2Corinthians 13 “Do I Have to?”
When children are being disciplined they are often sent to their rooms to “think about it.” Paul is saying to his beloved Corinthian children to think about their faith and their character as a child of God. A child is still a parent’s child but they are to think about their actions as related to their status. The Corinthians were to examine themselves, not for their salvation, for Paul had affirmed that over and over. They were to be fruit inspectors and examine or test themselves ‘in the faith.’
So how does one test to see if you are in the faith?
This is not a list of “do’s and don’ts’. Instead Paul infers that one must check one’s lifestyle that is apparent to all. We could begin in Matthew 5 with the “Be-Attitudes.” As kingdom people we are to demonstrate kingdom character qualities: poor in spirit, mourning over personal sin, meekness under pressure, hungering and thirsting for righteousness. These character qualities are observable in kingdom people’s conduct: merciful to others, pure in heart; and being a peacemaker. As others observe our character and our conduct they can see that we are God’s child because we have been anointed by the Holy Spirit with His fruit: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.
Beloved, you are not being “sent to your room” because you need to check your status as God’s child, but you are being asked to examine your life according to the character of God. How do you stack up?
I have struggled with what Paul wrote to the Philippians when he wrote: “I have learned to be content in any circumstance…I have learned the secret of contentment.” How does one “learn” contentment?
I think I found the clue here in 2Corinthians 12. The background: Some spiritually proud “super apostles” sought to lead the Corinthians astray. Paul knew what they were saying behind his back; he is not becoming in appearance and he isn’t eloquent. What they had not known, and up to this time Paul had not shared, was that 14 years prior to this he had (for lack of better words) an “out of body” experience. Consider this; these so-called super apostles often boasted about their so-called revelations, but, Paul did not. In fact it was not until he had heard enough that he shared what had transpired to keep him humble.
Paul is saying “fast forward” now 14 yrs later. Let me share with you what happened ‘after’ my experience. I was given a thorn in the flesh, a messenger of Satan to keep me from spiritual pride; unlike these who had infiltrated the church. It was real; it was painful. I sought at least 3 times to have it removed but Christ said emphatically “no;” I have given you my grace of supernatural enablement.
And now Paul explains the secret of his contentment. He learned that a no answer is not the end but the beginning. A no answer meant that Christ would be his sufficiency in times he would need it most. It meant that the grace he had received was not ‘just enough’ but ‘more than enough.’ It is like the miracle of the loaves and fish. When in need, Christ provided not just enough but abundantly and that is what Christ did for Paul. And that is what Christ will do for you and for me.
The lesson for me, and perhaps you, is that Christ will provide just what I need at just the right time. Contentment is not a one time exercise but an on-going step by step, daily exercise. His grace is truly sufficient.
We have heard it said over and over and over: you are judging and that is wrong. Now to be sure there are times when we are to judge and to judge righteously when we discern error. However, in this chapter Paul over and over and over is trying to get our attention that when we judge or criticize another’s spiritual walk we have crossed the no-man’s zone of hypocrisy.
Paul asks “who are you to judge the servant of another?” and “why do you judge your brother?” And in the context of this discussion Paul is referring to three non-essentials of food, days and drink. Not one of these will keep us from heaven’s door but alone or together they may cause a brother/sister to stumble in their walk with Jesus. The problem is us not them. We have this urge to change others rather than accepting them as they are. Instead of a gentle quiet spirit we become a gonging cymbal as we beat our drum of “no, no, no” to those who may not be at the same maturity level as us all the while forgetting two essentials:
- We all will stand before God to give an accounting
- We will give an account of every idle word we have spoken
What we need to remember is that God looks not on the outward man as we do but on his heart. Let’s let God do the judging and we do the accepting lest we scar hearts God has already healed.
In chapter 3 Paul reminded the Jew that no one is saved apart from the grace and mercy of God. Yet they and the world would have it otherwise and heap rewards and boastings upon those who seek to earn God’s favor through works. The prophet Isaiah said our works are as filthy rags; later Paul would say they are dung. Their foundation lies in the life of Abraham and therefore they conclude as his children they are justified by works. Paul, as a righteous Jew, sought to put this argument to rest.
Workers of the Law can boast having done not only what was expected but what is required. But if you don’t work the works of the Law but believe in what merely God says you receive grace and eternal life. You cannot take credit for a gift that is of God alone. That is what salvation is all about; a free gift undeserved. The key is this: Abraham did not believe “IN” God but he believed God. The world says I believe in a God, but Paul says you must not just believe “IN” but believe God.
So now the world asks, what about the works as James says. Both Paul and James affirm that works reveal the grace that we have received. They demonstrate our gratitude for the gift of God’s blessed forgiveness of our lawless deeds.
Are you depending upon your works heritage to get into heaven? If so, turn around and go the other way for you are on the wrong path.
Photo: Unsplash/Jordan Whitefield
Waiting is probably one of the hardest things for me to do. In fact, I find exasperating. If truth be known I tend to fret, fume and frame my words to show exactly how I am handling this when answers do not come as quickly as I think they should. Can you relate? Perhaps the psalmist had this problem and why he begins his prayer with these words and echoes them again later: “Wait in silence—For God alone I patiently wait.”
How does one wait? What do you do while you wait? Is silence hard for you as it is for me?
The psalmist began to meditate upon the God whom he knew and trusted. “He alone is my protector and deliverer.” The Apostle Paul knew how to wait in times of distress; persecution; famine and all other kinds of things that the archenemy planned for his destruction. Both the psalmist and Paul counted on this truth: “in all these things we have complete victory through him who loved us.”
We can wait because God is immoveable as a rock, steadfastly implanted in our frame. Yet often, like Elijah, I am so impatient to know God’s plans. I must remind myself to be still and know that until I hear the still small voice of God I will not know His plans for me.
“Hear, O Israel, the Lord our God, the Lord is one.” He was sovereign at the beginning and he has not ceased to be. He is rock, salvation, defender, refuge and glory because all power belongs to Him.
Lately, I have been challenged by some of my reading to pray through the scriptures each day as I prepare my heart. It has been more than fulfilling and alarming. As the Holy Spirit speaks he strips away my facade and I find areas that need to be cleansed and corrected.
Today I was touched by Paul’s 10th chapter of 2Corinthians. Most commentators speak of his appealing to the Corinthians to listen carefully to him as he pours out his heart. But, as I was praying the Holy Spirit impressed upon me this thought: if my quiver is not full of those arrows which are anointed by the Holy Spirit it really does not matter what I do or say or pray. None of it is effective as I walk and talk in this world. It is essential to live a consistent lifestyle. Listen to Paul: “What we say by letters when we are absent, we also are in actions when we are present.” A consistent lifestyle begins at the foot of the cross. As I was closing my time in prayer, I came away refreshed and reinvigorated to pull out my quiver and re-fill it with the arrows of memorized verses that will help me shoot the enemy when he comes attacking. Also, once again I was reminded that I will be less of a target my mind is consistently bathed in the Word of God.
Also as I was pondering all of this I came away with this thought: Jesus Christ was able to quench the fiery darts of the enemy with the Word of God in his most difficult trial because his quiver had been filled by the angelic host as he prayed in the Garden. Thus, he could “take every thought captive” and thus take down “every arrogant obstacle that is raised up against the knowledge of God.” Our enemy is wily, he is deceptive and he is roaming about seeking whom he can devour. He comes boldly into my presence but if my quiver is full I can draw out just the right arrow to thwart his advance. I may not be able to take him down, but I can inflict my own “deadly d’s” to destroy his advance. He cannot fight against the Word of God.
Are my arrows anointed by the power of the Holy Spirit?
In today’s world we see the youth conforming to their culture in dress, word and actions. Mid-life adults are conforming to the ways of their culture which includes their employment and their social structure. In light of all of this we come to Romans 12 and Paul earnestly implores us to not be a conformer. What is he saying to all of us?
Paul appeals to the believer to take a step outside their comfort zone and walk the Via Delorosa with Christ for as he offered himself willingly so should we. This is not a command but an appeal: present ourselves as a gift offering; not as a dead sacrifice with the blood poured out but rather as alive so that we might be of service in His kingdom here until He calls us home. This is how we offer ourselves back to Him in thankfulness and gratitude. In addition to we are to be holy, set apart, devoted and consecrated for we are sealed with the promise of the Holy Spirit. And this Beloved is pleasing to God. The effect of the burnt offering was to atone but Paul is earnestly imploring us to be a living sacrifice consumed not by fire but by the love of God, totally transformed from what we were to what He would have us to become.
So practically how do we accomplish this—this sacrifice, non-conformity to our culture and the ways of the world and how are we transformed so that we are only conforming to God’s ways? It all begins here Beloved: “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be satisfied.” [Mt 5]We must make a choice and that choice determines if we follow the world or we follow Christ. What will it be?
Now we enter Romans 11 and Paul continues his argument to draw the Jew into realizing that Jesus was the Messiah and this is why they should believe. He would be willing if he could to offer his own salvation for them. His heart was not only broken but soft as he saw them dying and entering a Christ-less eternity. In Rom 11 he continues his argument reminding them that God has not abandoned them “For the gifts and the call of God are irrevocable.” But, because they are still wandering in the wilderness as their ancestors, God has opened wide the door to salvation for the Gentiles and will continue to let the unbelieving Jew sadly harden their hearts until the fullness of the Gentiles is complete.
Can we find any promises in all of this? First there was and always will be a remnant who have bowed the knee and called Jesus Lord of all! Second God is faithful to the end because he is a promise keeper. Thirdly we cannot even begin to understand the plan of God and must trust in this truth: the “secret things belong to the Lord our God, but those that are revealed belong to us and our descendants.” And here is the reason why: “Oh, the depth of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are his judgments and how fathomless his ways!”
The question before us is this: Will we believe that Jesus was the Messiah? Romans is a classic legal argument as to why.
Piper’s series on Romans is a must to read and know more. You can find him at http://www.desiringgod.org/
In Romans 9 we saw the broken heart of Paul but today we want to focus in on the heart of those, that is you and me, who bear the message of salvation and we stand at a crossroads in Romans 10.
The question is this: is it all about me first? I think it is and here is why I think that. It begins with a soft heart of the messenger, you and me, to share the overwhelming evidence of the love of God and it first begins in chapter 1 “ For since the creation of the world his invisible attributes – his eternal power and divine nature – have been clearly seen, because they are understood through what has been made.” Then you and I must recall the challenge that Jesus left us: You should go, make disciples, baptize them and teach them. [Matt 28 paraphrased] And lastly we must also think outside our comfort zone and ask these questions: “How are they to call on one they have not believed in? And how are they to believe in one they have not heard of? And how are they to hear without someone preaching to them? And how are they to preach unless they are sent?”
Are our hearts soft so we are aware of those who still need to hear? Are we being obedient to go or are we waiting on the “call”? The call has been given and here is the promise: As it is written, “so faith comes from hearing and hearing through the word of Christ.” and “How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news!” They hear what we proclaim: Christ came, Christ died, Christ rose again so that “everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.”
So in the end it really is about “you and me” first because until our heart is as burdened as Paul’s we will not move out of our comfort zones into the lost realm where Satan has a hold on the souls of those lost.
Jeremiah noted that we have lived so long in our sinful state that we don’t even blush at sin! Yet as he reminded the people they were standing at a crossroads and they should consider their path.[Jer 6] Paul is giving us similar advice by saying that we are not to remain in sin for we are now alive in Christ not because “works of righteousness that we have done but on the basis of his mercy, through the washing of the new birth and the renewing of the Holy Spirit. “ [Titus 3] Sin now has no mastery over us UNLESS we purposefully yield to it. Beloved we are to “not let sin reign…do not present your members to sin as instruments to be used for unrighteousness!”
If we do the words of John should echo in our ears: “The one who says “I have come to know God” and yet does not keep his commandments is a liar, and the truth is not in such a person.” So the test is really this: if we are living, moving, and enjoying sin we might want to check our status and see if we are living a life that is merely a charade because he who is alive in Christ “is a new creation; what is old has passed away –“ [2Co 5] and dead people do not sin.