II Corinthians 13

Vs. 10, “This is why I write these things when I am absent, that when I come I may not have to be harsh in my use of authority—the authority the Lord gave me for building you up, not for tearing you down.”  It was Paul’s intention not to have to exercise his authority over rebellious acts of those who spoke slander against him.  Paul quotes the Old Testament law (Deuteronomy 19:15) regarding the legal matters in bringing witnesses to testify the truth (vs. 1).  The Judaizers accused Paul of being a weak leader, but they mistook his humility as a sign of weakness (vs. 2-4).  The Corinthian’s were exhorted to examine themselves to ensure they were testing the truth with God’s standard (vs. 5-8).  All of us in the church today would do well to examine ourselves.  It’s important for us to see that church discipline was and is a very important part of ensuring godliness and accountability.  Paul ends his letter with some wonderful exhortations and benedictions (vs. 11-14).

Regarding application…Seeking Restoration.  Vs. 11, “Finally, brothers and sisters, rejoice! Strive for full restoration, encourage one another, be of one mind, live in peace. And the God of love and peace will be with you.”  After it’s all said and done, Paul sought restoration above all.  I appreciate how Paul was very real with what was transpiring in Corinth.  Instead of trying to sweep everything under the rug, Paul made sure to encourage everyone by letting them know he was going to help deal with the situation.  While it was about bringing justice, the end goal was restoration.  The church is not going to be immune to sinful ways, but we must solve it with having the mindset of God.  Take time to consider if there are things you can pray for and do to help bring restoration to your church.

II Corinthians 12

Vs. 6, “Even if I should choose to boast, I would not be a fool, because I would be speaking the truth. But I refrain, so no one will think more of me than is warranted by what I do or say.”  Question: What would cause Paul to boast about his visions in such a subtle way?  Apparently, there were those super apostles (vs. 11), that were sharing extraordinary testimonies of visions that put some in awe.  Paul only shared a very small snippet and couldn’t even bring himself to mention it was him directly (vs. 1-6).  Such boasting would have been out of pride and it’s proof this was not Paul’s intention because he had never mentioned it before this.  Paul shares candidly that God kept him humble by this thorn in his flesh (vs. 7-10).  While we do not know exactly what this affliction might have been, it was obvious to Paul that God kept it there to keep him humble and dependent on Him.  In the latter half of our chapter (vs. 11-21), Paul rebukes them for compelling him to have to resort to such boastful measures.  Paul would come to them as a loving parent despite the fact that the children treated him so disrespectfully.  I appreciate Paul’s genuine anxiety as he expresses his concern of their spiritual state once he actually comes to them for his third visit.  True love also speaks the truth even when it hurts.

Regarding application…Strength in Weakness.  Vs. 9, “But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me.”  Question: How can we have strength when we are weak?  This is an obvious oxymoron, right?  It’s all about being tough and strong to overcome obstacles in our life, right?  I remember reading about the life of missionary Jim Elliot and how he committed himself to spiritually and physically be strong.  He joined his college wrestling team and wanted to always be physically ready for any struggle he might face in the mission field.  I was highly impressionable at the age of 16 when I read this and ever since, I have tried to live by this same standard.  I value strength in my life in all aspects.  But God has broken me down over the years.  I used to never cry in front of people, but those who know me know that I am very emotional when it comes to sharing the love of Christ.  Question: What metaphorical thorns has God allowed in your life to keep you humble?  Take time to thank God for that and stay humble in Him!

II Corinthians 11

Vs. 3, “But I am afraid that just as Eve was deceived by the serpent’s cunning, your minds may somehow be led astray from your sincere and pure devotion to Christ.”  There is a godly jealousy and this is what Paul felt and conveyed to the Corinthians (vs. 1-5).  Paul reminds us of the imagery that we are the bride and Christ is the bridegroom (vs. 2).  There is no doubt that Paul loved the Corinthians deeply as he reminds them of the deep sacrifices he made to not burden them (vs. 6-12).  In some of their twisted minds, they accused Paul as not being legitimate because he did not get paid.  We still measure success by how much we get paid.  As a church, we should appreciate our pastor’s for many are overworked and underpaid.  Like many in the church today, the Corinthians took for granted the people who work hardest for the church (whether pastor, bible study teacher, praise leader, elder, deacon, etc.)  In a very surprising way, Paul begins to boast a bit and expounds upon his suffering for them.  Question: Why?  Had the Corinthians not questioned Paul’s authority, he would have never had to resort to proving himself.  But, for their own sake and understanding, Paul would digress for a moment and share what kind of sacrifices he endured (vs. 16-33).  Sometimes people need to be a bit shocked and remember to stop thinking so worldly and selfishly.

Regarding application…Suffering for Christ.  Vs. 28, “Besides everything else, I face daily the pressure of my concern for all the churches.”  Let me be quite candid for a moment.  As I was reading Paul’s long list of sufferings he endured for Christ, I have to tell you that I was actually encouraged!  When I read or hear about those who endure suffering, yet walk the walk it’s incredibly powerful!  Of course, it’s easy to say for me for I have never been in prison, been scourged, experienced near death and beatings, been shipwrecked, been hungry to the point of pain, had my life in danger from others, etc.  The only thing I can relate to with Paul is the daily pressures for the concern of the church.  Over the years, I have been increasingly getting more white hairs than normal.  It’s an incredible privilege to teach God’s word and pastor a ministry, but the toil and pressure can sometimes be overwhelming.  Yet, all who love the church and serve it in some capacity understand a little bit of what Paul was talking about when it comes to suffering.  The road to the cross and taking it up daily is not an easy endeavor.  But, we can find much joy in the midst of our sufferings.

 

II Corinthians 10

Vs. 2, “I beg you that when I come I may not have to be as bold as I expect to be toward some people who think that we live by the standards of this world.”  One thing we must remember is that Paul was writing to a divided church.  While there were those who supported him, there were still others who questioned the authority of his ministry.  The accusations towards Paul’s timidity was more about the Judaizers trying to find reasons to expose Paul (vs. 1-6).  Unlike those who lorded over people, Paul taught with a humble authority they were not accustomed to.  Paul reminded all of them not to judge thing based on the seen world.  There is spiritual war that rages on.  Charisma and eloquent words have always impressed people and it was no different in Paul’s time (vs. 7-11).  Their false accusations of Paul’s ministerial authority actually put in doubt the very existence of the church in Corinth.  While Paul had the authority to harshly rebuke, he shows us that restraint is incredibly valuable.  Paul would remind us all that the measure of success is not based on human standards (vs. 12-18).

Regarding application…What’s Success?  Vs. 12, “We do not dare to classify or compare ourselves with some who commend themselves. When they measure themselves by themselves and compare themselves with themselves, they are not wise.”  For some reason, we humans love to measure success by quantifiable measurements.  We learn early on in our formative years that getting good grades, running faster, being better at instruments, etc. will elevate our status in society.  We measure success by our g.p.a.’s, colleges we attend, career paths we go down, the companies we work for, the size of our 401K/IRA’s, etc.  And the church is not immune to such standards of success.  The size of our ministries (buildings, numbers of members) can quickly cause the pride of boasting that does not come from the Lord.  In the end, Paul’s prayer and hope was that we remember that any boasting should come from the Lord’s success, not ours.  Question: How do you measure success?  Let’s be humble and remember not to compare ourselves with this world.

II Corinthians 9

Vs. 2, “For I know your eagerness to help, and I have been boasting about it to the Macedonians, telling them that since last year you in Achaia were ready to give; and your enthusiasm has stirred most of them to action.”  Our chapter today continues Paul’s admonishment to the Corinthians to be faithful in their prior commitments.  Before all the recent troubles in Corinth, their enthusiasm to participate in giving spurred many to follow, including the Macedonian churches (vs. 1-5).  Paul would send Titus and two others to motivate them to desire to be committed to the generosity they had previously promised.  There is nothing wrong in positive godly peer pressure!  Question: What’s in it for me?  When we give generously, God blesses us (vs. 6-11).  Just as God gave to us, we must give to others.  Giving encompasses the very nature of a Christian.  When we give as God desires us to do, our giving will provide what is needed and bring encouragement to many (vs. 12-15).

Regarding application…Cheerful Giver.  Vs. 7, “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.”  In the court of law, there is quite an emphasis on the motive of a person’s actions.  Likewise, as believers who are commanded to give, it’s all about the motive of how we give.  We can give with begrudgingly, we can give out of obligation, we can give out of guilt, or we can give out of the goodness of our hearts.  Not only does our money not belong to us in the first place, God’s will is going to be done regardless.  Question: Why then give?  If we get to that question, we must check the condition of our hearts.  We give because it benefits other, but most important: giving glorifies God.  So let’s do this!  Give our time, energy, and tithes/offerings cheerfully to the Lord!

II Corinthians 8

Vs. 7, “But since you excel in everything—in faith, in speech, in knowledge, in complete earnestness and in the love we have kindled in you—see that you also excel in this grace of giving.”  This is where it is important for us to take a very large step back to understand the full context of the ministry of Paul.  Paul’s ministry was to take Jesus’ Great Commission and go make disciples.  But it was also intended to help raise support for the suffering believers in Jerusalem.  The Jewish believers were still reconciling their understanding that the Gospel was for all.  This evident outpouring of support both spiritually and physically by the Gentile church would help mend the centuries of brokenness.  Paul would use the Macedonian churches (vs. 1-6) as a powerful example of generosity.  Paul appealed to the highest reason for giving; God’s grace (vs. 7-15).  We are all recipients of God’s grace (undeserved acceptance and love) and we would do well to contribute towards those who could benefit by the blessings bestowed upon us.  The latter half of our chapter (vs. 16-24), we see Paul wisely appoint those who were trusted to handle the offerings with godliness and integrity.  The money that the church collects is not ours or the church’s, it belongs to God.  We must be wise stewards of the finances and appoint people who will distribute them with godly intentions.

Regarding application…Equality?  Vs. 13, “Our desire is not that others might be relieved while you are hard pressed, but that there might be equality.”  We may look at this section of Paul’s admonishment and think, “This is Christian communism?”  We must first remember that Christian giving and equality is based on voluntary giving.  In general, we should not live hoarding everything for ourselves in the first place.  Take for example manna that was given graciously by God in the wilderness to the Israelites.  They were instructed not to take more than what they needed because any excess would go rotten (Exodus 16).  The church today struggles with asking its members to give above and beyond.  Question: Why is this?  People do not know the godly and biblical reasons.  When we give with gracious hearts, we put our trust and faith in the Lord.  He is the one that provides for us and we are only giving back what He gave to us.  Question: How can you give above and beyond?

II Corinthians 7

Vs. 4, “I have spoken to you with great frankness; I take great pride in you. I am greatly encouraged; in all our troubles my joy knows no bounds.”  When Paul had finally heard a reassuring update from Titus concerning the situation in Corinth, it had encouraged him greatly (vs. 2-10).  There had been those who were slandering Paul and had them questioning Paul’s intentions.  Paul had previously sent a severe letter to the Corinthians that is not recorded in the Scriptures.  But fortunately, many of the Corinthians took his admonishments to heart.  Paul was very thankful they responded to his message and received Titus with love (vs. 11-16).  It warmed Paul’s heart to see that reconciliation and healing was coming to fruition.

Regarding application…True Repentance.  Vs. 10, “Godly sorrow brings repentance that leads to salvation and leaves no regret, but worldly sorrow brings death.”  True repentance cannot happen without genuine sorrow.  I think we’ve all experienced a confrontation where one party will coldly respond, “Look, I’m sorry.”  But the tone of their voice and their body language tells us a very different story.  We’ve been on the giving and receiving ends of these.  Yet, Paul makes it a point to remind us there is a definite difference.  For example, Judas Iscariot was sorrowful, but more than likely not repentant when he hung himself.  We are never going to be perfect in dealing with our relationship with others.  However, how we respond when tough times come will show us our true heart.

II Corinthians 6

Vs. 3, “We put no stumbling block in anyone’s path, so that our ministry will not be discredited.”  It’s important to remember the context when we come to our chapter today.  Even though Paul and his companions had given so much to the Corinthians, there were those who had taken them for granted (vs. 1-13).  It wasn’t that Paul was boasting about all that he had done; he was writing a heartfelt response of his genuine intention.  There had been others who had come with ill-intentions to harm and teach false gospels.  When you are a true disciple of the Lord, there is the very real aspect of suffering and hardships that come with it.  Paul is an encouragement to all those who serve faithfully, for there is appropriate times for us to let people know how much we love them.  In the latter half of our chapter (vs. 14-18), Paul goes on the offensive and basically implores them to stop being so wishy-washy.  The Corinthians were being split by their devotion to the Lord and the influences of ungodly people.  The idea of being wrongfully yoked with an unbeliever takes a page from the Old Testament (Deuteronomy 22:10).  The Israelites were instructed not to yoke an ox and a donkey when plowing the fields.  Question: Why?  Because not only was one clean and the other considered unclean, they have different natures.  Likewise, as believers, we are to not be connected to unbelievers.  I’ll explain more in the application…

Regarding application…Compromise.  Vs. 14, “Do not be yoked together with unbelievers. For what do righteousness and wickedness have in common? Or what fellowship can light have with darkness?”  Question: What does this look like?  Some overzealous Christians have gone to the extreme where they will cut off any unbelievers in their life.  They will “unfriend” their Facebook friends and stop contacting them entirely.  But being unequally yoked does not mean we avoid the unbelieving world.  We are to live in the world, but not be of the world.  We are to reach out to people who are not believers, but our core friendships and valued friendships must not be unbelievers.  I have a few friendships that are very dear to my heart that are not with believers.  However, as much as I value them, I cannot immerse myself into their world.  If you value your unbelieving friends, bring them to your spiritual territory where you have the home court advantage.  Invite them to church, go to a Christian concert, have them hangout with your Christian friends, etc.

II Corinthians 5

Vs. 1, “For we know that if the earthly tent we live in is destroyed, we have a building from God, an eternal house in heaven, not built by human hands.”  Paul continues to expound upon our earthly temporary bodies (vs. 1-10).  Jesus will resurrect our dead bodies and one day we will have our heavenly bodies that will be restored and just the way God intended for us!  The groaning Paul referred to indicates the desire to be with the Lord and not have to experience death.  The groan was one of anticipation and hope because of the Holy Spirit’s guarantee (vs. 5).  Because Paul lived by faith, he confidently awaited the day that the Lord would come back (vs. 6-10).  The latter half of our chapter (vs. 11-21), involves Paul sharing with us what the ministry of reconciliation is.  It is a righteous fear in the Lord that drives us to share the Gospel (vs. 11).  Paul knows the outcome of unbelievers and has this sense of urgency.  Question: What compelled him?  More than anything, it was the love of Christ (vs. 14-17).  Jesus’ love on the cross and resurrection would open the door for us to reconciled to God.

Regarding application…Reconciled to God.  Vs. 21, “God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.”  The key to our standing before God is His action to reconcile us through Jesus.  Like any other relationship where there is generally wrongs on both sides, God did no wrong.  Yet, Jesus would bear the sins of the whole world to draw us back to the Father.  I can’t do justice to even try to explain what magnitude it took to bear the sins on the cross.  The physical torture and pain of death was nothing compared to the sins Jesus put upon his spiritual shoulders.  It’s an overwhelming thought that nearly brings me to tears even as I write this.  I pray that truth would inspire us to fulfill Jesus’ Great Commission and follow Paul’s example!

II Corinthians 4

Vs. 5, “For what we preach is not ourselves, but Jesus Christ as Lord, and ourselves as your servants for Jesus’ sake.”  Though there are false teachers who viciously attack and teach lies, Paul will not be deterred (vs. 1-6).  Paul no longer lived a conniving life of sin, but spoke the truth that comes from the Gospel.  This truth is now veiled over hearts that will accept the lies of the enemy and their sinful heart (vs. 4).  Nevertheless, Paul would fight on to share and boldly preach!  Once again, Paul uses imagery in jars of clay (vs. 7-12).  We are simple and frail jars of clay, but we are valuable because of what’s inside.  No matter how beat up our jars of clay may be (vs. 8-9), we put our trust and dependence upon the power of God.  If we suffer, it is for the glory of God to be revealed in our faith (vs. 10-12).  The latter section of our chapter (vs. 13-18) speaks of the confidence in faith.  Paul experienced hardships and near death, but that only served to increase his faith.  Such hardships would only bring more grace upon people who witnessed God working in His children.  Paul’s perspective of temporary sufferings is a reminder for all of us who feel burdened by trials.  Let us keep our eyes on Jesus (vs. 18).

Regarding application…Daily Renewal.  Vs. 16, “Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day.”  There is one certainty in life (unless the Lord comes in our lifetime)…physical death.  Now that I’m in the latter half of my life, that reality is setting in.  No matter how much I exercise and eat healthy, my body is aging and will die.  But, the spiritual body is renewed each day as all of us turn to the Lord!  Rather than worry about our future and prospect as the years progress, Paul reminds us just to focus on the present day by day circumstances of our lives.  There is a saying, “Yard by yard, life is hard.  Inch by inch, life’s a cinch!”