Thursday, August 31 2017
Contributor: Isekhua Evborokhai
In last week’s study, we saw the Apostle Paul responding to the Corinthians who were criticising him saying he was unreliable and inconsistent because he changed his travel plans. In his response, we learnt that his decision was for both their benefits; and that he could have avoided all the chaos if he had explained his reason in his initial message to them through Titus. But more importantly, he was humble enough to respond to them without any bile or guile. In today’s study, we will follow through with the remaining verses from chapter 2 and learn some valuable lessons in Church Discipline and Forgiveness as well as our triumph in Christ
The Perfect Template for Forgiveness – Verses 5-8
“Remember that the man I wrote about, who caused all the trouble, has not caused sorrow to me as much as to all the rest of you—though I certainly have my share in it too. I don’t want to be harder on him than I should. He has been punished enough by your united disapproval. 7 Now it is time to forgive him and comfort him. Otherwise he may become so bitter and discouraged that he won’t be able to recover. 8 Please show him now that you still do love him very much” [LB]
In verses 5 – 8, Paul appeals to the Corinthian church to forgive the brother who had sinned (and repented) among them. Let’s delve into these verses:
"Remember that the man I wrote about, who caused all the trouble:" This is real pastoral wisdom and compassion on display! He refers to a specific person among the Corinthians, without naming him. You will recall from 1 Corinthians 5; there was a man sleeping with his father’s wife. The Corinthian church obeyed and issued punishment to the man as instructed by Paul. Apparently, he repented, but the Corinthian Christians would not receive him back! So here, Paul was telling them not be too severe, to consider their punishment sufficient, and to forgive and comfort the man. Their harsh stance towards this man had a real danger: “Lest perhaps such a one be swallowed up with too much sorrow.” By withholding restoration and forgiveness from the man, they risked ruining him, causing him to be swallowed up with too much sorrow.
The Corinthian Christians were often extreme! Either being too lenient (as they were initially, condoning the sin) or as it now, too harsh. From Paul’s letter, we learn that for forgiveness to be complete; there must be comfort. Forgive and comfort him Paul admonishes. There is the judicial forgiveness which is hard, and leaves the soul always conscious of the past. But comfort takes the soul to heart, and leaves it grateful and assured. That is how God forgives, and so should we who are His children. Joseph’s experience when he forgave his brothers in Genesis 50: 19-21 is the perfect template for forgiveness.
“And Joseph said unto them, fear not: for am I in the place of God? But as for you, ye thought evil against me; but God meant it unto good, to bring to pass, as it is this day, to save much people alive. Now therefore fear ye not: I will nourish you, and your little ones. And he comforted them, and spake kindly unto them.”
The restoring work of the church towards sinners is just as important as its rebuking work. When the offender is made to feel that, while his sin is punished, he himself is loved; and that the end aimed at is not his suffering but his good, he is more likely to be brought to repentance."
The Reason for Complete Forgiveness and Reassurance Read Verses 9 - 11
“I wrote to you as I did so that I could find out how far you would go in obeying me. When you forgive anyone, I do too. And whatever I have forgiven (to the extent that this affected me too) has been by Christ’s authority, and for your good. A further reason for forgiveness is to keep from being outsmarted by Satan, for we know what he is trying to do.” [LB]
Paul wrote strongly in 1 Corinthians 5, and the Corinthians met the test by doing what Paul instructed them to do. Now, he puts them to the test again, telling them to show love to the now repentant brother. Sometimes we find it easier to be obedient when it came to being "tough" than when it comes to being “loving.” You will see here also that Paul expects the Corinthian Christians to take the lead in showing the man forgiveness and restoration. “When you forgive anyone, I do too.” Jesus talked about the same in Luke 17:3 "So watch yourselves. "If your brother or sister sins against you, rebuke them; and if they repent, forgive them."
Verse 11 says: "A further reason for forgiveness is to keep from being outsmarted by Satan, for we know what he is trying to do.” Other versions say “Lest Satan should take advantage of us:”
Paul knew this was of special concern, because Satan is looking to take advantage of our mistakes, as a church and as individuals. The phrase “Take advantage” (the Greek word pleonekteo) is used in four other verses in the New Testament (2 Corinthians 7:2, 12:17-18, 1 Thessalonians 4:6). It has the idea of cheating someone out of something that belongs to them. When we are ignorant of Satan's strategies, he can take things from us that belong to us in Jesus, things like peace, joy, fellowship, a sense of forgiveness, and victory. For we are not ignorant of his devices (for we know what he is trying to do.”): To withhold forgiveness from the repentant is to play into the hands of Satan. And there is nothing more dangerous than to give Satan a chance of reducing a sinner to despair. Whenever we fail to comfort those that are moved to a sincere confession of their sin, we give Satan the opportunity to do this.
Grabbing Every Opportunity to Preach! – Verses 12-13
“Well, when I got as far as the city of Troas, the Lord gave me tremendous opportunities to preach the Gospel. 13 But Titus, my dear brother, wasn’t there to meet me and I couldn’t rest, wondering where he was and what had happened to him. So I said good-bye and went right on to Macedonia to try to find him.” [LB]
Paul has been dealing with criticism from the Corinthian Christians, saying he is unreliable and inconsistent because of his travel plans. Here he mentions another reason; that while he was away, he was busy at the Master’s business! The Lord gave me tremendous opportunities to preach the Gospel.: Paul was interested in ministering where God was opening doors. The only way our work for God will be blessed is when it is directed service. In verse 13 we learn that even though there was an open door, Paul felt he could not do all that he needed to if he did not have Titus there. Paul did not regard himself as a one-man show, he knew he needed other people with him and beside him.
Jesus, The Triumphant Leader – Verses 14
“But thanks be to God! For through what Christ has done, he has triumphed over us so that now wherever we go he uses us to tell others about the Lord and to spread the Gospel like a sweet perfume.” [LB]
Here in verse 14, Paul takes an image from the Roman world, seeing Jesus as the victorious, conquering general in a triumph parade. A Roman triumph parade was given to successful generals when returning from their conquests. Paul wanted the Corinthian Christians to realize that he was being led his general, Jesus Christ. It is almost as if he sees Jesus' triumph parade winding its way through the whole Roman Empire, through the entire world. Incense, was also a common feature at the Roman triumph parade. In Paul's mind, this fragrance is like the knowledge of God, which people can smell when the triumph parade winds by. The Fragrance of Christ! It does not consist so much in what we do, but in our manner of doing it; not so much in our words or deeds, as in an indefinable sweetness, tenderness, courtesy, unselfishness, and desire to please others to their edification. It is the breath and fragrance of a life hidden with Christ in God, and deriving its aroma from fellowship with Him.
The Triumph Parade Means Different Things to Different People. Verses 15-16a
“As far as God is concerned there is a sweet, wholesome fragrance in our lives. It is the fragrance of Christ within us, an aroma to both the saved and the unsaved all around us. 16 To those who are not being saved, we seem a fearful smell of death and doom, while to those who know Christ we are a life-giving perfume.” [LB]
To the one we are the aroma of death to death, and to the other the aroma of life to life: The smell of incense burnt to the gods in a Roman triumph parade would be a great smell to a Roman. But it would be a bad smell to a captive prisoner of war in the parade, who would soon be executed or sold into slavery. In the same way, the message of the gospel is a message of life to some and a message of condemnation to those who reject it (John 3:17-21). The same happens to the present day to those who receive and to those who reject the Gospel: it is the means of salvation to the former, it is the means of destruction to the latter; for they are not only not saved because they do not believe the Gospel, but they are condemned because they reject it.
Conclusion: Paul Characterizes His Ministry Based on His Integrity. Verses 16b-17
“But who is adequate for such a task as this? 17 Only those who, like ourselves, are men of integrity, sent by God, speaking with Christ’s power, with God’s eye upon us. We are not like those hucksters—and there are many of them—whose idea in getting out the Gospel is to make a good living out of it.” [LB]
Who is adequate/capable for these things? When Paul thinks of the greatness of God's plan, he wonders who is sufficient to play a role in it. "In himself, no one is. But someone has to preach Christ and Paul proceeds to show that he is sufficient." This is a great work, first to consult the mind and will of God, and find it out by study and meditation; then faithfully to communicate it unto people, without any vain or corrupt mixtures (which do but adulterate the word preached); then to apply it to the consciences of those that hear us. Who is sufficient for these things? that is, to discharge the office of the ministry in the preaching of the gospel, as men ought to preach it." Not like others who are preaching the Gospel; "adulterating" or "watering down" for their personal gains. Revelation 2:24
Parts of this study was culled from https://www.blueletterbible.org/Comm/archives/guzik_david/studyguide_2cr/2cr_2.cfm
Sunday, August 27 2017
Contributor: Isekhua Evborokhai
At the tail end of Paul’s first letter to the Corinthians he had made plans to visit the church as we see in 1 Cor. 16: 5 – 7 – “I am coming to visit you after I have been to Macedonia first, but I will be staying there only for a little while. It could be that I will stay longer with you, perhaps all winter, and then you can send me on to my next destination. This time I don’t want to make just a passing visit and then go right on; I want to come and stay awhile, if the Lord will let me.”
Apparently, something happened and plans changed and the Corinthians started accusing him of being inconsistent and unreliable. It would also appear that the Corinthians accused Paul of employing worldly methods. Paul's policy of being all things to all men so that by all possible mean I might save some (1Cor9v22) would have invited some criticism too.
And so, he responds with his second letter; but important to note that he didn’t lash off addressing their accusations; he started off from verses 1-11 admonishing the church on how to handle difficulties. He even went as far as using himself as an example of his sufferings in Asia. This shouldn’t come as a surprise because Paul’s method and that of our Lord Jesus Christ has never been to be one-sided in rebuke. The approach has always been not to be overly critical. So, let’s step into the last few verses of Chapter One and into the first few verses of chapter 2 and learn some valuable traits of a genuine leader as Paul defends his integrity and ultimately his ministry!
PAUL’S INTEGRITY, SIMPLICITY AND WRITINGS DEFENDED. Read Verses 12 - 13
From Paul’s response, we can learn the following:
(a) People's consciences vary. Our conscience informs us if we live up to the standards of which we approve. Paul had very high standards informed as they were by Old Testament values and Christ's teaching. So even though his standards were high Paul could still affirm that his conscience was clear over the methods he used to evangelise and his conduct toward the Corinthians.
(b) The importance of integrity. Paul claimed that he behaved at Corinth with holiness and sincerity that are from God. At Corinth Paul behaved with godly simplicity with no intention to deceive anyone. What you saw was what you got and that is how we all should be! Because mostly, people see through our pretences and don’t just want to call us out! Paul also acted with godly sincerity. His motives were pure - perfectly transparent for all to see. He had the best interests of the Corinthians at heart. Paul didn't use the believers there for his own purposes - to acquire wealth, a following, status or adulation.
(c) God's help is better than worldly wisdom. When Paul ministered at Corinth for eighteen months he did not rely on worldly wisdom or his own wisdom. Paul relied on God's help when he took this message to wicked men and women in Corinth. He needed the Holy Spirit to enlighten, guide and empower if success was to accompany the gospel message. 1Cor2v4. This is how everyone in God's service should proceed. If we trust in our strength like Samson we shall come unstuck as surely as he did. We must rely on God alone for effectiveness in service
Paul also had to defend the criticism of his writings.
It also seems the Corinthians criticised Paul's letters in two respects:
(i.) They were not easy to read and consequently were hard to take in and instead of seeking to understand, they turned around and accused Paul of writing in “codes” (in some instances, you and I will agree with them)
(ii.) It was sometimes difficult to discern Paul's meaning. Topics such as an apostle's rights in 1Cor 9 where he argued that God's servants should be paid but refused to accept payment himself. Meat sacrificed to idols where he told the Corinthians not to eat it if by so doing they would offend the weaknesses of another but then asserted: “For why should my freedom be judged by another's conscience.” 1Cor10v29. or his teaching on a woman's role in the church and hair covering that still confuses some Christians to this day.
Here is how Apostle Peter put it in 2 Pet.3:15-16
“and consider that the longsuffering of our Lord is salvation—as also our beloved brother Paul, according to the wisdom given to him, has written to you, as also in all his epistles, speaking in them of these things, in which are some things hard to understand, which untaught and unstable people twist to their own destruction, as they do also the rest of the Scriptures.”
So, Paul’s response was:
“My letters have been straightforward and sincere; nothing is written between the lines! And even though you don’t know me very well (I hope someday you will), I want you to try to accept me and be proud of me as you already are to some extent; just as I shall be of you on that day when our Lord Jesus comes back again.”
Paul’s response implied that with a bit of effort they should be able to take in what he wrote and by trying hard would eventually fully understand it. He expected that the time he spent with them 18 months was enough for them to have grown above those who need spoon feeding. And that it is wrong when we come across a difficult passage in the New Testament not to make a concerted attempt to understand it.
PAUL DEFENDS THE CRITICISM OF HIS DECISION – Read Verses 14 - 18
It is possible that one of the reasons the church at Corinth criticised Paul for changing his travel plans was because they needed his presence to clarify matters. It is evident from 2Cor1v15 to 2Cor2v4 that Paul made a promise to visit the church at Corinth on his way to Macedonia and then on his way back from Macedonia. In 1 Cor.16:5-7, he promised two visits – the first on his way to Macedonia and the second on his return. It would appear that he deliberately postponed visiting them on his return leg and so, the Corinthians criticised him severely for changing his plans and breaking his promise. And that his “yes” was not “yes” and his “no” was not “no.”
So, Paul again responded in verses 14-18. In verses 14 & 15 you could sense Paul’s disappointment in the Corinthian church when he first said: “And even though you don’t know me very well (I hope someday you will), and then in verse 15: “It was because I was so sure of your understanding and trust . . . “Apparently, that was not the case; the Corinthian didn’t understand, neither did they trust Paul.
He assured the Corinthians of his good intention. He planned to visit them twice for their benefit. And then in verse 17, he expressed another hint of disappointment. "Then why, you may be asking, did I change my plan? Hadn’t I really made up my mind yet? Or am I like a man of the world who says yes when he really means no. He asserted he wasn't the sort of person to make a promise with no intention of keeping it."
VERSES 19 - 24 PAUL EXPLAINS HIS DECISION.
Before Paul explained his decision, he importantly connected his ministry with that of Jesus Christ; since it was Jesus they had been preaching about and He, Jesus isn’t one to say yes when he means no; and He always does exactly what he says. He then quizzed them; “when Silas and Timothy and I proclaimed Jesus among you, did you notice any yes-and-no, on-again, off-again waffling? Wasn’t it a clean, strong Yes?” And then in verse 23b - 24 Paul admitted that he broke his word and changed his plans because he couldn't bear any more unpleasantness. “I call upon this God to witness against me if I am not telling the absolute truth: the reason I haven’t come to visit you yet is that I don’t want to sadden you with a severe rebuke. 24 When I come, although I can’t do much to help your faith, for it is strong already, I want to be able to do something about your joy: I want to make you happy, not sad.”
CONCLUSION - 2 Corinthians 2:1-4
Paul made the first visit on the way to Macedonia, but it was painful for both him and the Corinthians because it was full of confrontation as some of them found it difficult to come to terms with everything he wrote; thus, certain issues remained unresolved and disagreements persisted that the Corinthians would have wanted resolved. But Paul was convinced that if he made a return visit it would be another painful one. 2Cor2vs1 says: “No,” I said to myself, “I won’t do it. I’ll not make them unhappy with another painful visit.”
You see, when he wrote his first letter, it was in the hope that the Corinthians would straighten things out. “That is why I wrote as I did in my last letter, so that you will get things straightened out before I come. Then, when I do come, I will not be made sad by the very ones who ought to give me greatest joy.” 2Cor2v3. But that wasn’t the case. Instead, his confidence that the Corinthians would respond positively to his letter was misplaced. “I had confidence in all of you, that you would all share my joy.” 2Cor2v3. He also didn't enjoy pointing the church to their errors and malpractices as we see in 2Cor2v4a. “Oh, how I hated to write that letter! It almost broke my heart, and I tell you honestly that I cried over it.”
This was clearly a difficult situation Paul found himself. His decision to skip his return visit was clearly for the mutual benefit of both parties but he didn’t explain that in the message sent to the Corinthians through Titus from Ephesus (2Cor2vs3-9). But he was sincere in the explanation of his decision. He didn’t slap his authority over them as we will see these days
Parts of this study was culled from http://www.jrtalks.com
Saturday, August 19 2017
Contributor: Leye Olayiwola
Last week, we concluded on the first letter of Paul to the church in Corinth. In the 16th chapter of the first letter, Paul gave general advice on charitable giving and his intention to visit and fellowship with the brethren. As is customary of the apostle, he admonished the brethren to stand strong in their faith and to do all things with love. Apostle Paul concluded his letter to the Corinthian brethren by praying and reiterating his love for the brethren. Today, we will continue our study of the first chapter of the second epistle of Apostle Paul to the Corinthian church.
1. The Salutation (verses 1-2)
• Paul gives the church one of his standard greetings. Grace refers to that unmerited favor of God toward unworthy sinners that leads to peace in their hearts (i.e., God’s peace that he possesses in himself), in their relationship with God, and also in their relationships with others.
2. God’s comfort and reason for His comfort (verses 3-5)
• Paul starts this section off by ascribing blessing to God. While this opening was a typical way a Jew approached God it was nonetheless an expression of deep piety and reverence. But here, as in Ephesians 1:3 and 1 Pet 1:3, God is specifically identified as the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.
• God is to be praised for many reasons, for all that He is and does, and the sheer greatness of His being (Ps 145:3), his love (Ps 86:15), faithfulness (Lam 3:22-23), strength (Isa 41:10), and inscrutability (Romans 11:36). Here Paul, in light of his deliverance from deadly circumstances in Asia minor reflects on and gives thanks to God for his immeasurable mercy. In fact, he calls God the Father of mercies (note the plural, “mercies”) and the God of all comfort (Mic 7:19; Isa 40:1; 66:13). God’s mercy is His pity upon us in our helpless (though not necessarily innocent) state and it results in his comfort being shown to us. Paul had experienced that deep compassion of a father who gives mercy a totally new name and who loves a needy son and extends mercy to him in the midst of his struggles (Rom 5:1-5: God has poured out his love into our hearts…”). He comforted the apostle undoubtedly through the Holy Spirit and ultimately by delivering him from the deadly peril (v. 11).
• God does not pick and choose when he will comfort us. Further, there is never a time when we deserve his special presence in mercy. Remember it is according to his mercies—which are many—and in all our affliction or in every affliction we go through. You may have sinned and as a result suffering the consequences, but God will nonetheless draw near to you to comfort you if you allow him.
• So why does God comfort us in all our afflictions? One reason he does this is so that we can comfort others who are in affliction with the comfort by which we were comforted by God. In other words there is a reason why God comforts us. To be sure it is so that we ourselves experience his love and help, but he also wants us as Christians to be conduits of that love, not storehouses. Once we have experienced God’s compassion and comfort in the midst of a trial we are better equipped to minister that same comfort to others. We know what it takes, by the grace of God, to help others who are suffering. This is at the heart of the gospel.
• Paul gives the reason why the argument of verse 4 is true. It is true because just as the sufferings of Christ overflow toward us, so also our comfort through Christ overflows. The sufferings of Christ do not refer to any suffering Messiah endured on the cross en route to securing our redemption. Rather, they refer to the sufferings Paul underwent in the context of his apostolic ministry, that is, suffering for Christ which in fact every Christian encounters as a result of living godly. They are Christ’s sufferings since they come as a result of his life in us. Indeed, as he lives in us in the current expression of the kingdom, he endures them with us until they are completed. But as the sufferings overflow so also our comfort through Christ overflows. But, Paul says, the more I suffer the more I experience comfort through Christ. The particular emphasis here is on the experience of comfort in the midst of suffering, not being comforted by being removed from suffering. Though God did save Paul from such a deadly peril (1:8-11), he was nonetheless comforted in the midst of the trial.
3. Learning from Apostle Paul’s Experience (verses 6-7)
• Two points must be noted in v. 6. First, Paul’s afflictions in the course of his ministry of preaching the gospel for Christ result in the salvation of those who hear the message. This, of course, included the Corinthians. Thus they owe their salvation—which brought them comfort and the experience of God’s presence—as it were, to the suffering of the apostle.
• Second, the fact that Paul is comforted in his trials, demonstrates to the Corinthians that they too can be comforted by God. The mention of this fact, though we are ignorant of the particular afflictions of the Corinthians, awakens them to the possibility of God’s comfort. The end result is that everything God did through Paul was both for his benefit as well as the benefit of the Corinthians.
• Since the sufferings Paul refers to are unique to the Christian—sufferings the Christian undergoes in consequence of being a Christian in a fallen world—and the Corinthians are sharing in these sufferings, Paul is confident that the church will also share in a similar comfort; Paul is ultra confident that God will minister his comfort to them. The implication is that they too will be able to comfort each other in the trial they are enduring.
4. Hardships In Asia (verses 8-11)
• With the use of a common formula in Pauline writing, the apostle says for we do not want you to be unaware, brothers and sisters. Paul wants them to know the affliction that happened…in Asia, that he and others were burdened excessively, beyond their strength, so that they despaired even of living. The word for connects this paragraph, namely, vv. 8-11, with vv. 3-7 in the following way: since they can share in his sufferings and comfort he tells them about his great struggle in Asia. No one knows precisely what hardship Paul faced in Asia but some school of thoughts are;
a) Fighting wild beasts in Ephesus (1 Cor 15:32);
b) Riots at Ephesus instigated by Demetrius the silversmith (Acts 18:23-41)
c) Deadly sickness of some kind (2 Cor 1:9)
d) Trial in Asia due to the Jews who gave him a great deal of grief (Acts 20:19)
Although we cannot know for certain what the struggle was, it nonetheless brought Paul to his knees—so to speak. He was burdened beyond his ability to endure, beyond his strength, with the result that he despaired of life.
• Paul says that he felt as if the sentence had been passed and death was the verdict. At least this is the place he had come to in his own thinking. He thought for sure that there was no way out whatsoever and that death was inevitable. But, after the entire affair was over he said that God permitted it so that we (he and others with him) would not trust in ourselves but in God who raises the dead. Paul had come to view all of his life in the sovereign hands of God and his good purposes. He knew that God had permitted all of his affliction to occur for many reasons, one chief one being the apostle’s dependence on God.
• Paul is convinced that God delivered him, and those with him, from so great a risk of death and that he will continue to do so in the future. But he wants the Corinthians to know that such deliverance comes about when God’s people pray and petition him in such cases. But the prayer is for more than mere deliverance; it is also for the whole work of proclaiming the gospel and all that such an enterprise entails. The end result of such prayer and “help” is that many will give thanks to God on behalf of his gracious gift of deliverance for Paul and His advancement of the gospel.
As Christians, we have, by virtue of becoming a Christian, learned to rely on Christ and not ourselves. We learned that through conversion. But the lesson really never ends and in certain ways is greatly accelerated when we suffer. The deeper the suffering, the deeper the despair. The deeper the despair, the deeper the feelings of death. The deeper the feelings of death, the deeper our cry goes forth to the one who can save us from death. What does all this produce: a greater God-given ability to comfort others who are suffering.
Most parts of this study was culled from bible.org
Tuesday, August 15 2017
Contributor: Isekhua Evborokhai
The journey through the first letter Apostle Paul wrote to the Corinthians has been a rather exciting and enriching one. In this final “salutation” chapter, terror and tenderness are strangely mingled in his parting salutation, written by Paul’s own hand. He has been obliged, throughout the whole epistle, to assume a tone of remonstrance abundantly mingled with irony and sarcasm and indignation. He has had to rebuke the Corinthians for many faults, party spirit, lax morality, toleration of foul sins, grave abuses in their worship even at the Lord’s Supper, gross errors in opinion in the denial of the Resurrection. In today’s study, we shall learn a lot from this parting salutation.
Verses 1-4 Directions About Some Charitable Collection to Be Made In The Church
In this chapter, Paul begins with directing the Corinthians about a charitable collection on a particular occasion, the distresses and poverty of Christians in Judea, which at this time were extraordinary, partly through the general calamities of that nation and partly through the particular sufferings to which they were exposed. It was not a peculiar service which he required of them; he had given similar orders to the churches of Galatia, v. 1. He desired them only to conform to the same rules which he had given to other churches on a similar occasion. He did not desire that others should be eased and they burdened, 2 Co. 8:13. He also prudently mentions these orders of his to the churches of Galatia, to excite emulation, and stir them up to be liberal, according to their circumstances, and the occasion. Those who exceeded most churches in spiritual gifts, and, as it is probable, in worldly wealth (see the argument), surely would not suffer themselves to come behind any in their bounty to their afflicted brethren. The good examples of other Christians and churches should excite in us a holy emulation.
In verse 2 Paul teaches us how to form the habit of giving without being under pressure. Each person should set aside any amount he/she could spare from time to time, and by this means make up a sum for this charitable purpose.
When God blesses and prospers us, we should be ready to relieve and comfort his needy servants; when his bounty flows forth upon us, we should not confine it to ourselves, but let it stream out to others.
Works of mercy are the genuine fruits of true love to God, and therefore are a proper service on his own day. Paul’s intention when in he said “I will send whomever you approve with letters [of authorization] to take your gift [of charity and love] to Jerusalem;” was not to meddle with their contributions without their consent. We should not only charitably relieve our poor fellow-Christians but do it in such a way as will best signify our compassion to them and care of them.
Verses 5 – 9 The Visit, The Work and The Challenges
In this passage the apostle notifies and explains his purpose of visiting them,
His purpose: he intended to pass out of Asia, where he now was and to go through Macedonia into Achaia, where Corinth was, and to stay some time with them, and perhaps the winter, v. 5, v. 6. He had long laboured in this church, and done much good among them, and had his heart set upon doing much more (if God saw fit), and therefore he had it in his thoughts to see them, and stay with them.
The heart of a truly Christian minister must be much towards that people among whom he has long laboured, and with remarkable success. His stay among them, he hoped, would cure their factious humour, and reconcile them to himself and their duty.
In verse 7 he adds, “if the Lord permits”: This shows that though the apostles wrote under inspiration, they did not know thereby how God would dispose of them. All our purposes must be made with submission to the divine providence. We should say, If the Lord will, we shall live, and do this and that, James. 4:15 . It is not in us to effect our own designs, without the divine leave. It is by God’s power and permission, and under his direction, that we must do everything.
However, he intends to continue to stay in Ephesus for a while because a great door, and effectual was opened to him; many were prepared to receive the gospel at Ephesus, and God gave him great success among them; he had brought over many to Christ, and he had great hope of bringing over many more. Great success in the work of the gospel commonly creates many enemies. The devil opposes those most, and makes them most trouble, who most heartily and successfully set themselves to destroy his kingdom.
Adversaries and opposition do not break the spirits of faithful and successful ministers, but only enkindle their zeal, and inspire them with fresh courage.
Verses 10 -12 Recommendation of Timothy to Them, And Apollos’ Intended Visit
Here the apostle recommends Timothy to them. He bids them take care that he should be among them without feat. Timothy was sent by the apostle to correct the abuses which had crept in among them; and not only to direct, but to blame, and censure, and reprove, those who were culpable. They were all in factions, and no doubt the mutual strife and hatred ran very high among them.
He warns them against despising him. Faithful ministers are not only to be well received by a people among whom they may for a season minister, but are to be sent away with due respect. Timothy was employed in the same work as Paul, and acted in it by the same authority, v. 10. He did not come on Paul’s errand among them, nor to do his work, but the work of the Lord. Though he was not an apostle, he was assistant to one, and was sent upon this very business by a divine commission. And therefore, to vex his spirit would be to grieve the Holy Spirit; to despise him would be to despise him that sent him, not Paul, but Paul’s Lord and theirs. Those who work the work of the Lord should be neither terrified nor despised, but treated with all tenderness and respect.
Next, he informs them of Apollos’s purpose to see them. Though one party among them had declared for Apollos against Paul, yet Paul did not hinder Apollos from going to Corinth in his own absence, instead, he encouraged him to go. He had no suspicions of Apollos.
Verses 13 – 18 Admonishment onto Watchfulness, Constancy, Charity, And Paying Due Regard to Fellow Labourers In Their Work
In this passage the apostle gives some general advices;
1. That they should watch (v. 13), be wakeful and upon their guard. A Christian is always in danger, and therefore should ever be on the watch; but the danger is greater at some times and under some circumstances. The Corinthians were in manifest danger upon many accounts: their feuds ran high, the irregularities among them were very great, there were deceivers got among them, who endeavoured to corrupt their faith in the most important articles, those without which the practice of virtue and piety could never subsist. And surely in such dangerous circumstances it was their concern to watch.
2. He advises them to stand fast in the faith, to keep their ground, adhere to the revelation of God, and not give it up for the wisdom of the world, nor suffer it to be corrupted by it—stand for the faith of the gospel, and maintain it even to death
3. He advises them to act like men, and be strong: "Act the manly, firm, and resolved part: behave strenuously, in opposition to the bad men who would divide and corrupt you, those who would split you into factions or seduce you from the faith: be not terrified nor inveigled by them; but show yourselves men in Christ, by your steadiness, by your sound judgment and firm resolution.
4. He advises them to do everything in charity: Our zeal and constancy must be consistent with charity. When the apostle would have us play the man for our faith or religion, he puts in a caution against playing the devil for it. We may defend our faith, but we must, at the same time, maintain our innocence, and not devour and destroy, and think with ourselves that the wrath of man will work the righteousness of God, James. 1:24.
He gives further advice on how they should behave towards those that had been faithful in the service of God. He gives us their character
(1.) The household of Stephanas is mentioned by him, and their character is, that they were the first-fruits of Achaia, the first converts to Christianity in that region of Greece in which Corinth was.
(2.) He mentions Stephanas, and Fortunatus, and Achaicus, as coming to him from the church of Corinth. The account he gives of them is that they supplied the deficiencies of the church towards him, and by so doing refreshed his spirit and theirs, v. 17, v. 18. They gave him a more perfect account of the state of the church by word of mouth than he could acquire by their letter, and by that means much quieted his mind, and upon their return from him would quiet the minds of the Corinthians.
Verses 20 – 24 Conclusion: Solemn Admonition and Good Wishes
And in this last solemn warning he traces all these vices to their fountainhead-the defect of love to Jesus Christ-and warns of their fatal issue. ‘Let him be Anathema.’
But he will not leave these terrible words for his last. The thunder is followed by gentle rain, and the sun glistens on the drops; ‘The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you all.’ Nor for himself will he let the last impression be one of rebuke or even of warning. He desires to show that his heart yearns over them all; so he gathers them all-the partisans; the poor brother that has fallen into sin; the lax ones who, in their misplaced tenderness, had left him in his sin; the misguided reasoners who had struck the Resurrection out of the articles of the Christian creed-he gathers them all into his final salutation, and he says, ‘Take and share my love-though I have had to rebuke-amongst the whole of you.’
Parts of this study was culled from biblestudytools.com
Friday, August 04 2017
Contributor: Isekhua Evborokhai
In last week’s study titled The Order of Resurrection, we learnt that because Christ resurrected, He became the first fruit of you and I who will also resurrect! We used the parallels of planting a dead seed and the fruit it bears to explain how different our resurrected bodies will be from our earthly bodies. In today’s study, we shall be looking at the concluding 9 verses of chapter 15. In these verses of scripture, the Apostle Paul concludes his glorious teaching on the resurrection. These closing verses are a climactic song of victory, a kind of symphony. It’s a symphony in three movements. The first movement celebrates the future transformation of our bodies while the second movement celebrates the future termination of sin. The final movement celebrates the future compensation of our work.
VERSES 50 – 53: CELEBRATING THE FUTURE TRANSFORMATION OF OUR BODIES
“Now this I say, brethren, that flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God; nor does corruption inherit incorruption. 51 Behold, I tell you a mystery: We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed— 52 in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed. 53 For this corruptible must put on incorruption, and this mortal must put on immortality.”
In these first four verses, Paul explains that an earth suit, a natural human body consisting of flesh and blood as we know it, is unsuitable for heaven. Hence, those believers still alive when Jesus returns at the rapture will receive their new bodies by transformation rather than by resurrection. Our earthly bodies made of flesh and blood cannot get into God’s Kingdom. Because perishable bodies are not the right kind to live forever. Our “appearance” and “attire” must meet certain standards to enter heaven! That is the way heaven is. Heaven is a place where there is no pain, no sorrow, no sickness, or death. These perishable bodies that we possess here on earth are not suited for heaven because they are prone to these.
We must receive “imperishable” or “ageless” bodies. They must be changed into a glorified state so that we can live in God’s presence before His perfection, holiness, and beauty.
He goes further to talk about a mystery; something that had not been taught by any other apostle or the Lord Himself; he was referring to a revelation the Lord must have showed him; a newly revealed truth! The “mystery” is what is called the rapture of the church. There will be a generation of Christians that will inherit their glorified bodies without having to “sleep” or die. 1 Thessalonians 4:15
Paul continues his description of the rapture in 15:52a and explains that the transformation of our bodies will take place “in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye at the last trumpet.” This transformation will not be a gradual process but instantaneous. You hear the blast of a trumpet, and in the time that you look up and blink your eyes—it’s over.
VERSES 54-57: CELEBRATING THE FUTURE TERMINATION OF SIN
“54 So when this corruptible has put on incorruption, and this mortal has put on immortality, then shall be brought to pass the saying that is written: “Death is swallowed up in victory.”55 “O Death, where is your sting? O Hades, where is your victory?” 56 The sting of death is sin, and the strength of sin is the law. 57 But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.”
The resurrection of dead believers and the transformation of living believers signal the death of death. In verse 55, the apostle refers to Isa 25:8 and Hosea 13:14; two scriptures that both mock death! And then he goes further to show reveal some vital truths in verses 56 & 57.
Death is not supposed to have any power over us; but it is sin that makes death so frightening and the guilt that the law invokes gives sin its destructive power. But since we have experienced redemption from sin by Christ then we can face death without its sting. It would only be a transition from earth to heaven.
This reality ought to cause us to break out in thanksgiving, as Paul did in verse 57 when he said: “but thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.”
The verb “gives” is in the present tense. Literally, God keeps on giving us victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.
VERSE 58: CELEBRATING THE FUTURE COMPENSATION OF OUR WORK ON EARTH
“Therefore, my beloved brethren, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that your labor is not in vain in the Lord.”
Paul concludes his discussion of the resurrection with an exhortation to be faithful in the present; telling us how these truths relate to our daily lives. In this verse, he answers the concerns expressed in verses 1-2
The phrase “my beloved brethren” demonstrates Paul’s love for the Corinthians, despite the deficiencies in their theology and their behavior.31 This should compel us to love one another despite our theological differences. Paul was dealing with Christians that were waffling on their own bodily resurrection. Yet, despite their erroneous theology Paul continued to love them.
After affirming his readers, Paul gives further instructions: What we should be (steadfast and immovable), what we should do, (“abound”) and what we should know (that our labour is not in vain in the Lord.)
1. What we should be: Paul commands us to “be steadfast, immovable.” - Like the Corinthians we are prone to be impatient, easily discouraged, and lazy. We let the circumstances of life blow us out of the water. We allow financial setbacks or job problems to depress us. Yet, Paul says, “Get a grip on the resurrection and on God’s final plan for believers, and you will not be so readily shaken.” We will be firmly rooted in what we know to be true about life and death because we have confidence in the resurrection. It gives solid footing. We won’t be swayed by every idea that comes along about this life and the afterlife. We can stand firm. We know who we are, why we’re here on earth, and where we’re headed in the future.
2. What we should do: Paul urges us to be “always abounding in the work of the Lord.” The verb “abounding” pictures something flowing over the edges on all sides. If we want to hear Jesus say, “Well done, good and faithful servant,” we need to give ourselves fully to the work of the Lord. Consistently and continuously.
3. What we should know: Paul encourages us to know (and keep in mind) that our labour is not in vain in the Lord. so, throw yourselves into the work of the Master, confident that nothing you do for him is a waste of time or effort. He is a Rewarder! (Heb. 11:6, Heb.6:10)
Now that we know that the resurrection brings us to a quality and a dimension of life that is a lifting to a higher, more free, and a more marvellous dimension of existence than we have ever known; we should also remember that death is a tool, and only our enemy on this earth. Just beyond the “curtain”, it becomes our friend. That is why the elderly at the point of death are “mostly” at peace. (The label “Death” is still on the bottle, but the contents are “Life Eternal.”)
Death is not the end of the road; but only a bend. Psalms 116:15 says: “Precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of His (godly ones)”
We should change the way we see death; because the death and burial of our earthly bodies is not an unfortunate circumstance; it is a necessity if you want to enter heaven! God sees death as a passage from earth to heaven for Him to enjoy perfect, eternal, delightful fellowship with each of His redeemed children. And that is how we should see it too; as an opportunity to truly rest from all the hard work and be with God! For Christians, death is a transfer, a promotion; it's on to better things; no more problems. The Bible assures us that death is not a tragedy but a triumphal entry into heaven. Revelation 14:13 says:
'I heard a voice out of Heaven, "Write this: Blessed are those who die in the Master...how blessed to die that way!" "Yes," says the Spirit, "and blessed rest from their hard, hard work. None of what they've done is wasted; God blesses them for it all in the end’
The truth is that even after reading scriptures like these we remain afraid of death because of sin. It is sin that gives death its sting and makes it painful! When death comes, there is nothing we can do about it. But by the life we have lived on earth, we can die by death's sting or use death as a transition-channel to heaven to the beginning of a glorious everlasting life!
Parts of this study was culled from Bible.org