Sunday, September 30, 2018

Paul's Second Letter To The Church At Corinth. Day 18, Godly Sorrow Versus Worldly Sorrow

Our passage today regards the obedience of the Corinthian church in repenting after they received Paul's first letter. We will take a look at what he means by godly sorrow versus worldly sorrow.

"Make room for us in your hearts. We have wronged no one, we have corrupted no one, we have exploited no one. I do not say this to condemn you; I have said before that you have such a place in  our hearts that we would live or die with you. I have spoken to you with great frankness; I take great pride in you. I am greatly encouraged; in all our troubles my joy knows no bounds." (2 Corinthians 7:2-4) There were false teachers in Corinth who were doing these very things: wronging, corrupting, and exploiting people. Some of these false teachers even criticized the ministry of Paul and the other apostles because they weren't impressive in looks and didn't put on a big show or charge admission to their teaching sessions. These false teachers didn't dare point out any wrongdoing among believers, as Paul did. But that's because the false teachers don't love them.

Paul says to the church, "We are not like those who are trying to seduce you away from sound doctrine. You can easily compare our ministry with theirs. Can any of you say we have wronged you in any way? Have we ever told you anything false? Have we ever gained anything financially from you? On the contrary, we have worked to provide for ourselves so that you could have free access to the gospel. We have done this because we love you with all our hearts. We would be willing to die with you if persecution comes against the church at Corinth. We wouldn't dream of running away and leaving you, but that's exactly what those false teachers would do."

Why is Paul greatly encouraged by the church in Corinth? Because he knows they have repented of the things he mentioned in his first letter. Now he speaks of how much his mind was on the Corinthian church while he ministered to the Macedonians. He had hoped to hear news from Titus and the Corinthian church before he went to Macedonia, but Titus was not at the prearranged meeting spot in Troas, and Paul was so distressed in his mind that he cut his visit to Troas short in order to travel on to Macedonia in hopes that Titus had gone on ahead of him. But when Paul and his companions arrived in Macedonia, Titus still hadn't appeared with a reply to Paul's first letter to the Corinthians. Despite all the troubles that assailed him in Macedonia, the Corinthian church was foremost in Paul's mind the whole time he was there. "For when we came into Macedonia, we had no rest, but we were harassed at every turn---conflicts on the outside, fears within. But God, who comforts the downcast, comforted us by the coming of Titus, and not only by his coming but also by the comfort you had given him. He told us about your longing for me, your deep sorrow, your ardent concern for me, so that my joy was greater than ever." (2 Corinthians 7:5-7)

It was good news that Titus brought to Macedonia. The Corinthian church had repented! They had accepted Paul's words in the right spirit. Because of this he says, "Even if I caused you sorrow by my letter, I do not regret it. Though I did regret it---I see that my letter hurt you, but only for a little while---yet now I am happy, not because you were made sorry, but because your sorrow led you to repentance. For you became sorrowful as God intended and so were not harmed in any way by us." (2 Corinthians 7:8-9) Have you ever had to tell someone you love that they are going down the wrong path? It made you feel very sad, didn't it? But when they saw the truth of your words and repented, you were glad you spoke to them, weren't you? Paul went through a period of time where he felt regret---not for writing the letter but for the sorrow it must have caused its readers. He hated to cause them any pain, but at the same time he knew it was necessary. We can just imagine his relief when he found out they read his letter and said among themselves, "He's right! The way we've been behaving is unseemly for Christians. We need to get this matter straightened out right away. We need to express our sorrow to the Lord and to our friend Paul."

There is godly sorrow and there is worldly sorrow, and there is a great deal of difference between them. "Godly sorrow brings repentance that leads to salvation and leaves no regret, but worldly sorrow brings death." (2 Corinthians 7:10) The best Biblical example of worldly sorrow I can think of is Judas Iscariot. You may remember when we studied the books of Mark and Luke that when Judas hanged himself it was because he was overwhelmed with guilt when he realized his actions had condemned Jesus to death. We talked about how in the original Greek the word that was translated into "repented" in English actually meant he experienced "sorrow or regret". This is not the Greek word which is used in the Bible for the type of repentance that means "to convert, to change course". Judas was feeling worldly sorrow, the sorrow that Paul says leads to death. Judas still didn't believe Jesus of Nazareth was the Son of God, but he did regret selling Him out to the chief priests, and he was sorry that a man who had only shown him love was going to be crucified. Unable to deal with this much guilt, Judas committed suicide.

If he had experienced godly repentance instead, he could have fallen on his knees and confessed his sins to God and received mercy. That's what King David did when he felt godly repentance after causing the death of Bathsheba's husband. Judas wasn't the first man to have blood on his hands and he wouldn't be the last; Paul himself was responsible for voting in the council to put Christians to death. But the difference between Judas and men like David or Paul is that Judas' sorrow was only the natural human guilt that came with knowing he had wronged an innocent person. Judas was still unwilling to submit to the Lord. He had to have known that option was available to him, for he knew the Scriptures and had been taught from them by the greatest preacher who ever lived. He knew other men had committed detestable deeds and had found mercy in repentance. Things would have gone very differently for him if he had allowed himself to feel godly repentance. I think that instead of hanging himself he would have survived to meet with the risen Christ just as the other disciples did. I think he would have received forgiveness straight from Jesus' mouth just as Peter received forgiveness for denying Him.

This is the test of any sorrow we feel: does it cause us to just want to beat ourselves up and sink into despair, or does it drive us to our knees before the only One who can grant us absolution? Does the sorrow make us wish we were dead or does it cause us to change course and get back on the right path? There's only one correct place to take our sorrow and guilt: to Christ who bore our sorrow and guilt for us. (Isaiah 53:3-5) Christ carried the cross so we wouldn't have to carry guilt. Christ died for our sins so we wouldn't have to die for them. Let's not be like Judas and allow ourselves to become so broken by our sins that we don't want to live. Let's be like David and Paul who, though they were sinners, found redemption and newness of life in the Lord.

Saturday, September 29, 2018

Paul's Second Letter To The Church At Corinth. Day 17, Showing Reverence To God The Father For His Love And Support

Chapter 7 begins with a passage that actually contains the final remarks of Chapter 6, but Paul uses it as a bridge between the two chapters. In the last section of Chapter 6 he was speaking about the holy living that is proper for the believers now that they are the children of God. God has promised great things to those who are faithful to Him, so Paul begins today by saying, "Therefore, since we have these promises, dear friends, let us purify ourselves from everything that contaminates body and spirit, perfecting holiness out of reverence for God." (2 Corinthians 7:1)

In Chapter 6 Paul quoted several Old Testament verses regarding holy living and the promises of God in return for holy living. In these quotes we found the Lord saying, "Come out from among them and be separate." To paraphrase this: "You are not of the world so don't live like the world." In return for holy living the Lord promised, "I will live with you and walk among you. You will be My people and I will be your God." What is it we need most as the children of a loving God? Isn't it the sense of His presence with us? The thing I needed most when I was a child was the presence of my loving parents. Any situation was instantly made better as soon as my parents appeared on the scene. The Lord knows that what His children need most is His presence.

Since we have such a loving Father, we should strive to live lives that honor Him---as Paul says "out of reverence for God". We tried to live in a way that pleased our parents, didn't we? I'm thankful to have come from a stable home where I had two parents who loved me more than they loved their own lives. Did this make me want to please them? Of course it did. Not everyone came from a stable home with loving parents, but if you didn't you still have a Father who loves you with all His heart. In God we all have a Father who is able to give us the stability we need, a Father who loves us more than He loves Himself, and a Father who is perfect. We owe Him our reverence. We should want to honor Him in the way we conduct our lives. Paul knows we are going to fall short from time to time, so this is why he tells us to work at "perfecting holiness". He's telling us that our lives should demonstrate a pattern of continual improvement. We should be making fewer big mistakes now than we made a week after we came to the faith. We should be making fewer big mistakes ten years in the future than we are making today. Just as a child gradually learns what his parents expect of him as he grows, we should be learning more and more about what our Father expects from us as we grow in our relationship with Him.

Do you recall ever going to your parents for reassurance that things were going to be alright? Did you ever ask them this same question more than once? We are weak and frail beings, and this world is a scary place, so sometimes we have to ask our heavenly Father for reassurance. Sometimes we even have to ask Him more than once.

Earlier this week I found myself overwhelmed with the need for reassurance about a particular concern I was having. Some years back the Lord provided reassurance regarding this same concern, but things that have happened over the summer had me feeling down about the future in general and down about this one thing in particular. I knew the Lord had previously reassured me, but like a little child I went to Him and said, "Lord, I just need You to tell me again." Did the Lord chastise me and say, "Oh ye of little faith"? No, my Father understands how tough it is to live in this world. He knows how weak our bodies are and how worn down we sometimes become when circumstances have been going in an undesirable direction. So, like my earthly parents who never became weary of reassuring me about my childlike fears, the Lord patiently and faithfully reassured me again. In fact, He brought the answer to me that very day, not once but twice! The Lord and I have a special thing that's just between the two of us that He uses to reassure me from time to time, just as a parent and a child might have a special thing just between the two of them. The Lord always uses our special thing in such a way that I know these reassurances have been orchestrated long ago. He prepared them in advance. You see, the Lord has always known I would need particular answers on particular days. He knew everything about me and about my life before I was ever born. He knew every question I would ever ask, so He prepared the answers ahead. He made sure I would get what I needed exactly when I needed it.

You don't have to just take my word for it that the Lord thoroughly knew every second of our lives and every thought in our heads before He created any of us. King David wrote an entire psalm on the subject. In Psalm 139 we find David praising the Lord for knowing him thoroughly, for knowing every thought he would ever have, for knowing every word that would ever come from his mouth, for being able to see him no matter how dark the night, and for being the first eyes to ever see him as he was formed in his mother's womb. The realization of such things pretty much blew David's mind. He said, "Such knowledge is too wonderful for me, too lofty for me to attain." (Psalm 139:6) 

When the Lord reassured me this week with His presence and with His answer, the knowledge that He has always known me and that He will always know exactly what I will need pretty much blew my mind! Out loud I quoted David's words, "Before a word is on my tongue You, Lord, know it completely. Thank You, Lord, for knowing me! Thank You for preparing the answer I needed in advance!"

We have a Father who knows us in ways our parents never knew us. We have a Father who can do for us things our earthly parents could never do for us. We owe Him our reverence, and we show Him reverence by living in a way that honors Him. Are we going to be perfect at this? No, and the Lord knows we won't be. But as Paul says, we are to work every day at improving our reverence for our Father. In this fallen world things are going to get on our nerves. We're going to become physically tired or mentally exhausted or "hangry" enough to feel irritable and impatient. We're going to sometimes make wrong choices by accident. We're going to sometimes make wrong choices on purpose. But if we are the children of the living God, we won't feel comfortable about these things. Just as we felt guilty for disobeying our parents, if we belong to the Lord we will feel guilty when we disobey His instructions. So the next time these situations come up we will hopefully remember how bad we felt the last time we handled them in the wrong way, and we will handle them with more grace and dignity---reverencing our Father who loves us.

Friday, September 28, 2018

Paul's Second Letter To The Church At Corinth. Day 16, Old Testament Prophecies Fulfilled In Christ

In yesterday's passage we found Paul warning the believers to be careful about the company they keep. The people of Corinth once were pagan idolaters and were ignorant of the living God. Now that they have come to the faith, they are still living in a society filled with idolatry. They have to be on guard about close associations with anyone who might drag them back down into wrong ways of living.

Today Paul continues on with this theme by reminding the people they are the temple of the living God now that His Spirit resides within them. Because they are His people, they must separate themselves from sinful practices. He uses several verses from the Old Testament to make his point, beginning with this, "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.'" (2 Corinthians 6:16b) We first find this verse in Leviticus 26:12. In that chapter the Lord is making covenant promises to Israel in return for her obedience in avoiding idolatry. The Lord promises to walk among them and be their God. Paul is telling the Gentile believers of Corinth that they too can claim this promise because they now believe in the one true God. If they remain faithful to Him, He will be faithful to them and will walk among them and be their God.

The second place we find the verse Paul quotes is in Jeremiah 32:38. In that chapter the Lord instructs Jeremiah to buy a field in the territory of Benjamin as a sign that the Lord is going to bring the people back from captivity. He intends to allow Babylon to overthrow them because so many have turned to idolatry, but later He intends to bring them back. He says He will let them live in safety in the land (Jeremiah 32:37) and He promises to walk among them and be their God. Through the prophet Jeremiah the Lord promises there is going to be a day when He will give the people "singleness of heart" to follow Him alone. (Jeremiah 32:39)

The third place we find the verse Paul quotes is in Ezekiel 37:27. In that chapter the Lord foretells of a day in which all twelve tribes of Israel will be united together again in the land and there will be one eternally living king of the line of David ruling over them. Not only will this king rule over Israel; he will rule over all the nations. In those days the Lord says the people of Israel will never again fall into idolatry or drift away from their relationship with Him. (Ezekiel 37:23) He promises He will live forever among them and be their God. How is this all going to come about? How will this be possible? Paul tells the believers at Corinth that the prophecy is already coming true. The Lord no longer resides in a temple but in their hearts. The Lord is living within their inmost being and is with them all the time. The Lord has provided the king of the line of David who lives forever and who will someday rule over a united Israel and over the entire world. God is faithful to His promises. Not one word will ever fail to come to pass, and the proof is that a great deal of His promises have already come to pass in the person of the Lord Jesus Christ, the Son of God.

Since we are new creatures in Christ, we must have nothing to do with the deeds of darkness. "Therefore, 'Come out from them and be separate, says the Lord. Touch no unclean thing, and I will receive you.'" (2 Corinthians 6:17) My NIV references Ezekiel 20:34,41 here. In that chapter the Lord is promising to rid the nation of idolatry for good. Paul finds this reference to be very relevant to the people of Corinth because they are living in a city where statues to false gods are standing on practically every street corner. There are temples devoted to pagan gods throughout the city. The Christians there can scarcely walk a step without being confronted with these images. Paul knows that if they do not remain vigilant at all times, sinful practices may creep back into their lives. He also knows it's possible to live in the world and not be of the world. (John 15:19,John 17:16) Paul would say the same type of things to us in our own day that he says to the people of Corinth in the first century BC, "You will face pressure to fit in with the world instead of standing out as people of God who are willing to swim against the stream. But the Lord calls us to be holy because He is holy. He has sanctified us (set us apart) for His service; therefore though we live in the world we don't have to look like the world. We should look like the Lord our Father, for we are His children."

He concludes today's passage with this quotation, "And, 'I will be a Father to you, and you will be My sons and daughters, says the Lord Almighty.'" (2 Corinthians 6:18) My Bible references 2 Samuel 7:14 here. In that chapter the Lord promises that a descendant of David's line will build the temple and that He will treat this king as a father treats a son. We know that this promise began to be fulfilled when David's son Solomon built the temple for the Lord. In a larger sense it is clear that the Lord is making an eternal promise to David, for He tells David that his royal line will never cease and that a king will arise from his line to rule forever. Another one is coming to whom God will be a Father, but in that case God will literally be a Father, because the promise is fulfilled in the Lord Jesus Christ. He is the promised king of the line of David. He is the one of whom the patriarch Jacob spoke when he bestowed a blessing upon his son Judah, "The scepter will not depart from Judah, nor the ruler's staff from between his feet, until He to whom it belongs shall come and the obedience of the nations shall be His." (Genesis 49:10)

Jacob prophetically foresaw that Judah would be the royal line of Israel, and he saw this long before Israel was a nation and long before she ever had a king. By inspiration of the Spirit of the Lord, Jacob spoke of a king---a final king---who would come from the line of Judah and who would rule over not only Israel but the whole world. He said, "The scepter and the ruler's staff belongs to Him. Someday He is coming and all the world will obey Him." This prophecy began to be fulfilled when God became flesh and dwelt among us (John 1:14) in the person of Jesus of Nazareth, of the tribe of Judah, of the line of David, who holds the title to the throne of Israel, and who will someday reign from David's throne over Israel and over the earth.

Many of God's promises have already been fulfilled. Why would we ever doubt He is going to fulfill the rest of them? He is going to fulfill not only His promises of blessing, but also His promises of judgment. Knowing this, what kind of people should we be? (2 Peter 3:11) We should be holy, for our God is holy. We should strive to look like the children of the living God.

Thursday, September 27, 2018

Paul's Second Letter To The Church At Corinth. Day 15, Righteousness And Wickedness Have Nothing In Common

In our study this morning we will look at a passage which includes a verse that is probably familiar to many of you. Paul warns us not to be "unequally yoked". In previous studies I think we've looked at this principle before in regard to marriage and business partnerships. But today we are going to look at it in regard to idolatry. The traditional type of idolatry is in view here in Chapter 6: the type that involves bowing down to the image of a false god. Paul warns his readers to be careful about the company they keep because they might be seduced back into their old ways of living.

But his advice isn't only valid for first century Christians. We all have to guard against idolatry, except here in the year 2018 idolatry is usually disguised as something else. If someone asked me to bow down before an image with them, I would refuse because I am able to see that this would be wrong. But modern idolatry has been cleverly disguised. Satan knows that in most developed countries we are too sophisticated to bring incense and offerings to an image, so he tempts us into other forms of idolatry. We must keep in mind that an idol is anything we value more than God or more than our relationship with Him.

"Do not be yoked together with unbelievers. For what do righteousness and wickedness have in common? Or what fellowship can light have with darkness?" (2 Corinthians 6:14) Paul isn't saying we aren't to associate with unbelievers. That would be literally impossible, for as he said in 1 Corinthians 5:10, to avoid unbelievers we would have to leave the world altogether. Besides, if we were never to associate with unbelievers, how could we share the gospel with them? How could we minister to them in any way? He is talking instead about very close associations, and he uses an agricultural example in order to fix his meaning in the minds of his readers. A yoke was used to harness two animals together in order to plow a field. The farmer would choose two animals (let's say two bulls) that were as similar as possible in size and strength. This created the best team to perform the work. The farmer would never dream of putting a small and weak bull in a yoke with a large and strong bull. The strong bull would become weary and worn out from doing all the work, the weak bull would get injured from being dragged along by the stronger partner, and the rows in the garden wouldn't be straight.

Paul is saying, "You are believers and this makes you big and strong. You have power, courage, and endurance. Why would you want to get in a yoke with unbelievers who are weak and faithless and fearful? Forming a close relationship with someone like that is going to wear you down. It's going to cause you to drift from the straight and narrow. You may think you can help and change the unbeliever, but being in a yoke with them is not the way to do this. Either you will hurt them by dragging them along behind you, or else you will lower yourself to their level and become just as weak."

"What harmony is there between Christ and Belial? Or what does a believer have in common with an unbeliever? What agreement is there between the temple o God and idols? For we are the temple of the living God." (2 Corinthians 6:15-16a) I have friends who are non-Christians and I have friends who don't even believe in God. Paul's not telling us we can't associate with people of different faiths or with agnostics or atheists. He's talking about being in the yoke with an unbeliever, of being in a very close partnership with them. This is good advice for dating. A believer shouldn't even start going out with an unbeliever. What if they fall in love? That would lead to the two of them being unequally yoked together in holy matrimony. It's good advice for business, since the believing partner and the unbelieving partner will have completely different ideas and methods for running the business. It's good advice for selecting a best friend as well. If this is going to be the type of friendship where one person is hardly ever seen without the other, it's important that both friends share the same values. The unbeliever can't encourage the believer in the faith. The friendship itself might be satisfying in a lot of ways, but if this is the person we are going to spend most of our leisure time with, and if this is the first person we are going to call when we need help, it's best if both of us share the same faith.

Would we take the temple of God and build an addition onto it for a false god? Of course we wouldn't literally do such a thing, but Paul says we are symbolically doing such a thing when we yoke ourselves tightly together with an unbeliever. We are the temple of God because His Spirit lives within us; therefore when we enter into a close partnership with an unbeliever it is the same as building an idolatrous addition to God's temple. In Paul's day most people who didn't believe in the God of Israel believed in some other god or gods. In our day and in the United States most people who don't believe in the God of Israel don't believe in any god at all, but in a way they have made gods of themselves. If God doesn't exist, then they have nothing to go by but their own definition of morality, and in that sense they are a law unto themselves and a god unto themselves. Who defines for them what is right or wrong? They do! To whom will they have to answer if God does not exist? No one. So does it matter whether they do right or wrong? No. Being closely yoked with an unbeliever has the capability of skewing our own moral compasses, so Paul says to beware of an association like this, repeating an earlier warning he made in 1 Corinthians 15:33, "Do not be misled: 'Bad company corrupts good character.'"

Wednesday, September 26, 2018

Paul's Second Letter To The Church At Corinth. Day 14, Living In A Way That Brings No Discredit To The Gospel

Paul speaks today about the importance of living in such a way that the gospel he preaches is not discredited. I wonder how many people have turned away from learning anything about the Lord because they have been turned off by the conduct of some ministers of the gospel. Unfortunately, not everyone who claims to belong to Christ actually lives in a Christlike manner. There have been and probably still are ministers who aren't even Christians at all but are charlatans who are out for what they can get for themselves. It's unfair to Christ but He is quite often judged by the conduct of those who say they are His. Of course we will all make mistakes, and I think even unbelievers don't expect us to be perfect, but there is a difference between occasionally messing up and living in a state of unrepentant sin.

Our manner of living is judged by both Christians and non-Christians, but ministers of the gospel come under even greater scrutiny. Just think of the various scandals that have come out about some of the Protestant televangelists and megachurch pastors. Think of the scandals that have come out about some of the Catholic priests. Paul knows there are people who simply don't like his personality. Some don't enjoy his particular manner of speaking. Others find him quite unimpressive in looks. These are foolish reasons to discount the message he's preaching, but people's arbitrary opinions are something he can't do much about. What he can do something about is living in such a way that the gospel he preaches is not discredited. He can live in such a way that no one can criticize the message because of the messenger. He tells us today that he and the other apostles continually strive to live in a way that honors the gospel message.

"We put no stumbling block in anyone's path, so that our ministry will not be discredited." (2 Corinthians 6:3) Paul is speaking here of ministers, but I think we can apply this verse to ourselves as well. We don't normally think of it this way, but our behavior as believers is capable of placing a stumbling block in the path of those who are interested in learning about the Lord. It's possible to offend these seekers so badly that they form a negative impression of the body of Christ as a whole. They may even lose interest in seeking Christ altogether.

"Rather, as servants of God we commend ourselves in every way: in great endurance; in troubles, hardships and distresses; in beatings, imprisonments and riots; in hard work, sleepless nights and hunger; in purity, understanding, patience and kindness; in the Holy Spirit and in sincere love; in truthful speech and in the power of God; with weapons of righteousness in the right hand and in the left; through glory and dishonor; bad report and good report; genuine, yet regarded as impostors; known, yet regarded as unknown; dying, and yet we live on; beaten, and yet not killed; sorrowful, yet always rejoicing; poor, yet making many rich; having nothing, and yet possessing everything." (2 Corinthians 6:4-10) Paul says, "Here are our credentials as ministers of the gospel! If we were not true servants of Christ, would we endure such things for His name?"

The Lord Jesus never said it would be easy to be His follower. Instead He said, "Whoever wants to be My disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow Me." (Matthew 16:24, Mark 8:34, Luke 9:23) Paul is telling the Corinthian believers that he and the other ministers are denying their own needs and wants in order to get the gospel to those who have never heard it. If they were living according to the flesh they'd say, "This work is too hard. I'm tired of being persecuted for the gospel. It hurts to be mistreated. I'm tired of losing sleep and missing meals while I serve others. I'm going to quit and go home." But the Spirit who lives within them says, "Jesus warned us that those who hate Him will hate us also. This cross gets heavy at times, but it's worth carrying it to save the souls of those who are perishing without the Lord. We love Jesus and we want everyone to know Him and love Him. This work is hard, and Satan buffets us on every side, but greater is He who is in us than he who is in the world." (1 John 4:4)

"We have spoken freely to you, Corinthians, and opened wide our hearts to you." (2 Corinthians 6:11) Paul has told them the truth, both good and bad. First he preached the good news of the gospel to them, then later he had to write a letter (1 Corinthians) that chastised them for their worldly behavior. He had to scold them for clinging to some of their old ways after becoming new creatures in Christ. It would appear from the next line that some of the Corinthian believers think that because Paul has scolded them he doesn't really love them. It would also appear that Paul is not the only minister who took them to task for their behavior, since he uses the word "we". "We are not withholding our affection from you, but you are withholding yours from us." (2 Corinthians 6:12) Paul protests, "We have not stopped loving you! We are not holding anything against you, but it seems that you are holding it against us that we spoke the truth to you in love. We could not claim to love you and not point out the harm you've been doing to yourselves. We love you as much as we always have. It is your affection for us that has decreased."

"As a fair exchange---I speak as to my children---open wide your hearts also." (2 Corinthians 6:13) Paul said in his first letter to the church that he thought of himself as a father to the believers at Corinth. As a father he has the responsibility to train them in the right way to live, and as a father he sometimes has to scold them for persisting in behavior they know is wrong. My parents used to scold me for wrong actions and bad attitudes, but I never doubted that they still loved me. Sometimes they had to discipline me with a spanking or a time-out or the removal of a privilege, but I knew they loved me as much as they always had. My love for them didn't decrease because they scolded me or disciplined me; I knew they were doing their jobs as parents. Paul asks his "children" at Corinth to regard him as they would a parent who only wants the best for them. He is doing his job as a parent, and they shouldn't resent him for it. Instead they ought to show him the same love and respect they would show their biological parents.

God also has to do His job as a Father. If we belong to Him, He will occasionally have to scold or discipline us for disobedience. It is wrong for us to conclude He loves us any less at those times. Like an earthly parent, He still loves His children just as much as He ever did. He may be displeased with our actions, just as our earthly parents were sometimes displeased with our actions, but He doesn't disown us. He doesn't withhold His affection from us. We shouldn't stub up and pout and withhold our affection from Him.

Our passage today reminds me of a song that I've heard several times lately on the radio, so I'm posting the link to it below. It talks about our inability to erase God's love for us.
No Matter What

Tuesday, September 25, 2018

Paul's Second Letter To The Church At Corinth. Day 13, The Encouragement Of God's Grace

Paul warns the church members of Corinth that they need to be transformed by the truth of God's word. God has graciously brought the gospel to them; they must not treat it casually. Have you ever known anyone who became a Christian but still maintained a terrible attitude about life? Have you ever known a Christian who feels defeated by everything? Or have you ever felt this way yourself? We all have days when we feel discouraged or overwhelmed or negative about a particular situation, but this ought not to be the constant state of the believer. Paul tells the Corinthians, and us, that we don't have to allow this world and our enemy the devil and our own weak flesh to get us down and keep us down. Victory is ours through the grace of our God. He freely offers it to us. We can't blame anyone but ourselves if we go through all our days with attitudes of discouragement and defeat. 

"As God's co-workers we urge you not to receive God's grace in vain. For He says, 'In the time of My favor I heard you, and in the day of salvation I helped you.' I tell you, now is the time of God's favor, now is the day of salvation." (2 Corinthians 6:1-2) We learned in Paul's previous letter that there were a lot of problems in the Corinthian church. The members were still quite worldly in their thinking and in their treatment of each other. It's possible to receive the grace of God (to be saved) and to live as a person who has no victory over the flesh. An example of this would be if we came to faith in Christ and still clung to bitterness and a negative attitude. Another example would be if we did nothing for the Lord or for our fellow man after believing in Christ. Yet another example would be if we accepted Christ but lived in an attitude of defeat about everything that happens to us in this world. 

The Lord offers us strength and encouragement; we don't have to walk around with our jaws dragging the ground in sadness. God is offering His grace to us today just as He offered it to the people of Corinth. Although I don't believe there will be any sorrow in heaven, sometimes I wonder how I will feel when I see God as He is and am confronted with the fact that so much more grace and victory could have been mine on earth if only I'd accepted it. More grace is available to us than we could ever fathom. Imagine how it must break God's fatherly heart when we don't let Him help us.

In our study today we find Paul quoting a portion of the book of Isaiah. His quote is taken from the following passage: "This is what the Lord says: 'In the time of My favor I will answer you, and in the day of salvation I will help you; I will keep you and will make you to be a covenant for the people, to restore the land and to reassign its desolate inheritances, to say to the captives, 'Come out!" and to those in darkness, 'Be free!'" (Isaiah 49:8-9a) Isaiah's ministry was to implore the people to turn back to the Lord so they would not be taken into captivity, yet at the same time he knew they would not repent and would be defeated and carried away. He also understood that their captivity would not last forever. They were going to return to the land the Lord had given them. Isaiah's heart was broken about the coming captivity, but at the same time he rejoiced because he knew a day was coming when the Lord would call to the captives, "Come out! Be free!" Isaiah predicted a new covenant that the Lord would make with Israel and with all the world through Israel. 

Paul says, "Isaiah the prophet was right about the Babylonian captivity. Did not the Lord allow the people to be captured? But Isaiah was also right about their return to the land. Did not the Lord allow the people to return? Isaiah was right again when he said the Lord would make Israel a covenant for all people, for the Lord Jesus Christ of the nation of Israel and of the line of David and of the tribe of Judah is the author of God's new covenant with mankind. God has kept the promises He made through the prophet. Why then should anyone doubt that He is capable of setting us free from the things that discourage us in this world? He has promised us grace and freedom and victory. In Christ we have the victory over everything in this world that tries to hold us hostage. We don't have to walk in darkness. We don't have to live in the captivity of sin and despair. God our Father says to us through Christ, 'Come out! Be free!'" 

Monday, September 24, 2018

Paul's Second Letter To The Church At Corinth. Day 12, Reconciled To God

Paul explains to his readers that he is a minister of the reconciliation: the gospel that explains how man can be made right with God through Christ. He cautions us to treat our brothers and sisters in Christ as equals, no matter their station in life. And he explains to us that Christ literally took our sins upon Himself on the cross, just as symbolically the sins of the people were transferred to the sacrificial animals.

"Since, then, we know what it is to fear the Lord, we try to persuade others. What we are is plain to God, and I hope it is also plain to your conscience." (2 Corinthians 5:11) Paul concluded our passage yesterday by reminding us that we must all appear before Christ to give an account for the way we have lived our lives. Knowing this, he maintains a healthy reverence and holy fear toward the Lord. He doesn't want anyone to stand before Christ without having been reconciled to God through Him, so he feels an overwhelming urgency to get the gospel to as many people as he can.

I think in our modern times we have to be on guard against thinking of the Lord as our pal. There is a danger of us pulling Him down to our level so that in our minds He looks like us instead of us looking like Him. Of course we can sing "What A Friend We Have In Jesus", but at the same time we must keep in mind that He is God and He is holy. It's true that God is love, but it's also true that He is a righteous judge. If we do not accept His love then nothing remains for us but His judgment. Paul understands that and is driven by this knowledge to try and persuade as many men and women as possible to repent and turn to the Lord.

"We are not trying to commend ourselves to you again, but are giving you an opportunity to take pride in us, so that you can answer those who take pride in what is seen rather than what is in the heart." (2 Corinthians 5:12) He says, "There are people in Corinth who dislike me. False teachers have crept in among you and have seduced some of your citizens into wrong doctrine. These teachers and their students look down me and the other apostles. They say, 'Who wants to listen to these shabby looking guys? They must be terrible lecturers; they don't even charge a fee to those who come to hear them. Only ignorant and unsophisticated people are wasting their time listening to these poor traveling preachers.' But they are wrong. They are only able to see what we look like on the outside. They can't see into our hearts which have been transformed by Christ. They can't see the love we have in our hearts for you."

"If we are 'out of our mind,' as some say, it is for God; if we are in our right mind, it is for you. For Christ's love compels us, because we are convinced that One died for all, and therefore all died. And He died for all, that those who live should no longer live for themselves but for Him who died for them and was raised again." (2 Corinthians 5:13-15) He defends himself against enemies who claim he and the other apostles are crazy, "We are not insane; we are just crazy about our Lord. We love Him with all our hearts and this causes us to love our fellow man with all our hearts. We are compelled to share the gospel so that everyone can hear about the One who died to make us right with God. He died for all because we were all dead in our sins. But He lives again, and we who believe in Him have new life too. We are no longer who we used to be. The old man is dead. The new man is alive in Christ."

"So from now on we regard no one from a worldly point of view. Though we once regarded Christ in this way, we do so no longer. Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here!" (2 Corinthians 5:16-17) He says, "It's not the outward man that matters. It doesn't matter whether a person looks poor and shabby or whether he looks prosperous. It doesn't matter whether a person holds a master's degree or whether he can barely read and write. The inward man is what matters. That is where the power is! Christ was looked upon as an uneducated and shabby carpenter-turned-preacher leading a ragtag bunch of squabbling disciples down the dusty roads of Judea, but look what power was in Him! It wasn't the outside that mattered about Christ. It's not the outside that matters about us. It's the inward man that matters. Now that we are in Christ we have the Holy Spirit inside us. We must therefore regard each other as equals, no matter our status in life."

"All this is from God, who reconciled us to Himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation: that God was reconciling the world to Himself in Christ, not counting people's sins against them. And He has committed to us the message of reconciliation." (2 Corinthians 5:18-19) The apostle is saying, "This is the plan God chose to reconcile us to Him. If you are in Christ, God will never throw your sins in your face. He won't call you to account for how you were living ten years ago when you had never even heard of Christ. He is offering you a great gift, a gift no one else could offer, and you must not reject it. We apostles did not reject His calling upon our lives to share the gospel, so please listen to us. Our message comes not from our own minds but from God Himself."

"We are therefore Christ's ambassadors, as though God were making His appeal through us. We implore you on Christ's behalf: Be reconciled to God. God made Him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in Him we might become the righteousness of God." (2 Corinthians 5:20-21) Christ, the Lamb without blemish, gave Himself as an atoning sacrifice for us. The sins of the people were symbolically transferred to the sacrificial animal, but the sins of us all were literally transferred to Christ when He was bound to the cross. The blood that was brought into the Most Holy Place of the temple once a year by the high priest was for the purpose of rolling the sins of the people back for another year, in this sense imputing righteousness to them for the next twelve months. But the blood that was taken by Christ into the Most Holy Place in heaven was for the purpose of rolling our sins back forever, imputing eternal righteousness to us. (For more on this subject, see chapters 2 through 13 of the book of Hebrews where Christ is presented in His role of high priest.)

We are new creatures in Christ. We may look the same on the outside, but we are transformed on the inside. People may look down on us for our faith and for our refusal to indulge in sinful pursuits, and they may discount our testimonies because we don't appear wealthy and sophisticated. But it's the inward man that matters, and that inward man should be looking more and more like Christ every day.

Sunday, September 23, 2018

Paul's Second Letter To The Church At Corinth. Day 11, Living By Faith

Paul makes it very clear again in today's passage that when our bodies die our spirits go to be with the Lord. Though in his letters he often substitutes the word "sleep" in place of "death", it is only the body that sleeps. The spirit is with the One who created it.

"Therefore we are always confident and know that as long as we are at home in the body we are away from the Lord. For we live by faith, not by sight." (2 Corinthians 5:6-7) Of course the spiritual presence of the Lord is with His saints on the earth, but we are not physically in the presence of our Savior while we live in the flesh. As Paul said yesterday, while we live in the flesh we are at home in our temporary abode: the Greek "skenoo" which means a hut or tent, a dwelling that can easily be carried away. This is why we are presently living by faith and not by sight. We aren't in the physical presence of our Lord. We aren't able to look Him in the eyes. What we have to do while we live in this world is live by His promises. They are trustworthy and true, and someday when we see Him face to face we will have all the proof we need that our faith was not in vain.

"We are confident, I say, and would prefer to be away from the body and at home with the Lord." (2 Corinthians 5:8) It is clear that Paul taught no other doctrine for believers other than that their souls go straight into the presence of the Lord at death. I want to be very careful and very sensitive about what I'm about to say. I know those of us who study here together belong to a number of different Christian denominations. Some of you are of other faiths and some of you are still questioning whether or not you believe there is a God. So I'm speaking with the utmost love and respect when I point out that neither the apostles nor the Lord Jesus ever made mention of a transitory state such as purgatory. On the contrary, they all taught that the sacrifice of Christ was enough once and for all to purge the sins of those who put their trust in Him. If our souls must stop by a waystation on the journey to heaven in order to pay the penalty for sins committed in the body, then what Christ did for us on the cross wasn't enough. And if what Christ did for us on the cross wasn't enough to pay for every sin we ever have committed or ever will commit, then the teachings in the New Testament which claim otherwise are false. The truth is that we can't add anything to what the sinless Son of God did on our behalf; therefore when we who have trusted in Him leave these mortal bodies behind, we are immediately ushered into the presence of the One who died for us.

As Paul says, we are walking in the faith that someday we will go to be with the Lord. It matters how we live our lives, for we will someday have to look our Lord in the eye and give an account for the way we lived. "So we make it our goal to please Him, whether we are at home in the body or away from it. For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each of us may receive what is due us for the things done while in the body, whether good or bad." (2 Corinthians 5:9-10)

Paul uses the Greek word "bema", which is translated into "judgment seat" in English. In the ancient world the bema was a raised step upon which a person would stand when appearing before a king or judge. Many scholars believe the judgment Paul speaks of in today's passage regards only the judgment of believers for rewards, since he uses a different word than the Apostle John uses in Revelation 20:11 when John speaks of the judgment of unbelievers and the enemies of Christ. John sees a great white throne (the Greek "thronos") from which Christ passes a terrible and eternal judgment upon those who have despised Him. It is believed by many scholars that the judgment Paul speaks of in our chapter today is a judgment of rewards, and that this likely corresponds to 1 Corinthians 3:11-15. Paul may be saying something like, "When your spirit goes into the presence of the Lord you trusted in for salvation, you will give an accounting for how you lived your life following your conversion. Did you merely trust in Christ and then do no more? Or did you strive each day to honor Him? Did you work diligently to get the gospel out to the world? Did you minister to your brothers and sisters in Christ? How did you use the fresh start the Lord gave you? You will appear before Him and be rewarded (or not) based on what you did for Him, for His saints, and for His kingdom."

We can't earn salvation by works, but we can earn rewards by works that are performed from a sincere heart. If we truly love Christ we will truly love our fellow man. There is no greater way to honor Christ than to love and minister to those around us. He came to earth "not to be served but to serve others". (Mark 10:45, Matthew 20:28) It's impossible to love Christ the way we ought to love Him and not care about the souls of other human beings. If we don't care that others are perishing without Christ, we need to reevaluate our relationship with Him. Someday we will pass from this life into the next, and we will stand before His bema seat, and He will ask us what we have done with the opportunities we were given to make a difference in the lives of others.

Saturday, September 22, 2018

Paul's Second Letter To The Church At Corinth. Day 10, Waiting For The New Body

Today Paul talks about how eagerly we await the new bodies we will have when Christ returns. He also reassures us as to the location of our souls while they are absent from the body: they are with the Lord.

"For we know that if the earthly tent we live in is destroyed, we have a building from God, an eternal house in heaven, not built by human hands." (2 Corinthians 5:1) The word that is translated "tent" (or sometimes "tabernacle") is the Greek "skenoo" which means "a hut, a temporary abode". We are very attached to our earthly bodies, but Paul wants us to remember that they are temporary abodes. The Lord is going to give us a permanent abode, which is a body like that of Christ's.

"Meanwhile we groan, longing to be clothed instead with our heavenly dwelling, because when we are clothed, we will not be found naked." (2 Corinthians 5:2-3) Our bodies are subject to wear and tear, to viruses, to infections, to diseases. We groan in these bodies. I woke up this morning with a headache and a sore back and had to take two ibuprofen with my coffee, but a day is coming when we will never again groan with pain.

We will be free of all the things that befall a mortal body when we die, but we don't want to be permanently without a body. The Lord created our souls to dwell within a body, so we look forward to the day when we will have immortal bodies. This is why Paul says we don't want to be "naked"; we don't want to remain souls without bodies. I don't know what it will be like living in spirit in heaven. I think it will be a wonderful experience. It is going to be a relief to shake off the burden of bodies that have limits and are prone to disease. But it will be an even more wonderful experience to inhabit perfect and eternal physical bodies.

"For while we are in this tent, we groan and are burdened, because we do not wish to be unclothed but to be clothed instead with our heavenly dwelling, so that what is mortal may be swallowed up by life." (2 Corinthians 5:4) Paul says, "We groan while we are in these bodies, but not because we want to die. We groan because we long for the day when we will inhabit bodies that won't have to deal with sickness or pain. We look forward to the time when death will no longer have dominion over our bodies."

The Lord who redeemed our souls is also going to redeem our bodies. The proof of this is that He has already put down a deposit on us. Like a man entering into a contract promising to purchase a piece of property, God has paid "earnest money". He has given us His Spirit while we still live on earth in our mortal bodies. This is the guarantee that God is going to finish what He has started with us. "Now the One who has fashioned us for this very purpose is God, who has given us the Spirit as a deposit, guaranteeing what is to come." (2 Corinthians 5:5) Our future is glorious. This is why Paul was able to endure the things that made him groan in the body. He kept his thoughts fixed on what lay ahead of him.

Friday, September 21, 2018

Paul's Second Letter To The Church At Corinth. Day 9, Don't Lose Heart

In Thursday's study Paul spoke about being down but not out. He and the other ministers of the gospel dealt with daily hardships and faced the constant threat of death, yet they refused to feel defeated. He encourages his readers not to allow anything to make them feel defeated. Our mortal bodies are subject to all the troubles of this world, just as the body of Jesus was. But the Lord Jesus triumphed over His enemies and over death itself. Our victory is in Him and we have a hope no one can ever take away. Paul reminds us to keep our minds on the big picture and not to allow ourselves to be beaten down by the trials and troubles of this world.

"We always carry around in our body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be revealed in our body. For we who are alive are always being given over to death for Jesus' sake, so that His life may also be revealed in our mortal body. So then, death is at work in us, but life is at work in you." (2 Corinthians 4:10-12) I think Paul's words have a double meaning. He and the other apostles suffered in body as they carried the gospel to the world, plus they knew that at any moment they might be arrested and even martyred for the faith. In that sense they were carrying around in their body the death of Jesus, for the same persecution that came against Him was now coming against them. In another sense I think Paul means they were dying to "self" as they submitted their lives to Christ in preaching the gospel. Our mortal bodies don't enjoy any type of suffering, yet these men willingly endured it for the sake of Christ and for the sake of those who had never heard of Him. So he says, "Death is at work in us. We suffer for the gospel. We risk death for the gospel. But look at the result of our suffering: you are saved by your faith in Christ! Life is at work in you, because once you were lost and now you are found."

"It is written: 'I believed; therefore have I spoken.' Since we have that same spirit of faith, we also believe and therefore speak, because we know that the One who raised the Lord Jesus from the dead will also raise us with Jesus and present us with you to Himself. All this is for your benefit, so that the grace that is reaching more and more people may cause thanksgiving to overflow to the glory of God." (2 Corinthians 4:13-15) Paul quotes Psalm 116, a psalm that gives thanks to God for deliverance from death. In David's case, he was primarily speaking of salvation from physical death. There were a number of times in David's life when it appeared death from an enemy was imminent, so he thanks the Lord for allowing him to remain in the land of the living. (Psalm 116:8-9) But Paul takes it a step further and uses the psalm to give thanks for salvation from spiritual death. David believed in the Lord, so he cried to Him for help, saying, "Lord, save me!" (Psalm 116:4) In the same way, when Paul believed on the Lord, he cried to Him for help, saying, "Lord, save me!" When we came to the realization that we were lost sinners in need of the Savior, and when we acknowledged that Christ has the power to help us, our hearts cried out, "Lord, save me!"

Paul knows he may lose his life for preaching the gospel. He also knows that because he believes in Christ he will be raised from the dead someday with a body just like Christ's. He reminds the believers at Corinth that they too will share in this resurrection. He reminds us today that we who believe in Christ will share in this resurrection. David had this same faith in the resurrection, though he lived centuries before the Messiah came, and he said, "Precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of His faithful servants." (Psalm 116:15) David was thankful that the Lord had spared his life many times, but he knew that eventually death would have a temporary victory over his mortal body. At the same time he knew that the Lord would have the eternal victory and would raise his body from the dead, along with the bodies of all the saints from all eras. This is why the death of the Lord's saints is precious in His eyes. The death of the body is a temporary thing. The Lord doesn't have to weep over our graves; the Lord lovingly watches over our mortal bodies as they sleep, while at the same time He welcomes our souls into His presence. Someday Christ will call our bodies out of the dust and they will be reunited with our souls and we will enjoy the freedom of bodies that are not subject to disease and death. My husband and I are going to the funeral home tonight because his great aunt passed on this week. But we have the same faith as David and Paul and we know that her soul is with the Lord she served. We have faith that the Lord will call her body out of the grave someday to be reunited with her soul, and she will never die again.

"Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal." (2 Corinthians 4:16-18) Nothing we suffer for the Lord or for His saints is ever wasted. Paul knows he has an eternal reward reserved in heaven for the work he has done in sharing the gospel. As he said in his letter to the Hebrews, "God is not unjust; He will not forget your work and the love you have shown Him as you have helped His people and continue to help them." (Hebrews 6:10)

Sometimes we suffer unnecessarily because of sins we commit and mistakes we make, but nothing we endure for the sake of the gospel will go unrewarded. It would have been easy for Paul to say, "I've been arrested, beaten, and pelted with rocks for preaching the gospel. I've been shipwrecked. I've gone hungry and thirsty. I've spent many sleepless nights. I've been shunned and disrespected. This is a thankless job! I'm just going to quit and go home." But instead he says, "These sufferings are light and momentary. The reward for my sufferings will last forever. So I'm keeping my eye on the prize. I'm keeping the big picture in view. If I don't preach the gospel, there are souls that won't be saved. If I don't preach the gospel, I'm living in disobedience to the One who called me to be an apostle. I will, therefore, gladly endure whatever is necessary to fulfill my calling in Christ."

You and I will probably not have to give our lives for proclaiming the gospel of Christ, but if we serve Him and if we serve His saints we will have to give up something. We will have to die to "self", and this will mean making sacrifices. We may sacrifice time and energy, or money, or popularity. But nothing we sacrifice for Christ and His saints will ever be lost. The reward for our service is eternal. So don't lose heart! Keep your eyes on what is unseen, as Paul did.

Thursday, September 20, 2018

Paul's Second Letter To The Church At Corinth. Day 8, Down But Not Out

I hope everyone was able to catch up on the Day 7 post. I felt it was best to post it again yesterday since several people were getting the message "Page Not Found" on Tuesday. Now we will all be in the same place as we move forward.

This morning the Apostle Paul talks about being down but not out. I don't know what you may be going through during this season of life, but when my alarm went off at 6am I immediately burst into tears. I was feeling both down and out. Some big and exciting things my husband and I had been working toward all summer didn't work out as we'd hoped, my husband was laid off work three weeks ago, and I was at the emergency clinic until 3am this morning with our little dog because she was having a flare up of her chronic pancreatitis. So Paul's message is exactly what I need. It helps me to put things in perspective. We may feel down sometimes but with the Lord on our side we are never out.

"Therefore, since through God's glory we have this ministry, we do not lose heart." (2 Corinthians 4:1) I came so close to losing heart this morning! I know some of you have been there. I know some of you are probably there right now. The phrase that is translated "lose heart" is from the Greek word "ekkakew" which means "to be bad or weak, to be spiritless, to be weary, to be exhausted". The things that happen in this world can make us feel exhausted mentally, physically, emotionally, and spiritually. But Paul says we don't have to lose heart in this manner. In fact, ekkakew has a negative connotation, so he is telling us we are not being who we ought to be when we feel like giving up. Certainly if we rely on our own strength we may find ourselves in a state of collapse, but we are to rely on the strength of the Lord, as the prophet Isaiah said, "But those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint." (Isaiah 40:31) Isaiah uses a Hebrew word for "faint" which is similar to the Greek word Paul uses for "lose heart". I think both these men are telling us that there is no need for us to collapse under trial because we have an inexhaustible source of strength in the Lord.

Some of the enemies of the gospel have accused Paul and the other apostles and teachers of presenting a message that's deceptive or too difficult to understand. But the message of the gospel is easily understandable to anyone who wants to understand it. The power of the gospel is available to anyone who wants to receive it. "Rather, we have renounced secret and shameful ways; we do not use deception, nor do we distort the word of God. On the contrary, by setting forth the truth plainly we commend ourselves to everyone's conscience in the sight of God. And even if our gospel is veiled, it is veiled to those who are perishing. The god of this age has blinded the minds of unbelievers, so that they cannot see the light of the gospel that displays the glory of Christ, who is the image of God." (2 Corinthians 4:2-4) Paul is not saying that people can't help not understanding the gospel. He's not saying that Satan has taken them captive against their will. The original text indicates that the person is to blame for willfully allowing himself or herself to be blinded to the truth and to be hard-hearted and to be stubborn. I love it that he uses the phrase "see the light" because this is exactly how he came to the faith: he saw the light! No one was probably more hard-hearted than the Apostle Paul was as he marched angrily down the road to Damascus with letters that gave him permission to arrest Christians and drag them back to Jerusalem for trial. But when presented with the glory of Christ, all his defenses crumbled. His spiritual blindness was wiped away, even though he was physically blind for three days. He was transformed forever.

"For what we preach is not ourselves, but Jesus Christ as Lord, and ourselves as your servants for Jesus' sake. For God, who said, 'Let light shine out of darkness,' made His light shine in our hearts to give us the light of the knowledge of God's glory displayed in the face of Christ." (2 Corinthians 4:5-6) The light of Christ is so bright it illuminates even the darkest corners of our hearts. If we will allow Him, He will transform us from a vessel of dishonor to a vessel of honor. He will make us shine like a lamp for all the world to see.

Like an ancient lamp made of ordinary clay, the beauty and glory of the light doesn't come from our flesh but from Christ in us. "But we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us." (2 Corinthians 4:7)

Because the power within us comes from the Lord and not from our own strength, we need never count ourselves as "out". We may be tempted and tried in this world, but God is strong where we are weak. We don't have to try and stand up to the storms of this life on our own two feet; the Lord invites us to lean on Him. Paul learned this valuable lesson and he passes it on to us. "We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed." (2 Corinthians 4:8-9) Amen! An hour ago I felt like I couldn't take another step and now I am ready to face the day. The Lord is with me! The Lord invites me to lean on Him so He can renew my strength. I still have the same problems I woke up with but I feel refreshed in the Lord.

Wednesday, September 19, 2018

Blogger Website Has Been Having Issues/Reposting Yesterday's Link That Went Corrupt

I apologize to those who tried to read the blog yesterday and couldn't. Some of you were clicking on it and getting the message "Page Not Found". The blogger website seems to be experiencing some issues.

If you didn't get to view the latest post, here is a link to it that seems to be working now.

Tuesday, September 18, 2018

Paul's Second Letter To The Church At Corinth. Day 7, The Veil Of The Old Covenant Taken Away

In our passage this morning we find Paul using Moses as an example when he speaks of the glory of the old covenant. The giving of the commandments and the law was a glorious thing. No other nation had ever experienced such a relationship with the one true God. But Paul explains to us that the new covenant of grace is even more glorious than the old covenant of the law. We are no longer under the law and the condemnation that comes from breaking it. The law could not impute righteousness to anyone because no one was able to perfectly keep it. But the new covenant of grace through Christ---the one who was able to perfectly keep the law---is capable of imputing righteousness to all who believe.

"Now if the ministry that brought death, which was engraved in letters on stone, came with glory, so that the Israelites could not look steadily at the face of Moses because of its glory, transitory though it was, will not the ministry of the Spirit be even more glorious?" (2 Corinthians 3:7-8) In Exodus 34 we find that the face of Moses was radiant when he came down from Mount Sinai with the second set of stone tablets. The people were afraid to come near him, so he adopted the habit of wearing a veil over his face. At first he wore the veil to shield the people from the glory of God, then later he wore it so the people wouldn't realize that the glory was fading from his countenance.

So we find Paul saying, "Just being in the presence of the Lord and receiving the commandments written in stone caused the face of Moses to shine. But his face did not glow with this glory for the rest of his life. If the old covenant (which brings judgment on the one who breaks it) was glorious, how much more glorious is the new covenant of grace which gives life?"

"For what was glorious has no glory now in comparison with the surpassing glory. And if what was transitory came with glory, how much greater is the glory of that which lasts!" (2 Corinthians 3:10-11) The law was good. It taught men and women about the righteousness of God and about what He expects of human beings. But no one could perfectly obey it, so a sacrificial system was in place to provide atonement for sins. Now that Christ has come, the old covenant is done away with. He made the ultimate sacrifice, one which is capable of providing atonement for us once and for all. Under the old covenant the high priest had to enter the Most Holy Place once a year with the blood of an atoning sacrifice, but under the new covenant Christ has entered the Most Holy Place in heaven with His own blood to make an atoning sacrifice for us. The priests of the old covenant passed away one by one, but Christ our High Priest lives forever. Because He lives forever, the glory of His covenant lives forever. (see Hebrews 10)

"Therefore, since we have such a hope, we are very bold. We are not like Moses, who would put a veil over his face to prevent the Israelites from seeing the end of what was passing away. But their minds were made dull, for to this day the same veil remains when the old covenant is read. It has not been removed, because only in Christ is it taken away." (2 Corinthians 3:12-14) Paul says that some cannot accept that the glory of the old covenant is fading away, so just as Moses covered his face to prevent anyone from noticing that the radiance of his face was fading, they have put a veil over their hearts so they will not have to face up to the fading glory. He feels they are blinding themselves to the truth that the old covenant cannot do for them what they need it to do, and they are blinding themselves to the truth that the new covenant is more glorious than the old. He can say such a thing without insulting or talking down to anyone because the same veil was once over his own heart. He hated Christians so much that he intended to eradicate them from the earth. If anyone has ever had a veil over his heart, it was the Apostle Paul. But now the veil is gone and he clearly sees that the glory of the covenant of grace is far more radiant than the glory of the covenant of law. The covenant of mercy, by its very nature, is more glorious than the covenant that brings judgment. The Lord Himself says, "I desire mercy." (Hosea 6:6a) The Lord Himself says that the knowledge of Him is more important than all burnt offerings. (Hosea 6:6b) In this one verse we see the contrast between the law and grace. The law demands that we make sacrifices of atonement. Grace says atonement has already been made for us. To receive this atonement is to know the Son, who is "the radiance of God's glory and the exact representation of His being". (Hebrews 1:3)

"Even to this day when Moses is read, a veil covers their hearts. But whenever anyone turns to the Lord, it is taken away. Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom. And we all, who with unveiled faces contemplate the Lord's glory, are being transformed into His image with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit." (2 Corinthians 3:15-18) In Exodus 34 we learn that Moses removed the veil whenever he went into the presence of the Lord. He met with God, metaphorically speaking, face to face. In Christ we have the freedom in Christ to meet with God with unveiled faces. When God looks upon us He sees us as His family, for we look like His Son. The righteousness of Christ has been imputed to us so that we come into the Lord's presence not as lawbreakers awaiting judgment but as dearly loved children.

We also do not veil our faces among the people, as Moses did. The glory of Christ, which makes our faces radiant, never fades away. This is why Paul says in verse 12, "We are very bold." We must look like Christ not only to God the Father but to our fellow man. Those around us need to see the love of Christ in us. If they don't find anything attractive about Christians, they will not find anything attractive about Christ. Let us strive to be more and more like Him.

Monday, September 17, 2018

Paul's Second Letter To The Church At Corinth. Day 6, A Living Letter

In our passage today Paul speaks of letters of recommendation. Since he was the first person to preach the gospel at Corinth, it is likely the people there had never received any communication regarding him before his arrival. Paul is known to write letters of recommendation for other workers in the faith, but it could be that the people of Corinth had never even heard of him before he first entered their city to preach about Christ. Some of his detractors in the region may have been questioning his authority because no one had ever recommended him to them, or it could be that some criticized him for always reminding them of his credentials as an apostle. Today he addresses concerns such as these by pointing out that their faith is the proof of his apostleship. It was through his preaching of the gospel that the believers in Corinth first came to Christ.

"Are we beginning to commend ourselves again? Or do we need, like some people, letters of recommendation to you or from you?" (2 Corinthians 3:1) He says, "The fact that there is a thriving church at Corinth is the proof that I and the other apostles who have ministered to you are called by God to do this work. Rather than listening to troublemakers who want to put us down, look around you and see how many lives have been transformed in Corinth since the gospel came to you."

"You yourselves are our letter, written on our hearts, known and read by everyone. You show that you are a letter from Christ, the result of our ministry, written not with ink but with the Spirit of the living God, not on tablets of stone but on tablets of human hearts." (2 Corinthians 3:2-3) The Lord promised through the prophet Jeremiah that someday His laws would be written in people's hearts and not on tablets of stone. (Jeremiah 31:31-34) Paul saw this prophecy being fulfilled before his very eyes, and he was grateful that God allowed him to be involved in the work of getting the gospel message to the world.

"Such confidence we have through Christ before God. Not that we are competent in ourselves to claim anything for ourselves, but our competence comes from God." (2 Corinthians 3:4-5) The apostle is quick to assure his readers that he isn't making a big deal of himself, "My confidence is in the Lord, not in myself. I don't have the power to save anyone's soul. But the Lord anointed me to be a minister of the gospel and I am carrying out these duties to the best of my ability. If you need proof that I am called by the Lord to be an apostle, the proof is that a church began here in Corinth after I preached the gospel to you. The proof is that, while I was preaching to you, the Holy Spirit changed your hearts. In my own strength I can do nothing, but I am more than willing to allow the love of Christ to work through me. His is the glory and the honor."

Remember what a ragtag bunch the disciples were? They weren't the type of men most rabbis would have wanted as students, but Jesus saw into their hearts. He knew who they could be. The same can be said of Paul. He despised Christians and wanted them wiped from the face of the earth. He was the last person anyone would have expected to bow the knee to Christ, but his life was transformed on the Damascus road because Jesus saw who he could be. Paul and the other ministers of the gospel know who they used to be, and they will never forget that they were transformed because Christ saw who they could be. The people of Corinth are changed because of Christ too, so Paul says, "The proof that Christ is in my ministry is that you are not who you used to be! I didn't change you---Christ changed you---but it was through me, an apostle He chose, that you heard the life-giving message of the gospel. If the power of the Lord had not been present in my work, nothing would have been accomplished by anything I did at Corinth. But the Lord was with me because He loves you. He wanted to rescue you from the fruitless practices of idolatry and bring you into the family of the living God."

Sunday, September 16, 2018

Paul's Second Letter To The Church At Corinth. Day 5, Not Watering Down The Gospel

The Apostle Paul reminds his readers that he and the other apostles are called by God to get the gospel out to the word. He again uses an example from the Roman military to describe how the gospel is going out, and then he reminds his readers that true apostles preach the gospel like it is. They don't water it down or change it to suit the desires of their listeners.

"For we are to God the pleasing aroma of Christ among those who are being saved and those who are perishing." (2 Corinthians 2:15) When we concluded yesterday we found Paul comparing Christ to a victorious Roman army general. A Roman general, returning from winning a battle, would go home with his troops in a parade-like fashion to the cheers of the Roman people and to the accompanying smell of a great deal of burning incense. The captives who trailed at the back of the line would smell it. The captives who could provide valuable services would find themselves living out the rest of their lives in a Roman colony, but at least they weren't destined for death. Some of the captives, who were enemies of the state or other condemned criminals, would end up executed either in a public execution or in the Roman arenas. Paul is saying something like, "The incense of the gospel is going out to all the world. Everyone will be affected by it. Some will accept it and gain eternal life; some will reject it and gain condemnation."

"To the one we are an aroma that brings death; to the other, an aroma that brings life." (2 Corinthians 2:16a) The Roman captives who knew they were destined for death must have found the smell of incense nauseating, but the captives who knew their lives would be spared would associate the smell of incense with a feeling of relief. In the judgment before the throne of God, those who in their lives smelled the "incense" of the gospel but rejected it will come to associate the gospel with death because their rejection of it will bring them eternal separation from God. But those who gratefully breathed in the "incense" of the gospel will forever associate their acceptance of the gospel with the relief of redemption from their sins.

"And who is equal to such a task? Unlike so many, we do not peddle the word of God for profit. On the contrary, in Christ we speak before God with sincerity, as those sent from God." (2 Corinthians 2:16b-17) Taking the gospel to the world seems like a job too big for a mortal human being. And it would be too big of a job if the Lord were not in the work. But He empowers those He calls. The power is His and the glory is His.

In the original language it would seem Paul is talking not so much about charging a fee for preaching, but about ministers who water down or alter the gospel in order to draw crowds. When we water down or alter the gospel message we strip it of its power. We might draw large crowds by changing the message to suit the desires of our listeners, but we won't bring anyone to true repentance. In our own day there are teachers who present Jesus Christ to their listeners as a "pal" or "buddy". And while Jesus truly is the best friend we can ever have, we must never divest Him of His holiness and righteousness. The gospel message must always include the fact that we are all sinners who have fallen far short of the mark. If we were not sinners, why did Christ come into the world and suffer for us? There would have been no need of such a sacrifice if we were okay as we are or if we were capable of making ourselves acceptable in the eyes of a holy God. So beware of any minister, teacher, evangelist or anyone else who preaches the love of Christ without also preaching the sinful state of mankind.

Many of those who heard the apostles preach recognized their sinfulness and their need of the Redeemer. Others scoffed at the idea and decided they were fine just as they were. This is why, at the judgment, both groups will be judged by what the gospel says. Both groups will be judged by whether or not they accepted the only sacrifice available to make mankind right with God. This is why it is vital that the gospel message be preached exactly as it is. Watering it down won't help anyone. Altering it to suit the customs or morals of the day won't help anyone. We have to tell it like it is. Will some be offended by it? Yes. Will some be saved by it? Yes. Just as in Paul's day, some will be willing to listen and some won't, but we aren't to be concerned with that. Our commission is to share the gospel. Let's do what our Savior has told us to do.

Saturday, September 15, 2018

Paul's Second Letter To The Church At Corinth. Day 4, Triumph In Christ

Paul explains to the church at Corinth that he had no peace of mind until he heard how things turned out following his first letter to them. It is supposed that he sent his friend Titus, along with the letter and with other companions in the faith, to the church at Corinth. Until Titus returned with news from the church, Paul could not stop worrying about what was going on there.

"Now when I went to Troas to preach the gospel of Christ and found that the Lord had opened a door for me, I still had no peace of mind, because I did not find my brother Titus there. So I said goodbye to them and went on to Macedonia." (2 Corinthians 2:12-13) You will recall that Paul said he had originally intended to visit Corinth on his way to Macedonia, but he was pressed for time and he was reluctant to visit them when he knew he would have to scold them for their behavior. So it would appear that Titus was supposed to join up with Paul on the way to Macedonia to deliver news from the church at Corinth. But when Paul arrived at the meeting spot in Troas, Titus was not there.

It comforts me to know that even an apostle like Paul sometimes found himself so troubled that he couldn't concentrate on his work. We tend to think of the great men and women of the Bible as always standing firm in the faith, but sometimes they gave way to worry just like we do. Should Paul have just simply trusted the Lord to work in the hearts of the people of Corinth after they received his letter? Probably so, but I don't blame him for his anxiety over the situation. I think he was concerned about offending them and about ruining his friendship with them, yet at the same time he knew he'd said what needed to be said. I think he was afraid they wouldn't take his message to heart and that they would continue doing as they were doing. If they made that choice, it was only going to result in harm to them. It was love that made Paul worry so much about them, and this is something we can easily understand. When our loved ones haven't been doing their best, we anxiously await news about them, don't we?

Paul doesn't know why Titus isn't at Troas. In the first century BC it's not as if he can ring Titus up and ask him if he's still at Corinth. He can't send a telegram to Macedonia to see if Titus went on ahead. Unable to do his best in Troas, Paul restlessly moves on to Macedonia in hopes of finding Titus there. Did he do wrong in not giving the people of Troas his full attention? That may be. If so, that's between Paul and the Lord. Or it could be that God had already specifically chosen another apostle or apostles to do the majority of the work at Troas instead of Paul. On the one hand it's hard to believe Paul would shirk any of his duties. On the other hand we have to keep in mind that he was a human being just like we are, and human beings are sometimes so affected by circumstances that it's difficult to give full attention to the task at hand.

Troubled though he was in his mind, Paul still gave praise to the Lord for all the things He had already done and for all the things He was going to do. In the midst of anxiety we can't always find much to be thankful about in our current circumstances. But we can encourage ourselves by looking back on circumstances the Lord has already straightened out for us. That gives us hope that He will fix our current and future problems. This is the example Paul sets for us today as he recalls praising the Lord even in the middle of his anxiety, "But thanks be to God, who always leads us as captives in Christ's triumphal procession and uses us to spread the aroma of the knowledge of Him everywhere." (2 Corinthians 2:14)

The people of Corinth would have recognized the Roman custom of a great general leading conquered captives behind him. In the case of those taken captive by Rome, some would be enslaved to Roman citizens for the rest of their lives, some would be sold as slaves to other nations, some would be used for amusement in the arenas, and some would be executed. But in Christ's procession of triumph, the captives are the winners! The captives are rejoicing just as much as Christ, the Great General, is rejoicing. For anyone who has been captivated by Christ belongs to Him forever. What belongs to Christ will be shared with those who are His. The captives led by Roman generals were marching against their will; they were defeated and depressed. But the captives of Christ belong to Him willingly, and they rejoice as they follow Him.

Friday, September 14, 2018

Paul's Second Letter To The Church At Corinth. Day 3, Stop Shunning The One Who Has Repented

In Paul's first letter he spoke of a man in the congregation who needed to be shown discipline by being put out of the fellowship. This man was conducting an affair with his step-mother. In today's passage Paul brings up this man again, for he has evidently repented but the church at Corinth is still shunning him.

First Paul continues on with the theme of yesterday's passage, which is that the believers should be glad he did not have an opportunity to visit them while so many wrong things (mentioned in his first letter) were happening in the church at Corinth. "So I made up my mind that I would not make another painful visit to you." (2 Corinthians 2:1) We don't know exactly when Paul made a previous "painful" visit to them. It must have been so distressing that he dreads the very thought of doing it again.

"For if I grieve you, who is left to make me glad but you whom I have grieved?" (2 Corinthians 2:2) Paul wants to visit them when conditions are such that they can all rejoice together, not at a time when he would have to chastise them. He has already been grieved by having to chastise them in a letter. The thought of visiting them only to discuss painful topics is terribly depressing to him.

"For I wrote as I did, so that when I came I would not be distressed by those who should have made me rejoice. I had confidence in all of you, that you would all share my joy. For I wrote you out of great distress and anguish of heart and with many tears, not to grieve you but to let you know the depth of my love for you." (2 Corinthians 2:3-4) Paul says, "I dealt with the problems in a letter rather than in person because it was less painful for all of us that way. I knew you had it in you to correct these problems before my return, so that when I do return we can spend our time rejoicing in the Lord together."

The Apostle Paul had a right to expect good news out of the church he planted at Corinth, but instead bad news kept coming to his ears as he stated in the first letter. He loves these people with all his heart and he wants the best for them, so he wrote to them outlining all the problems and how to correct them. He wrote the letter in tears because it hurt him to have to scold the believers for their childish conduct. It made him sad that they weren't treating each other with the love of Christ. You have probably noticed that it's far more difficult to point out wrong behavior to a person you love than to point out wrong behavior to someone you don't have a close bond with. It's easier to tell a co-worker or acquaintance that they've offended us or hurt our feelings than to tell a close friend or family member that they are hurting us or themselves or others by their behavior. It broke Paul's heart to write that letter but he had no choice; he owed it to those he loved to tell them the truth.

Now he moves on to the incident of the man who had been living in sin with his step-mother. "If anyone has caused grief, he has not so much grieved me as he has grieved all of you to some extent---not to put it too severely." (2 Corinthians 2:5) He says something like, "I didn't write to you about this man simply because I was personally offended that a Christian would behave this way (although such behavior is offensive), but I wrote about him because his behavior brought shame into the church at Corinth. Tolerating such a thing in the church was giving you a bad name. It was mostly for your own sake that I scolded you for not dealing with the situation properly."

By these next comments we know that the church took Paul's advice to heart and put the man out of the assembly. We also know that the man repented of his sin, which is what his exclusion was intended to bring about. "The punishment inflicted on him by the majority is sufficient. Now instead, you ought to forgive and comfort him, so that he will not be overwhelmed by excessive sorrow. I urge you, therefore, to reaffirm your love for him." (2 Corinthians 2:6-8) It could be that the church members are confused about how to deal with this man's repentance. They may be genuinely puzzled about how to treat him now, saying, "If we allow him back into the congregation, will the public think we are condoning his sin?" Or they may be bitter toward him, saying, "This man deserves to be left on the outside from now on. He brought shame on us. He caused unbelievers to make fun of us. So what if he's lonely and depressed? He brought this all on himself!"

Have you ever had trouble letting go of someone's past even though they have repented of it? There is something in our carnal nature that clings to bitterness and enjoys seeing the offender living in sorrow and depression. But Paul points out that it isn't Christlike for us to feel this way. If the person has genuinely repented and turned from their sin, Christ has forgiven them. Are we greater than Christ? If Christ has already granted forgiveness, who are we to remain unforgiving?

"Another reason I wrote you was to see if you would stand the test and be obedient in everything." (2 Corinthians 2:9) The church has passed the test in this matter. Paul wrote to them telling them how to handle the situation and they obeyed. Now they must obey what he is saying about forgiveness. They are to take the repentant man back into the congregation and show him love and friendship.

"Anyone you forgive, I also forgive. And what I have forgiven---if there was anything to forgive---I have forgiven in the sight of Christ for your sake, in order that Satan might not outwit us. For we are not unaware of his schemes." (2 Corinthians 2:10-11) This man had sinned primarily against Christ, but he had also sinned against his own father, against his church, and against Paul who planted the church. Paul has heard of this man's repentance and Paul has forgiven him and put the matter behind him. The people of Corinth need to follow his example.

It is a sin to cling to unforgiveness, and Satan takes advantage of us in this way. We might think we are being "holy" by refusing fellowship to someone who previously lived a sinful life, but what we are really doing is allowing sin to get a foothold in our own hearts. Remember how the Lord Jesus scolded the self-righteous Pharisees for being hypocrites? That is what we are when we withhold forgiveness to someone Christ has already forgiven: hypocrites. Are we perfect ourselves? Haven't we all committed many sins? Hasn't Christ forgiven us for our sins? Doesn't it hurt us when someone holds our past against us even though we are sorry for our sins? Why then should we treat our brother or sister in Christ with a spirit of unforgiveness? The man who was put out of the Corinthian congregation has seen his errors and has asked the Lord for forgiveness and has stopped engaging in the adulterous and incestuous relationship he once was caught up in. He wants to be accepted back into the church. He wants to go forward with his life and to work for the kingdom of God. The church has no right to withhold forgiveness. Christ has already granted it. Paul has already granted it. The church must do the same.

Thursday, September 13, 2018

Paul's Second Letter To The Church At Corinth. Day 2, Paul's Plans Unavoidably Changed

Back in 1 Corinthians 4 we learned that some of the believers at Corinth weren't fans of Paul. They were saying things like, "He's not going to come back here. His promises to visit are nothing but empty words. He writes us these letters telling us what we should do and how we should live, but he's afraid to say these things to us in person." When Paul learned that some were accusing him of not keeping his word, he said, "I will come to you very soon, if the Lord is willing." (1 Corinthians 4:19) Paul very much wanted to go back and visit with the people of Corinth, but his work at Ephesus has prevented him from returning so far, and the will of the Lord has prevented him from returning so far. Today he reminds the people of Corinth that he still intends to come see them and that he would already have been there if his plans hadn't been unavoidably changed. He also tells them they should be grateful he didn't visit earlier when things were going so wrong in their behavior.

"Now this is our boast: Our conscience testifies that we have conducted ourselves in the world, and especially in our relations with you, with integrity and godly sincerity. We have done so, not relying on worldly wisdom but on God's grace. For we do not write you anything you cannot read or understand. And I hope that, as you have understood us in part, you will come to understand fully that you can boast of us just as we will boast of you in the day of the Lord Jesus." (2 Corinthians 1:12-14) He says, "The other apostles and I have nothing to be ashamed of. When we make a promise we do everything possible to keep that promise. I still intend to come and see you just as soon as I can. Those who are saying I won't will be ashamed of themselves."

"Because I was confident of this, I wanted to visit you first so that you might benefit twice. I wanted to visit you on my way to Macedonia and to come back to you from Macedonia, and then to have you send me on my way to Judea. Was I fickle when I intended to do this? Or do I make my plans in a worldly manner so that in the same breath I say both 'Yes, yes' and 'No, no'?" (2 Corinthians 1:15-17) His original plan was to visit them twice, but once he saw he was going to be pressed for time he decided he would only stop by on the way back. (1 Corinthians 16:5-7) Spending only a few hours with the believers on his way to Macedonia wasn't going to be satisfactory for him or them. He wanted to stop by when he could spend a longer time with them, perhaps the whole winter. He wants to enjoy their company and he wants them to enjoy his company.

"But as surely as God is faithful, our message to you is not 'Yes' and 'No'. For the Son of God, Jesus Christ, who was preached among you by us---by me and Silas and Timothy---was not 'Yes' and 'No', but in Him it has always been 'Yes'." (2 Corinthians 1:18-19) There is nothing misleading about Christ. He is faithful in every way. Paul and Silas and Timothy have preached the gospel truthfully and in the good conscience of knowing they have said nothing misleading about Christ. Why then would anyone at Corinth believe they are "two-faced" in their words and actions toward them?

"For no matter how many promises God has made, they are 'Yes' in Christ. And so through Him the 'Amen' is spoken by us to the glory of God. Now it is God who makes both us and you stand firm in Christ. He anointed us, set His seal of ownership on us, and put His Spirit in our hearts as a deposit, guaranteeing what is to come." (2 Corinthians 1:20-22) Paul fears that the Corinthian believers, who suspect him of being two-faced and wishy-washy, will begin to think of Christ in this way too. They might begin to doubt the Lord's promises because they are beginning to doubt Paul's promises. This is why we must be so careful about how we behave in this world. Believers and unbelievers alike watch us to see whether we are the real deal or not. When we Christians behave deceptively it hurts those who counted on us to be better than that. It can even cause others to doubt whether there is any use in following Christ.

"I call God as my witness---and I stake my life on it---that it was in order to spare you that I did not return to Corinth. Not that we lord it over your faith, but we work with you for your joy, because it is by faith you stand firm." (2 Corinthians 1:23-24) He tells them, "You should be thankful I haven't had a chance to come there yet, for I would have had to take a hard line with you over the way you've been conducting yourselves in the church. If you think the things I said in my first letter were harsh, you should be glad I didn't have to say them to you in person. I have been hindered from coming before now, and I think that has turned out to be a good thing for all of us, for when I come I don't want to have to chastise you. I want to be able to encourage you in the faith and I want you to be able to encourage me in the faith. It's not that I think I'm better than any of you. But since I was the first to preach Christ to you I regard you as my dear children, and like any good father I would have had to scold you for the things I discussed in my first letter. I would rather come to you when things are going well, when I can praise you as a father praises his obedient children."