Tuesday, June 05, 2018

Reading Through 2 Corinthians #1 (1-5)

schenk 1 CorinthiansThis post moves on to a read through of Paul’s second letter to the Corinthians still accompanied by 1 & 2 Corinthians: A Commentary for Bible Students, by Kenneth Schenck. In 2 Corinthians Paul is trying to show the church there what gracious, godly leadership and ministry looks like. I am posting from my reading in the New Testament accompanied by various commentaries on Monday, Wednesday and Friday and welcome comments and discussion on my Facebook page. I am using the Logos version of the book. As usual my comments are in black and quotes from the book are in blue.

2 Corinthians is a letter to the Corinthian church that focuses on how Christlike leaders should act. It is likely that a group was there that did not understand or like the way Paul led, and used authority, in the church. Paul talks about a difficult letter that presented an "ultimatum" to the church to deal with a sinning member. When Paul hears that the issue has been dealt with he responds with this letter to reach out in reconciliation and, at the same time, to be an example of how true Christian leadership was to function. He opens the letter with tender words of reconciliation and discusses the difficult trials he had been going through. He emphasizes that he has received comfort from the Lord in his trials and wants to pass it on to them.  

Here is a sobering word for Christian leaders: the way we survive the challenges of our lives is either a help or a hindrance to those who are under our care, watching us. 2 Corinthians 1.1-11, 253

It is likely that one of the criticisms of Paul was that he did not keep his word about his plans or perhaps was "playing games" and was not being straight up with how he handled situations. He responds that he had been forced to change his plans because of unalterable and difficult situations. In all of these his love and care for the Corinthians and other churches under his care never ceased. He emphasizes that he has always been open and truthful with the Corinthians and has no hidden agendas. Just as God's promises and word can always be trusted, so should those of any leader in the church. Thus, Paul models a ministry that expects and celebrates suffering for Christ, renounces profiting from the gospel and leads by serving.

The Holy Spirit is a deposit, guaranteeing what is to come...The Holy Spirit guarantees that God will give us salvation on the Day of Judgment. Yet the Spirit is also a “foretaste of glory divine,” a little bit of heaven inside us. The Holy Spirit is a taste “of the powers of the coming age” (Heb. 6:4–5). 2 Corinthians 1.12-24 262

Paul here recognizes a sobering truth about the way Satan works. When Satan is done leading someone to do wrong to someone, he can then lead the victim to do just as much wrong in return. How many people does Satan manage to string out with bitterness over the years over some wrong that was done to them? We sometimes waste years in disgruntlement that we could have passed serving the Lord with joy. Satan can play both sides, and he can trick people who were genuinely wronged to play right into his schemes. Paul did not want to play such a game with the Corinthians to the joy of the devil. 2 Corinthians 2.1-11, 264

Paul paradoxically celebrates the fact of his suffering in this world, for that suffering is ultimately a victory march. 2 Corinthians 2.12-17, 269

The next three chapters focus on the "New Covenant" ministry of Paul. This ministry was empowered by the Spirit and, while it entailed suffering now, it promised glory in the future. The ministry of the Spirit within believers now is the "already" of the promise of the New Covenant. He enables the believer to overcome sin, become more like Christ, and do the work of Christ, even as our earthly bodies are damaged and decay. However, the Spirit is also the "down payment" of the glory that is to come in the "Not yet." Thus, work that is done to serve oneself is foolish and shortsighted. The proper focus is to work now (and suffer) for the glorious kingdom to come. Thus, the most important thing we can do is reconcile others to Christ through living out and sharing the message of reconciliation to Christ. We must renounce self-serving and manipulative models of ministry and take up Jesus cross-shaped model of self-giving service.

With the Spirit inside us, we are constantly becoming more and more like the Lord, a process that will culminate in the resurrection when our bodies will actually be transformed to be like His glorious body (1 Cor. 15:49; Phil. 3:21). In the meantime, the new covenant that brings the Spirit inside us makes it possible for the Spirit himself to “guide you into all truth” (John 16:13). 2 Corinthians 3, 275

Even if someone were to kill our earthly bodies or if cancer were to eat them up, we have a hope that cannot be destroyed. We may not understand why God allows something to happen to us or to others, but it ultimately does not matter. Our hope and faith in our destiny is intact. Even if we go through a period of time when we cannot feel God’s presence, He can enable us to continue in faith to the end. 2 Corinthians 4.1-5.10, 280

It is an unfortunate thing that churches often spend so much time dealing with internal squabbles, hard feelings, and conflicts when there is so much work to be done for the kingdom. Still others spend most of their time preoccupied with their own relationship to God and never get to the point where they can look to “persuade” those outside themselves. Paul brings our priorities into focus: we should aim to get beyond ourselves and our own individual worries. We should begin to minister to others in need of God. 2 Corinthians 5.11-6.2, 285–286

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