Basic Facts from 2 Corinthians (Part 3)

Basic Facts from 2 Corinthians (Part 3)

One of the most fundamental new testament concepts appears in 2 Corinthians 5:1, in Paul’s contrasts of the ancient tabernacle and the ancient temple of the Mosaic era. His analogy compares our earthly and physical existence with the promised heavenly destiny that awaits the faithful. The important point we should note is that the “building” from God is a reference to the church, which is comprised of the saints. Our “tabernacle” existence (i.e., this earthly condition) is a temporary one, whereas the “building” (or “temple”) existence which awaits us signifies permanency.

Continuing in verses 6-9, Paul emphasizes the fact that Christians can and should be “of good courage” (KJV “confident”) because we know our destiny and destination! No faithful Christian has any reason to be doubtful or uncertain in this life, if we keep faith with our Lord. When Paul writes of walking by faith rather than sight, that “faith” springs from the confidence that our God always, always, always keeps His promises. He has never failed His people; therefore we trust Him implicitly, rather than walking “by sight.” The Christian’s highest and most important purpose in life therefore becomes “walking” so that we please Him, because we realize that every one of us must ultimately answer to Him for all that we have done in this life (vs. 10) — both the evil things and the good ones.

Chapter 6:14 presents a basic principle that many Christians ignore to their own hurt; we are not to be “unequally” yoked with unbelievers. While we often apply this verse to religiously “mixed” marriages, it is important to see that marriage is not the only relationship in view here. (Indeed, some assert that it is always sinful for a Christian to marry a denominational person, but the new testament does not say this.) Paul’s instruction here is generic, applying to all relationships a Christian could share with an unbeliever. These would include things like business partnerships; lending relationships; friendships; employer/employee relationships; and yes, marriages too. The Holy Spirit used Paul to teach us that we should not allow unbelievers to have more influence on us in any relationship than our Lord has! It is important to note that Paul includes himself in this admonition (ch. 7:1 – he was not a hypocrite!), and he emphasizes in 6:16 that we are to be God’s people; no one else’s!

In chapter seven Paul addresses the fact that the Corinthian Christians had repented from some of the sins he had identified in his first letter to them (First Corinthians). He notes in vv. 8-9 that, while he knew his words of correction had caused them pain and sorrow, he was also glad because of the changes these words had produced in them. Verses 10-11 show us the “process” that leads to repentance, and it is very important to understand that genuine change from sin is spurred by regret over the fact that it grieves and offends our God. The main difference between worldly sorrow for sin and godly sorrow for sin is that only one produces repentance; the first one is merely sorry to have been caught doing wrong, while the other regrets ever having made the choice to sin. The “sorrow” Paul cites here as the motivation to reformation is the same “mourning” Jesus Himself described in Matthew 5:4.

The key to genuine Christian generosity in giving is found in 2 Corinthians 8:5, as Paul describes the astonishing offering of the Macedonian Christians (vv. 1-4); “they gave themselves first to the Lord.” What we give – whether funds, time, or skills – can only reach the scale God desires when we give ourselves wholly and completely to Him. This presents a challenge to many Christians, because it is far “easier” to simply set a “minimum giving requirement” than to seriously and honestly evaluate the plethora of gifts and blessings God provides each day, and then acknowledge that we are ultimately only stewards of them in the first place! Instead of allowing us to practice “minimum requirement faith,” however, God challenges us to constantly grow in our trust for Him and challenge Him – by our own generosity! – to provide the means for us to do ever greater things in His kingdom! Thus, Paul urges the Corinthians (in verse 7) to “abound (i.e., increase, excel) in this grace also.”

 

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