from this passage.

2_corinthians_list

[Note:  #25 should read “Generous giving provides assurance of ones commitment and consecration to Christ.”  II Cor 9:12-13]

Paul and Church Politics                       II Corinthians 10:1-18

Scholars take different approaches with chapters 10-13. Even the NIV and NAS
translations seem to emphasize different aspects, at least for chapter 10. I
wrote out my thoughts and didn’t particularly like my approach. So now I’m writing
this from a slightly different perspective. If you struggle understanding where
I’m coming from, don’t fret. You may be more right than I.

Issues and Weapons                                      II Cor. 10:1-10

Paul addresses several issues which were no doubt brought up in the debriefing
of Titus. Paul discusses these issues now so he won’t have to deal with them
when he visits Corinth. He addresses them with the meekness and gentleness of
Christ and not with bold statements such as his “severe” letter contained.

Even though the Corinthians agreed with and corrected the issues Paul addressed
earlier, there is some fallout and disagreements within the Corinthian church.
Some are quite critical of Paul, thinking he is somewhat self-serving and hypocritical.
The innuendo in some of the Corinthian believers conversations are as follows:

  1. Some claim Paul is two-faced; bold when writing and quiet in person; confrontational when writing and compromising in person. [vs. 1, 10]
  2. Some claim Paul walks in the flesh according to the ways of the world. [vs.2]
  3. Some even go so far as to question his faith claiming he is not in Christ. They fail to see Paul as a loving and compassionate person. [vs. 7]
  4. Some claim he has no apostolic authority because he is not one of the original twelve Disciples of Christ. [vs. 8]

You can reword these issues according to the knowledge you possess about your
own church. You can use different words like favoritism, unloving, attended
the wrong seminary, or a particular person has no formal Bible training. Some
members point to other members disagreeing with a certain ministry or activity.
Our churches today are no different than the Corinthian church then.

Paul does not necessarily address these issues head on. Instead, he points
out his own giftedness. His weapons came from God and are divinely powered [vs.
4]. He is not in control. God is. Paul challenges error with truth [vs. 5].
He spends much time in prayer seeking God’s wisdom [vs.5]. He applies the wisdom
he receives to expose and punish disobedience and wrong doctrines [vs. 6].

Sometimes the best way to silence our critics is to tell people who we are,
our strong points, our weak points, and what we have been called to do. If our
attributes are God-given and God-driven, we can’t change. If that causes hard
feelings and amplifies incompatibility, then it means someone must move on for
the sake of peace and unity. But one must be confident of being right according
to God’s wisdom before doing so. Don’t disrupt things because someone is stubborn.
Disrupt things because you have spent considerable time on your knees before
God.

Characteristics and Purpose                                    II Cor. 10:11-18

There are some things Paul addresses and others he refuses to address. First
he states emphatically that he is the same person whether writing or in person
[vs. 11]. This directly addresses the first issue. Second, he refuses to compare
himself and his ministry with that of others [vs. 12]. He is not competing with
different ministries. He is competing for souls. Ministries are different and
they are to compliment one another, not compete with one another. Third, he
only discusses what God is accomplishing through his assigned ministry. That
includes Corinth because he was instrumental in starting that church, in bringing
the Gospel message to that city [vs. 13].

Paul states two purposes. One is to help Corinth grow and mature in their
faith to the point they can reach out into the surrounding area with the Gospel.
Second, he only boasts about the Lord. In other words, the only thing worth
boasting about is Jesus Christ, the Son of God, who humbled Himself by coming
to earth to show forth His love and glory through His death for our sin and
His resurrection to assure us of eternal life in Him.

In summary, be bold, submit to the Lord, avoid comparisons, and focus on your
purpose. Then the meekness and gentleness of Christ Jesus will be ever present
to bless His Work.

Paul Expresses His Love                                    II Corinthians 11:1-12:13

Paul Shares His Concern                           II Cor. 11:1-15

This whole letter is somewhat informal in tone with Paul talking about boasting
and now foolishness. He is transparent. We are seeing Paul as a person and not
just as an Apostle. His Jewishness comes to the forefront as he begins to equate
his love for the Corinthians similar to God’s love for Israel by using the term
he is jealous for them with a Godly jealousy [see Ex. 20:5,34:14; Deut 5:9,
6:15; Num. 5:25]. Paul loves them as if they were his. He is protective of them
as a parent is to their children. All that he says and does has Corinth’s best
interest at heart. He is willing to sacrifice even his own life to keep them
pure and righteous before God. He values them more than himself.

With that as background, Paul expresses a concern of his. They are sincere
in their devotion to Christ yet they are somewhat naive, tolerant and hospitable,
and accepting such that they are easily deceived. They lack discernment. This
is especially true if one claiming to be an apostle comes and preaches a slightly
different version of the gospel [we label them as sects today]. They are usually
smooth talkers, saying truth a high percentage of the time but then inserting
strange concepts foreign to Christ’s teaching, foreign to the whole of Scripture,
and foreign to the Gospel; that all have sinned, that Jesus paid for our sin,
that Jesus conquered death [wages of sin], and that we inherit eternal life
by His grace through faith in Jesus Christ, God Incarnate.

Paul is knowledgeable concerning the faith because he saw the light [Christ]
on the way to Damascus and was personally taught by the Lord while in the desert
[see Gal. 1:11-24]. His testimony of God’s saving grace was well known wherever
Paul traveled. Because salvation is God’s free gift, Paul made it his practice
to make it free wherever he preached. He was never a burden to the people to
whom he ministered. Those churches established prior to his coming to Corinth,
such as Macedonia, supplied his needs beyond what he could not do for himself
through tent-making [see Acts 18:1-4].

Paul labels these “smooth talking preachers” as false apostles and
deceitful because they do not preach the whole truth. They really belong to
Satan and they will die in their sin.

This is Paul’s fourth exhortation to the Corinthian church. It is indirect
and implied. He is really telling them to be on guard, listen closely, be discerning
of what others teach, search the Scripture and verify truth, compare what is
being said to what he has taught them, be steadfast, and don’t deviate because
he loves them and God loves them. They are Paul’s children in the Lord Jesus
Christ.

Paul Shares His Suffering                          II Cor. 11:16-33

Do you believe in Christ? Paul did. Do you minister on behalf of Christ? Paul
did. Do you suffer for the cause of Christ? Paul did. Paul continues to share
his person, his suffering. He isn’t complaining: he is boasting. He is proud
to be able to suffer for Christ. This is not a woe is me self inflicted suffering.
This is genuine suffering and hardship to bring the Gospel to you and me. In
addition to his physical suffering, Paul has mental and spiritual stress because
of his concern for all the churches.

A good exercise is to list all the hardships and suffering found in this passage
[there were probably more] on the left side of a sheet of paper and then list
our hardships and sufferings on behalf of Christ on the right side. If our list
is shorter and is less severe than Paul’s list, we are to get on our knees and
do the following:

  1. Thank God for His protection and care.
  2. Confess that we are probably not the committed believer he wants us to be.
  3. Ask God to give us wisdom, direction, and an obedient heart.

Just because we are not suffering does not mean we are not God’s children or
are not in God’s will but it is proper for us to evaluate what’s happening in
our lives and ask God’s guidance. [Rom. 8:18, I Pet. 4:5, Col. 1:24]

Paul Shares Another’s Experience                     II Cor. 12:1-6

Believers are sometimes prone to boast about their experiences with the Lord.
I too have had some neat experiences which I, for the most part, have kept personal.
I have shared some with others from time to time to illustrate how great God
is. Most have been recorded in my memoir, Dad’s Delights. But they are not boasting
material. They are material for which I can express thanksgiving. My experiences
are and will be different than those of others because we are different people
with different issues, different personalities, different emotions, and different
life experiences. What is best for me is not best for everyone. God know us
personally and deals with us personally. Our experiences with God are for boasting
about Him, not ourselves.

Paul evidently has great awe and respect for one man [unnamed] who told of
his experience being caught up into the third heaven to hear inexpressible things
he was not permitted to tell. If it weren’t for verse 5, one might think Paul
was speaking about himself in the third person. That person is not named for
reasons of confidentiality. That man relayed his personal experience of the
purpose of edifying Paul and not to boast. In respect for God’s glory, Paul
keeps it that way.

This is a good lesson for all of us to remember. Have respect for a person’s
experience by not broadcasting it around. Don’t take one’s personal, holy, and
sacred experience with God and make it public. It is theirs to keep or to tell
as they wish or as they are directed by the Holy Spirit.

Now allow me to speculate. I have a strong sense that Paul is speaking of
John for two reasons. First, John experienced something similar to what Paul
describes when he was told to write The Revelation. Since he had one experience
we know about, it is probable he had others before but was told to remain silent
[similar to Daniel]. The second reason is that John was moving into the area
of Ephesus being vacated by Paul. John wrote to the seven churches in Asia Minor,
one of which was Ephesus. Tradition speaks of John ministering to this area
prior to being exiled on the Isle of Patmos. If all this is true, Paul and John
could very well have met together several times prior to Paul’s leaving Ephesus
for Macedonia where he wrote this letter to Corinth. John could have relayed
his experience to Paul as they exchanged stories of God’s greatness and goodness.
It is a story, whether John’s or somebody else’s, that would offer Paul hope
and encouragement for what he was about to face for the remainder of his life.
Though there are no details, this man’s story offers assurance to the believer.
Likewise, each of us as believers has a story to tell that is meant to encourage
others. Yes, it’s personal, holy, and sacred but it’s also God’s instrument
in the care of His Children. Use it wisely.

Paul Shares His Weakness                             II Cor. 12:7-10

Now we get to verse seven which adds fuel to the argument that Paul was speaking
about himself in verses 2-4. But Paul’s revelations and/or that of this man
could possibly boost his ego and he would begin to think he was great in the
Kingdom of God. Therefore, Paul recognizes that his “thorn” is from
Satan himself. God has allowed it to stay so that Paul would remain humble,
dependant upon God, and recognize that God’s Grace is enough so as to rely solely
on God’s power in his life,

There is much speculation as to what this thorn is. I have two thoughts. The
first is that this was a physical infirmity concerning Paul’s eyesight. Most
of Paul’s letters were dictated with Paul writing a closing with large letters
in his own hand [Gal. 6:11]. I think this is one of the reasons Luke accompanied
Paul. He was Paul’s personal physician, treating Paul for his eyesight or some
other infirmity. The other option is a particular temptation for which Paul
was susceptible or weak. God chose to keep this temptation of Satan’s active
to keep Paul humble but not so strong as to be a factor in Paul’s testimony
concerning Jesus Christ and His Gospel.

The punch line is verse ten. We are strongest when we recognize our weakness
and humble ourselves before God. Teamwork guarantees success in our fleshly
world. The same is true for our spiritual world. Never fear, God is near. Seek
Him and trust Him always and for all things. He is faithful and protects His
Children. Our God is GREAT!!

Paul Shares Himself                                II Cor. 12:11-13

Paul closes this section by referencing the so call “super-apostles”
stating he is superior to them even though he doesn’t speak well, he doesn’t
boast about what he has done, he doesn’t boast about his visions, he doesn’t
boast about his suffering, and he doesn’t boast about his weakness. Instead,
he showed forth God’s power among them with signs, wonders, and miracles.

He asks them for forgiveness for not asking them to do more. Why? One of the
best means of maturing in Christ is to be challenged and to be active participants
in the ministry. If we want to speed up the process of growing in our knowledge
of God, then we must pray, study, and work simultaneously, enjoying the blessing
of God as we mature in Christ.

Paul’s Upcoming Visit                          II Corinthians 12:14-13:13

To Love Them                       II Cor. 12:14-18

Paul closes his letter by telling them the real purpose of his visit. He doesn’t
need their charity. He longs for their love. Again he uses the parent-child
example. As a parent, Paul is willing to give them his all. He wants more than
fellowship; he wants their love because he loves them so much. Paul or whoever
he sent to minister never burdened them or exploited them. They just loved them.
And that is the first priority of Paul on this trip, to love the Corinthian
believers.

Don’t be too proud to accept the love of others and don’t be too proud to
love others regardless of the baggage they carry. The Corinthian church had
much baggage but they still were God’s children, loved by God and loved by Paul.
Never fail to love the brethren. A hug goes a long way when fences need to be
built or mended.

To Strengthen Them                     II Cor. 12:19

Another of Paul’s priorities when visiting is to strengthen the Corinthian
believers individually and corporately. The purpose of this letter is to strengthen
them. It has come via Paul’s defense of his ministry, defense of the Gospel,
and defense of his methods. It has come through the sharing of information and
exhortations, direct and indirect. Their strengthening has begun and it will
continue. In fact, it never ends.

This priority is also our priority. We are to be involved in discipling others;
teaching them, training them, befriending them, praying with them, and worshipping
with them. It’s difficult to stand alone but easy when others stand with you.

To Reveal Their Sin                      II Cor. 12:20-21

The third priority of Paul’s visit is to expose the sin among them. They have
a history of quarreling, jealousy, anger, fractions, slander, gossip, arrogance,
disorder, impurity, sexual sin, and debauchery. Paul has addressed all these
before. The Corinthians have been improving toward Christ-likeness but their
journey has been slower than other churches. The influence of their culture
is dying but slowly. Paul hopes to speed up this process. He intends to focus
on their need to repent.

We are not to grieve our loved ones with disobedience toward the Lord God.
Let us take inventory and know our strengths and weaknesses. Then let us take
action; confess, repent, change direction, and walk in the light as He [Christ]
is in the light. Our lifestyle should not disrupt our fellowship with the Lord
and with fellow believers.

To Hold Them Accountable                 II Cor. 13:1-8

Paul doesn’t just want to hear complaints, he wants to be sure facts have
been established and confirmed by two or three witnesses. God is working among
the Corinthians. Some have repented and have been restored. Paul doesn’t want
to recycle these past problems. He wants to move on. Paul is coming to them
as the Lord’s servant to help them. He asks them to take inventory by examining
their faith. Is it real? Is there any evidence? Are they active in ministry?
Is their witness for Christ a positive influence in the community?

It is important for us to have an accountability partner, particularly for
those who are in full time ministry or in a position of leadership. The greater
our faith, the more active our ministry, the more arrows Satan fires at us.
An accountability partner is another set of objective eyes to help us see things
that we would avoid or ignore. A partner gives us a defensive edge to help us
avoid mistakes.

To Perfect Them                                         II Cor. 13:9-10

Paul prays for their perfection. All of the priorities mentioned are to help
perfect the Corinthians, to sanctify them, and to make them holy. Even though
Paul is coming to reveal their sin and hold them accountable, he is also coming
to love them, to strengthen them, and to perfect them. Paul is coming to visit
the Corinthian’s house. He is coming to enjoy them and to inspect them. He is
coming to help them clean their house. They may never be through cleaning but
they will learn how to do it for themselves.

We discussed having an accountability partner. We also need a prayer partner.
Nothing positive happens unless we spend time at the feet of Jesus. Build up
people instead of tearing them down. Compliment them for their good instead
of criticizing them for their bad. If correction is required, define the right
direction and follow up on progress. You see, walking the Christian life is
no different than a secular job except that it is eternal instead of temporary.

To Unite Them                                            II Cor. 13:11-13

Be of one mind. Live in peace. In other words, be united. This is the last
priority of Paul’s visit. It is the result he is hoping to accomplish while
at Corinth. United they stand. United they will survive. United they will have
a positive witness. United they will have an ever expanding ministry. United
they will unleash the awesome love, grace, peace, and power of God.

Consider these purposes/objectives/priorities of Paul’s visit. He is coming
to love them, to strengthen them, to reveal their sin, to hold them accountable,
to perfect them, and to unite them. Now recall what you know about the work
of God through His Son and Holy Spirit. Do you see the similarity? The purpose
of Paul’s visit is divinely inspired. He is to be God’s instrument to the Corinthian
church, aiding the work of the Holy Spirit.

  • God gave His Son in love      John 3:16
  • God sent His Spirit to strengthen us.      John 14:26; 16:15
  • God the Holy Spirit convicts us of our sin.      John 16:8-10
  • God the Father holds us accountable.          John 16:11; Rom. 14:10-12
  • God’s Spirit indwells us, sanctifies us, and perfects us.  John 16:13
  • Go unites us in Christ Jesus      I Cor. 1:10-2:16

See also Eph. 1:3-2:22 and Gal. 5:11-26

We Christians, who place our faith in Christ for eternal life, are indwelt
with the Holy Spirit and have the same responsibility toward our fellow believers.
We are to love, strengthen, reveal, account, perfect, and unite one another
for the glory of God. Take this responsibility seriously seeking God’s wisdom
and direction. Let the Holy Spirit choose the words you use. After all, it is
His Work. We are just His instrument. Humbly yield and submit to His will as
did Paul.

What a visit Paul is planning. It is much to accomplish in the three months
he stayed in Corinth. We are not aware of another visit or letter so this visit
was probably a success. Someday we will know just how successful Paul was. Let
us apply the priorities of Paul’s visit to our family, to our church and enjoy
the unity God desires us to experience.

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