Download This  Study For Free!



II CORINTHIANS 8-13

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

You are now coming to a very rich part of the Bible.  Your digging in these chapters will be rewarded with insights on a number of practical areas of Christian living.  In chapters eight and nine, Paul gives us the most extensive teaching on Christian giving that is found in the New Testament.  In chapters ten through thirteen, Paul provides us many insights on spiritual warfare as he responds to those who were attacking him.  In these chapters we will also find Christian guidelines for how we are to look upon ourselves.  We will also be taught about false teachers and how to recognize them.  The way that Paul responds to criticism gives us a sound pattern for how we should respond to criticism.  When Paul talks about his "thorn in the flesh," we learn about how weakness can lead to strength.  These last chapters of II Corinthians are probably uncharted territory for many Christians.  The may seem complex and difficult to understand.  But, a little effort in trying to understand them will yield a depth of understanding of triumphant Christianity that will make the effort well worth it.

TRIUMPHANT GIVING IN THE CHURCH (8-9): PAUL'S PRINCIPLES FOR GIVING

Introduction:

Now, because of the restored relationship between Paul and the church at Corinth, he is able to once again discuss the offering they had once promised to give to the needy church at Jerusalem. He gave instructions on this offering at the end of I Corinthians.  See I Corinthians 16:1-4  It is important for you to know that this is the only in-depth teaching on giving in the New Testament.

Hughes, in his commentary on II Corinthians, sums up the history behind the need for this offering to the church in Jerusalem.  You may find his explanation difficult to read.  But, if you give him your complete attention, you will be rewarded with a rich understanding of the need of the church at Jerusalem and the heart of the Early church toward their needs.

"From its very earliest days the Apostolic church had been confronted with the problem of the extreme poverty of the Christian community in Jerusalem, the church's mother-city.  The preaching of the Apostles on the day of Pentecost (May 26, A.D. 30) and on subsequent days had been attended by the conversion of thousands of souls (see Acts 2:41, 4:4).  The material cost to the majority of this great number must have been immense.  Coming as they did from the background of Jewish fervor and exclusivism, it needs no demonstration that they must have become, in consequence of their conversion, the victims of social and economic ostracism, ecclesiastical excommunication, and national disinheritance.  Their business enterprises must in most cases have collapsed in ruins and family bonds been heart-breakingly severed.  The situation to which this led was met by the touching and spontaneous manner in which the members of this young but numerous fellowship demonstrated their oneness of heart and soul by sharing their possessions and resources with each other (Acts 4:32ff.)......Accordingly (probably in the year A.D. 32) the seven deacons were appointed to supervise this charitable work.  Thus the first distinct step in the organization of the primitive church was occasioned, as Ramsay points out, by the pressure of poverty.  If we take A.D. 34 as the date of Paul's conversion, it was three years later, in A.D. 37, that he first visited Jerusalem (cf. Acts 9:26, Gal. 1:18) and witnessed for himself the material poverty of the Christians there.  It is of particular interest, in connection with our present subject, that the purpose of his next visit (c. A.D. 46) was to bring, in company with Barnabas, alms from the Christians of Antioch for 'the brethren that dwelt in Judea' (Acts 11:27 ff.).  On the occasion of his third Jerusalem visit--which took place c. A.D. 51, fourteen years after the first (Ga. 2:1)--he attended the Council of Jerusalem (Acts 15:22), at which it was agreed that he and Barnabas should take the gospel to the Gentiles (Gal. 2:9).  At the same time, Paul tells us, James, Peter, and John expressed the desire that he and Barnabas should remember the poor--meaning in particular, no doubt, the poor Christians in Jerusalem--'which very thing', Paul adds, 'I was also zealous to do' (Gal. 2:10).....The next specific reference to the collection of money for the relief of the Christians at Jerusalem is found near the end of I Corinthians.  There Paul instructs the Corinthians (as he had also previously instructed the Galatians) to lay aside some money, according to the prosperity of each individual, on every first day of the week, telling them that in due course, after his arrival in Corinth, he would make arrangements for this money to be taken to Jerusalem ( Cor. 16:1 ff.).  The matter is taken up again at greater length in the two chapters of our present epistle which we are now about to consider, and from which it is seen that the members of the Macedonian churches had responded with the utmost generosity to Paul's appeals for funds.  The year after writing II Corinthians (that is, c. A.D. 58) he informs the Romans that he is going to Jerusalem taking with him contributions from Macedonia and Achaia (of which Corinth was the capital city) for 'the poor among the saints' there (Rom. 15:25ff.).  This was the occasion of his fifth journey to Jerusalem (a fourth having taken place some four years previously, as Acts 18:22 indicates), and it was undertaken, as Paul explained to Felix, the governor of Caesarea, 'to bring alms to my nation, and offerings' (Acts 24:17)."  "Taken from The Second Epistle to the Corinthians by Philip Hughes.  Copyright 1962 by Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co."

1. Principle #1: The motivation for true giving comes from God. (8:1-9)

"And now, brothers, we want you to know about the grace that God has given the Macedonian churches.  Out of the most severe trial, their overflowing joy and their extreme poverty welled up in rich generosity.  For I testify that they gave as much as they were able, and even beyond their ability.  Entirely on their own, they urgently pleaded with us for the privilege of sharing in this service to the saints.  And they did not do as we expected, but they gave themselves first to the Lord and then to us in keeping with God's will.  So we urged Titus, since he had earlier made a beginning, to bring also to completion this act of grace on your part.  But just as you excel in everything---in faith, in speech, in knowledge, in complete earnestness and in your love for us---see that you also excel in this grace of giving.  I am not commanding you, but I want to test the sincerity of your love by comparing it with the earnestness of others.  For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sakes he became poor, so that you through his poverty might become rich."

Thought Question #1:  What do you learn from these verses about the proper way to encourage Christians to give financially?

 

 

Thought Question #2:  What do you read in these verses that motivate you to give?

 

 

a. God-motivated giving is SACRIFICIAL. (8:1-3a)

"And now, brothers, we want you to know about the grace that God has given the Macedonians churches.  Out of the most severe trial, their overflowing joy and their extreme poverty welled up in rich generosity.  For I testify that they gave as much as they were able, and even beyond their ability."

Because of God's grace toward them, the poor Macedonian churches were given the ability to give generously even well beyond what they could actually afford.  Giving that comes from God will always be characterized by this type of sacrificial generosity.  It is this type of sacrificial giving that has led the church to begin such ministries as rescue missions, the Salvation Army, orphanages, and hospitals.

b. God-motivated giving is SEEN AS A PRIVILEGE. (8:3b-4)

"Entirely on their own, they urgently pleaded with us for the privilege of sharing in this service to the saints."

A true test of giving that comes from God is that it does not require any type of pressure or even any urging from others, it comes from the heart and is initiated by the giver and not by a plea from the one needing the finances.  Here, we see the very opposite of what often happens in the church today.  Those that wanted to give, plead for the privilege of giving rather than the one with the need doing the pleading.

c. God-given giving is PRECEDED BY THE GIVING OF ONE'S WHOLE LIFE TO

GOD. (8:5)

"And they did not do as we expected, but they gave themselves first to the Lord and then to us in keeping with God's will."

We are not to give 10% to the Lord and the rest is ours.  If we see the truth, we will realize that all that we have and even our own lives belong to the Lord.  True giving is preceded by the giving of our whole self to God.  A retired minister was thanked for allowing a camp to use his pick-up.  He said, with a twinkle in his eye, "It is not mine, if it was mine I would not let you use it."  This is the spirit of true giving, the awareness that all we have is God's.  It includes the awareness that we are stewards of His possessions to give them out where they can best be used to help and reach those with the greatest needs.

d. God-given giving is MORE THAN GOOD INTENTIONS. (8:6)

"So we urged Titus, since he had earlier made a beginning, to bring also to completion this act of grace on your part."

Someone has said, "When all is said and done, there will be more said than done."  The church at Corinth had expressed their intention to give.  But, true giving always goes beyond good intentions to the actual giving.  Paul urged Titus to give the church at Corinth the opportunity to complete their expressed intention to give, by allowing them the opportunity to actually do the giving.

e. The God-given desire to give SHOULD BE PART OF THE LIFE OF EVERY

EARNEST FOLLOWER OF JESUS CHRIST (8:7)

"But just as you excel in everything---in faith, in speech, in knowledge, in complete earnestness and in your love for us---see that you also excel in this grace of giving."

Some might say, "I do not have the gift of giving."  Paul reveals here, though, that God gives us all the grace to give.  Some, of course, are gifted in this way more richly than others.  Giving is characteristic of all Christians who are filled with all that God gives us, such as faith, knowledge, and love.  God-enriched, spiritually-alive Christians will also be giving Christians.

f. God-given giving is TOTALLY VOLUNTARY. (8:8)

"I am not commanding you, but I want to test the sincerity of your love by comparing it with the earnestness of others. "

No one can love on command, so also no one can give in love on command.  Genuine giving can only come from our hearts.  Nevertheless, Paul is seeking to stir up this type of love by using the example of the love of the Macedonian churches.

g. God-given giving FOLLOWS THE PATTERN OF JESUS CHRIST'S GIVING.

(8:9)

"For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sakes he became poor, so that you through his poverty might become rich."

How can the Christian who knows how much Christ has given for us, not give from the heart to others?  Jesus, who was the richest of all, chose to become poor so that we could become rich.  He gave up Heaven and took our Hell so that we could share in His Heaven.  If we truly understand what He gave up and what He paid for us, nothing we give will be too much!

2. Principle #2: THE MOTIVATION IS MORE IMPORTANT THAN THE

AMOUNT GIVEN. (8:10-12)
"And here is my advice about what is best for you in this matter.  Last year you were the first not only to give but also to have the desire to do so.  Now finish the work, so that your eager willingness to do it may be matched by you completion of it, according to your means.  For if the willingness is there, the gift is acceptable according to what he does not have."

Thought Question:  What concerns in the area of giving is Paul dealing with in these verses?

 

 

The church at Corinth may have been waiting to give until they had more to give.  This can be a problem in giving.  We do not give because we believe we have so little to give.  Paul puts the emphasis on their willingness to give rather than on how much they could give.  He urges them to complete their giving according to what they were able to give at the time; rather than feel that they had so little, so why should they give at all.  God does not need us to give to Him, but He does desire that we have a giving heart.  It is the giving heart that pleases Him, not the quantity of our giving.

3. Principle #3: THE PURPOSE OF VOLUNTARY GIVING IS TO ENABLE

THOSE THAT ARE LACKING TO SHARE IN OUR ABUNDANCE. (8:13-15)
"Our desire is not that others might be relieved while you are hard pressed, but that there might be equality.  At the present time your plenty will supply what they need, so that in turn their plenty will supply what you need.  Then there will be equality, as it is written:  'He who gathered much did not have too much, and he who gathered little did not have too little.'"

Thought Question:  Is Paul teaching communism in these verses?  What is he teaching?

 

 

The goal of giving is to bring equality.  Those who have much will share with those who have little, thus bringing closer together the haves and the have nots.  All over the world we see a great division between the rich and the poor.  This great division should not take place between Christians.  The rich should narrow the gap between themselves and the poor by giving out of their riches to make the poor less poor.

Paul, however, is not teaching Communism in these verses.  For the equality that he is encouraging here comes through voluntary giving, not involuntary giving.  He is not promoting the Communist view that the government should dictate that all people should have an equal amount of money and possessions.  Also, we know from II Thessalonians 3:6-15 that Paul does not include among those that the rich should help out, those who are voluntarily idle.  According to Paul in these verses, if they do not work, they should not be provided with food.
So, Paul is teaching a voluntary giving to those who are actually needy, rather than a dictatorial and governmental program to make everyone equal.

The giving in the very first church was of this type:  "All the believers were one in heart and mind.  No one claimed that any of his possessions was his own, but they shared everything they had.  ... There were no needy persons among them.  For from time to time those who owned lands or houses sold them, brought the money from the sales and put it at the apostles' feet, and it was distributed to anyone as he had need." See Acts 4:32-37

4. Principle #4: THE COLLECTION OF MONEY IS TO BE CAREFULLY

ORGANIZED. (8:16-9:5)

a. TO SAFEGUARD AGAINST CRITICISM (8:16-24)

"I thank God, who put into the heart of Titus the same concern I have for you.  For Titus not only welcomed our appeal, but he is coming to you with much enthusiasm and on his own initiative.  And we are sending along with him the brother who is praised by all the churches for his service to the gospel.  What is more, he was chosen by the churches to accompany us as we carry the offering, which we administer in order to honor the Lord himself and to show our eagerness to help.  We want to avoid any criticism of the way we administer this liberal gift.  For we are taking pains to do what is right, not only in the eyes of the Lord but also in the eyes of men.  In addition, we are sending with them our brother who has often proved to us in many ways that he is zealous, and now even more so because of his great confidence in you.  As for Titus, he is my partner and fellow worker among you; as for our brothers, they are representatives of the churches and an honor to Christ.  Therefore show these men the proof of your love and the reason for our pride in you, so that the churches can see it."

Thought Question:  What safeguards for the handling of money do we find in these verses?

 

 

We are to take pains, as Paul did here, to avoid any possibility that someone might justly accuse us of mishandling money given to the church.  Here, Paul chooses to avoid personally handling the church's money, but delegates this responsibility to three dependable men.  The three men were Titus, the brother mentioned in verse 18, and the brother mentioned in verse 22.

"the brother who is praised by all the churches for his service to the gospel" of verse 18 is never mentioned by name. Also, the brother mentioned in verse 22 is unknown to us: "In addition, we are sending with them our brother who has often proved to us in many ways that he is zealous…"   These two men were probably mentioned by name somewhere in the New Testament.  Some of the names that are suggested are Barnabas and Luke. Some others are eliminated because they were Macedonians (like Aristarchus, Sopater, and Secundus), for according to 9:4 no Macedonians were coming at that time.  What we do know about these men is that they were honorable men.  The "brother" of verse 18 was "praised by all the churches for his service to the gospel."  And the brother of verse 22 had proven "in many ways that he is zealous."  In verse 23, Paul says that these two unnamed brothers were "an honor to Christ."

There is much wisdom we can gain from these verses about how we should handle money in our churches.  First of all, more than one person should be involved in the handling of money  The practice of requiring that checks be signed by at least two officers in a church is based on this same principle.  It is wise also to always have offerings counted by two individuals.  This wise pattern for the handling of offerings lowers the likelihood that someone will be able to justly charge that the money that is being given to the church is being mishandled.  The church needs not only to seek to do what is right before God, but we also need to make every attempt to avoid even the appearance before men that there might be a mishandling of the money.

Notice also that Paul emphasizes the character of the men who will be handling the money.  They were "an honor to Christ."  We also need to assure that the money in the church is being handled by Christians of proven character. 

One of those who was to handle this money was chosen by the churches.  "What is more, he was chosen by the churches to accompany us as we carry the offering." (8:18)  In verse 23, Paul says the both of the unnamed brothers "are representatives of the churches…"  Paul assures them that it was the churches who were behind this giving to the church at Jerusalem.  It was not Paul's one-man crusade.  It is also not wise for a church leader or a Pastor in today's world to be in control of the money that is given to a church.

Furthermore, Paul and Titus were not just concerned for the church at Jerusalem.  Then, they might have been looked upon as those who were fleecing the other churches for their pet church.  Paul starts out this section of verses in this way:  "I thank God, who put into heart of Titus the same concern I have for you."  Paul was concerned about the church in Jerusalem and the church at Corinth.  Christian money raisers can be so concerned about the ministry they are raising support for, that they can become insensitive to the people they are seeking to raise the support from.  Paul was equally concerned for both.  We need to follow Paul's example, and be equally concerned for those who are giving the money and for those who are receiving the money.

b. TO ENSURE THAT THERE IS A SPECIFIC TIME FOR THE MONEY TO BE

COLLECTED (9:1-5a)
"There is no need for me to write to you about this service to the saints.  For I know your eagerness to help, and I have been boasting about it to the Macedonians, telling them that since last year you in Achaia were ready to give; and your enthusiasm has stirred most of them to action.  But I am sending the brothers in order that our boasting about you in this matter should not prove hollow, but that you may be ready, as I said you would be.  For if any Macedonians come with me and find you unprepared, we---not to say anything about you---would be ashamed of having been so confident.  So I thought it necessary to urge the brothers to visit you in advance and finish the arrangements for the generous gift you had promised."

Thought Question:  Do you think it would be better if we did not have an offering each Sunday in our churches, but just said that people can give whenever they want to give?  Please explain your answer. 

 

 

Not making specific plans for a time to get something done, often leads to never getting it done.  Without a planned time to eat, we may end up missing a meal.  Without a planned time for prayer, we may go all day without praying.  Also, without a planned time for giving, we often will not get around to giving.  Paul knew human nature and even though the Corinthian Christians fully intended to give, unless they were given specific instructions on how and when to give, they may not carry out what they fully desired to do.

c. TO KEEP THE GIVING FREE FROM PRESSURE (9:5b)

"Then it will be ready as a generous gift, not as one grudgingly given."

Thought Question:  What are some ways that modern-day churches can put pressure on people to give?  What are some ways we can remove the pressure so that Christians can give without any of this type of pressure?

 

 

Paul sent men ahead of him, so that they would not feel any pressure to give because of his presence.  The worst example of using improper pressure to get people to give occurred when Oral Roberts said that God had told him that He would take his life if a specified amount of money was not raised.  Whenever a Christian tries to get people to give for any other reason than that it is what they desire to do out of love for others and for God, it is wrong.  The Pastor in the church I attend does an excellent job of encouraging giving without putting improper pressure on us.  We are freed to give as our conscience dictates, rather than as some Christian leader dictates us to give.

5. Principle #5: THE RESOURCES FOR GIVING WILL BE BOUNTIFULLY

PROVIDED BY THE LORD. (9:6-14)
"Remember this:  Whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows generously will also reap generously.  Each man should give what he has decided to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver.  And God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that in all things at all time, having all that you need, you will abound in every good work.  As it is written: 'He has scattered abroad his gifts to the poor; his righteousness endures forever.'   Now he who supplies seed to the sower and bread for food will also supply and increase your store of seed and will enlarge the harvest of your righteousness.  You will be made rich in every way so that you can be generous on every occasion, and through us your generosity will result in thanksgiving to God.  This service that you perform is not only supplying the needs of God's people but is also overflowing in many expressions of thanks to God.  Because of the service by which you have proved yourselves, men will praise God for the obedience that accompanies your confession of the gospel of Christ, and for your generosity in sharing with them and with everyone else.  And in their prayers for you their hearts will go out to you, because of the surpassing grace God has given you.  Thanks be to God for his indescribable gift!"

Thought Question:  List any principles of giving that you find in these verses.

 

 

Here we are given the laws of the harvest.  They can be summed up by these statements:  (1) A cheerful giver always has something to give, or (2) we never lose by giving.

a. WE REAP ACCORDING TO WHAT WE SOW. (9:6)

"Remember this:  Whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows generously will also reap generously."

Paul uses farming as an example to teach us about giving.  It is a foolish farmer who thinks that he can get a prosperous crop from only planting a few seeds.  It is also foolish for Christians to believe that we will reap a harvest in God's work if we give only sparingly.  We will reap God's harvest to the degree that we give.

b. WE REAP ACCORDING TO HOW WE SOW. (9:7)

Each man should give what he has decided to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver."

God loves a cheerful giver.  True giving comes from the heart.  A false rule for giving is as follows:  If we do not enjoy giving, then we should not give.  Instead, we need to discover why it is that we do not enjoy giving.  The principles that are taught in these two chapters (8 and 9) will enable us to go from begrudging givers to joyful givers.

c. WE WILL REAP BECAUSE AS GOD PROVIDES SEED TO PLANT IN THE

GROUND, SO HE WILL PROVIDE US WITH THE RESOURCES TO GIVE TO THE NEEDY. (9:8-11a)
"And God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that in all things at all time, having all that you need, you will abound in every good work.  As it is written: 'He has scattered abroad his gifts to the poor; his righteousness endures forever.'   Now he who supplies seed to the sower and bread for food will also supply and increase your store of seed and will enlarge the harvest of your righteousness.  You will be made rich in every way so that you can be generous on every occasion,"
 
God promises the giver that he will always be supplied with what he needs, so that he can continue to give.  See Proverbs 11:24,25,19:17 and Luke 6:38

Ministries with questionable motives can use God's promise to bless the giver, to fill their own coffers.  "If you give to us, God will bless you."  The more you give to us the more God will bless you.  Ray Stedman, in his commentary on this book in the Bible, tells about a friend who received a letter like this and how he handled it:  "A friend of mine replied to a letter in which he was told, 'You can't outgive God.  We have figured it out, therefore, if you and everybody else who hears our program send $67 to us, we'll have all the money we want and God will give it back to you five times over.'  He wrote back and said, 'I believe that.  I believe that you can't outgive God.  But I tell you what:  You give me the $67 and God will give it back to you five times over.  Then you get the bigger amount!'  For some reason they took him off the mailing list!"  "Taken from Expository Studies in 2 Corinthians by Ray Stedman.  Copyright 1982 by Word Books."

d. WE WILL REAP BECAUSE OF THE THANKSGIVING AND GLORY GIVEN TO

GOD (9:11b-13)
"and through us your generosity will result in thanksgiving to God.  This service that you perform is not only supplying the needs of God's people but is also overflowing in many expression of thanks to God.  Because of the service by which you have proved yourselves, men will praise God for the obedience that accompanies your confession of the gospel of Christ, and for your generosity in sharing with them and with everyone else."

 Our giving will accomplish the highest goal of all, God will be glorified as men and women see God's love expressed through us and as those who received what we give thank God for His provision through us.

e. WE WILL REAP BECAUSE OF THE LOVE AND UNITY THAT IS PRODUCED.

(9:14)
"And in their prayers for you their hearts will go out to you, because of the surpassing grace God has given you."

The giving will create the very opposite of a vicious and downward circle.  It will produce what can be called a glorious and upward circle.  Your giving will increase others' love and concern for you and draw the two of you closer into a unity with each other.

f. WE WILL REAP BECAUSE WE WILL GROW IN OUR KNOWLEDGE OF HOW

MUCH GOD HAS GIVEN TO US. (9:15)
"Thanks be to God for his indescribable gift!"

As Paul considers (1) that it is God's grace that has produced the giving heart among the Corinthian Christians, (2) that their giving will result in thanksgiving to God from those who receive the gift, and (3) that their giving will draw the givers and those who receive the gift together; Paul's heart is widened and he gives thanks to God for His gift that made all of this possible.  When we give, it also leads us toward gaining more of an understanding of how much God has given to us.

TRIUMPH OVER SATAN'S ATTACKS (10): THE USE OF OUR DIVINELY POWERFUL WEAPONS

Introduction:

One of the teachings in the Bible is that we are victors in Christ.  Satan's goal is to convince us that this is not true.  His goal is to get us discouraged, intimidated, weary, down, and defeated.  Satan's efforts against the church at Corinth had been so successful that even Paul was discouraged.  See 2:12,13,7:5,6  Satan likes nothing better than to see Christians with their tails between their legs.  God enabled Paul to rise above his discouragement. Throughout II Corinthians, Paul explains how our relationship with God provides us with a constant and sufficient source of encouragement and strength in the midst of even the most difficult of struggles.  In these verses, Paul explains how we can stand up to Satan's attacks and come out triumphant.

1. Our divine weapons and their power (10:1-6)

a. Our divine weapons are powerful because of the presence of Jesus Christ in

us. (10:1-2)
"By the meekness and gentleness of Christ, I appeal to you---I, Paul, who am 'timid' when face to face with you, but 'bold' when away!  I beg you that when I come I may not have to be as bold as I expect to be toward some people who think that we live by the standards of this world. "

Thought Question:  Based on these two verses, what do you believe were some of the charges that were being made by Paul's critics?

 

 

Paul was charged with being afraid of them.  His critics at Corinth said that he only had the courage to be bold toward them when he was away from them.  In other words, he could be bold to them in his letters, but he would have been afraid of them if he had been with them.  They also said that the reason he had been gentle with them when he was at Corinth was also because he was intimidated by them.  From their twisted portrayal of him, he was much the same as a little dog who will bark at your heels but will back off if you turn and face it.  In short, Paul was being accused of being brave when he was away from them but cowardly when he had to face them.

Paul explains that because Jesus is in him, he can be either gentle or bold.  But, Paul would prefer not to have to come back to them and boldly confront those who were judging him.  They were judging him by their worldly standards and were not recognizing his Christ-like motives.

Paul, though, was not at all intimidated by his critics or by the church members at Corinth.  The life of Christ in him enabled him to be bold or gentle.  Because of Christ in him, he could choose to do that which would best help those to whom he was ministering.  The life of Christ in us also gives us the same ability to be bold and gentle.  We also should choose to do that which will best help our family members, church members, and others.  There is both a time to be gentle and also a time to be bold.

b. Jesus divinely empowers us to conquer strongholds of evil. (10:3-6)

"For though we live in the world, we do not wage war as the world does.  The weapons we fight with are not the weapons of the world.  On the contrary, they have divine power to demolish strongholds.  We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.  And we will be ready to punish every act of obedience, once your obedience is complete."

God has provided us with God-empowered weapons that enable us to be victorious against our invisible and supernatural enemy---Satan and his forces.  Has God put us into a war with evil-supernatural forces and than has not provided us with weapons that can enable us to win is this war?  That is totally inconsistent with all that we know about God.  No, the weapons He gives us are divinely powerful and give us the ability to conquer Satan's strongholds of evil.

Thought Question #1:  What do you believe are the strongholds that Paul is referring to in these verses?

 

 

Thought Question #2:  What do you think our spiritual weapons are that are able to conquer strongholds?

 

 

Thought Question #3:  Why do you think our spiritual weapons are able to conquer strongholds?

 

 

(1) Our spiritual weapons enable us to conquer every stronghold of evil we

encounter (every proud, high attempt to overcome the truth of God). (10:3-5a)
In our world we see every type of Satanic stronghold.  Satan's way of thinking has captured the minds of men in every way.  Good is being called evil and evil is being called good.  True love is being replaced with free love.  False religions are telling us that we are all gods.  Humanists are telling us that we were not created, but we evolved.  Every type of lie is being presented as the truth.  As Christians we have God's divinely powerful weapons to storm each of Satan's strongholds and conquer them.  Some of God's weapons are love, truth, boldness, gentleness, and prayer.  Those weapons are stronger than hate, lies, drunkenness, and immorality.

(2) These divinely powerful spiritual weapons enable us to take captive to

Christ the minds of those we conquer. (10:5b)
Once these strongholds of evil have been conquered and the walls are down, we can take captive to Christ the minds of those who were once captive to Satan.  This is what Paul through Christ was able to do with the Corinthian Christians.  This is also what God has done in the life of each of us who are Christians.  Through the Christians who influenced us, God tore down the walls that once held us captive, and we became children of truth where once we were captive to lies.

Now, we each are to use the same weapons to conquer still more for Christ.  I John 4:1-6 describes how this victory takes place in all that come to believe in Jesus Christ.  God is greater than he that is in the world; and He has enabled us to come to the truth even though Satan has created a false and counterfeit maze all around us in this world.  The fact that any of us believe shows us that God's weapons are more powerful than Satan's weapons.

Tasker, in his commentary on II Corinthians, makes this observation. "One of the most astonishing and undeniable arguments for the truth of the Christian religion, and for the omnipotence of God, is the fact that when faced with the gospel, which is a scandal to the human intellect and folly to proud, unregenerate men, some of the most subtle of human intellects have been led to render submission to the Saviour.  Many of the wisest have been content to become as fools for Christ's sake, and not a few of the 'freest' of thinkers have surrendered their 'freedom' to become slaves of Him who took upon Himself the form of a  servant."  "Taken from The Second Epistle of Paul to the Corinthians by R.V.G. Tasker.  Copyright 1977 by Wm. B. Eerdman's Publishing Company."

(3) These divinely powerful spiritual weapons enable us to punish the

disobedience of those who rebel. (10:6)
Those who participate in Satan's attacks on God and His truth will not win.  Here, Paul is first concerned about rescuing the true believers at Corinth from Satan's schemes.  Then, only after seeking to rescue those who are receptive to him, did he put his focus on punishing those who were doing the work of the enemy there.  How could he punish them?  In other books, he punishes the rebellious by turning them over to Satan (see I Corinthians 5:5 and I Timothy 1:20), by commanding the church to no longer fellowship with them (see II Thessalonians 3:6-15), and by exposing their sin and hypocrisy.  Paul was far from toothless.  The enemies of God are obviously in the most fearsome state, for they are choosing to attack God.  They are choosing to leave God's safe paths and are choosing instead to go out on paths where God forbids them to go.

Notice in these verses the comparison to the stages in triumph over a fortified city.  First, you must tear down the walls; then you take captive those who were once inside the walls; and, finally, you punish the enemies.  In the same way, God's people are to storm and tear down Satan's fortresses of evil and take captive men and women who are prisoners in these strongholds.  We are not to shrink back from any of Satan's strongholds, be it humanism, evolution, a false religion, or any one of Satan's strongholds of the mind.  Are God's people truly victorious against Satan's strongholds of evil?  Every Christian who has ever lived is evidence that Satan's strongholds are being conquered.  For Christians have come from every background: witchcraft, humanism, false religion, and many more of Satan's strongholds.

These verses also describe how each Christian is to deal with Satan's constant attack on our minds.  We are to recognize and not be taken in by all of Satan's arguments against the knowledge of God.  Instead, we are "to demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God."  See II Corinthians 10:5  Then we are to take all of our thoughts captive to Christ's type of thinking.

2. How we use our divinely powerful weapons when our ministry is attacked

(10:7-18)
Paul's authority as an Apostle was attacked:  "Who do you think you are?"  "Who gives you the right?"  "You are so bold when you write to us, but you are shy and timid when you are with us!"  Notice how Paul responds to these attacks.  It provides us with a pattern for how we can respond when we and our ministry is attacked.

a. When we are told that our ministry is inferior to others' ministry, we need

to establish our equality with others before Jesus Christ. (10:7-12)
"You are looking only on the surface of things.  If anyone is confident that he belongs to Christ, he should consider again that we belong to Christ just as much as he.  For even if I boast somewhat freely about the authority the Lord gave us for building you up rather than pulling you down, I will not be ashamed of it.  For some say, "His letters are weighty and forceful, but in person he is unimpressive and his speaking amounts to nothing.  Such people should realize that what we are in our letters when we are absent, we will be in our actions when we are present.  We do not dare to classify or compare ourselves with some who commend themselves.  When they measure themselves by themselves and compare themselves with themselves, they are not wise."

Thought Question:  Some of us have been told at one time or many times that compared to some other Christians, we just do not measure up.  Paul was told that he did not measure up.  What do you find in Paul's answer that is an encouragement to you that God can use you effectively in His work?

 

 

Some were concluding that Paul was second-rate when he was compared with some other Christians.  So, therefore, he was not qualified to be their leader.  But, Paul explains here that when we use outward appearances and compare each other by looking at outward appearances, we are without understanding of the way God would have us to look at others and ourselves.

The way the nation of Israel chose their first king shows they were without understanding of how God looks at people.  They chose Saul, a man who was very kingly looking when compared to the other men around him.  Saul was "an impressive young man without equal among the Israelites--a head taller than any of the others."  See I Samuel 9:1,2  But God chose David who was not very kingly when compared outwardly to other men but was kingly in heart.  Paul may not have appeared like the type of person that the world would choose for a leader, but from God's point of view he was the best man to lead them.

Satan will also attack us in this same way.  He will tell us that we are not qualified to do God's work.  "Others are much more gifted and able than you are!"  That is not the question we should be asking.  The proper question is not "Do people think that others are superior to us?"  But, "Has God led us into this ministry?"  All Christians belong to Jesus Christ just as much as someone else.  There are no super Christians, thereby leaving the rest of us as little Christians.  And God has a place of ministry for all of His children.

We are all God's unique creations.  Each of us is superior to others in some areas and inferior to others in other areas.  This is God's design.  It does not make some superior and some inferior.  Instead, each of us is uniquely different than everyone else.  And God has a unique plan and ministry for each of us.  Paul was in God's place of ministry for him, but he was being told by some at Corinth that he did not compare well with some other leaders.  Paul could have been intimidated by their low opinion of him.  How would you and I respond to this type of attack?  How did Paul respond to their charges that he was inferior and should back off and let his betters carry on?  He responded by saying that comparing him with others (and others with others) has no place in God's ways.  Nor should we allow people's comparisons of us with others to discourage us in God's work.

Also, notice that in these verses Paul is not the slightest bit intimidated by their demeaning of him.  They said "his speaking amounts to nothing."  In their minds, compared to some others, Paul was not very eloquent.  They were trying to tear him down, but he was quite confident of his authority from God.  And his ministry was not like their words that attempted to tear him down; his ministry built people up!  When people tear us down.  We should remember that this never comes from God.  What comes from God always builds us up.

In addition, Paul is told that he is unimpressive when he is with them, but forceful in his letters.  Again, they do not intimidate Paul.  He warns them that he will be just as strong when he is with them as he has been when he was away from them.  Satan is constantly trying to discourage and intimidate us into shrinking away from God's calling for us.  Paul provides us with an example for how to meet these attacks and keep on moving forward in the work God has for us.

b. But we are to be like Paul, who did not boastfully compare himself to

others, but instead sought only to fulfill the ministry God had given to him. (10:13-14)
"We, however, will not boast beyond proper limits, but will confine our boasting to the field God has assigned to us, a field that reaches even to you.  We are not going too far in our boasting, as would be the case if we had not come to you, for we did get as far as you with the gospel of Christ."

Thought Question:  What do these verses tell us about how we can be confident in God's work?

 

 

Because he was confident that God had given to him the ministry he had performed at Corinth, Paul was not intimidated by the charges brought against him by his enemies at Corinth.  The Christians at Corinth were evidence that this was true.  Because Paul was not seeking to outdo anyone or to take away someone else's area of ministry, but was limiting himself to the area of ministry given to him by God, Paul's statements here about the successes of the ministry at Corinth were not a sinful type of boasting.  Those at Corinth who were competing over and boasting about who was the greatest were involved in a sinful type of boasting.

Paul needed to speak in glowing terms about what God had done through him in starting the ministry at Corinth, to defend against those who were seeking to take over the church at Corinth.  Because Paul's motive was not to build himself up in a prideful, self-centered way in the eyes of men, his boasting about what God had done through him was not what we would call bragging or "tooting your own horn."

c. Though we are not to seek to expand our work to others' area of ministry,

we are free to expand our area of ministry to the full. (10:15)
"Neither do we go beyond our limits by boasting of work done by others.  Our hope is that, as your faith continues to grow, our area of activity among you will greatly expand,"

Thought Question:  According to this verse, where can we minister wholeheartedly, and fully expect that God will bless us?

 

 

Paul was not intruding into someone else's area of ministry like a runner in a race illegally running in the wrong lane.  He was laboring in the mission field that God had given to him.  Paul could freely seek to fully expand his ministry to those at Corinth; for this was an area of ministry that God had led him to.  Paul was not stealing sheep; he was seeking to minister fully to the sheep God had given to him.  In actuality, at Corinth Paul's enemies were seeking to steal Paul's sheep from him!

God also gives us those he wants us to minister to, and we are also free to fully minister to them.  Who are those whom God has given to you to minister to?  Here are some possibilities:  (1) Your family members –Who else is more responsible to minister to your family members than you?  (2) Those you come in contact with each day – Few have a better opportunity to reach them and minister to them than you do.  (3) Those in a Sunday School class you teach or a children's ministry that you work with – You have been given a responsibility by your church to minister to them.  (4) Your Christian friends – Who else has gotten to know them and their spiritual needs better than you?  Just as Paul had his sheep, so you have your sheep.  You have those that you are to pray for, care for, and minister to as well.  You have God's authority, then, to minister to them as fully as you can in the Lord's strength.  And may God "expand" your area of ministry as God expanded Paul's area of ministry.

d. We are to fully fulfill our ministry in the areas God has given to us, so we

can, after successfully completing this ministry, expand our area of ministry to areas that are still untouched. (10:16)
"so that we can preach the gospel in the regions beyond you.  For we do not want to boast about work already done in another man's territory."

Thought Question:  What does this verse teach us about how we are to develop our vision for ministry?

 

 

Paul did not desire to minister to those who were already being ministered to.  In other words, he did not want to steal someone's sheep.  Today, churches can sometimes grow by drawing from the people in other churches.  The problem with this is that we are not widening our ministries, but only shifting the same people from church to church.  We should be doing what Paul suggests here.  We should be looking for people to minister to and areas to minister in that have not yet been reached. 

After we have ministered to those God has given to us, we should then begin to look for those who have not yet being reached.  If we do not do this, we can become ingrown or even worse; we can begin to compete over the same group of Christians.

e. And along the way we should be careful to give the glory to God and not to

ourselves for the ministry God has given to us. (10:17-18)
"But let him who boasts boast in the Lord.  For it is not the one who commends himself who is approved, but the one whom the Lord commends."

Thought Question:  According to these verses, what should be the main concern of those who are involved in Christian ministry?

 

 

It is easy for us to be concerned about what men think of our ministry.  Do men commend us or not?  But, even worse, we can be arrogant, evaluating how well we are doing in the ministry by how we feel we are doing.  Paul puts the ministry into proper perspective in these verses.  What is really important is whether or not God has His proper place in our ministry.  Are we most concerned about whether or not He is pleased with what we are doing?  Are we most concerned that He receives His rightfully deserved glory or are we most pleased if we are receiving the glory?  Paul's Corinthian critics commended themselves and did what pleased them, Paul boasted in God and did what pleased Him.

TRIUMPH OVER SATAN'S ATTACKS (PART II) (11:1-12:10)
(The Use of Our Divinely Powerful Weapons)

Introduction:

Satan will use any devious strategy or perverse individual he can to hinder and halt God's work.  Here, we see how Paul kept moving forward in triumph in spite of Satan's best attempts to stop him.

1. The weapon of love (11:1-15) (that produces divine boldness)

a. Paul's godly jealousy (11:1-6)

"I hope you will put up with a little of my foolishness; but you are already doing that.  I am jealous for you with a godly jealousy.  I promised you to one husband, to Christ, so that I might present you as a pure virgin to him.  But I am afraid that just as Eve was deceived by the serpent's cunning, your minds may somehow be led astray from your sincere and pure devotion to Christ.  For if someone comes to you and preaches a Jesus other than the Jesus we preached, or if you receive a different spirit from the one you received, or a different gospel from the one you accepted, you put up with it easily enough.  But I do not think I am in the least inferior to those 'super-apostles.'  I may not be a trained speaker, but I do have knowledge.  We have made this perfectly clear to you in every way."

Thought Question #1:  Develop a hypothetical threat to the modern-day church that would be similar to the threat to the church in Paul's time.  List any actual threats to the church today that are like your hypothetical threat.

 

 

Thought Question #2:  What is meant by another Jesus, a "different spirit" and a "different gospel"?

 

 

Thought Question #3:  What type of speaker do you believe Paul was?  Why would you have liked to or not liked to listen to him?

 

 

Because of the danger to the church at Corinth, Paul does what is against his character; he defends himself.  To Paul, he is like a father who presented this church as a virgin to be wed to Christ.  But, now it is in danger of being seduced away from Christ by another spirit other than the Holy Spirit, with another message other than the Gospel, and being presented to another Jesus rather than to the true Jesus Christ.  The false teachers are seeking to seduce the church at Corinth away from Paul by implying that because they are more eloquent than Paul is; they are super apostles.  Paul answers by saying that though it may be true that they are more eloquent than he is; he is not in any way inferior to these super apostles.  He is not inferior to them, for he possesses the truth and has presented it to them.  The priority is not how eloquently someone speaks, but it is whether or not what he or she is saying is the truth!

Just like what was happening at the church at Corinth in Paul's time, we also can be too easily fooled and seduced away from the truth by a modern-day "super-apostle" with an eloquent tongue.  We should not be seeking after colorful speakers, but we should be seeking after those who will give us God's truth!  Because there is an immediate threat that these Corinthian Christians may be seduced away from Christ as Satan seduced Adam and Eve away from God, Paul is jealously protective of this church that he gave to Christ.

What is meant by a different Jesus, a "different spirit," and a "different gospel" that Paul talks about in verse four?  Certainly, today there are many different versions of who Jesus is.  Each religion and cult has their own Jesus.  Just about everyone has a Jesus that fits his or her particular point of view.  Each is a different Jesus than the Jesus that is revealed in the Bible. Furthermore, there are also many different versions of the gospel or good news promoted by men and men's religions.  There are many "super-apostles" who are preaching a different Jesus than the Jesus of the Bible and a different gospel than the Gospel of the Bible. We always need to be careful that those in our churches and we are not being seduced into believing in a different Jesus and a different gospel.

The NIV Study Bible note on verse four has the following to say about what is meant by a "different spirit."  "A spirit of bondage, fear and worldliness (cf. Ro 8:15; I Co 2:12; Gal 2:4; 4:24; Col 2:20-23) instead of a spirit of freedom, love, joy, peace and power (cf 3:17; Ro 14:17; Gal 2:4; 5:1,22; Eph 3:20; Col 1:11; 2Ti 1:17)."  "Taken from NIV Study Bible.  Copyright 1995 by Zondervan Corporation."

But, Paul is also talking about them receiving unholy spirits or demons rather than the Holy Spirit.  Listen to what Paul says in I Timothy 4:1:  "The Spirit clearly says that in later times some will abandon the faith and follow deceiving spirits and things taught by demons."  Paul was concerned that these Corinthians would receive these doctrines taught by demonically directed teachers and depart from what has been taught by God's Spirit.  See Jude 3-4

What Paul says in verse six also deserves a little more of our time: "I may not be a trained speaker, but I do have knowledge.  We have made this perfectly clear to you in every way."  What do you look for primarily in a Christian speaker?  If you look primarily for an eloquent speaker, you would not have found Paul to be your man.  For Paul admits here that he was not a polished speaker.  See also 10:10  But, if you are looking primarily for a man of God who has a grasp of God's truth, there was no man in the history of the church that you would have more liked to listen to!

b. Paul's loving sacrifice (11:7-12)

"Was it a sin for me to lower myself in order to elevate you by preaching the gospel of God to you free of charge?  I robbed other churches by receiving support from them so as to serve you.  And when I was with you and needed something, I was not a burden to anyone, for the brothers who came from Macedonia supplied what I needed.  I have kept myself from being a burden to you in any way, and will continue to do so.  As surely as the truth of Christ is in me, nobody in the regions of Achaia will stop this boasting of mine.  Why?  Because I do not love you?  God knows I do!  And I will keep on doing what I am doing in order to cut the ground from under those who want an opportunity to be considered equal with us in the things they boast about."

Thought Question:  What charge or charges do you believe that Paul is responding to in these verses?

 

 

Paul's attackers are charging that he was worthless because he had served them for nothing.  But Paul's worth as an Apostle was not based on how much he was paid, but on how much he cared.  The reason he did not charge them anything was not because his ministry to them was worthless, but because he offered a Gospel that is free.  He did not want any of them to have the false impression that they had to pay for it.  See 12:13;   I Corinthians 9:18  He also made the Gospel available to them without receiving any financial support or pay from them, to expose, by contrast, those who seek to make use of the Gospel for selfish gain.  Sadly, there are always those who use the Gospel to make money for themselves or to gain prestige for themselves.

Are there "false apostles, deceitful workmen, masquerading as apostles of Christ" today?  See II Corinthians 11:13-15  Are there people today who are using the Gospel to make money or to gain prestige for themselves?  Certainly there are those who twist the Scriptures by saying that God will bless us financially if we send them money.  They eloquently seek to appeal to a greed for riches in us, but they will be the ones who become rich if we gullibly send them our money.  These false apostles are some of today's version of those Paul was dealing with at the church at Corinth.  Paul acted in the very opposite way from them.  He chose, sacrificially and out of love for them, not to receive any support from them, so that they might receive God's free gift of life through Jesus Christ, totally free of any cost to them.  He, instead, received his support from Christians from another region that also were giving sacrificially out of love for them.

Today, ministries should follow Paul's example.  Can we imagine Paul driving a Rolls Royce or living in a mansion?  Human success typically leads to wealth and a prestigious lifestyle.  Christian success, by contrast, leads to a Christian servant being willing to make any sacrifice that will help people to be receptive to God's message; the message that God is offering them the greatest gift of all absolutely free.  In our world (as in Paul's time), we are deluged with free offers that are not really free.  We as Christians need to do all we can to show that what God offers us is free, even if it means that it will cost us financially to offer this gift to our world.

c. Paul's loving boldness (11:13-15)

"For such men are false apostles, deceitful workmen, masquerading as apostles of Christ.  And no wonder, for Satan himself masquerades as an angel of light.  It is not surprising, then, if his servants masquerade as servants of righteousness.  Their end will be what their actions deserve."

Thought Question:  From these verses, how can you tell who is and who is not a false teacher?

 

 

Paul exposes the false teachers that were seeking to seduce the Christians at Corinth away from God.  Just as Satan puts on a mask of goodness and light, so Satan's apostles put on a mask of goodness and light.  We need to look deeper than the fine sounding words of the teachers.  We need to discover what the teachers are doing and seeking to do.  Are they following the example of Jesus Christ and Paul and seeking after our best at great cost to themselves?  Or are they seeking their best at great cost to others and us?  Also, we need to remember that what they gain and we lose may not only be financial.  For example, they may be seeking to gain control over us.  If we follow them, it may cost us our freedom to think and choose.  Here, Paul promises that these false teachers--- who are seeking to seduce God's people away from Christ--- will receive what they deserve.

2. The weapon of humility (11:16-29)

a. Paul's humble boasting (11:16-29)

(1) Paul's boasting is quite different from the boastful arrogance of
the "super apostles."  (11:16-21a)
"I repeat:  Let no one take me for a fool.  But if you do, then receive me just as you would a fool, so I may do a little boasting.  In this self-confident boasting I am not talking as the Lord would, but as a fool.  Since many are boasting in the way the world does, I too will boast.  You gladly put up with fools since you are so wise!  In fact, you even put up with anyone who enslaves you or exploits you or takes advantage of you or pushes himself forward or slaps you in the face.  To my shame I admit that we were too weak for that!

Thought Question:  What point is Paul primarily seeking to make in these verses?  Note that he is using sarcasm to make his point.

 

 

If the Corinthian Christians can put up with all the rotten things that these arrogant "super apostles" are doing to them, then they can put up with a little boasting from Paul (Which we will see is not boasting at all, but he is simply answering the false charges made by these false apostles).  Are we not all amazed at how false teachers can gain over their followers?  At times, they can gain so much control over them that they can manipulate large financial donations and even abuse them without losing their support.  The most tragic example of this type of control by a false teacher over his supporters was the Jim Jones massacre in South America a number of years ago.  Jim Jones had so much control over them that they even joined him in committing suicide.  This is the type of occurrence that Paul is seeking to prevent from happening at Corinth.  Through sarcasm, he is seeking to show them how ridiculous it is for them to submit to these types of leaders.

(2) Paul reluctantly boasts that his breeding matches theirs (11:21b-22)

"What anyone else dares to boast about---I am speaking as a fool---I also dare to boast about.  Are they Hebrews?  So am I.  Are they Israelites?  So am I.  Are they Abraham's descendants?  So am I."

Thought Question:  Why do you think Paul feels like a fool in saying what he does in these verses?

 

 

To answer these false teachers, Paul needs to become involved in the same type of thing that they were doing.  They were undoubtedly bragging about how their Hebrew background made them superior to other men.  Paul said in 10:12 that when we compare ourselves with others we "are not wise."  So, Paul joins their foolishness temporarily to make a point.  He could also use the same arguments they were using, for he also was a Hebrew.  But, Paul's goal was not to show them that he also was a member of a superior race.  His goal was to show the readers of this letter that it was not his racial background that was the basis for his boasting, but he has another boast.  Paul could match them in their breeding, but we will see that it is not his breeding that is most important to him.

Thought Question:  What do you think it will be that Paul will boast about?

 

 

(3) Paul chooses to not boast about his achievements as they were doing

(11:23-29)
"Are they servants of Christ?  (I am out of my mind to talk like this.)  I am more.  I have worked much harder, been in prison more frequently, been flogged more severely, and been exposed to death again and again.  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 own 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.  Besides everything else, I face daily the pressure of my concern for all the churches."

Thought Question:  Paul boasted of his sufferings; what can you learn about Paul's dedication to Christian service from what he suffered?  What can you learn about Christian dedication from him?

 

 

Paul does not choose to boast about his pedigree or his achievements, but he instead boasts about his sufferings and, later on, about his weaknesses.  Jesus said that the greatest among us are our servants.  The greatest servants are those who are willing to pay the most to serve others.  Here we see what Paul was willing to pay; what his life of service had cost him.  He worked harder than others.  He was in prison more often.  In the book of Acts, Paul was in prison five times.  But, Paul's imprisonment in Philippi is the only imprisonment mentioned in the book of Acts that is recorded before he wrote this letter.  So, he must have been in prison at times that are not recorded in the book of Acts.  He was beaten worse than others.  Again, all of his beatings must not be recorded.  For we have no record at all of the five times the Jews beat him or the three times someone beat him with rods.  In the book of Acts it is only recorded that he was beaten at Philippi. See Acts 16:19-24   He was stoned.See Acts 14:19  He was shipwrecked "three times."  The only shipwreck recorded in the book of Acts took place after Paul wrote this letter.  So, these three shipwrecks were not recorded in the book of Acts.  And he was in constant danger.  In 11:27, we see his voluntary suffering.  He worked to the point of exhaustion, went without sleep, went without food and drink, endured cold and a lack of clothing, and constantly took on his shoulders the needs of others.

b. Paul boasts in his weaknesses. (11:30-12:10)

(1) Paul boasts about being a "basket case" (being lowered down in one)

(PAUL IS HUMBLED) (11:30-33)
"If I must boast, I will boast of the things that show my weakness.  The God and Father of the Lord Jesus, who is to be praised forever, knows that I am not lying.  In Damascus the governor under King Aretas had the city of the Damascenes guarded in order to arrest me.  But I was lowered in a basket from a window in the wall and slipped through his hands."

Thought Question:  Can you think of a key time in your life when you moved forward in the Christian life through being humbled?

 

 

Here, we see what Paul enjoys boasting about to others.  He does not enjoy boasting about his achievements, but he enjoys boasting about when he first learned about his weakness.  As most new converts, Paul at first thought he had a great deal to offer God.  Paul was a Hebrew of the Hebrews.   Who could better reach the Jews than he could?  Instead, his efforts ended in total defeat.  Because the Jews he was trying to reach were seeking to take his life, he needed to be lowered over a wall in a basket to escape.  See Acts 9:23-25

True success in the Christian life comes through failure.  One of my favorite Christian books has been the book by Erwin Lutzer, Failure the Back Door to Success.  Sadly, we must fail in our strength and in our flesh before we are able to learn that we can only succeed in God's strength and in reliance on God's Spirit.  Even Paul needed to learn this lesson the hard way.  Two others who went from total failure to success God's way were Moses who failed to deliver the Israelites from the Egyptians in his own strength (See Exodus 2:11-15) and Peter who denied Jesus Christ (See Luke 22:54-62).  God mightily used both of them, but it wasn't until they totally failed that they were able to find God's strength in Christian service.

(2) Paul reluctantly boasts about a miraculous vision. (12:1-6) (PAUL IS

RAISED UP BY GOD.)
"I must go on boasting.  Although there is nothing to be gained, I will go on to visions and revelations from the Lord.  I know a man in Christ who fourteen years ago was caught up to the third heaven.  Whether it was in the body or out of the body I do not know---God knows.  And I know that this man---whether in the body or apart from the body I do not know, but God knows---was caught up to paradise.  He heard inexpressible things, things that man is not permitted to tell.  I will boast about a man like that, but I will not boast about myself except about my weaknesses.  Even if I should choose to boast, I would not be a fool, because I would be speaking the truth.  But I refrain, so no one will think more of me than is warranted by what I do or say."

Thought Question #1:  List evidences of Paul's humility that you find in these verses.

 

 

Thought Question #2:  What does the way Paul handled this vision tell us about how we should treat any special blessings we receive from God?  For example, how should we feel about God blessing us by making us His children?

 

 

The false teachers were seeking to prove to the Corinthian Christians that they were superior to Paul.  Undoubtedly, one of the ways they felt themselves to be superior to Paul was that they believed that they had received revelations that were superior to Paul.  Paul did not want to boast at all, but because their boasting was a challenge to his message and authority, he tells the church at Corinth of a vision he received.  Still, his boasting is not made so he will be noticed and raised up by men (which had no value to him):  (1) He does not even want to admit it was even he.  (2) He does not want this accounting of what happened to him to be used as a basis for judging him.  (3) God did it-it was not produced by his human efforts.  It was so much apart from his own human efforts that it was as if it had happened to someone else.  (4) Paul knows that this special experience that God blessed him with does not in any way make him superior to other men.  See Ephesians 2:8-10  (5) If he wanted to boast about visions, he had many and he could have listed them as he had listed his suffering.  For example, his miraculous conversion, see Acts 16:6,10, 22:1.  Also he had refrained from telling of this vision for 14 years, see 12:6.

*** THE VISION ***

"14 years ago": This vision, then, took place about ten years after his conversion, while he was in Tarsus.It would have happened just before he went to Antioch.  See Acts 9:30, 11:25

"caught up in the 3rd heaven": First heaven = the sky where the birds fly, second heaven = the space where the stars are located, third heaven =God's realm.  "Caught up" = He was not sure if he was taken up to Heaven in his body or if he was separated from his body.  In other words, he lost all sense of his body.  Here we have a small taste of what it will be like when we Christians are caught up to be with God.  He was unable to explain for us, though, what he experienced when he was in Heaven.  That immediately tells us that Heaven will be so totally different than what we experience today, that nothing in our present experience compares to it or can be used to explain it.  It is a little like the problem that we have trying to explain to a non-Christian what it is like to be a Christian. 

The way Paul handled this very special experience teaches us how we should
treat any special treatment that God gives us.  Should we use it to make us
celebrities?  It should humble us as it did Paul.  And it should not lead any of
us to ever think that we are super Christians.

**************

(3) Paul boasts about a miraculous affliction. (12:7-9a)

"To keep me from becoming conceited because of these surpassingly great revelations, there was given me a thorn in my flesh, a messenger of Satan, to torment me.  Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from me.  But he said to me, 'My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.'"

Thought Question #1:  What does this verse tell us about what goes on behind the scenes?  For example, does it give a possible reason for why we have diseases and troubles?

 

 

Thought Question #2:  Why do you think Paul does not tells us what his "thorn in the flesh" was?

 

 

Thought Question #3:  Do you have some problem in your life that has not gone away, though you have asked God to take it away a number of times?  If you do, what is there in these verses that is of help to you?

 

 

(a) The temptation!

If you work in an office where there are forty employees and the big boss takes a liking to you (takes you to lunch, gives you special treatment, etc.), what effect will that have on you?  This is similar to what happened to Paul.  The BIG BOSS gave him special treatment!

(b) He was given a thorn in the flesh to keep him from thinking he was

superior. (It was a constant reminder of his humanness.)
Paul boasts that he needed to be humbled.  He knew that, otherwise, he would have exalted himself as these false teachers were doing.

(c) What is the thorn?

Hughes, in his commentary on II Corinthians, gives the following possibilities for the identity of the thorn: "Of the more recent hypotheses there are several that deserve mention.  One is that Paul suffered from some severe form of opthalmia.  As evidence for this attention is drawn to Gal. 4:15 where Paul, who has just been speaking of 'an infirmity of the flesh' (v. 13), says that the Galatians would, if possible, have plucked out their eyes and given them to him.  It is further suggested that hints of defective eyesight may be discerned in Gal. 6:11, where the Apostle, when writing with his own hand, forms large letters; in Acts 23:5, where he fails to recognize the high priest; and in the temporary blindness associated with his conversion and accompanied, as some think, by a secretion because of the impression of scales falling from his eyes when his sight was restored. (Acts 9:9, 18)  Interesting though these suggestions may be, they are of very doubtful worth.  The reference to Gal. 4:15 has more substance, though it is possible that Paul is speaking metaphorically when he says that the Galatians would, if possible, have plucked out their eyes and given them to him, that is to say, they would have done anything to assist him in whatever distress he was enduring.  In our opinion, however, the qualification 'if possible' points to a literal rather than a metaphorical sense, so that it is more probable that in this passage there is an allusion to an actual affliction of the eyes; but whether this was connected with the Apostle's 'thorn in the flesh' is impossible to determine.  Another theory that has found favour is that Paul suffered from a form of epilepsy..... modern medical knowledge, when related to what we know of Paul, leads to the conclusion that the symptoms of epilepsy are unlikely to have been those of his 'thorn in the flesh'.  Perhaps no recent conjecture has aroused greater interest than that of Sir William Ramsay who strongly advocated the form of recurrent malarial fever which is known in the Eastern Mediterranean, and particularly in Pamphylia, as satisfying every symptom of Paul's infirmity deducible from the New Testament.  'In some constitutions', he writes, 'malaria fever tends to recur in very distressing and prostrating paroxysms, whenever one's energies are taxed for a great effort.  Such an attack is for the time absolutely incapacitating: the sufferer can only lie and feel himself a shaking and helpless weakling, when he ought to be at work.  He feels a contempt and loathing for self, and believes that others feel equal contempt and loathing. ... A strong corroboration is found in the phase: 'a stake in the flesh', which Paul uses about his malady (II Cor. 12:7).  ...Many other solutions have been advanced, such as hysteria, hypochondria, gallstones, gout, rheumatism, sciatica, gastritis, leprosy, lice in the head, deafness, dental infection, neurasthenia, an impediment of speech, and remorse for the tortures he had himself inflicted on Christians prior to his conversion; and no doubt there will be fresh proposals in years to come, for this is a matter which is unlikely to be regarded as closed while there are minds to speculate on it."  "Taken from The Second Epistle to the Corinthians by Philip Hughes.  Copyright 1962 by Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co."

What if Paul had told us what his thorn in the flesh was?  We probably would have thought that our thorns in the flesh are worse than his malady.  Because he did not tell us, we can believe that God's grace is sufficient for any thorn!

His thorn was called a "messenger of Satan."  This presents the possibility that Satan is the inventor of evil in our world-the inventor of such things as diseases, etc.  See Job 2:7; Luke 13:16  Though, the Bible is also clear that God allows evil to occur and uses Satan's evil work for His purposes.  See Job 2:10; Lamentations 3:38; Isaiah 45:7; Jeremiah 32:42

Paul was not healed of this disease because God had a reason for Paul having this thorn.  Its purpose was to humble Paul.  There are problems in each of our lives that do not go away, though we have prayed repeatedly that they would go away.  What is God's answer to us?  His "grace is sufficient"!  God is using those trials in our lives for His higher purpose.  When we face difficulties that do not go away no matter what we do or how intensely we pray; we need to remember that "God's grace is sufficient"!

(4) The formula for godly boasting (12:9b-10)

"Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ's power may rest on me.  That is why, for Christ's sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships.  For when I am weak then I am strong."

Thought Question #1:  What part do you believe that weakness plays in the degree to which we experience the Christian life as God wants us to experience it?

 

 

Thought Question #2:  What are some weaknesses, insults, and hardships that you can be thankful for?  Why can you be thankful for them?

 

 

(a) Why do Christians go through great suffering?

Paul was able to take pleasure in his great sufferings because it was these troubles that produced in him the weaknesses that made it possible for Christ's strength to be expressed through him.  This is one of the great paradoxes of the Christian life.  When we feel strong and confident in ourselves, we are really at that time a weak Christian.  But, when we feel very weak and helpless, then we are at the place where God wants us to be.  We are ready for Him to give us His strength.

If we understand this paradox, we will also be able to say with Paul, "for Christ's sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties.  For when I am weak, then I am strong."  Can we delight when we are insulted and treated unfairly?  We can if we believe that it is God's way of helping us to see our weakness, so that we will turn to His strength for our lives!

(b) When going through trials we need to remember Jesus' words to

Paul, "my grace is sufficient for you."
"Is sufficient" is one word in the present tense; it means that God's grace is continually sufficient for us, is always enough, or we always have all the grace we need.  We have all the grace we need for God's good plan for our lives.  We may not have all the grace we want for our plan for our lives, but we have all the grace we need for God's plan for our lives.  We need to ask ourselves, what is more important to us, physical comfort or that God might fulfill His plan for our lives?  For Paul, what was most important is that the power of Christ might be experienced in his life.

TRIUMPH OVER SATAN'S ATTACKS (PART II) (12:11-13:14)
(Paul's Responses to the Charges against him)

Introduction:

The theme of II Corinthians is triumph through weakness (through being humbled and humbling ourselves).  The false apostles believed the very opposite - that triumph comes through our strength (through exalting ourselves).  Instead of Paul seeking to defend himself by exalting himself, he defends himself by humbling himself.  It is with this strategy that he answers each of the charges that are made against him.

1. Charge #1: that he was inferior to the other apostles (12:11-12)

"I have made a fool of myself, but you drove me to it.  I ought to have been commended by you, for I am not in the least inferior to the 'super-apostles,' even though I am nothing.  The things that mark an apostle---signs, wonders and miracles---were done among you with great perseverance."

Thought Question #1:  According to these verses what is a sign that someone was an Apostle of God?

 

 

Thought Question #2:  How could Paul have been an Apostle of God and then say that he was "nothing"?

 

 

Thought Question #3:  How are these verses helpful to someone who has what is called an "inferiority complex"?

 

 

a. He could have tried to impress them Paul could have responded in the

typical and human way by trying to impress them with how God had uniquely revealed Himself to him; and he could have tried to impress them with all he (Paul) had accomplished.

b. How does he answer?

He first of all explains that he wishes that it had not been necessary for him to say anything to them to defend that he was an Apostle.  He was not looking for an opportunity to brag; instead he despised having to defend his ministry.  They should have recognized by the miracles that he performed when he was with them that he was an Apostle of God.  The miracles God enabled him to perform unmistakably declared this reality to the church at Corinth.  If they had recognized that he was an Apostle by the miracles he performed, he would not have had to say all that he says here.  For, as he says, only God could have done them.  And miracles like this were a sign that the person performing them was an Apostle.  See Acts 2:22, Hebrews 2:2-4, Romans 15:18-19

Yet, he says that even though he performed these great miracles that he is "nothing."  For, he knew that the miracles were accomplished not by Paul but by the grace of God.  He could take none of the credit.

Paul provides in these verses the final answer for anyone who feels that he is inferior to someone else.  Paul clearly states that he was not inferior to those who were puffed up and thought they were better than he was.  But, even though God had enabled him to perform miracles and even though he was an Apostle, he says that he was "nothing."  So, he did not think of himself as less than anyone, nor did he think of himself as being better than anyone else.  The truth is that not one of us is less than anyone else, nor are we better than anyone else.  We may not be equal to each other in our abilities (some are strong in one area and some are strong in others), but we are equal in our status with each other.  Feeling inferior or superior to someone else is not appropriate for us because it simply is not true.  We stand on the same level with Peter, Paul, Moses, and David.  They and we are sinners in need of God's grace.  Paul became an Apostle not because of anything superior about him but because of God grace.  He did not take pride in his position, as did the "super-apostles."  Instead, he was humbled and amazed that one who was so undeserving as he, was raised up by God to such a position of responsibility and privilege.  At the foot of the Cross, all men are equals!

2. Charge #2: that he treated the church at Corinth as inferior to the other

churches (that he was partial to the other churches) (12:13)
"How were you inferior to the other churches, except that I was never a burden to you?  Forgive me for this wrong!"

Thought Question:  From what Paul says here, what were Paul's critics using to charge Paul with treating the church at Corinth as inferior to the other churches?

 

 

Paul's critics were saying that Paul was treating the church at Corinth as inferior to the other churches of that time.  You may be surprised at why they were saying Paul was treating their church as inferior.  Why were they inferior, according to these critics?  They did experience all the miracles of his Apostleship, as did the other churches.  The only difference between the other churches and their church is that he did not allow them to pay him.  He sarcastically asks them to forgive him for this great wrong of not being a burden to them.  The Devil is a master at twisting the Christian's good deeds until they look like bad deeds.  Paul exposes how ludicrous this is.

3. Charge #3: that he was after their money (12:14-18)

"Now I am ready to visit you for the third time, and I will not be a burden to you, because what I want is not your possessions but you.  After all, children should not have to save up for their parents, but parents for their children.  So I will very gladly spend for you everything I have and expend myself as well.  If I love you more, will you love me less?  Be that as it may, I have not been a burden to you.  Yet, crafty fellow that I am, I caught you by trickery!  Did I exploit you through any of the men I sent you?  I urged Titus to go to you and I sent our brother with him.  Titus did not exploit you, did he?  Did we not act in the same spirit and follow the same course?"

 

 

Thought Question:  What do these verses teach us about how we should respond to false charges about us?

 

 

a. He took no money from them, but instead he was willing to spend all he

had on them. He did seek money from them to help the poor and persecuted church in Jerusalem.  Did they think that he was using this appeal for money to help those in Jerusalem as a ploy to get money from them for him?

b. His answer:

(1) He was like a parent to them.  Do parents seek to exploit their children?  He asks them to think about whether parents give money to their children or take money from their children.  Paul, like a parent, was not seeking to get their money, but was seeking their best.  (2) Titus and the other brother he sent to them also were not con artists, but they also were sacrificial servants who cared for them.  If he and the others loved them so much, should they love Paul and these men less?  Paul sarcastically asks them how they could allow his love for them to be twisted into a cause for him to be discredited before them.

Paul's best defense was his and his companions' consistent and selfless service of them.  Any type of defense will fall on deaf ears if our behavior is not consistent with our words.  Our best defense is also our selfless service of others.  When someone makes a charge against us that we have been selfish and greedy, our best defense is that our lives prove that we have been selfless.

4. Charge #4: that he was defending himself before them (12:19-21)

"Have you been thinking all along that we have been defending ourselves to you?  We have been speaking in the sight of God as those in Christ; and everything we do, dear friends, is for your strengthening.  For I am afraid that when I come I may not find you as I want you to be, and you might not find me as you want me to be.  I fear that there may be quarreling, jealousy, outbursts of anger, factions, slander, gossip, arrogance and disorder.  I am afraid that when I come again my God will humble me before you, and I will be grieved over many who have sinned earlier and have not repented of the impurity, sexual sin and debauchery in which they have indulged."

Thought Question #1:  According to these verses, when is it proper to defend ourselves and when is it not?

 

 

Thought Question #2:  What do we learn about the church at Corinth and about what can happen in other churches from these verses?

 

 

Was Paul being "defensive"?  Or, in other words, did Paul feel the need to defend his honor before them?  The answer is, "no," for two reasons:  (1) He does not need to defend himself to them for they are not his judges, God is his only judge.  See I Corinthians 4:3-5  (2) He is not defending himself for his sake, but for their sake-so that they will be strengthened in their walk with God.  He is defending himself against the charges made against him so that they will not be influenced by these false teachers and fall away from God----which will result in all kinds of ugliness among them like "quarreling, outbursts of anger, factions, slander, gossip, arrogance, and disorder."  He is not trying to free himself from their condemnation, but to free them from their fleshly lives.

Paul's list of what he might find at Corinth tells us what was taking place in the church at Corinth.  Also, it would continue to take place if they did not respond to his correction of them in this letter.  We see here that even though we are Christians, we can still respond in the wrong way to each other.  May this letter of Paul's also correct us, so that we will not act in the ways that Paul describes in these verses.

5. Charge #5: that he was weak (13:1-4)

"This will be my third visit to you.  Every matter must be established by the testimony of two or three witnesses.  I already gave you a warning when I was with you the second time.  I now repeat it while absent:  On my return I will not spare those who sinned earlier or any of the others, since you are demanding proof that Christ is speaking through me.  He is not weak in dealing with you, but is powerful among you.  For to be sure, he was crucified in weakness, yet he lives by God's power.  Likewise, we are weak in him, yet by God's power we will live with him to serve you."

Thought Question:  Some believe that Christians are weak because of our kindness and our willingness to forgive others.  According to these verses, are Christians who are following Jesus Christ to be weak?  Please explain your answer.

 

 

a. Was Paul weak?

He was weak in the same way that Christ was weak.  Jesus was voluntarily weak when He died on the cross, but God's power brought him back to life.  In the same way, Paul was weak in that he also did not lash back when they misjudged and mistreated him.  But, like Christ, he was not actually weak, for he did what he did voluntarily on their behalf.  If they rejected his kind words they would see how strong he could be.  In Isaiah 8:6,7 we find these words of the Lord:  "Because this people has rejected the gently flowing waters of Shiloah…..therefore the Lord is about to bring against them the mighty floodwaters of the River [Euphrates River – symbolizing the armies of Assyria]."  They had rejected God's message through the prophets, so God was going to get much stronger with them.  If The Corinthian Christians continued to reject Paul's gentle and caring words, he would need to get much stronger with them.

b. No, he is strong.

Through Paul, Jesus had not been weak among them, but He had strongly exposed their sin and powerfully revealed to them the truth.  If they do not turn from their sin, it will be necessary for Christ to be strong through Paul.  Then, they will have three witnesses that Paul is strong, for they will have already been warned twice; when he comes again on this third visit and rebukes them for their sin, they will have a third witness that he is not weak.  See Titus 3:9-11 

Hughes in his commentary on II Corinthians 12:14 makes the following observations about Paul's second visit.  The book of Acts only records one visit of Paul to Corinth before the letter of II Corinthians.  "In point of fact, what Paul says here is not the first indication in our epistle that he had already paid more than one visit to Corinth, for in 2:1 he tells the Corinthians that he had determined not to come to them again with sorrow, plainly implying he had already paid them one sorrowful visit.  This can refer only to a visit after the establishment of the Corinthian church, occasioned by conditions that had developed within the church which were a source of grief to him, and therefore after his first visit to Corinth for the purpose of founding a church there.  This is, incidentally, a further indication of the integrity of our epistle.  Verse 21 of our present chapter points to the same conclusion: 'I fear', Paul says, 'lest when I come, God should again humble me before you'.  We may conjecture that his second visit to Corinth took place during the course of his three years' stay in Ephesus (which is mentioned retrospectively by the Apostle in Act 20:31), that it was not only a sorrowful visit but also of brief duration"  "Taken from The Second Epistle to the Corinthians by Philip Hughes.  Copyright 1962 by Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co."

Hughes also comments on the quote "every matter must be established by the testimony of two or three witnesses."  "The second sentence is in fact a citation from Deut. 19:15.  As in Mt. 18:16, where it occurs in the teaching of Christ, Paul uses it without any introductory formula, such as 'according as it is written.'  Allusions to the same judicial canon are to be found in I Tim. 5:19, Jn. 8:17, Heb. 10:28, and I Jn. 5:8.  A man might not be condemned on the evidence of a single witness.  The minimum number of witnesses was two; and three were preferable to two."  "Taken from The Second Epistle to the Corinthians by Philip Hughes.  Copyright 1962 by Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co."   Paul provides three witnesses that he was not weak: his first two visits and what will happen if he needs to make another visit before they have corrected their behavior.

6. Charge #6: that he was failing the test of the false apostles (13:5-10)

"Examine yourselves to see whether you are in the faith; test yourselves.  Do you not realize that Christ Jesus is in you---unless, of course, you fail the test?  And I trust that you will discover that we have not failed the test.  Now we pray to God that you will not do anything wrong.  Not that people will see that we have stood the test but that you will do what is right even though we may seem to have failed.  For we cannot do anything against the truth, but only for the truth.  We are glad whenever we are weak but you are strong; and our prayer is for your perfection.  This is why I write these things when I am absent, that when I come I may not have to be harsh in my use of authority---the authority the Lord gave me for building you up, not for tearing you down."

Thought Question #1:  Why do you believe that Paul directs them to examine themselves to see if they are in the faith?  How does this apply to you and me?

 

 

Thought Question #2:  How does Paul's pattern for dealing with these Corinthians Christians tell us what should be our priority when we minister to others?

 

 

a. Had he failed?

Paul does not defend himself, but reveals that he is not the one who should be examined by them.  Those who are making charges that others are not right with the Lord need to first of all examine themselves to see if they are right with God.  Those who were charging that Paul was an inferior Christian should examine themselves to see whether or not they are Christians.  His concern is not whether he has passed the test, but whether they have passed the test.  See Matthew 7:1-5

b. He could have flexed his apostolic muscles, but he has chosen to write to

them even though it appears to be an act of weakness. He preferred to do that which seemed to be weak; in hope that it would lead to them turning from their sins before he arrived.  He preferred this to allowing them to continue in their sin until he arrived, so he could impress them with how he was able to strongly confront them to their face about their sin.  Paul had sought out the best way to turn them from their sin, not how he could most impress them.  When we are more concerned about others than we are concerned about ourselves, making a good impression will not be a factor in what we do.  Paul was more concerned about them than he was with impressing them with how strong he was.

Final Exhortation and Greetings (13:11-14)
"finally, brothers, good-by.  Aim for perfection, listen to my appeal, be of one mind, live in peace.  And the God of love and peace will be with you.  Greet one another with a holy kiss.  All the saints send their greetings.  May the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all."

Thought Question:  "Perfection" describes Paul's goal for this church.  What is the perfection the church we attend and we should be seeking?

 

 

Throughout both books to the Corinthian church Paul has told them what must be cleansed from their lives.  He has also described what it is that must replace their fleshliness and impurity.  Here, he summarizes his goals for them: perfection, peaceful unity, and love.  Perfection is when nothing needs to be repaired and everything is working as it should work.  This will happen when they are of one mind, living in peace, and the God of love and peace is with them!  Notice that he closes with a verse that includes all three Persons of the Trinity.  The Persons of the Trinity live in harmony and love, so should they.

Against every type of opposition, Paul continued to trust God and to do what was right.  He faced lies, hate, and arrogance with truth, love, and humility.  He continued to trust God in the most difficult of circumstances and against attack after attack by God's enemies.  He maintained his Christian character throughout with courage and perseverance.  And God did lead him in triumph!  Some rejected him and his message (God's message), but others received him and his message.  Nothing is different today.  If we follow Paul's example, God will also lead each of us in triumph!  Some will reject our message and us, but there will also be those who will receive our message and us.  May we catch the spirit of Paul and his AUTHENTIC CHRISTIANITY!

 

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