2 Corinthians 1-13 - The Bible from 30,000 Feet - Skip Heitzig - Flight 2COR1
The Bible from 30,000 Feet, soaring through the Scripture from Genesis to Revelation.
Would you turn, in your Bibles, please, to the book of II Corinthians. Boy, we're making good progress. We're in week 44 of the Bible from 30,000 Feet. We're in II Corinthians, so we don't have much of the New Testament left. And the books to follow II Corinthians are much shorter.
I don't know how you have imagined Paul the Apostle to be, to look like, to seem in his personality, but I bet you have some idea in your mind of what Paul would have been like to hang out with. Some of you might think that Paul was exacting or austere, aloof, maybe harsh even by some of the things he has done or said. If any of those things fit your personal idea of Paul, you need to think again, and II Corinthians gives you insight into the kind of character that Paul had.
He was far from those things, though he was not afraid of a good fight. He could be feisty. He could be argumentative. What we discover in II Corinthians is just how tenderhearted the man was.
Now, you're familiar with the Bible. I'm speaking here to a group of believers that are Bible students. Some of you are, I would even say, advanced Bible students. In terms of world population, you probably know more of the scriptures than most Christians that live on Earth today. I'm not saying that there aren't scholars who know more than all of us, but if you were just to take what normal average Christians around the world know, you know a lot.
And we've heard so much about Paul, it's easy to turn our minds off and go, here's another fact about Paul the Apostle. Here's another idea about Paul. I've heard that name so often.
And what we have, though, in II Corinthians, is Paul's journal, his personal journal, unedited, unvarnished, and published without his consent for the world, for posterity, to see. And it is a very unique book. It is very different from I Corinthians, different from the other books in the New Testament. It is one of my favorite books in the New Testament. I know you hear me say that a lot about a lot of books, but truly, I feel II Corinthians doesn't get near enough attention.
Most people love I Corinthians. If they know anything about Corinth, it's usually I Corinthians. It's all the problems that church had. It's how Paul dealt with them, corrected them.
But II Corinthians should never be overlooked. If you are a counselor, if you are a compassionate person, you will eat up II Corinthians. There's a lot to deal in this book that deals with those items.
In this journal of Paul, his letter to the Corinthians, we get some very interesting descriptions that Paul gives us of himself-- again, words you wouldn't associate with him. Weak-- I was with you in weakness, he said. Brokenness, humility, humanity-- we see the real Paul behind the scenes as he anguishes over a church that had come to misunderstand him. He founded the church, but by this time that he writes II Corinthians, there was a misunderstanding and gossip and rumor, even about the apostle Paul.
When I talk about brokenness, let me give you a couple examples. In chapter 1, Paul mentions that he was despairing at one point, even of life itself. You didn't picture Paul that way, ready to give up on life. I've despaired even of life.
When we get to chapter 4, he will talk about his past, where he and his other fellow ministry workers were hard-pressed beyond measure. The pressures of life were doing him under. He said, I was perplexed, struck down, but not struck out.
In chapter 6, he'll talk about being persecuted, being in prison, being distressed. And then we get to chapter 12, and Paul will admit that he suffered a physical malady that he calls a thorn, literally a stake, a thorn in the flesh, something that he begged God three times to remove. And God said nope, nope, nope. All three times, God answered in the negative, so Paul had to live with that stake in the flesh until the day he died.
But, he said, what God did tell me is that He gives me all the grace I need to handle that. He said no to my request to get rid of the problem, but God did promise He'll give me the grace to endure the problem.
So he's very open. He's very, even, self-effacing in this book. And so the best title I've ever found for the book of II Corinthians comes in a book that I brought with me called A Heart Open Wide.
I'm not doing this to sell this guy's book. I don't even think he's around anymore. Homer Kent may be around, but he's a commentator.
This is his studies in II Corinthians, but he called it A Heart Opened Wide. It's a good title for this book. It's where Paul opens up his heart, and he even mentions to the Corinthians, we have opened-- I have opened my heart to you. Why don't you open your heart to me?
But I just wanted to share with you something that Homer Kent says about II Corinthians. He said, "Some letters are born out of careful reflection and precise planning. Others spring from deep emotion. The apostle Paul wrote both kinds.
His epistle to the Romans is an example of the former. II Corinthians is a product of the latter. When the apostle penned his second canonical epistle to the Corinthians, he was writing with a mixture of elation and deep concern, of personal defense coupled with generous understanding and praise.
This beautiful letter is the most personal and revealing document we have from Paul's pen for it uncovers the affectionate warmth of the man while at the same time showing the anguish of heart, which he often suffered." So that's Homer Kent's beginning introductory remarks on his very fine commentary on II Corinthians. It is A Heart Opened Wide.
Now, Paul, we know-- little refresher-- originally spent a year and a half, 18 months, in Corinth. It was the longest stay at any of the places where he founded churches, except one that was Ephesus. He stayed there 18 months. He went into the synagogue of the Jews. Shared the gospel.
Lived with a couple we mentioned last week-- Aquila and Priscilla, that cute named couple. They were all tent makers by trade. Paul did that on the side to get finances to support his own ministry. He was also being supported by the churches up in the Macedonia region. They were funding his trip to Corinth.
After a while, he left Aquila and Priscilla and moved next door to the synagogue, where a guy by the name of Justice had a home. He moved in with him. It was convenient. He could just walk across the street, go into the synagogue, share, but things got really rough for him in Corinth. And so he left, and he went to Ephesus.
In Ephesus, he stayed almost three years. From Ephesus, he wrote a letter to Corinth. He wrote at least three letters.
Some even think four letters. There may have even been more letters. It doesn't matter.
He's in Ephesus. Somebody from Corinth by the name of Chloe, somebody from that household, comes and says, Paul, we've got problems back in Corinth. Could you help us?
There are divisions in the church. People are not getting along. They're dividing up into little groups, one against the other like little mini denominations in one church.
Not only that, but some of the instructions you've given us, we haven't completed, and there's a whole host of problems. There's doctrinal issues we have questions about. So he wrote I Corinthians to correct those problems.
At some point after that, while he was an emphasis-- in Ephesus, and emphasizing the truth from Ephesus to the Corinthians, he decided to send Timothy to Ephesus. So get this-- to Corinth. I'm getting it all backwards, sorry.
He's in Ephesus. He writes to Corinth. He decides to send Timothy to Corinth, and later on, Titus to Corinth. So get this-- Corinth has seen the ministry of Paul the Apostle; Timothy, his protege; Titus, also his protege; and Apollos, that incredible orator that is written about in I Corinthians. So they had quite an apostolic lineup.
One of the things Timothy told Paul is that there's yet another problem in Corinth. Some of what you wrote about in the first letter, they've applied. Some of it, not so much. They haven't completed the instructions on that offering that you were taking for the church in Jerusalem.
But the big problem you have, Paul, is there's a new group in town. They've come into the church, a new group of apostles, false apostles. They claim to be from Judea, and they are discrediting everything you say and are about.
They're talking smack about you. They're saying you're insincere, you're a troublemaker, that you write some bold letters, but you're really timid and weak up close. And so believe it or not, these false apostles are managing to turn this church that you started away from you, so that they have become against you because of these false apostles.
So when Paul writes his second letter to the Corinthians, he gets very emotional, and it's sort of a wandering river filled with intrigue and animation. And then it follows a little quiet stream and trickle, and then it gets rambunctious again. So it's kind of a windy African river taking you to a whole bunch of different places, especially emotional places.
Now, Paul wrote this for a couple of reasons. He wrote this for personal reasons because he wants to correct their thinking, but also public reasons, and for them to finish that grace he talked about back in the first letter, the offering he was taking for the church in Jerusalem. There is a flow to this letter, and I'll give you the movements of it. I'll announce it, and then we'll go through the letter itself.
Keep in mind, this-- we're not going deep. We're going long. We're going to finish this book. This is a survey.
So Paul begins with corrections. He's going to correct their thinking about him. He's going to correct their treatment of a brother who had sinned and now needs to be forgiven and brought back in.
So corrections, he gives, followed by some instructions, followed by some exhortations, followed by a collection that he's going to bring this up again. Two chapters on how to take that offering for the church in Jerusalem followed by a vindication. That is, he is going to defend his own ministry, his own style, and his own message. That's how the book flows.
We're going to begin in chapter 1 verse 1 with a few verses and make our way through. Paul, an apostle of Jesus Christ, by the will of God, and Timothy, our brother, to the Church of God, which is at Corinth with all the Saints who are in all Achaea. Achaea is the region. Corinth was in the region of Achaea. We're talking about the area of Greece. It's down from Athens 45 miles, and that region of that peninsula we talked about last week, the Peloponnesian peninsula-- that was called Achaea.
So to all those churches that are around the area, grace to you in peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of Mercies, the God of All Comfort, who comforts us in all our tribulation, that we may be able to comfort those who are in any trouble with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God. This gives us the setup for the book, the introduction. Already he's on a softer note, a softer tone.
He's talking about God's mercy and consolation and comfort, and he reminds these people, as one who has suffered himself, that God never wastes suffering. And because God never wastes it, you should never waste it. You should ask why-- not, Lord, why are you allowing me to go through this? Dumb question because you'll probably never get the answer this side of Heaven.
Better question is what should I get out of this? Don't waste your suffering. God is investing some experience in you. Why?
Because later on, you're going to meet someone who's had a similar experience going through it. You've gone through it. Tell them how you did it. Tell them what you leaned on. Tell them what got you through that.
Somebody who is well-off and never was without employment in their life won't be a great counselor to somebody who has lost a job and needs to pay a house payment. Somebody who has lost a child to death is the best one to sit next to somebody else who has lost a child, a like experience. So one of the reasons we go through it is He comforts us in our tribulation, that we may be able to comfort those who are in any trouble by the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God.
I'm not going to ask a show of hands because every hand would go up if I said, is anybody here presently going through some sort of difficulty or trial? We all are. If we're not, we just did, and if those two aren't true, we're just about to. We're in one of those three categories. We've either come from a trial, we're presently in one, or we're about to enter one.
And so our joy is always being challenged, and here's a benchmark for you. Christian maturity can be measured by what it takes to steal your joy. What would it take to rob you of your joy?
For some people, not much. For some people, just a bad driver cutting them off down the street. They lift up a hand, they put a finger out, and it's not the one way sign or the peace sign. Before that they, were singing a Christian song, a hit on the radio, and they're just in love. Oh, Lord, I love you, then that jerk pulled out in front of me, and I got to show him.
Really? That's all it takes? Your joy went out the window just because of one driver? If you're going to live here for very long, you better get used to it. It's the place where bad drivers from all America congregate in one city.
Getting back to the book, we've come to the first section that I told you about-- corrections. First of all, Paul needs to give them some correction as to why he changed his plans. He gave an itinerary back in I Corinthians of his plans that included visiting Corinth, where he would go first, then go to Corinth, then go later.
His plans have changed. False apostles have seized upon the change of plans to accuse Paul of not being trustworthy. You can't trust him. Look, he tells you he's going to do one thing, but he does something else.
So Paul needs to explain why he changed his plans and how he lives by faith. And God is the ultimate editor in life, and I give Him my plans. I make them, but then God laughs at them and makes His own plans.
The other issue is to correct them, the Corinthians, on how they have treated a brother in the fellowship that needs now to be forgiven. So go down to chapter 2 verse 4. Let's just pick up a couple of verses. For out of much affliction and anguish of heart, I wrote to you-- that's back in I Corinthians-- with many tears not that you should be grieved, but that you might know the love, which I have so abundantly for you.
In that previous letter in the 5th chapter, Paul wrote some pretty harsh things that needed to be written. He said, I've heard about this immoral person in your church, somebody who has committed incest, somebody who has gone to bed and had physical relations with his stepmother. And it to make it worse, Paul said, instead of grieving over that and mourning over that, you brag about it.
You're that weird church that likes to say, we tolerate any kind of behavior. Man, we'll just give you a hug. Even if you live in that openly flagrantly sinful lifestyle, we'll just embrace you and hug you because toleration is our highest virtue.
Paul says, shame on you. And he said, what should happen is you should call that person to account and have them repent of their sin. If they don't repent, you need to put that person out of your midst. Disfellowship that person, not to shun or isolate them for any reason except to awaken his heart to repentance.
Well, apparently, they did that, but it seemed like they did it overboard. They were a little too harsh, for he goes on to say, down in verse 5, but if anyone has caused grief, he has not grieved me, but all of you to some extent, not to be too severe. This punishment, which was inflicted by the majority, is sufficient. It's enough for such a man. Enough is enough.
You will remember in Luke 17, Jesus said, if your brother sins against you-- you know what you're supposed to do? It says, rebuke him. If your brother sins against you, rebuke him.
Go up to him and say, you sinned against me. That was wrong. Don't be afraid to do that. Confront.
If your brother sins against you, rebuke him. If he repents, forgive him. They, it seems, got the first part right. They didn't before. They were tolerating it.
Paul said, shame on you. You've got to do something about this. This said, OK, let's get really nasty and dirty and angry and kick him out, and apparently, it worked.
That disfellowshipping awakened his heart. He turned back to the Lord. He was sorrowful. He was in deep sorrow, and they would not accept nor forgive him.
And so Paul says, enough. This punishment, verse 6, which was inflicted by the majority, is sufficient for such a man, so that on the contrary, you ought rather to forgive and comfort him, lest perhaps such a one be swallowed up with too much sorrow. Therefore, I urge you to reaffirm your love for him-- go down to verse 11-- lest Satan should take advantage of us, for we are not ignorant of his devices.
Paul knew there had to be a balance. You reacted, but you overreacted. It worked. It did its duty. That disfellowshipping brought him back.
Now, when he comes back, receive him back. Let him come back into church. None of this folding your arms-- well, I don't know if he's truly repentant, or he just says he is. Jesus said, if your brother asks for forgiveness, if he confesses his sin, you forgive him. You bring him back.
Satan has a plan, a strategy. We're not ignorant of his devices. Let me tell you one of his devices, as seen here-- divide and conquer.
Get church people to argue-- sometimes about important things, but usually about trivial matters, dumb stuff. Get them angry and argumentative over style rather than substance, because if he can do that, if he can divide into camps, into groups, he can get a foothold in a congregation. He always is looking to get a foothold, and often, it comes through the unwillingness to forgive.
I remember a Christian woman who had a very difficult time with an ex-husband. Ex-husband treated her horribly. Rightly, she was grieved. Rightly, she felt defeated and depleted and angry.
But he had become a Christian, but she still had a difficult time. He asked for forgiveness. She had a difficult time giving forgiveness. She goes, how can I love him? Let me tell you what he's done to me.
She said, he is my enemy. He has become my enemy. I said, well, Jesus said love your enemies. Do good to those who persecute you. Love them.
She goes on, how do you do that? Jesus never said feel like doing it. You'll never feel like it. You have to act the opposite of what your feelings are telling you. That's obedience.
That's obedience. It's making a choice. In fact, you will blow-- if people are mean to you, and you go out of your way to show love to them, you're going to blow their minds. They're going to look at you very suspiciously, like what's the ulterior motive here?
And like one commentator said, love your enemies. It'll drive them nuts. Try it. You want to really-- that person-- you want to really get to them?
Love them. Lavish your love on them. Buy them a gift. Send them a note of encouragement. It might heal the relationship as you make the first move.
So anyway, he says, enough is enough. Bring them back. We're not ignorant of his devices. Don't give Satan a foothold, which would become a stronghold.
Now, the second section is instruction, or let's call it explanation. In chapters 2 verse 14 to chapter 6 verse 10, Paul explains his ministry. He explains his motive of his ministry. He explains the message that he preaches.
Go to chapter 4 and look at verse 1. Therefore, since we have this ministry, as we have received mercy, we do not lose heart. The ministry that Paul had was not a ministry he sat around one day and said, you know, I'd like to be called into the Christian ministry.
If you recall, this ministry was thrust upon him. He was out to kill, to destroy, to pillage the Christian church. He got an apparition on the road to Damascus.
He said, who are you, Lord? The Lord told him, I'm Jesus. What do you want me to do, Lord? That was his second question.
Ananias, who lived in Damascus, was to give Paul the instructions of his future ministry. The Lord said, this man Paul is going to stand before Gentiles, kings, and the children of Israel, and I'm going to show him how many things he should suffer for my sake. So Paul recognized, I received this ministry.
I didn't sign up for it on my own. The Lord found me. This is what I'm called to by that Damascus road experience.
Go down to verse 7. But we have this treasure-- the treasury he's speaking about in the verses that are previous to this are the truth of the gospel. We have this treasure in earthen vessels.
That's you, man. That's your body-- an earthen vessel. We have this incredible treasure in clay pots.
Very, very costly treasure. Very simple vessels. It's just us. We carry the gospel message.
That the excellence of the power-- and here's why God wanted to do that. The excellence of the power may be of God, and not of us.
For we are hard pressed on every side. Now, he's going to get very, very honest about his own experiences again. We're hard pressed-- this is his journal-- on every side, yet not crushed.
We are perplexed, but not in despair. Persecuted, but not forsaken. Struck down, but not struck out, literally-- not destroyed. Always carrying about in the body, the dying of the Lord Jesus, that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our body.
Now, there's a few things we know about Paul's life. He lists these things, but can you think back to the book of Acts? As soon as he came to know the Lord, we got into trouble at Damascus. They had to let him over a wall in a?
Basket, a trash basket. That's the illustrious beginning of the great apostolic ministry of the apostle Paul-- a trash basket. Later on, he went to Lystra.
They took out rocks, threw at him, stoned him. They thought he was dead. Drug him out of the city to bury him.
He goes to Philippi. Starts a riot in Philippi. They drag him to jail, chain him up.
He makes it to Athens, Corinth, goes to Ephesus. A riot in Ephesus broke out in this incredibly large theater, 25,000 people, 25,000 seat theater, that drove Paul away from Ethesus. So wherever he went, trouble followed him, and so he writes about this. We can fit some of those experiences from the book of Acts into it.
Paul worked hard. The ministry wasn't easy for Paul. Now, we think of being an apostle-- go, man, what a great life.
I don't know if anybody actually thinks that. You'd have to be pretty naive, but I imagine there are young believers who go, wow, the apostle Paul. They get stars in their eyes, and they say, well, this guy wrote so much of the Bible. What a life.
People look at the ministry here, and people have said, boy, you're a pastor of such a large church. And they see the large church, but they don't see the years of sorrow, of anguish, of hard labor, of work, of working two jobs to do the ministry in the early years, of the scorn and the ridicule and on and on. Paul worked hard.
Charles Spurgeon, one of my favorite quotes-- I wanted to pull this out. He said, "If you plan to be lazy, there are plenty of avocations in which you will not be wanted. But above all, you are not wanted in the Christian ministry. The man who finds that the ministry is an easy life will also find that it brings a hard death."
Let me give you a little honest insight into ministry. Every month, thousands of ministers quit the ministry. I've read statistics up to 60,000, I don't know, a year, or some crazy amount of ministers just say no to the ministry, and there's reasons why.
They said, number one, the ministry is detrimental to our family. The Christian ministry is detrimental to raising my children and having a good marriage. 85% just said, I'm just tired of dealing with problem people and people's problems, especially who don't want to change. So if you're going to be in ministry, whether you're going to be an apostle or a pastor or interface at all with people, you're going to need to understand that it's not going to be an easy road.
Stuart Briscoe gives some of the best advice for a pastor. He said, the pastor needs the heart of a child, the mind of a scholar, and the hide of a rhinoceros. Now, you will get that eventually. You'll get that third.
You'll always get it. You'll toughen up. Criticisms will toughen you up, but be careful that it doesn't toughen you up too much, that you become impervious to certain things, because you still need the heart of a child.
You need the mind of a scholar. You need to read and study, and you do that, and if you're in the ministry, that's what we do. That's my life. But you need to be sensitive to certain people and certain things at the same time. You just have to let a lot roll off, bounce off.
So these are his credentials in ministry. This is his explanation of that. If I take you down to chapter 5, he continues giving us his motivation for ministry, a couple of them. Number one is he knows what's coming in the future. We know, verse 1, if our earthly house, this tent, is destroyed, we have a building from God, a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens.
Paul always knew that, one day, he'd be home, and this is not home. He knew that Heaven was his home. He talked about it with such reality that, when he wrote to the Philippians, he said, I'm in a straight between two. I'm torn between two realities. I have a desire to be with Christ, which is far better, nevertheless to remain here on Earth as more needful for you as your leader.
He goes, I don't know what I'd really rather have. Should I stay here and minister to you, or should I just go home and be with the Lord? Not that I have a choice, but if I had to pick one, I think I'd pick going home to be with the Lord.
For Paul, it was always the ultimate payoff. It became a motivation for his ministry. A second motivation was the love of Christ. Go down to verse 14-- for the love of Christ compels us because we judge thus, that if one died for all, than all died, and he died for all that those who lived should live no longer for themselves, but for him who died for them and rose again.
Go down to verse 21. I'm taking you to verse 21 because it is one of the clearest scriptures in the New Testament on substitutionary atonement. It is one of the great summary verses of all. For he made him Jesus-- God made Jesus. He made him who knew no sin to be sin for us that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.
I recommend that you memorize that verse. It sums up so much. It gives us the doctrine of vicarious atonement, that one's perfect life became a substitute for all of the sinners, that whoever believes in him would not perish, but have everlasting life.
It gives us the doctrine of imputation. God imputed to Jesus our sin. God imputes to us our-- His righteousness, so that by that act, He can justify us. All of that is in this verse.
I'll retranslate this verse a different way. God the Father treated Jesus Christ as if he committed every sin ever committed. The wrath of God fell on Jesus at the cross, and the anguish in the midst of that six-hour transaction on the cross was more than just physical pain and anguish, because he cried out in the middle of it, my God, my God, why have you forsaken me?
So God treated Jesus like you and I deserve to be treated, so that God could treat us like Jesus deserves to be treated. That's substitutionary atonement. That's imputation, and that's all encapsulated in that verse.
It's akin to Isaiah chapter 53. Surely he has born our griefs and carried our sorrows, and we esteemed him smitten, stricken of God, and afflicted. But he was wounded for our transgression, bruised for our iniquities. The chastisement for our peace was upon him, and by his stripes, we are healed. Same truth in one verse.
Now, the third section of II Corinthians is exhortation. That takes us from chapter 6 around verse 11 over to chapter 7 verse 16, or the end of chapter 7. The exhortation is about their attitude. Their attitude has changed toward Paul.
Paul was their founder. They loved him. They even had a little small group that postured itself against the followers of Peter and Apollos, and the very super spiritual were of Christ. Some said, we're of Paul.
But since that time, as I mentioned, the church turned on Paul, second guessing his motivation. He's untrustworthy. He's trying to raise money for that church in Jerusalem. He's just trying to get your money.
Because he speaks about generosity like he did back in I Corinthians, he's going to do-- speak even clearer in this section. He's going to exhort them about separating themselves from the world. Go down to verse 11. Oh, Corinthians-- now, here's where that title of Homer Kent's book comes from.
Oh, Corinthians, we have spoken openly to you. Our heart is wide open. You are not restricted by us, but you are restricted by your own affection, your lack of love.
Now, in return for the same, I speak as to children-- you also be open. Do not be unequally yoked together with unbelievers, for what fellowship has righteousness with lawlessness? What communion has light with darkness?
What accord has Christ with Belial, another name for Satan? Or what part has a believer with an unbeliever? What agreement has the temple of God with idols? For you are the temple of the living God, as God has said.
Primarily, these verses are talking about being separated from false apostles, not being yoked together with these false teachers that bring a false gospel, a different gospel, a very legalistic gospel, saying we're sent from apostles in Judea when they weren't, turning the hearts of the Corinthians away from what Paul taught them. So primarily, these verses about not being unequally yoked have to do with separating from false teachers. However, you can go on to make application in a number of areas.
The illustration comes from the Old Testament. When they would plow a field, when they would do a work, they were told to pick two animals of the same kind, same temperament. So if you were to get animals to plow your field, you wanted to make sure that you got not an ox and a sheep, not an ox and a rabbit, but two oxen roughly the same size, roughly the same temperament. Not one going in one direction, and one going in another direction because they're going to pull the plow, and the last thing you want is two animals going in two different directions.
So you can make application to a number areas of life, like marriage. You want to make sure that when you, as a Christian believer, get married, you find somebody who loves the Lord, who's going in the same direction you are, keeping the same pace you are. You're a Christian woman. You've walked with the Lord 10, 20 years. You're waiting for a husband.
Don't find the guy who came forward at last week's ultra call who, while he's good looking, he's got a warm smile, yes, but you have to pull that plow. You have to serve the Lord throughout a lifetime. Now, granted, he can grow very quickly, but give him time to grow. Make sure that you're equally yoked. That's just common sense.
If you're a farmer, that's common sense. You should apply common sense to a marriage relationship. You should apply common sense to a business relationship.
If you're a believing business person, and you're going to go into partnership with another business person, are you doing it for the right reasons, for the same reasons? Or you both have the same kind of temperament? Is it to the glory of God? You want to ask yourself those questions because you don't want to be pulled apart.
Now, go down to chapter 7 verse 2. He continues along this line to the Corinthians about opening up. Open your hearts to us, he continues.
We have wronged no one. We have corrupted no one. We have cheated no one.
I do not say this to condemn you, for I have said before that you are in our hearts to die together and to live together. Great is my boldness toward you. Great is my boasting on your behalf. I am filled with comfort. I am exceedingly joyful in all our tribulation.
It seems, in reading between the lines in II Corinthians-- and again, I gave it a fresh read this week. It seems that these false apostles were accusing Paul of not only changing his plans and being untrustworthy, but by being overbearing. He had told him, in the first book, I Corinthians chapter 5, to take that sinning person in their midst and remove them.
I can just hear the false apostles-- what a harsh person Paul is. There's no love in him. There's no toleration and forgiveness in him. What a hard hearted man.
Paul wasn't there to defend himself, so they made up a narrative. They made up motives. Also, because he was taking up a collection, as I said, for that church in Jerusalem-- he's a money grubber.
So Paul finds the need, at several points in this letter, to vindicate his own integrity, mostly toward the end of the book. We'll get to that. Go over to chapter 8.
Now, chapter 8 and 9 gives us the fourth section of this book, and that is the collection. He started taking a collection for the church in Jerusalem. He told the church at Corinth to participate. Churches already around the known world were participating in this collection. And Corinth had sort of started, but then dropped the ball, lagged behind.
And so he says, well, the other churches are a lot poorer than you are, but they have excelled in their giving. So get on the move, man. Finish it up.
Now, this begs the question, why was Paul so keen on raising money for the church in Jerusalem? I mean, it almost sounds weird. It almost sounds like missions in reverse.
Here, the Church of Jerusalem was the original church, sending everybody out. It was the large Jewish conclave, and they sent people all over the place. And now, all those people are said, you better support Jerusalem. It's like foreign missions in reverse.
Well, let me paint the picture quickly. Jerusalem always struggled financially. It was one of their talking points.
There were a group of widows who felt neglected when the daily distribution was going on. The Gentile widows-- or the Greek speaking widows against the Hebrew widows. You remember that story in Acts.
Then because most of the jobs in Jerusalem were related to the temple, and the temple was controlled by the Sadducees, they were the main power in Jerusalem, and the Sadducees did not believe in the doctrine of Resurrection. Now, the message that Jesus has risen from the dead that these Christians are giving out all over Jerusalem didn't sit well with them. So those who were in control of the largest job provider in Jerusalem probably let all of those Christians go, fired them all, so they lost their jobs, number one.
Number two, they had pooled their resources. Remember that early communal living, where they sold their homes, and they made one big money pot for all the believers? So they did that. Now, they're out of money.
Number three, there has been a famine in Judea, and it hit really hard in Jerusalem. In Acts chapter 11, one of the prophets in the New Testament by the name of Agabus predicted a famine in Judea. And the writer of Acts, Luke, says it happened, and it hit Jerusalem hard.
So those three things-- the Christian witness in Jerusalem was waning because people thought, we got to leave. We got to go. And so Paul says, let's take up a collection and support our brothers. So that's the reason for this, and you find it in several epistles.
Chapter 8 verse 1-- moreover, brethren, we make known to you the grace of God bestowed on the churches of Macedonia-- Macedonia is where he had come from before Corinth-- that in a great trial of affliction, the abundance of their joy and their deep poverty abounded in the riches of their liberality. For I bear witness that according to their ability, yes, and beyond their ability, they were freely willing.
Now, usually, Paul will say the instruction is we should give-- the amount isn't important, like a fixed amount, as much as the proportion. You give proportionate to how God has blessed you. But in the case of those in Macedonia, they gave not proportionately, but sacrificially beyond their proportion. They were in deep poverty, and the word he uses is they were in extreme need. And yet they desired-- it was their idea to give, so they were very, very generous.
David in the Old Testament followed this principle. He believed that giving to the Lord should cost you something. You should feel it.
When he wanted to buy a threshing floor to build a temple, and he went to the owner named Ornan, and he said, I want to buy your threshing floor, and Ornan said, David, you're going to build a temple for God. You can have it, man. It's my donation. Gift in kind, dude.
David said, no, I'll give you the fair price. Ornan said, no, it's for the Lord. Take it. David said, no, for I will not give anything to the Lord that doesn't cost me something.
I've got to feel it. It's got to cost me. Has to pinch a little bit. Well, those in Macedonia, he's saying, it really, really did.
Verse 7-- but as you abound in everything in faith and speech and knowledge and all diligence, in your love for us, see that you abound in this grace, that is the grace of generous giving. Also go to chapter 9, which covers the same topic. Verse 6-- but this I say, he who sows sparingly will also reap sparingly. He who sows bountifully will also reap bountifully. So let each one give as he purposes in his heart, not grudgingly nor of necessity, for God loves a cheerful, literally hilarious, giver.
And God is able to make all grace abound toward you that you always, having all sufficiency in all things, may have an abundance for every good work. In other words, you won't be able to out give God. God will give back to you so that you can be generous with future projects as well.
Now, I remember when we first started our Bible study in the Lakes Apartments, and somebody said, Skip, this is costing money to rent this facility. Who's paying for it? I said, I am. I'm paying for it personally.
And they said, what about the coffee? I said, well, I brought a coffee maker, and I'm buying the coffee, and different people will make the cookies. And they said, well, do something to collect money to defray the cost of the apartment complex meeting area, as well as the coffee and the cookies. So I said, OK, so I announced, one night, in the back is a Folgers coffee can.
I don't know why Folgers, but I see that red can with that lid and the slit in it. That's what we use. I said, there's a coffee can in the back. If you want to throw in some money to keep the lights on in this little clubhouse and give coffee, great, we'll do it.
Then I remember, when we had grown to about 135 to 145, 150 people, we couldn't fit anymore in that little meeting room. We announced a Sunday morning at the nearby theater. I don't know if any of you go back that far. But when it was time to think about the offering, one of the volunteers said, now are you going to take a formal offering, like you go down the aisle for Sunday morning? Because we have to-- you got to rent the theater now as well as the apartment complex.
I said, no, we've used a coffee can, and that's worked so far. This is just how I was thinking. And he said, well, man, if there's a big crowd, one coffee can, that's-- that'll be a long line. You're going to make it hard for people to give.
I said, OK, let's put two coffee cans. Let's put one on this side, one on that side. So that's how we started, just two Folgers coffee cans, one on each side of the entrance and exit to the theater.
And I remember a pastor, dear brother-- loved him. He's now with the Lord. In town, he pastored a Baptist church. He heard about what I was doing, and he put his arm on my shoulder.
He found me, and he goes, Skip, you're doing it all wrong. You'll never succeed by taking an offering with a coffee can. You need to install a pledge system, where you get people to pledge what they're giving's going to be for the year so that you can set up a budget.
I said, I don't know anything about that. I still really don't know much about that. But I said, no, no, God's been faithful with the coffee can, and so we'll be faithful with two coffee cans.
If I need to put three coffee cans, I'm up for that. We'll expand. Maybe three or four of them.
When we left there and got into a real building like this one, we just sort of kept the coffee can concept. That's what the boxes are around. You notice that we don't take a formal offering.
We do receive your offering, and we suggest that you give generously. But we do it by letting you know where they are, and it's between you and the Lord. You give as the Lord purposes in your heart, and God is able to make all grace abound toward you.
It's good to be reminded of generosity because, typically, in any congregation, there's a few people who are generous, and a large amount who don't give much thought about it. They just receive. They just take in, but they don't-- they're not really a part of it in any way, even financially. In fact, I would say some congregations have a disease. I call it cirrhosis of the giver.
It's a strange disease, and the symptoms are, when it is time to give, the hand, as it goes to the wallet or the purse, becomes paralyzed. It just can't function. It tries, but it's just-- something holds it back. And then that hand gets released when it's time for them to buy something for themselves or a new item comes out or a new movie comes out. Suddenly, they're free to do it.
So Paul just gives great, great advice here, biblical advice. Let each one give as he purposes in his heart, not grudgingly nor of necessity, for God loves a cheerful giver. Don't be a sad giver. Don't be a mad giver. Be a glad giver.
Go over to chapter 10 verse 1. We come to the last, the final swath of this book, and that is a vindication. Chapters 10 to 12, Paul's apostolic feathers are ruffled. He has to defend himself. He does it quite laboriously in these chapters.
Now, I Paul, myself, am pleading with you, verse 1, by the meekness and gentleness of Christ, who in the presence, am lowly among you, but being absent and bold toward you. But I beg you that, when I am present, I may not be bold with that confidence by which I intend to be bold against some, who think of us as if we walked according to the flesh. Go down to verse 8. For even if I should boast somewhat more about our authority, which the Lord has-- the Lord gave us for edification, and not for your destruction, I shall not be ashamed.
If I have to take you on one on one, I'll do it. If I have to take you on the whole group, I'm ready to do it. So quite a jostling of emotions in this book.
Lest I-- verse 9, lest I seem to terrify you by letters. Look at verse 10. For his letters, they say, are weighty and powerful, but his bodily presence is weak, and his speech is contemptible. Here was the rumor.
Paul is big and bold and bad when he writes letters, but get him up close, and he's a weakling. He won't be bold up front. He's very, very timid. Paul says, really? I'm ready to go at it, and I'll have some words for you guys when I see you there next time, especially those false apostles.
Now, it says-- it mentions his bodily appearance. His bodily appearance is weak and contemptible. We don't exactly know what Paul the Apostle looked like.
I've seen pictures of it. I've seen paintings. I've seen Rembrandts-- stately, magnificent, kind of mid height to even tall, commanding presence.
There's only one source that we have as to the physical description of Paul the Apostle. It's an apocryphal source. It is known as the Acts of Paul and Thecla, and there's an account of Paul's physical appearance, the only one we have in history. May be accurate, may be false, but here it is-- a man of little stature, [IN A BAD ACCENT] a wee li'l man.
[NORMAL TONE] Thin haired upon the head. Crooked in the legs. Of good state of body with eyebrows joining. I just blew your whole view-- Paul the unibrow. And nose somewhat hooked.
Short, bald, unibrow, hooked nose, but full of grace, for sometimes, he appeared like a man, and sometimes he had the face of an angel. What's interesting about these accusations against Paul is they do not hesitate to do what they accuse him of doing. They poke fun at him from afar.
They're very bold from afar. Paul says, I'm coming to meet you. We'll have our words then.
If you go over to chapter 11 verse 5-- for I consider that I am not at all inferior to the most imminent apostles, even though I am untrained in speech. You had not a knowledge, but we have been thoroughly manifested among you in all things. He talks about his conduct, talks about his suffering down in verses 22 and 23.
I'm going to take you to chapter 12. He says, it is doubtless not profitable for me to boast. He's still vindicating his apostleship. I will come to visions and revelations of the Lord.
Remember, he had quite a few of those-- Damascus road, a vision. A vision at Troas-- go to Macedonia and help. He had a vision in Corinth when the Lord said, speak, don't hold your speech. I have many people in the city.
He had a vision in Jerusalem. Jesus appeared to him and said, you're going to go all the way to Rome and give a testimony to me. And also, he had a vision while he was on that boat on the way to Rome in the storm.
Here's another one. I know a man in Christ-- verse 2-- who 14 years ago-- whether in the body, I do not know; whether out of the body, I do not know. God knows such a one was caught up into the third heaven.
Paul, I believe, is speaking about himself. He is using a rabbinical style of writing and speaks of himself in the third person. Very, very common.
He says, and I know such a man-- whether in the body or out of the body, I do not know. Whether I was dead or alive during that time, I couldn't tell. How he was caught up into Paradise and heard inexpressible words, which is not lawful for a man to utter. Of such a one, I will boast-- in other words, I'm the guy-- yet I, myself, will not boast except in my infirmities.
It is believed that, when he was at Lystra, and they stoned him almost to death, that it caused an eye problem that he suffered with the rest of his life, because he had to write with large letters. He had of some sort of a blindness. He had an inability to focus.
Some speculate that, because of that altercation, that caused problems with his eyes, and some say it was epilepsy. There's a number of things people say was the thorn in the flesh. I have no idea what it was, but it was my guess, this eye problem that was because of that altercation at Lystra.
I'm going to skip a portion because the last section from Chapter 12 verse 13 on are concluding remarks. I'm going to take you to chapter 13 verse 10. We'll close it.
Therefore, I write these things being absent, lest being present, I should use sharpness according to the authority which the Lord has given me for edification and not for destruction. Finally, brethren, farewell. Become complete.
What an interesting exhortation. "Become complete." One translation might be, grow up, mature, complete your course in the Lord.
Become complete. Be of good comfort. Be of one mind. Live in peace, and the God of love and peace will be with you. Greet one another with a holy kiss.
Now, Paul says that at the end of I Corinthians, the end of II Corinthians, the end of I Thessalonians, and the apostle Peter also says it in one of his letters. So four times in the New Testament, Peter and Paul say, "greet one another with a holy kiss." I get questions about that all the time. It's quite simple.
It was culturally appropriate, when you greet somebody, to greet them by kissing them on the cheek, then on the other cheek, and then typically on the first cheek again. If you go to the Middle East, that's exactly what they still do to this day. It was what the world did. It's what the culture did. It's what everyone did.
Paul is saying, take that from the pagan culture. That's the culturally appropriate greeting. Take that and make it holy.
Do it with meaning. Do it in the Lord. Make it a holy kiss.
Now, I know some men who have looked at that, and they said, there's an attractive girl next to me at church. I want to give her a holy kiss. The Bible says so.
What you're thinking about, dude, is an unholy kiss. The culturally appropriate manner today would be a handshake, a fist bump, or a hug. So we'll leave it at that.
All the Saints greet you. The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, the love of God, and the communion of the Holy Spirit be with you all. And you can say the last word. Amen.
Father, thank you for a gleaning into the church life at Corinth, more than that, into the very heart of the apostle. A man who said, look, I've struggled for years with trials and heartaches-- I've been shipwrecked. I've been beaten. I've been imprisoned. I've distressed, and I've been under pressure.
I've despaired of life. And yet God was gracious, and I want to finish my course with joy. And I want to pour my life out for individuals and for churches.
And, Father, I pray likewise that we would not be daunted by suffering, by trials, by hardships, by heartache, but that we would become complete. We would become mature. We would grow up in the faith in all things and persevere, so that we'll have a testimony, when we are comforted by your spirit, to be able to tell people how we got through it, how we did it.
That those, Lord, who have suffered loss, that those who have endured divorce, that those who have lost someone because of death or are dealing with chronic pain or a disease, would be able to share what secrets they have learned from your heart to build up the body of Christ. In Jesus' name, amen. Let's all stand to our feet.
We hope you enjoyed this message from Skip Heitzig of Calvary Church. For more resources, visit CalvaryNM.church. Thank you for joining us for this teaching from The Bible from 30,000 Feet.