Paul continues to appeal to his difficult brethren in Corinth to be reconciled with him again — and conform (transformed) to the Lord’s commands. And do so, he needs convince them (as oddly as it may seem) of his superior credentials to the more polished teachers that have divided the church and taught false things. So he begins by speaking of his ministry to the Gentiles through difficulty that most of us would never want to experience…
I believed therefore I spoke — 2 Cor. 4:13
Why did Paul endure such hardship to preach the Gospel? Paul boils it down to something incredibly simple: I believed, therefore I spoke. This simple answer dramatically and powerfully underscores the real power of faith — when we really believe! If we ourselves really believed that sin sends us to a terrible place called Hell and that the only way, the only way, we can be saved from this is through faith and obedience to Jesus Christ, what would we do? The fact that we often are shy or a little embarrassed about sharing this critical and wonderful news to other — especially people we say we love — may say something about what we really believe, or don’t believe. Paul certainly believed and look what he did no matter what.
Seeing the unseen — 2 Cor. 4:16,17
“So, Paul, how do you go on?” Well, of course, his faith was a big part, but you know part of his faith was in this unseen stuff that he speaks of here. He saw not men, but souls. He saw the Gospel not as another philosophy or religious strain of doctrine, but the truth that enables men to avoid Hell and attain Heaven. He even saw his body’s aging and physical wear as merely a temporary tent while he was waiting on his permanent home in Heaven. Here’s a secret to so many, many trials and hardships in this life — seeing the unseen. When we’re looking at how things look here on earth, we may begin to despair — life stinks and then you die! But when we’re looking at the unseen, at the things above, our whole paradigm changes! Challenges become adventures, trials become temporary inconveniences, and temptations become opportunities to become victorious in Jesus. What do you see?
Knowing the fear of the Lord — 2 Cor. 5:11
Paul continues with the whys of his ministry and he talks about one of those unseen things that he sees — the fear of the Lord. We don’t like to talk about the fear of the Lord, it’s not popular and it’s out of fashion. But though we’d don’t like to talk that much about Hell, Paul knew about it and was quite certain that he didn’t want anyone going there. “Knowing the fear of the Lord, we persuade men!” he said. Maybe our lack of evangelistic fervor in connected to our minimal thinking about “the fear of the Lord”?
Made to be sin — 2 Cor. 5:21
I am always humbled to tears when I reach this verse — to think what the Father and the Son were willing to do for me — you and all of us. “God made Him who knew NO SIN, to BE SIN on our behalf, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.” The whole Gospel in a nutshell. And it is this love (v.14) that compels us in obedience to His will.
Resume: suffering, virtue, and paradox — 2 Cor. 6:4-10
Paul didn’t have an Oxford or Harvard degree — or more to the point Athens or Alexandria. But he wasn’t without credentials — just not the kind that people expected. He had suffered, just like Jesus had said; he walked the talk; and by God’s power was overcoming even in weakness. This is the first of three times in this letter that Paul will talk about the things that the Corinthian Christians should be respecting, instead of the worldly polish and connections of his rivals. It’s probably because it really is so easy to be awed by eloquent speakers, good looking people, folks with degrees, and people with charisma and personality — rather than people who’ve successfully lived a hard-working, challenging Christian life. Of the people that you respect in your Christianity, does their “resume” compare at all with Paul’s?
Come out — 2 Cor. 6:14ff
There are some commentators that think that this section may have been the first letter than Paul talks about in 1 Cor. 5, which was accidentally included in here in 2 Corinthians by a copyist’s mistake. But whether it was intended to be here or elsewhere, it is an important principle for Christians to live by; we must be careful of our associations, because they often influence us. This isn’t to say, as Paul talks about in 1 Cor. 5, that we need to completely separate ourselves from the world — but we should be careful about who wields the greater influence in your friendships. We want to influence or persuade men to follow Jesus; we do not want to be persuaded to live a compromised, lukewarm Christian life — lest we be spit out of Jesus’ mouth. Who do you associate with; who’s the more influential in your friendships?
See you tomorrow, Lord willing