2 Cor. 1:5 Abounding Consolation
One very definite reason for suffering as a believer is explained here by Paul. It is so we, having experienced God’s comfort, may be able to give it to one who is undergoing a similar trial.
Certainly, a rich benefit of being a Christian in a world where there is so much suffering is the realization that our God is “the Father of mercies and the God of all comfort.” His most merciful act toward us was the regenerating work of the Holy Spirit and the placing of us into the body of Christ. Unsaved friends may sometimes know His comfort but for us it may be laid hold of at any time. “Lord I take your help in this trial, your comfort for my heart, and pray that as you are meeting my need, I, in turn, may be used in the life of another.”
When it seems that we are sore pressed by some trial, until all other resources have dried up, let us not forget the great apostle’s example. Driven to extremity he accepted it as the sentence of death. In another place he says, “we are always delivered unto death for Jesus’ sake that the life also of Jesus might be made manifest in our mortal flesh”(4:11). A great principle for us to understand in reacting to trouble! Like squeezing the tube of toothpaste, you have to do it to get what’s inside to the outside. God squeezes us by adversity that the life of Jesus may come out in it all. If expressions of self come out it shows we are not full of Him. What can we do about it?
2 Cor.2:4 Paul’s Abundant Love
In the opening verses of this chapter Paul returns to the subject he had addressed so powerfully in the first epistle concerning the man guilty of immorality when he said must be disciplined (ch.5). There are several observations to be made about his reference to this case.
Observation #1: The insight given into the heart of the great apostle. This situation had really affected him emotionally for he says, in v.4, “I wrote with many tears out of much affliction and anguish of heart.”
A recent episode in our assembly which involved a leader caused many of us to have a real sense of grief, but I must say that it did not come to tears on my part. If every pastor would be as deeply moved, as Paul was, over matters of discipline perhaps the outcome would be as positive as that in Corinth. (I must say thankfully that the problem mentioned above seems to have had a satisfying outcome).
Observation #2: Only part of the congregation was involved in the failure and Paul did not forget that the majority stood with him. We must not loose sight of the faithfulness of the many when dealing with the unfaithfulness of a small majority.
Observation #3: He exhorts them to forgive this brother who had evidently repented, warning them that there is danger in failing to forgive promptly.
Observation #4: Finally, he reveals that part of his motivation for urging the discipline had been the concern he had to test their obedience (v.9). This is certainly a revelation that without this verse we would never have known.
2 Cor.3:18 “Into the Same Image”
At first reading this chapter sounds a bit confusing. Unfortunately the translators have not helped. But first let us look at the subject. Paul is contrasting the glory of the old and new covenants and he repeats that difference in verses 7-10 about four different times. Ok, so we know that the glory of the new covenant far exceeds the glory of the old! No problem! Most of us know that anyway!
It’s the illustration he uses that grabs our attention. Moses, after he came down from Sinai, is described as placing a covering over his face because his skin shone so brightly that his hearers could not look at him (v.13). (Maybe too, as some suggest, he did not want them to see it fade.)
Israel, says he, still has that veil over their blinded minds and will until their hearts turn to the Lord (v.16).
But we, with unveiled faces (here’s where the translators could have been more helpful), looking into the mirror of God’s word and seeing Christ, are transformed into His image as His glory is spiritually transmitted to us (as in the illustration of Moses).
So the hymn: “By looking to Jesus like Him thou shalt be....”
2 Cor. 4:12 The Death-life Process
Is there any reason not to think that the same principle operates in us as well as in Paul? Not so according to his other teachings on the subject. It isn’t the case that we must go through the same kinds of difficulties that he underwent for the gospel’s sake (vss.8&9). But, we too have the same treasure and the same kind of container (v.7). It is well for us to remind ourselves of this quite often.
When we are totally surrendered to our Lord Jesus Christ and our body is yielded to His control, our daily experiences, though probably not as intense as Paul’s, none the less, should be of the same kind. That is, Christ should be seen in us. If He is seen it is because we are appropriating the principle of reckoning ourselves dead to sin (Rom.6:11). That is the same thing as “bearing about in the body the dying of the Lord Jesus.” It is just another way of saying it.
To be “delivered unto death for Jesus’ sake,” means the same as taking His death to be ours. The humble mill worker takes that place as he daily lives for Christ. He is honest when he could have cheated the company etc. Perhaps he is persecuted by his fellow workmen, perhaps not, but he is a daily rebuke to those who watch his testimony and, we hope, the means of someone being saved. Being like Jesus is not trying to be like Him, it is yielding to Him so that in daily experience we are like Him without even trying. There is a real difference!
Compare John 12:24-26 Also 2 Cor.2:14-16
2 Cor.5:15 Living unto Him
The preceding verse leading into this text tells us that when Christ died we too died. That is the literal sense of “then were all dead”.
Having died with Him (this is the only basis of our salvation) the apostle exhorts us that we should not therefore live selfishly but rather live a life yielded to Him. Remember, he said the same thing back in 1 Cor.6:19-20. “Ye are not your own”!
When we died, all human relationships were broken, even that which existed between the disciples and the Lord Jesus (v.16). There is a new relationship (see note) because we are “ new creatures” and have been given a new job, ( no longer fishermen, but fishers of men), the ministry of reconciliation, of ambassadorship. We are here in the “stead” of Christ beseeching men to embrace the offer of reconciliation.
What a message we have! “For he hath made Him to be sin for us that we might be made the righteousness of God in Him.”
2 Cor.6:17 “.......be ye separate...”
Revelation 17 is all about the great whore who is drunk “with the blood of the saints and of the martyrs of Jesus”. This mother of harlots is called, “that great city which reigneth over the kings of the earth” (v.18). One would be hard pressed to find any other entity in the history of the world that fits this description other than Roman Catholicism.
This false cult that calls Mary, Jesus’ mother, a co-redemtrix, that celebrates the recrucifixion of Christ in every mass and calls its pope “the vicar of Christ on earth”, has been the agent of the devil in his greatest opposition to true biblical Christianity. We should be students of church history if for no other reason than that of being enlightened as to the bloody warfare that this “harlot” church has carried out against the (persecuted) pure sweet bride of Christ.
We cannot begin to imagine what absolute grief the Holy Spirit of God experiences as He shrinks to a mode of quenched retirement in the life of the disobedient believer, who not only touches this unclean thing, but embraces it as if it were truly Christian.
Billy Graham was “honored” with a degree from a Roman Catholic institution. Abram refused even a shoelace from the king of Sodom lest it be said that he had made Abram rich. Riches, honor, what’s the difference?
Chuck Colson says we should not seek to win Roman Catholics to Christ for they are already brethren.
God hates mixture of this nature, where do we stand? (Leviticus 19:19).
2 Cor.7:1 “.....Filthiness of ...spirit...”
Having just spent the last two hours studying and meditating on the concept of “filthiness of...spirit”, I will share my thoughts with you for what they are worth. Filthiness has to do with defilement especially as it relates to fornication and adultery. Defilement of the flesh probably means a physical departure from moral purity and defilement of the spirit to a spiritual.
What comes to mind are the words of James (4:4) to the spiritual adulterers who are friends with the world and thus enemies with God.
John Gill’s notes on the passage in 2 Corinthians says the following: “...a prevailing desire after the evil things and a delight in the company and conversations of the men of the world, and a conformity to, and compliance with the sinful manners and customs of the world, are so many declarations of war with God...”etc.
James 4:5 indicates that the Holy Spirit who indwells us has an envious desire for our moral purity.
All of this relates back , of course, to the latter part of 2 Cor.6 and probably the chapter division, coming where it does between 6 & 7, is unfortunate. The “unequal yoke” as described in several comparisons, as given there by the apostle, are references to a spiritual adultery and, as such, refer to far more than is usually thought of, that of a marriage between a saved and a unsaved person. In fact, the main emphasis here has to do with Christians and idolatry which was certainly a major problem in Corinth.
In any case, God is jealous over us and any adulterous relation with the world, whatever that might be, is both injurious and grievous to His holiness.
How do you think He feels when Christians join with devilish false religions for the purpose of evangelism? Does the end justify the means?
2 Cor. 8:2 An Oxymoron
An oxymoron is a wise saying that seems foolish. Here we have a most elegant example. “Their deep poverty abounded unto the riches of their liberality.” (1 Cor.12:10 is another example).
It seems to be generally true that those who often have the least of this world’s goods are the most willing to share what they have. It certainly is true that the more we have the more we want. Probably this is the reason that most Christians tend to be poor for the Lord knows that if they were not, many churches would not survive.
The example of the poor widow who was cited by our Lord Jesus as having given more than the wealthy (Lk.21:1-4), shows us that not only does the Lord watch what we give, but He notes the depth of the pocketbook from whence it comes. Frankly, I think that it would be easier to give all if one had little to give than to give all if one were wealthy because usually the more we have the more maintenance is required. The widow woman didn’t have a car to keep in repair and gasoline nor a house that required shingling and the oil barrel filled. Nevertheless she was commended and that is important.
Those believers is Macedonia, the recipients of God’s great grace responded the way we all should. First He wants us! Then He wants us to be liberal with what we have. We need to remember that He loves a cheerful giver (next chapter).
Finally with regard to this subject, a verse that has always impressed me is Ephesians 4:8.
2 Cor. 9:7 A Cheerful Giver
Most know that the word “cheerful” here comes from the Greek word from which we
get our English word “hilarious.” This word, however, in our usage conjures up a person who is given over to side-splitting laughter. Nowhere do we understand that we are to give that way or at least we don’t see anything like this when the offering plates are passed. Perhaps your church is different!
The sense here is found in the explanation of the word by Strong; viz .having a propitious attitude meaning “to be favorably disposed” (Webster). To be prompt, willing and cheerful, all of which fits the context.
There is an interesting relationship between this word hilarious and the word from which we get our English term “mercy seat” (hilasterion). God’s propitious attitude towards us is expressed in this term. He is favorably disposed towards us because of what is represented by the blood sprinkled on the lid of the Ark of the Covenant on the Day of Atonement.
Our Lord Jesus Christ is our “propitiation” (Rom.3:23) by whom God is favorably disposed toward us (merciful) and we, in turn should be favorably disposed to give ungrudgingly.
So let us sow unsparingly,
By word, by deed, by giving;
Then we will harvest bountifully,
In Heaven and while we’re living.
“Thanks be unto God for His “unspeakable gift.” (V.15)
2 Cor. 10 Being Ill Thought of
This chapter reveals much of how Paul was being criticized by some of the leaders in Corinth. They accused him of “walking according to the flesh.” Paul counters by speaking of the flesh in the good sense for we all walk in our human bodies. But he fires a broadside at his critics when he says “we do not war after the flesh but rather with the spiritual weapons of warfare.”
We can’t help but wonder what weapons Paul would have used against those who criticized his letters (v.10) if he were present.
Reading between the lines in the remainder of the chapter we sense that Paul is saying-- it is our labors that first reached you not that of these teachers and our intention is to reach beyond you (it was Paul’s plan to use these believers as a staging area for outreach beyond them) in spite of them. Let them continue comparing themselves with each other, glorying in, and commending themselves for their accomplishments, we will glory in the Lord and await His commendation.
It is tough to receive unjust criticism but let us take it in a spirit of meek and gentle Christ-likeness.
2 Cor.11:13 “Deceitful Workers”
Ah, now we find out the truth. At first we thought that these leaders whom some of the
Corinthians were following were simply misguided Christian teachers who were being very critical of Paul. We find out in this chapter exactly what he thought of them. He calls them ministers of Satan! What is striking here is that these false teachers were transforming themselves into apostles of Christ.
Paul was jealous over these believers with a God-given jealousy (v.2). As a father (1 Cor.4:15) giving away his virgin daughter he was concerned that she become a pure bride to Christ. He viewed these false apostles and their influence as being likened to the devil’s influence on Eve in the garden.
Thinking about the substance of Satan’s subtilty may help us avoid his stratagems today. “Hath God said?” Casting doubt upon the Word of God, questioning its authority surely characterizes his changeless method. Test Schuller by this standard and we will see through him as easily as one may see through the walls of his crystal cathedral. He certainly appears as an angel of light, as a minister of righteousness but we read that their “end shall be according to their works.”
Closer to home, ecumenical evangelism cannot stand up under the scrutiny of Scripture, so what about its leaders?
It will get worse. Let us pray to be kept pure.
2 Cor. 12:9&10 “....when I am weak, than am I strong.”
It is generally thought among Bible teachers that Paul’s “thorn” was his poor eyesight. He evidently had to have others write his letters. Tychicus had done the Ephesian epistle and Epaphroditus the Philippian’s, etc. He speaks of the “large hand” in which he wrote the Galations perhaps as if to say “I am so concerned that I actually wrote it myself.” In this same epistle he makes reference to his “temptation in my flesh” and in that connection spoke of their being willing to have “plucked out your own eyes and have given them to me,” if it had been possible.
Whatever the problem, we are thankful that he handled it right and told us how he did it. This has become one of the most precious Scriptures in all the Bible for those who have afflictions.
This is another oxymoron. Strength made perfect in weakness. Only a child of God can understand this principle. The weaker I find myself to be, the more I rest in God’s strength and He takes over. So it makes good sense to welcome infirmities, persecutions and distresses, for God becomes our strength in the midst of them, and He always triumphs!
May the Lord always help us to remember these verses when difficulties come our way!
2 Cor. 13:5 Can we stand this test?
So, we come to the end of Paul’s writings to the Corinthian saints. At least, we have no other letters. Did he write an earlier letter or was he referring to his initial visit? We do not know for certain but in 10:9-11 he refers to “letters” in the plural form and at that point they, to our knowledge, had only received the first one.
Does he mean by witnesses (v.1) to include his amanuenses since it would hardly qualify as a fulfillment of Deut.19:15, otherwise? My copy of the KJV appends the fact that there were six separate brethren involved in the writing of these two epistles. What privileges they enjoyed!
As we bring to a close our comments on these two great letters that came out of the care (11:28) Paul had on his heart for this church which had so many problems, it is with an expression to you, dear reader, from our own hearts, couched in the familiar language of this chapter. Is Christ truly in you? We should each examine ourselves on this extremely important issue.
When asked concerning his conversion, a professing Christian said to me not long ago: “I was baptized many years ago and joined the church” etc. But, is Christ in you? How do you know whether indeed you are “in the faith?” What evidence do you bring to the bar of God’s judgement? Would you dare say to Him at that day- “I was baptized, etc.?” Do you really think that will be evidence enough? That is no time to find out that concerning the faith you are “reprobate” (rejected).