In the time of Paul the Apostle, Corinth was a prosperous city in southern Greece. Residence of the city knew the depths of depravity but Paul brought them to the heights of God's grace; this did not mean the church at Corinth was without blemish. Paul's second letter goes right to the heart of these issues.
Pastor Skip Heitzig: Tonight is the fiftieth week in "The Bible From 30,000 Feet", which means technically we're still under a year and by week 52 the year mark we'll be in the book of Ephesians so we're making pretty good time. Some of the books we'll be able to put together are like First and Second Thessalonians, First and Second Timothy, some of the shorter epistles, and sooner very shortly we'll be in our final night of the book of Revelation; sailing through it very, very rapidly. So it's been, it's been a good time so far. Are you ready for Second Corinthians? Let's turn there tonight Second Corinthians chapter 1. There's a book that was put out some years ago called, "The Jewish 100" by an author, Jewish author named Michael Shapiro. And he wrote a list and then an explanation of the list, a list of the 100 most influential Jews of history, ranking on the top of the list was none other than Moses. Number one, the most influential Jew of all times, Moses the great law giver, for obvious reasons, the law came through Moses. Second on his list was Jesus Christ, an interesting pick for number two. Now of course you would contend, He would be number one, but keep in mind the framework of the list and you would understand.
Third on his list, Albert Einstein, fourth on his list Sigmund Freud. Fifth on his list, the patriarch Abraham, and number six Saul of Tarsus aka Paul, the Apostle, very influential undeniable. This changed the course of world history. I don't know exactly how you picture Paul with his personality. What you would assume he would be like personally. But I can say that a lot of people think that Paul, the Apostle was detached aloof, after all he was a very strong leader. He came off to some people that way, and some people today might read the "Epistles of Paul" and figure that he was sort of that individual didn't really need anybody, didn't let the cracks show.
Well, if you have that idea of Paul, then Second Corinthians will break and shatter than illusion. It is the most personal of all of Paul's letters. It is so personal, it is so enduring that Homer Kent who was a great Bible expositor wrote a commentary, and he titled the commentary the theme of the book, "A Heart Opened Wide," "A Heart Opened Wide." It's language that Paul himself will use in the book, I have opened my heart wide to you, please open your heart to me. So Paul shares the deep emotion and love and how he wrestled for the souls who were there at Corinth, very, very personal, very, very emotional of all the books.
There is a keyword in this book, and I'm going to give you an outline in a minute, but I want to give you one of the key features, one of the keywords, probably the keyword, mentioned 29 times in Second Corinthians is the word comfort, or sometimes translated encouragement. But from the same Greek word, parakaleo or paraklesis, to encourage, to comfort, to walk alongside and uplift, used 29 times in this book, 11 times as a noun and 18 times as a verb. So that's one of the themes of the book is, Paul is encouraging people. So he wrote Second Corinthians for four reasons.
Here they are: number one, to encourage them, to encourage them, To do what? To forgive and restore a sinning brother. You remember him from last week, he was the guy who was involved in incest and Paul said, "Kick him out of the church." Obviously by now he's repented and he writes to encourage them to forgive and restore.
Reason number two, to explain to them, to encourage them, number two, to explain to them, why he has changed his plans and hasn't come again to visit them in Corinth. Reason number three, to enlist their help for the church in Jerusalem. He's going to take up an offering and in this book he is going to write a lot about Christian giving financially for the church in Jerusalem. And number four to establish his own apostleship.
Here is one of the problems and one of the incentives for Paul writing Second Corinthians. There was a group of self-styled authoritarian leaders who would come into the church and were talking bad against Paul because Paul had been absent. He had been in Corinth, but now he is in Ephesus for a few years, and they were stirring things up and the church was starting to divide over the issue of Paul, the Apostle. So Paul is going to write to firmly establish his own apostleship. So those are the reasons he writes this book and you'll find them smattered throughout. To encourage, to explain, to enlist, and to establish.
If you remember from last week, I'm just going to cover a couple of important facts. Paul had been in Corinth for 18 months, it's the longest he stayed anywhere except for one other place. Who knows what that is? Ephesus, Ephesus he stays for three-and-a-half years, but he stays one-and-a-half years, 18 months at Corinth. When he arrives he stays with tent makers, beautiful couple, Aquila and Priscilla, goes to the synagogue, starts preaching the gospel. It didn't go very well, synagogue kicks him out. So he begins a home Bible study. Well, it just happened that the guy's home, the guy's name was Justice and his home was right next door to the synagogue.
So his home Bible study was right there, next door to the synagogue for 18 months. So the nucleus of the church that forms in Corinth were Jewish at first. However, by this time they are predominantly gentile. The nature of Paul's message was so wide and so inviting and so forgiving that not only the Jewish people but a great number of gentiles by this time have come. Probably, most of the people in the church were the low class, not the high class, the low class of Corinth.
For Paul says in First Corinthians, "You see your calling brethrens, not many mighty, not many noble after the flesh are called, but God has chosen the foolish things of the world to confound the wise."
So Paul leaves Corinth, goes to Ephesus, while he's there, he gets a note from Chloe. Remember Chloe, Chloe's household. "Hey there's problems in Corinth," she says, "the church is dividing over Paul, Apollos, Peter, and Jesus. They're being very sectarian." Paul writes, to correct that, that's First Corinthians. He also sends Timothy to Corinth to settle them down. Timothy comes back with some very disturbing news.
Hey Paul, there's a group of leaders there, they're talking smack about you, they're trying to undermine your authority, they're trying to say that you are a wolf in sheep's clothing. So Paul writes Second Corinthians, impart to establish his apostolic authority, as the founder or father and apostle of that church, and he does so very elegantly toward the end.
Okay, let me give you the outline of the book and I won't tell you the breakdown of the chapters so we get into it. But there's five different sections of Second Corinthians; five different sections, actually seven if you take the introduction and the conclusion. So here is the layout. There is an introduction, and then number one corrections, corrections, corrections, number one corrections. Paul's going to correct or tell them about a change, their change in heart toward descending brother who has now repented, bring him back. Number two, his own personal change in plans, he has corrected his itinerary. I am not coming right away because things have come up.
So number one corrections. Number two, explanations, explanations. Paul wants to explain the nature of his ministry, the motivation of his ministry, the message of the Gospel. He will explain that to them. Number three, exhortations, exhortations. He's going to exhort them on a personal level, open your heart to me. Don't listen to these guys who are, who are turning you away from me, you know that I have opened myself to you, I love you. Open your heart wide. And number two, separate yourself from those sinning worldly people that are in Corinth, separate yourselves who are among them. Those are the exhortations.
Number four solicitation, or you could say, collection. He's going to take up an offering and explain the reason for it and the method for it and the motive for it in a couple of chapters. Then finally number five, vindication, he will defend his own apostolic ministry to those who were in Corinth.
Now let's just take a couple of verses out of the introduction and notice how personal even this is, as he opens up saying Paul, an Apostle of Jesus Christ by the will of God, and Timothy or brother look at verse 3. He portrays God as a merciful comforter.
"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."
Now Paul did suffer as an apostle, it is part of his credential, he suffered. He suffered externally from the world who persecuted him and he suffered internally from Christians who misjudged his motivation. So he's sort of hinting it that here, and what he's saying, with this one of the most beautiful promises for anybody going through a trial, don't waste your suffering, don't waste it.
When, when you go through a trial, don't look at it, just a dumb trial, but a divine appointment and when I say don't waste it, I mean analyze it, learn from it, and ask yourself how can what I'm going through help other people who will go through this later on. I'm convinced. One of the reasons you go through trials is for this very reason, you can be a comfort to others. You know it's amazing, all the stuff Paul has suffered for years and he can still say, "Blessed be the God, Father of our Lord Jesus Christ."
You know somebody once said, "Your spiritual maturity can be measured by what it takes to steal your joy." Think about that, spiritual maturity can be measured by what it takes to steal your joy. Have you ever met a Christian who just seems no matter what they go through, to just sort of be above at all a little bit, just I know life is bad, I know this is horrible, but you know God is so good, and they always seem to have a lift in their step and they see that there's a greater purpose for it. Sometimes it's sort of hard to be around those people they are so convicting because they're filled with joy; it's actually a mark of maturity. I don't know what you're going through in your life and with this financial crisis going on around us. I wonder if you can say like Paul, "Blessed be the God, and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ."
You know no matter what happens in your world, there's always enough bad stuff going around that you can focus on it. I would like to use this example, if I had a white sheet that was 10 feet by 10 feet and I had a little five inch black dot somewhere on that white sheet. What would you look at? Yeah, the black dot even though there's much more white than there is black, we have a tendency to look at the black dots in life and not the overwhelming amount of blessings beside the black dot. The white swath that overshadows it and Paul did that. He looked at God's blessing through everything. Now the first section of Second Corinthians is corrections.
And beginning in chapter 1, verse 12, the chapter 2, verse 13, he's going to talk about changes in his plans and how they as a congregation of Corinth should change their attitude toward that sinning brother that he mentioned in First Corinthians; so in verse 5 of chapter 2.
"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 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 to Him."
If you remember in First Corinthians, he said, I've heard about this case in your church where you've got somebody in fellowship who's practicing incest. It's a man who has his stepmother living with him, in a sexual manner and Paul says what really grieves me is you rejoicing it, because you're so tolerant, you're so lenient, you're like the new Christian, you just might let everything go. And Paul says, I'll tell you what you ought to do, get him out of your fellowship. Seems like they did that, and it seems that in the interim this brother came to his senses, and was sorrowful and repented.
So Paul says, look enough is enough, grief can overwhelm a person and he has a godly sorrow and it is toward repentant and so you ought to bring him back into the fellowship. It's a principle Jesus actually said in Luke chapter 17.
He says, "If your brother sins against you, rebuke him; if he repents forgive him." So Paul tells them, rebuke him, they rebuked him, got, cut and loose, now he is asking for forgiveness.
Verse 11, skip down to that, "lest Satan should take advantage of us; for we are not ignorant of his devices."
I wish Paul would have said, for most of us are not ignorant of his device. Because I fear some of us are ignorant of his devices. And case in point is the very case he's bringing up here, Satan's strategy is very simple when it comes to a church, divide and conquer.
And if he can allow unforgiveness into the midst of the assembly, it can be torn in two. If you have an unforgiving person inside the church or a group of unforgiving persons in the church, he has established a foothold. If there's an unforgiving spirit that pervades the whole church, he's got a beachhead to divide their church. Paul is warning them we're not ignorant of his devices.
So that's corrections, number two are explanations, explanations. And in chapter 2, beginning in verse 14 all the way to chapter 6, verse 10. Paul is going to explain the ministry, the nature of the ministry, the nature of his ministry. What the message is that he preached and the motivation.
In chapter 4, verse 1; "Therefore, since we have this ministry, as we have received mercy, we do not lose heart." Obviously we don't have time to examine a large chunk of these verses, but Paul gets very personal. He says, let me tell you what I've gone through as an apostle, it's been really tough. I've worked really hard and I've been greatly misunderstood, and I get back up and I do it again, and I get beat up and thrown in jail, and I get out and I do it again.
But in summing it up, he says, "we do not lose heart." Chapter 4 verse 1, go down to verse 8.
"We are hard pressed [or pushed pressured] on every side, yet not crushed; we are perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but 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."
Think of Paul's career as a Christian. First experience receives the Lord, goes to Damascus. What happens in Damascus? Yeah, they threatened to kill him. He turns into a basket case, they have to let him over the wall in a basket, and he escapes and he goes to Jerusalem and his life is threatened and they have to ship him off to Tarsus for several years. On his first missionary journey, he gets to Lystra, they stone him and drag him out of the city. Later on when he gets to Philippi, after he sees a vision of the man from Macedonia. He's thrown in jail, after a mob riot in that city, and he's beaten by the jailer.
He goes later on to Ephesus, a huge riot erupts in that city, everywhere he goes that's part of his ministry, and he seems to be impervious to it all and never discouraged or if he is discouraged, it passes and he moves. He was human, he did get discourage, but that's important. Paul is giving us the anatomy of his ministry. You could look at Paul, the Apostle, yeah most six most influential Jewish person of all time, he has made the list.
Yeah, but examine behind the scenes, and some of you have been here for years at this church and back a few of you were here when we first started. Well that's what a lot of people don't see, if they come here recently they just see a large church, a big campus and they would say, successful. They don't look back when I worked two jobs, and everything was volunteer and we had a little coffee can that's how we collected, that was our agape can, at the back of the Bible study. They don't probably know anything about the death threats that have been leveled against this place or the time the Satan worshipers, some of you will recall, threatened to burn down this building and destroy us all etcetera, etcetera.
And they don't know always see the hard work of all the staff or the preparation of all the different messages. That's why Charles Spurgeon knowing this said to a group of young pastors, all who were so excited to be in the ministry, we want to be in the ministry, that sound so fun they thought. Charles Spurgeon to that class said these words, "If you plan to be the 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 the ministry and easy life will also find that it brings a hard death." I'm sure that day the class was stunned at those very candid words. Paul would agree, Paul lived that, and yet, what motivates Paul, is knowing that he's in God's will now on earth and that he will one day be with the Lord in heaven. That's the payoff, now and later. Now I'm in God's will, later I will be rewarded for it.
So in chapter 5, verse 1; "For we know if our earthly house, this tent, is destroyed, we have a building from God, a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens."
Verse 14; "For the love of Christ compels us; because we judge thus, that if One died for all, then all died."
So he's talking about his ministry, been through some hardships but I know that my earthly house will give away and I have a reward in heaven, oh and by the way, another motivation for me is the great love of Jesus Christ. It compels me or constraints me.
Verse 15; "And He died for all, that those who live should no longer live for themselves but for Him who died for them and rose again."
Now go down to verse 21. I'm taking you here, we eluded to this in communion moments ago.
Verse 21 of Second Corinthians, chapter 5 is the clearest declaration of substitutionary atonement I think in all of scripture.
"For He made Him who knew no sin to be sin for us that we might become the righteousness of God in Him."
We would call this the great exchange; the great exchange. Here's Jesus sinless, here's us hopeless sinners, the great exchange. Where the Father would say, I'm going to give you Jesus all of their sin, so that I can give them all of your righteousness that's the exchange.
When I first heard the gospel, I got this part, this registered with me. It registered so much as I was listening to Billy Graham on television and I've told you that story and as he was preaching the gospel that evening, I actually listened and I thought, well that's not a good deal. God's like getting a horrible deal here, you're saying that I'm going to get all of His righteousness and all of His blessing and all of His forgiveness because Jesus took all of my sin and all of that pain, He got a rotten deal.
But then I kept thinking about it, okay, God is infinite, God is powerful, if this is God's plan and now I am convinced that it is, I'm getting like the killer deal and I'd be an idiot to pass this up, it's that good. This great exchange, this is the principle of imputation, he imputes to Jesus, puts on His side of the ledger all of the failures, all of the foibles, all of the sin. So that He can say, I see you like Jesus.
"He made Him who knew no sin that we might be the righteousness in Him."
So I'll sum it up this way, God the Father at the Cross treated Jesus Christ, like you and I deserved to be treated, so that God the Father could treat us, like Jesus Christ deserves to be treated. That's the principle that is flushed out in verse 21.
Isaiah 53, you want to write that at the margin of your Bible, if you like to take notes, I hope you do, right. Isaiah 53 in the margin of your Bible or on your note says this; "Surely He has borne our griefs, and carried our sorrows: yet we esteemed Him stricken, smitten of God, and afflicted. But He was wounded for our transgressions; He was [pierced] bruised for our iniquities: the chastisement for our peace was upon Him; and by His stripes we are healed."
Why all of this elaborate plan? Here's the answer because the only way to populate heaven is the forgiveness of sin and the only way sin can be forgiven is somebody sinless, God the Son spilling His blood till death so that God could make this great exchange, and that's the principle of substitutionary atonement, very, very key to your Christian walk, it's the Gospel.
The third section of Second Corinthian is a list of exhortations. Paul exhorts them. In chapter 6, verse 11 through chapter 7; verse 16 one of the exhortation is, "Hey guys! Open up your hearts toward Me, don't let these self appointed authoritarian leaders turn you against Me, open up your heart." And the second exhortation is separate yourself from the worldliness that is there in Corinth.
So look at verse 11 of chapter 6; "O 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 affections."
So these leaders in Paul's absence had come into this church, his great work of God at Corinth and started turning their hearts, their affections away from Paul toward them and their strategy was simple, talk enough dirt about Paul so that they will close their hearts toward him. So that then they would open up their hearts toward them. That was their strategy and Paul was on to them and he corrects this in this chapter.
So he says, look, don't close your heart. Look I've opened my heart to you. The word is enlarge, my heart is actually larger and more in love with you now than ever before. So open your heart toward us. I have seen this by the way. I have seen leaders come in with their own agenda, seeking to turn people's hearts away from a leader, from a pastor and toward their own agenda and try to divide groups.
Did you know that every month 1,600 ministers resign from the ministry? Around the world, it's estimated that 1,600 resign from the ministry and there are number of reasons they resign, all the way from moral failure, that's what a lot of people like to look at and think about, but there is a lot more reasons for that than that.
Spiritual burnout and number two fighting in contentions within the church; 94 percent who quit, feel pressure to have the ideal family; 84 percent quit because they are discouraged by others in the church; 85 percent believe the greatest problem is that they're sick and tired of dealing with problem people, year after year, always a problem, always a problem and just it burns them out; 1,600 quit.
No wonder Stuart Briscoe very witty and godly man said, "The qualifications for any pastor must be that he should have the mind of a scholar, he should have the heart of a child, and he should have the height of a rhinoceros." Well Paul had all of those and they're all demonstrated in beautiful balance in Second Corinthians, very brilliant Jewish scholar. Very tender heart, is revealed in Second Corinthians unlike any other book, any other treatise and yet the hide of a rhinoceros. He knows the truth, that's why he can sleep at night and he comes to defend himself.
Look at verse 13; "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? And what communion has light with darkness? And what accord has Christ with Belial?" [Another term for Satan.] "What part has a believer with an unbeliever?"
Now primarily, primarily, the analogy is that they should separate from false teachers. You shouldn't be yoked with these false teachers who are turning your hearts away, but the principle is much wider than that. That's just the immediate context. This applies to any kind of alliance that a Christian would form with a non-Christian. It's a good principle to follow.
Now there is a translation put up by C. K. Barrett of this verse and he renders it. "You must not get into double harness with unbelievers." That's a yoke. A yoke was a wooden device; it linked two animals together to pull a plow, to do the work. Any wise farmer would select animals of the same species, same size, same strength, same temperament, there would be a compatibility because if not; if he chooses animals that don't work well together, they won't work together. They'll come and pull in opposite directions and you won't get any work done.
So you could apply this principle to marriage, you could apply this principle to business alliances. And tell you what; I've seen Christians compromise their values and dating values because they say they're just no good Christian guys at church.
So they become missionaries daters and decide to lead that unsaved heathen but very good looking hulky non-believing man to Christ and they get yoke together and it doesn't really workout very well, not the same temperament, not going in the same direction and they find that their whole life is a tug of war. And God can't do His work through them. Like the farmer couldn't do work through animals that were not yoked together. So that could be again in business, it could be in marriage.
Now we must never misunderstand that Paul is saying we should end all associations with unbelievers. Now they tried that once, it's called the convent, it's called a monastery, separate from the world be only with my kind. Well, how can you ever affect the unbelieving worlds of the Gospel if you think that way?
And Paul makes that clear in First Corinthians. He said, "Hey, when I wrote you before" -- this is First Corinthians but I said that there were at least three letters, some believe four, which would make First Corinthians, Second Corinthians and Second Corinthians Third Corinthians, but we went through that last week, anyway
He said, "When I wrote to you before and I said don't keep company with sexually immoral people, I didn't mean sexually immoral people of the world otherwise you would have to like go to the moon." I'm translating that freely, "you'd have to leave this world," he said, "because they're everywhere." And he wants us to penetrate the world, unbelieving world, the sinners, the cussers, the people who need to hear the message. But it was those who claimed to be believers.
Okay, again Paul is very personal; look at chapter 7, verse 2,
As the heart of the congregation is turning against him he says, "Open your hearts to us, 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."
Now scholars try to peace together what may have happened to Corinth with Paul. It could be that some of them were saying, you know Paul is kind of mean and overbearing. He's such a strong leader, after all, remember in First Corinthians, chapter 5, he said that you want to kick that person out of the church. How harsh can you get? That's one possibility.
Some may have misunderstood Paul saying that he wants to take an offering for the church in Jerusalem. It's some sort of financial money making scheme that Paul had cooked up, that's why he said we cheated no one. It's very hard to convince people that you love them when others are trying to turn around your motivations with at every turn, with a counter spin, that's what Paul is suffering being misunderstood.
The fourth section of Second Corinthian is solicitation. This is where Paul says, "I'm coming. I'm going to take an offering and we're going to give the money to the saints of Jerusalem." That's in chapter 8, verse 1 through chapter 9, verse 15, there's a beautiful section about the Christian's relationship to money and giving freely to God's work and principles in portion.
What was happening in Jerusalem that Paul needed to even do this? Because this is a little bit odd typically when it comes to missions giving, the home church supports the outreach church, at least for a while, we've done that to a number of churches around the country and countries around the world. This is foreign missions in reverse. Now you have those churches of our planet supporting the mother church, so to speak, the one that sent them out. So what's the deal?
Probably, here's the deal. Number one, most of the jobs in Jerusalem were temple related and the temple was an institution run by the Sadducees, who denied the resurrection, had turn against the early church. They lost their jobs. So what did they do? Well they went from that to communal living.
We read the book of Acts, right, and they pulled their resources together, they sold their land, their goods, and they put all of the money together because financial times were so tough, and I love that when financial times get tough, the church gets tough and figuring out a way to deal with this. So they started taking care of their own by selling their property, pooling their goods so they had enough money to support each other. But even that money was drawing out.
Number three, probably a famine struck Jerusalem. If you remember back in Acts, chapter 11, there was a prophet in Judaea named Agabus, remember that. Do you remember that Agabus made a prediction that there will be a great famine throughout the world and the Bible says which happened? So if the famine, as Agabus predicted hit Judaea on top of losing their jobs, on top of running out of pooled resources, they were hurting for certain. So the other churches in Macedonia, in Achaia, in Asia Minor, were pooling their resources to give back to the place that blessed the world with the Gospel.
So in chapter 8, verse 1; "Moreover, brethren, we may known to you the grace of God bestowed on the churches of Macedonia: that in great trial of affliction the abundance of their joy and their deep poverty abounded in the riches of their liberality." In another words, they were poor but they gave a lot for this cause.
Verse 3; "For I bear witness that according to their ability, yes, beyond their ability they were freely willing." That is freely willing to give and notice it was out of their poverty. It wasn't really -- when Paul says to give, he says, you should give proportionately to whatever you make. You know, the Bible talks about the tithe and I get asked that a lot. Well, do we tithe on the net or the gross? And if you got to start asking those kind of questions, it's get a little weird. I just -- liberality. Hows that? Generosity, give with hilarity, as we'll see in just a minute.
Obviously, whenever a Christian gives to a cause to a church, to a mission, it should cost him, it should cost him. And I get this principle from David when he was looking for a place to build the temple. Remember the story, Araunah owned the property. So David works out the negotiations. Something like this, "Dude, I want to buy your land." "Oh! What's it for?" "I want to build God a temple." "Well, if you are going to build God a temple, I would like to donate the land. "No, I'm going to pay full prize for it. Give me a good prize and I'll pay for it." "No, it's for the Lord, I'll give it you."
And David said these words, "No, I insist on paying you for it, for I will not sacrifice to the Lord, my God a burnt offering that cost me nothing." It's got to hurt a little bit, it's got a cost, I have to feel it because this is for God and David wanted to pay that prize.
He continues here Verse 7; Paul says, "But as you abound in everything, in faith, in speech, in knowledge, in all diligence," [you are good at all these, you make straight "A's" and all those as a church], "and in your love for us, see that you abound in this grace also."
I have in my own heart; I get to carry the testimony of God's faithfulness for 25 years. What I've seen here has been so much fun through all sorts of different times. I remember as I mentioned back when we first started the church at the Lakes Apartments right down the street, and we were all working at local jobs and just getting together for fellowship and yet we needed to pay the rent on the apartment, clubhouse and we needed cookies for the Wednesday night Bible study, then the Thursday Bible study. We needed coffee; you know what I mean, what's fellowship without that we thought. So that took some money, we are all pitching in and we put a Folgers coffee can in the back and just told people, hey, if you want to help support the cost of this apartment clubhouse and the cookies and the coffee, there's a can you can put your money in it and we'll do it.
And we saw that God was so faithful with the coffee can that when we went to Sunday mornings at the theatre, we thought let's put two coffee cans out, one on either side. Now we are in the big leagues, and we decided to get our own building. We figured God has been so faithful with coffee cans, let's keep this up. Let's just put boxes in different places, same principle. Let people know where they are, not saying we are taking up a special offering and another service and another special offering and I believe there is 40 people with none of that stuff, we just keep it open and watch God be faithful. And just I got to tell you God is faithful. I've seen it and I get to carry that testimony forever in my heart.
But the principles here still stand, you can tell a lot about a person's spirituality or lack of it by their attitude toward money, by their giving, or their lack of it. That's what Jesus said, where a man's heart is, there will his treasure be also. I have it backwards, where a man's treasure is, there will his heart be also. That's the principle.
And the Christian comes to the realization I don't own anything, I'm a steward of everything. I'm steward of it all; it all belongs to the Lord. Here's a little clip that was given to me from a magazine called Church News out of Mississippi.
Quote; "There is a disease which is particularly virulent in this part of the 21st century, it is called Cirrhosis of the Giver. It was actually discovered about 34 AD and ran a terminal course in a couple named Ananias and Sapphira; it is an acute condition which renders the patient's hand immobile when it attempts to move from the billfold to the offering plate. The remedy is removed; the remedy is to remove the afflicted from the house of God since it's clinically observable that this condition disappears in alternate environments such as the golf course or clubs or restaurants."
So Paul is saying, hey, you will excel in so many things Corinth, love and all of these great virtues, excel in this as well.
Chapter 9, verse 6; "But this I say: He who sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and He who sows bountifully will also reap bountifully."
Now we're getting some spiritual principles in giving that this law of the harvest is not just a physical law, it's also a spiritual law. Here is a spiritual law of giving; this isn't the first time it comes up. If you know your Bibles, you know it's a principle throughout.
Like Jesus said in Luke chapter 6, verse 38; "Give, and it will be on to you: good measure, pressed down, shaken together, running over will be put into your bosom. For with the same measure that you use, it will be measured back to you."
Now this is a principle from the Old Testament, God said, "Don't test Me at all, except there's one area that you can test Me in is and I command you to test Me and that's in tithes and offerings. You give, don't hold it back, you freely support My work in the temple and watch what happens, I will open the windows of heaven and pour out a blessing on you that you can't contain, same principle.
Old Testament, Jesus, Paul, the Apostle and Solomon, the book of Proverbs chapter 11 verse 24 and 25; "There is one who scatters, yet increases more; there is one who withholds more than is right, but it leads to poverty. The generous soul will be made rich, and he who waters will also be watered himself."
I got to tell you that's a principle in the Scripture, I also got to tell you I don't quite understand it, but I know it works. Any more that I don't quite understand, you put something to ground and all the stuff comes up later on when you water it. But it's a law of the harvest and there is a spiritual law of the harvest in giving.
Verse 7; "So let each one give as he purposes in his heart, (has to be individual) not grudgingly nor of necessity; for God loves a cheerful [or hilarious] giver."
So you can be a sad giver, if you look here, giving grudgingly, oh, I don't want to do this, I want to hold onto it. You can be a mad giver of necessity it says, or you can be a glad giver. God likes the last kind.
I love one of the days when we take a tour in Israel and we drive from the north, Sea of Galilee through Beth Shean through the Jordan Valley. Remember that day and we end up at the Dead Sea and then up towards Jerusalem. In just a couple of hours, you're at the Sea of Galilee which is lush and green, there's children playing around, there's trees, life everywhere. You go a few miles south and you get to the Dead Sea, barren, dry, nothing grows in it or around it, it's dead.
And any thinking person would say, huh, it looks like it's the same source of water, the Jordan River that flows into both of them. What's the difference? Why is one alive and one dead? Simple explanation, see if Galilee is alive because it takes in water and it gives out water, inlet and an outlet. The Dead Sea is dead because it hoards everything, there's an inlet, it takes in water and takes in more water and more water, there is no outlet, it evaporates.
And because it only takes in and never gives out, it's dead. And that has become an analogy used by the Jews for centuries of how our lives should be taking in God's blessing and giving out God's blessing and in principle that's what Paul is sharing with the Corinthians.
Now the fifth and final section of this book is vindication. This is where Paul sort of ruffles up his apostolic feathers and defends his own authority, his credentials and his conduct.
Verse 1 of chapter 10, all the way to chapter 12, verse 18; "Now I, Paul, myself am pleading with you by the meekness and gentleness of Christ who in presence am lowly among you, but being absent am bold towards 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, (get his drift) who think of us as if we walked according to the flesh."
Those were all the accusations that were going against him.
Verse 8; "For even if I should boast somewhat more about our authority, which the Lord gave us for edification and not for your destruction, I shall not be ashamed lest I seem to terrify you by letters."
"For his letters," they say, "are weighty and powerful, but his bodily presence is weak, his speech contemptible."
It was the accusation; it seems by this group that we're spreading rumors in Corinth. Paul is really big and bold when he writes from afar, he is Mr. Authority, but you get him in your presence face-to-face, eye-to-eye and he's weak. He's short of stature. By the way, this is probably a slur in part about how Paul looked. Now again I don't know how you picture Paul, the Apostle, maybe stately with a deep voice, very handsomely cut face, the perfect beard, a little halo around his head. I don't know how you picture him, but you would have that wrong too.
There's an apocryphal book called "The Acts of Paul and Thecla" which is in account of Paul's physical appearance and here it is quote, "He's a man of little stature, thin haired upon his head, crooked in his legs of good state of body with eyebrows joining." We call that a unibrow, can you picture Paul, the unibrow, "and nose somewhat hooked." So a hooked nose, aquiline nose, short squatty unibrow. But it says full of grace, where sometimes he appeared like a man and sometimes he had the face of an angel.
They were probably making fun of his weighty letters but they said, yeah, but he is just a weakling, he is wimp up close and making fun of his physical stature.
Chapter 11, verse 5; "For I consider that I am not at all inferior to the most eminent apostles. Even though I am untrained in speech, yet I am not in knowledge. But we have been thoroughly manifested among you in all things."
Now he's going to give some of his qualifications as an apostle like his conduct among them, his suffering for them in chapter 11.
Then in chapter 12, verse 1; "It is doubtless not profitable for me to boast. I will come to visions and revelations of the Lord."
So, you know, he's sort of talking out loud saying, look I don't want to boast but since you brought up my qualifications, let me tell you what I have been through and he speaks about visions. Now here's a guy that had visions. First vision was on the road to Damascus, Jesus Christ appeared to him. Second vision in Damascus, the Lord again appears to him by the man named Ananias.
When he is at Troas, he sees a vision of a man from Macedonia saying, come over to Macedonia and help us. When he gets to Corinth, the Lord appears to him again and says, keep speaking Paul, don't worry, I'm with you. I have many people in this city. When he gets to Jerusalem, after he's arrested there, the Lord encourages him again, as you testified of Me in Jerusalem you're also going to testify of Me in Rome. Then he's on a boat in a storm, chapter 27 of Acts and again he gets another vision.
All of those visions are one thing, this vision that he speaks about here is quite another.
Verse 2; "I know a man in Christ who fourteen years ago whether in the body I do not know, or whether out of the body I do not know, God knows such a one was caught up to the third heaven."
And Paul is speaking about himself because he will identify himself in a minute. You say, why is he speaking of himself in the third person? A very common rabbinical style of teaching, sort of is if to diffuse the spotlight and talk about yourself without saying me in the first person, it was done in the third person, rabbinical story telling.
Verse 3; "And I know such a man whether in the body or out of the body I do not know, God knows, how he was caught up into paradise and heard inexpressible words, not lawful for a man to utter. Of such a one I will boast;" (or I am the dude that I was just speaking about. "Yet of myself I will not boast, except in my infirmities."
Verse 7; "And lest I should be exalted above measure," listen I've had so many visions, this vision of heaven was so cool that it had to get balanced out with some pain. "Lest I should be exalted above measure, by the abundance of the revelations, a thorn in the flesh was given to me, a messenger of Satan to buffet me, lest I should be exalted above measure."
Have you discovered that God knows how to apportion blessings to you and season them with buffetings so you don't get over blessed and over confident? Like, gosh, I'm like the coolest guy in the world, I must be like seamlessly perfect or something because I get blessed all the time.
And some have a warped theology that say you should have that all the time being perfect to have a miracle everyday. Oh yeah, another miracle, so what. This guy is opened up, I'm me.
You'd be the most arrogant person, nobody would ever like you and you would be about as immature as a baby the rest of your life. So God knows how to balance the blessing with buffetings; as He does here. You don't get all buffetings. He intersperses with blessings as well.
"Concerning this thing, verse 8, I pleaded with the Lord three times that it might depart from me." And He said to me, "My grace is enough for you, My strength is made perfect in weakness. Therefore most gladly I would rather boast in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me. Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in needs, in persecutions, in distresses, for Christ's sake. For when I am weak, then I am strong."
Listen, the average, even Christian has a hard time buying what he just said. Let alone the unbeliever who thinks, he's just out of his mind. Here's a guy saying, bring it on I actually take pleasure in that bad stuff because it means that I'm at the end of myself. I have to trust Jesus. And most of the world go, whatever dude, don't want any part of it and I think a lot of believers would probably throw their hat in with that vote as well.
But he says when I am weak then I am strong. What was Paul's thorn in the flesh, what was that? There are books written about this. Here's a secret, I don't know. Here's another secret, no one else knows, doesn't say what it is. We're not told. It's eluded to I believe, it's hinted out I suspect, but you -- they are the craziest explanations.
One Scottish commentator said, "Paul's thorn in the flesh was his wife." I bet that commentator probably had a bad marriage. Wouldn't you say with that kind of a comment? Like to examine his home life. Well, I'll tell you what the thorn is not, the thorn isn't some little tiny bothersome things. Because the word he uses here is a very strong Greek word.
It's not the kind of thorn you get when you chop wood and you got a piece of wood in your finger and you go, oh, got a little thorn or I was playing with some roses today oh I got a little thorn. That's not the kind of thorn. The translation would be most accurately put stake in the flesh, along wooden impaling rod in some cases. It was used in antiquity; that kind of a stake, some nagging huge physical malady that was incessant and always bothered him.
Some have guessed malaria, others have thought epilepsy, others have thought migraines. Most scholars believe it was an eye disease. Some sort of blindness. Where there was something called Ophthalmia Neonatorum which was pretty common in those days, or after the great vision he saw on the road to Damascus, his vision was never the same. Or how about this one, this is what I sort of lean to, in Lystra they hit him with stones and they thought he was dead and he got back up, and it could be that since that stoning at Lystra, he never saw the same. He never was the same.
It had long lasting physical affects that was his thorn in the flash and could it be that while he was in body, out of the body experience, everybody thought dead that he was caught up into the third heaven. It seems to fit best for me in the chronology. I'm not certain about it, but that's what I think.
Verse 11; "I have become a fool in boasting and you have compelled me. For I ought to have been commended by you; for in nothing I was behind the most eminent apostles, though I am nothing. Truly the signs of an apostle were accomplished among you with all perseverance, signs and wonders and mighty deeds."
Now the rest of the book chapter 13 is the conclusion concluding remarks.
Verse 10 of chapter 13; "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. Be complete."
Now you know we always don't get the sense. And the idea of complete teleios is maturity, growth. If you were to give a modern rendition of this policy and brethren grow up. That's the idea of be complete, grow up. "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 do you notice how many times Paul and Peter use this same phrase? Greet one another with a holy kiss. That was a practice of the early church. "All the saints greet you, the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ and the love of God and the communion of the Holy Spirit be with you all. Amen!"
What's the idea with the holy kiss? You know sometimes people go, do I have to do that? Now I know some single guys that really like this verse of scripture, they go I'm ready for that holy kiss on that cute one over there. But the idea of the kiss very common in the ancient Near East and modern Middle East, kiss on both sides of the cheek because when a person became a Christian 2000 years ago, they were abandoned by their culture and often their family, but they were embraced by the church, their new family and that sign of closest of affection, a holy kiss. It was a sign that you are welcomed here.
So it's actually very beautiful and I would say the form of this greetings varies with the culture, the J. B. Phillip's translation of the holy kiss goes like this. Give one another a hardy handshake, all around for my sake.
So whether it's a kiss, be careful, whether it's a handshake or whether it's a hug. You know how Christians just love to embrace one another. I love that. I remember I first saw Christians do this I thought they were weird. I went to a church and they were hugging everyone. I thought, I'm not going to get near those folks. I don't want to get hugged by them, and then I became a believer and I wanted that embrace and that family. And so Paul saw them as a family and Paul as their father in the faith and father of that fellowship at Corinth and how he loved them and opened his heart toward.
So we have seen the whole book of Second Corinthians in one fell swoop. Now you have a sense of it and why Paul wrote it and just how affectionate he was for that church, what a blessed church at Corinth.
Let's pray Father thank You, for the family of God and thank You for the Word of God that speaks to us that we can read this ancient document that is preserved by Your Holy Spirit without error and we can derive the principles that still are very, very applicable to our lives. We get inside Lord into how You think, what the message of Gospel entails what coming to You and following Your will for our life may cost us and may mean and it sobers us up, gives us hope because when it's all said and done, when this earthly body is destroyed, we have a temple, a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens.
No wonder Paul groaned for that glory and we do as well. Thank you Lord for this family of God, for our church fellowship and for the brothers and sisters around us who love us enough to embrace us, but also speak truth into our lives and correct us admonish us. In Jesus' name, Amen!