Aletheia Christian Fellowship Podcast
Truth in Love
110214 - Discipline - II Corinthians 7a
November 13, 2014 12:40 PM PST
II Corinthians 7:5-12, Pastor Scott Keller
Alêtheia ~ II Corinthians 7a ~ 110214
SLIDE: REPENTANT, RECONCILED, RENEWED…
No two people will ever agree on everything and unfortunately ANY issue can be used to divide the Body of Christ.
There is no end to the excuses for disunity because it is our natural inclination and it is Satan’s goal!
Thwart Satan and your flesh by being unified with Christians who look, talk, think and act differently than you do.
Now Paul moves forward, by moving back to where he left off in chapter two…
SLIDE: II Corinthians 7:5-12 ~ REPENTANCE ~ 5For even when we came into Macedonia our flesh had no rest, but we were afflicted on every side: conflicts without, fears within. 6But God, who comforts the depressed, comforted us by the coming of Titus; 7and not only by his coming, but also by the comfort with which he was comforted in you, as he reported to us your longing, your mourning, your zeal for me; so that I rejoiced even more. 8For though I caused you sorrow by my letter, I do not regret it; though I did regret it—for I see that that letter caused you sorrow, though only for a while— 9I now rejoice, not that you were made sorrowful, but that you were made sorrowful to the point of repentance; for you were made sorrowful according to the will of God, so that you might not suffer loss in anything through us. 10For the sorrow that is according to the will of God produces a repentance without regret, leading to salvation, but the sorrow of the world produces death. 11For behold what earnestness this very thing, this godly sorrow, has produced in you: what vindication of yourselves, what indignation, what fear, what longing, what zeal, what avenging of wrong! In everything you demonstrated yourselves to be innocent in the matter. 12So although I wrote to you, it was not for the sake of the offender nor for the sake of the one offended, but that your earnestness on our behalf might be made known to you in the sight of God.
There is some really great stuff going on in this passage and it is all fairly straightforward. It all means about what you would expect… not really anything too ambiguous.
SLIDE: MAP OF ASIA & GREECE ~
Paul was telling the Corinthians about his travel from Ephesus to Macedonia in the opening of this letter and then in chapter 2, verse 14, he launched into what is called the “Great Digression.” For about 5 chapters Paul has been on a rabbit trail… a rabbit trail of profound theological gold driven by the Holy Spirit, but a rabbit trail nonetheless.
Paul had written in chapter 1, verse 8… “For we do not want you to be unaware, brethren, of our affliction which came to us in Asia, that we were burdened excessively, beyond our strength, so that we despaired even of life” (2 Corinthians 1:8).
Then in chapter 2, verses 12 and 13… “Now when I came to Troas for the gospel of Christ and when a door was opened for me in the Lord, I had no rest for my spirit, not finding Titus my brother; but taking my leave of them, I went on to Macedonia” (2 Corinthians 2:12&13).
Picking up from there he now says that even after arriving in Macedonia he was buffeted by tribulation both external and internal.
We don’t really know what the external physical and strains were, but it is obvious from the context that much of his internal struggle was due in large part to his deep concern for the Corinthians.
Paul didn’t know if there was to be any spiritual future for the Church at Corinth. He didn’t know how they would receive his dear friend and brother, Titus.
Paul was so greatly relieved by Titus’ report that he was overjoyed with the Corinthian response and the faithfulness of God that produced it.
SLIDE: GOD’S COMFORT ~
Paul emotionally shares his emotions in this section. He plainly tells of his personal pain and anticipation of news from them and then his profound joy and excitement for the positive outcome.
It was God who comforted Paul, but He did through the faithful service of Titus and through the faithfulness of the Corinthians.
God works through people to comfort us as well as to instruct us and encourage us and convict us…
Conviction is a Christian term bandied about that probably needs a little clarification and that is what we get in this section of Scripture.
Paul describes conviction because it was conviction that God wrought in the lives of the Corinthians through Paul.
Through his many visits, especially what is called his “Painful Visit” and through his many letters, especially the “Severe Letter” he describes here as producing “Sorrow.”
Paul EMOTIONALLY regretted disciplining the Corinthians, as any good parent does, especially before you know that it had its intended effect… Did I go too far, was there a better way to teach, should I have been even more forceful… I miss my kid’s affection… I hope this works out…
He never regretted disciplining them in a general sense because they needed it and that was his responsibility.
When he got Titus’ report then he was thrilled because the discipline worked and he had his kids back in right relationship with him.
They had longed for Paul, mourned for him and were zealous for him and so Paul was overjoyed.
The sorrow Paul caused them and felt himself was due to his correcting them of their mistake. They brought it on and they could and they should thank God, that Paul loved them enough to discipline them.
Most pastors and parents don’t.
Most people in Paul’s position just ignore the problem and hope it goes away. They don’t want to deal with it, they don’t want the confrontation… they don’t want the SORROW.
That’s why we have so many more rotten Christians and rotten people compared to 100 years ago. It is called a lack of discipline…
In this case the discipline worked… It was NOT to make the Corinthians wallow in sorrow or shame or guilt, but to recognize their fault, apologize for it and to move on to make it right.
SLIDE: CONDEMNATION VS CONVICTION ~
That’s the difference between CONDEMNATION and CONVICTION.
Condemnation always produces more hard feelings… feelings of embarrassment, humiliation, depression and despair is from Satan…
Conviction always produces remorse and even mortification over one’s behavior, but it always leads to repentance and reconciliation and renewal and unity… It ultimately leads to more Agapê and that can only come from God.
That’s the difference that makes all the difference.
Eagerly seek correction from the Lord through His Word of Truth… through the Bible and through those who teach the Bible correctly.
Allow the Holy Spirit to apply that Word to your life… recognize your sinful attitudes, thoughts, words and deeds…
SLIDE: “U” TURN, TURN AROUND NOW ~
Then REPENT. Turn away from those things. Recognize that they are wrong and cast them off like a rusty chains holding you back, turn around and move forward in the correct direction…
That is Holy Spirit CONVICTION and it is a beautiful thing because it produces “Life and life more abundantly…”
I can say that because accepting correction and moving forward makes our belief and our path line up in a more correct way leading us to Jesus.
Rejoice when you are disciplined because correction literally corrects your deviation from God!
Not convinced? Jesus said, “Behold, I stand at the door and knock; if anyone hears My voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and will dine with him, and he with Me.”
Have you heard that one before? Now, contrary to popular opinion, that verse has nothing to do with EVANGELISM, but everything to do with Jesus fellowshipping with people who are already Christians.
Do you know where that verse is found? It is Revelation 3:20… Here’s what I do not want us to miss; the preceding verse is Revelation 3:19 where Jesus says, “Those whom I love, I reprove and discipline; therefore be zealous and repent.”
That’s the context… “Those whom I love, I reprove and discipline; therefore be zealous and repent. Behold, I stand at the door and knock; if anyone hears My voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and will dine with him, and he with Me.”
Jesus will convict you of your deviations from Him by way of discipline and when He does that you ought to get down on your hands and knees and thank Him with all of your heart because it is PROOF that the very Word of Almighty God and therefore the totality of God… loves you.
Praise God for correction as so many verses in the Bible teach.
Recognize that God’s purpose is ALWAYS to correct, never to condemn.
If you feel condemned it is from Satan.
God does NOT want you to wallow in self-pity, He wants you to grow up and follow Him.
When we wallow in guilt it is always introspective and therefore always self-focused… what I’m saying is it is always selfish.
Let correction have its way, recognize your error, apologize, stand up, dust yourself off, make your course correction and move forward.
When I have been disciplined and when I have disciplined others, Marines, junior pilots and sometimes senior pilots, my own children and Christian brothers and sisters who I am charged to protect… I see a sad, but constant reality.
SLIDE: LITTLE BOY REACTING POORLY ~
No one ever reacts well initially.
Some get a better handle on this over time, some do not.
We basically think that discipline… rebuke, reproof, admonition (which is all merely a form of instruction or teaching), is negative and therefore bad.
Discipline, that is actually the primary ingredient of Disciple, in our minds, is something to be avoided at all costs.
We don’t want to be disciplined and so we erect barriers to discipline… we build walls, we use defense mechanisms to protect ourselves from discipline.
How ironic that we defend ourselves from the very thing we so desperately need.
We make it so difficult for God through His agents to discipline us that they basically give up trying and we are the worse for it.
But not just us… it affects all those around us and we all, as a Body of Christ, fail to grow as we should because no one wants anyone to tell them that they are off course!
As the pastor of Alêtheia, I have been accused of NOT being completely forthright at times when dealing with church discipline.
I can tell you, I begin by addressing it gently and delicately and even at that stage, I am so rebuffed by the other person’s defense mechanisms that, I can’t press further.
Several people have left in a huff and I hadn’t even gotten to the core issue yet…
I guess that’s the point. The person doesn’t want me to get to the core issue because they are terrified of discipline.
I am no different. I despise being corrected, but I know that in order for you and me to get better we need to be corrected… we need to not only put our guard down, we need to eagerly seek correction.
If the Corinthians had understood that, they would not have caused Paul such pain and their discipline would have been much less intense and much shorter…
Their return to loving fellowship with Paul would have been almost instantaneous… God would have been glorified and outsiders would have marveled.
Instead, there was pain and heartache and ugly water under the bridge that would forever leave its trace.
SLIDE: NO RAGRETS ~
Verse 10, says, “The sorrow that is according to the will of God produces a repentance without regret, leading to salvation, but the sorrow of the world produces death.”
This is from a bad movie that I cannot recommend in any way, but there was this one scene where this actor playing an idiot meets a guy.
After every sentence he adds the phrase, “Ya’ know what I’m sayin’…” The guy says, “Well, I speak English and I am awake… so yes I do.”
Anyway he shows off his “Mantra” tattooed on his chest and the other guy says, “No regrets?” “Nah man,” “Not even one letter?”
This is the exact opposite “No Regrets” as that of the Bible. People today do whatever completely selfish thing they desire and refuse to take responsibility for the fallout.
What God is saying is that when a person truly recognizes their selfish and destructive behavior, they own it, turn away from it and move forward in the correct direction then there are no regrets… there is no condemnation.
God loves you as His very own child and so He will discipline you… you cannot get out of it. One way or another, God will try to correct your course because He cares and will not give up.
Do not be stiff-necked as the Jews in the Exodus were… Do not get angry and defensive and reject His correction… Do not allow it to beat you down to the point of producing only death.
Recognize the love of your Heavenly Father in the discipline and embrace it as you REPENT and move forward, FORGIVEN and without any REGRET…
Course corrected… you are on a more direct line to Jesus.
SLIDE: DOVE IN LIGHT ~
Paul says at the end of verse 11, “In everything you demonstrated yourselves to be innocent in the matter.”
It seems as though Paul had made a mistake. Like he realized he had been wrong to correct the Corinthians because they really didn’t need any discipline in the first place. They were actually innocent all along!
The context and the original construction tells us that they were absolutely wrong and did in fact require correction and further sinned by bristling at the discipline making matters much worse.
Paul had said in verse 10, that Repentance is without regret because it is a new day moving towards salvation and at the end of verse 11 he is repeating that message in their specific case.
They are completely innocent as they have REPENTED and moved forward into RECONCILIATION without REGRET.
They are so completely forgiven by God and by Paul it is as if they were innocent all along.
That’s the beauty of God and His UNCONDITIONAL love and His UNMERITED forgiveness.
It is a new beginning as soon as we quit fighting and make the change.
One of my kids was very wise and another was very stubborn… The stubborn kid was being lectured, but kept defending themselves… so the lecture continued and got more intense.
Later the wise kid was overheard saying to the stubborn kid, “If you would just say okay, the lecture would end.”
As soon as we say okay to God’s discipline the discipline is over!
We start new and fresh from there… We are innocent and on course restored to right relationship and the joy that brings.
That’s how Paul can go on and say that the entire disciplinary incident wasn’t for the sake of the offender or for Paul’s sake, but for the sake of revealing the innocence of the Corinthians that was latent in them all along.
SLIDE: SGT. DAKOTA MEYER ~
A Marine or a combat pilot or a cop are trained to be heroic and they can seem extremely heroic, but it is actually unknown if they are heroic or not.
The crucible of fire will reveal their true character.
Once a person undergoes a baptism of fire the resultant behavior proves who they were all along.
If a hero emerges that hero wasn’t really born that day, but was latent or in a sense dormant within the person all along.
My best friend Smokey was a warrior kind of guy. I used to say that if any of my Air Force buddies could have been Marines it was Smokey.
When Smokey got his chance to fly the skies of Iraq he would actively seek out the bad guys by exposing himself to ground fire.
Smokey loved getting shot at because it revealed where they enemy was located… it also revealed that Smokey always was the hero I thought he was.
Let God’s discipline prove that even though you needed correcting you always had it in you to be on the correct course…
Even though you were guilty, your repentance proves that deep down inside, you were always potentially innocent and now truly innocent.
Allow the trials and tribulations of life prove that your faith was always as strong as you hoped it was…
Look forward to the testing of your faith because it proves your faith.
Take patience for example… Why don’t we want our patience tested? Because we know our patience isn’t where it needs to be… we know we will fail.
Instead of worrying about a test of patience, work with God through such tests, to actually become patient. Then when patience is tested, it will prove you are maturing in your complete trust in God.
SLIDE: DISCIPLE & DISCIPLINE ~
Likewise, look forward to discipline because it is what proves that you had it in you to be on course all along.072014 - Restoration - II Corinthians 1d
August 19, 2014 08:09 AM PDT
II Corinthians 1:23-2:11, Pastor Scott Keller
SLIDE: A FORTIORI ARGUMENT
Last week we saw Paul’s enemies making him out to be untrustworthy because he had changed his travel plans.
He did not deny changing the plans, but he denied doing so in a capricious, irresponsible or untrustworthy way.
He appealed to the fact that IF the Corinthians were Christians they were so because Paul had faithfully and reliably presented them the Gospel.
His A fortiori argument was, IF he could be trusted with the most important Message ever delivered, how much more should he be trusted in a trivial matter like changing travel plans?
Now Paul tells them the reason he changed his travel plans…
SLIDE: VERSE 23 GAVEL
It’s not clear here, but Paul is calling God as his witness and simultaneously surrendering to God as his judge.
It’s not a real big deal, but in the Greek this is a very emphatic statement similar to us saying, “God certainly knows if I’m NOT telling the truth and if I’m NOT may God strike me dead and destroy me in the Lake of Fire.”
So, in the most extreme way possible, Paul is saying the TRUTH is… I changed my plans, not capriciously, but because I was concerned about YOU!
Paul had already visited them and it was grim. There is a lot of conjecture about the exact nature of the problem before, during and after what is called the “Painful Visit,” but whatever was going on it was a serious, emotionally-charged conflict.
The visit was followed by the “Severe Letter,” and Paul was telling the Corinthians he did not return to them as planned because he did not want to further exacerbate the problem.
SLIDE: VERSE 24 BRIGHT LIGHT
Verse 24 is a parenthetical digression. It is a phrase to mitigate and soften the previous verse so that Paul doesn’t come off sounding like a tyrant.
It’s like, “I knew if I came to you I would have to spank you all because you’re wayward children… Take all y’all out ta the woodshed – But don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying I’m superior to you in any way, just that I want what’s best for you.”
So, “I’m simply working with you for your joy, but your faith is your faith.”
In other religions and in the military and in most jobs and government structures as well as in most families, there is a hierarchical structure with a boss.
Someone is the Captain and others are swabs, someone is the queen bee and others are drones, someone is the Emperor and others are plebes.
Christianity looks the same with similar structures… in this case there is the Apostle and there are the Corinthian believers.
The difference is that in Christianity the leader serves those entrusted to him. Rather than being served by them. In Christianity the leader is not superior and the ones he leads subordinate. All Christians are equal. THERE IS ONLY ONE BOSS and they all serve that one and only Lord.
That one Lord of all Christians is Jesus who HIMSELF demonstrated Christian leadership by dying FOR His followers.
A Christian leader is not better than anyone else, but in his role as leader he may be required to discipline, but even that is always in order to serve, rather than to be served.
It is always attempting to achieve more joy in the Lord for those in his care and increase their faith in God.
It is discipline NEVER for retribution, NEVER out of anger, NEVER for personal advantage or power and NEVER to diminish another human being made in God’s Image especially a fellow Christian who is saved by the Blood of Jesus.
A Christian leader works together with other Christians to help them make THEIR faith stronger.
David Garland said, “Paul knows that real faith cannot be force fed nor should it be spoon fed.”
Put another way, “Those who are forced against their will are of the same opinion still.” Ministers are NEVER to take control over another, NEVER to usurp someone else’s free will and NEVER to make themselves lord.
1) It wouldn’t be right ethically.
2) But more than that it wouldn’t be right belief. Christianity is all about salvation and salvation is all about a personal individual relationship with God lived out in the community called the church.
There is no such thing as genuine Christianity that is forced…whether overtly or in some subtle way. That’s precisely why God allows people to choose!
If the Creator of the universe allows frail mortal human beings to thumb their noses at Him…
To figuratively spit on the sacrifice of Jesus… who are we that we would force anyone to bow?
That’s what the Muslims do… Evidently Allah is too weak and needs their help to force compliance. Our God doesn’t need humans to force compliance.
Our God is so BIG – He isn’t worried about people who don’t obey Him.
That’s each person’s choice and while he will honor a person’s choice in this life for all of eternity… and while it is a horribly sad situation, it would be far sadder if a God who commands the cosmos forced His creatures to love Him.
3) The biggest reason though, is that there is only one Lord Whom we all serve. Like the Priest in Rudy said, “Son, in 35 years of religious study, I have only come up with two hard incontrovertible facts: there is a God, and I’m not Him.” Every Christian stands of falls based upon what they personally do with the Lord Jesus Christ.
It is the reason people risked everything and many of them burned alive to make the Bible available to common people.
Ministers just work with people to help them make the correct decision initially and maintain correct belief afterwards.
Your faith in Jesus is your faith… “I call God as witness to my soul,” I never want to take control and lord it over anyone – I am simply here to encourage, exhort, comfort and cajole, by telling you the TRUTH… what you do with it is between you and God.
SLIDE: CHAPTER 2, VERSES 1-4 WASH BASIN
These verses are straightforward. Paul did not want to have another strained visit. Discipline is never pleasant even though it is absolutely necessary.
I told my kids as they were growing up that I truly wanted to be their friend, but I would be their dad.
Paul’s role is similar. He wants to enjoy the Corinthians and he wants them to enjoy him – he wants a joyous and uplifting visit where everyone gets along and encourages each other.
BUT, if the Corinthians are not doing what the Lord wants, Paul will bring the rod of correction.
Here he is hoping this letter will be sufficient so that when he does visit the Corinthians it will be a joyous visit.
He does this out of a profound love for the Corinthians. The love of a father who does not want to push his children too hard in discipline, who wants to enjoy his time with his children, but who puts the long term well-being of his children first.
SLIDE: II Corinthians 2:5-11 ~ 5But if any has caused sorrow, he has caused sorrow not to me, but in some degree—in order not to say too much—to all of you. 6Sufficient for such a one is this punishment which was inflicted by the majority, 7so that on the contrary you should rather forgive and comfort him, otherwise such a one might be overwhelmed by excessive sorrow. 8Wherefore I urge you to reaffirm your love for him. 9For to this end also I wrote, so that I might put you to the test, whether you are obedient in all things. 10But one whom you forgive anything, I forgive also; for indeed what I have forgiven, if I have forgiven anything, I did it for your sakes in the presence of Christ, 11so that no advantage would be taken of us by Satan, for we are not ignorant of his schemes.
Paul diplomatically uses euphemisms, does not mention the guilty person’s name or their specific sin. He downplays his own hurt and simultaneously softens the severity of the sin… ALL in order to help with reconciliation.
It is called true forgiveness and pastoral care. It occurs when a person is truly repentant and needs to be fully forgiven and comforted by the church.
It is for the purpose of mitigating the guilt of the offender and assuaging the hard feelings of the offended in order to facilitate reconciliation and restoration into the Body without lingering tension.
Discipline in the Christian Community is always for the purpose and hope of repentance and restoration. Jesus said in Luke 17:3&4, “Be on your guard! If your brother sins, rebuke him; and if he repents, forgive him. 4“And if he sins against you seven times a day, and returns to you seven times, saying, ‘I repent,’ forgive him.”
“Be on your guard!” Christians who like to elevate themselves by putting others down grab onto phrases like this to justify their hyper vigilance against sin… in other people.
When Jesus says, “Be on your guard!” He’s not saying be hyper vigilant in searching for sin in others…
He’s saying be hyper vigilant that YOU do not sin by being UNCARING & UNFORGIVING!
YOU are the one in danger… NOT because of someone else’s sin, but because of your own LACK of LOVE.
1) Love others enough PUT ASIDE your hurt and anger to lovingly, gently show them their sin against you. Don’t be guilty of the sin of holding a grudge.
2) IF they repent (and who are you to judge their heart) then do not sin by not fully forgiving them. Which do you suppose will cause God more distress, you forgiving too freely, or not freely enough?
When we behave this way the Body of Christ is unified in the Love of God and SATAN cannot get a foothold to rip, tear and destroy…
Satan is constantly at work trying to divide God’s people… Satan is actively working to destroy Alêtheia… will we be so pigheaded to let him win… to actively HELP him win?
Forgiveness and repentance are two concepts we simply do not understand.
SLIDE: PAUL WAS PUBLICALLY ATTACKED ~
We do not know who the offending party was or what their sin entailed.
Many try to associate it with the incestuous situation outlined in I Corinthians 5:1-5, which is a little unlikely, but whatever the deal, what is crystal clear is that either that guy or someone else publically attacked Paul as an Apostle by attacking his character.
Whoever had done so had been severely dealt with by the Corinthians in obedience to Paul’s request. Now Paul completely downplays his hurt and fully forgives the man to facilitate his restoration through love, forgiveness, encouragement and comfort.
Larry the Cable Guy said, “My sister has a horse and last week it broke its leg. She called me and begged me to come over and shoot it for her. It was hard to do... but she’s my sister so I did it.”
“Now the poor thing has a broken leg and a gunshot wound.”
“I don't know what you shoot it for. I guess it helps with the healing process. I’ll tell you this, if it ain’t any better by tomorrow, I’m gonna shoot it again.”
Christians are not supposed to shoot their wounded.
SLIDE: SAINT MARY LAKE BEAUTY ~
In verses seven (7) and ten (10), we have the word forgive five (5) times. The forgiveness word Paul uses so frequently in these two (2) verses is χαρίζομαι (ĉä-ȑēdz-ŏ-mī).
Χαρίζομαι is a verb derived from the noun χάρις (ĉä-ȑēs).
Χάρις means GRACE. We get the word Charity from it – not really in the sense of giving a twenty dollar bill to an able-bodied man just because he’s holding a cardboard sign, but as in LOVE.
The KJV frequently translated Agapê Love as CHARITY… as in 1 Peter 4:8, “And above all things have fervent charity (Agapê) among yourselves: for charity (Agapê) shall cover the multitude of sins.”
Grace is the ultimate example of Agapê Love.
It is what defines the Gospel and therefore our relationship with the God through Jesus.
As a verb χαρίζομαι, means to show, convey or bestow χάρις, i.e. grace to someone else.
Jesus carried your sin, and died as a result, in order to show the charity – the love – the grace – the “forgiveness” of God.
God bestowed Grace upon you through Jesus… God loved you so much, that in His Son, He forgave your sins… That’s our word χαρίζομαι.
From the verb χαρίζομαι comes the noun χάρισμα (ĉä-ȑēs-mä) meaning A GRACE GIFT. Paul said in Romans 6:23, “For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift (χάρισμα) of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.”
It’s all tied together…
If we’re going for a sound bite, I like the definition that χάρις, or grace is “unmerited kindness.”
It is exactly like Agapê in that it is an unconditional bestowal. One does NOT receive Agapê or Grace because one deserves it… it is always because the giver of these things simply choses to bless someone else.
Likewise, Forgiveness can never be earned. If anyone earns forgiveness then the granting of forgiveness was merely a debt paid.
Forgiveness is what would be owed and would require only that the one forgiving would recognize that fact.
It would be an obligation, NOT forgiveness.
People say, “I would forgive, but they don’t deserve it.”
To forgive is to give a GRACE-GIFT from the Holy Spirit to someone who does NOT deserve it – that’s the point!
Why, because that is God’s nature and we are His children… it’s a family thing.
I want to talk a lot more about forgiveness and repentance and church discipline, but for today let me conclude with this…
Fact: Satan wants to destroy the church.
Satan is quite content to destroy it through any means available.
One way is to first of all encourage members to sin.
Once sin is obvious Satan wins a victory when the church ignores the sin.
Another way Satan wins is when the church condemns the sinner.
July 16, 2014 12:09 PM PDT
II Corinthians 1:15-22, Pastor Scott Keller
Last week we finished with Paul essentially saying that he and the Corinthians were spiritually linked with each other… he goes on to say…
These verses constitute a rhetorical A Fortiori argument.
It is difficult to smoothly translate it into English.
The gist is that some of the Corinthians were trying to destroy Paul’s influence by impugning his character by attacking his changing travel plans.
They claimed he was a liar, or at least that he was erratic, and therefore he was untrustworthy. Other people in the church were swayed by their attack.
It happens all the time. A minister is accused of some wrong by his enemies – the wrong is distorted to look as bad as possible and then is completely blown out of proportion. What’s most grievous is other “well-intentioned” Christians jump on the bandwagon.
Paul had to defend himself – again, NOT for his sake, BUT for their sake – for the sake of their faith.
It is a short walk from “Paul is not trustworthy,” to, Paul’s message about Jesus, is not trustworthy.
The Corinthians were now saved children of God because Paul had been faithful in accurately, seriously and consistently delivering to them the Word of God.
Paul is saying, if he had been so trustworthy in that most important arena, how much more could he be trusted in trivial matters.
Paul loves the A Fortiori argument, which is an argument from the greater to the lesser. People pronounce it many different ways, but it is Latin and the Latin pronunciation is…
From one of the Pink Panther movies, “Does your dog bite?” “No.” “I thought you said your dog does not bite!” “That’s not my dog.” My dog does not bite BECAUSE I don’t have a dog.
Paul uses A Fortiori arguments about 20 times in his epistles. Such as, Romans 5:8&9, 8But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. 9Much more then, having now been justified by His blood, we shall be saved from the wrath of God through Him.
Or, 1 Corinthians 6:3, “Do you not know that we will judge angels? How much more matters of this life?”
Paul is following his Lord, because Jesus used the style Himself such as in Luke 12:28, “But if God so clothes the grass in the field, which is alive today and tomorrow is thrown into the furnace, how much more will He clothe you? You men of little faith!”
That’s what’s going on here. Paul is saying, “You trusted me with the revelation from God that enabled your salvation, how much more should you trust me in my travel plans.”
There are a couple of details in his argument worth pointing out…
SLIDE: BIG PICTURE MAP WITH VERSES 15&16 ~
It seems like Paul is saying that his presence constitutes a blessing for the Corinthians… Like, “I intended to come to you twice, so that you would then receive twice the blessing.”
He’s really saying that he planned to be sent on his way twice – once to Macedonia and the second time to Judea…
The Corinthian double blessing was that they would help Paul go forth two separate times to engage in ministry.
That was their blessing – to be able to participate in God’s ministry by partnering with Paul twice.
The NASB doesn’t do a very good job of it here, but the NET Bible catches the nuance; it says, “I intended to come to you first so that you would get a second opportunity to see us, and through your help to go on into Macedonia and then from Macedonia to come back to you and be helped on our way into Judea by you.”
So, are you confused about what’s going on with the travel plans?
SLIDE: MAP REALITY AT THE TIME OF WRITING ~
Paul was living in Ephesus on his 3rd Missionary Journey. From there he wrote two letters…
Then he visited (“Painful”) them, travelling directly back and forth across the Aegean.
He followed that up with a third (“Severe”) letter
Then after the Demetrius Riot near death travelling through Asia to Troas and on to Macedonia.
Where he wrote this letter (II Corinthians) we are reading today.
SLIDE: MAP OF PLAN “A” ~
Paul articulated PLAN “A,” in I Corinthians 16… Ephesus to Macedonia to Corinth to Jerusalem.
SLIDE: MAP OF PLAN “B” ~
PLAN “B” from II Corinthians 1 that we just read was, Ephesus to Corinth for help to Macedonia, back to Corinth again for help to Jerusalem.
SLIDE: MAP Close of 3rd MISSIONARY JOURNEY
This is what actually happened… As we saw previously, Paul was living in Ephesus on his 3rd Missionary Journey. From there he wrote three letters (including I Corinthians) to the Corinthians and also visited (“Painful”) them.
He travelled through Asia to Macedonia where he wrote this letter (II Corinthians).
After this letter he travelled to Corinth and spent the winter with them.
He then had to go back to Macedonia and follow along the coast of Asia to Miletus just south of Ephesus where he met with the Ephesian Elders.
From there he went on to Jerusalem where he was ultimately arrested. He spent two years in prison at Caesarea followed by two more years in prison in Rome.
Because Paul made the painful visit and there was a near riot in Ephesus and a whole host of other factors, his plans did in fact change.
Paul did not deny having to change his travel plans. What he vehemently denied was changing his plans in a capricious, irrational or irresponsible way.
SLIDE: AMEN & AMEN ~ VERSE 20 ~
Paul’s argument is that just as God is faithful to fulfill His promises in Christ Jesus, so also his preaching was faithful.
The proof of Paul’s TRUSTWORTHY preaching was that it…
1) Enabled their true salvation. In essence, IF the Corinthians were saved, it was because they were saved through the Message Paul brought, proving that Paul was trustworthy.
When they praised God for His Grace “THE AMEN,” they were in part thanking God for sending them Paul.
2) Further, Paul’s message was consistent. Paul, Timothy and Silvanus (the Latin for the Greek name Silas used by Luke in the Book of Acts) preached the same Message.
In I Corinthians 15:11, Paul said that whichever Apostle preached – it was all the same Message – the same Gospel. That’s how you know – whether Timothy or Silvanus, Barnabas or Apollos, Peter or John, or Paul, they all had the same story.
No new revelation, no new creative way to understand Scripture, no new individual insight can ever change the Truth or it wasn’t Truth to start with.
Again, all of this is for the sake of the Corinthians’ continued faith in Jesus.
This is why Pastors, Elders, Deacons and really every Christian must be trustworthy.
If people cannot trust you, how can they trust your testimony about Jesus?
Think how flakey some Christians are… (Larry and Christian radio) (Our experience with subcontractors). That’s NOT the direct point Paul is making – His point is the reverse…
God has never failed to keep His promises… With God it is always a resounding YES!
Because God has fulfilled His greatest promise – the promise of true relationship with Him - the Corinthians shout Amen to His glory.
Their Shout of Amen, Hebrewאָמֵן
The Corinthians were saying YES to God.
And when they did that they were not only recognizing God’s Glory, they were simultaneously recognizing the faithful, trustworthy and steadfast teaching of Paul.
We need to be open and honest, forthright and trustworthy… because IF people cannot trust our character, they cannot trust our testimony about Jesus.
Lying and all other types of falsehood are a grievous sin for many reasons, not the least of which is trying to get something you can’t get with the truth.
But perhaps most of all because it makes your message about Jesus unreliable.
If you will lie about the trivial matters of life how could you possibly be trusted to tell the truth about eternal things?
As Jesus and James said, let your yes be yes and your no be no… Character may not matter for the President of the United States anymore, but it does matter for the Child of God.
SLIDE: VERSES 21&22 TEETER TOTER
In verses 21&22 there are four key words describing what God has done for the Believer. God did it for the original Christians – in precisely the same way He did it for Paul, likewise He did it for the Corinthian Believers and Almighty God has done it for you as well.
It has not changed – your salvation is identical to Paul’s salvation 2,000 years ago.
As a Christian…
2) He has “Anointed” you.
3) God has “Sealed” you.
4) And He has in-filled you with His Breath as a “Pledge.”
1) “Establishes” is βεβαιόω (bĕ-bī-ŏ-ō). That’s a good English word for it. But there are two things beyond our initial take on it…
First, to be “Established” in this way means that you have been placed in a different category or on a different path than before.
I’m treading water in the middle of the ocean about to drown and someone plucks me out of the water and sets me on firm ground.
I’m no longer in any danger of drowning… I am in a completely different situation now.
“Establishes” is a present, active participle meaning that the past act of establishing you has present and abiding implications… It is now WHO and WHAT and, if you like, WHERE you are.
Second, we are so self-focused we almost immediately forget that it is an “Establishing together with all other Christians. God has “Established us into the one true Body of Christ.” There is absolutely no such thing as “Lone Ranger Christianity.”
2) We are “Anointed” by God. The word is χρίω (ĉȑē-ō) the verb to anoint. Χριστός (ĉȑēs-tŏs) is the one who was anointed.
It is Χριστός καὶ χρίω, He who establishes “us with you in” the Anointed One and likewise anoints us.
Where the “Establishing” sets us apart, the “Anointing” sets us apart for a purpose. We are set into our new category our new path our new situation to SERVE God.
Salvation isn’t simply to save us from something, but even more it is to save us in to something.
3) You are “Sealed.” The participle σφραγίζω (sphȑă-gēdz-ō) means to put your personal seal on something. The commander of the Guard put his seal on Jesus’ tomb. Paul put his seal on his letters by signing in his own handwriting. God put seven seals on His Book of Judgment and Redemption as seen in Revelation 5.
A seal did a few different things like ensure the contents were genuine, preserve a package’s integrity or mark the authority over a thing, but all of it boils down to one inescapable fact…
A seal is a sign of ownership.
I send you a letter and put my seal on it. I am the owner of that letter guaranteeing the contents right up until someone breaks my seal.
I put my seal on a steer in the form of a brand and I am telling the world that I own that steer.
The meaning here can carry different nuances like God is preserving us for Judgment, but the overriding primary meaning is that God has branded you and me with His seal of ownership.
If you are a Christian – you belong to Almighty God!
4) The final thing is the Holy Spirit deposit in our hearts. Every Christian who has ever existed and all who will exist in the future receive the indwelling of the Holy Spirit of God at the moment of salvation.
Any belief that denies that is heresy.
The idea that you need to get your act together, perform to some special level conduct, be elected to some high church office or attain to some super spiritual plane in order to receive and be filled with the Holy Spirit is as wrong as thinking Barak Obama is the Messiah.
The Holy Spirit is given to completely imperfect Christians for many reasons, like enabling growth and giving comfort, but the greatest IMPLICATION of receiving the Breath of God – the Spirit of Christ – the Holy Spirit is it proves we are God’s children.
In that way it is a pledge… Pledge is ἀρραβών (äȑ-ȑä-bōn). It is a noun working together with the participle “Gave.”
I don’t like the translation “Pledge.” Not because it isn’t a good word – it just isn’t a word we understand anymore.
We used to say the “Pledge of Allegiance,” which meant that we were committing ourselves to our country. It was a patriotic promise followed up by patriotic acts like storming the beaches at Normandy.
A “Pledge” is a PROMISE. It is a deposit or collateral or earnest money, but ONLY in the older sense of those things.
In the old days a deposit, collateral or earnest money was only the material assurance of the PROMISE a person was making.
It was inconceivable that you would back out on the deal and lose your guarantee!
To do so you lose your credibility – you prove your character is deficient – you show that you are fickle and untrustworthy.
Almighty God gives Christians the Holy Spirit and it is a “Pledge” along with His PROMISE… Is there any way in heaven or on earth that God is going to back out of the deal?
It is as certain as God is God that He will fulfill His promise which is eternal life in Him.
July 15, 2014 11:17 AM PDT
II Corinthians 1:10-14, Pastor Scott Keller
SLIDE: II Corinthians 1:8-11 ~ 8For we do not want you to be unaware, brethren, of our affliction which came to us in Asia, that we were burdened excessively, beyond our strength, so that we despaired even of life; 9indeed, we had the sentence of death within ourselves so that we would not trust in ourselves, but in God who raises the dead; 10who delivered us from so great a peril of death, and will deliver us, He on whom we have set our hope. And He will yet deliver us, 11you also joining in helping us through your prayers, so that thanks may be given by many persons on our behalf for the favor bestowed on us through the prayers of many.
I re-read verses 8&9 to give us context for verses 10&11. By way of a quick review… Paul is writing what was at least his fourth letter to the Corinthians (there may have been more).
The first three we know about were written from Ephesus and this one we call II Corinthians was written from Macedonia.
On Paul’s trip between these two locations he had experienced an epiphany through intense suffering.
He had some sort of affliction that took him to the very end of his resources – to the end of himself.
He was literally at the place where his situation was humanly impossible. All he had left was to cry out to God.
That’s exactly where God wanted Paul.
It seems so strange and so sad that we humans must learn by experience, which is to say, by mistakes.
As a parent, how wonderful would it be if our kids could learn from our pain and loss instead of insisting on experiencing the same?
We humans, even amazing humans like Paul, cannot fully grasp certain concepts without the pain of experience.
Paul learned through this incredible affliction that he could control nothing, but had to instead totally rely on God.
There is no better realization than that. That is the place where the Truth takes root in your life.
Affliction here is our old friend θλῖψις (thlēps-ēs) Paul uses this word and its verb form 12 times in this letter, far more than in any other book of the Bible.
If you remember, θλῖψις means extreme pressure. It is to press, compress or squeeze. Figuratively it is the pressures of life, both external and internal – the things that press you down.
Take clay and put it in a mold and then apply θλῖψις – extreme pressure – the clay will be forced to change, conforming to the shape of the mold.
God’s Purpose for us includes our conformity to Christ Jesus, and pressure is the method, but pressure does no good if the object jumps out of the mold.
Perseverance is, ὑπομονή (hü-pŏ-mŏ-nā) meaning to remain under the extreme pressure, is always associated with a tremendous desire to escape the pressure – to jump out of the mold.
Paul wrote in Romans 5:3b–5a, 3bWe also exult in our tribulations (our θλῖψις – the extreme pressure), knowing that tribulation brings about perseverance (ὑπομονή our willingness to be conformed to the mold); 4and perseverance, proven character (that becomes the conformity to Jesus); and proven character, hope (is our assurance of eternal relationship with God); 5aand hope does not disappoint…
Most of us cannot wait for the trial to run its course. We are surprised, freak out and try everything we can think of to bring pressure to a quick end.
You do not persevere through or endure what is pleasant! An unyielding, defiant perseverance in the face of aggressive misfortune, and actually very courageous – a courageous character just like Jesus.
Do what is reasonable – God gave us a brain, but always remember that God is in control and if you are being “Pressed down,” then “Press in” to Jesus, “Trust God” and be conformed to the mold.
SLIDE: SENTENCE OF DEATH
Some scholars believe that the “Sentence of Death” was a death sentence from God. The matter is complicated and would require a fair amount of technical Greek grammar, jumping around through the Bible and explaining Roman law, but it is very interesting and I am persuaded it’s quite possible.
The basic idea is that previous to this affliction, Paul was fairly sure that he would be around to see Jesus return.
After his Asia epiphany it seems he no longer believes that. The theory is that when he had no human power left, he prayed and God responded that Paul would die, but not yet. The “Sentence of Death” meant that Paul would not survive until Jesus returned.
That forced Paul to put even greater trust in God because he now knew he would have to rely on God to raise him from the dead.
Paul would have to relinquish final control and trust that God would give him new life just as Jesus had to trust the Father when He gave up His life.
With such an understanding Paul now knew that he would continue to face θλῖψις, but would no longer be confident that he would survive.
It was all in God’s hands.
Of course Paul knew that before on an intellectual level, now he knew it to the core of his being.
Paul then concludes that as he makes his way ministering his day-to-day, moment-by-moment, continuation was in God’s hands and anyone who actively prayed for Paul would also actively share in rejoicing for God’s providence.
SLIDE: CONTECTED TOGETHER IN PRAYER
He said in verse 11, you also joining in helping us through your prayers, so that thanks may be given by many persons on our behalf for the favor bestowed on us through the prayers of many.
We pray for a number of different people and situations every week and then we see God’s answer and we rejoice in the favor he bestows…
We become intertwined and interconnected in the Body through our prayer for each other.
It is the finest, truest, Holy Communion.
Binding us together in the Name of the Lord Jesus Christ, interceding for each other – showing God that His Love is having its intended effect on us by enabling us to love one another as Jesus commanded.
Go through the church directory and pray for each individual listed.
It is such a sin to attend church with people for months and even years and not know their name.
What kind of Holy Communion is that?
1) Pray for the people in this church and you will know your church family better.
It is impossible to pray too much. In fact…
SLIDE 2 Corinthians 1:12 ~ 12For our proud confidence is this: the testimony of our conscience, that in holiness and godly sincerity, not in fleshly wisdom but in the grace of God, we have conducted ourselves in the world, and especially toward you.
It seems like Paul defends himself a lot. Some people really have a problem with him thumping his own drum and I would too, except for the reason he does it.
Sure, if Paul were just trying to make himself feel better, or get others to give him accolades or working to enhance and consolidate his power, then I’m not entirely sure why we would study his writings.
Paul is single-handedly responsible for half of the New Testament Bible. If he’s just a braggart why would that be so?
Every word Paul wrote that we possess as part of the Bible was inspired by the Holy Breath of Almighty God and constitutes the Word of God.
Paul’s purpose, the Holy Spirit’s purpose through Paul, was to assure those early Believers that their faith in the Gospel was well placed.
Any defense Paul makes of himself is for the sole purpose of promoting the Truth of God that sets people free from sin and death.
In defending himself, Paul is not at all interested in himself – he’s interested in them!
Paul is saying, believe me – IF you do, then you believe my message and my message is from the Lord Jesus Christ by the Will of the Father and in the power of the Holy Spirit.
Live that message with full assurance and you will live.
Verse 12 is straightforward. Paul is saying that his conscience is clear. I actually like the way he said it in I Corinthians 4:4 (NIV) “My conscience is clear, but that does not make me innocent. It is the Lord who judges me.”
Paul says something similar in other places and the gist is something like this…
“I can stand before the God and creator of all things with a clear conscience… it isn’t to say I have been perfect, because I have made mistakes, but I did my best with His grace and I am ready to be judged.”
Can you confidently say that?
SLIDE 2 Corinthians 1:13 ~ 13For we write nothing else to you than what you read and understand, and I hope you will understand until the end; 14just as you also partially did understand us, that we are your reason to be proud as you also are ours, in the day of our Lord Jesus.
Paul has a problem with some of the Corinthians misinterpreting his letters… people have been doing that for 2,000 years!
It was just as difficult to convey important information via the written form then as it is today.
I love using email and phone texts to communicate with people; it is a big help.
Often I am not in a position to take a call or meet in person, but I can usually sent a quick text or email.
At the same time, I absolutely hate using text or email to communicate information that is complicated or emotionally charged because I am invariably misunderstood.
I find it especially difficult to discuss deep Biblical Truth through writing short messages back and forth.
Evidently Paul would agree.
He wrote in I Corinthians 5:9&10a, “9I wrote you in my letter not to associate with immoral people; 10aI did not at all mean with the immoral people of this world…”
It is difficult to write a letter and not open yourself to misinterpretation of your words and that is precisely what some of the Corinthians had done.
While some people might try to twist his words around to take the opposite meaning he intended… he stood by the plain meaning of those words.
The better a person knows me, the more likely it is that they will understand my meaning.
The more a person genuinely wants to understand my meaning the less likely they will distort my message.
Then as now, the Apostle’s words can be distorted, but those who knew Paul then (and who know Paul now through the Bible) will discern his true meaning. Those who truly desire to understand his meaning are far less likely to distort his message.
Some of the Corinthians got some of his message and it was a start.
Paul was saying that he only had the best interests of the Corinthians at heart – that he had a clear conscience and that he had communicated in good faith…
SLIDE: VERSE 14b PRIDE?
The end of verse 14 says, “That we are your reason to be proud as you also are ours, in the day of our Lord Jesus.”
It is really good to slow down and see the nuance of Biblical Grammar. Of course the Greek grammar, but I mean the English grammar of the translator… they do a wonderful job, but you must pay close attention to catch it.
Many read this and think the Corinthians should be proud of Paul and Paul proud of them.
The application is that you all should be proud of me and me of you.
That’s basically true, but it’s only true because of other Biblical passages – NOT this one.
The third phrase modifies the other two. “The day of our Lord Jesus” is the Day of Judgment.
On the day the Corinthians stand before God – those who partially understood (meaning grasp, accept and live) Paul’s Message and kept working to understand it better until the end would be very proud of their status as accepted into God’s presence forever.
The reason for that pride would be God’s work through Paul towards them.
To the degree to which they did understand Paul and accept his message from Jesus, they would be in relationship with God now, but far more when it became fully effective on the last day.
A relationship that they could be proud of just as Paul would be proud of their acceptance by God as the one God used in the process of reaching them.
SLIDE: ONE – THREE SUMMARY ~
So what have we learned?
1) We reviewed the principle from last week that it is absolutely necessary for us to be afflicted before we can be comforted.
It is unfortunately required that we come to an end of ourselves and our resources before we fully grasp that God’s in control and place our full TRUST in Him.
Murray Harris put it this way concerning Paul, “He had learned the spiritual lesson that for the Christian self-reliance not only is inadequate to meet the demands of a life that is pleasing to the Lord (cf. 5:9; Col. 1:10) but also constitutes an affront to God on whom we are totally dependent for our physical and spiritual well-being.” Whatever your circumstance, PRAY fervently, DO your best, TRUST God with the rest.
2) The ultimate TRUST is to let go of your physical life. Dylan Thomas wrote…
I love the poem and I agree that life is a precious gift from God so we should PRAY and DO, but if it is our time, as Christians, we should go joyously into that “Good night,” with full TRUST in God to raise us again.
3) Pray for one another and together with each other – it is the finest Holy Communion.
4) PRAY fervently, DO your best and TRUST God with the rest…
To the point where you can stand next to the Apostle Paul and say with him, “I have a clear conscience… I have made mistakes, but I did my best with Your grace and I am ready to be judged.”
SLIDE: FOUR – SIX SUMMARY ~
5) Communication is far more difficult than we think and is actually a two-way street… You need to work diligently to understand what I mean.
Feedback is the best way to determine whether or not I have conveyed my meaning to you – that’s why I want some tiny expression or reaction…
“Say oh Cari.”
6) We learned that as much as we are able to grasp God’s Message we are in more accurate relationship with God. We will be proud of our status on the Day of Judgment. And our status is owed to God, but also to those people willingly used by God to affect our walk.
Tying all that together, we can see that the path is to be serious about gaining a better understanding of God through His Message to us and then living that message.
Whatever our circumstances we PRAY fervently, we DO our best and we TRUST God with the rest.062914 - God is Comfort
June 30, 2014 08:23 AM PDT
II Corinthians 1:1-9, Pastor Scott Keller
Apollo Temple & Acropolis
SLIDE: BEGIN II CORINTHIANS
Have a little fun today…
SLIDE: P 46 200 A.D. Start of II Corinthians
Let’s first talk briefly about the ancient city of Corinth.
SLIDE: SAT MAP of the eastern hemisphere
Greece and the Peloponnesian Peninsula.
SLIDE: SAT MAP of the Aegean Sea ~
Written to Corinth, from Macedonia (Philippi) Paul was in Ephesus for I Corinthians and moved through Asia and Troas on to Philippi.
SLIDE: SAT MAP CORINTH
The city of Corinth was founded in about 750 B.C. and while they fought with the Spartans against Athens during the Peloponnesian War they later fought against Sparta during the Corinthian War.
The wars left the city-states weak and allowed Philip of Macedon to conquer and consolidate Greece in time for his son Alexander to finally defeat the Persians with a united force in 323 B.C.
In 146 B.C. the Romans destroyed Corinth, but 100 years later in 44 B.C. Julius Caesar ordered it rebuilt in lavish style as the Capital of the Roman province of Achaea. Achaia/Achaea is [(ä-key,kay,kiy-ä) it is ä-ĉī-ä in Latin but Ἀχαΐα (ä-ĉä-ē-ä) in Greek]
Notice that because of Isthmus of Corinth which is the narrow strip of land connecting mainland Greece and the Peloponnesian Peninsula ships would travel around the peninsula adding 430 miles to their journey.
Periander, the King of Corinth about 700 years before Christ, wanted to dig a canal connecting the Ionian and Aegean seas.
Even though the distance is slightly less than 4 miles, it was too big an undertaking at the time (600 years later Julius Caesar was willing to dig, but before he could get started, he went to the Theatre of Pompey on the Ides of March. Nero actually started construction, but didn’t get very far.
Because of their strategic location on land and water trade routes Corinth became one of the richest, largest and most powerful cities in ancient history.
So the city the Apostle Paul lived in and communicated with was a vibrant, wealthy, cosmopolitan city boasting a population of approximately 250,000 people with relatively new buildings and infrastructure.
In this satellite image you can see that the canal was finally dug creating a man-made island out of the Peloponnesian Peninsula.
It was finished in the late 1800’s connecting the Ionian Sea (Gulf of Corinth) and the Aegean Sea (Saronic Gulf).
Notice the mountain outcropping where the acropolis of Corinth stood and realize that the city extended all the way to the Bay of Corinth in the Ionian Sea controlling the road and both ports on either side of the isthmus.
SLIDE: Temple of Apollo & the Acropolis
On his 2nd Missionary Journey the Apostle Paul left Athens and travelled the 48 miles to Corinth in 50 A.D. where he lived for 18 months.
SLIDE: BEMA SEAT OF GALLIO
In Acts 18 Paul is brought before Gallio the Governor of Achaea in the summer of 51 A.D. – this is the Bema Seat of Gallio complete with the ancient inscription.
At that time Gallio’s brother Seneca was the personal tutor of the soon-to-be Emperor Nero.
I Corinthians is really Paul’s 2nd letter (I Corinthians 5:9) and II Corinthians is his 4th letter to them (II Corinthians 7:8).
Paul’s lived in Corinth from the fall of 50 until the spring of 52 establishing the Corinthian church.
Paul wrote his first, now lost, letter from Ephesus in early 55.
Timothy reported problems after returning.
Paul wrote and sent his second letter, our Bible Book I Corinthians in the spring 55.
Paul sent Titus later in the summer of 55 and when all of that did no good Paul personally visited them in what is known as the “Painful Visit” in the fall of 55.
Once Paul returned to Ephesus he sent Titus with the third letter known as the “Severe Letter” in the spring of 56.
Paul moved through Asia departing from the port city of Troas (nearly dying) shortly after still in the spring of 56.
Paul had settled in Macedonia, probably Philippi, when Titus caught up with him in the summer of 56.
Paul then sent his fourth letter, our book II Corinthians with Titus in the fall of 56.
SLIDE: II Corinthians 1:1-3 ~ 1Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God, and Timothy our brother, To the church of God which is at Corinth with all the saints who are throughout Achaia: 2Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. 3Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort
SLIDE: HIGHLIGHT PAUL AN APOSTLE ~
This is the standard opening for a letter of that time… From, to, greetings.
It is from Paul, “AN Apostle” as in NOT the only one, but also with a qualitative sense.
Not “An Apostle” as a title or a position, so much as an abiding reality of who Paul is whether he or anyone else wants it so.
Why? Because his role was not his idea.
Paul never sought the job, put in an application, sent a resume. No congress of Cardinals appointed him – there was no conclave of Bishops who voted him in… Paul was “An Apostle,” by God’s divine and Sovereign WILL.
“An Apostle” by God’s choice, but to what end and purpose? Solely to represent the interests of Jesus the Christ. ANY Christian minister who does not put Christ first and foremost is not serving Christ or the will of God.
SLIDE: HIGHLIGHT TIMOTHY OUR BROTHER ~
People think that Timothy is mentioned here because he either co-authored the letter or because he was Paul’s Amanuensis or scribe – the secretary taking the dictation.
Both are wrong for technical reasons I won’t bore you with. Timothy was well known to the Corinthians and Paul was saying Timothy is with me on the content of my letter to you.
SLIDE: HIGHLIGHT CORINTHIANS
The letter is “To the church of God which is at Corinth with all the saints who are throughout Achaia.”
This may not seem like much, but it is full of subtle meaning.
Paul is saying that the church in Corinth is not only not their church it is not unique at all.
The Corinthians had a reputation for arrogance.
Paul is pointedly saying that the church in Corinth is God’s church which happens to be located in Corinth.
Secondly, he adds that the Corinthian Christians are no better than their “poor country cousins.” The Corinthian city slickers were cultured elite snobs compared to the provincial fools outside of the city.
It is like the attitude of a New Yorker when meeting someone from a Holler in West Virginia.
Paul diplomatically, but unmistakably reminds them that they are just one small part of the Christian community – not the elite of that community.
SLIDE: V 2 HIGHLIGHT BLESSING
Grace is God’s unmerited kindness to you through Jesus the Lord and the Christ and when embraced it establishes peace between you and God.
SLIDE: V 3 HIGHLIGHT DOXOLOGY
Some people call verse three a eulogy instead of a doxology – it is really both. A good word about God as well as a call to praise His name.
Verse Three is Chiastic in making an “X” structure… first the God and Father, then the Father and God.
The primary thing I would like you to see here is that Paul highlights two characteristics of God as a loving Father that he will devote a lot of this letter to exploring.
Mercy and comfort.
SLIDE: II Corinthians 1:4-7 ~ 4who comforts us in all our affliction so that we will be able to comfort those who are in any affliction with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God. 5For just as the sufferings of Christ are ours in abundance, so also our comfort is abundant through Christ. 6But if we are afflicted, it is for your comfort and salvation; or if we are comforted, it is for your comfort, which is effective in the patient enduring of the same sufferings which we also suffer; 7and our hope for you is firmly grounded, knowing that as you are sharers of our sufferings, so also you are sharers of our comfort.
When Paul makes a Greco-Roman Rhetorical Argument it does not translate very well into English.
It can seem like he’s just babbling… BUT, trust me, he’s not!
SLIDE: STANZAS OF THE VERSES
In each stanza he reiterates his argument and adds to it… every word serves a purpose.
Instead of taking you through it line-by-line in a technical and tedious way I’m just going to try to summarize his meaning.
He is saying that Almighty God is the source of all ultimate comfort.
That Comfort on an infinite and eternal scale is a fundamental core characteristic of WHO God is…
God is Love – God is Light – God is Truth and likewise God IS Comfort.
To better grasp what Paul is talking about we need to go on and see the specific experience he’s thinking about…
SLIDE: II Corinthians 1:8&9 ~ 8For we do not want you to be unaware, brethren, of our affliction which came to us in Asia, that we were burdened excessively, beyond our strength, so that we despaired even of life; 9indeed, we had the sentence of death within ourselves so that we would not trust in ourselves, but in God who raises the dead;
Paul had just come through a near riot in Ephesus when a pagan silversmith named Demetrius riled up the citizens against Him and his Christian friends (Acts 19).
Paul left the city and traveled north through Asia and encountered something that took all the starch out of his shirt.
There are as many ideas about Paul’s affliction as there are people who study it… we don’t have enough information to be certain.
It could have been a very serious illness or persecution following him from Ephesus or some new threat.
Whatever it was Paul finally came to the end of his rope. When a person is at the end of their rope, they are at an end of themselves.
There is nothing left to do, but cry out to God.
Paul was arguably the most self-sufficient of all the Apostles personally chosen by Jesus in accordance with God’s Will.
If anyone could make it on their own without any help from God it was Paul.
He was a Roman citizen from a well-regarded and probably wealthy family.
He grew up in Tarsus, the capital city of Cilicia and the headquarters of Marc Antony and Cleopatra. It was a free city, exempt from Imperial tax and was a city of higher learning with one of the largest libraries in the world and a school rivaling those of Athens and Alexandria.
Paul was a trained Pharisee and his mentor was none other than Gamaliel grandson of Hillel. It would be like learning physics from Stephen Hawking. Like earning a law degree from Yale.
In addition Paul had a powerful personality, an ability to roll up his sleeves and work hard, an amazing intellect, a fierce drive, great rhetorical skills and supreme confidence.
He was fluent in Hebrew, Aramaic, Greek and probably Latin… If anyone had reason to trust their own abilities it was Paul.
When you really study him you can see his tendency towards self-sufficiency come out. That’s why he fights against it so hard… there is something to fight.
Something happened in Asia that took him beyond anything he could affect or bear.
It was a God-given epiphany for Paul… He realized more than ever before that he was completely dependent upon God.
It is a horrible place to be and at the same time the very best thing that can happen to a person.
I would not be standing here today IF God had not likewise taken me to that place.
This is how God works because this is the only way we humans can fully grasp the reality that we are NOT in control.
Look at Abraham and Sarah… God gives them a son only after all human hope is gone.
God then says kill the son born to you.
By that time Abraham had faith that God could do anything and that God was in complete control of all things.
Abraham could not guarantee that Isaac would live long enough to have children, but God could.
A young man named Jon Meis was hailed as a hero after stopping a gunman. He said that he was faced with a life or death situation and responded as God empowered him.
That’s good, but the reason I bring it up is that he also said he now realized that for there to be a hero there must first be a tragedy.
No military guy is a hero until he is in combat – no cop is a hero until he is faced with intense violence – no firefighter is a hero until he saves a life in jeopardy of ending – no Christian can fully grasp God’s comfort until he or she is severely afflicted.
Flight training is all just theory until you strap your little pink body into the jet.
Your intense, down to the last thread of hope, affliction paves the ONLY way to experience God’s superabundant comfort.
The purpose is manifold, but here it is specifically for the purposes of… 1 really knowing Who is in control, 2 personally experiencing God’s comfort and 3 gaining the ability of comforting other Christians in their affliction.
God’s all-sufficient comfort follows affliction as surly as effect follows cause.
God will comfort you at precisely the right time and in precisely the right way.
After He does you will know Him better than you ever could have otherwise and you will be a comfort to others.
Pray that you might experience more of God and then brace yourself for the storm… it is the only way.
Will you pray that?
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