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II CORINTHIANS 1-7

PAUL'S LIFE AND MINISTRY:
TRIUMPH THROUGH WEAKNESS

(Our Standard for Triumphant Christian Living)

by LARRY CORY

 

A SUMMARY OF THE MESSAGE OF
II CORINTHIANS

There were those in the church at Corinth that were using circumstances in Paul's life to discredit his authority as an Apostle.  In II Corinthians, Paul explains these circumstances from God's perspective.  Also, there were conditions in the church that needed Paul's correction.  In II Corinthians we see primarily how Paul explains his circumstances and deals with the conditions in the church at Corinth.  In the process of focusing on these two subjects, however, he also gives us a transparent testimony of his own Christian life.

1. His personal circumstances: Because he and the church at Ephesus were being persecuted, his enemies were undoubtedly saying that he was a failure as a church leader.  Though it was true that he and the church at Ephesus had been experiencing extreme persecution, Paul explains how God was using these very difficult times to triumphantly help him and them. (1:3-11)

2. His personal circumstances: The reason he did not visit them was not because of weakness in his character as his enemies were charging.   The very opposite was true.  It was not because he was weak and vacillating that he had put off visiting them, but it was because of problems in their church.  Because of these troubles that had just been made known to him, a visit from him would have needed to have been a time of painful correction rather than a pleasant reunion.  Paul hoped that a letter from him would provide the necessary correction, so that his visit with them could be a joyous time rather than a painful time. (1:12-2:4)

3. Their condition: A Christian brother had been corrected for some sin and had repented.  So that Satan would not be able to use their Christian brother's remorse to destroy him and to get a position of advantage over them, they needed to quickly receive their disciplined and repentant brother back into their fellowship. (2:5-11)

4. His personal circumstances: Paul shares with them how what he had thought was failure and defeat in his life was, as always, turned into triumph by God.  Paul shares with them his own brand of triumphant, authentic Christianity as an example of the type of Christianity they were - and we are - to seek to emulate. (2:12-6:13,7:2-7)

5. Their condition: They should stop yoking themselves together with unbelievers.  They were not in any way to become bound up with the life-styles of non-Christians. (6:14-7:1)

6. Their condition: They were willing to respond to his strong rebuke.  Paul explains to them the reason he sent a severe letter to them, and he expresses his appreciation to them for responding to it correctly. (7:8-16)

7. Their condition: From I Corinthians we can see that the church at Corinth tended to be self-centered.  Paul teaches them about Christian giving and urges them to take part with other churches in giving to the needy Christians in Jerusalem.  These two chapters provide us with Paul's primary teaching on Christian giving. (8-9)

8. Their condition: Some in the church at Corinth were Paul's enemies and were constantly attacking him.  Paul defends his ministry against the attacks of his opponents in Corinth in the final chapters of II Corinthians. (10-13)

 

Introductory Information about the Book of
II Corinthians

The Events Leading Up To II Corinthians

1. Paul's ministry at Corinth (He spent 1 1/2 years there establishing its church.)

(see Acts 18:9-11)

a. The city:  Its key location - it was located on a narrow land bridge

between northern and southern Greece (sailors carried their goods across a narrow 3 1/2 mile part of the land bridge rather than choosing to sail the very treacherous trip around the southern part of Greece).

Its prosperity and immorality - It was prosperous because of its key location for land and sea travelers.  But it was also because of this location that it became a haven for the immorality that usually finds its home in port towns.  Also, the Temple of Aphrodite, the goddess of fertility, was located in Corinth.  There were 1000 priestesses/prostitutes at this Temple.  In the world of this time, the word "Corinth" became synonymous with "Immorality."

b. The church: (see Acts 18:1-8) Paul was encouraged by a vision from God

to continue building the church at Corinth even though he was frightened by this intimidating and ungodly city. See Acts 18:4

2. Paul wrote his letters to Corinth during and around the time that he was at

Ephesus (see Acts 19:1-20:1) (he spent 2 years at Ephesus).  Below is a list of Paul's letters to Corinth and important circumstances related to

those letters:

a. Letter #1 - the lost letter (I Corinthians 5:9-12)  He wrote to them that

they should separate themselves from the sexually immoral Christian.

b. News from Corinth (from Chloe's family, I Corinthians 1:11) Paul learned

that there were serious problems with divisions and quarreling within the church at Corinth.

c. Letter #2 - our I Corinthians Paul wrote to correct their worldly attitudes

and lifestyles and to encourage them toward a Spirit-directed lifestyle.

d. Paul makes a brief, painful visit to Corinth. (II Corinthians 2:1, 12:14,

13:1-2) This visit may have been made to them by Paul to see if they had responded appropriately to his corrections in I Corinthians and/or because of how they mistreated Timothy when he delivered I Corinthians to them.  See I Corinthians 4:17, 16:10-11

e. Letter #3 - the severe letter (II Corinthians 2:3,4,9,7:8-12)  It was

undoubtedly sent because they were continuing in their worldly lifestyle.  (He sent it with Titus; II Corinthians 2:13,7:5-7)

f. Paul leaves Ephesus (due to anti-Christian riots). (Acts 19:23-20:1)

g. At Troas  Because Paul is so distressed about the opposition toward him

and his message at Corinth, he is unable to minister there, though there is a wide open door for him. (II Corinthians 2:12,13, 7:5-8)

h. At Macedonia (II Corinthians 2:13, 7:5-8)  There he reunited with Titus

and learned that the church of Corinth had responded positively to his strong letter.

i. Letter #4 - our II Corinthians

 

THE MESSAGE OF II CORINTIANS

In II Corinthians 2:14, Paul says that God always leads us in triumph.  But, before Paul wrote this letter we call II Corinthians, even he had some real doubts about whether his efforts in Christian ministry were succeeding.  Because of the severe persecution of the church at Ephesus during his stay there and the success his enemies were having in deceiving the church at Corinth, it appeared to Paul as if his ministry was falling apart and that his efforts as an Apostle were failing.  Paul was encouraged, though, by God's faithfulness in supporting his ministry at Corinth, and as a result, it became very clear to him that God does always lead us in triumph.  This book of II Corinthians is for every one of us who are Christians who have felt at one time or another that God has not been leading us in triumph.  Instead, it may have appeared to us that seeking to trust and obey God was not working and was only leading towards failure.  May each of us realize as Paul did, that God does always leads us in triumph!

GOD'S COMFORT ENABLES US TO OVERWHELMINGLY BENEFIT FROM OUR TROUBLES (1:1-11)

Paul and the church at Ephesus were experiencing extreme persecution.  But what the church at Corinth needed to know was that what Paul's enemies saw as his failures were being used by God for the benefit of both Paul and the Corinthian church.

Introduction:

a. There are 3 key Greek words in this section:

(1) "thlipsei" used 4 times, means "to press" = pressure, troubles, and tribulation; (2) "pathamata" - used 3 times, means "suffering"; (3) "Paraklaseos" - used 10 times, means "comfort, called alongside to comfort."

b. The message of this section:

In the world we will find pressure and suffering, but we as Christians never go through these pressures alone.  Some One will always come alongside to comfort us.

1. Salutation (1:1-2)

"Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God, and Timothy our brother, to the church of God in Corinth, together with all the saints throughout Achaia:  Grace and peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ."

2. As Christ's suffering overflows into our lives, so our comfort from God

overflows into the lives of others. (1:3-7) (1:5 summarizes this section)
"Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves have received from God.  For just as the sufferings of Christ flow over into our lives, so also through Christ our comfort overflows.  If we are distressed, it is for your comfort and salvation; if we are comforted it is for your comfort, which produces in you patient endurance of the same sufferings we suffer.  And our hope for you is firm, because we know that just as you share in our sufferings, so also you share in our comfort."

Thought Question #1:  According to these verses, how is it possible for US who are Christians to be triumphant even when we are going through suffering?

 

 

Thought Question #2:  Write down a time when God comforted you when you were going through a tough time.  How did He comfort you?

 

 

Thought Question #3:  Write down a time when you were able to comfort someone else with the very same type of comfort that God gave you when you were going through a trial very similar to their trial.

 

 

Thought Question #4:  Make a short list of those who have gone through trials that God has used to comfort and encourage you while you were going through tough times. (They can be people in the Bible, famous Christians from the past, well-known contemporary Christians, and/or those who you have known personally.)

 

 

a. Christ's suffering overflows into our lives.

One of the messages of Jesus and the Apostles we least like to hear is that if we follow them we will also suffer as they did.  Peter was not ready to accept that Jesus would need to suffer.  See Matthew 16:21-28   We are also not eager to hear that if we follow Christ we will also need to suffer.

b. But God's comfort also overflows from our lives and flows into the lives of

others.  God will never allow us to go through these sufferings alone, but He will comfort us in all our troubles.  No matter what our trouble is, God's comfort matches it.  In fact, when our troubles become greater, God's comfort also increases to match our need.  And, even more, His comfort is so much greater than our need that it overflows our life and touches other lives as well.  We do not just get through our troubles, but we get through them so well that our continued faith in our trials becomes an encouragement to others to also continue in their walk of faith.  When others go through similar trials, we become able to comfort others with the same comfort that we received from God as we went through our trials.

That is what Paul is doing here.  He had just gone through severe persecution, but God's comfort was so great that he now is sharing with the Corinthians how abundantly God is able to help us in our trials. You can read what Paul had just gone through in Ephesus in Acts 19:23-20:2. Attempt to imagine what it would be like if your whole city became enraged against Christianity, a city-wide riot broke out, and the main goal of the furious crowd was to find and to eliminate you.  This may be hard to imagine for most of us have not had to deal with anything close to this type of persecution.  But, that is what Paul and the Christians at Ephesus had experienced just before Paul wrote this letter to the church at Corinth.

Because they have shown to us how God's comfort was greater than their trials, God has used many who have gone through great trials to encourage us. There are many in the Bible who have been a source of encouragement to us because God turned their trials into victories.  Some of those who have encouraged the church are Joseph (he was unjustly imprisoned, yet blessed by God), Job (he lost everything, yet remained faithful to God), David (he was persecuted by King Saul, yet became King himself), Paul (he was severely persecuted by his fellow Jews), and many others.  There are also a number of well-known Christians of our day who have much more to share with us because of the trials they have gone through.  You can think of many of them who have had a special ministry to our generation: men and women like Corrie Ten Boom (imprisoned in a German prison camp in World War II because her family hid Jewish people from the Germans), Joni Eareckson (paralyzed from the neck down, yet she is a vibrant Christian), Elizabeth Eliot (her husband was killed trying to reach a murderous Indian tribe in the jungles of the Amazon River), Richard Wurmbrand (spent many years in communist prisons in Romania because of his faith), and others.  Those who have suffered and continue to be faithful to God are an encouragement to us to also continue on in our faith in God "in patient endurance."

You may recall times when you have followed Paul's pattern of passing on God's comfort to others by sharing with them how God has helped you in your trials.  Those were times when God's comfort has overflowed from your life and touched others.

3. God has delivered us from our troubles and will deliver us in the future

(1:8-11) (1:10 summarizes this section)

a. God had delivered us (1:8-9)

"We do not want you to be uninformed, brothers, about the hardships we suffered in the province of Asia.  We were under great pressure, far beyond our ability to endure, so that we despaired even of life.  Indeed, in our hearts we felt the sentence of death.  But this happened that we might not rely on ourselves but on God, who raises the dead."

Thought Question #1:  Why do you think that God allows even dedicated Christians like Paul to go through trials?

 

 

Thought Question #2:  What trial have you gone through that was greater than your human ability to endure?  How did this trial help you in your Christian life?

 

 

(1) Paul had been going through a very great time of trouble in Ephesus,

so great that he could not bear it.

Most everyone has had one or more times in their life that something seemed more than he or she could bear.  We would like to hear that Christians do not go through these times, but if Paul went through them, we can expect that we will have to go through them as well.

(2) Why does God allow us to go through these difficult times?

Because it is in these times when we cannot bear our trials ourselves, we are most likely to rely on God!  We do not seek God's power and strength when our own power and strength can handle a difficulty.  It is in the greatest trials that we most learn of God's strength that is available to us.  Many in the Bible were transformed from self-sufficient failures to God-reliant men because of going through trials that were greater than their own human ability to bear.  Here are a few examples: (1) David's time in the wilderness where he was chased by Saul, prepared him to be King of Israel; (2) Joseph was prepared for his place of prominence in Egypt by the way he was mistreated by his brothers and by his imprisonment in Egypt; and (3) Moses was broken and prepared to lead Israel by his 40 years in the wilderness.

b. God will deliver us. (1:10-11)

"He has delivered us from such a deadly peril, and he will deliver us.  On him we have set our hope that he will continue to deliver us, as you help us by your prayers.  Then many will give thanks on our behalf for the gracious favor granted us in answer to the prayers of many."

Thought Question: What does Paul say here that can be of help to you when you are in the middle of a great trial?

 

 

Paul was confident that just as God had delivered him in the past, so he would deliver him in the future.  Paul acknowledged, though, that an essential part of the reason behind God's deliverance of him, was their prayers for him.  The message to us is that as God delivered Paul, so he will deliver us.  But, we need to continually remember the importance of our prayers for each other!

PAUL'S PATTERN FOR DEALING WITH UNFAIR CRITICISM (1:12-2:4)

Introduction:

a. Satan's tactics:

Satan is always looking for opportunities to criticize God's servants.  Here, he uses Paul's change of plans as an opportunity for his (Satan's) people within the church at Corinth to criticize Paul for being capricious and undependable and for not really caring about them.  In I Corinthians 16:5-7, Paul tells them about his change of plans.  Originally, he had planned to visit them directly, but in these verses he explains that he will visit them after traveling through Macedonia.  In II Corinthians 1:15-17, he explains that he had originally planned to visit them twice, both before going to Macedonia and afterwards.  But, he had changed his mind.  Satan's servants at Corinth had grabbed hold of Paul's appearing not to keep his promise to come to them, and they were criticizing Paul as being untrustworthy.

Criticism like that which Paul receives here will always be directed toward God's servants.  Many have been crushed by it.  The way that Paul handles this criticism of him can help all of us in handling criticism that is directed against us.

b. Paul's response:

Paul does not overlook his criticism, but he hits it head on.  Sometimes we think that this type of unfair criticism will go away if we ignore it, but Paul chooses the direct method.  This whole letter is his response to the criticism he was receiving from an element within the church at Corinth.  In these verses, he deals with one of those criticisms, his change of plans.

1. First, establish your integrity. (1:12-14)

"Now this is our boast:  Our conscience testifies that we have conducted ourselves in the world, and especially in our relations with you, in the holiness and sincerity that are from God.  We have done so not according to worldly wisdom but according to God's grace.  For we do not write you anything you cannot read or understand.  And I hope that, as you have understood us in part, you will come to understand fully that you can boast of us just as we will boast of you in the day of the Lord Jesus."

Thought Question:  What do we learn from Paul in these verses that will help us to properly defend ourselves when we are attacked unfairly?

 

 

The main attack of Paul's critics was aimed at his character.  If they could convince the Corinthian Christians that Paul's motives were impure, then the church at Corinth would no longer listen to him.  If a community is convinced that a well is poisoned, then no one will drink from it-even if it is pure.

a. Paul's personal integrity (1:12)

Paul's conscience could not have been cleaner, but he is quick to give credit to God's grace for his boast.  If we are criticized, we need first to look to our conscience.  If it is clean, then we are on stable ground and we will be able to handle the attacks of others.  If it is not clean, we must deal with this first before we go on.  Paul's attackers were witnesses that his words were true, for they knew what kind of man he was.  Our best defense against others, also, is years of consistent godly behavior.

b. The conclusion that they should reach from their knowledge of Paul's

integrity (1:13-14)
If he had been trustworthy and pure in the past, they should conclude that he is now also trustworthy and pure in his reasons for changing his plans.  He asked them to keep his past integrity in mind as they read his explanation for why he changed his plans.  If they keep this in mind as they read, they will continue to boast about his good character as they did in the past.  In the past, they understood about him "in part," after reading this letter, he hopes that they will understand "fully" and feel good about his motives as he does; and as he will feel good about them when Christ comes.  Community life within a church remains strong only as we continue to think highly of one another.  If the Devil can get us to get down on one another, it is not long before the community disintegrates and Satan has won.

2. Then, deal with the criticism (1:15-2:4) (After he presents a strong

argument for the purity of  his motives, he now deals with the criticism.)

a. Show that you understand the criticism. (1:15-17)

"Because I was confident of this, I planned to visit you on my way to Macedonia, and then to have you send me on my way to Judea.  When I planned this, did I do it lightly?  Or do I make my plans in a worldly manner so that in the same breath I say, "Yes, yes" and "No, no"?

Thought Question:  What more can we learn about properly defending ourselves when we are attacked from Paul's words in these verses?

 

 

Because he enjoyed being with them, he had planned on visiting them twice.  But, in I Corinthians 16:5-7, we learn that he had had sent a letter - I Corinthians - rather than making the first visit.  Paul asks them to consider if he changed his plans because he has a pattern of changing plans when it is convenient for him just like the worldly change their plans, or if he had another reason for changing his plans.  He knew that this was the criticism that they were making of him. See Psalms 15:4  Paul is asking them to consider, from what they have known about him, if he had been the type of person who cared only about himself and who would change his plans any time it helped him in his selfish pursuits.  Again, Paul is basing his defense on the consistent and selfless life that he lived before them when he was with them.

b. Reveal the inconsistency of the criticism (1:18-22)

"But as surely as God is faithful, our message to you is not 'Yes' and 'No.'  For the Son of God, Jesus Christ, who was preached among you by me and Silas and Timothy, was not 'Yes' and 'No,' but in him it has always been 'Yes.'  For no matter how many promises God has made, they are 'Yes' in Christ.  And so through him the 'amen' is spoken by us to the glory of God.  Now it is God who makes both us and you stand firm in Christ.  He anointed us, set his seal of ownership on us, and put his Spirit in our hearts as a deposit, guaranteeing what is to come."

Thought Question:  Here, Paul is defending his message.  What can you find in these verses that will help us to defend the Bible and the Gospel message today?

 

 

It was not only his character and his life that were being criticized but also his message.  This is why Paul was so concerned.  If they could convince the Corinthian Christians that he was unreliable, it would then be easy to attack his message.  We see his argument in these verses.  As God is true, so was his message to them.  In their synagogues, Paul, Silas, and Timothy had argued that Jesus is the Son of God and they had agreed or said "Amen" to their preaching.  They had not vacillated as to whether or not Jesus is the Son of God.  They did not say "Yes" and "No," but they said, "Yes!"  God confirmed that message about Jesus Christ by giving them the Holy Spirit and by doing this, God put His seal on Paul's message.  The Holy Spirit was God's guarantee that all that Paul said was true, and the Holy Spirit was a first deposit to them of what God would be giving them in the future.

Paul wanted the Corinthian Christians to realize that if they had agreed that Jesus is the Son of God and had experienced the Holy Spirit within them, they also knew that Paul and his message to them were trustworthy.  They themselves could see then that the criticisms of him were not consistent with their own experiences with Paul.

c. And, finally, explain what really happened. (1:23-2:4)

"I call God as my witness that it was in order to spare you that I did not return to Corinth.  Not that we lord it over your faith, but we work with you for your joy, because it is by faith you stand firm.  So I made up my mind that I would not make another painful visit to you.  For if I grieve you, who is left to make me glad but you whom I have grieved?  I wrote as I did so that when I came I should not be distressed by those who ought to make me rejoice.  I had confidence in all of you, that you would all share my joy. for I wrote to you out of great distress and anguish of heart and with many tears, not to grieve you but to let you know the depth of my love for you."

Thought Question #1:  What do we learn about Paul from these verses?

 

 

Thought Question #2:  What insights do you see in these verses about how to correct someone who is off-track in their Christian life?

 

 

Why did Paul change his plans? The irony is that it was not he that changed, but they that changed!  So, the faithful one was criticized for unfaithfulness by those who were actually the unfaithful ones.  Paul enjoyed being with them.  He wanted to be with them twice.  But, he was unable to visit with them because their change in behavior meant it would no longer be an enjoyable visit for them or for Paul.  He realized that if he visited them it would put too much pressure on them.  If he had come to them it would have appeared that he had come to straighten them out and to lord it over them. We learn from these verses that Paul does everything that he can so that the relationship that he has with these Christians at Corinth will continue to be an enjoyable relationship.  He needs to correct them, but he also desires that they will not see him as their enemy.  Parents also struggle with this very same dilemma.  We need to correct our children, but we, like Paul in these verses, desire that our relationship with our children will remain a warm one.

He is also very careful to handle the criticisms in a way that would make it possible for the Christians at Corinth to make their decisions voluntarily and not because he was pressuring them to come around to his way of thinking.  He is like a careful surgeon that is careful to do the cutting in exactly the most helpful way.

Paul did not change.  He still wanted to visit them.  He had sent I Corinthians and the severe letter to them instead of visiting them, in hopes that these letters would produce a change in them so that he could still make at least one enjoyable visit to them.

PAUL'S PATTERN FOR CHURCH DISCIPLINE (2:5-11)

Introduction:

In James Dobson's book, DARE TO DISCIPLINE, he tells of a strong-willed three-year old little girl who completely controls her mother. The child wants something, and then she doesn't want it.  The stubborn child works her mom like a yo-yo.

Here, there is clearly a need for discipline.  Sometimes, we also need to dare to discipline in the church as well.  For there can be times in the church when one or two Church members are negatively controlling the whole church.  Paul dares to discipline those in the church at Corinth.  See especially I Corinthians 6

"If anyone has caused grief, he has not so much grieved me as he has grieved all of you, to some extent---not to put it too severely.  The punishment inflicted on him by the majority is sufficient for him.  Now instead, you ought to forgive and comfort him, so that he will not be overwhelmed by excessive sorrow.  I urge you, therefore, to affirm your love for him.  The reason I wrote you was to see if you would stand the test and be obedient in everything.  If you forgive anyone, I also forgive him.  And what I have forgiven---if there was anything to forgive---I have forgiven in the sight of Christ for your sake, in order that Satan might not outwit us.  For we are not unaware of his schemes."

Thought Question #1:  What do you see in these verses that gives us guidelines for how discipline should take place in the church today?

 

 

Thought Question #2:  What insights do these verses give you about Satan's schemes?

 

 

1. The NEED for discipline (2:5)

Dobson also tells a story about a teen-age daughter who had never been required to obey her parents.  They tried instead to buy her off.  They tried, for example to put on a party for her and her friends.  During the party this mom said something that enraged her daughter.  The father came home to find his wife lying in her own blood.  Just like this daughter's rebellion could not be ignored, so those who rebel against God's word cannot be ignored without the whole church being dragged down with them.  Paul explains in this verse, that those who rebel against his authority and his message and cause "grief," also become a source of grief to the whole church.

2. The METHOD of discipline (2:6)

Rebellious church members need to be disciplined, just as rebellious children need to be disciplined.  See Matthew 18:15-18 and I Corinthians 5:1-13  Ray Stedman makes this comment in his commentary on II Corinthians on page 31: "That is always a painful and difficult thing to do.  One of the reasons so many churches are rife with splits, divisions, and problems today is that their leadership seems to be made of gutless wonders who have no moral courage and who are not willing themselves to act in obedience to what the Scripture says.  When the church of which I am a part has had to take action of this sort, threats of lawsuits and of bodily harm were sometimes made against the eldership if we acted.  We had to resist reproof by many people in the congregation who misjudged the situation, who thought it was wrong to act the way we did.  It has sometimes taken courage to stand and obey the Word of God.  But as Scripture says, 'the effect of righteousness will be peace.'  If you will act rightly in love, and frontally with courage, the result is peace, such was happening in Corinth.  The place to start, therefore, is with a faithful confrontation."  "Taken from Expository Studies in 2 Corinthians by Ray Stedman.  Copyright 1982 by Word Books."

Do children like discipline?  Do we like discipline?  But even though the discipline will always be painful, we all still need it.  It is no fun, but discipline is still an essential part of the church.  Without it, the church ends up being controlled by those who misbehave rather than by those who are seeking to obey God.

3. The SUCCESSFUL AND FINAL STEP of Discipline (2:7-8)

Discipline has been successful when there is genuine repentance.  The sorrow of the repentant sinner at Corinth is a sign of genuine repentance.  When the once defiant sinner is now sorrowful for the hurt that he has caused and is so sorrowful that he feels he does not deserve to be forgiven, then discipline is nearly successful.  The ultimate and final success of discipline is always the restoration of the brother and the restoration of peace in the church.

We can see from these verses that we are to forgive and comfort those who respond appropriately to discipline and quickly reaffirm our love for them.  When there's genuine repentance, we are not to be passive, but we are to actively reach out in love.  We are not to say, "It's about time!"  But, we are to make sure that they know that they are fully restored.  Paul was strong against the unrepentant sinner, but he was just as strong an advocate for the repentant sinner.

4. The DIVIDING EFFECT of discipline (2:9)

Not all will respond to discipline.  See Proverbs 13:1, 14:16, 15:5, 17:10, 23:9, and I Timothy 1:18-20  Paul's letter to the Corinthian Christians was a test of their hearts to see if they would respond to Paul's righteous rebukes.  Would they choose to be obedient?  Someone has said, if God's true people are hit hard with the truth, they will bounce back.

5. The PROPER GOAL of discipline (2:10)

Paul wants them to know that he was not holding a grudge against this man who had rebelled against him and God.  He was concerned for the repentant sinner, rather than concerned about getting even.  The goal of discipline is not to make sure that a sinner gets what he or she deserves, but the goal is that the sinner will be restored to a walk with God and that the church will be restored to love and peace.

6. The DANGER of discipline (2:11)

Paul wrote this encouragement to restore the repentant sinner, so that Satan could not use this breach between Christians and the sorrow of the repentant sinner as a finger-hold to create divisions and to destroy the repentant sinner.  We are in a constant war with Satan, so we should not be surprised that he will use every opportunity to rip and to destroy God's church.  We should not be surprised when the con artist cons us and we should not be surprised when the master schemer and destroyer seeks every opportunity to do his evil work in the church of God.  If we do anything that is not done in love, we can be sure that Satan will use it!

PAUL'S PATTERN FOR NEW COVENANT CHRISTIANITY (2:12-3:18)

Introduction:

If we live the Christian life to the full, what will our life be like?  There are many different answers given to this question, particularly by Christian speakers and in Christian books.  And not all the answers to this question are in agreement with each other.  How can we know the authentic article?  In these verses and throughout II Corinthians, Paul describes what his Christian life was like.  Certainly, we can find no better example of a successful Christian than the life of Paul.  Ray Stedman calls Paul's description of his Christian life in this book a description of "Authentic Christianity."

1. Paul's new covenant and authentic Christianity (2:12-3:3)

Ray Stedman outlines "authentic Christianity" as follows:

a. "Unquenchable optimism" (2:12-14)

"Now when I went to Troas to preach the gospel of Christ and found that the Lord had opened a door for me, I still had no peace of mind, because I did not find my brother Titus there.  So I said good-by to them and went on to Macedonia.  But thanks be to God, who always leads us in triumphal procession in Christ and through us spreads everywhere the fragrance of the knowledge of him."

Thought Question #1:  What human weaknesses does Paul admit to having in these verses?

 

 

Thought Question #2:  Give one time when you felt just like Paul felt when he was at Troas.

 

 

Paul reveals in this letter, the type of human weakness that most of us try to hide-the doubts, fears, and concerns that we all have while we are in the midst of spiritual battles.  For example, in these verses, Paul exposes to us that his concerns for the church at Corinth weighed on him so much that he had become weak and greatly troubled.  He even admits to being so troubled that he was unable to reach out to those who were open and in need of his ministry.  He said a wide door of ministry had opened for him at the city of Troas, but because of his emotional distress, he was unable to be of any help to them.  Notice that Paul says here that he "had no peace of mind."  Is it easy for a Christian leader to be this transparent about his human weaknesses?

But, Titus returned with the good news that the church at Corinth had responded positively to his strong letter.  Then Paul realized with more certainty that God does always leads us in triumph.  With the joy and optimism that comes from seeing God's faithfulness through the eyes of faith, he proclaims, "Thanks be to God who always leads us in triumph."

Do we not also have our times of doubts and fears when we question whether God is leading us in triumph?  If we continue in our faith and do not lose heart, we also will eventually discover as Paul did, that God does always lead those who trust and obey him ever forward in triumph.  Then, we will also begin to experience the "unquenchable optimism" that became part of Paul's "Authentic Christianity."

b. "Unvarying Success" (2:14)

Paul compares the progress of those who are serving God to the victory procession of a Roman general who has triumphantly returned from making conquests in a foreign land.  God always leads those who serve and obey Him ever forward in triumph over darkness, hate, and sin.  Paul saw that even though at times it seems like we are failing; light, love and righteousness are always victorious over darkness, hate, and sin.

If we are serving God in the way that Paul did, seeking preeminently and persistently to further love and righteousness, we also will experience his "unvarying success" as we see light conquer darkness.  There may be times when it seems that we are failing.  But, as Paul demonstrates throughout this book and as is shown throughout the Bible, in the end, light will always be victorious over darkness.

c. "Unforgettable Impact" (2:15-16)

"For we are to God the aroma of Christ among those who are being saved and those who are perishing.  To the one we are the smell of death; to the other, the fragrance of life.  And who is equal to such a task?"

Thought Question:  What hard reality is Paul talking about here that is relevant to each person who obediently serves Jesus Christ?

 

 

When victorious generals paraded into Rome, to the soldiers and the citizens of Rome there was a smell of victory in the air.  The smell of victory was the incense and the flowers that were a part of the victory parade.  To the generals' army and to the Romans it was a smell of victory.  But to the General's prisoners, the very same aroma was a smell of death.  The aroma of our Christian life has the same effect as the aroma from those victory parades.  To some the fragrance that our Christian life gives off is a pleasant aroma that draws them to God, but to others the very same fragrance of the Christian life is a stench in their nostrils.

For example, Billy Graham's ministry is both loved and hated.  We can also count on our Christian life being both loved and hated.  This is not an easy reality for us to face.  It means that if we live the Christian life as God wants us to live it, we will be both loved and hated in the same way as Jesus and Paul were both loved and hated by the people of their times.  For those who are drawn to Christ through us, though, our lives will have an "unforgettable impact!"

d. "Unimpeachable Integrity" (2:17)

"Unlike so many, we do not peddle the word of God for profit.  On the contrary, in Christ we speak before God with sincerity, like men sent from God."

Thought Question:  Give ways you can tell the difference between those who "peddle the word of God for profit" and
those who serve God "with sincerity."

 

 

Ray Stedman saw four qualities that Paul describes in this verse that together result in "unimpeachable integrity:"  "First, we are 'men of sincerity.'  In other words, we are to be honest men.  We must mean what we say.  Sincerity marks the highest demand of the world upon men.  The world admires sincerity and feels it is the acme of character, but here is but the beginning, the minimum expectation from a Christian.  The least one can expect from a true Christian is that he himself believes what he says and seeks constantly to practice it…Next, Paul says we are 'commissioned by God.'  Here is the idea of purpose.  We are not to be idle dreamers or wasters with no definite objective in view.  We have been commissioned as military officers are commissioned, given a definite and specific assignments---so the Christian is commissioned.  We are purposeful people with an end in view, an object to attain, a goal to accomplish…..The third factor is that we do all this 'in the sight of God.'  This indicates an attitude of openness to investigation, of transparency.  To walk in the sight of men permits many deviations and contradictions behind the facade, but to walk in the sight of God is honest transparency….The last characterization is that 'we speak in Christ.'  What quality does that indicate?  Authority!….All this adds up to unimpeachable integrity.  Men of sincerity, purpose, transparency, and authority are utterly trustworthy."  "Taken from Authentic Christianity by Ray Stedman.  Copyright 1975 by Multnomah Press."

We see here the type of Christianity that will march ever forward in triumph.  It is when our service to God is pure from a desire for personal gain and when God's Word is not being used for personal gain but for the good of others!  Paul's conscience and the conscience of those whose Christianity is authentic, are clean before God!  They have "unimpeachable integrity."

e. "Undeniable Reality" (3:1-3)

"Are we beginning to commend ourselves again?  Or do we need, like some people, letters of recommendation to you or from you?  You yourselves are our letter, written on our hearts, known and read by everybody.  You show that you are a letter from Christ, the result of our ministry, written not with ink but with the Spirit of the living God, not on tablets of stone but on tablets of human hearts."

Thought Question:  Paul was doing what was right, yet was being accused of doing what was wrong.  What can we learn from these verses about how to handle it when we are doing what is right, but are being accused of doing what is wrong?

 

 

Not everyone saw Paul's Christianity as being authentic.  Paul knew that there would be those in Corinth who would twist his words, and say, "There goes Paul, patting himself on the back again."  They were also saying that instead of Paul being his own character reference, that he should come to them next time with some letters of recommendation from others.  In other words, someone else should be the one to recommend him to them, rather than Paul recommending himself to them.  Paul answers that the best recommendation that he can present to them is not a letter, but the Christians at Corinth are his letters of recommendation---letters written not by men with ink, but written by God on their hearts by the Spirit of God.  They, of all people, should least question that Paul is a spokesman for God, for they had experienced God's work in their lives through Paul.  They had firsthand knowledge that God was using Paul, for God had used Paul to change their lives!  In I Corinthians 6:9-11 Paul said that some of the Christians at Corinth had been sexually immoral, idolaters, male prostitutes, and homosexuals.  Listen to his words:  "And that is what some of you were.  But you were washed, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ."  The dramatic change that God had made in their lives was proof that Paul's ministry was authorized by God.

We can be confident that Satan will also attempt to attack our sincere efforts to serve God.  We also can resist Satan's deceptions and attacks by looking to the ways that God has changed people through our ministry or the ministry that we are a part of.  Authentic Christianity will reveal itself by the change that takes place in those who are touched by it.  There will be "undeniable reality."  A testimony time at a church is often an encouraging time.  For at these times we frequently hear what God has been doing in lives through the ministry of a church that is alive with "Authentic Christianity."

The outline titles for a. through e. ("Unquenchable Optimism," etc.) "Taken from Authentic Christianity by Ray Stedman.  Copyright 1975 by Word Books."

2. Why Paul was able to be so bold. (3:4-18)

a. Because Paul had a message of life and not death.  (In the Old Covenant

the letter kills, but in the New Covenant the Spirit gives life) (3:4-6)

"Such confidence as this is ours through Christ before God.  Not that we are competent in ourselves to claim anything for ourselves, but our competence comes from God.  He has made us competent as ministers of a new covenant---not of the letter but of the Spirit; for the letter kills, but the Spirit gives life."

Thought Question #1:  What do you believe is the difference between the Old Covenant and the New Covenant?

 

 

Thought Question #2:  What is the difference between the death and the life Paul is talking about here?

 

 

Thought Question #3:  Why do you believe that the Old Covenant produced and produces death and the New Covenant produces life?

 

 

The Old Covenant reveals both that a holy God requires that we be totally holy and that all those who are not holy deserve God's judgment.  It is essential that we first learn the message of the Old Covenant.  We must learn that we are unholy by nature and incapable in ourselves of obeying God's holy requirements.  We need to learn that we are dead before we will recognize our need for life.  Because we all fall short of God's glory and holiness and because our flesh is hostile to God and His ways (see Romans 3:23 and 8:7) and is even provoked to greater sin by the Law (see Romans 7:4-13), the Old Covenant did not produce life but death and condemnation.

What is the "death" that Paul is talking about here?  Ray Stedman clearly answers this question:  "What is death?  It is essentially a negative term meaning the absence of life. When a doctor examines an injured man, he does not look for signs of death; he checks for signs of life.  If he does not find them he knows the man is dead.  Life produces its own distinctive marks; death is the absence of those marks.  That being so, the question we must really ask is:  What is life?  What do we mean when we say, 'Man, I'm really living'?  Enjoyment, of course!  Enjoyment is a part of life, as God intended life to be.  Purpose, meaning, worth, fulfillment, these are all part of life.  How about other qualities---joy, peace, love, friendship, power?  Yes, that's what life is.  The moment we have these qualities we are living.  Surely Jesus meant this when he said.  'I came that they might have life, and have it abundantly.' (John 10:10).  That is life, with a capital L.  Life lived to the full---love, joy, peace, long-suffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, self-control.  That's life!  In contrast then, what is death?  It is the absence or opposite of those qualities of life.  What is the absence of love?  Hate.  What is the absence of joy?  Misery, weariness of spirit.  Thus, fear, frustration, boredom, worry, hostility, jealousy, malice, loneliness, depression, self-pity---these are all marks of the absence of life, therefore, they are forms of death."  "Taken from Authentic Christianity by Ray Stedman.  Copyright 1975 by Multnomah Press."

The New Covenant goes beyond the Old Covenant, for it not only gives us God's requirements, but it also provides us with God's Spirit so we will be able to begin to experience God's holy and abundant life.  The Old Covenant shows us that we are not adequate to please God. In the New Covenant God gives us His adequacy!

Ray Stedman gives an example that clearly illustrates the difference between an Old Covenant effort at holiness and New Covenant Christianity:  He speaks of a man who has just bought a car, but has no idea that it has an engine in it.  A friend sees him pushing the car and asks him what he is doing.  He says that it is a fine car, but that he gets exhausted pushing it.  He has not been able to enjoy the car, even though he has been taking classes on how to better push a car.  His friend asks him to lift the hood of the car and he explains to him about the powerful engine that is in the car.  If he will just put his reliance on its power and strength, this engine will do the work for him.  Ray Stedman likened the lack of understanding about the powerful engine of a car to what can happen when we Christians try to rely on our own human effort in trying to obey God's Commandments.  We also become exhausted when our human efforts only bring about failure, no matter how many classes we might take on how to do it better.  What we need to learn about is the power for living the Christian life that God Himself has made available to us through the New Covenant and through God's Spirit.

b. Because Paul had a message about a more glorious agreement that

God had made with man than the Old Covenant.  (The New Covenant is far more glorious than the Old Covenant) (3:7-11)

"Now if the ministry that brought death which was engraved in letters on stone, came with glory, so that the Israelites could not look steadily at the face of Moses because of its glory, fading though it was, will not the ministry of the Spirit be even more glorious?  If the ministry that condemns men is glorious, how much more is the ministry that brings righteousness!  For what was glorious has no glory now in comparison with the surpassing glory.  And if what was fading away came with glory, how much greater is the glory of that which lasts."

Thought Question #1:  In what ways was the Old Covenant glorious?

 

 

Thought Question #2:  Give reasons why you believe that the New Covenant is more glorious than the Old covenant?

 

 

Obviously, Paul was being challenged by a group at Corinth who believed that the Old Covenant was more glorious than what Paul was teaching.  Most have seen the movie the TEN COMMANDMENTS.  The movie captures to some degree the glorious way that the Law came to Israel.  It was so glorious that the Israelites could not bear to look at Moses whose face had picked up some of the glory of being with God during the reception of the Law.

In Romans 7:12 we are told by Paul that the law is "holy, righteous, and good."  As a young person I learned the Ten Commandments and God's morality in church and Sunday School.  I knew it was right and good.  It had a glory about it.  But, I did not learn about new life in Jesus Christ at that time.  I discovered that the Ten Commandments were good, and that I should obey them.  But, instead of obeying them, I discovered that I was incapable of obeying them.  And, so, the glory of the Law only revealed to me that it was good, and that I was bad.  The Law had glory, but the glory of the New Covenant has much more glory for me.  The New Covenant not only shows me what is right, but it also enables me to be right before God and to do what is right. 

If the Law which brought condemnation and death was glorious, than shouldn't the New Covenant which brings life, be much more glorious?  For one thing, the glory of the Old Covenant faded when Moses left the presence of God, but the glory of the New Covenant does not fade away. We will see in II Corinthians 3:18, that it not only does not fade, but it even grows!

c. Because Paul had a message that would lead to a transformation of all

who believed in it.  (In the New Covenant, we can openly behold God's glory and through the Spirit experience a glorious and continual transformation.) (3:12-18)

"Therefore, since we have such a hope, we are very bold.  We are not like Moses, who would put a veil over his face to keep the Israelites from gazing at it while the radiance was fading away.  But their minds were made dull, for to this day the same veil remains when the old covenant is read.  It has not been removed, because only in Christ is it taken away.  Even to this day when Moses is read, a veil covers their hearts.  But whenever anyone turns to the Lord, the veil is taken away."

Thought Question:  Why do you believe that the Old Covenant leads to people wearing masks, and the New Covenant allows for us to remove our masks?

 

 

The Old Covenant causes us to want to hide from God as Adam and Eve did.  It condemns us and causes us to fear the face of God.  When we are living by the principles of the Old Covenant, we hide from God and each other behind a mask as Moses did.  When Moses spent time on Mt. Sinai with God, God's glory shined on his face.  But, the glory on his face was only temporary.  The longer he was away from the mountain, the less of God's glory was present on his face.  He was like a great athlete who is aging and losing his athletic ability, until the former glory is no longer present.  He was like someone today having a mountaintop experience but slowly losing the glory of that experience the longer they are away from their mountain.  We are told (only here in the Bible) that Moses put a mask on his face so that the Israelites would not see that God's glory was fading away from him.

We also do not want others to see that we are unable to maintain a glorious Christian walk, so we also can put on a mask of one type or another so others will not be able to see our fading glory.  Often, the artificial mask that we put on to cover up our lack of glory looks like what we believe the typical good religious person in our circles is expecting of us.  The Israelites told God that they would obey everything He told them to do.  He wished that they could obey Him, but He knew they would fail to live up to their resolution.  And they did!  See Deuteronomy 5

We, like these Israelites want others to believe that we also are good people who are able to obey God.  But, also like these Israelites we are totally incapable of obeying God, even when we make our very best efforts.  So, we cover up so that no one will know what horrible failures we are.  As a young person I marched off to church with my Sunday-go-to-church face on.  I heard messages on how I should live every day of the week just like it was Sunday.  Then, I went home from church and failed to do everything I was taught on Sunday. Then next Sunday, I put on my mask and marched off to church again.

Those who understand New Covenant Christianity find no need to hide behind a mask for they realize that the Christian life is all of grace and so we need not be embarrassed at our lack of glory.  When we are living by the principles of the New Covenant we realize that each and every one of us, even the good religious person, is very deeply fallen.  We realize that we all are a work in progress.  We are under grace.  God is graciously leading us toward holiness.  But, in the process, we often fail.  We need to fail so that we can see where we have been relying on the flesh and not on God.  Peter was successful and able through God's Spirit to identify that Jesus is the Son of God.  Jesus commended him for being receptive to God's Spirit.  But, shortly after his success, he horribly failed to realize that Jesus must die on the cross.  Shortly after that He denied Jesus Christ.  His failures caused him to see his need for God's gracious provision of strength through the Holy Spirit.  See Matthew 16:13-23

As part of his triumphant and authentic form of Christianity, Paul was willing to reveal his weaknesses and failings.  He was able to remove his veil that he had worn as a Pharisee.  As a Pharisee he had given every one the impression that he had it all together.  But, when he turned to the Lord his veil of religiosity was taken away.  He no longer was the perfect Pharisee.  Now, he was a sinner being transformed by God's grace.

When we in humility turn to God for His grace, we also are able to take off our masks and be authentic and real with each other.  Just as Jesus was gracious to the failing Peter and the other disciples, so Jesus graciously helps us toward His goals for us today.  In the Upper Room while the Apostles waited for God's power to come upon them, certainly they were transparent with each other about their many failings when Jesus was with them.  New Covenant Christianity will also enable us to be transparent with each other.

"Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom.  And we, who with unveiled faces all reflect the Lord's glory, are being transformed into his likeness with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit."

Thought Question #1:  Why do you believe God's Spirit gives us "freedom"?

 

 

Thought Question #2:  Why do you believe that beholding the glory of Jesus Christ with unveiled faces results with our being transformed into God's glory?

 

 

Instead, with unveiled face and with humility and openness, we are to approach the face of Christ and behold His glory.  As we do, we become transformed by His grace into His glory.  The word "transformed" is the Greek word where we get our word "metamorphosis."  For example, a caterpillar goes through a metamorphosis process when it becomes a butterfly.  Paul is saying that a Christian living by the New Covenant will go through this metamorphosis process.  But, we are not being transformed from caterpillars into butterflies; we are being transformed from selfish sinners into Christ-like Christians.  This transformation continues throughout our lives as we focus on Christ's glory.  God changes us, and we are moved by God up the stair steps of glory as we become more like Jesus Christ.  This transformation will become complete when we see His full glory, when we see Him face to face.  "When he appears, we shall be like him." See I John 3:2,3)

Why is this transformation possible?  It is because we have "Christ in us, the hope of glory." (Colossians 1:27)  We have taken off the old self, and put on the new self, "which is being renewed in knowledge in the image of its Creator." (Colossians 3:9,10)  As new creations, we now have a whole new potential for life.  Our potential is Jesus Christ in us!  We have been set free from our slavery to sin and have been given the freedom to become like Christ.  As we come before Him and humbly seek His life, we are transformed into His likeness.  One day we will be completely transformed, when the veil is completely removed!

THE TRIUMPHS OF NEW COVENANT CHRISTIANITY (WHY PAUL NEVER GAVE UP) (4:1-5:8)

Introduction:

Have you ever felt like giving up?  Every Christian has at one time or another.  The Christian life is described as a wrestling match, a race, an uphill struggle, a fight, and a war.  It is no wonder that we consider at times how much easier it would be to just quit.  Paul gives the reasons why he didn't quit in chapter four.  Here, we see why Paul continued to serve God no matter what the world and the Devil threw at him.

1. Paul did not give up because he knew that light always conquers

darkness. (4:1-6)

a. His ministry triumphed over darkness because Paul himself walked in the

light. (4:1-2)
"Therefore, since through this ministry, we do not lose heart.  Rather, we have renounced secret and shameful ways; we do not use deception, nor do we distort the word of God.  On the contrary, by setting forth the truth plainly we commend ourselves to every man's conscience in the sight of God."

Thought Question #1:  What are some sets of circumstances that can lead us to be tempted to lose heart?

 

 

Thought Question #2:  What are some dishonest ways that a Christian ministry can be promoted?

 

 

It is clear in the very first verse of this chapter what this chapter is about.  It is about not losing heart.  In other words, it is about not getting discouraged and giving up.  At times in the Christian's ministry, we can feel that our ministry is not bearing fruit or we can be tempted to become discouraged when we suffer a major disappointment or setback.  Paul will explain in this chapter why we should never give up.  A ministry and a life that is based on our works and abilities will end up in discouragement and failure, but a ministry that is based upon the New Covenant and upon God's grace and power will never fail.  There may be short periods when it appears that we are failing or even long periods when it is difficult for us to see that our efforts are triumphant, but in the end those who do God's work God's way will always be triumphant.

A very human way to avoid the appearance of failure is to use dishonest tactics to attempt produce what the world will recognize as success.  Paul did not resort to the world's tactics to bring about the appearance of success-he did not use showmanship, emotionality, half-truths, psychological gimmicks, and clever trickery to draw people to follow him.  He did not twist God's truth to make it more acceptable to men.  Paul's goal was not to be popular, but to present God's truth to men and to appeal to their consciences.

Here we have the essence of Christianity, God's truth presented to men so that they can make their choices based on their conscientious response to the truth.  Any method that is an attempt to be successful apart from presenting God's truth to men's consciences is not success in the sight of God.

b. Paul knew that his ministry did not fail with some people because Christian

light is weaker than darkness, but because the prince of darkness had blinded the minds of people to the light that comes from the Christian's life. (4:3-4)

"And even if our gospel is veiled, it is veiled to those who are perishing.  The god of this age has blinded the minds of unbelievers so that they cannot see the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God."

Thought Question:  We can lose heart when it does not seem that the Gospel message is getting through to people.  What is there is these verses that is an encouragement to us?

 

 

When men do not receive the Gospel message, we can get discouraged and feel that we must be doing something wrong.  But, if we are authentic in our Christianity, the fault is not with us.  Men and woman are not receiving the truth, because they are blind to the truth.  They are like blind men in a room full of light.  It is as if Satan has put a blindfold over their eyes so that they cannot see the light that is coming from the life of Christians and from the Gospel message.

What is it that blinds men?  What is it that blinded us before we became Christians?  The answer is found in Romans 1:18-23:  There Paul says that all men know that there is a God, but we choose to ignore Him and we choose not to acknowledge Him for who He is.  We blind ourselves.  Unbelief is not our being unable to believe, but it is our choosing to not believe.  But it is also true that it is Satan who blinds us.  He was the one that told Eve that she would become like God.  See Genesis 3:1-5  And it is he who continues to blind the world with his lies.  We can faithfully be light and speak light into our world, but men and women blinded by Satan do not see and hear the light.  We present reality to our world, but men have become blinded to reality and do not see that what we are presenting to them is the truth.

c. Nevertheless, God's light has triumphed over darkness in our hearts.

(4:5-6)

"For we do not preach ourselves, but Jesus Christ as Lord, and ourselves as your servants for Jesus' sake.  For God, who said, 'Let Light shine out of darkness, made his light shine in our hearts to give us the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Christ."

Thought Question #1:  What do these verses teach about how God made us who were once blind to be able to see the truth?

 

 

Thought Question #2:  How are these verses an encouragement to us as we seek to reach people with the Gospel message?

 

 

Though there are many whose hearts are blinded to the truth, God has miraculously healed our blindness.  We are now able to see what we could not see before.  At one time we thought we were the lords of this world, but now we see the truth.  We see that Jesus Christ is Lord of all!  As God made light shine out of darkness at Creation, so He has made light shine out of the darkness that was in our hearts!

We ourselves provide the encouragement that the Gospel message will bear fruit.   For we were once blind like the world of men and women we see around us, but now we see!  God created light in the darkness of the early world, and He is able to create light in the darkness of men's lives today.  So we can be encouraged that our lives and our message will not be in vain.  We can continue to live for God and preach the Gospel, and God's message will produce changed lives.  He miraculously changed our lives, bringing us out of the darkness into the light, and He can do the same for those we faithfully witness to!

2. Paul did not give up because he knew that life always conquers death.

(4:7-18)

a. Life conquers death as God uses the really tough times that we all

experience to transform us into those who are becoming more like Jesus Christ. (4:7-12)

"But we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us.  We are hard-pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed.  We always carry around in our body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be revealed in our mortal body.  So then, death is at work in us, but life is at work in you."

Thought Question #1: There are some who tell us that now that we are Christians and part of God's family, we are on easy street.  According to these verses, are they correct?  Please explain your answer.

 

 

Thought Question #2:  What do these verses tell us about how tough times can produce good results?

 

 

Thought Question #3:  What are we to do so that our trials will result in more of God's power and character in our lives?

 

 

In the Christian life the cross is always followed by the resurrection.  For the obedient and trusting Christian, the tough times are followed by more of Jesus Christ's resurrection life.  More of His life comes out of our brokenness.  Paul, in his service of Christ, found that the trials he endured pressed in continually from every side.  But he had learned that though he experienced pressures, he was not crushed; though he at times was perplexed and did not understand what was happening to him, he was never in despair; though he was persecuted, he was never totally abandoned; and though he was physically beaten, he was never destroyed.  He learned that his tough times were never more than he could bear.  He also had learned that as he chose to give himself sacrificially for Jesus, that God's transcendent power (a power that did not come from him, but from outside of him) and the life of Jesus were being more fully expressed through his life.

Because Paul's trials were so great, he knew that without God's power that came from outside of him, he would have been crushed, despised, felt abandoned, and destroyed.  But, instead of him being crushed, he saw something beautiful happening: the crushing was making it possible for more of the life of Jesus Christ to come from him toward them.  Someone has said that there is no wine without the crushing of the grapes.  Certainly there is no life of Christ coming from us without the crushing of the old life.  Paul saw in his own experience, life conquering death.  And the life of Jesus that was coming from him was reaching out and touching their lives.

Paul also describes himself as an earthen vessel.  Vessels are made to contain something.  Many things are made to contain something.  For example, a wallet is made to contain money.  We also were made to contain something.  We were made to contain God.  When God was not in our lives in our pre-Christian days, we were empty.  When God came into our lives through our belief in the Gospel message, our earthen vessel---our bodies---became filled with the One we were meant to be filled with.  But, because, our old empty ways are still imprinted in our earthly bodies, we are still prevented from experiencing the fullness of God's life in us.  God uses the trials in our lives to soften the pride, independence, and self-sufficiency in us so that we will not only contain God, but so that we also will express to others the indwelling life of Christ.  (We are earthen or clay vessels, for our bodies were made from the chemicals found in the soil.  See Genesis 2:7 and Isaiah 64:8)

Here we have a side of authentic Christianity that we would just as soon not hear.  Paul, the most famous Christian of all, experienced very tough times.  In fact the tough times were an essential part of his Christian growth.  When I became a Christian, my first thought was that now that I am a King's kid, life was going to be smooth sailing from here on.  Ray Stedman says that Christianity does not mean that you have now become a part of the "red carpet club."  Paul's life was not easy, and none of us who are Christians can expect that our lives will be easy.  Authentic Christianity does not mean that we will be freed from tough times, but it does mean that God will use the tough times to produce the death of our old life and the production of the new life of Jesus through us.  Our potential as Christians is described in Colossians 1:27:  "Christ in you the hope of glory."  This is the hope and the potential of every Christian.  God uses trials to make that potential a reality.

What is our role in all of this?  Paul provides us with a perfect model.  "For we who are alive are always being given over to death for Jesus' sake, so that his life may be revealed in our mortal body."  In our trials we need not to battle them with our own resources, but we need to be relying totally on His resources.  As a result, we will discover that instead of being crushed by what we go through, we will receive His resurrection power to sustain us.  Life will be produced by death. 

b. Life conquers death because Paul believed that as God raised Jesus from

death to life, so He will raise us from death to life. (4:13-15)

"It is written:  'I believed; therefore I have spoken.'  With that same spirit of faith we also believe and therefore speak, because we know that the one who raised the Lord Jesus from the dead will also raise us with Jesus and present us with you in his presence.  All this is for your benefit, so that the grace that is reaching more and more people may cause thanksgiving to overflow to the glory of God."

Thought Question:  According to these verses what will occur when we are depending on God's resurrection power?

 

 

Paul quotes Ps. 16:10 where the psalmist says that what he believes he says.  So Paul says what he believes!  What does Paul believe and say? "We know that the one who raised the Lord Jesus from the dead will also raise us with Jesus and present us with you in his presence." These words summarize it all for Paul.  Just as God raised Jesus from the dead with resurrection power, so He was raising Paul from the dead.  And He was also raising from the dead those Paul was reaching with the Gospel.  Paul and those who were raised to a new life with the Gospel would also one day be raised together to be in God's presence!   God raised Jesus from the dead, and He was also raising them along that same glorious path up to Heaven and into God's presence.

Paul explains to them that all the pain that he and his close followers were enduring was for them.  The death that Paul and the others were experiencing was so that he and his close followers would be raised up with more of God's resurrection power to preach the Gospel of God's grace effectively.   Then, as a result of God's resurrection power working through him and others, more and more people would also be raised up by God's resurrection power and give thanks and glory to Him for all that God has done.

May we have this belief, even in our trials and sorrows.  May we desire above all that we also experience God's resurrection power so we too can powerfully reach our world with God's message of grace.  And so that those we reach will also give thanks to God for all He has done!

c. Life conquers death as we focus on the eternal (4:16-18)

"Therefore we do not lose heart.  Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day.  For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all.  So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen.  For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal."

Thought Question #1:  What do these verses tell us about how we should look at our lives with its trials?

 

 

Thought Question #2:  How will looking at life like Paul describes in these verses enable us not to lose heart?

 

 

There are many who believe that eternal life is something that we will not begin to experience until after we die.  But, these verses are clear.  These verses say that for those of us who are relying on God for life, our trials are producing eternal life for us right now.  Our trials are being used by God to bring an end to our earthly way of living and are forming in us the same type of life that we will experience in Heaven.

The "light and momentary troubles" that Paul is talking about are listed in this book in chapter 11:24-27:  "Five times I received from the Jews the forty lashes minus one.  Three times I was beaten with rods, once I was stoned, three times I was shipwrecked, I spent a night and a day in the open sea, I have been constantly on the move.  I have been in danger from rivers, in danger from bandits, in danger from my countrymen, in danger from Gentiles; in danger in the city, in danger in the country, in danger at sea; and in danger from false brothers.  I have labored and toiled and have often gone without sleep; I have known hunger and thirst and have often gone without food; I have been cold and naked."  To us, these are not "light and momentary troubles."  But Paul is saying that compared to the "eternal glory" that they are producing, they are but small difficulties and well worth it for him.

Ray Stedman tells the following story that illustrates how our troubles can produce a corresponding reward of glory:  "There is a moving story which comes out of the persecution of the Christians in the third and fourth centuries.  One aged saint had spent many years in a dark and gloomy dungeon, bound by a great ball and chain.  When the emperor Constantine ascended the throne, thousands of Christians were released from imprisonment, and among them this old man.  Desiring to recompense him for his years of misery, the emperor commanded that the ball and chain be weighted and the old man be given the equivalent weight in gold.  Thus, the greater the weight of his chain, the greater was his reward when release came.  But the reality Paul speaks of is even greater than this.  He says the weight of glory will be beyond all comparison.  The Greek expression is, literally, 'abundance up abundance.'  It is such an abundance that is constitutes a great 'weight.'"  "Taken from Authentic Christianity by Ray Stedman.  Copyright 1975 by Multnomah Press."

We will not lose heart if we continually remember that death is not now conquering us nor will it ever defeat us; but God's resurrection life in us is defeating death right now, and it will ultimately conquer death once and for all when we rise from the dead as Jesus did.  Our physical bodies may be losing the battle and dying, but the spiritual part of us that is growing toward more life is eternal.  So death is not winning, but God is using our physical trials and even the growing-old process to help us to grow toward experiencing His eternal life more fully. We are coming to the end of this physical life, but we are beginning even now to experience the life that will never end.  As we feel our human bodies beginning to get old and not be as alive as they once were, we need to remember that the spiritual part of us is going in the very opposite direction.  It is becoming more alive than it has ever been before. Ultimately, the trials of this life will be rewarded by an eternal weight of glory!

Paul's conclusion from his reasoning is that we should put our focus not on this world with its trials and on our weakening bodies, but we should put our focus on what all of this is leading toward.  "So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but one what is unseen."

3. Paul looks forward to a time when these temporary bodies will be

replaced by eternal bodies. (5:1-8)

a. Paul looks forward to a time when these temporary bodies will be replaced

by eternal bodies (5:1-4)

"Now 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.  Meanwhile we groan, longing to be clothed with our heavenly dwelling, because when we are clothed, we will not be found naked.  For while we are in this tent, we groan and are burdened, because we do not wish to be unclothed but to be clothed with our heavenly dwelling, so that what is mortal may be swallowed up by life."

Thought Question #1:  When do these verses say that we will receive our new body – immediately after we die or at the Second Coming?  Explain your answer.

 

 

Thought Question #2:  Why do you believe that Paul starts talking about our eternal body at this time?

 

 

We have all heard the hymn with the words, "This world is not my home, I'm just a passing through."  That is Paul's focus here.  Those in our world focus on our temporary worldly bodies.  We spend millions of dollars studying them, millions of hours exercising them, millions of bottles of lotions beautifying them.  But, all these millions are being dedicated to a body that will in a short time no longer be our dwelling place.  When we put our focus on the eternal, we see our body as a temporary tent.  Ray Stedman tells of a family that stayed in a tent until their permanent house was ready.  We are like them; we are camping in our tents, until our permanent house is ready.  Also, like the family who temporarily lived in a tent, we also groan in our tent and can hardly wait for our permanent dwelling to be ready!

We as Christians can live as if this life is all that there ever will be, or we can put our focus on the eternal.  If we put our focus on this life, we can become devastated by our trials in this life.  Ray Stedman was my pastor as a young Christian.  A number of years later, I was becoming aware of what he meant when he talked about God's sovereignty.  I called him at his retirement home in south Oregon.  I was completely unaware of what was taking place in his life at that time.  He had just returned from Arizona in an attempt to treat what had been diagnosed as terminal cancer.  He, in spite of the bad news he had just recently received, very patiently talked with me about what I had been learning, applying it to his present terminal cancer.  He believed in God's sovereignty, and he continued to look at life from an eternal perspective.  He obviously was going through a very difficult time, but his eternal perspective on life prevented him from being devastated.  He was "perplexed, but not in despair." (4:8)  I recently heard about Bill Bright, the founder of Campus Crusade for Christ, who at the time that I am writing these notes is also suffering from a terminal disease.  It is reported that he can hardly wait to get to heaven.  They are both men who have looked at life from an eternal perspective.

A problem that these verses bring up is as follows:  Do we receive our permanent bodies immediately after we die or not until the resurrection at the Lord's Second Coming?  The Bible seems to teach both.  Some of the solutions to this problem are as follows:  (1) Our bodies die and we also die, then we are resuscitated at the Second Coming.  This is "soul sleep" as taught by the Seventh-Day Adventists.  (2) We will receive temporary spiritual bodies.  We will receive these spiritual bodies right after we die, and stay in them until we receive our resurrection bodies at the Second Coming.  (3) Because time is done away with in eternity, we will immediately appear at the second Coming of Christ and receive our resurrection bodies.  This last view was Ray Stedman's view.  None of these possibilities explains all the biblical teachings on this intermediate state.  It appears to be one of those areas where we will have to wait until we get there to find out.  See Deuteronomy 29:29

Years ago, I participated on an ordination committee.  The person who was seeking to be ordained held a view regarding when we will receive our eternal bodies.  There was some discussion about whether or not he was correct in his view.  Dr. Earl Radmacher who was the president of Western Seminary in Portland, Oregon at the time, brought the discussion to an end in the following way.  He said that there is not anyone whom he knew who has a final answer to this question.  It is just one of those areas that the Bible does not clearly answer for us.  That was some twenty-five years ago.  His words are just as true for me today as they were at the time of that committee.

It can be easily shown, though, that the Seventh-Day Adventist position of soul sleep is not taught in the Bible.  For example, Jesus told the thief on the cross that he would be in paradise with Him that very day.  The Seventh-Day Adventists say that Jesus was just saying that "today" he was saying to him that he would be in paradise, but it would not be until sometime in the future that he would actually be in paradise.  This is an obvious example of starting with something you want the Bible to say, and then twisting Scripture to fit your belief.

b. The Holy Spirit in us who are Christians is God's first deposit and a

guarantee that we will receive the new bodies and all that God has for us in eternity. (5:5)

"Now is God who has made us for his very purpose and has given us the Spirit as a deposit, guaranteeing what is to come."

Thought Question:  What does this verse tell us about what the Holy Spirit is presently doing for us?

 

 

God's Holy Spirit is a taste of our life to come and is one of the evidences that we will resurrect from the dead.  What will Heaven be like?  We have the first taste of it right now.  Life in the Holy Spirit is like what life in Heaven will be like.  Someone has accurately said that you cannot eat just one peanut.  We have been given a taste of Heaven, so that we will yearn for more!

Other guarantees beside the Holy Spirit in us that guarantee we will rise from the dead are 1) the evidence that we have that Jesus Christ rose from the dead, and 2) God's dependable promise in the Word of God that we will rise from the dead!

c. So, because we live by this faith that we have eternal life ahead, we do

not fear anything that this world can throw at us, even death. (5:6-8)

"Therefore we are always confident and know that as long as we are at home in the body we are away from the Lord.  We live by faith, not by sight.  We are confident, I say, and would prefer to be away from the body and at home with the Lord."

Thought Question:  This is Paul's conclusion about why we as Christians should not lose heart.  At this moment in your life, have these verses helped you to face your life and even your death with confidence?  Explain your answer.

 

 

The worst that the world can throw at us is death.  If we understand how much better it will be for us in Heaven, we can actually prefer to be dead and with the Lord.  None of us knows how much we actually live by faith until trials come into our lives.  These trials test our faith.  From the way we respond to these trials, we can see how much we really believe what God says in the Bible.  The ultimate trial that we all face is our death.  If we walk by faith and not by sight, we can even face our own death with confidence!

In Conclusion: Because light from God shining into our hearts conquered the darkness in our souls, and God's resurrection life in us conquers even death, we have no reason ever to lose heart!  Even Paul had times when he nearly lost heart, but as he got the truth about God back into perspective, he once again lived in confidence.  We also can have times when we struggle with discouragement.  These verses can be helpful for us at those times.  For many II Corinthians 4, in particular, has been a great help in some difficult times in their lives.  You also may find these verses to be the same type of help for you.

THE MOTIVATION FOR THE TRIUMPHANT LIFE (5:9-21)

Introduction:

In 4:16-18, we see that when we fix our eyes on our unseen hope, it replaces discouragement with strong encouragement.  This new focus is the motivation for Christian living.  Paul continues this theme in the rest of chapter five.

1. Our new focus gives us a new morality. (5:9-17)

a. It purifies our motives (5:9-10)

"So we make it our goal to please him, whether we are at home in the body or away from it.  For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, that each one may receive what is due him for the things done while in the body, whether good or bad."

Thought Question:  What in these verses provides a motivation for the way that we live our lives?

 

 

As Ray Stedman points out, the problem in the Christian life is not knowing what is God's will; the problem is how can we want to do His will?  When we know that we will all stand before Him as our judge, it motivates us now to seek to please Him.  Those who choose to ignore Him, seek to please themselves.  (We see how this leads to perversion and every wicked thing as described in Romans 1:18-32.)  Those who do not ignore Him, seek instead to please Him.  I John 1:5-2:11 describes the righteousness and love that is produced when God's children seek to walk not ignoring Him and not ignoring that we will all stand before Him one day.   Christians who live their lives in the way that is described in I John are continually aware that they are always in the light of His presence.  If we live in this way, we will live as if we are continually in His presence.

Knowing that we will be judged by God one day for all that we do in this life can produce in us a healthy fear.  We fear that what we are doing is not pleasing God.  One day we will learn whether or not our life did or did not please Him.  The Scriptures are clear-there is a healthy fear of God.  We are all aware that "the fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge."(Proverbs 1:7)  It is not a fear that God will condemn us, for "there is no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus." (Roman 8:1)  But it is a fear that our lives will be wasted and not useful for God.  It is a fear that He will judge that our efforts have not been pure and have not been pleasing to Him.  If we look at life from an eternal perspective, He is the One that we most want to please.  The fact that we will all one day stand before Him becomes a premier motivating factor for all that we do.

b. It purifies our defense of ourselves (5:11-12)

"Since, then, we know what it is to fear the Lord, we try to persuade men.  What we are is plain to God, and I hope it is also plain to your conscience.  We are not trying to commend ourselves to you again, but are giving you an opportunity to take pride in us, so that you can answer those who take pride in what is seen rather than what is in the heart."

Thought Question:  What is there in this verse that can help us toward being bold in our Christian lives?

 

 

When we are seeking primarily to please God, we can stand bold before men and defend ourselves against those who make false charges against us.  If we know that God knows we are seeking to please Him, our hearts and lives are an open book before Him and before men.  We have nothing to hide.  Men can examine us all they want.  Hopefully some will also see some of what God sees, and they will also be pleased with our desire to please God.  Our best defense is when others know that all we do is being done to please God.

The Christian's basis for boldness is a clear conscience and heart before God.  If we are living for the purpose of trying to give a good outward impression before men, we will constantly be concerned about what they think of us.  This will inhibit us from being bold.  But, if our only concern is that we are doing from the heart what pleases God, then we will boldly do His work--- seeking to "persuade men" to do His will.

c. It purifies our love for others. (5:13-15)

"If we are out of our mind, it is for the sake of God; if we are in our right mind it is for you.  For Christ's love compels us, because we are convinced that one died for all, and therefore all died.  And he died for all, that those who live should no longer live for themselves but for him who died for them and was raised again."

Thought Question:  What do these verses tell us about how Paul was motivated to serve Christ in the way that he did?  How can what motivated Paul motivate us as well?

 

 

"If we are out of our mind,"  From these words it is clear that Paul had been accused of being out of his mind.  Possibly his description of his amazing conversion had caused some to wonder about his sanity.  There is another possibility.  His sacrificial love for the Corinthian Christians and for God may not have made sense to his enemies at Corinth.  "If we are out of our mind, it is for the sake of God; if we are in our right mind it is for you."  When someone does something for someone in what appears to be selfless way, we can become concerned.  We get phone calls and see advertisements where we are offered something for nothing.  We, with good reason, become concerned immediately that they in some way  are seeking to get money from us.  We ask, "What is their angle?" Some said that Paul was in his right mind, but he had an angle.  Paul was not out of his mind nor did he have a devious angle.

Paul explains to them the reason for his selfless service of God and his love for them in verse 14:  "For Christ's love compels us, because we are convinced that one died for all, and therefore all died."  One thing they could not deny was his love for them.  He was able to love them as he did because he never forgot how much Jesus Christ loved him.  If Jesus Christ loved him so much that He was willing to die for him, Paul was also willing to give his life for Jesus.

Paul models for us authentic Christianity. Here we have the second pure and appropriate motivation for Christian service.  The first motivation for authentic Christianity is the fear of God.  The second motivation for authentic Christianity is our love for others that comes in response to our awareness of how much God loves us.  When we also focus as Paul did on what Jesus did for us, we also will seek no longer to live for ourselves, but to live for Him who died for us. 

Verse 15 is a significant verse in the Bible.  It tells us why Jesus died for us.  "And he died for all that those who live should no longer live for themselves, but for him who died for them, and was raised again."  He did not die for us so that we will live for ourselves while on earth and then live for Him when we get to Heaven.  Jesus died for us so that we would do what Paul did-totally seek to live for Jesus Christ's purposes in our lives today.  This was Paul's Christianity.  This is authentic Christianity!  This is the type of Christianity we are called to by Jesus Christ.  This is the type of Christianity our world needs today.  See Roman 5:8; I John 4:10; I Peter 1:8: John 14:15

d. It purifies our whole outlook on life. (5:16-17)

"So from now on we regard no one from a worldly point of view.  Though we once regarded Christ in this way, we do so no longer.  Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come!"

Thought Question:  In what ways have you changed since you became a Christian? (your different motivations for doing things, your different way of looking at life, and your different way of looking at Jesus Christ)

 

 

Before we knew Jesus Christ, we looked at everything as if this world was all there is to life; we even viewed Jesus Christ from this narrow point of view.  I can recall that I viewed Jesus Christ as the Son of God, but never really thought too deeply about what that meant.  I certainly did not think that it meant that He had any right to be the Lord of my life.  How have you changed your outlook on Jesus Christ since you became a Christian?  We are totally new creatures.  Our old point of view has been replaced by a totally new point of view.  Now, we realize that beyond this visible world there is a much more important invisible reality.  Everything we now do is determined by this new outlook.

Verse seventeen is certainly one of the most significant verses in the Bible.  "Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come!"  We are new people.  We are now totally different from the way we were before we became Christians.  Paul was brand new, as we are brand new, and he saw life in a new way.  He also lived his life in a new way.  He again is a model of authentic Christianity.  We are brand new in Christ; we are called to follow Paul's example.  We are now to see life in this new way and to live our lives in a brand new way.

"So from now on we regard no one from a worldly point of view."  From now on, we can no longer be the same as the non-Christian world that is all around us.  When we listen to or read the news, we realize that they look at life differently than we do.  They do not think like we do nor do they see things like we do.  We are new, and from now on we will see life in a totally new way!

2. Our new focus gives us a new mission (5:18-21)

Our new motivation, love for others, and outlook gives us a whole new mission in life - - to share what we now have with others.

a. Our new mission is authorized by God. (5:18a)

"All this is from God…."

Thought Question:  In these few words we are told that we have a mission that "is from God."  What does that mean to you?

 

 

If the President of the United States called and told us that he had a special mission for us, we would undoubtedly be eager to hear what he wants us to do.  God reveals here that He has a special mission for us.  We learn in the following verses that the God, whom we and all men have rebelled against and sinned against, has assigned to us a very important task.  He has commissioned us who are Christians to reconcile men to Himself.  That is His special mission for us.  Can you think of anything more important? This is the most important of all tasks.  This mission He has commissioned us to do is described in the rest of these verses.

b. Our new mission (5:18b-21)

"who reconciled us to himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation: that God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting men's sin against them.  And he has committed to us the message of reconciliation.  We are therefore Christ's ambassadors, as though God were making his appeal through us.  We implore you on Christ's behalf:  Be reconciled to God.  God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God."

Thought Question #1:  From these verses, what is our primary mission as Christians?

 

 

Thought Question #2:  Ray Stedman asks this question:  "How can a just God justify the unjust?  How can a righteous God righteously declare a sinner to be righteous?  From these verses, how would you answer his questions?

 

 

We have been commissioned by God to be His ambassadors to the world.  We have received a "ministry of reconciliation."  Our mission is to tell our world that God has made it possible for us who are sinners and rebels against God to be restored to a relationship with Him.  Who are Christ's ambassadors today?  It can't be Paul the Apostle, John Wesley, D.L. Moody, or any of the great Christians of the past.  They are no longer alive.  They cannot be his modern-day ambassadors.  Also, notice that Paul is speaking not just of himself and the other Apostles.  He is speaking to the whole church at Corinth.  Who are Christ's modern-day ambassadors?  There can be no other answer.  It is you and I.  Today, "he has committed to us the ministry of reconciliation.  We are therefore {you and I today} Christ's ambassadors, as though God were making his appeal through us."  So, we are to "implore" our world to be "reconciled to God."

Our sins separate us from God, but God has provided His sinless Son to take all our sin on Himself so that we who are sinful can become sinless in the eyes of God.  Our mission is to tell our world that because of Jesus Christ, nothing stands in the way of our being totally right with God.  Our mission is to call to men and women and plead with them to come and through Christ be reconciled to God.

As Paul says, we are to "implore you on Christ's behalf"---as though God were making this appeal through us.  So, we are to go out into our world as God's representatives pleading with men and women to be reconciled to God as we would plead to a drowning man to grab a lifesaver.  Only we are not urging men and women to be saved from drowning, we are urging them to be saved from eternal judgment.

Verse 21 is still another very significant verse in the Bible that is found in this fifth chapter of II Corinthians:  "God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God."  The Sinless One took the penalty for sin on Himself, so that we might have the righteousness of God.  As someone has said, He took our Hell, so that we might have His Heaven!  This is the price God paid so that we might be reconciled to Him.  That is our new mission, to tell our world that reconciliation to God is now available to all men because of the price Jesus paid to make it available.  Paul fulfilled this mission to his generation.  Past Christians have fulfilled the mission to their generations.  Now, it is our mission to tell our generation!

OBSTACLES TO TRIUMPHANT CHRISTIAN LIVING (6:1-7)

Introduction:

Each Christian who looks in faith at all that God is and all that He has done for each of us who has become a new creature in Christ, will, as a result of this faith, have the motivation to persevere in Christian service.  But, each of us of who are Christians must overcome many obstacles.  Four of the obstacles we must overcome are listed here by Paul, along with what we must do in faith to overcome them.  The four obstacles are as follows: (1) procrastination, (2) low-endurance, (3) selfishness, and (4) moral impurity.

1. We must deal with PROCRASTINATION. (6:1-2)

"As God's fellow workers we urge you not to receive God grace in vain.  For he says, 'In the time of my favor I heard you, and in the day of salvation I helped you.  I tell you, now is the time of God's favor, now is the day of salvation."

Thought Question:  This verse has often been used by evangelists to urge non-Christians to receive salvation through Jesus' death today and not wait until later.  Is this what Paul means when he says, "now is the day of salvation"?  Please explain your answer.

 

 

Salvation has been provided and it is available to us right now.  All that is left for us to do is to act on that salvation and to act on it right now.  "Now is the day of salvation"!  If we do not actively appropriate our salvation from sin and its penalty on a moment by moment basis, we have received God's salvation in vain.  It is worthless to us if we are not actively choosing each moment to appropriate what God has made available to us.  There is a similar exhortation in Ephesians 4:20 - 5:2.  In short, Paul says in Ephesians that since you have put on the new self from God, it is now up to you to choose to live as the new person that you have become.

Ray Stedman has the following to say about this passage in II Corinthians:  "Since we must take God's grace by faith (or dependence) and it comes to us moment-by-moment, then it is the present moment we must be concerned with.  'Behold, NOW is the acceptable time, behold NOW is the day of salvation.'  The fact that we walked in the Spirit a few moments ago is of no value to us now; the intention we have to walk in the Spirit in just a few more minutes does not redeem the present.  If we choose to act in the flesh now, it is wasted time, gone forever, never to be retraced or regained.  Let us run the race of life seeking to live each moment in the power and grace of the Spirit of Christ, for any time spent in the flesh is time in which we have accepted the grace of God in vain."  "Taken from Authentic Christianity by Ray Stedman.  Copyright 1975 by Multnomah Press."

The words, "Now is the time of salvation" has often been used by evangelists to urge non-Christians not to put off becoming a Christian until later.  Although it is true that no one should put off becoming a Christian until some unknown time in the future, Paul is not talking to non-Christians in these verses.  He is urging Christians to appropriate the salvation that we already have as new creations in Christ.  "Now is the day" that we should be living and experiencing our new life in Christ.  In our Christian lives, there should never be a "when I get around to it."  We should not procrastinate.  We should live each moment in dependence on God and His salvation.  "Now is the time" that we should be experiencing our salvation!

2. We must deal with LOW ENDURANCE. (6:3-10)

a. We must be willing to go through hard times. (6:3-5)

"We put no stumbling block in anyone's path, so that our ministry will not be discredited.  Rather, as servants of God we commend ourselves in every way: in great endurance; in troubles, hardships and distresses; in beatings, imprisonments and riots; in hard work, sleepless nights and hunger;"

Thought Question:  What type of tough times have you gone through or are you going through right now?  Are any of them similar to what Paul went through? (though not as severe)

 

 

One of the reasons we do not continually experience God's grace is because we give up when it gets tough.  Paul gives examples of the types of troubles that he endured: (1) He endured times of great difficulty (6:4) (when it seemed physically and emotionally more than he could bear).  (2) He endured persecution (6:5a) (beatings-11:24,25; Acts 16:23; imprisonments-Acts 16:23; riots-Acts 13:50, 14:5,19, 16:22, 17:5, 19:23, 21:27).  (3) He endured painful self-discipline (6:5b) (sleeplessness - 11:27, fasting-11:27, hard work-I Corinthians 9:13-15).  In the book of Hebrews we find these words:  "Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.  Consider him who endured such opposition from sinful men, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart."

b. We must maintain our Christian character through these toughtimes

(6:6-7a)

"In purity, understanding, patience and kindness; in the Holy Spirit and in sincere love; in truthful speech;"

Thought Question:  What do these verses tell us about how we should go through tough times?

 

 

Ray Stedman points out that what Paul is talking about here is not just "toughing it out."  Paul went through his trials in a godly and triumphant way.  Going through tough times is of no value unless we go through these tough times maintaining our moral purity, seeking God's wisdom, continuing in patience through injustice and hard times, and continuing to be kind rather than being harsh.

How did Paul go through his trials in a godly and triumphant way and how can we go through our trials in a godly and triumphant way?  We will not be able to be godly and triumphant if we are doing the best we can in our strength.  It will not be long before we crash and burn.  For what God calls us to do, we cannot do by ourselves.  Paul was able to do all that he did and go through all that he went through because He was totally relying on God and His grace.  He was an earthen vessel depending on the transcendent power of God.  He went through all he did in a godly way because God enabled him to do it.  We also cannot persevere through our troubles in a godly way unless we also are totally relying upon God and His strength to uphold us every step of the way.

Now, let us focus on how we are to persevere in trials.  "In purity"  Ray Stedman summarizes this quality in thorough way:  "This refers to the careful avoidance of all sin which defiles or stains the flesh or spirit.  Paul never allowed himself to be found in a compromising relationship with anyone.  He guarded his thought life with care, for he knew that is where defilement begins.  Whenever he found himself toying with impurity, he immediately brought it to the Lord Jesus and obtained his cleansing and forgiveness."  "Taken from Authentic Christianity.  Copyright 1975 by Multnomah Press."

In the midst of pressures and trials, we face many temptations.  Because we have seen some of our Christian heroes give in to temptation in recent years, we can never be certain that it could never happen to us.  We also must, in the midst of the battle, persevere in purity.  In Paul's last biblical letter to his disciple Timothy, he gave this exhortation:  "Flee the evil desires of youth and pursue righteousness, faith, love and peace, along with those who call on the Lord out of a pure heart."  (II Timothy 2:22)

"In . . . understanding" (or in "knowledge")  Again, Ray Stedman's words are clear and to the point:  " His mind was deliberately set upon the truth, as he had learned it from the Scriptures and revelations of the Lord.  He judged all persons and events, not from a human point of view, but from the Divine viewpoint as revealed by the Spirit.  The doctrine of Scripture was always his guide."  "Taken from Authentic Christianity by Ray Stedman.  Copyright 1975 by Multnomah Publishers."

Today, there are many subtle errors that we in God's church are exposed to.  It is always easy for us to lose our biblical bearings and to be lured into some type of false teaching.  Many false teachings offer a quick and easy answer for Christian living, Christian success, and Christian victory.  What Paul describes in these verses is not the quick nor the easy way.  Nevertheless, we need to persevere in the truth even when it is not easy and even when it is easy for us to be drawn away by some teaching that promises an immediate and painless, though unbiblical, road to victory.

"In . . . patience"  In another of his letters Paul gave these words of encouragement:  "And we urge you, brothers, warn those who are idle, encourage the timid, help the weak, be patient with everyone." (I Thessalonians 5:14)  When the difficulties come, particularly the difficulties that come from interpersonal struggles, it is often our patience that can go first.  But, a fruit of the Spirit is "patience." (Galatians 5:22)  And we are not godly and triumphant in our trials when we lose patience.  There are times when we want to give someone a piece of our mind.  That is not the patient response, particularly when we do more than just want to do it.  As someone has said, that is a "piece of our mind" that we cannot afford to lose.  Paul, with God's strength, was able to go through his many struggles with "patience." 

"In . . . kindness"  "Kindness" is also a fruit of the Spirit in Galatians 5:22.  It is the same Greek word for "kindness" that is used in Galatians five.  It is interesting that Paul follows "patience" and "kindness" with "in the Holy Spirit."

"Kindness" is the opposite of harshness.  When we are in the midst of pressures and struggles, it is quite human for us to become harsh and not kind.  In traffic jams, peoples' frustrations often result in impatience and angry words.  Christians who can remain calm and kind in tough times show the work of God's Spirit in their lives-the Spiritual fruit of "kindness."  Paul remained kind in his trials.  With God's help, we can be kind in our trials.

"in sincere love"  Paul does not just say that he perseveres in agape love, but in "sincere love."  Paul in the midst of difficult times continued to genuinely love those who were the source of his trials as well as continuing to love those who were his friends.  The first fruit of the Spirit is "love."  Love is the ability given by God to continue to wholeheartedly desire the best for others, even when they and our circumstances make it much easier at times for us to shift the focus to our needs and our wants.  Even worse, we can become embittered toward those who are resistive and opposed to us.

Paul persevered in "sincere love."  We go through our trials in a godly and triumphant way only when we also persevere in "sincere love" toward our family members, church family, and even those who have become our enemies.  For as Jesus said:  "If you love those who love you, what reward will you get?  Are not even the tax collectors doing that?" (Matthew 5:46) 

"in truthful speech"  A salesman who has found it difficult to make a sale can be tempted to lie to make sales.  A Christian servant can also resort to deception to get quicker results.  Today, we do have those in ministries who have used various types of trickery to give the impression that, for example, miracles were occurring when what actually was taking place was something similar to what a magician does.  Paul did not give in to the temptation to take the easy route and alter the truth to benefit him.  When it got tough, he continued to do it the hard way.  He continued to be truthful no matter how hard it made it for him.  May we also continue to be "truthful" even when it will be easier for us to be deceitful.

c. We must continue in tough times to demonstrate God's power and love in

our lives. (6:7b)

"and in the power of God;"

Thought Question:  What do these few words tell us about how we can continue to be godly in the midst of trials?

 

 

Paul, in these tough times, was continually walking "in the Holy Spirit" and "in the power of God."  He continued to rely on the power of the Holy Spirit to demonstrate the fruit and the life of the Spirit in his life.  Why was Paul able to effectively plant churches in the Gentile and pagan world?  It was not the power of Paul that pulled it off, but the "power of God."  We cannot persevere in tough times in a godly and triumphant way apart from "the power of God".

d. We must triumph over every obstacle (6:7b-10)

"with weapons of righteousness in the right hand and in the left; through glory and dishonor, bad report and good report; genuine, yet regarded as unknown; dying, and yet we live on; beaten, and yet not killed; sorrowful, yet always rejoicing; poor yet making many rich; having nothing, and yet possessing everything."

Thought Question:  What do these verses tell us about what the Christian life and our Christian warfare should be like?

 

 

The Christian life is a battle and the main weapon we fight with in this battle is to do what is right, no matter how difficult that may be: "with weapons of righteousness in the right hand and in the left."  We are to continue to do what is right when we are honored and when we are ridiculed, when we are recognized as sincere and when our motives are ridiculed, when we are seen as men and women of God and when we are seen as false teachers, when we are persecuted and poor.  Whatever we face, we win the battle only if we continue to do what is right.

Paul faced many obstacles, yet he continued to do what was right.  He was called an impostor and not an Apostle.  See 12:11-13  He was seen as a nobody.  See I Corinthians 4:8-13  He was viewed as being on his last legs.  See 4:8-13,16  Paul appeared to them to be all these things and more.  But actually he was always rejoicing and always rich.  Here is authentic Christianity.  Paul was viewed by the world as a total failure.  But, he had chosen this path that the world scoffs at, to reach his world with the Gospel message.  Are we willing to follow in his footsteps, even though the worldly may see us in the same way as they saw Paul?  Are we willing to follow him with endurance on this very difficult path?

3. We must deal with SELFISHNESS. (6:11-13)

"We have spoken freely to you, Corinthians, and opened wide our hearts to you.  We are not withholding our affection from you, but you are withholding yours from us.  As a fair exchange---I speak as to my children---open wide your hearts also."

Thought Question #1:  What do we learn from these verses about the type of love we are to have for those we serve?

 

 

Thought Question #2:  What do we learn from these verses about how we should love those Christian leaders who serve us?

 

 

Paul is an example throughout this letter of open, transparent, whole-hearted love.  The type of love he had for the Corinthian Christians is a model for the type of love we should have for others.  It is a model for the type of love that we who are parents should have for our children.  It is a model of the type of love that we who are Christians should show to each other.  He opens up his life before them so they can read his deepest motives.  Everything he is doing is for their good, even though it has cost him a great deal.  It only seems fair now, that they should also open their hearts and love him in the same way that he loves them.  This is an exhortation that Paul would have preferred not to have needed to make.

In Ray Stedman's commentary on II Corinthians, he quotes from C. S. Lewis and makes some very important observations: "C. S. Lewis had a wonderful comment, which is helpful at this point:  'To love at all is to be vulnerable.  [That, of course, is what keeps us from loving back.  We are afraid we are going to risk something, and we do.  He goes on:]  Love anything and your heart will continually be wrung and possibly be broken.  If you want to make sure of keeping it intact you must give your heart to no one, not even to an animal.  Wrap it carefully around with hobbies and little luxuries, avoid all entanglements; lock it up safe in the casket or coffin of your own selfishness.  But in that casket---safe, dark motionless, airless---it will change.  It will not be broken, it will become unbreakable, impenetrable, irredeemable.  The only place outside heaven where you can be perfectly safe from all the dangers and perturbations of love is hell.'  People who do not learn to love back when they are loved, live in a little hell of their own making.  So Paul ends with this loving, fatherly appeal: 'In return--I speak as to children--widen your hearts also.'  If they begin to love back, that will enable them to share themselves, to open up, to communicate how they feel, to begin to respond with affection as well.  They will begin to live.  In many congregations, Christians are cold, tied up in themselves.  They sit in service, and do not even speak to those around them.  Sometimes this frigidity is even encouraged as a kind of reverence, supposedly, but God is not interested.  He is interested in people who are open and responsive to one another.  The coldness is what turns young people off.  They come to our services and the people are so cold and formal that they are repelled.  When congregations learn to be open, responsive, warm, loving and reaching out it is always exciting.  Young people are attracted to that and they will come!"  "Taken from Expository Studies in 2 Corinthians by Ray Stedman.  Copyright 1982 by Word Books."

4. We must deal with impurity (6:14-7:1)

"Do not be yoked together with unbelievers.  For what do righteousness and wickedness have in common?  Or what fellowship can light have with darkness?  What harmony is there between Christ and Belial?  What does a believer have in common with an unbeliever?  What agreement is there between the temple of God and idols?  For we are the temple of the living God.  As God has said:  'I will live with them and walk among them, and I will be their god, and they will be my people. Therefore come out from them and be separate,' says the Lord.  'Touch no unclean thing, and I will receive you.  I will be a Father to you, and you will be my sons and daughters,' says the Lord Almighty.  Since we have these promises, dear friends, let us purify ourselves from everything that contaminates body and spirit, perfecting holiness out of reverence for God for God."

Thought Question:  What do we learn from these verses about what separation from the world means?

 

 

Though they needed to be exhorted to have room in their hearts for Paul, they already did have room in their hearts for worldliness.  Paul exhorts them not to yoke themselves with unbelievers.  The Law forbids the yoking of two different types of animals together in the same yoke.  Ray Stedman speaks of seeing a camel and a donkey in the same yoke.  Both the camel and donkey were miserable as the camel dragged the donkey along and the donkey was forced to speed up to keep up with the camel's long strides.  Christians and non-Christians are even more different than the camel and the donkey.  We must recognize this and not allow ourselves to become so united with a non-believer that we are dragged along with them into their lifestyle or are prevented by them from living our Christian lifestyle.

Ray Stedman, in his commentary on II Corinthians gives an example of how we can twist our thinking to get around this clear teaching by Paul in the Word of God:  "Some years ago I read a prayer addressed to God that a young woman had written in her diary on her wedding day:  'Dear God, I can hardly believe that this is my wedding day.  I know I haven't been able to spend much time with you lately with all the rush of getting ready for today, and I'm sorry.  I guess too, I feel a little guilty when I try to pray about all this, since Larry still isn't a Christian.  But, oh! Father, I love him so much.  What else can I do?  I just couldn't give him up.  Oh! You must save him some way, somehow.  You know how much I have prayed for him and the way we've discussed the gospel together.  I've tried not to appear too religious, I know, but that's because I didn't want to scare him off.  Yet he isn't antagonistic, and I don't understand why he hasn't responded.  Oh! If only he were a Christian.  Dear father, please bless our marriage.  I don't want to disobey you, but I do love him, and I want to be his wife.  So please be with us, and please don't spoil my wedding day.'  It was a sincere prayer, but it was a sadly mistaken prayer.  Though she did not realize it, what she was really praying was something like this:  Dear Father, I don't want to disobey you, but I must have my own way at all costs.  For I love what you do not love, and I want what you do not want.  So please be a good God and deny yourself and move off your throne and let me take over.  If you don't like this, all I ask is that you bite your lip and say nothing and don't spoil my wedding day.  Let me have my evil.'  That is really what she is praying, isn't it?  And I am sure she went on to discover, as thousands and thousands of others have, the wisdom of the apostle's words here, 'stop being mismated with unbelievers.'"  "Taken from Expository Studies in 2 Corinthians by Ray Stedman.  Copyright 1982 by Word Books."

Just as a company cannot harmoniously make cigarettes and campaign against smoking at the same time, so there cannot be symphony and harmony between the believer and non-believer.  He concludes in 6:16-7:1 that we should separate ourselves from being united with the worldly and their ways.  For us---as God's Temples---to be united with the worldly is as though the Jews of the Old Testament were putting an idol in God's Temple or as if we today were playing X-rated movies in a church building.  So, we are to cleanse ourselves from all worldly immorality, and we are not to unite ourselves with the non-believer.  Obvious examples of this type of yoking that is here forbidden are as follows: marrying a non-believer, going into business with a non-believer, and allowing a friendship with non-believers to control our lifestyle.

Paul used a number of Old Testament verses to support his case against becoming united with non-believers and their ways: Leviticus 26:12; Jeremiah 32:38; Ezekiel 37:27; Isaiah 52:11; Ezekiel 20:34,41; and II Samuel 7:14, 7:8.  God spoke clearly to the nation of Israel that they were to be His holy nation, separated from the pagan nations that surrounded them.  They were to separate themselves from their pagan practices.  So, we who are Christians are to be God's holy people, separated from the pagan world that surrounds us.  As Jesus said, we are to be in the world but not of the world.  See John 17:14-18

II Corinthians 7:1 is a key verse in the Bible and speaks for itself: "Since we have these promises, dear friends, let us purify ourselves from everything that contaminates body and spirit, perfecting holiness out of reverence for God" (emphasis is mine).

PAUL'S PERSONAL TRIUMPHS OVER SOME MAJOR OBSTACLES (7:2-16)

Introduction:

Paul's two greatest obstacles at this time were the sin in the church at Corinth and his own discouragement about the Corinthians' lack of response to his ministry to them.  In these verses, Paul describes how God had led him in triumph in spite of these obstacles.

1. How God led him to be able to triumph over his personal discouragement.

(7:2-7)

a. Paul does not allow his discouragements with the church at Corinth to

prevent him from continuing to reach out to them  in love (7:2-4)

"Make room for us in your hearts.  We have wronged no one, we have corrupted no one, we have exploited no one.  I do not say this to condemn you; I have said before that you have such a place in our hearts that we would live or die with you.  I have great confidence in you; I take great pride in you.  I am greatly encouraged; in all our troubles my joy knows no bounds."

Thought Question:  What do you learn about what was in Paul's heart from these verses?

 

 

Paul's complete expression of love here toward the Corinthian Christians is the very opposite of what usually takes place when someone has reached out and given their very lives to someone, and then have been rejected and even attacked.  Instead of Paul shrinking back in self-protection and waiting for them to come to him, he continues to reach out to and to completely open his heart to them!  He continues to believe in them and holds no grudges.

b. How God encouraged Paul (7:5-7)

"For when we came into Macedonia, this body of ours had no rest, but we were harassed at every turn---conflicts on the outside, fears within.  But God, who comforts the downcast, comforted us by the coming of Titus, and not only by his coming but also by the comfort you had given him.  He told us about your longing for me, your deep sorrow, your ardent concern for me, so that my joy was greater than ever."

Thought Question:  What do you learn about Paul and God from these verses?

 

 

In modern terms, Paul had been "totally stressed out" because of all that had been going on in his life.  "For when we came into Macedonia, this body of ours had no rest, but we were harassed at every turn--conflicts on the outside, fears within."  Everywhere he went, he was harassed by the enemies of God.  On the inside, he struggled with his fears about whether or not his work was succeeding and whether or not the members of the new churches were going to continue in the faith.  But God was not dispassionately and coldly watching on while Paul reached the final limits of what he could endure.  He empathized with Paul's (and our) struggles.  "But God, who comforts the downcast, comforted us by the coming of Titus."  God provided Paul with the good news through Titus that Paul so desperately needed to hear.  The Christians at Corinth were real believers and had responded to his rebukes, and they appreciated Paul and were greatly concerned about him.

Do you appreciate Paul's openness about his own weaknesses and failings in these verses?  His openness is an encouragement to me.  We tend to hide our weaknesses.  As a result, we can think that we are the only ones who have the type of doubts and struggles that we have.  Paul was an open book.  He did not hide his struggles from those he was ministering to.  Here again is authentic Christianity.  We are not to give the impression that we are always on top of things, particularly since none of us are always on top of things.  Instead, we are to remove our masks as Paul does here, so others can be encouraged that they are not alone in their struggles.

This was a learning time in Paul's life.  His trials had been more than he could bear, but God used these trials to encourage him in his faith.  He learned in an even deeper way that God always leads his children in triumph!  See 2:14  As a result, his "joy was greater than ever"!

2. How God led him in triumph over the sin in the church at Corinth (7:8-16)

a. Paul's discipline produced Godly sorrow. (7:8-11)

"Even if I caused you sorrow by my letter, I do not regret it.  Though I did regret it---I see that my letter hurt you, but only for a little while--- yet now I am happy, not because you were made sorry, but because your sorrow led you to repentance.  For you became sorrowful as God intended and so were not harmed in any way by us.  Godly sorrow brings repentance that leads to salvation and leaves no regret, but worldly sorrow brings death.  See what this godly sorrow has produced in you: what earnestness, what eagerness to clear yourselves, what indignation, what alarm, what longing, what concern, what readiness to see justice done.  At every point your have proved yourselves to be innocent in this matter."

Thought Question #1:  What do we learn from these verses about what kind of emotions we should experience when we correct another Christian?

 

 

Thought Question #2:  What do we learn from these verses about the proper and improper way to respond to someone's godly correction of us?

 

 

Paul had spanked the church at Corinth and had some of the same feelings a parent has after spanking his child-is this helping or hurting my child?  But the transformation of the child makes us not regret it, just as Paul did not regret his spanking of the church at Corinth.  He was glad because the spanking had produced godly sorrow.

When we are told unpleasant truths about ourselves, there are two possible responses, worldly or godly sorrow.  Worldly sorrow is self- oriented mourning-why did this happen to me?  Worldly sorrow in a person leads to a "poor me" attitude; rather than to that person seeing how he or she has wronged others and God.  They are not sorry that they are wrong, but sorry that being wrong has caused them so much pain.  It is the sorrow of Judas, Cain, and King Saul.

Godly sorrow comes when we see that we are guilty before God.  True sorrow is sorrow over sin, accompanied by a total awareness that we do not deserve to be forgiven.  Godly sorrow results in a profound appreciation for God's mercy and grace and a wholehearted desire to change.  It is the sorrow of David in Psalm 51 and the sorrow of Peter after he denied Jesus.

We have here also a contrast between Satan's accusations and God convicting us of sin.  Satan desires to keep us in a constant state of being accused and of feeling guilty; whereas, God desires for us to turn from our sin and He desires for us to be free from the guilt that comes from our sin.

b. Paul's discipline reinforced Paul's confidence in them (7:12-16)

"So even though I wrote to you, it was not on account of the one who did the wrong or of the injured party, but rather that before God you could see for yourselves how devoted to us you are.  By all this we are encouraged.  In addition to our own encouragement, we were especially delighted to see how happy Titus was, because his spirit has been refreshed by all of you.  I had boasted to him about you, and you have not embarrassed me.  But just as everything we said to you was true, so our boasting about you to Titus has proved to be true as well.  And his affection for you is all the greater when he remembers that you were all obedient, receiving him with fear and trembling.  I am glad I can have complete confidence in you."

Thought Question:  From these verses, what can we learn about how we can successfully correct our fellow Christians?

 

 

Can we successfully correct each other in the church?  Paul was confident that he could.  He believed that they would show that they were indeed new creatures by their proper response to his correction.  He had even predicted to Titus that they would live up to the high praise he had made of them.  If the worst church in the New Testament responded to strong and loving correction, shouldn't we be encouraged that true Christians will also benefit from correction today as well?

And so, we have our first installment of Paul's authentic form of Christianity.  There are no simple and quick answers in this testimony of his Christian life.  Christianity is not a form of magic.  There are no simple formulas or magic methods.  But, we are told simply that if we trust in God, obey Him, and rely upon His transcendent power, we will, in the end, be triumphant.  May Paul's example of perseverance, love, and trust motivate us to follow in his footsteps.  If we do, we also will discover that God does always lead us in triumph.

 

Scripture taken from the HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION ® . NIV  ©   Copyright  ©   1973, 1978, 1984 by International Bible Society.  Used by permission.  All rights reserved.

Studies in Corinthians