(last edited 2/7/13)
1-2 Paul opens with his usual greeting. He starts by identifying himself as what? This may seem obvious to us, but apparently Paul's apostleship was questioned by many, and false apostles were a problem in the early church, as we will see later in this letter. So he qualifies his apostleship how?--apparently in contrast to the self-appointed false apostles. His letter is to the church at Corinth, but will be passed on to who else? Achaia is the region of Greece. He always begins with grace and peace--grace being salvation through Christ, and peace with God is what results. So he is speaking to believers.
Some teach that there are apostles today, but Paul does not teach that there were or will be any more apostles besides the original ones--those who had SEEN Jesus.
3-11 Many of us love Paul's words of encouragement to us in this section, as we struggle with our trials and afflictions. But his use of "we" is not primarily speaking to US; he uses "we" to refer to himself and possibly his fellow workers. Although II Corinthians is only half as long as I Corinthians, we find the words "we," "our" and "us" twice as often in II Corinthians. So even though everything Paul says applies to us, pay attention to the context and keep in mind that he is often speaking of himself by these terms. So in this section Paul gives us much insight into his personal experiences and feelings. Through what he has shared, we can identify in our own experiences, and learn from what he explains about how God comforts and delivers.
3-4 Does Paul start by focusing on how awful his trials were? What does he focus on? When we share our trials with others, is the focus on "poor me" or on how God helped me? When we have trials, what are two ways God uses them?
5 Is it true that the Christian who is trusting God should experience a life free from stress, pain, danger, trouble, or illness? Contrary to those we call "name it and claim it," "health/wealth teaching," or "word of faith" (WOF), this verse teaches just the opposite. Did Christ suffer in many ways while on this earth? Did Paul? When we suffer, should we be angry that God allowed this suffering? How should thinking about Christ's suffering help us to have the right perspective on our suffering?
6-7 How might Paul's afflictions contribute to the comfort and salvation of the church at Corinth? By hearing of the difficult experiences of other Christians, have you ever been encouraged and helped to grow in faith? "Enduring" has the meaning of patient enduring, not enduring with gritted teeth, bitterness, etc. Paul's sufferings were directly related to serving the Lord; did suffering, or fear of more suffering, discourage him from his mission? Most of our suffering is just the normal course of life rather than directly related to following the Lord. Pastors and missionaries experience special trials; some continue on in spite of trials, while others decide to go another direction. Might some trials be roadblocks God has put up to tell us to stop and go another direction? Might some trials be tests to see if we will continue steadfastly in spite of circumstances?
8-10 Paul does not give us details of specific trials, but now he tells us how he felt at times. Some think the affliction in Asia refers to Ephesus, where Paul had spoken against the pagan goddess Diana. We read of this mob scene in Acts 19:23-41 and how his life was threatened. Or he could be speaking of a grave illness he experienced, or another life-threatening dangerous situation; Paul's letters give some hints that he may have suffered health problems. Why do you suppose God didn't give us any details of Paul's affliction? What did God have for Paul to learn in this situation? Do we learn these things when life is going smooth? 10, God is a God who will do what? What might that mean? Are all believers kept from death, or early death? How does that possibility relate to 9?
11 Why should we share our prayer requests with others?
12-14 How has Paul conducted himself? The Corinthians were to be proud of Paul because of this. Remember that Paul was speaking to them with the God-given authority of an apostle--their example of the Christian life. He would be proud of them when? What would happen then? Why would that make him proud? Is there a right and wrong type of pride?
15-17 What had Paul intended to do that he did not do? "Twice receive a blessing:" that he might visit them a second time. What was this church thinking about his failure to come, 17? Even when we think God is leading us to do something, can we know if it will really happen the way we think and plan? What advice are we given in James 4:13-15? If we tell someone we are going to do something, how important is it to follow through? What is the danger in making promises? On the other hand, if someone doesn't do what they say they were going to do, what can happen if we jump to conclusions before hearing "the rest of the story"? What results when Christians don't keep their word, especially habitually?
18-20 Paul has just assured them that his failure to come was not because he was a person who said one thing but did another. Now he contrasts that kind of wavering with what? He's saying that regardless of whom they heard this word from, it's the same word. Is God like men, whose promises may or may not come to pass? What does "amen" mean?
21-22 Do you see the Trinity mentioned in these two verses? What are four things mentioned here that God does for believers? Establish: to give stability. "Anointed" doesn't seem to refer here to oil; nowhere do we find believers being anointed with oil as part of salvation. I John 2:20,27 clarifies the term: John likens it to abiding in Christ, as he contrasts true believers with those who "went out from us, but they were not really of us." This anointing is used synonymously with other terms that indicate salvation. So all true believers have an anointing from God--the indwelling Holy Spirit.
Some, especially charismatics, use "anointing" in an unbiblical way. In the Old Testament, priests, prophets, kings, and various items in the temple were anointed with oil (often used symbolically of the Holy Spirit) to consecrate them, or set them apart, for God's service. Psalm 2:2 refers to the Messiah as the Lord's anointed, and the New Testament refers to Jesus as God's anointed. He is our High Priest, and we are all priests--no more do we need a human go-between. All believers are anointed--set apart to God.
Some today falsely teach that pastors are "God's anointed" and that to criticize them is a violation of the Old Testament warning to "touch not God's anointed." They speak of a person or a meeting as being anointed or having a special anointing, or pray for God's anointing on a service. This is not how the New Testament speaks of anointing.
A seal is an identifying mark, as from a signet ring, for the purpose of security or preservation. What is this seal? The Holy Spirit is also a pledge (KJV: earnest). When we purchase a home and give earnest money, that guarantees what? It is a security deposit to guarantee that more money is promised and will be coming. So what does it imply that the indwelling Holy Spirit is a pledge from God?
23-24 Paul's calling God as his witness implies that some thought what about his truthfulness? He continues to explain why did he not come visit them. His earlier letter (I Corinthians) was rather harsh, and he preferred to wait and give them time to repent, rather then to come in what might seem a heavy-handed way to bring discipline. We see that Paul had many critics and detractors, and was not seen in the way we look at him today. He was not universally loved and accepted, and often had to defend himself as a true apostle, operating with the authority God gave the apostles to establish the early church. He assures them that he does not what? So apparently his accusers also said this about him.
1-4 Earlier, Paul had talked about afflictions that had caused him sorrow, and about God's comfort in such circumstances. Now he talks about source of his sorrow and affliction, 4--what is that? What was the tone of that letter? He admits to them that not only did he have sorrow about the situation in their church; he also knew that he had caused them sorrow. But what had he been hoping, 3? What personal information does he share in 4? So now we think back on I Corinthians and Paul's scolding tone throughout the letter. What was behind that scolding? Yet how might that church have perceived him?
5-8 Now we find out which part of his letter in particular he is alluding to--in which chapter did he specifically talk about "such a one"? What had that person done? What had the church done about it? Since that letter, Paul had learned of the church's response to his letter. How did the church respond? How did that "such a one" then respond to the church? So IS it possible to break the pattern of sinful behavior? In 7, why did Paul have to tell them this--what was going on now? But what did Paul want them to do now instead? The majority had indeed accepted Paul's scolding and had obeyed him in the matter of the "shunning" or "excommunicating" the man involved in incest. In fact they had gone a little overboard--they went from one extreme to the other, just as we saw in I Corinthians that they were prone to do. Do we ever act like that? (Some commentators think the letter that caused sorrow refers to another letter--one that we do not have.)
What do we learn here about how a church today is to respond to the type of sin discussed in I Cor. 5? How should WE respond if someone confronts us about our sin, or even just about something they don't like about something we've done or said? If someone confronts us, it may be hard to take; does it always mean that person is against us? If the person is truly sorry and willing to change, how should we respond, and how should we NOT respond? Were they told to forgive this person whether he repented or not? Which comes first--repentance or forgiveness? Does God forgive us if we have not repented? Are we required to forgive someone who has not repented--something which even God cannot do? This incident is an example of what Jesus taught in Luke 17:3.
9-11 What does God want from us? Aren't many of the trials in our life actually just various forms of this test? How can we do better at passing tests? What happens when we don't pass the test? What can result if we fail to forgive someone who has repented? What do we learn here about how Satan works? What does it mean to be ignorant? How can we make sure we are not ignorant? What does a coach diagram and explain to the team before the game to better prepare them for their opponent? Does God do this? Where in the Bible do we read about armor that protects us from Satan? Eph. 6:10-17. What is our only weapon? How are Satan's weapons described? How do we protect ourselves from those?
12-13 Now Paul changes the subject. What did God provide at Troas? But what happened when he didn't find his co-worker Titus there as he had hoped? We saw in Acts he often traveled with other apostles, co-workers or those he was mentoring and training. When Paul speaks of areas of ministry, he often uses what terminology that we see in 12? Does God sometimes use open or closed doors to lead us?
14-17 Paul knew that wherever he ended up, who was in control? Too often we go by appearances or feelings; does it always look and feel like God is leading us in triumph in Christ? Do we always see it immediately, or sometimes do we not see until much later that God was actually leading us? But what should our attitude be, 14? Paul says that believers, by sharing the knowledge of Christ, give off an aroma; depending on who we around, what is this fragrance like? Are we adequate in ourselves for the job of sharing the knowledge of Christ? What does Paul say about that in 3:5 and 4:7? How does Paul describe his ministry, 17? On TV we often see hucksters who "peddle" and actually adulterate the message--did this just start with the advent of TV? Are we to accept and support all who claim to preach Christ? How can we know who to believe and who is a false teacher?
1-3 At that time, when workers traveled from one church to another, they carried with them a letter of recommendation from their home church's elders, or from Paul himself, so that they would be received by other churches and their authority and teaching would be accepted. Paul is probably comparing himself to the false teachers that were around, who used such letters to perpetrate their false teaching. Did Paul need such letters? Why not? The apostles themselves, instead of letters, had the supernatural ability to perform attesting signs and wonders to authenticate their ministry as from God. Today pastors who have been examined, approved and set apart for ministry are given a certificate of ordination. Being ordained does not prove a pastor is any good, but it is a method of trying to maintain some level of accountability among pastors.
4-6 Paul is confident in the Corinthian church--because of himself and his own work there? How do pride and humility relate to this passage? Adequate: competent, able, sufficient, worthy (Strong's). What if we don't feel adequate to serve God, or even to live the Christian life? What is the new covenant? The old covenant was the dispensation (or age) of the Law, so the new covenant is the dispensation (or age) of grace. How does he contrast the letter of the law vs. the spirit of the law? He will develop this contrast in the next few verses.
7-18 refer to Moses in Ex. 34:29-35.
7-11 Paul contrasts the ministry of the Spirit, 8, with the ministry of death, 7, so what would be that ministry of death? (Hint: where was it engraved?) Why would he call it that? The Law brings death, but the Spirit brings life. Which has greater glory? In 9 he contrasts the ministry of righteousness with the ministry of condemnation, which would be what? Which has greater glory? So in the Old Testament the Law had glory, although it was a glory that faded away (from the face of Moses). But now it is surpassed by what?
Here we see the Bible teaching on dispensations. There are different times in which God, who Himself does not change, is working differently with men by putting them in different circumstances. He is not dealing with us today as being under the Law; following the resurrection, He is dealing with us as being under grace--the church age. Were all men in the Old Testament under the Law? No, that dispensation began with Moses at Mt. Sinai. There are different systems of recognizing dispensations--one common interpretation is that there are seven: innocence, conscience, government, promise, law, grace, kingdom.
12-16 Because of the ministry of the Holy Spirit, Paul's speaking is with great what? What did Acts 1:8 say we would receive when we receive the Holy Spirit? He is not like Moses, who covered his face with a veil so the Israelites wouldn't SEE that the glory on his face actually faded away. Paul goes on to talk about that veil--that refusal to SEE--perhaps representing pride?--still remaining on those who still live under the law of Moses. Their minds and hearts are what, 14? When is the veil of pride finally removed from their hearts? Isn't pride what keeps people from "seeing" and believing?
17-18 Now Paul contrasts the unbelieving Jews with the Corinthian believers--what do they, and we, have now, 17? Freedom from what, 7,9,14,15? Now that our pride has been dealt with and we can see, what do we see, 18? What happens as we continually look at Him? HOW do we look at Him? He is revealed in the Word of God, although not as clearly as we will see Him in person one day; we only see Him as in a what? In those days mirrors did not show perfect images but were only like shiny metal. We are changed into increasing degrees of glory--from unsaved to saved, from immature to more mature, and eventually we will be like Him in a sinless immortal state. What else does Paul tell us about this process of being changed, in Rom. 8:29 and 12:1? Most of us probably do not spend nearly enough time in the Word. What does Paul remind us about Jesus (the Lord) and the Holy Spirit?
1-2 What connecting word takes us back to what Paul has just been saying? He just talked about the process of being changed, and about the veil over the eyes of unbelievers. Paul ("we") refers to his ministry of preaching Christ. It sounds like he is comparing himself to the false teachers; what are they like, 2? What important "t" word does Paul use in 2 to contrast his ministry? He didn't add anything to it or leave any of it out, or claim it was from himself. Do some preachers today do any of those things?
3-4 Why is the gospel message veiled to unbelievers? Who is "the god of this world"? Is Paul talking about the world as the earth, or the world as the godless world system? "World" here can also be translated "age"--what age are we in, on the Bible's timeline? The church age. Jesus explains to His disciples what the coming church age would be like in a series of parables. In Mat. 13:39-43, who is the enemy in the parables? What happens at the end of the age, 39-42? Then what happens after that, 43? Christ will inherit the kingdom promised in the Old Testament and will reign over it for 1000 years, Rev. 20:1-6.
What does Jesus call Satan in John 12:31? Why is he called that? Isn't God sovereign over all? Is Satan the equal and opposite of God, or a created angel? What did God say about Satan in Gen. 3:15? A head wound is mortal; a heel wound is not. What does John say in I John 5:19? and in 4:4? How much power does Satan have? As much or more than God? What do we learn in Job 1:1-12 about the present relationship between God and Satan?
What important fact do we learn about Jesus in I Cor. 4:4? Can anyone see God the Father? Compare John 4:24, 1:18, Col. 1:15, Heb. 1:3a. So when we read in the Bible that someone saw God, they didn't see God the Father--they saw God the Son, the second person of the Trinity; in the Old Testament, before the incarnation, we refer to this as a "theophany." Often in the Old Testament, Christ (the Lord) appears as "the angel of the Lord," Jud. 6:11-14.
5-6 Again Paul compares himself to the false prophets--they preached their own message, but what message does Paul preach? Did he present himself as a big somebody? Besides the things mentioned in 2, this is another mark of a false teacher--drawing the focus onto himself (how he is funny, smart, clever, entertaining, powerful, etc.). Besides preaching from "self," what other attitude marks a true or false teacher in 5? Can any man cause others to recognize the truth and be saved? If we lead someone to the Lord, what attitude do we need to be careful of?
7-12 Why does God put His treasure in earthen vessels--clay pots--instead of gold or silver ones? Humility is the mark of the true Christian. How should 7 affect our thinking if we have a low opinion of ourselves? a high opinion? What has Paul's experience in the ministry been like, 8-12? Don't we sometimes think that if we are in God's will, everything should be going pretty good for us? Why might it be God's plan for us to be weak--to have trials and afflictions? How can 8-9 encourage us in our trials? Does Paul preach a health/wealth gospel? 10 is clearer in the KJV than the NASB: "for we which live are alway delivered unto death for Jesus' sake." Is he saying he continually faces death for the name of Jesus, or is he talking about trusting in resurrection power, or what? Is he saying that those dangers just "happened" or are they part of God's plan? The Corinthians were not impressed by Paul's afflictions--they looked down on him for this. Paul reminds them in 12 that the reason they have spiritual life is because he did subject himself to these afflictions for their sakes.
13-15 Who is the spirit of faith Paul refers to? So is he implying that they all (i.e., all believers) have the indwelling Holy Spirit? Receiving the Holy Spirit is not a later event that happens to SOME believers. If we believe the gospel message, what should result in our lives? This refers to a passage from Psalm 116:10. Paul has just said that what might befall him, or to anyone who bears the name of Jesus? But even if that should happen, what are we assured of, 14? He refers to the events described in I Thes. 4:14-17. According to 15, the trials that happen to us might be for whose benefit? According to 15, what is one reason for sharing our prayer requests with others?
16-18 Is Paul ("we") discouraged by the physical trials and dangers? Why not? How does he describe those trials in 17? In comparison to what? How does thinking about eternal things affect our perspective on our present trials? Do we deserve to have a life free of trials? What do we actually deserve? Do trials always result in spiritual growth? Why or why not?
Paul has just been talking about the many life-threatening situations he has faced for Christ. Now he talks about death for the Christian, so apparently he has been thinking about the possibility of his own death as well as the rapture. Like Paul, we cannot know if we will die or if we will be caught up alive to meet Christ in the air.
1-5 How does Paul describe our bodies? Is my body the real me, or is it just something I live in? I am body, soul and spirit. Is my body permanent? But is my spirit eternal? So is this my permanent home? We might wonder what Paul is talking about--naked or clothed. Some clues are found in 4: he talks about this tent, and about what is mortal being swallowed up by life. He talked to them about life and death and the body in I Corinthians 15:50-53, where he said our mortal bodies must be changed and put on immortality.
So what kind of life is he talking about in 4? Eternal life. Is this world our true home? What home does the Christian long for? But do we eagerly look forward to death? What do we eagerly hope for instead? So he must be using "naked" or "unclothed" to refer to death of our mortal body; we groan and are burdened because we prefer not to die but to be caught up and instantly changed into our eternal immortal body. We find this same thought in I Thes. 5:23. In his closing benediction of that letter, what does he pray for? What would "preserved complete" mean? Because what will happen at the coming of the Lord? See I Thes. 4:13-18. So, back to I Cor. 5:5, what is part of God's purpose for us? Even this desire for heaven is also from God. Again he reminds us, as in 1:22, that the indwelling Holy Spirit is a what? The fellowship we have now with God is only a taste of what is to come!
So what happens to the Christian who dies? Our earthly body disintegrates, Both 5:8 and Phil. 1:23 speak of being absent from or departing from the body as being present with Christ, immediately. In I Thes. 4:13-14, Paul speaks of believers who have died ("fallen asleep") "in Jesus," which specifies only those in the church age. What are they doing in 14? What happens to them at the end of 16? We see that their spirits, apparently in some visible form, are already with Jesus, and now their mortal bodies are resurrected and changed into their immortal bodies, which they are instantly joined with. What also happens then?
We also read in Revelation where John had a vision of heaven during the time of the seven years of tribulation, which happens just after the church is caught up and just before Christ's second coming. At that time, who does John see in heaven, Rev. 6:9-11? What are they wearing? So they are in some visible form. They receive their resurrected immortal bodies at the end of the great tribulation, Rev. 20:4.
6-8 So, even when faced by the life-threatening dangers, can we still be courageous? So should we focus on what we see and feel, or on what we know by faith? Isn't this one of our big struggles in the Christian life? Don't most Christians start out walking by sight? How does this change? Are feelings authoritative, like facts? "I FEEL sure God must be OK with this...This FEELS so right, in my situation it must be OK...I FEEL so hopeless, I have no options...I FEEL like my life is over...I FEEL God telling me to do such-and-such...I don't FEEL like praying or reading the Bible or showing love to that person or whatever...I still FEEL guilty even though I've confessed that sin." If these feelings don't line up with Scripture, what should we do about them? Can we figure out God? Compare Prov. 3:5-6 and Isa. 55:9. Paul speaks as if we have two homes--do we sometimes have mixed feelings about where we'd rather be? Paul tells us where he'd rather be in 8. What is Jesus preparing, John 14:2-3? When we look forward to heaven, is it because we hope to see loved ones who died, or because we're so ready to be done with this world and its woes, or is it because we truly long to be in the presence of the Lord?
9-10 But since it's not our choice, what should be our attitude? We know that in this body it is God's will that we live in a way that is pleasing to Him, in word, deed and motive; why else should we be concerned about being pleasing to God, 10? The Bible speaks often about reaping what we sow in this life, Gal. 6:7. Is eternal life earned by being good enough? So what will the unbeliever reap after death? The believer's salvation is sure, but there will be consequences for the way we have lived our lives--rewards or loss of rewards, I Cor. 3:12-15, or a position in the earthly kingdom of honor or lesser honor when we rule and reign with Christ, Luke 19:11-19. So the judgment seat of Christ takes place before the start of the millenial kingdom. Following the Millenium is the Great White Throne judgment--the final judgment of unbelievers, Rev. 20:11-15.
11-15 Paul has just told us when this will happen, that everything that we are will be revealed--made manifest--before God; what event is that? Does that cause us any fear? Should it? So what is one of our motives for trying to convince others of the truth? Paul lets the Corinthian church know the motivation behind his ministry, and contrasts himself with others, apparently false teachers or apostles, who are like what? Perhaps when Paul mentions being besides himself, he is thinking back to Acts 26:24? Can you see unbelievers wondering if we Christians are out of our minds? Maybe even lukewarm Christians think this of Christians who are "on fire for the Lord." Should we worry about that? What are we, or should we be, controlled by?
And we are "out of our minds" because of what fact? The gospel, the substitutionary atonement. Some teach that Christ only died for the elect; what does 14 say? The NASB then says "therefore all died," but the KJV says "then were all dead," which seems to make more sense--the Bible says all are dead in sin and need a Savior. Some teach that because Christ died for all, all are saved, but the Bible clearly teaches that we must believe and receive--we must exercise faith in order to be born again. Don't most unbelievers think that life is all about Self? But what happens when we believe? So Paul sums up his discussion about death and resurrection by focusing on Christ's death and resurrection.
16-17 "According to the flesh" could have a couple possible meanings; Paul uses this phrase a lot, in two different contexts. It may speak of the body, the physical. Paul may be saying that before they were saved, they knew Jesus Christ as a Jewish man, but now they know Him to be God in the flesh--that now that we are Christians, we have a different understanding of who Christ is, and of people in general. He may even be saying that he had seen Jesus in the flesh; not all agree on this. If he is emphasizing "we" this could be a reference to true apostles. Or Paul could be comparing believers who are walking according to the flesh to believers who are walking according to the Spirit, as he discussed in Rom. 8--the two natures. He may be saying that all believers walked in the power of the old nature at one time, but we no longer do this--we are walking in the power of the new nature. When we were walking in the old nature, we did know Christ, but now we are walking in the Spirit, and our knowledge and understanding of Christ are now according to the Spirit. The commentaries I found talked about the first meaning, but verse 17 seems to imply the second meaning. Either way, we have a new mind and a new way of thinking. Isn't that why unbelievers may find our way of thinking to be "out of our minds"?
Can we fix up the old nature until it is acceptable to God? What must happen instead? What if you had a really sinful life before you were saved? As a fresh creation, the original has passed, has left, has been changed; NASB says "new things have come," KJV says "all things are become new." "Behold" draws attention to this important truth.
18-19 Now how does Paul explain what happened when we were saved? What does "reconcile" mean? Change, adjust, atone, restore. To re-establish a close relationship between, to become compatible, to make sure that two financial accounts match up. 18 says God did it "through Christ"--how does 19 explain that? Again we have the picture of God's ledger book; does He write in our column all the things that SHOULD be listed there? How could God do that?
20 Therefore: because of this. What is an ambassador? A diplomat sent from a country as an official representative to a foreign country. Does that describe how we see our mission? A diplomat is diplomatic, using skill and tact; does that describe our presentation? Which country has our deepest loyalty--where we're living, or where we're from and where we'll return to? What can make an ambassador more effective in his mission? The KJV uses "beseech" meaning: call, invite, implore, exhort, intreat. All are NOT saved merely because Christ died for all; each must do something, must place their faith in Christ.
21 Paul explains Isa. 53 in one sentence--the substitutionary atonement. What important fact do we learn here about Christ that proves He is God? Read Lev. 22:21 about offering a sacrifice. How does this verse explain the ledger book--the two accounts that are matched up? The Gospels give the account of Christ's crucifixion and resurrection; Paul explains the significance of what happened.
1-2 What does Paul call us? How does this idea fit with salvation by grace not works? Is this talking about how to receive salvation, or how to live after we are saved? What if we don't feel like we can live a good Christian life? What might it mean to receive the grace of God in vain? We receive God's grace by receiving Jesus Christ, as Paul just talked about in the last few verses. Does it mean we got saved but it didn't "work"? Of course not. "In vain" or "vanity" refers to emptiness. He talks about working together with God--is Paul talking to believers? The context--the next few verses--will clarify. He interrupts himself to affirm their salvation in 2--what is a good day to be saved? Why?
3-10 Verse 2 was a thought inserted into Paul's sentence which began in 1 and now picks up in 3, continuing on through 10. How do we work with God? Compare Phil. 2:12-13. So salvation is not only what happens when we believe--it is also what is taking place in our lives after that moment. Once we have salvation, we cooperate with God so that our lives are not empty and fruitless, but are like what--how could we sum up this list? Notice "in anything," 3--why? Doesn't the first half of 4 kind of sum up the Christian life? Then Paul lists the many ways this applies--he pretty much covers everything! Did you notice that patience and afflictions were right up at the top of the list? Do 5 and 6 describe our lives? What do you think he means by the paradoxes in 10? Can we assume that these things describe Paul's life?
So when we become saved, should we expect that everything in our lives should now straighten out and go smoothly? Might unsaved family and friends turn on you? If bad things happen, should we assume that we are doing something wrong and that God is punishing us? (Maybe, but not necessarily.) Why does God allow trials and tribulations in our lives? What do we learn in those times that we don't learn when life is going smoothly? Do we grow more in hard times or easy times? In Paul's day, when you chose to follow Jesus, you knew you were making a dangerous choice; this is true in many parts of the world today. Those who preach a "health/wealth" gospel are not saying what the Bible says. Isn't being a Christian a "mixed bag"?
Where verse 5 in the NASB ends with "hunger," the KJV has "fastings." Some people claim that the New Testament teaches fasting for the Christian, but this is debatable. Looking at Strong's, we find these possible translations: abstinence (from lack of food, or voluntary and religious), specifically the fast of the Day of Atonement. In the context of Paul's list, it appears to be last in a list of various trials, before Paul begins another list--of Christian qualities. This would imply lack of food rather than voluntary religious fasting. So the KJV is a bit misleading, and this is not a clear teaching on fasting.
11-13 Our mouths speak from what is in our what? Paul has spoken openly with them from his heart of love. What kind of exchange does he want from them? If they are restrained, it is not from lack on Paul's part, but on their part. When we want more from a relationship, we need to give more from our own hearts. If we don't seem to have much of a relationship with God, how can we know Him better? Like in any friendship, we have to spend time together talking and listening. We talk to Him by praying. We listen to Him by reading His Word--He has already said to us everything we need to hear from Him, but we must make the effort to pick up the Bible and read it. Otherwise, even if we are saved, He will only be to us like a distant friendship--someone we've met but have never talked with and got to know.
14 Paul addresses another problem in the Corinthian church. He wanted them to be open with him, but apparently they were being too open instead with the wrong people. Where the NASB says "bound together," the KJV says "unequally yoked together"--what picture does this create in your mind? Yoked together in what way? So what would Paul be referencing as equal or unequal? He then uses two terms in 14 to clarify. The first one can mean fellowship, partnership, participation or intercourse; the second can mean fellowship, communion, partnership, participation, intercourse, distribution, monetary benevolence. The common idea--fellowship--gives us a better idea of Paul's criterion for being yoked with someone. So does the Bible use the term of fellowship as we do in the church today--socializing? No, it describes the type of partnership we have with other believers.
15-18 What two terms does he use in 15 that are synonymns for this partnership? And in 16? What contrasting examples does he give? So what kind of people were they being unequally yoked with? Did God dwell in individual believers in the Old Testament? But Paul quotes a verse prophesying that this would take place one day. Interestingly, the Old Testament uses the word "among" but Paul uses the word "in." Is this misquoting? Who is the author of the Bible? The Holy Spirit inspired each of the Bible writers; we find in various places in the New Testament that the Holy Spirit interprets and applies His Old Testament words in a slightly different way for us, the church.
How separate should the believer be from the unbeliever? Christians and churches will differ here. But what are some obvious relationships referred to in this passage? The monks took it to an extreme; why is total separation not God's plan for us? What happens if, at the other extreme, Christians look, think, talk and act just like the world?
1 This verse seems to go with the end of chapter 6. What promises is he talking about? His point ("therefore") is that in order to receive those promises, how ought we to live? Isn't this referring back to 6:14-16...just another way of saying the same thing? Paul says "cleanse ourselves" not "yourselves"--what can we infer from this? This is not talking about how God cleanses us from sin--what is it talking about? "Perfecting holiness" doesn't mean sinlessness; it means to fulfill completely--in other words, to work towards maturity. Is it a bad thing to have fear of God? Aren't many today casual and even flippant in their attitude toward God?
2-4 In this chapter Paul shares much personal information--about his feelings about the church in Corinth, his motives in writing his previous letter, and concerns about their feelings toward him due to that letter. He returns to the thought he began in 6:11-13. He would like them to feel as warmly toward him as he does toward them; what have people accused him of? Can you see where some might have interpreted his previous letter, especially chapter 5, as condemning them? What does he assure them in 4?
Isn't it much harder to make yourself truly understood when you are not speaking to someone in person, like in a letter or email, or on a chatroom, online forum, or Facebook? How about when we hear second-hand what someone supposedly said? Even in person don't we often have misunderstandings? How should a Christian handle such things? When someone misunderstands our words or motives, do we criticize them or snap back or ignore them, or spread gossip about them, or do we backup and clarify or even apologize for how we came across?
5-7 What two kinds of conflicts does Paul mention in 5? Paul says God comforts those who are: cast down, depressed, humiliated, humble, lowly, of low degree. Does God need to comfort those who are happy, confident and on top of the world? Why might God allow us to experience those other feelings? Did God reach down and supernaturally fill Paul with comfort, or how did he experience it? And how had God comforted Titus? Might God's comfort come in various ways? What are some other possible ways?
8-10 How had Paul felt when he first wrote his earlier letter? Why? Did he continue to feel that way? Why not? Do we take enjoyment from confronting others? If so, what does that say about us? If we have sinned, it is enough to simply feel sorrowful afterwards? If there has been no change, has there been repentance (turning)? What is the difference between godly sorrow and worldly sorrow? Sorrow needs to result in what action? Which can result in what? Are tears proof of repentance? Can you think of any biblical examples of those who were sorrowful after their sin but did not repent? Cain, Esau, Judas. Can you think of those whose sorrow led to repentance? David, Peter. When we do wrong and experience sorrow, that can be a painful feeling; is that a bad thing? Do you ever choose to "wallow" in that feeling? Even after we repent, why do we sometimes continue to wallow in our feelings about our sin? Does repentance and forgiveness mean the sorrow will disappear? Should a Christian try to always keep others from feeling bad?
11-12 How did Paul know that the sorrow of the Corinthians had led to repentance? Even though there was someone who did wrong, and someone who was wronged, what was Paul's main concern regarding the situation? The church, and how it handled the situation. What can you do if you are not in agreement with how your church handles some situation?
13-16 What had caused Titus's joy when he visited this church? What concept does Paul emphasize twice in 14? Why do you supposed he mentions that twice? Might there be some in the church who don't value this? What related word does he mention in 15? Why do you suppose they received him the way they did? Does this mean we are to be in fear and trembling of our pastors? Remember these young churches were under the teaching and authority of the apostles. A pastor is not an apostle; do some pastors assume that type of authority though? What can you do if you are in a church that abuses authority? What can we learn from 16 about Paul's way of dealing with others? He freely praises and encourages others every chance he gets, just as he also freely admonishes when needed. He is balanced. Does Paul try to maintain his apostolic position and power by manipulating people or playing power games?
1-2 These next two chapters, which could actually be considered as one chapter, are on the topic of giving. One word which comes up a number of times here is "grace," a word that has the meaning of giving, or a gift; it sometimes refers to salvation (the greatest gift), but not always, as we will see. God provided us with the gift of salvation even though we did not deserve; it was His generous undeserved favor. When we give to others, isn't it also as a generous undeserved favor? If it were required, would it be a gift? Does it sound here like Paul is talking about salvation which has been given to the churches in Macedonia (Greece)? Or that God has given them the gift of giving? Or maybe both? What motivates us to give?
These would be the churches in Thessalonica, Berea, and Philippi. The money is being sent to the needy church at Jerusalem. Were the Macedonian believers wealthy? So is this type of giving our natural inclination, or is this a gift from God? Is Paul saying Christians should be happy that we have affliction? What's the difference between joy and happiness? Some teach that Christians should be prosperous, that not to be so indicates lack of faith or unconfessed sin. Are these Christians prosperous? Yet, does Paul speak highly of these churches?
3-5 Does Paul say these Christians are required to give, or that they are to give ten percent? What principle does he lay out in 3? He said the same thing in I Cor. 16:2. So many teach that Christians are to tithe; the New Testament principle of giving of your own accord and your own ability is different than the Old Testament tithe. We will read more about giving in the next chapter. What is more important than giving your money, 5? Again, is that a requirement, or rather, something that God moves us to do? Some teach that Christians have responsibilities and requirements; we must be careful not to put ourselves back under law-keeping. Rather, we do things out of what motive? What if we give from the wrong motive?
The NASB uses "participation" in 4, where the KJV says "fellowship." This is one meaning of fellowship, which actually has more to do with our partnership with fellow believers--not socializing as so often used today in the church. Because of our partnership with like-minded people, we partner in doing things--we participate in God's work. Giving is one of those areas. It's too bad that the church dining room has come to be called the "fellowship hall." This is not the scriptural meaning of fellowship.
6-9 Apparently at Titus's earlier visit, they had begun a collection. What word in 6 and 7 describes this giving? Gracious (NASB), or grace (KJV). And who does Paul apply that same idea to in 9? What paradox describes that grace? So we can show a similar favor to others. Just as Paul has often scolded the Corinthians, we see that in 7 he also compliments them, implying that in all their "abounding" or "excelling" that they have the means to give, considering how the Macedonians gave out of poverty. Or, is he using sarcasm, saying that they had been telling him how they abounded in all these qualities, so perhaps they ought to abound in giving also? 8, are they commanded to give? Again, what should be their motive in giving?
10-12 Although this is Paul's opinion or advice, would we conclude that he is still speaking under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit? But he is careful to distinguish his own advice from God's will or command. What two phrases in 11 and 12 refer again to the New Testament principle of proportional giving, rather than a required tithe? Is it important to follow through on a commitment--financial or otherwise? Why? Isn't if often easier to say we'll do something than to actually do what we say?
13-15 What is Paul's point here? The Bible clearly teaches, in both the Old and New Testaments, that we reap what we sow--what goes around comes around. Should we give in order to get? What did Paul say earlier should be our motive in giving? Some actually teach that if we give, God is required to give back to us, so our giving should be kind of like an investment scheme. What do you think about giving to get? Those who preach the "prosperity gospel" teach that you give a "seed" and God will give back to you thirty-fold, sixty-fold or a hundred-fold. They will actually give you a mathematical forumula to show how you can make money and get rich. But the parable of the seed and the sower was not about getting money from God; it was about bearing fruit for God--spiritual fruit. If we as believers have been generous with our money, time and abilities for the Lord, do we need to fear about how we will manage in the future? Read Mat. 6:25-34.
16-24 Paul appears again to be referring to himself by "we." What word is again used in 19 to describe their gift? Titus and two other Christian brothers will be visiting Corinth to handle the administration of their gift. Why might Paul have chosen not to handle this himself? Why will Titus not be handling the money by himself? Why is this a danger even when dealing with Christians? What important principle do we find in 20-21 as to how Christians should do business and live their lives?
1-5 What terminology does Paul use in 1 to speak of giving? Now we learn more about why Paul is sending Titus and the others; Paul will also be visiting them soon, perhaps with whom? And what is his concern? What does he tactfully remind them of in 5? What sinful attitude does he discourage? It's possible in this chapter that Paul is using some sarcasm; we have seen him do this in other places, and he could be using some reverse psychology to get them to do what they ought to do but are maybe not actually doing.
Should WE need to be reminded to do what we said we'd do? Paul has boasted about these believers and hopes they won't disappoint him; have you ever had a high opinion of other believers and then been disappointed? Or has your behavior ever disappointed others? What can happen when we put others on a pedestal? Do you think that "Bible people" were on a higher level than the rest of us because God chose super-spiritual people to work with, or do you think it's possible that they were just as human and flawed as the rest of us?
6-9 Do we find Christians commanded to tithe--to give 10%, as per Mal. 3:10? That was the Law--that was Old Testament. Many churches teach that Christians are to tithe--to give 10% of their income. Some present it as not being optional or variable, but as a rule. Most quote Malachi 3:10, a promise God made to Israel, and most take it out of context. Mal. 2:1 this was directed to the priests. It sounds like they had been "skimming" instead of bringing the whole tithe to the storehouse, 8-9. If this indeed applies to the church, then all Christians who don't tithe are under God's curse, 9, and Gal. 3:10. But "Christ redeemed us from the curse of the Law, having become a curse for us," Gal. 3:13. This is what happens when Scripture is quoted out of context, and without an understanding of the dispensations. As per Galatians, if we put ourselves under one part of the Law, we are liable for ALL the Law. But instead, we are under grace!
God did not promise the church financial blessings (although many Christians will testify that in tithing, that God has indeed fulfilled this promise to them financially). Some preachers actually present tithing as a literal give-to-get plan, making God into a divine vending machine, even showing figures of how much God is required to give back to you if you give the church (the "storehouse") a certain amount. We need to be careful not to apply Old Testament requirements and promises to the church. Yes, the principle may apply, II Cor. 9:6-8, but we find no requirement of 10%. Giving, yes; tithing, no. God is more concerned with our attitude and motive, II Cor. 9:7. Are there other ways to give to the Lord and to His work besides giving money to a local church?
What are some principles for giving that we find here? Does the concept of sowing and reaping apply only to giving financially? We find this principle stated throughout the Bible, even applying to unbelievers; it seems to be a universal principle that God has built into life. Sowing is what a farmer does when he plants seed in his field; what results if he sows few seeds (being stingy) or if he sows bountifully? Why do some pastors or those in other ministries pressure people to give? If there is a need, is guilt and pressure the way to meet it? If there is truly a need, won't the Holy Spirit move Christians to give without being asked or pressured? In 8, we again find grace referring to giving, not to salvation; it is talking about God giving us what? "Sufficiency" also has the meaning of satisfaction or contentment; it doesn't necessarily mean having lots of "stuff." Can we be content even when we don't have much? Does "abundance" mean wealth? We find a parallel to 8 in Mat. 6:33.
10-11 Is God able to multiply what little we have, or what little we can give? Again we find the principle of sowing and reaping. Beware of those who preach the prosperity gospel and use 10-11 as a formula for financial success; was Paul well off? If this were true, surely Paul would apply it to himself, and use that as a model as proof to other believers. Does he say that the sacrificial giving of the Macedonians, 8:1-5, resulted in God blessing them with prosperity? Is God concerned with our motives? Should our motive in giving be what WE will get back, or what should it be, 11? After sowing our seed and having it multiplied, is the harvest described as financial? Will God reward us for being liberal? Does that necessarily mean financial reward? It may or may not. Paul seems to be speaking of God providing for our needs, as does Mat. 6:33. Why do some Christians want to try to make this passage about gaining wealth? Have you ever tried to take verses out of context to make the Bible say something you wanted it to say?
12-15 A lot of Christians talk about having a ministry or being in ministry; what does it mean to minister? Is it about me having a ministry (which sounds good and may make me feel good) or is it about how others benefit? Can we be "in ministry" with wrong motives? What does this ministry of giving do besides supply the needs of the needy? Isn't this similar to why we share our prayer requests with others? Not only to hopefully have our request granted, but as we share how God worked in response to prayer, how do we all respond? So the focus is put back where (end of 12)?
We may say we love and believe in Jesus and love others, but what happens when an actual "experiment" proves it? Doesn't God use tests in our lives to prove to ourselves and others what we really believe? What does it mean to glorify? Make larger; who is made larger and who is therefore made smaller? How might you feel about Christians when some "experiment" proves that they do not do what they say? How might you feel when they DO? When someone has ministered to you, does that cause you to pray for them in return?
"Contribution" (KJV: "distribution") is the same word often translated "fellowship" or "partnership." This gives us a better idea of what Christian fellowship is about; not socializing, but what we do as partners with other believers. Is this passage just talking about giving money--aren't there many ways to give to others? We see that "surpassing grace" in 14 isn't talking just about salvation--we're either saved or we're not, there's not varying amounts of it that God gives. He has given them a special ability to give to others. Paul puts giving, or ministering, in the context of God's greatest gift. If everything we have is a gift from God, how should we feel about sharing it with others?
1-6 We have been seeing throughout this book that Paul feels the need to defend himself, his apostleship, and his ministry. Why is that? We will see it even more from here to the end of this book. We learn about Paul's life, his feelings and his concerns. We don't get quite as much doctrinal teaching, but rather, warnings against deception. How does Paul describe himself in 1? Our only knowledge of Paul is by his writings; we have never heard him speak. Might our impression of him be a bit skewed? Would he rather be gentle or bold? But is willing to be bold if necessary? Would you, if you were in his place?
What is his concern in 2? So who are those "some" he is talking about--who is trying to discredit him? (Again, here, us/we seem to be Paul referring to himself.) What two contrasting phrases does Paul use about how we walk? What does that mean? So because we don't walk "according" to the flesh, neither does spiritual warfare have to do with Self; any power we have comes from where? Paul likens warfare to carrying out his ministry as an apostle. But we can apply this to our lives; who is our enemy? What are our weapons? Eph. 6:10-17. And how does Paul describe them in 4? What might be carnal or fleshly weapons? Is he comparing to military weapons, or to the kind of weapons his opponents were using against him? Which might be what? Lying, manipulating, scheming, etc.
What are these fortresses, speculations and lofty things? Is he talking about Satanic/demonic powers and deceptions, or inflated human thinking? Or both? Some teach that strongholds are stubborn sins in your life. So how are we destroying those things? In war, captives are taken; what captives does Paul speak about? Aren't captives actually part of the enemy forces? So what does that say about our thoughts? Do we ever let our thoughts control us? So according to this verse, is it possible to change that? When a wrong though pops into your head, is that a sin? Remember, Jesus was tempted in every way like we are, Heb. 4:15, yet He was without sin, so the temptation itself can't be sin. When does that thought become sin? How do we take it captive? Take it right to God. Do captives go easily and willingly? Maybe drag it kicking and screaming. So can our will control our thoughts? Do we always want to though? Why not? Dealing with our thoughts is a very important part of our walk with God. Paul warns them about their disobedience to God; how do we become more obedient?
7 Who is "we" in 7? So what were some of Paul's enemies saying about him? Why might anyone come to that conclusion by looking outwardly at Paul's life? He had many hardships (11:23-33). Have you ever looked at another Christian who seems to suffer one hardship, disaster or failure after another, and wondered, "If she was REALLY a Christian, I doubt all that stuff would be happening to her." Have we looked at someone who seems to have it all together and thought, "Wow, surely SHE is a good Christian and God is really pleased with HER." What about a pastor or missionary who doesn't seem to be having a fruitful ministry? Can we really know what God is working inside someone else? Can we look at someone or some situation and say, "Well, God just isn't working there, or isn't answering my prayers about that."
8-11 How does Paul use his authority as an apostle, 8? Is that authority from a self-appointed desire or need to be controlling, like some leaders have? He seems concerned that they see his letters as weightier than he is in person--maybe that "his bark is bigger than his bite." He already spoke earlier about warning them not to disrespect Titus and the other brothers; apparently they have a tendency to treat Paul the same way, or are being pushed in that direction by Paul's enemies. Paul uses "such a one" to refer to someone in particular; he uses that terminology here in 11 and elsewhere.
Should a pastor today point to this passage to support an authoritarian role? Unfortunately, some claim this type of authority; remember, the apostles were unique to the founding and building up of the first-century church. The New Testament does not speak of further apostles in the future. Apostles were eyewitnesses of the resurrected Christ and learned directly from Him. Today those claiming that type of authority tend to be in charismatic churches--those who believe in the on-going gifts of the Spirit. As we have studied earlier, especially in I Cor. 12-14, it appears that those gifts ceased. Be careful of those who claim to manifest them today. Keep your eyes open, ask questions, and study and compare Scripture carefully (not just the verses they quote).
According to 10, is Paul an accomplished public speaker? Compare I Cor. 2:3 and II Cor. 12:7-10, Gal. 12:13-14. From reading Paul's letters, and Acts, we have the impression that he must be a mighty orator, but maybe not. Are we always the same in our actions as in our words? The Bible speaks about this often. We also find evidence here that Paul wrote more letters to the Corinthians than just the two in the Bible; in 10 he speaks of "his letters" so he had already written more than one before this one.
12 What word do we see repeated five times? That word tells us that those people are all about what? What is the root of that word, that the Bible has so much to say about? SELF. Who are we to measure and compare ourselves to? How do we measure up to that standard? When someone creates his or her own standard of measurement, and uses it to commend himself--to pat himself on the back, to make him feel good about himself--what does the Bible say about that kind of person? Can Christians be guilty of this? Paul says (apparently sarcastically, as he often does) he would not be as bold as to compare himself to that type of person; he is speaking of his enemies, the false teachers who are constantly trying to discredit him. How would that feel to constantly have that type of thing going on in your life? Do you think Satan might use that type of attack today, especially on pastors or other Christians in high positions or in the public eye?
13-18 What does Paul say at the beginning of 13 and of 15? What does Paul speak of in 13, 15, 16, 17--what repeated word? We think of boasting as a negative thing: self-admiring, excessive pride, glorying in oneself. Do you think that is the sense in which Paul is using it? It can also mean to glory, joy, rejoice. Does this fit the context better? What does he glory in (13-16)--that God has allowed him to do what? And did he accomplish that for his OWN glory, 17? What is he saying about his sphere and that of someone else? If God uses you, or you see that you have grown in your walk with the Lord, can you glory in that? Yes, IF the glory goes to God and not to who? In 18, it is NOT about who? There is SELF again; Romans 6-8 had so much to say about dealing with Self. Is there anything Self can do to be approved by God? What is the only reason we can stand before God approved? Remember that in this chapter Paul is speaking to immature carnal Christians--both chastising, teaching and encouraging them.
1-2 As Paul defends himself to the Corinthians against the fake apostles, he asks them to put up with a little folly, because he might sound like he is being egotistical in this chapter, but that is not his true purpose. Isn't this a tricky position--to expose false "brethren" and to defend yourself by giving your own credentials, yet without sounding like you are trying to elevate yourself and compete with others? There are many websites devoted to exposing false teachers today; they are often accused of being negative, divisive and judgmental. Do you think those who have knowledge of false teaching should warn the rest of the church? Who is the husband in 2? Who is betrothed to marry Him? Has the marriage taken place yet? When does that happen? At the end of the 7 years of tribulation, Rev. 19:7. Are we each betrothed to Him as a bride, or is the bride the church as a whole? (Virgin, not virgins) Who brought them together? That's why he has such intense concern for the purity of their relationship.
3-4 But IS everything about the bride-to-be pure and sincere? What is the problem? Is deception a problem in the church today? Is the church today pure and holding to the simplicity of the message of Jesus Christ? Who is behind this problem, 3? And what is he like? Crafty, tricky, subtle. Although he doesn't name him, it sounds like Paul is talking about a particular person they know of, in 4--"he that comes" or "the one who comes." Or he could mean any false teacher who happens to come. What does this teacher do? And what does this church do about that? Do you think Paul is being sarcastic here?
Do some today teach "another Jesus"? When we talk to others and they say they believe in Jesus, we need to ask, "which Jesus do you believe in?" and let them know we believe in the Jesus of the Bible, and clarify what that means. Do some today preach a different Holy Spirit--one who causes people to be out of control, to laugh or bark insanely, to fall backwards on the floor? Nowhere does the Bible teach of such a Holy Spirit. The gospel is the good news of salvation; do some preach a gospel that does not require confession of sin, or repentance, or belief that Jesus is fully God and fully man, born of a virgin, whose blood on the cross paid for man's sin and who rose bodily from the dead? Many teach, just love everyone, just do good--Jesus was just a good man, a prophet among other prophets, a teacher among other teachers, who came to show us how to live. Many supposedly Christian churches now teach Jesus PLUS any other "spiritual" activity or belief system you want to add. They teach tolerance and diversity. The order in 4 is interesting: Jesus is to be preached, the Holy Spirit is to be received, the gospel is to be accepted.
5-6 We have seen from time to time that Paul speaks sarcastically or tongue-in-cheek. Who might he mean here by these very chiefest, most eminent, or super apostles, depending on your translation? Who has he just been warning them against? Paul refers to his speech and knowledge; KJV/"rude" doesn't mean bad manners but ignorant and unlearned. We know of his knowledge by his letters, but we have never heard him speak; he has mentioned this before, so perhaps he is not the orator we imagine him to be. He is probably comparing his own honest style with the false prophets who come with high-sounding fancy speech that the Corinthians like. Is every preacher a great speaker? If not, what qualities might make up for that?
7-11 Because Paul was concerned that the Corinthians might mistakenly think what, he went out of his way to do what? In 7, "humbling" could be "abasing" or "humiliating;" he supported himself by manual labor. Have your motives ever been misunderstood, even by another Christian? Is it possible that YOU have ever misunderstood some other Christians motives? Have you ever bent over backwards to make sure some overly-sensitive, or judgmental, person would not take offense at you? Don't people like that tend to take offense anyway, no matter what? Are these some of the problems that cause rifts in churches? What is the solution to such problems? (Hint: what was the main problem with the Corinthian church? Spiritual immaturity.)
10-11, what does Paul say is in him? He refers back to the boasting/glorying he spoke of in 10:13-18, and specifically about what, in 14? So what is Paul saying here that he will continue to do? He is not going to confine his ministry to the Corinthians, but that doesn't mean that he doesn't love them. Do immature, judgmental, controlling people sometimes try to keep us from spending time with others, caring for or ministering to them? The Bible has so much to say about immaturity and the need to mature. How do we mature?
12-15 So what is Paul going to continue to do? Why? Who are these people he is talking about? The New Testament has many warnings about such people. Isn't it amazing that so early in the church, this was already a problem? Why? He says they are not true apostles, but does he say they are not believers? Might false teachers be either believers or not? Is this a problem in the church today? What does Jesus warn of as one of the signs of the last days? Mat. 24:4,5,11,23,25. Today the internet is full of stories about the false teachers and teachings that are rampant in the church. It's not always clear if the individual is a true Christian or not.
We could spend hours discussing what's happening in the church today, but we won't. But notice that twice Paul mentions "apostles" in 13; even today some claim to be apostles, yet the Bible speaks of no other apostles after the passing of those who were eyewitnesses of Christ on earth. Remember, apostles had special authority; if indeed there WERE true apostles today, they would have authority, and those who claim to be apostles today DO claim that special authority. Do you see the danger there? Remember that the apostles had special powers and sign gifts to prove they were apostles; if there are no true apostles today, yet some claim to be apostles, and seem to have power, where did that power come from? How can we protect ourselves from false teachers or false teachings that creep in, even into the ministry of trusted teachers? And as Satan knows his time is short, as the rapture is just around the corner, he seems to be attacking the church heavily. BEWARE!
14 and 15 are scary! This is a HUGE warning to Christians: BEWARE! Will it always be easy to spot what's false? How will it actually look and sound to people? What if someone claims that this new message they teach was given to them by an angel? What two kinds of angels are there? Which type would give a false message? Read Gal. 1:6-9. What kind of Christians will be most easily deceived? Many who claim to be Christians don't even believe in Satan (one of Satan's many deceptions); these will surely be deceived. Are some Christians naive and gullible? Why? Everything comes back to KNOWING THE BIBLE! Much of "Christianity" today is about experiences and feelings, and very little is grounded in a literal interpretation of God's Word. What does James 3:1 say about teachers? Think of how many people these false teachers and false apostles will lead astray; what does the end of 15 assure us about them?
16-20 Paul has talked about his boasting about the church in Corinth; such boasting would be in the good sense of glorying in them and in what God was accomplishing in them through him. Now he speaks of boasting in a negative sense--of being rash, ignorant, egotistical, unbelieving (Strong's). Some say that he states here that his remarks are not inspired as is the rest of the Bible; others counter that he is just saying, God doesn't want you to boast foolishly like I am about to do in order to make my point here. Who is he referring to in 18, that are according to the flesh? If you're not sure, he gives more clues in 19-20. He could be speaking of false teachers in general, or of one man in particular. How does this church accept such teachers? But what do these teachers, or this man, actually do to them? Do they realize that this is what is happening? That's why it is called DECEPTION! Today false teachers abound. Some are not truly Christians. Some are, but have apparently been deceived themselves in some ways. How do these Christians respond to false teachers, 18 and 19? (Paul uses this term twice) Tolerance is the buzz word of the day; is tolerance to characterize the church, or the Christian, when it comes to biblical truth? Compare these two verses with Rev. 2:2 and 20.
At the end of 20, Paul is probably speaking metaphorically--but, maybe not. Have you ever seen a Christian hit another person in the face? It takes place all the time today in some charismatic circles. What happens to the person who was hit, or even just touched, on the face? Is there any scriptural base for this practice? None. And here we even have a possible mention of this practice--does Paul condone or condemn it? Being "slain by the Spirit" is NOT a biblical practice. In the Bible, people who find themselves in the presence of God often fall down; do they fall on their backs or on their faces? It's possible some may fall because of auto-suggestion, but if these people are actually falling because of some power, and this power is not biblical, where might that power come from? Why would Satan give deceptive power? The Bible speaks of power given by Satan: Ex. 7:11-12, 20-22, 8:7, Mat. 24:24, II Thes. 2:9-10, Rev. 13:13.
Much of what is today claimed to be "manifestations of the Spirit" or the "anointing" is also to be found in pagan cults: "slain in the Spirit," speaking in "tongues," uncontrollable laughing, physical jerking, animal sounds and roaring, visions, prophecies, revelations, trances, miracles and healings, manifestations imparted through laying on of hands, reading of minds, revival-like meetings with repetitive singing and chanting and hypnotic music. Is the measure of truth what we see, feel and experience, or is it God's Word? What if our experience doesn't match God's Word? For those who are involved in these experiences, does it draw them deeper into God's Word and Christian maturity, or does it draw them more deeply into the pursuit of these experiences? Are these Christians as interested in putting to death the deeds of the flesh as they are in being what they call "slain in the Spirit"? Which type of "slaying" does the Bible teach?
21-23 Paul continues sarcastically, or tongue-in-cheek. In comparison to the false teachers who flaunt their power in order to manipulate the church, he has not done such things, which must make him seem weak to them. Yet if they are bold, he will be too now as he stacks his credentials up against theirs.
24-32 We think of Paul as a successful missionary and church planter. This description of his life, coupled with the letters to the Corinthian "problem church," hint that Paul's life was no picnic. They might have trouble believing this to be the experience of a true apostle, but he assures them he is not lying, and that he is not ashamed of his life of hardship, even the undignified basket incident. Would the arrogant false prophets admit to such an awkward ministry moment?
If you are doing what you believe is what God has called you to do, or just doing what is right, does that mean everything should go "right"? Should we look at "things going wrong" as evidence that we are not doing what we are supposed to do? In the previous dispensation (the Law), God promised blessings for obedience, Deut. 4:40. In the present dispensation (grace), God has set things up differently; trials and tribulations are now to be expected, John 16:33, Rom. 8:35, I Cor. 1:5, and our blessings are spiritual blessings, Eph. 1:3. If we don't understand this distinction between the age of Law and the church age, we can get very confused by trials and tribulations.
1 Paul points out that there is no advantage or profit in speaking like this, but he finds it necessary to defend his credentials as a true apostle to the Corinthians who are enamored of false apostles. Paul speaks of having visions and revelations. God spoke in visions to a few people in the early days of establishing the church: Peter and Cornelius (setting the stage for the bringing of the Gospel to the Gentiles), Ananias (at the conversion and commissioning of Paul), and Paul. Other than that, we have no record of visions being experienced by believers in the early church. We have no record of revelations other than Paul's. Some would say that in I Cor. 14:26 we see believers sharing their revelations in the church gathering; others see this passage as Paul chastising the self-centered Corinthians for all trying to vie for the spotlight by showing off some spiritual gift, whether true or false. (He has been warning them of the danger of false manifestations, I Cor. 12: 1-3.)
2-6 He goes on to speak of a supernatural experience he had. He hardly knows how to describe it--as a vision or as a revelation (7), whether he bodily was snatched up to heaven or just his spirit was transported; he uses the same word, "harpazo," for "caught up" as used of the rapture in I Thes. 4:17. He never speaks of this experience elsewhere; here he speaks of it for what reason? It was common to speak of yourself in the third person, as John did in his Gospel. Perhaps he avoids "I" and "me" in trying to relate this experience in a way that does not overly elevate himself. Do Christians sometimes share personal experiences in a wrong way, in pretense to share something wonderful God did through them, but in reality to elevate themselves? We need to be careful--Self is so sneaky.
Why did Paul speak in this way, 5? He contrasts himself with the boastful false apostles. What two terms does he use for where he was taken, that appear to be synonymous? The Bible speaks of the first heaven as where the birds fly and the second heaven as where the stars are; the third heaven is God's abode. Does he share any details? Why not, 4? He may be referring to the message he heard, or just the experience, but wouldn't it seem that this would be where God would give us a few more details about heaven? But it's interesting that he tells nothing of what it was like. This ought to make us cautious about those, even Christians, who have had a near-death experience and claim to describe heaven, some even supposedly seeing Jesus--mysterious spiritual experiences that are beyond what is revealed in Scripture. What is he concerned about in 6?
7 What was given to Paul? Why? It's interesting that he says this twice, in the same verse. Who gave it to him? How is this thorn in the flesh described? Don't we often wonder if a problem in our lives is from Satan or from God? What does this verse say about that? Review Job 1:6-12, 2:1-7. Did Job know (at the time) what went on behind the scenes? God did later reveal it to whomever wrote the book (it may or may not have been Job). Compare I Sam. 16:14. Are Satan and his angels subject to God? What does Jesus tell us about Satan's power in John 12:31, 14:30, 16:11? Compare Eph. 6:12. God has given Satan a certain amount of power, but it can only operate inside God's sovereign plan, I John 4:4.
Why might Paul exalt himself? But wasn't he the closest to what we might call a "super-Christian"? Do you think pride was a problem for Paul? Is anyone immune from this danger? Are we ever in danger of exalting ourselves? What kinds of things might lead to that sin? Might God ever give us something like this for the same reason?
8 Do we learn what the thorn in the flesh was? Was it bad? Some think it was an eye disease, since he mentions several times a problem with his eyes; others think his bad eyes were caused by his earlier stoning. Some think it was not a physical condition but the constant tormenting and taunting of the false apostles he talks about so much. What was Paul's initial attitude toward this thorn in the flesh? He was very human! If it WAS a physical condition, did he use his gift of healing to heal himself? Did he seek healing from someone else with the gift of healing? Why not? So was the gift of healing for the purpose of fixing all the ills of believers? What was it for? Apparently Paul prayed and after some time elapsed, he saw that God was not answering his prayer. Do we also struggle with asking God to change unpleasant things in our lives or our loved ones? Is it hard to know if we should keep asking or just accept this as God's will?
9 Did God do what Paul asked? Will He do whatever WE ask? Will He do it if we get more people to pray with us? Is everything we ask, IN the will of God? Is prayer for the purpose of getting God to do what we want? What IS the purpose of prayer? Some might ask, what about Mat. 18:19--but is that the ONLY verse in the Bible on prayer? We need to read the whole Bible and compare everything on prayer. Jesus teaches us about prayer in Mat. 6:9-13. At the beginning of almost every letter he writes, Paul tells what he prays for these people. Is prayer presented as focusing on my wants, or on my needs? Is it presented as a way of getting stuff, or of furthering God's will in my life and the lives of others? If God doesn't lighten or remove a heavy burden, might His plan be to strengthen our spiritual muscles and build up our spiritual "wind"?
What reason did God give Paul for not giving him what he asked for? How does this speak to prayers of ours that have not yet been answered? We would like to be strong in our faith, or at least to FEEL strong--to feel like we "have it all together" in our lives"--is that necessarily God's desire? Why or why not? So is it the end of the world if you feel weak or even like a failure in your Christian life? What if you felt strong, victorious, successful, and mature? So does that mean we shouldn't try to be strong, more victorious, more mature? We find a paradox here, and a warning of danger.
We talked earlier in I Corinthians about the meaning of grace: God's undeserved favor, His gift of salvation through Jesus Christ. When life is hard, IS Jesus enough? IS the Bible enough? Or should we look elsewhere in the world for further resources? If you are not sure Jesus or the Bible are enough, check to see if your walk with Him is close or distant, personal or impersonal; check to see if your Bible reading is a discipline you do, or something you can't get enough of. Is the lack actually in Jesus and the Bible? Or might the problem be YOU, and a lack of maturity in your Christian life? Is it possible that your situation is actually worse than Paul's or anyone else's so that God's grace is not sufficient for YOU? Does Christian maturity mean we have come to a place where we no longer need God's grace to get us through? Might it be just the opposite?
Taken with the passage on the spiritual gifts and healing that we covered back in I Cor. 12-14, how does this speak to the issue of whether healing is for today and for every Christian? Is it God's will that Christians be healthy, wealthy, and successful? Was Paul? Are these things he taught the church to seek after?
Here is also one reason why we ought to question those unbiblical questionnaires that supposedly tell us what our spiritual gifts are; they tell us that our gift has to do with what we are good at and like to do. According to this verse, is God always going to use you in your area of strength? Why or why not? Might God ask you to do something hard? Do we have any guarantee that if we're following God and doing our best, that things will surely get smoother and easier? What is God's big plan for our lives, Rom. 8:29, 12:2?
10 So how does Paul now feel about his situation? The NASB says "content" which seems to make more sense than the KJV which says "take pleasure in." Are we to wallow in our problems, brag about them, and be masochists? Do some Christians do that? Might we have been insulted because we were just annoying people, even annoying Christians? Might our distresses and difficulties be because of our own bad choices, laziness, weaknesses and failures? Are we not to try to improve our bad traits and poor behavior? Might some Christians use this verse as an excuse for why they continue to live like that? What does he mean "for Christ's sake"?
11-13 Paul is embarrassed that he even had to compare himself to others. Is he referring to certain apostles (Peter, James, John) in a mean-spirited way, as if they have been setting themselves above the other apostles? Or who has he been talking about in the last couple chapters? The false apostles--what does he again sarcastically call them? Apparently they put themselves above the true apostles, and so did the Corinthians, who considered Paul to be what?
How did God provide that people could tell a true apostle from a false one? What does this imply about Christians being able to do signs, wonders and miracles, as some teach today that we can and should be doing? If others besides apostles displayed these gifts, then how could anyone distinguish a true apostle? Today many claim to be apostles, although the Bible does not teach that there would be any further apostles after the twelve, and an apostle had to have seen the risen Jesus; if these today were actually true apostles, they should be easily recognized by all Christians (not just their following) by these authenticating signs.
13, apparently the Corinthians had accused Paul of what? He had supported himself to keep them from accusing him of ministering for financial gain; instead, they accused him of not accepting their hospitality, as he had in other churches. Have you known touchy Christians like that--no matter how you bend over backwards to keep from offending them, they choose to find something to get offended over? Is that a mark of maturity or immaturity? Hopefully we all desire to grow and mature as Christians.
14-18 He assures them again that he will NOT take from them, that it is not their responsibility to provide for him. Is he after their money? Are some pastors? How does he picture his relationship with the Corinthian church? They are still spiritual children, so he does not expect financial support from them. In 16 we again see the sarcasm, the tongue-in-cheek: what were the Corinthians, or the false apostles, saying about him? Was he taking a collection for the Jews in Jerusalem, then putting it in his own pockets? Do some pastors today do such things? Ought there to be financial accountability your in church? 17-18, had Paul or any that he sent gained financially or used them in any way? In spite of careful behavior by Paul and the others, it seems there were rumors and talking behind people's backs--what type of Christians engage in this? How does this affect a church?
19-21 Did the Corinthians have any valid criticisms of Paul? When dealing with people who insist on nit-picking and spreading rumors, might there come a time when there is no more point in defending yourself before them, if you are sure you are right before God? Do the sins listed in 20 still take place in churches today? What can be done about it? Paul warns them that if he finds this type of behavior, they might find him to be a bit more heavy-handed in discipline than lovey-dovey when he arrives. When some, or many, in a church are sinning blatantly and not willing to repent, how would you feel if you were the pastor? What would you do? Might pastors be torn between throwing up their hands and leaving, vs. staying and working? Do you think pastors ever struggle with depression or feelings of failure? Do you think some pretend not to see sinful behavior, or use other excuses so as not to have to deal with it? To find this going on in the church would cause Paul to feel what, 21? Apparently he is aware that there is a strong possibility he may find sexual sin in many in this church; does this happen today? When church leadership does not exercise church discipline in such cases, how is a church affected?
1-4 This carries on from the last verse; he is referring to acts of sin that may need dealt with when he gets there. He may be speaking of having several people as witnesses, or he may be saying that since this will be his third visit, and he witnessed the problems on his other two visits, that this counts as the third witness. Why is it so important that there be two or three witnesses? The quote is from Deut. 19:15; according to 15-21, what was to be done under the Law if there was just one witness? False accusations are serious offenses.
Ideally, what should result from church discipline? What can happen if it is applied in a less than biblical manner? What can happen if it is not carried out at all? The Corinthians thought Paul was "weak" compared to their hot-shot false prophets, 3, so Paul tells them that if things don't change before he arrives, he WILL exercise the power God has given him. He then uses the idea of weakness and power to point them to Christ; whose weakness put Him on the cross? Whose power raised Him from the dead? And applying those concepts to us, what paradox does he speak of in 4?
5-6 Is everyone a Christian who says they are? Or who thinks they are? Is everyone who goes to church, or is a member--a Christian? Why might a non-christian say they are? Why might someone think he is a Christian when he is not? Why might it even be good for a true Christian to check his beliefs? Should we take this to mean we should always be questioning our faith? Wouldn't this lead to a lack of assurance of salvation? Always keep in mind the context of the verse--what kind of people has Paul been addressing? So does Jesus Christ indwell everyone (through the Holy Spirit)? How can someone know if they fail the test--what makes us approved? What about these people makes Paul say this? So if a church is full of sin, what might be the problem? 6, apparently the Corinthians weren't impressed with Paul because of his lack of outward show of power.
7-8 So for Paul to appear approved in their eyes, he must come with a show of power, which he just told them he will do if their sinful behavior has not changed. Does he relish doing that? What would he prefer to take place? If they have repented, he won't need a show of apostolic power, in which case he still won't portray the image they want. Do they really understand who Paul is, or why he does what he does, or what he doesn't do? Can these kinds of misperceptions and misunderstandings happen in our churches? What is Paul more concerned about--appearances, or truth? Are WE also?
9-10 Back in 3-4,Paul was playing with what two words that he now uses again? Keeping in mind the context of the last few verses, what do you think he is saying in 9? Along those same lines, he desires and even prays that they will be complete (KJV: perfection): strong, in the Lord. In 10 he doesn't use the words weak/strong/power, but he says the same thing in another way. Is this saying a Christian is perfect, or should be perfect? Today we think of "perfect" as "without sin"--some teach this unbiblical idea. But a check of Strong's shows that it means mature, complete, thoroughly equipped.
By restating his concern in several different ways, he hopes they will understand. Isn't there more chance of misunderstanding the written word since there is no tone of voice, facial expression, body language, or chance to interact and clarify? I see this all the time on internet forums and chat rooms. So Paul tried to choose his words carefully. What special authority did the Lord give Paul? So is he talking about all pastors wielding spiritual authority? Some pastors mistakenly claim authority that God did not give pastors--only apostles--and do use it for tearing down. But instead, the pastor's goal should be what?
11 Paul's final words to them; he frequently refers to his fellow believers as brethren--brothers (and sisters) in Christ. Have you ever experienced the family closeness of brothers and sisters in Christ, even ones you hardly know? Sometimes, depending on your own family situation, our Christian family can feel closer than our own blood relatives. Brethren: rejoice (NASB), or, farewell (KJV), which only SEEM different. To fare well literally means to be well off. Strong's: be full of cheer, be well, calmly happy, be glad, God speed, greeting, joyfully, rejoice. What else does Paul desire for this church? To be complete (KJV: perfect)--to complete thoroughly, repair adjust, mend prepare, restore. So are they to just hope and pray that these things will characterize their church, or do they need to obey Paul's instructions in order to bring about these results? If they do these things, what will also be apparent?
12 The ceremonial kiss was a common method of greeting one another, as we might hug or shake hands--often between men or between women. Why this command--did he need to remind them to give each other a kiss, or, did he need to remind that it was a HOLY kiss? WHY did he need to say this? What is NOT a holy kiss? A sexual kiss or a deceitful kiss (a pretence of warmth and friendship). Might some Christians today need to warned that their kiss, hug or touch should be holy, not sexually hinting? Are our "friendly" greetings or demeanors among Christians ever faked? So how might we reword the idea in this verse?
13 Who are saints? Christians. Greetings are sent from other Christians. Greet/salute/welcome/embrace.
14 Do you see the Trinity here? What should characterize the church? Grace (salvation) comes through who? Love is from who? God the Father, who loved us so much that He did what? Christians have fellowship with one another because who indwells us and makes us part of the body of Christ? The Corinthians were carnal and immature, but the church is not about us but about Christ. God has chosen to establish the church and work through Christians that are still plagued with sin, but we are to depend on Him, not ourselves.
Copyright 2011 Jan Young
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