Archives For 2 Corinthians

Which column describes your approach to the Christian life: religion? or the Gospel? 

The below table taken from Tim Keller’s, Center Church: Doing Balanced, Gospel-Centered Ministry in Your City, page 65). 

If you have more questions about what is meant by “the Gospel” see this post: What Do Christians Mean When They Reference the Gospel or Good News? 

RELIGION

GOSPEL

“I obey; therefore I’m accepted.” “I’m accepted; therefore I obey.”
Motivation is based on fear and insecurity. Motivation is based on grateful joy.
I obey God in order to get things from God. I obey God to get God — to delight and resemble him.
When circumstances in my life go wrong, I am angry at God or myself, since I believe, like Job’s friends, that anyone who is good deserves a comfortable life. When circumstances in my life go wrong, I struggle, but I know that while God may allow this for my training, he will exercise his fatherly love within my trial.
When I am criticized, I am furious or devastated because it is essential for me to think of myself as a “good person.” Threats to that self-image must be destroyed at all costs. When I am criticized, I struggle, but it is not essential for me to think of myself as a “good person.” My identity is not built on my performance but on God’s love for me in Christ.
My prayer life consists largely of petition and only heats up when I am in need. My main purpose in prayer is to control circumstances. My prayer life consists of generous stretches of praise and adoration. My main purpose is fellowship with him.
My self-view swings between two poles. If and when I am living up to my standards, I feel confident, but then I am prone to be proud and unsympathetic to people who fail. If and when I am not living up to standards, I feel humble but not confident — I feel like a failure. My self-view is not based on a view of myself as a moral achiever. In Christ I am at once sinful and lost, yet accepted. I am so bad he had to die for me, and so loved he was glad to die for me. This leads me to deeper humility as well as deeper confidence, without either sniveling or swaggering.
My identity and self-worth are based mainly on how hard I work or how moral I am, so I must look down on those I perceive as lazy or immoral. I disdain and feel superior to others. My identity and self-worth are centered on the One who died for his enemies, including me.  Only by sheer grace am I what I am, so I can’t look down on those who believe or practice something different from me. I have no inner need to win arguments.
Since I look to my pedigree or performance for my spiritual acceptability, my heart manufactures idols — talents, moral record, personal discipline, social status, etc. I absolutely have to have them, so they are my main hope, meaning, happiness, security, and significance, whatever I say I believe about God. I have many good things in my life — family, work, etc., but none of these good things are ultimate things to me. I don’t absolutely have to have them, so there is a limit to how much anxiety, bitterness, and despair they can inflict on me when they are threatened and lost.

 

 

2 Corinthians 8-9 offers a gold mine of teaching on giving.

Help with sermon prep by making observations on giving found in 2 Corinthians 8-9. Share those with me via the comments or via email. Together let’s clear up some misconceptions about what the Bible really teaches about giving. 

Sunday I begin 2 Corinthians 8-9 and Paul’s challenge to the Corinthians to take up a collection. This is one of the richest sections on giving in the New Testament. 

We need to be taught on giving for any number of reasons.

  • People in our culture are loaded down with debt.
  • Despite being one of the wealthiest cultures in history, American Christians give away a low percentage. (See 6 Facts About the Giving of American Christians)
  • Many Christians are influenced by the Prosperity Gospel.
  • Yet other Christians fail to recognize the blessings God gives to those who give.
  • The Church of Christ has an unprecedented opportunity to store up treasure in heaven. Our opportunities for sharing the joy of Jesus have never been greater!

So here’s my challenge to our church family — and anyone else who wants to help. Read 2 Corinthians 8-9 and make as many observations about what is taught about giving as possible. For example, 2 Corinthians 9:7 teaches, “God loves a cheerful giver.” What would happen if we really meditated on that principle?

Here are a couple of parameters for the exercise:

  • Share your observations about the biblical text. Don’t quote someone else. Read 2 Corinthians 8-9 and consider what the Spirit impresses on you!
  • For this exercise, use only 2 Corinthians 8-9. The Bible says a great deal about money. But for now, let’s focus in this one section. 

Again: It’s a simple exercise. Read 2 Corinthians 8-9 and make observations about what this section of Scripture teaches about giving.

See also:

Passing the Plate: Why American Christians Don’t Give Away More Money

Christian Smith on Why Americans Give So Little Financially

Don’t Store Up Treasure on Earth: John R.W. Stott on What Jesus Doesn’t and Does Mean

Second Corinthians 5:10 encourages believers with the certainty of the approaching judgment seat of Christ. Paul wrote:

For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each one may receive what is due for what he has done in the body, whether good or evil. 2 Corinthians 5:10

Given that those who put their faith in Christ are saved strictly on the basis of what Christ has done (Rom 8:1, Eph 2:2-9), how are we to understand Paul’s teaching that Christians will receive what is due us for deeds done in the body?

In his book, A Sincere and Pure Devotion to Christ (2 Corinthians 1-6), Volume 1: 100 Daily Meditations on 2 Corinthians, Sam Storms makes 10 helpful observations about the judgment seat of Christ. These points are abridged (pages 140-145). You will need to consult the book to hear his full argument for each point.

  1. Who is to be judged? The broader context of 2 Corinthians 4-5 suggests that only believers are in view.
  1. What is the nature or purpose of the judgment? Eternal destiny is not at issue; eternal reward is.
  1. When does the judgment occur? Paul doesn’t seem concern to specify when. The most that we can be sure of is that it happens after death.
  1. Take note of the inevitability of judgment for everyone. This is not a day that can be set aside as irrelevant or unnecessary. It is essential for God to bring to consummation his redemptive purpose and to fully honor the glory of his name among his people. No one is exempt. Paul himself anticipated standing at this judgment . . .
  1. Paul emphasizes the individuality of the judgment (“each one). As important as it is to stress the corporate and communal nature of our life as the body of Christ, each person will be judged individually (no doubt, at least in part, concerning how faithful each person was to his corporate responsibilities!)
  1. Observe the mode or maner of this judgment (“we must all appear”). We do not merely “show up” at the judgment seat of Christ but are laid bare before him. As Paul said in 1 Cor 4:5, the Lord “will bring to light the things now hidden in darkness and will disclose the purposes of the heart . . .”

Is it not sobering to think that every random thought, every righteous impulse, every secret prayer, hidden deed, long-forgotten sin, or act of compassion will be brought into the open for us to acknowledge and for the Lord to judge? But don’t forget: “There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus” (Rom 8:1).

  1. This judgment has an identity all its own (“judgment seat of Christ”).
  1. The judge himself is clearly identified (“judgment seat of Christ”). This is consistent with what we read in John 5:22 where Jesus said that “the Father judges no one, but has given all judgment to the Son.”
  1. Of critical importance is the standard of judgment (“what he has done in the body, whether good or evil”). Reference to the “body” indicates that the judgment concerns what we do in this life not what may or may not be done during the time of the intermediate state itself.
  1. The result of the judgment is not explicitly stated but is certainly implied. All will “receive” whatever their deeds deserve. Paul is slightly more specific in 1 Corinthians 3:14-15: “If the work that anyone has built on the foundation survives, he will receive a reward. If anyone’s work is burned up, he will suffer loss, though he himself will be saved, but only as through fire.” The “reward” is not defined, and the likelihood is that the “loss” suffered is the “reward” that he or she would otherwise have received had they obeyed.

Sam concludes the chapter:

Two closing comments are in order. First, our deeds do not determine our salvation, but demonstrate it. They are not the root of our standing with God but the fruit of it, a standing already attained by faith in Christ alone. The visible evidence of an invisible faith are the “good” deeds that will be made know at the judgment seat of Christ.

Second, don’t be afraid that, with the exposure and evaluation of your deeds, regret and remorse will spoil the bliss of heaven. If there be tears of grief for opportunities squandered, or tears of shame for sins committed, he will wipe them away (Rev. 21:4). The ineffable joy of forgiving grace will swallow up all sorrow, and the beauty of Christ will blind you to anything other than the splendor of who he is and what he has, by grace, accomplished on your behalf.

See also:

9 Blessings that Result from Studying the Return of Jesus

13 End Times Errors to Avoid

Second Corinthians (2 Cor 4:6), encourages believers with the truth that God who created all things has shown us “the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.” In his book, God Is the Gospel: Meditations on God’s Love as the Gift of Himself, John Piper expands on what is meant by the “glory of Christ”: 

[Christ’s] glory, in his first coming, was the incomparably exquisite array of spiritual, moral, intellectual, verbal, and practical perfections that manifest themselves in a kind of meek miracle-working and unanswerable teaching and humble action that set Jesus apart from all men. Each of Jesus deeds and words and attitudes was glorious, but is the way they come together in beautiful summation . . . an exquisite array — that constitutes his glory.

But the climax of his glory on earth was the way it ended. It was as if all the darker colors in the spectrum of glory came together in the most beautiful sunset on Good Friday, with the crucified Christ as the blood-red sun in the crimson sky. And it was as if all the brighter colors in the spectrum of glory came together in the most beautiful sunrise on Easter morning, with the risen Christ as the golden sun shining in full strength. Both the glory of the sunset and the glory of the sunrise shone on the horizon of a lifetime of incomparably beautiful love. This is what Paul meant in 2 Corinthians 4:4 when he spoke of “the glory of Christ.” It is the glory of a person. But the person displays his glory in words and actions and feelings. The glory is not the glory of a painting or even a sunset. Those are only analogies. They are too static and lifeless.

The spiritual beauty of Christ is Christ-in-action—Christ loving, and Christ touching lepers, and Christ blessing children, and healing the crippled, and raising the dead, and commanding demons, and teaching with unrivaled authority, and silencing the skeptics, and rebuking his disciples, and predicting the details of his death, and setting his face like flint toward Jerusalem, and weeping over the city, and silent before his accusers, and meekly sovereign over Pilate (“You would have no authority over me at all unless it had been given you from above,” John 19:11), and crucified, and praying for his enemies, and forgiving a thief, and caring for his mother while in agony, and giving up his spirit in death, and rising from the dead—“No one takes [my life] from me, but I lay it down of my own accord. I have authority to lay it down, and I have authority to take it up again” (John 10:18). Such is the glory of Christ.

John Piper’s, God is the Gospel, is available for free as a pdf.

2 Corinthians in January

Chris —  December 15, 2016

I look forward to starting a new series at the Red Brick Church on 2 Corinthians on January 8, 2016. I always enjoy going through books of the Bible with our church family.

You can a start on 2 Corinthians by watching this overview video from The Bible Project.

For an introduction to The Bible Project, see Andy Naselli’s recent post.

2 Corinthians is a wonderful book to read devotionally. I highly recommend Sam Storm’s 2 Volumes on 2 Corinthians: A Sincere and Pure Devotion to Christ (2 Corinthians 1-6), Volume 1: 100 Daily Meditations on 2 Corinthians
and A Sincere and Pure Devotion to Christ (2 Corinthians 7-13), Volume 2: 100 Daily Meditations on 2 Corinthians

Sunday I plan to preach on Paul’s warm, and wonderfully Trinitarian conclusion to 2 Corinthians found in 2 Cor 13:11-14. Here is the text with my custom indenting for the purpose of better seeing Paul’s emphasis:

[11] Finally, brothers,

rejoice.

Aim for restoration,

comfort one another,

agree with one another,

live in peace;

and the God of love and peace will be with you.

[12] Greet one another with a holy kiss.

[13] All the saints greet you.

[14] The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ
and the love of God and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all. 2 Corinthians 13:11-14 ESV)

Paul packs six imperatives into these final verses. That is, he concludes by summarizing his marching orders for the Corinthians with 6 different commands. Our hearts should be so encouraged by the nature of the orders God’s Word gives His people:

  • rejoice,
  • aim for restoration,
  • comfort one another,
  • agree with one another,
  • live in peace,
  • greet one another with a holy kiss.

Yet, if we read Paul’s 2 Corinthians conclusion apart from an appreciation for the greater context, then we will hear Paul in a way that is too sappy and sentimental. Over the course of Paul’s relationship with the Corinthians, there has been a great deal of strain. The below table summarizes a proposed Paul’s communication with the Corinthians. If this reconstruction is right, then there are two lost letters that God, in His infinite wisdom, chose to omit from the Canon.

Letter

Evidence For

Purpose or Circumstance

Letter A (now lost) Paul refers to another letter in 1 Cor 5:9-11 Paul warns the Corinthians against participation with the wrong people
Letter B (1 Cor) In our Bible! Paul fleshes out the content of (A) and encourages Corinthians to separate from false teachers
Letter C (now lost) See 2 Cor 2:4, 2:9, 7:8-12 The “Severe Letter”: Paul demands the punishment of the ringleader and others who opposed Paul’s apostolic authority
Letter D (2 Cor 1-9) In our Bible! Paul learns from Titus that the Corinthians have responded well and exalts (2 Cor 7:6-7)
Letter E (2 Cor 10-13) In our Bible! The sharp break with chapter 10 indicates some new circumstance. In the midst of writing (D), Paul learns that things aren’t really going that well and must be more forceful.

The conduct of the Corinthians forced Paul to confront the Corinthians at many points. Paul wasn’t all hugs and kisses! Yet, his warmth in conclusion means all the more given that Paul loved them enough to wound when necessary. If Paul had not been severe with the church at Corinth when their sin required severity, then he would not have had the right to truly encourage the Corinthians to rejoice.

Enough for now . . . I am really looking forward to Sunday’s sermon.

 

Strength Though Weakness

Chris —  February 6, 2013

If you feel weak, thank God. Times of weakness are special opportunities to rejoice in the grace of God.

Our current text at The Red Brick Church is 1 Timothy 1:12-17.

12 I thank him who has given me strength, Christ Jesus our Lord, because he judged me faithful, appointing me to his service, 13 though formerly I was a blasphemer, persecutor, and insolent opponent. But I received mercy because I had acted ignorantly in unbelief, 14 and the grace of our Lord overflowed for me with the faith and love that are in Christ Jesus. 15 The saying is trustworthy and deserving of full acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am the foremost. 16 But I received mercy for this reason, that in me, as the foremost, Jesus Christ might display his perfect patience as an example to those who were to believe in him for eternal life. 17 To the King of the ages, immortal, invisible, the only God, be honor and glory forever and ever. Amen.

Paul begins these verses by thanking God for the strength God has given to Paul. It would be easy to breeze right through this thought, picturing how God gave Paul the strength he needed ever step of the way. But such a superficial reading would miss the point. While, God certainly did give Paul strength, he did it by giving Paul weakness.

If you find the thought that God gave Paul strength through weakness confusing, you are not alone. It’s a paradox. We will be considering this truth in greater detail on 2/10. As part of the preparation for that sermon,  I suggest an excellent article by Jon Bloom, Are You Content with Weakness? Bloom does an excellent job explaining how God’s grace is more clearly seen and more deeply savored in our weaknesses than in our strengths.