2 Corinthians 6 – I Will Walk Among You and Be Your God

You may read the entire chapter here

In chapter 6 Paul is taking on an appropriate tone of urgency.  What is normal in God’s eyes is a full and immediate response to His graceful call when it is made.  The 12 disciples are good examples of this.  They were busy men but left all to follow Jesus.  They also eventually gave all.  The rich young ruler did not heed the call of Christ and went away sorrowful and stunned (see Mark 10:20-22.)

Paul says to not receive God’s grace in vain, or in an empty way.  He also made it clear in VS 1 that the call is from God (Working together with Him.)  The call of God is a good thing, precious, and should be obeyed.

Concerning this call specifically Paul sites Isaiah 49:8 in VS 2: “In an acceptable time, I heard you, and in the day of salvation, I helped you.  Look, now is the acceptable time; look, now is the day of salvation.

“Now is the day of salvation” should be understood broadly as the time between Christ’s first and second comings & specifically the moment someone hears the gospel.  Some have argued that Paul was in a way identifying his ministry with Isaiah’s prophetic calling.  This could very well be true because Paul defends his ministry in this letter frequently and strongly. See 2 Corinthians 11:23-33; 2 Corinthians 12:7-10; 2 Corinthians 1:3-11; 2 Corinthians 2:14-17

VS 3-11 Paradoxes of true Christian Ministry

Paul placed high value in ministry, he avoided dishonoring it at all costs.  In VS 3-11 he lists things that had followed his ministry.  The first 1/2 of his list reads like this…..

In following Christ we will have times of unhindered ministry (see Acts 28:30-31) and times of hardship.

The following list is of paradoxes, vs 7-11 and is a little more difficult to interpret. I think the best way to look at it is what is seen in the flesh and/or temporal (slander, deceivers, poor, etc) is not the ultimate reality though it all was going on. Good report, true, making many rich, etc. was the reality.   Ministry encompasses many aspects but there awaits a reward for the faithful, and God will encourage, enable, an anoint along the way.

VS 14 – 16 Don’t be mismatched with unbelievers

Paul gives a stern commandment.  Do not be unequally yoked with unbelievers, the HCSB uses the term “mismatched” with unbelievers.  This does not mean to avoid friendships with those who are not Christians and it does not mean to have an exclusive Christian commune until Jesus returns.  No hermits or Lone Rangers in the Kingdom!

Think for a moment of this logic in farming……the absurdity of yoking or hitching up two different types of animals together to accomplish a job. You would never yoke an ox and a chihuahua together to plow a field!   They are completely different animals and will not walk and work in agreement.

The ESV Study Bible says it well….” It is thus an image for being allied or identified wrongly with unbelievers…..one person’s conduct and direction of life strongly influences or controls the others.”

The implications are obvious: marriage, close personal friends, starting a business together, etc.  When a believer (who walks in the light) is mismatched with an unbeliever (who walks in darkness) how can they, in Paul’s words, have partnership, fellowship, agreement, or have all things in common? Light cannot fellowship with darkness and Christ has no agreement with demons (Belial means useless or worthless and can be seen as an epithet of Satan.)

There is no agreement between God’s sanctuary and idols! “The word for temple (Gk. naos) refers to the Most Holy Place, where God’s presence was manifested over the ark of the covenant, not to the more general temple complex or building…” (ESV Study Bible)  This leads into Paul’s main point for the rest of the chapter and into 7:1….

VS 16 – 7:1 Come out from Among Them

“16b-18 These verses assemble a number of OT texts. Verse 16b is stated first in Lv 26:12 and repeated in Jer 31:33; 32:38. This was God’s promise of His presence to His covenant people, now fulfilled in the new covenant instituted by Christ (Heb 8:7-13). Verse 17 cites Isa 52:11, referring to Israel’s future holiness when they will be restored to the Lord’s favor. 2 Cor 6 Verse 18 is found first in 2Sam 7:14 in God’s covenant promise to David, but it is echoed in Isa 43:6; 49:22; 60:4; Hos 1:10. In these passages the Lord promised a family relationship between Himself and His people.” – HCSB Study Bible

These verses emphasized a truth found in Leviticus 19:2 & 1 Peter 1:16 – “Be holy for I am Holy.”  These verses are also exceptionally personal and warm.  When we are united with Christ & live in holiness by His power He will walk among us (before the fall the LORD would walk with man – Gen 3:8).  He will welcome us, be a Father to us, and we will be His sons and daughters.

I have included 7:1 because it continues Paul’s thoughts here.  Because of these great promises we have a great responsibility.  It is interesting because it says for us to “wash ourselves.”  Jesus cleanses from every sin.  He cleanses us.  We cannot remove sin by our own power.  This is also not talking about water baptism.  It’s best understood as the daily cleansing the believer should experience.  Sometimes we need to do specific things to rid ourselves of impurities of the flesh and spirit.

Because of the fear of God we should rid ourselves of impurities.  Flush the alcohol.  Trash the pornography.  Think before you respond.  Love when you are insulted.  Say no to sin.  You get the point.  Jesus forgives and heals but we must also have the discipline to live the free life.

What do we take away from this today?…

  • Immediately respond to God’s call when we hear it
  • Value the ministry (whatever you are called to do) and bring no dishonor to it
  • Touch no unclean thing and live holy. Repent if you fall. He promises to be near and walk with us.

2 Corinthians 5 – Ambassadors For Christ

    Chapter 4 is not yet published because I was the best-man at a wedding the corresponding weekend. Thank you to Dr. Lambeth for teaching in my absence.

You may read the entire chapter here

2 Corinthians chapter 5 begins by revealing, putting into words, the longing and yearning the believer has for their new home. The chapter concludes with a grand charge.  Paul deals with the weighty subjects of eternity and mystery.

VS 1-10 We walk by faith, not by sight

Eternal/temporal, seen/unseen, clothed/unclothed.  Paul, by the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, is describing spiritual realities. Paul’s use of the terms “earthly house” and “tent” are referring to the physical body.  Houses and tents may be destroyed. The first verse has a contrast between temporary houses (our bodies) and an eternal grand building from God.  This reflects the language in Hebrews 11:10 “For he (Abraham) was looking forward to the city that has foundations, whose architect and builder is God.” 

In fact, we “groan” while in this body.  Here groan is the Greek is στενάζω. This means to “sigh, murmur, pray with grief, groan, grudge, sigh.” (HCSB Study Bible Greek Notes)  We long to be with Christ.  We long for what’s ahead yet we are to work while we are here.  Paul said in 2 Corinthians 4:8-9 “We are pressured in every way but not crushed; we are perplexed but not in despair; we are persecuted but not abandoned; we are struck down but not destroyed.” 

Paul gives further details of this theology, including the responsibilities and work while were are in the body, in Philippians 1:21-26.

We do not want to be simply “unclothed” or “naked”.  This would refer to our spirit being apart from our body (disembodied) with no destination or home.  This is desirable to some world religions but not for the redeemed.  It is also impossible.  The dead have a destination.

We desire to be clothed, which we learned is our house from heaven in VS 2. It is a normal, God-given, desire to be with our Lord.  It is an upward call we feel while we are here. We know that what is seen here (mortality) will be, as Paul put it, swallowed up by life.  This really is astonishing.  Real (eternal) life will engulf mortality. The Christian has much to look forward too!  And anything we endure on this side will be worth it!

In VS 6-10 we learn that our confidence does not come by sight (what we perceive with our senses,) it comes only by faith.  When the Christian dies he/she will be at home with the Lord for they will be clothed in the glory from God.   Because of this knowledge we aim to please God. Good works do not save us, only the shed blood of Christ does, but we are saved for good works.  We will appear before Christ to be repaid for the good or bad done in this body (the temporary tent.)

VS 11-15 And He died for all so….

The believer understands, or should understand, the fear of the Lord. Now this is a lengthy subject, more than we have room for here, but it needs to be addressed.  Fear (Greek phobos) is a reverential awe, worshipful submission, & obedient respect (HCSB bullet notes.)  I am not a Greek scholar but I discover from researching this word that it is very strong for fear could be rendered exceedingly afraid or terror for example.  Our context in 2 Corinthians 5 reveals a lot, namely VS 10.  The updated HCSB renders the Greek βῆμα (transliterated as bēma) as tribunal.  It is more often translated as “judgement seat” of Christ.  The point is that we will all be judged.  Therefore we persuade people. If there’s ever a reason to be persuasive in presenting the gospel we read it here.

In VS 11b we see a contrast between the attitude of true and false teachers, not only the content of their teaching.  Transparency.  Paul says “We are completely open before God, and I hope we are completely open to your consciences as well.”  False teachers often operate in secrecy, especially leaders of cults.  In contrast to this true leaders are open and honest.

VS 13, “For if we are out of our mind, it is for God; if we have a sound mind, it is for you.” can be difficult but we read in Acts 26:24-26 Paul making a similar statement before Felix and Agrippa.  There he was accused of being mad or insane because of the preaching of the resurrection of Jesus Christ.  In this passage we may infer that the Corinthians thought much the same thing concerning Paul’s teaching, whatever the specifics were.  Paul’s rebuttal was that he was very much in control…and that was a benefit to them.

VS 14-15 says “For Christ’s love compels us, since we have reached this conclusion: if One died for all, then all died. And He died for all so that those who live should no longer live for themselves, but for the One who died for them and was raised.”  This is a great summary of the gospel message.  When Paul says “…than all died” I believe he is saying died to themselves.  Notice two driving forces in 2 Corinthians 5 for delivering an undiluted gospel: The fear of the lord and Christ’s love compels us.

VS 16-21 The Ministry of Reconciliation

Know….in a purely human way.  At our core we are spiritual and we perceive God in a spiritual way, though manifestations may effect the physical body.   We also don’t regard each other as merely human for living in such a way was not encouraged at all, see 1 Corinthians 3:3.  We no longer (since we’ve been born-again) see Christ in a purely human way.

VS 17 contains what may be one of my favorite verses in all of scripture and it it’s truly good news: ” “Therefore if anyone is in Christ, there is a new creation; old things have passed away, and look, new things have come.”  All things are new for the believer and he is no longer subject to the old way of life.  He/she has moved from darkness to light and from death to live.  This is made possible with the mercies that are “new every morning.

The ministry of reconciliation.  Stan Norman defines reconciliation as “Bringing together of two parties that are estranged or in dispute. Jesus Christ is the one who brings together God and man, with salvation as the result of the union. Reconciliation basically means “change” or “exchange.” The idea is of a change of relationship, an exchange of antagonism for goodwill, enmity for friendship. Attitudes are transformed and hostility ceases.”  For the rest of his definition and for further study see http://bit.ly/p7HIwT

God reconciled the world to Himself through Jesus and has committed the same ministry to us therefore we are ambassadors for Christ. “He has committed the message of reconciliation to us. 20 Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ; certain that God is appealing through us, we plead on Christ’s behalf, “Be reconciled to God.” 21 He made the One who did not know sin to be sin for us, so that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.”

2 Corinthians 2

You can read the entire chapter here.

VS 1-4 I wrote to you with many tears

As we will find throughout 2 Corinthians this chapter is fluid with the previous chapter.  Here Paul espouses what unity should accomplish.  If you cause someone grief, how will they encourage you?  Grief should cause us to repent (2 Corinthians 7:9-11), not to live in sorrow and guilt.  Paul did not write his previous letter to harm them but he wrote it with many tears in the hope they would repent and receive his instructions.  We need to learn from Paul in this matter: when we bring correction let us do it with love, however severe the correction is.  It’s not our job to cause harm.  We should work in unison with the Spirit of God who points to Jesus as the only answer.  If you must rebuke let it be with love and tears.  People are more likely to receive correction if they know you love them sincerely.

We also learn here that you can have joy in deep sorrow and anguish (VS 3-4.)  There is in the free Christian the joy of the Lord that abides regardless of emotions and circumstances.  Paul also wanted them to know the deep love he had for them.

VS 5-11 Forgiveness for the offender 

This passage is challenging because Paul isn’t specific about who the offender is.  Obviously his original audience knew.  It was either a leader of an opposition to Paul or the one living in open, flagrant sexual sin as found in 1 Corinthians 5:1-5.

What is important is what we learn about restoration.  He (whoever he was) was punished by the majority.  This is most likely enacted along with Paul’s instructions in 1 Corinthians 5:2, 5: “…he who has committed this act might be removed from among you…..turn that one over to Satan for the destruction of the flesh, so that his spirit may be saved in the Day of the Lord.”  Severe indeed but needed.

Apparently it served it’s purpose.  He felt sorrow for his sin and repented.  Now what was needed was for the person who was removed & experienced shame to be restored. Paul’s in his first epistle records these words of wisdom: “Brothers, if someone is caught in any wrongdoing, you who are spiritual should restore such a person with a gentle spirit, watching out for yourselves so you won’t be tempted also. Carry one another’s burdens; in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ.” –  Galatians 6:1-2

Paul also warned that if this restoration did not take place Satan could again take advantage of the situation. We are not to be ignorant of the devil’s schemes.

We also learn another important attribute of God in these verses.  It’s not in God’s nature for us to have sorrow multiplied upon sorrow (see VS 7).  One reason Paul insisted on this man’s restoration is that he could be overwhelmed by grief, which God did not desire.  God is not interested in embarrassing the sinner but in seeing them forgiven and healed. For example see John 8:2-12.  It would have not served the purpose of his loving return to fellowship and a free and forgiven life.  We must always remember: we can forgive because we have been forgiven!

VS 12-17 To God we are the fragrance of Christ

Another change of plans so Paul is again flexible in his travels. Fellowship was very important (we don’t read of Paul traveling alone much) and the absence of Titus troubled the Apostle.  This is also where Paul transitions from the past to the present in this letter.

What follows is mind-blowing.  God puts us on display completely identified in Christ.  The aroma or scent of Christ is as a sacrifice pleasing to God. See Gen. 8:21; Ex. 29:25; Lev. 1:13; Num. 15:3.  We are living sacrifices, see Romans 12:1 & 1 Peter 2:5.

Everywhere we go we spread the aroma of Christ but it is perceived differently by each person.  Paul says in VS 15-16 “For to God we are the fragrance of Christ among those who are being saved and among those who are perishing. To some we are a scent of death leading to death, but to others, a scent of life leading to life.”  I can’t help but to think of Paul’s words in 1 Corinthians 1:18 – The Cross is foolish to the perishing but the power of God to those being saved.  The same undiluted message, as a two edged sword, cuts both ways.  I implore those who read these words: do not reject the message of the gospel but instead love the truth!!

I’m reminded of a passage in CS Lewis’ masterpiece The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrob, Chapter 7. Read closely of the three reactions of the Pevensie children when they hear that “Aslan (the novel’s Christlike figure) is on the move…”

“They say Aslan is on the move – perhaps has already landed.”  And now a very curious thing happened. None of the children knew who Aslan was any more than you do; but the moment the Beaver had spoken these words everyone felt quite different……Edmund felt a sensation of mysterious horror. Peter felt suddenly brave and adventurous. Susan felt as if some delicious smell or some delightful strain of music had just floated by her. And Lucy got the feeling you have when you wake up in the morning and realize that it is the beginning of the holidays or the beginning of summer.

When people hear the words Jesus Christ they may react or feel differently.  All that’s required of us is that we be faithful in our lives and the message of the gospel.

Paul concludes chapter two with “For we are not like the many who make a trade in God’s message [for profit], but as those with sincerity, we speak in Christ, as from God and before God.”  This is true sincerity and transparency.  We are not to peddle the word of God.  Ministry is not for charlatans.  Not only do we speak in Christ as from God (sent by Him) but “before God” (in responsibility to Him.)

What do we learn for our lives today from 2 Corinthians 2?…

  • If we must rebuke, let it be in love and in unity with the Spirit of God. All our actions must be redemptive.
  • When one repents be sure to receive them and reassure them of your love.
  • Do not be ashamed to spread the gospel everywhere you go.  This is a high calling of the church.

Unless otherwise indicated all Scripture is taken from the Holman Christian Standard Bible ® Copyright © 2003, 2002, 2000, 1999 by Holman Bible Publishers. All rights reserved.

2 Corinthians 1

The chapter may be found here.

Paul begins his second letter to the Corinthians (this was probably his 4th letter in actuality: 1 Corinthians 5:9, Acts 18:1-17 & 2 Corinthians 2:3–4) with a warm greeting: “Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.” HCSB.) Paul used a wordplay common to Christians at the time: “the Greeks greeted with “Hello” (Gk. charein), however Christians with “Grace” (Gk. charis.) This letter was most likely written about a year after 1 Corinthians. Paul is no doubt the author. Some question the authorship of 6:14–7:1 but Paul was most likely compiling scripture. There is no reasonable doubt that the epistle is Pauline.

Father of mercies and the God of all comfort. VS 3-11

VS 3-11 offer an incredible insight into the theology of comfort. I use the term theology because comfort comes from God. Though the word empathy is never used in scripture it is indeed described quite adequately, especially here. To sum it up: I was hurting, God comforted me, I can comfort you with the comfort I received from God. Christians can feel for others they way a non-Christian cannot.

VS 5 says it quite well: “He comforts us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any kind of affliction, through the comfort we ourselves receive from God.

This passage also dismantles a contemporary sentiment: “God won’t let you go through more than you can handle.” That statement is not true. Nowhere are we taught this. 1 Corinthians 10:13 says we won’t be tempted beyond what we are able. Here Paul actually said he and his companions “…were completely overwhelmed—beyond our strength —so that we even despaired of life. However, we personally had a death sentence within ourselves…” VS 8b – 9a. This sounds to me as if they were overwhelmed beyond their human ability. Paul was driven to a deeper trust in God. Even the Apostle Paul needed to learn afresh to not trust himself but in God who raises the dead.

We also learn that we can help others through prayer (VS 11.) It’s amazing that if we cannot be there in person our prayers to God for them cause us to both join them in their work and help them.

Paul’s godly boast. VS 12-14

Paul was not one to boast in himself even though he had the ability to. It was Paul who taught by the Spirit that love is not boastful. However, here Paul’s boast is this: “..the testimony of our conscience that we have conducted ourselves…..with God-given sincerity and purity, not by fleshly wisdom but by God’s grace.” All one needs do is read 1 Corinthians to see how open, loving but stern, & honest Paul was toward them.

“Yes” has come about in Him VS 15-24

Paul uses his travel plans to teach an important message. Paul considers it mere human (fleshly, in step with the sinful nature) “..to say “Yes, yes” and “No, no” [simultaneously].” VS 17b

Paul’s honesty, however painful to him at times, was a reflection of God’s character. Paul isn’t merely teaching to be honest, he is declaring God’s faithfulness in all things. God can be trusted (this point was punctuated with the reminder that He even raises the dead in VS 9.) What God has promised He will fulfill.

God’s message is not “Yes and no.” He doesn’t change His mind the way we may. The coming of the promised Messiah is God’s ultimate promise fulfilled. In fact all God’s promises are fulfilled in Jesus, our ultimate source of life and satisfaction.

Amen means “So be it.” or a resounding “YES!” in context of God’s promises. Paul teaches says that “”Yes” has come about in Him (Jesus Christ).” VS 19b.

Paul will address this further (his meek handling of them) but he concludes chapter 1 by letting him know the delay was to spare them from a severe rebuke (VS 23 NLT). According to VS 24 Paul was not interested in dominating them (as often is the practice of leaders who follow the flesh) with his teaching. His desire was sincere: to work with them which will lead to full joy. We stand firm by our faith in Christ.

What does this mean for us today?

  • Do not despair when you go through hardships. God is working in you (perhaps with “trust issues”.) God will use you to comfort others with the comfort you received through Him.
  • Boast in God alone. Be sincere & holy in your Christian walk and you will have no reason to be ashamed.
  • Like God let your yes be yes and your no, no. Be steadfast in your faith-walk. This is a reflection in your life that God does not change. Remember that God keeps His promises. All the Father’s promises are ultimately fulfilled in Jesus Christ who is our well of living water, salvation, satisfaction, healing, & risen Lord.

Unless otherwise indicated all Scripture is taken from the Holman Christian Standard Bible ® Copyright © 2003, 2002, 2000, 1999 by Holman Bible Publishers. All rights reserved.