December 4, 2007
II Corinthians 1-4
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Paul, an apostle of Jesus Christ by the will of God, and Timothy our brother, unto the church of God which is at Corinth, with all the saints which are in all Achaia:
Grace be to you and peace from God our Father, and from the Lord Jesus Christ.
Blessed be God, even the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies, and the God of all comfort;
Who comforteth us in all our tribulation, that we may be able to comfort them which are in any trouble, by the comfort wherewith we ourselves are comforted of God.
For as the sufferings of Christ abound in us, so our consolation also aboundeth by Christ.
And whether we be afflicted, it is for your consolation and salvation, which is effectual in the enduring of the same sufferings which we also suffer: or whether we be comforted, it is for your consolation and salvation.
And our hope of you is stedfast, knowing, that as ye are partakers of the sufferings, so shall ye be also of the consolation.
For we would not, brethren, have you ignorant of our trouble which came to us in Asia, that we were pressed out of measure, above strength, insomuch that we despaired even of life:
But we had the sentence of death in ourselves, that we should not trust in ourselves, but in God which raiseth the dead:
Who delivered us from so great a death, and doth deliver: in whom we trust that he will yet deliver us;
Ye also helping together by prayer for us, that for the gift bestowed upon us by the means of many persons thanks may be given by many on our behalf.
For our rejoicing is this, the testimony of our conscience, that in simplicity and godly sincerity, not with fleshly wisdom, but by the grace of God, we have had our conversation in the world, and more abundantly to you-ward.
For we write none other things unto you, than what ye read or acknowledge; and I trust ye shall acknowledge even to the end;
As also ye have acknowledged us in part, that we are your rejoicing, even as ye also are ours in the day of the Lord Jesus.
And in this confidence I was minded to come unto you before, that ye might have a second benefit;
And to pass by you into Macedonia, and to come again out of Macedonia unto you, and of you to be brought on my way toward Judaea.
When I therefore was thus minded, did I use lightness? or the things that I purpose, do I purpose according to the flesh, that with me there should be yea yea, and nay nay?
But as God is true, our word toward you was not yea and nay.
For the Son of God, Jesus Christ, who was preached among you by us, even by me and Silvanus and Timotheus, was not yea and nay, but in him was yea.
For all the promises of God in him are yea, and in him Amen, unto the glory of God by us.
Now he which stablisheth us with you in Christ, and hath anointed us, is God;
Who hath also sealed us, and given the earnest of the Spirit in our hearts.
Moreover I call God for a record upon my soul, that to spare you I came not as yet unto Corinth.
Not for that we have dominion over your faith, but are helpers of your joy: for by faith ye stand.
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But I determined this with myself, that I would not come again to you in heaviness.
For if I make you sorry, who is he then that maketh me glad, but the same which is made sorry by me?
And I wrote this same unto you, lest, when I came, I should have sorrow from them of whom I ought to rejoice; having confidence in you all, that my joy is the joy of you all.
For out of much affliction and anguish of heart I wrote unto you with many tears; not that ye should be grieved, but that ye might know the love which I have more abundantly unto you.
But if any have caused grief, he hath not grieved me, but in part: that I may not overcharge you all.
Sufficient to such a man is this punishment, which was inflicted of many.
So that contrariwise ye ought rather to forgive him, and comfort him, lest perhaps such a one should be swallowed up with overmuch sorrow.
Wherefore I beseech you that ye would confirm your love toward him.
For to this end also did I write, that I might know the proof of you, whether ye be obedient in all things.
To whom ye forgive any thing, I forgive also: for if I forgave any thing, to whom I forgave it, for your sakes forgave I it in the person of Christ;
Lest Satan should get an advantage of us: for we are not ignorant of his devices.
Furthermore, when I came to Troas to preach Christ's gospel, and a door was opened unto me of the Lord,
I had no rest in my spirit, because I found not Titus my brother: but taking my leave of them, I went from thence into Macedonia.
Now thanks be unto God, which always causeth us to triumph in Christ, and maketh manifest the savour of his knowledge by us in every place.
For we are unto God a sweet savour of Christ, in them that are saved, and in them that perish:
To the one we are the savour of death unto death; and to the other the savour of life unto life. And who is sufficient for these things?
For we are not as many, which corrupt the word of God: but as of sincerity, but as of God, in the sight of God speak we in Christ.
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Do we begin again to commend ourselves? or need we, as some others, epistles of commendation to you, or letters of commendation from you?
Ye are our epistle written in our hearts, known and read of all men:
Forasmuch as ye are manifestly declared to be the epistle of Christ ministered by us, written not with ink, but with the Spirit of the living God; not in tables of stone, but in fleshy tables of the heart.
And such trust have we through Christ to God-ward:
Not that we are sufficient of ourselves to think any thing as of ourselves; but our sufficiency is of God;
Who also hath made us able ministers of the new testament; not of the letter, but of the spirit: for the letter killeth, but the spirit giveth life.
But if the ministration of death, written and engraven in stones, was glorious, so that the children of Israel could not stedfastly behold the face of Moses for the glory of his countenance; which glory was to be done away:
How shall not the ministration of the spirit be rather glorious?
For if the ministration of condemnation be glory, much more doth the ministration of righteousness exceed in glory.
For even that which was made glorious had no glory in this respect, by reason of the glory that excelleth.
For if that which is done away was glorious, much more that which remaineth is glorious.
Seeing then that we have such hope, we use great plainness of speech:
And not as Moses, which put a vail over his face, that the children of Israel could not stedfastly look to the end of that which is abolished:
But their minds were blinded: for until this day remaineth the same vail untaken away in the reading of the old testament; which vail is done away in Christ.
But even unto this day, when Moses is read, the vail is upon their heart.
Nevertheless when it shall turn to the Lord, the vail shall be taken away.
Now the Lord is that Spirit: and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty.
But we all, with open face beholding as in a glass the glory of the Lord, are changed into the same image from glory to glory, even as by the Spirit of the Lord.
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Therefore seeing we have this ministry, as we have received mercy, we faint not;
But have renounced the hidden things of dishonesty, not walking in craftiness, nor handling the word of God deceitfully; but by manifestation of the truth commending ourselves to every man's conscience in the sight of God.
But if our gospel be hid, it is hid to them that are lost:
In whom the god of this world hath blinded the minds of them which believe not, lest the light of the glorious gospel of Christ, who is the image of God, should shine unto them.
For we preach not ourselves, but Christ Jesus the Lord; and ourselves your servants for Jesus' sake.
For God, who commanded the light to shine out of darkness, hath shined in our hearts, to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.
But we have this treasure in earthen vessels, that the excellency of the power may be of God, and not of us.
We are troubled on every side, yet not distressed; we are perplexed, but not in despair;
Persecuted, but not forsaken; cast down, but not destroyed;
Always bearing about in the body the dying of the Lord Jesus, that the life also of Jesus might be made manifest in our body.
For we which live are alway delivered unto death for Jesus' sake, that the life also of Jesus might be made manifest in our mortal flesh.
So then death worketh in us, but life in you.
We having the same spirit of faith, according as it is written, I believed, and therefore have I spoken; we also believe, and therefore speak;
Knowing that he which raised up the Lord Jesus shall raise up us also by Jesus, and shall present us with you.
For all things are for your sakes, that the abundant grace might through the thanksgiving of many redound to the glory of God.
For which cause we faint not; but though our outward man perish, yet the inward man is renewed day by day.
For our light affliction, which is but for a moment, worketh for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory;
While we look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen: for the things which are seen are temporal; but the things which are not seen are eternal.
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Thought for the day:
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Paul gives encouragement to the Corinthian believers at the end of chapter 4. His words of comfort are not fanciful, but realistic. He does not tell them that their problems aren't a big deal, or that they don't really exist. He acknowledges that there are difficulties and heartaches in the Christian life, but he challenges the Christians to hang in there anyway.
In verse 7 Paul says that gospel and the knowledge of the glory of God are wonderful treasures that every child of God possesses. However, he adds that we have this treasure "in earthen vessels". By this he means that in spite of what we may have spiritually, we still have frail bodies that grow sick and suffer pain. We have human minds that suffer loneliness and fear. We have emotions that can be grieved and feelings that can be hurt. Paul does not view this as a negative, however, for he states that our weakness can only exalt the majesty and power of God. Since He is the only One worthy of praise, and since it is human nature to desire praise, God assists our humility by giving us earthen vessels in which to function and serve. Paul then lists off some of the problems that he, and all of us, face. He mentions, trouble, perplexity, persecution, and being cast down. Every believer who has attempted to live for the Lord has faced these same issues. Troubles exist throughout life, and we often don't know which direction to turn. When we try to stand for Christ people will abuse us and throw us to the side. Yet Paul says that these things do not have to ruin us. In fact, some of this is necessary to make us more like Christ, which will in turn allow Christ to shine through us to those that we come in contact with. Even if we have to face the possibility of physical death because of our witness, the reality is that through our death the teaching of salvation by grace through faith in the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus will go forth with power.
In verse 14 Paul begins to discuss the ultimate reward for the believer, which is also the ultimate source of encouragement. He reminds the Corinthians that the same God Who raised Jesus from the dead has promised to raise His children as well. This knowledge should renew the spirit of the believer on a daily basis. Simply looking at life as it is here on earth could cause a Christian to give up, but looking forward to the future that the Lord will provide for us will keep us from fainting. Paul refers to the difficulties of life as "light affliction". This is also a promise. Sometimes we start to think that our lives are really miserable, and that no one else has ever had to put up with the problems that we have. We may decide that our problems are so severe that we can't deal with them anymore. But Paul says that they are not only "light affliction", but they also exist for only a brief amount of time. If we will determine to stand strong in the face of these things, then they work in us a "far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory".
Paul summarizes the key to victory over fainting in verse 18. He tells the Corinthians to stop looking at the physical world and start looking at the spiritual world. That which can be seen only lasts for a short time, but spiritual things last for eternity. Thus, the believer is instructed to not worry about the problems that keep him from serving God, but rather to focus on the spiritual victories that he can help others to win, as well as the eternal rewards that the Lord has promised to him.
The Christian life can get hard. Keep your eyes on the Lord, eternity, and spiritual values, and you will find the strength to accomplish what God has called you to do.
Pastor Mark J Montgomery