Some notes on chapter 1:
- Notice where Paul’s apostleship comes from (1)!
- Galatia is a region, not a city (2).
- “Who gave himself for our sins to rescue us from this present evil age according to the will of our God and Father” (4). What a description of salvation!
- Notice that we are living in a “present evil age.”
- Paul is writing because they are being deceived by false teachers who are teaching another gospel (6-10). As we’ll learn later, they were teaching that Jesus isn’t enough and that his sacrifice on the cross didn’t fully atone for sin. You had to keep the law too!
- How serious is it? Paul says this about false teachers: “let him be condemned to hell” (8).
- Paul’s comments in 1:1 are now explained (11-24). God miraculously saved him and made him a missionary to the Gentiles (16). Paul’s authority comes from God, not man!
In our own lives, we need to be concerned about pleasing and following God (10). The truth is the truth, and we need to stand firm on it!
2 Corinthians 13
Paul makes a final appeal to the Corinthians. Some were saying that he was too weak, too soft, and spoke without power when in person. He warns them to be careful what they wish for! They need to fix their problems before he gets there, or he will not be weak, soft, or powerless when he speaks to them. But even then, the power won’t be his, it will come from God who lives in him – that same power that raised Jesus from the dead! And that power is in them as well, if they are truly Christ’s. They need to examine themselves, not for Paul’s sake but for their own, and correct the wrongs in their lives and in the church. He is hoping that he won’t have to be harsh with them when he comes, and his final list of instructions shows them the way forward (11):
- They should rejoice that they have the opportunity to set things right.
- They need to repent of their wrong.
- Which means that they will experience encouragement from Paul’s ministry.
- Because they will have united, confronting the “super-apostles” and supporting Paul.
- Then they will then be at peace, because God’s love and peace will be with them.
Two quick notes: (1) Do we examine ourselves regularly to make sure that we are following God the way we should, and (2) did you catch, “he was crucified by reason of weakness, but He lives because of God’s power“? What an amazing description of the reality of our sinfulness and the awesome might of the God who saves us!
2 Corinthians 12
(1-10) Paul really doesn’t try to hide the fact that he’s boasting about himself in the first few verses, but he acts like it’s somebody else. If he’s going to boast, it’s about his weakness. If he can’t do it in his own strength, then it’s God working through him. And God has helped him out with that, by giving him a “thorn in the flesh” to deal with! Although there are many suggestions concerning what that was, it seems best to see it as a physical ailment because of the way it’s described. Paul wasn’t above asking it to be removed, and did so three times. But three times it was revealed to him that it was God’s will for the thorn to remain, so he stopped asking. How does this correlate with the idea that we are to be persistent in prayer? Well, Paul seemingly got an answer, so he stopped. Should this remind us of Jesus in the Garden?
(11-21) Paul reminds them that he lacks nothing compared to the “super-apostles.” He displayed the “signs of an apostle” (identified as “signs and wonders and powerful deeds“). Neither he nor his companions were ever a burden to them, nor would they be. The difference in ministry was so stark compared to his opponents that they claimed he was only that way to try to deceive the Corinthians! All Paul wants to do is build them up on his next visit, but he’s worried that it won’t happen. He’s afraid that after all his boasting about them and his care for them that they will still be engaging in sinful practices.
There is quite a list here of things that we (as individuals) and we (as churches) should stay away from: quarreling, jealousy, intense anger, selfish ambition, slander, gossip, arrogance, disorder, sexual immorality, and licentiousness (lack of self-restraint, probably in sexual matters). How are you doing?
“Being an Influencer”
I) ________________ leadership is an ongoing problem
A) Government is meant to be ___________
B) But it is corrupted by _______
C) Xerxes is _____________
D) Xerxes is _____________
II) Esther is an example of how we can _____________ society
A) Some see Esther as __________
B) But Esther is _________
1) She is _______________
2) She uses what is at her ___________
3) She appeals to the kings ______________
4) She realizes that ________ is at work
C) She teaches us that we need to be __________ and
III) Our influence should be ____________
A) The Jews are given the power to ___________
B) People notice the ____________
C) But do their hearts really ____________?
D) We can’t know peoples ___________
E) But we can continue to _____________!
2 Corinthians 11:16-33
Paul says that the church is willingly enslaving themselves to masters that only want to exploit them (11:20). Why would they put up with that? Paul decides to reiterate why he is better than the other “super-apostles“, even though he can’t believe he is being so crass (11:23). Not only does he have the same “qualifications” (Hebrew, Israelite, Abraham), but he has shown his ongoing love and support of the church by enduring more suffering and hardship than the “super-apostles” could ever imagine (11:22-33). Does that make him weak? Well, he’d rather boast in his weakness than in his accomplishments (11:29). Why? Because, as he says later, “whenever I am weak, then I am strong” (12:10).
Do we sometimes fall into the trap of thinking that being prosperous and escaping hardship means that people have a better relationship with God? Paul should help us to believe otherwise. We need to be sure that we aren’t awed by “human standards” when we look at others.
2 Corinthians 11:1-15
Paul is about to challenge the Corinthians about the false teachers in their midst. He considers himself their father, and they are his daughter (the Greek word for “church” is feminine). He wants to present them as a perfect and holy bride for Christ. Unfortunately, some of them are being corrupted by false teaching. The passage presents several characteristics of false teachers that serve as a warning for us in our own day and age:
- They are arrogant. They consider themselves to be “super apostles” (5). They consider eloquence of speech to be superior to knowledge (6).
- They are greedy. They belittle Paul for not charging for his teaching (7). Paul makes it clear that he is being supported by other churches (8), but he won’t accept money from them because he wants to be differentiated from the false teachers (12).
- They are deceitful and deceptive. They are like the serpent in the garden (3) who questioned God’s provision and the truth of His Word. They preach a false Christ and a false gospel through a false spirit (4). They disguise themselves as “servants of righteousness” (15) and “apostles of Christ” (13), when they are anything but.
- They are evil. They are like Satan, who “disguises himself as an angel of light” (14).
2 Corinthians 10
Paul (and his companions) are being personally attacked and ridiculed. Some say that, although he has been forceful in his letters, he has a weak personality in person. Paul warns them to be careful what they ask for! He will defend himself if he has to! His opponents are concerned about outward appearances and human standards. If Paul boasts it is because of his spiritual authority, which he has because he is the one who started the church! He has the right to confront and correct because he brought them the gospel! In fact, his ministry is such that he will bring the gospel to new areas, instead of interfering in other places where churches have been planted!
How often have we seen this happen in other churches? Someone comes in from the outside and confronts those who hold legitimate spiritual authority in the church, all because they want power and recognition. And most of the time it’s not even about spiritual matters, but matters of personality and “human standards.” If we ever do challenge the leadership in our churches, we’d better make sure that we’re doing it for the right reasons.
2 Corinthians 9
Paul continues his appeal to the Corinthians to be generous with their offering. As we read, we see several principles for our own giving:
- God blesses us materially so that we can bless others.
- When we give, we give willingly and cheerfully.
- We are blessed spiritually when we give (the harvest of our righteousness will grow, God will make all grace abound to us, and our righteousness will endure forever).
- A part of that blessing is that others will pray for us because of our obedience and our generosity.
- And, best of all, God will be glorified and thanked because of us as well!
- Our willingness to give is a poor reflection of the inexpressible gift that God has given to us in Christ.
2 Corinthians 8
The next two chapters deal with the collection of money for poor Christians in Jerusalem (1 Corinthians 16:1-3). As we step through todays reading, see what insights you can apply to your own giving!
- The churches in Macedonia have responded to the need of the Jerusalem saints in a sacrificial way (1-3).
- They responded freely (3).
- They saw it as a way of fellowship and ministry to others (4).
- Their material sacrifice was exceeded by their spiritual sacrifice in rededicating themselves to the Lord and to Paul’s ministry (5). Their rededication to Paul may have had a financial component as well (Philippians 4:10-18).
- Titus was on his way to the Corinthian church. Paul encouraged them to abound in their generosity just as they excelled in other areas (6-7).
- Once again, the freewill nature of the offering is stressed (8). Their giving is an expression of their love.
- Jesus left heaven and lived as a man so that we could be redeemed. We, who were lost in sin, are saved through Him (9). Isn’t that a reason to show grace to others in a practical way? They need to remember the grace that they have been shown!
- Since they pledged to give they need to give. They must follow through. But it needs to be willing, and it needs to be realistic (10-12). Is pledging what we don’t have testing God?
- We have a responsibility towards each other. If we have been blessed, we should help those who have not been as blessed. That is the fairness Paul is calling the Corinthians to (13-15). They will still have what they need (Exodus 16:18).
- When Titus comes to collect the offering, he is not coming alone. A trusted associate is coming with him who has been chosen by the churches. This is to protect the integrity of the offering, as well as the integrity of Titus! They want to make sure that everything is correct and above board both before the Lord and before men (16-23).
- Paul again encourages the Corinthians to show their love and fulfill his pride in them (24)!
2 Corinthians 7
7:1-3 Since God lives in us and we are his children (2 Corinthians 6:16-18), we should now live holy lives out of reverence for Him. Paul’s encouragement to the Corinthians includes an entreaty: we love you, so please listen to us. Don’t shut us out!
7:4-16 And Paul is encouraged that they won’t. There had been an issue in the church (perhaps related to 1 Corinthians 5:1, or something else dealing specifically with an attack on Paul and his apostleship, or both), and Paul wrote a letter that had made them sad. But they listened to what he said! Titus reported back to Paul that they had not only encouraged and refreshed him, but they had responded appropriately to Paul’s letter. They repented of the wrong they were engaging in (in fact, they met Titus with “fear and trembling“) and reaffirmed their concern for Paul. He ends by rejoicing that his confidence in them wasn’t misplaced.
In addition to the reminder to live holy lives, we are also reminded that “sadness as intended by God produces a repentance that leads to salvation, leaving no regret, but worldly sadness brings about death.” Salvation here probably doesn’t mean our initial conversion, but growth and progress in our Christian life. While repentance is necessary for conversion, it is also necessary for Christian maturity. True repentance leads us to a right and growing relationship with God, but simple sadness doesn’t do that. The key here is probably that repentance can mean “a change of mind.” Sorrow doesn’t necessarily mean change, and continuing in our sinful excesses can certainly bring death!