2 Corinthians Part One Dive
BE A YET CHRISTIAN
Paul addresses something in 2 Corinthians that I am very passionate about. What does a life, blessed by God look like? Most of us would say, married, two kids and a cute dog, perfect car, gorgeous house that God gave you at a bargain price, no sickness, blessed to be a blessing financially and nothing ever going wrong because if it does go wrong, you have done something wrong.
I grew up with the mindset that if something went wrong in your life, then you did something wrong, you sinned, or you failed. So I would panic when hardships and persecutions came, I would panic that I did something wrong, if I was sick or if I was persecuted I would spend my prayer life pleading with God to show me what I did wrong. I was supposed to live a blessed, perfect and fuss-free life dancing through the tulips in God’s favour and blessing until the moment he took me home on my own white cloud with a harp and choir singing loudly! But let’s be honest life is not like that. And Paul addresses this myth in 2 Corinthians. Paul is in trouble again with the Corinthians because he changed his plans and if he was truly an apostle of God he would have heard clearly from God and not changed his plans, he is also in trouble because he is constantly suffering and a true apostle never suffers. Can I just say who the heck are these Corinthians listening too, but then again who the heck are we listening to as our society says the same thing!
IF HE WAS A TRUE APOSTLE HE WOULDN’T CHANGE HIS PLANS
Anyway, Paul addresses the first issue quite calmly in 1:12 – 2:14 have a read, it is so great!
1:17 Was I fickle when I intended to do this? Or do I make my plans in a worldly manner so that in the same breath I say both “Yes, yes” and “No, no”? But as surely as God is faithful, our message to you is not.
1:23 I call God as my witness – and I stake my life on it – that it was in order to spare you that I did not return to Corinth.
IF HE WAS A TRUE APOSTLE HE WOULDN’T SUFFER
He then picks up the issue that if you are not healthy, wealthy and wise, you are not a true Apostle. And he doesn’t hold back, he shows them that when you are crushed on every side, struck down, shipwrecked, flogged, pelted with stones, cold and naked - that is the sign of a true follower of Christ, because those who are doing the most for Christ know that when you are weak, he is strong and he boasts in these things. Let’s have a look, highlight these in your Bible:
4:8 We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed but not in despair; persecuted but not abandoned, struck down, but not destroyed.
6:4 Rather, as servants of God we commend ourselves in every way; in great endurance; in troubles, hardships and distresses, in beatings, imprisonments and riots, in hard work, sleepless nights; in purity, understanding, patience and kindness; in the Holy Spirit and in sincere love; in truthful speech and in the power of God; with weapons of righteousness in the right hand and in the left; through glory and dishonour, bad report and good report; genuine, yet regarded as impostors; known, yet regarded as unknown, dying and yet we live on; beaten, and yet not killed, sorrowful, yet always rejoicing; poor, yet making many rich; having nothing; and yet possessing everything!
BE A YET CHRISTIAN!!!
How great is that scripture – be a YET Christian! Sick YET still praising God, in prison YET still rejoicing, beaten YET worshipping. I LOVE Paul, beaten YET not killed! We need some inner warrior to come on the inside of us when persecution come against us that says – I’M A YET CHRISTIAN. Suffering YET I will go to church, pressed YET not defeated!!
This man didn’t let the comfort of life or his natural circumstances determine whether he was called by God, an Apostle or in the blessing of God or not. His circumstances didn’t determine to him if God loved him or was for him or against him, to this man nothing could separate him from that love, and circumstances were part of life but his calling, God’s love for him and his security in Jesus was always strong no matter what he had to face for preaching the gospel!
I want this kind of resilience in my Christian life - don’t you! But it doesn’t stop there he boasts again in all of his hardships – imagine this moment in church. “So today in Church we are celebrating Fred – who was whipped this week for the gospel message, Fred can’t be with us today as he is currently in prison, but he sends his thanks and gratitude for your prayers and this great honour of being Christian of the week!!” How cool would that be!
Now you have to remember when you read Corinthians that the people Paul is addressing, the false teachers that are causing all of this mess, are probably in the congregation listening to this letter as Paul directly rebukes them:
11:5 I do not think I am in the least inferior to those “super-apostles.” … 11:13 For such people are false apostles, deceitful workers, masquerading as apostles of Christ.
NOW HE IS BOASTING IN HIS SUFFERINGS AND WEAKNESSES!
But Paul is not finished, he has his final blow, and he boasts in what he considers his greatest triumphs check it out:
Paul starts 11:21-33
Whatever anyone else dares to boast about—I am speaking as a fool—I also dare to boast about. 22 Are they Hebrews? So am I. Are they Israelites? So am I. Are they Abraham’s descendants? So am I. 23 Are they servants of Christ? (I am out of my mind to talk like this.) I am more. I have worked much harder, been in prison more frequently, been flogged more severely, and been exposed to death again and again. 24 Five times I received from the Jews the forty lashes minus one.25 Three times I was beaten with rods, once I was pelted with stones, three times I was shipwrecked, I spent a night and a day in the open sea, 26 I have been constantly on the move. I have been in danger from rivers, in danger from bandits, in danger from my fellow Jews, in danger from Gentiles; in danger in the city, in danger in the country, in danger at sea; and in danger from false believers. 27 I have labored and toiled and have often gone without sleep; I have known hunger and thirst and have often gone without food; I have been cold and naked.28 Besides everything else, I face daily the pressure of my concern for all the churches. 29 Who is weak, and I do not feel weak? Who is led into sin, and I do not inwardly burn?
30 If I must boast, I will boast of the things that show my weakness. 31 The God and Father of the Lord Jesus, who is to be praised forever, knows that I am not lying. 32 In Damascus the governor under King Aretas had the city of the Damascenes guarded in order to arrest me. 33 But I was lowered in a basket from a window in the wall and slipped through his hands. I must go on boasting.
Imagine our churches encouraging those who are suffering for Christ and honouring them, rather than treating them like they are being punished or have sinned in some way. Imagine boasting in our weaknesses, not for attention or comfort but because when we are weak God is strong! This is topsy-turvy New Testament thinking again! “If I must boast, I will boast of the things that show my weakness.”
ARE YOU KIDDING ME – YOU HAVE BEEN TO HEAVEN!
After this incredibly long list of things he has suffered for Christ, he randomly puts in a strange story about a man that went to heaven and this man is him. Wouldn’t you have led with that, wouldn’t that be your first story to show you are an apostle – dude you went to heaven and not only that you were given inexpressible things that you are not permitted to say! No not Paul, he boasts about his sufferings and then finishes them off with one swift punch – oh and by the way I went to heaven!!
I mean Paul knows how to win an argument, his qualification in a life blessed is his suffering, it shows he is effective for the gospel, obedient to the voice of the Holy Spirit and being persecuted because of it, suffering because of it, rejoicing through all of it, keeping his hope through all of it, continuing to love God through all of it and running the race set before him!
He finishes on this and so will I
12:8-10 Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from me. But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. That is why, for Christ’s sake I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.
Maybe so should we!!
1&2 Corinthians part Three