Monday, June 17, 2024

2nd Corinthians Week 9: Unrestricted Repentance

  A few years ago, Forbes came out with “The 25 Biggest Regrets In Life: What Are Yours?” They are as follows:

1. Working so much at the expense of family and friendships.

2. Standing up to bullies in school and in life.

3. Stayed in touch with some good friends from my childhood and youth.

4. Turned off my phone more. 

5. Breaking up with my true love or Getting dumped by them.  

6. Worrying about what others thought about me.  

7. Not having enough confidence in myself.  

8. Living the life that my parents wanted me to live instead of the one I wanted to.  

9. Applying for that "dream job" I always wanted.  

10. Been happier more, not taken life so seriously.  

11. Gone on more trips with family and friends.

12. Letting my marriage break down.  

13. Taught my kids more.  

14. Burying the hatchet with a family member or old friend.  

15. Trusting that voice in the back of my head more.

16. Not asking that girl or boy out.

17. Getting involved with the wrong group of friends when I was younger.  

18. Not getting that degree in high school or in college.  

19. Choosing the practical job over the one I really wanted.

20. Spending more time with the kids.  

21. Not taking care of my health when I had the chance.  

22. Not having the courage to get up and talk at a funeral or important event.  

23. Not visiting a dying friend before they died.

24. Learning another language.

25. Being a better father or mother.


  Regret can be one of those things that gnaws at us, as we think of what could have been. But we can’t. Unless Doc Brown arrive in a Délorean, we can’t undo the things that have been done. But what we can do, is fix those regrets that we personally do that impact others in sinful ways. That fix is what the Bible calls repentance. Repentance is recognizing the wrong and sinful things that we have done against God and others, seeking forgiveness, and turning from those things into new life.


And it’s this idea of repentance that brings us back to our to our summer series where we’ll be picking it back up in 2nd Corinthians 7:2. And as we start in verse 2 of chapter 7 in 2nd Corinthians, let’s look back on the last few weeks.

In our notes pages, until we get to another section break, we’re only going to look at the section we’re currently covering. 

At the begging of the second section of 2nd Corinthians, after Paul’s opening about his joy over the Corinthian’s repentance, he began to tell them to move forward in their faith. Because when we repent of a sin, God doesn’t want us to stay in a woe is me, or stuck place in our faith. Instead he wants us to move forward. So at the start of his second section, Paul encourages the Corinthians to understand they are breakable, meaning they can sin, so they must handle God’s word correctly, and do so to please the Lord. 

After that, he calls them to new creation living; that living removes obstacles that we place in front of the Gospel, and realize that we possess everything because we have Jesus.

Then last week, we began to look at a connective thought of Paul’s that we had to split in two for time sake. The first part of that thought was how Paul communicated God’s desire that we are unrestricted in our lives. Not unrestricted to commit sin, but unrestricted to love God, and love people as we were created to do. We do this by submitting our will to the Father’s, which will separate us from sin, and love others as he first loved us.

With that in mind, we turn our attention to to the second part of Paul’s thought, as we pick back up in 2nd Corinthians 7:2. Let’s read together.


“2 Make room in your hearts for us. We have wronged no one, we have corrupted no one, we have taken advantage of no one. 3 I do not say this to condemn you, for I said before that you are in our hearts, to die together and to live together. 4 I am acting with great boldness toward you; I have great pride in you; I am filled with comfort. In all our affliction, I am overflowing with joy.

“5 For even when we came into Macedonia, our bodies had no rest, but we were afflicted at every turn—fighting without and fear within. 6 But God, who comforts the downcast, comforted us by the coming of Titus, 7 and not only by his coming but also by the comfort with which he was comforted by you, as he told us of your longing, your mourning, your zeal for me, so that I rejoiced still more. 8 For even if I made you grieve with my letter, I do not regret it—though I did regret it, for I see that that letter grieved you, though only for a while. 9 As it is, I rejoice, not because you were grieved, but because you were grieved into repenting. For you felt a godly grief, so that you suffered no loss through us.

“10 For godly grief produces a repentance that leads to salvation without regret, whereas worldly grief produces death. 11 For see what earnestness this godly grief has produced in you, but also what eagerness to clear yourselves, what indignation, what fear, what longing, what zeal, what punishment! At every point you have proved yourselves innocent in the matter. 12 So although I wrote to you, it was not for the sake of the one who did the wrong, nor for the sake of the one who suffered the wrong, but in order that your earnestness for us might be revealed to you in the sight of God. 13 Therefore we are comforted.

“And besides our own comfort, we rejoiced still more at the joy of Titus, because his spirit has been refreshed by you all. 14 For whatever boasts I made to him about you, I was not put to shame. But just as everything we said to you was true, so also our boasting before Titus has proved true. 15 And his affection for you is even greater, as he remembers the obedience of you all, how you received him with fear and trembling. 16 I rejoice, because I have complete confidence in you.”


v.2-10

We saw last week that Paul started out his thought with telling the Corinthians that his mouth and heart were open to them. He wanted them to open their hearts as well. Here Paul brings this open heart idea up again, but notice it’s not a wide open heart. Instead Paul tells them to make room, it’s almost a, “hey here’s a small step in widening your heart.” Paul’s goal is that the Corinthians have an open book life, like he does, but he knows it takes time, so he’s encouraging them to start small. Start with Paul, widen their hearts, towards him.

Why does Paul ask that they start with him? Because he hasn’t done anything wrong to them. They know him. They know his love for them. How he does’t condemn them, how he hasn’t taken advantage of them, how he hasn’t corrupted people. Instead he has loved them, encouraged them, and taken pride in them. He views them as ride or die friends. People that he would suffer a lot for.


It’s here in verse 5 that Paul again gives them insight into how his last trip to them effected him. He wrestled with how to confront the situation, so he wrote the letter that is now lost to us. He then fought his own thoughts about how it would go. But God comforted him when Titus returned with good news. Because the Corinthians made room for Paul in their hearts. They repented and he rejoiced.

And this is what we talked about in the first section of the letter, Paul had restoration in mind when he wrote the third lost letter. Though he didn’t like grieving the Corinthians, there is a godly grief that leads to repentance. When we experience godly grief, we acknowledge our sin and need to go before God and repent. We realize, we regret, and we seek God for change. 

So Paul let’s the Corinthians know that godly grief leads to repentance, while regular grief, or the worldly grief, produces death. What he means by that, is there’s no real change in worldly grief. There might be an acknowledgement, or regret, that somethings wrong, but we close our hearts to God who works to make things right. That closed off position means the Word of God isn’t in us. It means that we might not have salvation, or it means we are in a bad places of rebellion. It means we are lost and need to be found. We need regeneration. 


v.11-16

It’s in verse 11 that Paul begins his encouragement of the Corinthians. Pointing out what they have overcome and what God had done through the pointing out of the sin. The Corinthians have overcome a great battle in their faith and because of that Paul is comforted.

In all of this, Paul has used a lot of we language, and in the second part of verse 13 we find out why. It’s not just Paul who was comforted and Paul who was rejoicing. It was other believers and especially Titus. Titus came back rejoicing at what happened. And Paul gives us a tiny hint as to what might have occurred before Titus went off to deliver that lost letter.  

In verse 14 Paul writes, “For whatever boasts I made to him about you, I was not put to shame. But just as everything we said to you was true, so also our boasting before Titus has proved true.” It almost seems like after Paul wrote the lost letter, he told Titus that the Corinthians would repent. But think about it from Titus’ perspective. He was walking into a situation where they already hurt Paul, and now Paul was writing a letter to call them out on that hurt. Do you think Titus was a happy messenger? There’s a reason why we have that saying, “don’t shoot the messenger.” But before Titus leaves, Paul is saying they’ll repent, I know it. 

Titus’ rejoicing now equals Paul’s, because he saw firsthand the transformation of repentance in the Corinthians’ lives. Paul was proved right, and Titus is joyful about it. It’s here that Paul ends this two week connective thought, with the words in very 16, “I rejoice, because I have complete confidence in you.”

When I read those words they reminded me of Jesus words in the parable of of the Tenants in Matthew 25, “Well done, good and faithful servant (v.23b).”

Paul let’s them know that they have his godly love, they have his godly pride, and they have his godly confidence. Because if a person can learn that they need to walk in repentance, they have achieved a great milestone in their faith. A heart and mind that seeks God in repentance when their sin is presented to them, is a heart and mid that is fixed on the Lord. And it’s in such a life, that the Lord looks on and says that is a good and faithful servant.


Combing the connecting thought together, God is calling us to a life that is unrestricted because it’s based in repentance. One thing that restricts us, is when we see a problem and we don’t do anything about it. 

A few weeks ago the west celebrated the 80th anniversary of D-Day. It was a massive invasion of Normandy France by the Allied forces against the Nazis, with more than 150,000 troops coming by sea and by air. Before the invasion began General Eisenhower drafted this line that was never published, “If any blame or fault attaches to the attempt, it is mine alone.” The invasion was an uncertain but a necessary risk. Think if the Allies saw what Hitler and his axis were doing and did nothing. If the Allies hadn’t made the attempt, what would our world look like today? Who knows? But they saw the problem and dealt with it.

That’s what repentance is, it’s seeing the problem of sin in our lives and dealing with it. 


How do we deal with it? Through confession. In his first letter to the churches in Asia Minor, John wrote, “7 But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin. 8 If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. 9 If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness (1 John 1:7-9).”

Even to the churches, to established Christians, the Apostle John, who walked with Jesus, reminds them that they can’t say they have no sin, because that’s deceit, that’s a restriction on the relationship between them and God. But Jesus’ blood cleanses us from sin, and by doing so, has taken away the punishment and the idea that we need to hide from God to cover it up.

No, confession is the way now. Repentance is how the believer should live their life. We are called to unrestricted love for God and for people, it starts with a heart and mind that knows repentance is good of the child of God. And it’s something we do regularly. When sin happens, we don’t brush it aside, we acknowledge it and turn to God for further transformation. There’s not one of us in here who doesn’t need more of the transforming work of God in us. We all need to become more adept at being repentant.


My challenge for you this week is to continue to develop an unrestricted repentant life. When sin happens, when that person irks you and you lash out in anger, or that other person looks good and you stumble in your desire, or that news report comes on and you worry. Don’t brush it off, don’t be restricted by letting sin regain power in your life that is has no business having. Instead turn to God, and say something like, “Father that wasn’t right, it wasn’t godly, I turn from it, repenting of what you have save me from. I know Jesus’ blood cleanses me of that sin, and I ask for the transforming work of the Holy Spirit to happen in me. Amen.”


God is calling us to unrestricted lives where repentance is first nature to us. Where he is glorified in our turning away from sin and relying on him moment by moment. So let us be people of repentance, that we might be truly unrestricted in our fellowship with God. Amen.

Monday, June 10, 2024

2nd Corinthians Week 8: Unrestricted Temples

  As many of you know, my wife and I went on a cruise for our twentieth anniversary. It was my first cruise, and I was a little uneasy being on boat for seven days, but it wasn’t that bad. The shows were pretty good, the activities aboard the ship were varied enough for seven days, and our stop in one of the ports was really enjoyable. And like I’ve heard for the last several months, the food was pretty good. We had a lasagna and spaghetti that reminded me of a restaurant my mom used to manage called Angelina’s. They have a meat based sauce instead of a tomato base, which I love. Overall I enjoyed the unrestricted feel of the whole thing. Want to catch a show, they have two, one at 7 and one at 10. Want to eat, they have restaurants, buffets or little cafés. Need a drink, we got the refreshment package, go almost anywhere and get one. It was the first vacation in a long time, where I didn’t feel restricted to certain things I had to do, even though, I was restricted to this four thousand plus passenger boat in the middle of the ocean. 


And it’s this idea of being unrestricted that brings us back to our summer series where we’re coming back to the last letter Paul writes to the Corinthians, in chapter 6, verse 11. As we open up to 2 Corinthians 6:11, let’s reawaken our memories from the two weeks that we took off. 


In our first five weeks of our summer series, we saw Paul’s love for the Corinthians as he confronted a painful situation with them, through measured harshness, with the purpose to restore them. And when they did repent, Paul wrote the letter we’re reading through, from a position of joy. As followers of Jesus, we are to follow Paul’s love in confronting painful situations with measured harshness, and with the purpose to restore others, rejoicing at their repentance.

Following that, Paul called the Corinthians to move forward in their faith with a focus on pleasing Jesus, by handling God’s word correctly and acknowledging how they were useful to God, yet still breakable. As Jesus’ disciples we to are to move forward in our faith, pleasing Jesus as useful breakable jars, as we handle of God’s word correctly.

Then in our last week, we talked about God’s call to every believer. How God calls us to new creation living, where we begin to realize that, the power of sin has no control over us, as we yield ever greater to the work of the Holy Spirit. God also calls us to remove obstacles we have placed in our lives that stifle others responding to the Gospel. Finally, God calls us to live as a possessor of Christ; that we have all that we need because we have Jesus.


With this in mind, Paul continues his moving of the Corinthians forward in their faith. And as we have seen this movement forward, we talked about how this section is one long thought of Paul. In that long thought we are looking at these smaller points of connection he makes along the lines of this thinking. This week and next week we are going to look at one of those connections, by separating it out. S let’s read together, starting in chapter 6 verse 11, and we’ll explain more from there.


6:11-18 - 11 

We have spoken freely to you, Corinthians; our heart is wide open. 12 You are not restricted by us, but you are restricted in your own affections. 13 In return (I speak as to children) widen your hearts also.

“14 Do not be unequally yoked with unbelievers. For what partnership has righteousness with lawlessness? Or what fellowship has light with darkness? 15 What accord has Christ with Belial? Or what portion does a believer share with an unbeliever? 16 What agreement has the temple of God with idols? For we are the temple of the living God; as God said, ‘I will make my dwelling among them and walk among them, and I will be their God, and they shall be my people. 17 Therefore go out from their midst, and be separate from them, says the Lord, and touch no unclean thing; then I will welcome you, 18 and I will be a father to you, and you shall be sons and daughters to me, says the Lord Almighty.’

“7:1 

Since we have these promises, beloved, let us cleanse ourselves from every defilement of body and spirit, bringing holiness to completion in the fear of God."


In verses 11-13, Paul begins this connected point by talking about how he is open to the Corinthians. When he says he speaks freely, in the Greek that means his mouth is wide open. So in verse 11, both his mouth and his heart are wide open to the Corinthians. In other words, he is unrestricted. And that unrestrictedness is what Paul wants the Corinthians to experience. Because if we are possessors of Christ, possessing all things because of him, as Paul ends with in verse 10 of chapter 6, then we are unrestricted. 

But in what sense are we unrestricted? It’s our affections. Paul is unrestricted in his love for the Corinthians, and because of that unrestrictedness, as expressed by his wide open mouth and heart, he can do everything he has told them to do. He can confront with the purpose of restoration. He can move forward as a breakable jar that’s useful to Christ as he handles God’s word correctly. He can live as a new creation, removing obstacles he has placed in front of the Gospel. 

Paul is unrestricted because he has and knows the affection of God to him.  He writes things to the Colossians like, “all things were created through him and for him (Colossians 1:16e).” We were created to be with God for the pleasure of God. To the Roman Church, Paul wrote, “While we were yet sinners Christ died for us (Romans 5:8).” Jesus loved us while we were sinners, and died in our place that we might live by trusting in him as Savior. Paul understands the deep love that sets the captives free, and so he stands and writes to the Corinthians that he lives a life of unrestrictedness, and calls them to live in the same way. But what holds them restricted is their affections? What are those affections?


Paul starts it off in verse 14 with addressing being unequally yoked between the believer and the unbeliever. Usually when I hear this phrase used, its used about marriage, but the only time it appears in the Scriptures, it isn’t about marriage but by comparing the Living God’s temple with idols. Paul uses several comparisons to drive home his point. Righteousness to lawlessness, light and dark, Christ and Belial. 

These comparisons give us the affections that are holding back the Corinthians. The yoke imagery of being hooked up to something, the lawless wording, and the connection to Belial, all point us back to the era of the Judges, a book that we went over last summer. The wording Paul uses shows that he thought of the affections of the Corinthians as the same as what was happening in the Judges’ era. The use of lawlessness and and specifically Belial, are terms used in the book of Judges to describe the depravity and sinfulness of the Israelites as they moved further away from their covenant with God. Last summer we talked about how, as the sinfulness of the Israelites grew, horrific things happened. One of those things was the raping and killing of the Levite’s concubine. In that story we read, “As they were making their hearts merry, behold, the men of the city, worthless fellows, surrounded the house, beating on the door. And they said to the old man, the master of the house, ‘Bring out the man who came into your house, that we may know him (Judges 19:22).’”

Where is states worthless fellows, we would read a variation of Belial in the Hebrew. It was a word that became synonymous with Satan, and in Paul’s eyes, its what was holding the Corinthians back. The last line of book of Judges reads, “In those days there was no king in Israel. Everyone did what was right in his own eyes (Judges 21:25).” But for Paul, the Corinthians and us, the King lives! And so there should be no connection to Belial, to Satan’s work, for the believer.

The Corinthians were trying to hold to the things of the world and to Christ, but as a believer you can’t do that.

Why? Because the believer is the very temple of God. Paul draws a direct connection between the temple of God that was in Jerusalem to the believer when he quotes from Isaiah 52. No idols, no corruptible things of the world are to be in the temple of God. And so Paul calls to the Corinthians to be separate from those things that are unclean. Why does Paul say this? Because of Jesus’ own words to the woman at the well in John 4:21-24. Jesus said, “21 Woman, believe me, the hour is coming when neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem will you worship the Father. 22 You worship what you do not know; we worship what we know, for salvation is from the Jews. 23 But the hour is coming, and is now here, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for the Father is seeking such people to worship him. 24 God is spirit, and those who worship him must worship in spirit and truth.”

If we are to worship God in spirit and in truth, to be God’s holy temple where his presence resides, we must be separate from the Belial of the world. The lawlessness, the unrighteousness, the idols, and corruptible things. We must be yoked to Christ and Christ alone. 


And we have that promise that God will separate us from these things by the Holy Spirit. It is the Holy Spirit’s job to call out sin and to deal with it in our lives. Paul would write to the Galatians, “…walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh (Galatians 5:16).” The Corinthians have the Spirit in them, that promise of salvation (Ephesians 1:3), so, as Paul states in verse 7, they can cleanse themselves from “every defilement of body and spirit.” Why? Because they have the Holy Spirit who’s job it is to do just that. 

And what is the role of the Corinthians in that cleansing? It’s living in the fear of God. It’s living with a submitted will to the Father. It’s his will in all things. 


This is what God is calling us to as well. The submission of our will to his. Do we struggle with Belial, the lawlessness of this world? Do we keep idols in our lives, in the temple of God? Are we feeling restricted by religion or by the cares of this world? Do we continue to struggle day after day in the same old sins, trying to fix them but coming up short? Do we even know we are stuck?

If we have not placed our trust in Jesus as Savior, then there’s no beginning to break free. Every time we try, we’ll just replacing one idol, one restriction, with another. And we might think, “I’m not restricted, I can do what I want.” You’re restricted to your desire. Why is it hard to quit addictions? Drugs, sex, alcohol, gambling? It’s because our desires have us caged. Right now the world is celebrating Pride month, a month that shows how desires cage people. 

But Christ sets us free from our sin and desire that hold us in bondage. By accepting Jesus, sin is put to death, it’s shackles are broken, and we are called to live in the Spirit who was given to us that we might live now in the unshackled, unrestricted life that is in Jesus. 

That’s achieved through the submission of our will to the Father. It always has been, it always will be. Jesus taught us to pray to the Father, “Your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven (Matthew 6:10).” Jesus spoke to the Father in Gethsemane, “My Father, if this cannot pass unless I drink it, your will be done (Matthew 26:42d).” And Paul would tell us that we are to have the same mindset as Christ does (Philippians 2:5). 

My challenge then for you is that this week, that you begin your day with the words, “Father I submit my will to yours.” Then throughout the day, when the desires of life come to you, the temptations pop up, when the sins that want to shackle you, or the idols that call to you, that you would place them in the temple of the Lord, that you respond by speaking in the power of the Spirit, “Father, I submit my will to yours.” Then when you lay down in your bed, speak it one more time, “Father, I submit my will to yours.”


Let us people people who’s will is submitted to the Father. That this building would not be looked at as the house of God, but that are lives would show he lives in us. That the temple is on the move, and like Paul, we are unrestricted to do the work of the Lord. Amen.

Sunday, May 19, 2024

2nd Corinthians Week 7: New Creation Ambassador

  It was January of 1985 and the Hollywood sene was cashing in on a ton of hits. In the movies section the public saw hits like Red Dawn, Terminator, Karate Kid, The Neverending Story, The Muppets Take Manhattan, The Natural, Splash, and Ghostbusters to name a few. The boom most likely came from the recovering economy of the Reagan administration, that put more bucks in the pockets of people.  From the small screen to the big screen, the consumer had money to spend and Hollywood cashed in on it. 

It was in January that the pop singer Madonna released her second single off her second album, which solidified her as an 80s icon. That song was “Material Girl,” and truly reflected the the fervor of the 80s at that time. 

Since the industrial revolution, something happened in the world, that never happened before. Access to luxuries had become increasingly more accessible and led to the creation of the Middle Class. People who weren’t rich, but could now afford things what were once only open to the very wealthy. That trend continued into the 1950s where, after War War 2, the Middle Class exploded in resources. By the 1980s the Middle Class was strong, and materialism was everywhere. 

But what was a blessing of luxury, also was a pitfall of greed. Madonna proudly proclaimed what the culture held to, “We live in a material world.” But for the Christian, the drive to gather wealth for wealth’s sake, is a pitfall, because, at the very least, possessions hamper our trust, and reliance on God.


And it’s this idea of possessions that brings us back to our summer study, where we’ll pick it back up in 2nd Corinthians 5:11. And as we open to chapter 5 verse 11 of 2nd Corinthians, let’s take a look back at our previous weeks.


So far we’ve ended one small section of Paul’s letter where he showed his love for the Corinthians by confronting a painful situation with measured harshness and restoration purpose, and at the repentance of the Corinthians, Paul wrote back to them out of his joyfulness. This is what we find in the first three chapters of Paul’s letter.

This first section led us into last week, where we began to see Paul moving the Corinthians forward in their walk with God. Because they were back in a right relationship with both God and Paul, they needed to be encouraged to move forward. 

So Paul began to instruct them to be in truthful and handle God’s word correctly, remembering that they are useful breakable jars of clay. When they hold these three ideas together they will realize that their position is one of value to God and comes with it a lot of responsibility. To deal with that responsibility, we look to eternity with Jesus and aim to please him, because he’s all that matters.


With this understanding as a foundation, Paul keeps the momentum going. Let’s read together.

  

5:11 Therefore, knowing the fear of the Lord, we persuade others. But what we are is known to God, and I hope it is known also to your conscience. 12 We are not commending ourselves to you again but giving you cause to boast about us, so that you may be able to answer those who boast about outward appearance and not about what is in the heart. 13 For if we are beside ourselves, it is for God; if we are in our right mind, it is for you. 14 For the love of Christ controls us, because we have concluded this: that one has died for all, therefore all have died; 15 and he died for all, that those who live might no longer live for themselves but for him who for their sake died and was raised.

16 From now on, therefore, we regard no one according to the flesh. Even though we once regarded Christ according to the flesh, we regard him thus no longer. 17 Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come. 18 All this is from God, who through Christ reconciled us to himself and gave us the ministry of reconciliation; 19 that is, in Christ, God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting to us the message of reconciliation. 20 Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, God making his appeal through us. We implore you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God. 21 For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.

6:1 Working together with him, then, we appeal to you not to receive the grace of God in vain.  2 For he says, 'In a favorable time I listened to you, and in a day of salvation I have helped you.’ Behold, now is the favorable time; behold, now is the day of salvation. 3 We put no obstacle in anyone's way, so that no fault may be found with our ministry, 4 but as servants of God we commend ourselves in every way: by great endurance, in afflictions, hardships, calamities, 5 beatings, imprisonments, riots, labors, sleepless nights, hunger; 6 by purity, knowledge, patience, kindness, the Holy Spirit, genuine love; 7 by truthful speech, and the power of God; with the weapons of righteousness for the right hand and for the left; 8 through honor and dishonor, through slander and praise. We are treated as impostors, and yet are true; 9 as unknown, and yet well known; as dying, and behold, we live; as punished, and yet not killed; 10 as sorrowful, yet always rejoicing; as poor, yet making many rich; as having nothing, yet possessing everything.


Last week we talked about how Paul’s thinking for the next several chapters is one large idea. So in that big idea, we’re breaking it down into smaller thoughts, but trying to make sure we’re not missing how they are connected. So we see in verse 11 a connection point between last week’s thought and this weeks.


v. 5:11-15

Paul has this connection point of the future judgment of all people, being why we handle God’s word truthfully, and why we seek to please him. But that understanding of a future judgment for all people, and the fear of the Lord, is a motivator for him in sharing the Gospel. The fear of the Lord is frightful for the unbeliever, and is awe-inspiring to the believer. It cowers those who do evil, and motivates those who seek the glory of God. Because a person who understands who God is, are then motivated by the heart of God to be holy, as he is holy, and to love as he loves.

This motivation of the fear of the Lord, leads Paul into encouraging the Corinthians to boast in the work of the Lord that is done through Paul’s work, which is the proclamation of the Gospel in the ministry of reconciliation.

It seems like the reason why the Corinthians didn’t come to Paul’s aid when he was verbally attacked, was because they didn’t have an answer to give. They didn’t have a firm footing on the Gospel. Because, as seen in the letter of 1st Corinthians, the Corinthian Church didn’t grasp the idea that it isn’t in outward appearances that Christ is first revealed, but rather the endurance of the believer while ministering the Gospel, with a heart set on the Lord. So now, Paul is hoping to give them a foundation on which to answer those who boast in outward appearances, that it is the inward motivation at the heart, that matters.

Here Paul transitions with a clarification of the Gospel: “one died for all, therefore all have died; and he died for all, that those who live might no longer live for themselves, but for him who for their sake died and was raised (v.15).”

A person motivated by the fear of the Lord, lives out that fear by embracing Jesus’ work on the cross and living for his Savior by living by Jesus’ word, empowered now by the Holy Spirit.


v.5:16-6:1

Paul then gives a brief insight into how he regraded Jesus before, as a mere man in the flesh. To Paul, before his conversion, Jesus was just another man, another false Messiah. Even worse, a false Messiah, whom his followers equaled to God. 

But Paul came to regard Jesus as his followers did, as the Messiah God, and that through Jesus old things have passed away and new things are here. So to Paul if you are in Christ, if you have put your trust into him, if you accepted the Gospel, you are a new creation. This is one of Paul’s most profound theological ideas in his last letter to the Corinthians and he states it in passing here. 

But we should pause and recognize where the Holy Spirit put this idea in the context of this letter. The Corinthians have repented, and Paul is rejoicing in that. They are then to turn their attention to Gospel work with eternity in mind. No it would be easy for them to think they need to have a second conversion experience, because of their faltering in the faith. This is something that I’ve run into a lot with young believers who stumble and think they’ve lost their salvation because they overtly committed sin. But Paul tells them that they are new creations if they are found in Christ. In other words, if they have truly repented, you need not think of your current stumbling in the faith as a lost of salvation, but by developing a relationship of repentance, what you’re seeing are the old things passing away. 

Paul isn’t dwelling in the past mistakes, he is moving forward in new creation work, and so should the Corinthians. It’s why Paul emphasizes that God isn’t counting the trespasses.

For Paul, at a repentant heart, it’s about moving forward, and getting into the work that God is doing. 

This work, this ministry of reconciliation, is “entrusted” to Paul and is a part of all Christian ministry per Matthew 28:19-20. Where every believer, whether young or old in the faith, is to live as a new creation, and when that old comes around, we repent and move forward in God’s work. Both in God reconciling the world to himself, and in our personal reconciliation relationship with him. How can we say to the world, repent and God will separate you from sin, if we don’t live that out too?

So Paul “implores” the Corinthians to be reconciled, and “not to receive the grace of God in vain (v.6:1).” This is reminiscent of Jesus’ Parable of the Sower in Mark 4:1-9, where Jesus tells us that there is seed that falls on pathway, seed that falls on rocky ground, seed that falls with thorns and weeds, and seed that falls on good soil. 

Paul wants to really hit this home, Corinthians make sure your repentance is real. Make sure you are seeking the Lord. Make sure you’re living in that new creation life. That will show that you are that good soil. This is what Paul wants as an ambassador of God to the world. 


6:2-10

It’s then in verse 6:2 that Paul makes the statement, “now is the day of salvation.” This is a call for all people, even those in the Church, that we must be in a state of assurance of our salvation and a forward movement in our walk with Jesus.

Paul again puts eternity as a focus point of the believers’ life. We must live in the day of salvation, not pushing off to tomorrow. Eternity is always at hand and all we have is the moment, so Paul is calling us to take hold of it.

To receive that eternity at hand, no obstacle should be placed in front of it. Whether religious as in the veil of Moses, or physical in the case of disorder that Paul addressed in 1st Corinthians. To address this, Paul again uses a back-and-forth of ideas to describe the fullness of getting obstacles out of the way so that people may hear and respond to the Gospel. In other words, whatever needs to be done to get the message out, if it isn’t unrighteous, needs to be done. If we need to suffer for the Gospel, then we say praise God. 

And with Paul’s words in verse 10, we see that he brings his talk of comfort from his opening in chapter 1 full circle. He possesses everything because he is in the ministry of reconciliation between God and man.


God is calling us to such a ministry. To be at work with him as he works to bring people to himself. But that ministry isn’t 1-to-1 with Paul. The ministry God has given us as individuals, isn’t the same as what he gave to Paul. Yet, through Pauls’ call to the Corinthians, we can glean a few things that we are also called to.

First, we are called to new creation living. That means, we are both seeking the Lord to make us holier today than we were yesterday, and when we falter, we repent and move forward in that relationship.

Second, we need to take and inventory of the things that we do that could put obstacles in the way of people coming to know Jesus as Savior. What do we do, or don’t do that would hamper the work of the Gospel? We could be having expectations for unbelievers that we might have of believers. Things like, you shouldn’t cuss. You shouldn’t dress that way. You shouldn’t act that way. But to hold the unbelievers to standards of a regenerated believer, is to put the obstacle of works in the way of the door of faith. That’s something we might do to put an obstacle in the way, but there are things that we might not do as well. We might not give a reason to why we believe in Jesus. We might not share that we are Christian. We might not speak the name of Jesus in certain situations. 

We need to seek the Lord in showing us where we put obstacles in front of people and seek the Spirit to remove those.

Finally, we need to learn that we possess all things in Christ. The world is failing, the ship is sinking. Christ is the only thing that endures, so we need to look to him. If we died today, our job would be looking for a replacement within the week, the government would be looking to recover a death tax, and the world will continue on. The only thing that matters is Christ in us, and the work of reconciliation. Because today is the day of salvation and eternity is tomorrow. Let us not be captivated by the material girl.


My challenge for you this week, is to take each of these areas: living in new creation life, getting rid of obstacles, and being content in having Jesus for eternity. Take this week and seek the Lord in each area. If you’re living as if sin still has control over you, then you need to seek the Lord to break down that stronghold, which starts with repenting of that sin. Then, as we said earlier, seek the Lord to take away purposeful and non-purposeful obstacles you’ve developed that keep people from hearing the Gospel from you. Finally, seek to be at ease in the world, knowing that all of it will pass away, and Jesus will be the only thing that endures. So let’s not get attached to this material world, because we are not a material people.


God has called us to be a people that are ambassadors of the reconciliation that comes through Jesus alone. Let us walk in that calling that others may awake to eternity with the Lord. Amen.