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2 Corinthians Bible notes Stephen Thompson

Daily Bible thoughts 641: Wednesday 18th June 2014:

 2 Corinthians 8:16-24

In church administration generally, but particularly in matters of finance, we not only need to be above board, but seen to be above board. Here is a vital example to follow: ”We want to avoid any criticism of the way we handle this liberal gift. For we are taking pains to do what is right, not only in the eyes of the Lord but also in the eyes of men.” (20, 21). ”We don’t want anyone suspecting us of taking one penny of this money for ourselves. We’re being as careful in our reputation with the public as in our reputation with God.” The Message. ”Naturally we want to avoid the slightest breath of criticism in the distribution of their gifts, and to be absolutely aboveboard not only in the sight of God but in the eyes of men.” J.B. Phillips . If you remember, this collection was taken to help the poor Christians in Jerusalem. When people give to a cause, they want to know that their money is going to that cause, and not being diverted somewhere else.

In particular, Paul took pains to show that the men carrying the money were trustworthy, and not like Judas, dipping into the funds for their own gain. Essentially he gives them ‘character references’ in this passage.

  • He mentions Titus and his qualities (16, 23; see also 6). But Paul wisely did not leave this in the hands of one man, however great his reputation was. He didn’t want to leave him exposed to possible criticism (or even temptation?).
  • He also says: ”We’re sending a companion along with him, someone very popular in the churches for his preaching of the Message. But there’s far more to him than popularity. He’s rock-solid trustworthy. The churches handpicked him to go with us as we travel about doing the work of sharing God’s gifts to honor God as well as we can, taking every precaution against scandal.” The Message. (See Prov.22:1) He is described, in the ‘New International Version’ as ”…the brother who is praised by all the churches for his service to the gospel.” (18)
  • Then Paul mentions ‘‘another trusted friend” The Message (22) as part of the ‘finance team’. ”He’s proved his dependability many times over and carries on as energetically as the day he started.” The Message.

Paul could say about the two men accompanying Titus, ”they are representatives of the churches and an honour to Christ.” (23). ”The brothers who travel with him are delegates from the churches, a real credit to Christ.” The Message.

So it is our responsibility to ensure that all who handle church money are of unblemished character without a sniff of suspicion surrounding them. We owe it to the world; we owe it to the church. Above all, we owe it to the Lord Himself.

Prayer: Thank you Lord that you have blessed us so that we can be generous. It is a privilege to give.

 

Daily Bible thoughts 631: Wednesday 4th June 2014:

2 Corinthians 8:8-15

When we tell true stories about the commitment and sacrifice shown by fellow-believers, we are not telling the people under our pastoral care what they must do (8). This is not about emotional manipulation or coercion. But a judicious use of such stories can stir up God’s people to be everything they can be in Him. Sometimes Christians are rocked to sleep in the devil’s ‘cradle’ and they don’t even know that they have ‘dozed off’. They need a wake up call. There are times when what is required is to be exposed to the challenge of red hot Christian lives. Followers of Jesus may get this inspiration by meeting those people who burn with intense love for Christ, or by reading about them, or even hearing about them. There are occasions when we who lead in the church have to, as it were, place the jigsaw box lid on the table where all the pieces are scattered. Then we can all see the picture we are trying to put together. As an apostle, Paul could have told the Corinthians what to do. Instead his approach was more subtle; he told them a story! When you become aware that your own performance is lacking, seeing what best practice looks like can motivate you to want to get there. If your love is ‘sincere’ it will stand comparison with ”the earnestness of others” and seek to rise to that level, and even surpass it. Once give a genuine Christian a vision of what ought to be, and he or she will no doubt aspire to it.

There is no greater example in the matter of Christian giving than that of Christ Himself (9). Stories of other Christians may inspire us, but no-one we know has given as Jesus did. He gave up (leaving the glory and wealth of heaven for a time: ”He was rich beyond our telling…” J.B.Phillips); He gave out (in a life of unstinting service to others); and He laid down (His life on the cross for the sins of the world.) No other has ever given like Jesus. Seek to copy Him by the power of the Holy Spirit.

It is possible in any area of the Christian life to make a good start, and then begin to flag in the middle section of the race (10, 11). This was how it had been with the Corinthians with reference to this collection for the poor Christians in Judea. They had shown great ”desire” to help in the fairly recent past, and had made a start with their giving. Paul wanted to motivate them to finish what they had started. Of course, he was expecting them to give according to their ”means” (11).

What Paul wanted to see was more of a level playing field in the church (11-15 cf. Ex.16:18), where those with more helped those with less. There is a strong sense of mutuality and interdependence in these words. We need each other. ”…the important thing is to be willing to give as much as we can – that is what God accepts, and no one is asked to give what he has not got. Of course, I don’t mean that others should be relieved to an extent that leaves you in distress. It is a matter of share and share alike. At present your plenty should supply their need, and then at some future date their plenty may supply your need.” J.B. Phillips.

Prayer: May I so live that my life will inspire others to ‘burn’ with love for Jesus.

 

Daily Bible thoughts 630: Tuesday 3rd June 2014:

2 Corinthians 8:1-7

There are times when we need to communicate good news to fellow Christians so that it will be an example and an encouragement to them. Let’s learn to tell each other true stories that will help to promote godliness. Paul had something to tell the Corinthians about the ”grace of giving”. Giving is a mark of God’s grace (1). It is a sure sign that He is at work. Wherever there is a work of God you find generosity of heart and action among God’s people. As the Baptist pastor, William Still , said when there is a deep work of the Word and the Spirit in a local church, the people of God ”will delve deeper into their pockets without anyone telling them, and the offerings will swell, and the question on everyone’s heart and mind will be: Lord, what wilt thou have me to do?” Letters of William Still, p.77. In (2; see Luke 21:4) you find a combination of ideas that you would not expect to see hanging out together: ”severe trial…extreme poverty…overflowing joy…rich generosity.” It undoubtedly took ”the grace that God has given” (1; see also 6, 7) to bring about such an outcome. ”Fierce troubles came down on the people of those churches, pushing them to the very limit. The trial exposed their true colors: They were incredibly happy, though desperately poor.” The Message. This giving was supernatural and miraculous. It certainly was an expression of God’s grace. They gave more than they could afford (3). No wonder Paul wanted the Corinthians to hear about them. He wanted to spur them on to ”love and good deeds.” (Hebrews 10:24). 2 Corinthians chapters 8 and 9 deal with the offering Paul was taking for the needy believers in Judea. The Corinthian church had signed up to help, but they had been dragging their feet (6, 7). Paul used this powerful (and true) ‘sermon illustration’ in order to re-motivate them. We can all be challenged and inspired by hearing about good things other Christians are doing, and we regularly need to be.

How we need to see giving as a ”privilege” (4). F.B. Meyer suggests one reason why Christians don’t give as they should is due to a mistrust of God, and a fear that one day the supplies may run dry. And then what? ”Probably there is no greater test of our true religion than our behaviour in giving. How few, comparatively, give in proportion to their income! How few give systematically! How few have learnt the joy and luxury of giving, so that they abound therein!” Great verses through the Bible, p428.
The key to becoming a generous believer is self-surrender to the Lord Jesus. Put yourself in the offering bag! Stand on the collection plate!! You won’t give your substance if you don’t first give yourself (5). If you’ve responded as you should to the Lordship of Jesus, you will see that everything you have is His, and you will want to use it as He directs. ”What explains it was that they had first given themselves unreservedly to God and to us. The other giving simply flowed out of the purposes of God working in their lives.” The Message. ”Pray day and night that you may abound in this grace also; and then, in faith that God is answering your prayer, begin to do violence to your churlish, niggard nature. What though it protest – Give!” F.B.Meyer: Great verses through the Bible, p.429.

Prayer: Lord help me to slay everything that belongs to my old nature, including the fear of lack, and the selfish desire to grip tightly to what isn’t mine.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Daily Bible Notes 621: Wednesday 21st May 2014:

2 Corinthians 7: 8-16

Leaders have to develop a toughness that is also tender, and it’s not always an easy line to tread. It is certainly a narrow one. How can you be firm when and where you need to be without at the same time becoming cruel and harsh? As we saw yesterday, and see again today, Paul was in turmoil over a severe letter he’d had to send to the church at Corinth. At the same time he was tough enough to write it and courageous enough to put it in the post. He was strong enough to say and do things that might hurt (although it was not his intention to hurt them) in order to see a God-honouring result. The ”Godly sorrow” his letter had caused them had led to ”repentance”. So all was well.

”I know I distressed you greatly with my letter. Although I felt awful at the time, I don’t feel at all bad now that I see how it turned out. The letter upset you, but only for a while. Now I’m glad – not that you were upset, but that you were jarred into turning things around. You let the distress bring you to God, not drive you from him…Distress that drives us to God does that. It turns us around. It gets us back in the way of salvation. We never regret that kind of pain. But those who let distress drive them away from God are full of regrets, end up on a deathbed of regrets. And now, isn’t it wonderful all the ways in which this distress has goaded you closer to God?” The Message.

‘Trust in God and do the right.’ There are times when a leader has to say to himself or herself, ‘Whatever anyone else is doing, I’m going to do the right thing in this set of circumstances.’ It may not be popular. It may not win you a lot of friends. But if you see people straying from God and His ways, and you try to bring them back to the fold, you can live with your conscience and sleep at night. Hopefully, as here, the outcome will be good. But whatever, you will always know that you showed the courage of your convictions.

A person’s response to confrontation and correction reveals a lot about their heart. Paul believed he knew what the Corinthians were really like at heart, and he had ”boasted” to Titus about them. They had not let him down (14). The seed sown by Paul had fallen into good soil (which was essentially his conviction about their hearts) and produced good fruit. How lovely it is when you meet people who ‘refresh’ you (13). I guess we all know what that feels like.

Maybe you are facing a difficult situation today. You have to say or do (perhaps both) something that is really tough. May God give you the courage to do the right thing, being willing to stand alone if necessary; and the courage to leave the outcome with Him.

Prayer: Lord, let me not be lacking in the courage department when backbone is what is required.

Daily Bible thoughts 620: Tuesday 20th May 2014

 2 Corinthians 7:2- 7

Is there someone you know who is downcast? How can you help them today, and enable their sagging spirits to soar? This passage provides a clue, and we’ll get to the answer shortly.

When you love someone you will not willingly harm them. You might have to hurt them for their good, by chastising them (Paul’s experience with the Corinthians: 8ff) but you wouldn’t wrong them by corrupting or exploiting them (2) or wilfully doing bad things to them. Although Paul had received unjust criticism from some of the Christians in Corinth, out of his great big heart towards them he just wanted to bless them (4). He is a powerful example of a magnanimous, forgiving spirit. Others might want to grub around in the dirt, but he took the high road.

When you are going through difficult seasons in life, nothing lifts your spirits more than to know that there are people who love and care for you, and who are genuinely interested in your welfare. (This was also Paul’s recent experience with the Corinthian church: 6, 7).

Many people will be able to identify with Paul’s words: ”When we arrived in Macedonia province, we couldn’t settle down. The fights in the church and the fears in our hearts kept us on pins and needles. We couldn’t relax because we didn’t know how it would turn out. Then the God who lifts up the downcast lifted our heads and our hearts with the arrival of Titus. We were glad just to see him, but the true assurance came in what he told us about you: how much you cared, how much you grieved, how concerned you were for me. I went from worry to tranquility in no time!” The Message.

(According to 2 Cor.2:12, 13, Paul had gone to Macedonia to meet Titus. The latter was on the return leg from Corinth, carrying with him news of the church there. Titus had earlier been the ‘postman’, carrying to them a severe letter from Paul, and the apostle was concerned about how they had reacted to this (2 Cor.2:3). Had they become angry and rejected him totally? Or had they repented and obeyed his admonitions as they did in the early days. Such questions were preoccupying his mind as he journeyed to Macedonia to find Titus. Thankfully, Titus was carrying news that was music to Paul’s ears: 6, 7). Church leadership is never easy, and at times can be excruciatingly painful. Remember the burdens leaders bear. Keep them in your hearts and prayers and regularly encourage them.

So here’s how to lift up someone’s drooping morale today (and it may be a leader. It could be a great general in the church like Paul.) Be a ‘Titus’ to them. Your very going to be with them will encourage them. And if you carry a message that they are loved and cared for and thought about you will be doing a great work for the Kingdom.

”Have you ever been an answer to someone’s prayers as Titus was?” Warren W. Wiersbe: With the Word, p.760

Prayer: Make me a channel of blessing today.

 

Daily Bible thoughts 611: Wednesday 7th May 2014:

 2 Corinthians 6:14 – 7:1

There are stark differences between Christians and non- Christians. This is spelled out in the contrasting descriptions given in (14-16). Believers and unbelievers belong to different kingdoms; vastly differing worlds. They don’t speak the same language. Therefore there are certain close relationships (what Paul refers to as being ”yoked together’’) that Christians should not enter into. Paul does not state precisely which he has in mind, but it has long been believed that marriage is a major example. How can you become one with someone who is ”darkness” when you are ”light in the Lord.’’? (Eph.5:8). The Christian in such a situation will usually reason/argue that he or she will win their partner over. Of course it can happen. But the normal flow of events is in the other direction. I heard that Spurgeon was in conversation with a girl from his church who proposed to enter such an unequal partnership. ‘But I’ll pull him up’, she protested. Spurgeon had her stand on a chair in the middle of the room. ‘You pull me up from there,’ he said. She couldn’t, of course. ‘Now let me show you how easy it is for me to pull you down!!’ It is not the case that we are to avoid friendships with people who do not share our faith. But any tying together of our lives is to be avoided. In such a relationship we will constantly pull apart and want to go off in different directions. There will have to be compromise to keep moving forward together, and the disciple of Christ must not compromise his beliefs or commitment to holiness (17 -7:1). The central truth here is that God lives in His church (16), among His people. He also lives in each of us (see 1 Corinthians chapters 3 and 6). We belong to God; we are not our own. Therefore we must put separation between ourselves and anything that would prevent us from fully living out the implications of this relationship. It is a privilege to be God’s people, but it also carries responsibilities.

”Don’t become partners with those who reject God. How can you make a partnership out of right and wrong? That’s not partnership; that’s war. Is light best friends with dark? Does Christ go strolling with the Devil?…Don’t link up with those who will pollute you. I want you all for myself…With promises like this to pull us on, dear friends, let’s make a clean break with everything that defiles or distracts us, both within and without. Let’s make our entire lives fit and holy temples for the worship of God.” The Message.

When you are wearing your best clothes you will do everything you can to avoid staining them or getting them dirty. As a Christian you have a responsibility to be even keener to avoid contact with moral filth. Remember always who you are and whose you are.

Prayer: Lord, if I am going to make a ‘’clean break’’ with everything that would stain my life – and I do want to – I will need your strength. I look to you to help me keep my clothes unstained this day.

 

Daily Bible thoughts 610: Tuesday 6th May 2014:

 2 Corinthians 5: 3-12

”We try to live in such a way that no one will be hindered from finding the Lord by the way we act, and so no one can find fault with our ministry. In everything we do we try to show that we are true ministers of God.” (3, 4a). Here you have a fine personal mission statement for every church leader to adopt. Paul recognised that it’s not just about speaking, but ‘living’, ‘acting’ and ‘showing’. If what people see in your conduct contradicts what you say in your sermons you are going to have a big credibility problem. Here, then, are some hallmarks to be found in a ministry of integrity:

  • Patience in troubles (4b, 5): Hardships will be faced by every faithful leader. It ‘goes with the territory’ as they say. Very few of us in the West know anything of the intensity of the difficulties faced by Paul and certain of his colleagues. But whatever comes our way will still be painful to us. Even if you are only run over by a single-decker bus (whereas Paul got hit by a double-decker), it’s still a bus and it will injure you. But patience in trying circumstances shows a vital connection with the Holy Spirit, as He grows His fruit in you.
  • Commitment to holiness (6): These character traits all speak of the presence and power of the Holy Spirit within you and show you to be the genuine article. It is possible to translate part of this verse as: ”We have proved ourselves by…the holiness of spirit.” It’s good to remember that no-one drifts into holiness. (Note in verse 7 how ”righteousness’ ‘ is both an offensive and defensive weapon. See Eph. 6:13)
  • Faithfully preaching God’s Word (7): There could be a temptation to go quiet and seek out a hiding place when you suffer so much for what you say.
  • God’s power at work in you (7b):
  • Serving as a good soldier of Jesus Christ (7c): You are willing to engage in the spiritual battle. You are not a ‘chocolate soldier’ who melts in the heat of the fight.
  • Serving whatever comes your way (8-10): Even though a gale is blowing against you, you keep on going into the teeth of the biting wind. Nothing can stop you because God has called you.

We can’t reproduce for ourselves the context in which Paul lived and served, nor would we want to. But where we are, where God has called us to be, let us determine, as leaders to be faithful in the way Paul was, so that the way we live is never a stumbling block to anyone.

Prayer: May my life never become a blockage, getting in the way of others who are seeking you Lord. I pray rather that I may be a clean channel through whom you can flow.

 

Daily Bible thoughts 604: Monday 28th April 2014:

 2 Corinthians 5:11- 6:2

At the heart of the Easter faith there is this stupendous truth, expressed in (21), which has been called ‘the great exchange.’ All our sin was laid on Jesus, and we are given His righteousness when we respond positively to the gospel call to”Be reconciled to God.” (20). Someone said that at the cross it was as if Jesus became the world’s greatest sinner. When a person chooses to be reconciled to God, He sees them as being as sinless as Jesus from that moment on. Their sins are no longer counted against them (19).It’s a totally unfair exchange, but it is one Christ is totally willing to make out of His compelling love for us (14). ”God put the wrong on him who never did anything wrong, so we could be put right with God.” The Message.

Once you become a Christian you realise that your life is no longer your own. You’ve been bought with a price (15). You don’t just get a new start in life, but a new life to start with (17). Conversion is not about turning over a new leaf but receiving a new life.So as a brand new person you are equipped to live in a radically different way to the glory of God.

Part of this living for Jesus is a recognition that you are His ‘ambassador’ (20), through whom God will speak to the world about the ”reconciliation” He has already brought about in Christ (18, 19). What has been achieved must now be announced. God has given to the church ”the ministry of reconcilation” (18) and ‘‘has committed to us the message of reconciliation” (19). An ambassador is the highest representative of one country in the heart of another. We are citizens of heaven (Phil.3: 20) but we represent our ‘Government’ and King here on earth. We are authorised to be here and speak for Him, although our ambassadorial message will not always be well received (Eph.6: 20).

So, as ambassadors we will speak. That is a non-negotiable part of our role. We will speak with a conviction that Christ died for all (14). We will recognise that the church therefore has a responsibility to go to all with this message. ”God has given us the task of telling everyone what he is doing.” The Message.

But our lives will also speak (11, 12). There will be no credibility gap between our talk and our walk. We will seek to live in a way that embodies our verbal message. As ambassadors we will experience criticism (13). There will be those who dismiss us as ‘fruit cakes’ and say all manner of bad things about us in order to discredit the message they obviously fear. We are to expect such treatment. If it doesn’t come our way, or not much of it, we must realise that this is an abnormal situation. We can also add that love (indeed Christ’s own love: 14) will be our ‘motive power’. This is what will cause us to get ‘steam up’ and move steadily forward.

Prayer: Thank you Lord Jesus for the fire of your love burning in my ‘boiler’. Cause that fire to blaze ever more furiously.

 

Daily Bible thoughts 597: Thursday 17th April 2014:

 2 Corinthians 5: 5 – 10

Eternal life begins the moment a person believes in Jesus. This is one of the key messages in John’s gospel. You don’t have to wait until you die to receive it. But it will only be fully entered into at death. So there will always be something of an aching and longing in our hearts while we reside on earth, because God has made us for a purpose that cannot be fully realised in this world of time and sense. We have been made for resurrection life; an eternity in God’s presence (5). In our DNA we know we have a higher purpose. He is the first instalment, the down payment of heaven. Someone said: ‘How do you know you’re going to heaven?’ The answer is: ‘You’ve got a little bit of heaven inside you right now!’ You have ‘heaven on the way to heaven’. A deposit is a part of the full amount and also a commitment that you will receive the remainder. It is a promise. Furthermore, the Holy Spirit is the ”deposit, guaranteeing what is to come.(On this subject see also 2 Cor.1:21, 22 and Eph.1:14). ”We’ve been given a glimpse of the real thing, our true home, our resurrection bodies! The Spirit of God whets our appetite by giving us a taste of what’s ahead. He puts a little of heaven in our hearts so that we’ll never settle for less. The Message.

Believing in this resurrection future and seeing it just over the horizon, makes the heart skip a beat. The conviction provides a confidence (6, 8) for while we are still living in this world. We have a sense, while we still live in the body that a day is coming when we will actually be in the glorious eternal presence of Jesus. (It is not surprising, then, to find Paul writing as he did in Phil. 1:21, 23, especially when you go on to read verse 8 in this chapter.)

”That’s why we live with such good cheer. You won’t see us drooping our heads or dragging our feet! Cramped conditions here don’t get us down. They only remind us of the spacious living conditions ahead.” The Message.

None of this can be proved in a scientific sense of course: ”We live by faith, not by sight. ” The world says, ”Seeing is believing” but the Christian says ”Believing is seeing.” Jesus can so prove Himself to you that ‘you know that you know that you know’ and can say, ”Therefore we are always confident…”

Whether we are in this world or the next, the whole purpose of life is to please Jesus, and we are going to be assessed and held accountable for how we have lived and served (9, 10). So not only does the thought of seeing Jesus provide an encouragement to cheerfully press on through everything we face on earth, it also acts as a moral spur to live straight and clean. This great hope we have is both exciting and sobering.

‘’When the time comes, we’ll be plenty ready to exchange exile for homecoming…Cheerfully pleasing God is the main thing, and that’s what we aim to do, regardless of our conditions.’’ The Message.

Prayer: Thank you risen Lord Jesus for this Easter hope. May it live in my heart every day of the year.

 

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