A Memory Verse: "Indeed, in our hearts we felt the sentence of death. But this happened that we might not
rely on ourselves but on God, who raises the dead."
Thought for today:
God has given us the Holy Spirit as a guarentee of what's to come eternally because now we
often groan with burdens of life.
Special thanks to Doug McHone of Coffee Swirls for writing today's commentary
Here's a title for God that isn't heard as often as others. "Father of compassion and comfort" may not sound as wonderful as "Prince of Peace" or "Lord of Lords" but it is every bit as important to just who God is to us. To give someone compassion, you have to get down next to them and come to their level before you can minister to them. We are able to do this for others as God does this for us through the Holy Spirit. And when times get tough for you, remember that without hardship there is no need for faith. Learn to lean on Him in all things and He will be glorified in this.
Some of Paul's chief opponents came from Jerusalem and carried letters of introduction (similar to a diploma or official reccomendation) from the synagogue. They used these letters to prove their knowledge and to proclaim that Paul had no letter. Expecting Paul to get a letter of commendation from a church he founded was silly. The church, itself, was his letter.
This shows the contrast from their way to Christ's way. Theirs was the old, the finite, the inflexible, the condemning, the worldly. Paul preached that the nature of Christianity was to have access to God through Jesus. This was a forgiving relationship with God that would lead to righteousness as God himself removed the stains of your sins. People were changing their inward appearance to match that of Christ, and that was something Jerusalem bitterly tried to stop. I wonder if their primary reason for opposing Paul was financial or power. Either way, theirs was not an act of love.
I used to think that turning your life over to God for the sole reason of eternal salvation was a very self-centered way of approaching things, but this reading shows that this is not really the case. We are reminded to keep our thoughts on our eternal glory to be found through Him, rather than on earthly matters for the they will pass away, but the glory of God will never end. Reconciliation: It's a wonderful thing!
Copyright by Doug McHone
"As God has said: 'I will live with them and walk among them, and I will be their God, and they will be my people." (6:16b)
"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." (9:11)
Thought for today:
"For though we live in the world, we do not wage war as the world does. (10:3)
If we could ask Paul what it was like to be an outsider apostle - one who wasn't discipled by walking with Jesus the way others, including the 12 apostles, had been - his answer in person apparently wouldn't equal what he writes in 2 Corinthians 6:4-10 of the troubles and blessings of his ministry. According to 10:1 and 10:10-11, in person Paul was "unimpressive and his speaking amounts to nothing." Of himself Paul claims his actions speak louder than words. Once again, discerning by appearances doesn't work. All the hardships Paul has gone through are counter-balanced with gifts of understanding and of the power of God. Things are not as they seem. Paul is "... dying and yet we live on; beaten and yet not killed; sorrowful, yet always rejoicing ..." Within the limits of boasting in the LORD, per Jeremiah 9:24, Paul boasts only about the field God has assigned him. Of course, bringing the word of Christ to the Gentiles is a very large field. But without this written letter opening his heart to some of the people he had led to Christ, we might never have heard what it was like for Paul to be an apostle.
Don't get him wrong. Having been warned from the start about suffering that goes along with spreading the name of Christ (Acts 9:16), Paul continues his opening thoughts about receiving and giving God's compassion and comfort. Take Christ's name to the world, but don't be yoked together with unbelievers. We have no more in common with them than righteousness has with wickedness. Remember how the holiness of the LORD was dangerous to the Israelites with Moses, and how the people were given specific and limited ways to approach the LORD? Paul continues this theme, recognizing believers as "the temple of the living God", and telling any who trust the LORD's promises to respond. How? "Purify ourselves from everything that contaminates body and spirit, perfecting holiness out of reverence for God." (7:1) In a previous letter like a parent to his children, Paul had prescribed the correction for a sin within the Corinthian church. Yes, the correction hurt and made them sorrowful. But it also tested their sincerity about obeying his Christian leadership. See the difference between suffering for Christ and suffering for wrongdoing among the church members? "Godly sorrow brings repentance that leads to salvation and leaves no regret, but worldly sorrow brings death." (7:10) Christ's example of loving sinners enough to die for us does not go unnoticed. Paul wants the Corinthians to know how much he loves them ... enough to serve, discipline, correct, and boast about them. Do you see - by obedience in correction - how much you love the LORD's servant who brought the correction to your attention?
Do you see the hard work to be done together as a church after the initial free gift from the LORD? For instance, the Corinthians had pledged and begun a financial collection for missions. Christ gave up his riches so that through his poverty believers might become rich. With the same principle, churches are not self-contained but are linked with each other under Christ to care for each other. Paul says it's time to stop waiting on any more pledge promises. Finish the work! You who have plenty now share with those who are in need, and see the equality. When you are in need they will supply yours. Remember the Israelites collecting daily manna. "He who gathered much did not have too much, and he who gathered little did not have too little." Not that the Corinthians weren't eager to be generous and hospitable in all kinds of giving, but Paul was sending Titus and two others to coordinate and finish collecting the offering before the Macedonians came for it. When you voluntarily decide in your heart what to give, give it cheerfully. Guess what! The inspiration from your heart is from the same supplier of comfort and compassion as of seed and harvest. In this example of Christian equality, Paul will boast and boast about their generosity, and others - both financial recipients and recipients of the news - will pray and praise God for them.
Apparently, some Corinthians thought Paul was too worldly. He counters, describing his work as war with the world and his weapons unlike anything the world uses. His weapons "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." (10:5) Other Corinthians questioned Paul's authority, compared with others. He counters again, boasting that his work in the field God assigned him is evidence enough. "Tooting your own horn" is one thing. Being approved by the LORD's commendation is entirely another.
On waging war - "By mercy and truth iniquity is purged and by the fear of the Lord men depart from evil." Prov 16:6
A Memory Promise: Finally, brothers, good-bye. 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." (13:11)
Thought for today:
Christ was crucified in weakness, yet he lives by God's power. (13:4a)
Paul wants the Corinthians to understand their commitment to God and the wait for meeting Him face to face as a period of what we call an engagement. Believers are promised to the LORD as a bride to her husband-to-be. While she waits for her marriage, she prepares for her future life. The challenge to this wait is the possibility of coming under deceit just as Eve was fooled. Believers may turn from believing the LORD's way just as Eve did. The church may turn to another Jesus, different spirits, or new doctrines other than what the LORD revealed through Jesus of Nazareth. Why would you put up with this? No, Paul the matchmaker was not a trained speaker, and no, he was not one of the apostles who had walked with Jesus, but he does have knowledge.
Look, he didn't charge churches anything for bringing the message to them. Other churches voluntarily gave him financial support for his mission work. He recognized false apostles, working deceitfully, masquerading as apostles of Christ. You already know that Satan can appear as an angel of light, so why be surprised that his servants pretend to be righteous? Can you tell the difference between how the LORD talks and how a fool talks? If you are enslaved, exploited, taken advantage of, pushed back while a leader pushes himself forward, or slapped in the face - is this of God? Can they boast about how many times they've been in prison or flogged or nearly died for carrying on the LORD's work? Do they face the daily pressure of concern for all the churches? As a brand new believer, Paul hid in a basket to escape the arrest he had planned for others in Damascus. Is this what you see as weakness?
What about visions and revelations from the LORD? About 41-42 AD, Paul describes this man in Christ who was caught up to the third heaven, to paradise. Was he in the body or out? God knows. And he heard things he could never tell, with his top secret security. But as for poor speaking, timid appearing Paul, he will boast about this man but not about himself in his present condition, except about his weaknesses. Think of what Paul did and said. Yes, he was the one who had these great revelations shown to him, but so that he didn't think too highly of himself he was given a thorn in the flesh - a messenger of Satan to torment him. Paul doesn't identify it, but it was awful. He prayed three times for the LORD to take it away, but the LORD wanted Paul to rely only on God's grace. Strangely enough, the LORD's power is made complete, perfect, in weakness. So boast away! Paul said, "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." (12:10) Talk about things not being as they appear!
So why did Paul claim to be an apostle? Look at his acts before believing his words. He had done the signs, wonders, and miracles among the Corinthians that are the mark of an apostle. Were the Corinthians short changed? Only if they thought an apostle should be paid by the church where he is working. Only if they thought the mark of an apostle was exploitation, wanting the church members' money.
Is Paul revealing all this to defend himself? No way. It's to strengthen the church. Does the church need strengthening? Yes, when there is "quarreling, jealousy, outbursts of anger, factions, slander, gossip, arrogance, and disorder." (12:20b) What a humbling Paul would face to come to Corinth only to find "many who have sinned earlier and have not repented of the impurity, sexual sin, and debauchery in which they have indulged." (12:21b) The Corinthians demanded proof that Christ was speaking through Paul. They didn't recognize the LORD's power among them. Remember that just as Christ was crucified in weakness and now lives by God's power, "we are weak in him, yet by God's power we will live with him to serve you". The question is more are you in the faith. Test yourselves, church. Isn't Christ in you? Don't do anything wrong, church. The point isn't that it may look like Paul failed. Just do what is right, for the truth's sake. Let Paul be weak but the church strong and striving for perfection in the LORD. After all, the LORD gave Paul authority not to tear church members down, but to build them up.