September 13, 2018
PAUL’S FINAL INSTRUCTIONS TO THE CORINTHIANS
Paul’s final instructions in his second letter to the Corinthians sought to correct the disharmony he had heard about. They were not submissive to his authority, they were spiritually immature, they struggled with grumbling and gossip. In this condition, the God of love and peace would refuse to be manifest in their midst.
When a church is marked by such things as the one in Corinth, the word, “Ichabod” (Hebrew: “No glory”), may as well be written over it. For the glory of God will not reside in such a gathering. It “grieves” (Eph. 4:30) the Spirit of God when His people are not acting in unity and love.
Remember how the Lord Jesus warned the church of Ephesus to repent or He would “remove their lampstand” (Rev. 2:5)? The lampstand is symbolic of God’s presence and glory, which is like a beacon of light that attracts people to Him.
Church, do you want the God of love and peace to shine His glorious light down upon you? Then, “Be joyful. Grow to maturity. Encourage each other. Live in harmony and peace.”
September 12, 2018
PAUL’S CONCERN. GOD’S CONCERN.
Paul’s second letter to the Corinthians expressed his concern and desire for the church he had planted there. He was planning to visit them for the third time, but he had heard many worrisome things about how they had not given up their “old sins.” He didn’t want his future visit to be one of difficult discipline, but of joyful reunion. Because he loved them like a father, he was ready to do either, but preferred the latter.
I think we see something of the Father’s heart in Paul’s parental care for the Corinthians. I wonder. If we would receive a letter from Jesus today, would it express similar concern? Would Jesus warn us that he is coming soon, expressing His concern that He won’t like what He finds?
September 11, 2018
CHRIST’S STRENGTH IN MY WEAKNESS
Paul told the Corinthians that he had learned to glory in his weaknesses, for it was in weakness that he had experienced the power of Christ at work in and through him. He had learned that real strength comes out of weakness which, distrustful of itself, gives itself up to God.
The weak learn to lean on God. Just as the Israelites in the wilderness learned to gather enough manna for the day, so we can learn to depend on Christ’s power for the troubles of today. The Lord will empower us to face each day when we call on Him, for the Scripture says, “As thy days, so shall thy strength be” (Deut. 33:25).
Do you own the strength and resources to accomplish the dreams God has given you? Then, your dreams are too small and your labors are too self-dependent. Yet God calls us to things too big for us to do without Him.
Paul’s pedigree was admitting his weakness and reliance on Christ’s power. He never claimed to be a hero. He lifted up Christ as the Hero!
Do you feel weak today? Don’t see it as an excuse for inaction, but as the perfect opportunity to call on Christ’s power!
September 10, 2018
THE PASTOR’S BURDEN
After listing many of the trials and tribulations he had endured as a church planter, the apostle Paul named the one constant concern that weighed on him–– his burden for the churches. Certainly, the Spirit of the Lord strengthened Paul to carry this burden, yet it was the Lord that gave it to him in the first place.
Just as Jesus had told Peter, “If you love me, feed my sheep.” So, Paul keenly felt this same calling.
It was the apostle Peter who wrote this instruction to pastors: “Care for the flock that God has entrusted to you” (1 Peter 5:2). Paul felt this pastor’s burden. And so does every pastor today that is called of God and seeks to please Him by caring for His sheep.
September 7, 2018
LIVING THE LIFE OF THE OPEN HAND
Why does God give us surplus? Is it so that we can store it up, depending on the surplus, rather than God? Certainly not! Why then? Paul taught the wealthy Corinthians that God had enriched them so they could always be generous, living a lifestyle of continuous generosity. God’s generosity should create generosity in us!
The greatest generosity is found in God, who freely gave us His Son as payment for our sins. The gospel is God’s generosity on display. As Paul wrote to the Romans, “Since he did not spare even his own Son but gave him up for us all, won’t he also give us everything else?” (Rom. 8:32).
God’s surplus is for our generosity. As Jesus said, “Freely you have received, freely give” (Matt. 10:8). This is the life of the open hand–– one hand open to God freely receiving, the other hand open to others freely giving.
September 6, 2018
WHO IS THIS GOSPEL PREACHING BROTHER?
Paul told the Corinthians that he was sending Titus and “another brother” to them to collect the Jerusalem offering. Who was this brother whom “all the churches” praised for his gospel preaching? It is impossible to know for sure, but Luke is a likely candidate. He was a constant companion of Paul and he was the author of the Gospel of Luke. His Gospel may have already started to circulate among the churches, making him a renowned member of Paul’s team and perhaps the reason for Paul keeping him anonymous.
John Mark, author of the Gospel according to Mark, is another candidate. Although Paul didn’t want to travel with him after he went home early on their first missionary journey, they were later reconciled as evidenced in Paul’s reference to him in 1 Timothy 4:11.
Other possible well known gospel preachers that were companions of Paul include Apollos and Barnabas. But the truth is, the identity of the brother that Paul sent with Titus remains unknown, as does Paul’s reason for anonymity.
This unnamed brother was highly respected not only for his gospel preaching, but also for his integrity, for Paul went on to say that “he was appointed by the churches to accompany us as we take the offering to Jerusalem” (2 Cor. 8:19). In other words, he was the trustee appointed to verify that the monies collected for Jerusalem were actually delivered as promised.
Whoever this brother was, he was highly respected both for his gospel preaching and his great integrity.
September 5, 2018
FINANCIALLY POOR YET RICH IN JOY AND GENEROSITY!
Paul commended the churches of Macedonia for their amazing generosity. For although they were very poor, they were very joyful and insisted on giving generously to the offering Paul was collecting for Jerusalem.
God often chooses the poor to accomplish great things. For they readily depend on Him and easily give Him all the credit. When people gain even a little wealth, they tend to depend on it, rather than God. Of course, being poor does not automatically make one more spiritual. A poor person can be as grumpy and miserly as a rich one. Yet, riches of any amount, can become idolatrous to the one who depends on them.
Generosity is the mark of one who recognizes God as the source of all they have and depends on Him for all they need. Joy and generosity go together.
September 4, 2018
PAIN PRECEDES REPENTANCE
Paul’s first letter to the Corinthians was the most corrective of all his epistles. He was sorrowful to send it, knowing the pain it would cause. However, when he heard from Titus how the Corinthians had repented and changed their ways, he was overjoyed. He observed a spiritual truth: Pain precedes repentance.
Worldly sorrow comes from having been caught. It does not result in repentance, which is both a change of mind and of conduct. But godly sorrow results in true repentance, so that both mind and conduct are changed.
Paul didn’t want to hurt the Corinthians, but he loved them enough to correct them, causing them a little pain, but with great result. His correction was aimed at their repentance. And he was overjoyed to see their godly response.
September 3, 2018
THE POWER OF ENCOURAGEMENT
Paul told the Corinthians that the encouragement that Titus brought from his visit with them filled him with great joy. In the midst of both external and internal conflict in Macedonia, news of the Corinthians’ repentance and love for him, was just the medicine he needed.
Paul attributed this encouraging news to the Lord, who is the God of encouragement. God doesn’t always relieve the conflict, but at just the right time, when our discouragement seems too great to bear, He sends encouragement.
Have you ever “faced conflict from every direction?” Voices on the outside, tearing your down? Voices on the inside that you can’t escape, keeping you from sleep, so that you get no rest? Anyone in ministry for any length of time has experienced “battles on the outside and fear on the inside.” Yet, the Lord is faithful. He sends encouragement to those who are discouraged. God sends a Titus at just the right time, so that we don’t give up.
Do you need a visit from one of God’s encouragers? Or is God calling you to be a “Titus,” to go and encourage a discouraged brother or sister today? There is great power in godly encouragement.
September 2, 2018
DOES YOUR WAY OF LIFE HELP OR HINDER YOUR WITNESS?
Paul told the Corinthians that he and his ministry team were careful to live in such a way that wouldn’t cause people to stumble. He wanted his life to match his message. He reminded the Corinthians of this because they were so easily swayed by fancy words without considering the character and conduct of the speaker.
The reason the world often accuses the church of being filled with hypocrites is because our way of life does not match our message. If we are to reach the next generation, we must heed Paul’s words. We are not called to be perfect. Only Jesus was sinless. But we can be real. We can be authentic and humble, loving and forgiving one another, so that our way of life points to Christ.