Friday, May 29, 2009

2 Corinthians: The Second Letter of Paul to the Corinthians


Paul felt the continued need to address some specific issues that threatened the early church in Corinth. Yet, the issues that threatened this early church are general enough to be applied to modern day churches and to individuals as well! The problem of false teachers and corrupt doctrine is evident even in today’s modern society as many believers and non believers alike are lured by the deceptions of false teachers who distort and disguise their messages. We must hold fast to the word of God or we will be susceptible to being swayed by false teachers. God’s word is like are yardstick to which we must measure whatever we hear. What we learn must be measured against God’s word and if it contradicts it must be discarded, regardless of the messenger. As believers we must continue to examine ourselves to make sure our doctrines are in accordance with the gospel and that our actions are in accordance with the Holy Spirit.

Chapters 1- 3: Comfort and Receive Comfort

Just as we receive comfort from God during the troubling moments in our lives, we should comfort one another. When we are rejected by the world as a result of our faith in God, we must remember that just as we share in the sufferings of Jesus, we shall also share the comfort and blessings. Think about it in this way: who can offer more comfort to us than our God who has the power to raise the dead? God, through his power can certainly use it to offer comfort. This message that is being written, the gospel message can be easily understood. Furthermore, God himself has given us the Holy Spirit “as a down payment in our hearts”. If others hurt you and cause you pain, do not let Satan use that to his advantage; Satan can use it to his advantage over you if you are not careful- instead offer comfort, forgive and show love.

Messengers Of The Gospel
As believers we are compared to an aroma or scent that permeates the air. For those who believe- the message is recognized as a message that leads to eternal life, but for those who reject God’s message, then the consequence is death. The abilities of the apostles (those who share the message of the gospel) receive their competence through God. The first covenant, which was the law given to the Israel through Moses in the Old Testament represented the Old Covenant. Since we could not even hope to meet God’s standards by following the law, that covenant led to death. We have a New Covenant now, based not on the letter of the law, but of the spirit, which based on mercy and grace leads to eternal life. The differences between the old and new covenants are clear when they are compared side by side:
Old Covenant Vs. New Covenant
Old Testament Vs. New Testament
The Letter of the law written on stone tablets Vs. The Spirit
The law given to Moses Vs. The redemption we receive through Jesus
Death Vs. Life
Works Vs. Faith & Grace
Fading Glory Vs. Eternal Glory
a veiled heart Vs. the veil is removed

Chapter 4: Stand Firm With Gods Message

Because of the mercy we have received, we should be more than willing to abandon anything shameful or deceitful. As a messenger we must never distort the message of God. Regardless of the reception we receive by our hearers- even if it is negative, we must never alter the gospel of God. So if our message is rejected, or criticized as being too hard to follow or too difficult to understand, we still must never concede to the pressures and change the gospel message to suit the tastes of those who listen. We must never compromise the truth of God! In fact, if the message of God is not easily understood by the hearers then it is for a reason. It is because the unbelieving people have been made blind by the corruption of this world. Their love of this world have calloused their hearts and veiled their minds so that they cannot begin to understand. They are as if they are blind and therefore they can not see or understand the message of the gospel or Jesus, the light of this world. The message of God, is compared to a treasure- which is contained in a worthless clay jar, so that the true value of the message may not be overshadowed by the either the container or messenger which is insignificant in comparison to the message. The believer of the message and the messenger of the gospel must never give up hope no matter what trials or opposition are faced. Even if our physical bodies are being worn, our spirits are being renewed. Any suffering is nothing at all compared to the eternal glory we will have. “For our momentary light affliction is producing for us an absolutely incomparable eternal weight of Glory. So we do not focus on what is seen, but on what is unseen; for what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.” 2Cor4:18

Chapters 5- 8

Mortal Life Vs. Eternal Life
Our physical bodies are comparable to a flimsy nylon tent. If that tent is frayed and destroyed- which it will certainly and eventually be- then we need not worry. We will have an eternal, permanent structure- a strong house from God in heaven! And while we exist- burdened and suffering- in our transient, earthly, imperfect, mortal bodies, we long for our new, eternal homes with God in heaven. Eventually, death will be swallowed up by life. And God has prepared us for this change by giving us the Holy Spirit “as a down payment”. Now that is God’s guarantee! So we consider our mortal lives, in our human bodies, to be a temporary parting from the Lord. And we recognize that when the time comes to part with our bodies- in other words, when our physical bodies experience death, we understand that will be when we finally go to our true home with the Lord. But no matter what- whether we still inhabit our fleshly bodies, or whether we have shed our fleshly bodies; whether we live or we die- we still strive to please God. Above all, don not forget this: we will all have to appear before the Lord, with an accounting of our lives.

Apostles and the Gospel Message:
With this knowledge, we recognize the importance and urgency in sharing the gospel message. The love of Jesus is a driving force in our lives and as a result we are a new creature, a new creation! God has reconciled us to Himself through Jesus who without sin became sin in order that through faith we may be considered righteous. In sum, “God was reconciling the world to Himself, not counting the trespasses against us” 2Cor5:19. This is the message that believers/ apostles need to share. We are considered to be ambassadors for Christ when we spread the gospel message. There is no need to delay in spreading the message or in accepting the message of the gospel because “now is the day of salvation”. 2Cor6:2 Regardless of what hardships and suffering that messengers of God endure, the messenger of God shall remain true and pure to the end. In fact, the greater of degree of suffering and hardship received in this world, will be an exponentially higher degree of blessedness and glory received in the next world to come. The only limitations faced will simply be self imposed limitations. Don’t limit yourself by partnering up with an unbeliever. It is one thing to share the gospel message with an unbeliever as we are called to do- but to have close fellowship or to marry a non-believer is to mismatch goodness with darkness, or God’s sanctuary with idol worship. It is to defile the pure spirit of God with impurity. Furthermore, don’t confuse anything having to do with the world with God. There can be no union or airing of goodness with evil. “For Godly grief produces a repentance not to be regretted and leading to salvation, but worldly grief produces death.” 2Cor7:9

Chapters 8 and 9: Generosity

Remember to be generous, even when you endure suffering and hardship, just as God poured out his grace on you. Jesus endured poverty and suffering so that you may become rich in grace and blessings. If you have more than others, then share with those who have less. Those who sow little will reap little in return, but those who sow generously will reap generously in return. Generosity may be applied in any aspect in life, not just with resources of money, but of time, service and love as well.

Chapters 10- 13: Distortion of the Gospel and the Danger of False Teachers

Those who oppose the message of the gospel and its messengers, as well as the false message which they seek to deliver, must be challenged against and held to the truth of God’s message. It doesn’t matter if as messengers, we are not as eloquent in the use of language as worldly philosophers or scholars. It is the saving message of the gospel that is of most importance. The true messenger of the Lord will not be boastful or prideful. If he is to boast, it shall be in the Lord alone and not himself. This is what Paul was trying to communicate to the early Christian church in Corinth. That is why the message of the gospel may be compared to valuable gold contained in clay jars. So that the message may be glorified, the vessel must be humbled.

Paul felt the need to respond to those false leaders and teachers who were critics of the way God’s true apostles delivered the true message. False teachers otherwise known as false apostles, were prevalent in the early church just as they are today. In fact Paul compared the message of the false teachers as a competing message to the true message of the gospel. To turn from the true message of the Lord to a false or distorted message would essentially a betrayal of Jesus- comparable to marital infidelity. The false message of the false teachers threatened to corrupt the worship of the church members in Corinth who were apparently na├»ve enough and weak in the faith, making them more likely to being swayed by false teachings and false teachers. Likewise in modern times among believers and nonbelievers alike- as well as in modern churches- many people are easily deceived by false teachings. False appearances will frequently sway people. Consider the attention people in today’s society devote to the media and the entertainment industry and to so- called “famous” entertainers. Also consider the attention and credibility that so-called authorities such as politicians and other “authority” figures receive. Physical appearances frequently play a large role when false teachers try to get attention. “For if a person comes and preaches another Jesus, whom we did not preach, or you receive a different spirit, which you have not received, or a different gospel, which you have not accepted, you put up with it splendidly” 2Cor10:4 What this means is that people show no discretion to what garbage they will swallow when it comes to beliefs and ideas, as long as it is wrapped up in a pretty package.

Satan: The Mastermind Behind False Teachers and the Distorted Gospel
Paul’s message may also be applied to any believer in Christ, as well as the church in Corinth- and anyone who chooses to share the gospel of Christ. Even though Paul had no formal training in public speaking, and he did not wear fancy or expensive clothes, that would not, or should not lessen the credibility of his message. In fact, his humility and humbleness all the more gave credit to the saving message of God. It should be the saving power of the message that draws people and not the distraction of the physical appearance of the messenger itself. Those false teachers, twist the message of the gospel for their own purpose and to boost their own pride, are false and deceitful, even though they disguise themselves as apostles of God’s message. This serves as Paul’s warning to all of us: Do not be fooled by their outward appearances! “For Satan himself is disguised as an angel of light!” 2Cor11:14 And if that is the case, if it is true that Satan can deceptively appear and disguise his evil, tainted message, then of course Satan’s messengers can disguise their evil ways as well in order to deceive unsuspecting and unwitting hearers. Consider how many people are lured by the message of cult groups such as the Jehovah’s witnesses, Mormons, new age movements, and witchcraft. These are all various distortions of the message of the bible. But don’t worry or despair, because these false teachers will eventually get what is coming to them. The sad thing is that so many people will put up not only with these false teachers, but with fools in general. So many willingly and needlessly discard the truth of God to put up with so much immorality, and nonsense! How many prefer to hear and follow foolish worldly “wisdom” instead of God’s wisdom? Well if you can do that, then why not put up with the wisdom of God, even if it is delivered through a so- called humbled fool.

The Purpose Behind the Humility and the Trials of God’s Messengers:
And furthermore, how dare anyone criticize messengers of the Lord with all they put up with- those false teachers have no ground to stand on when they criticize God’s apostles. Paul uses the hardships that he endured during his own ministry to illustrate what he endured in contrast to false teachers. In his humility, which should serve as an example for all of us, Paul refused to boast about himself- except with one exception- his weakness. Rather, Paul was more than willing to boast about others in order to boost others above himself. Likewise, we too should strive to consider others above ourselves. In fact, Paul had a chronic physical affliction or condition that caused him physical pain. Yet, Paul endured his physical illness so that he could boast in God who provided him strength and grace to promote the gospel message. Paul happily endured physical and emotional hardships because it actually made him and his faith stronger! Furthermore, he personally did not create any expectations or burdens on the hearers of his message whatsoever in order to build them up.

Christian and Apostolic Humility:
Concerning his own private revelations, if he indeed had any which is not the concern in this passage, Paul avoided sharing anything beyond what could be readily observed or proven so that what Paul shared would seen as God’s truth- and Paul’s testimony could not be questioned. About other “visions” by private individuals, that may have occurred in the early church, only God for sure could know its authenticity- therefore such revelations are of no concern to us. In fact people should never boast of their own revelations. Paul’s simple explanation, which he repeated twice is simply this: “I do not know, God knows” 2Cor12:2-3 Our responsibility is this: to walk in the spirit of God and to avoid the spirit of this world which is represented by these things: quarreling, jealousy, anger, selfishness, slander, gossip, arrogance, disorder, sexual immorality and promiscuity. Paul challenges all believers to avoid these sins! In fact we are told, “test yourselves to see if you are in faith” 2 Cor13:5 In fact when we examine ourselves and our hearts continuously we are likened as mature Christians. Paul’s final exhortation to all believers is this: “Be restored, be encouraged, be of the same mind (concerning the true gospel message), be at peace” 2Cor13:11 and God will be with us as well.

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