2 Corinthians 1-3 Encouragement, Liberty, Glory

2 Corinthians 1-3 Encouragement, Liberty, Glory

Psalm 139:1-24 Awesomely and Wonderfully Created
Ps 139:1 A Psalm by David “Yahweh, you have searched me, and you know me. 2 You know my sitting down and my rising up. You perceive my thoughts from afar. 3 You search out my path and my lying down, and are acquainted with all my ways. 4 For there is not a word on my tongue, but, behold, Yahweh, you know it altogether. 5 You hem me in behind and before. You laid your hand on me. 6 This knowledge is beyond me. It’s lofty. I can’t attain it.
7 Where could I go from your Spirit? Or where could I flee from your presence? 8 If I ascend up into heaven, you are there. If I make my bed in Sheol, behold, you are there! 9 If I take the wings of the dawn, and settle in the uttermost parts of the sea; 10 Even there your hand will lead me, and your right hand will hold me. 11 If I say, "Surely the darkness will overwhelm me; the light around me will be night"; 12 even the darkness doesn’t hide from you, but the night shines as the day. The darkness is like light to you.
(NIV to 18)13 For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb. 14 I praise you because I am fearfully/awesomely and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well. 15 My frame was not hidden from you when I was made in the secret place, when I was woven together in the depths of the earth. 16 Your eyes saw my unformed body; all the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be. 17 How precious to me are your thoughts, God! How vast is the sum of them! 18 Were I to count them, they would outnumber the grains of sand when I awake, I am still with you.
19 If only you, God, would kill the wicked. Get away from me, you bloodthirsty men! 20 For they speak against you wickedly. Your enemies take your name in vain. 21 Yahweh, don’t I hate those who hate you? Am I not grieved with those who rise up against you? 22 I hate them with perfect hatred. They have become my enemies. 23 Search me, God, and know my heart. Try me, and know my thoughts. 24 See if there is any wicked way in me, and lead me in the everlasting way."

Observations: 139:1-24 Wicked people build their worth and value by putting others down. Prideful people build their worth and value by accomplishments at the expense of others. Godly people build their worth and value by doing what is pleasing in His sight. But all of God's children can find worth and value in God's knowledge and creation of them.
139:1-12 David draws comfort from God's omniscience (139:1-6) and omnipresence (139:7-12). God knows everything that goes on in our lives, and there is no place we can go that is outside the realm of His care for us.
139:13-18 David praises God for His omnipotence in creating him as He did. God created us as He wanted us to be. We humans are awesome and wonderful creations (in the image of God – Gen 1), with a purpose and meaning by virtue of being created by God, who has planned days and good works for us (Eph 2:10). He doesn't make mistakes nor trash. There are no accidents. This gives us worth and value, and the basis of a good self image (what's not to like?). Anyone who doesn't appreciate God's handiwork doesn't have good taste, and isn't worth paying any attention to. God thinks the world of you, so why should you care what morons don't think?
139:19-24 David asks God to eliminate his enemies who are also God's enemies, since David is God's loyal friend. He also asks for God to reveal anything he needs to change or improve so that he can get to where God wants him to go.
Application: Accept yourself as the wonderful creation of God which you are, and devote your energies to fulfilling the purposes for which He knit you together.
Prayer: God, I praise You for the wonderful job You did in planning and creating me. Search me, God, and know my heart. Try me, and know my thoughts. See if there is any wicked or offensive way in me, and guide me in the way that is more pleasing to You. Amen.

TMS Matthew 18:20 Corporate Prayer
Mt 18:20 “For where two or three are gathered together
in My name,
I am there
in the midst of them."

Observations: 18:20 This is used as a passage about fellowship in the TMS, but its major context is that of church discipline (see comments on Mt 18). There believers were gathered to do God's will in helping an erring believer respond to reproof and rebuke, and rejoin the fellowship of believers. (Like the situation in 1Cor 5 referenced below). As believers gather in the power/authority/name of Jesus, which would imply submission to His will, to do His will, then He is there in the midst of them. This is not what constitutes a Church, but the same dynamic should apply. God's ears are always open to the prayers of His people (2Chronicles 6:39; 30:27), when they seek Him according to His will. Two or 2,000 carnal Christians gathered and chanting “Jesus, Jesus” probably isn't what He had in mind. See Catacomb Church Blog on corporate prayer.

Application: God listens to three, two, or even one person who prays to Him under the conditions He has specified, namely, in His name, submitted to His will.

Prayer: God, thanks that You are present in the prayers and praises of Your people; thanks for the privilege of being able to seek You and pray together. Amen.

2 Corinthians 1-3 This epistle has some of the best teaching on glory (2Cor 4-5), giving (2Cor 7-8), and grace (2Cor 12), but the rest deals with the heart of Paul in fighting the spiritual battle for the welfare of the Corinthians, some of whom despise him. Poor Paul is like the parent with ungrateful and rebellious children. God gave the Corinthians life through him, and he tended and cared for them, only to have them go over to the dark side and fight against him. The background is a little difficult to reconstruct, but goes something like this: Paul had established the Church (Acts 18) and ministered there for a year and a half; he wrote a letter, the prequel to 1Corinthinans, which we don't have, trying to correct problems; he wrote 1Corinthians trying to correct still remaining problems, but Satan's agents fought against the truth and sought to discredit Paul; he visited again, referenced in chapter two, which didn't go well; he wrote a third letter, the severe and sorrowful one, delivered by Titus, which is not extant; some responded to truth, some still resisted, so he writes this fourth letter, 2Corinthians, and plans to visit again. The exact flow is difficult to follow since much is written to not present truth but persuade without hurting feelings, so it is veiled and shaded. However, in this post there are some clear principles on suffering, encouragement, ministry, and the Holy Spirit worth noting and applying.

2 Corinthians 1 Encouragement to Endure
1:1 Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus through the will of God, and Timothy our brother, to the assembly of God which is at Corinth, with all the saints who are in the whole of Achaia: 2 Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.
3 Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies/hesed and God of all comfort/encouragement; 4 who comforts/encourages us in all our affliction/tribulation, that we may be able to comfort/encourage those who are in any affliction/trouble, through the comfort/encouragement with which we ourselves are comforted/encouraged by God. 5 For as the sufferings of Christ abound to us, even so our comfort/encouragement also abounds through Christ. 6 But if we are afflicted, it is for your comfort/encouagement and salvation. If we are comforted/encouraged, it is for your comfort/encouragement, which produces in you the patient enduring of the same sufferings which we also suffer.
7 Our hope for you is steadfast, knowing that, since you are partakers of the sufferings, so also are you of the comfort/consolation/encouragement. 8 For we don’t desire to have you uninformed, brothers, concerning our affliction which happened to us in Asia, that we were weighed down exceedingly, beyond our power, so much that we despaired even of life. 9 Yes, we ourselves have had the sentence of death within ourselves, that we should not trust in ourselves, but in God who raises the dead, 10 who delivered us out of so great a death, and does deliver; on whom we have set our hope that he will also still deliver us; 11 you also helping together on our behalf by your supplication; that, for the gracething bestowed on us by means of many, thanks may be given by many persons on your behalf.
12 For our boasting is this: the testimony of our conscience, that in holiness and sincerity of God, not in fleshly wisdom but in the grace of God we behaved ourselves in the world, and more abundantly toward you. 13 For we write no other things to you, than what you read or even acknowledge, and I hope you will acknowledge to the end; 14 as also you acknowledged us in part, that we are your boasting, even as you also are ours, in the day of our Lord Jesus.
15 In this confidence, I was determined to come first to you, that you might have a second benefit; 16 and by you to pass into Macedonia, and again from Macedonia to come to you, and to be sent forward by you on my journey to Judea. 17 When I therefore was thus determined, did I show fickleness? Or the things that I purpose, do I purpose according to the flesh, that with me there should be the "Yes, yes" and the "No, no?" 18 But as God is faithful, our word toward you was not "Yes and no." 19 For the Son of God, Jesus Christ, who was preached among you by us, by me, Silvanus, and Timothy, was not "Yes and no," but in him is "Yes." 20 For however many are the promises of God, in him is the "Yes." Therefore also through him is the "Amen," to the glory of God through us. 21 Now he who establishes us with you in Christ, and anointed us, is God; 22 who also sealed us, and gave us the down payment of the Spirit in our hearts. 23 But I call God for a witness to my soul, that I didn’t come to Corinth to spare you. 24 Not that we have lordship over your faith, but are fellow workers with you for your joy. For you stand firm in/by faith.

Observations: 1:1-11 Paul opens with a wish for the Corinthians to receive the blessings of grace and peace from God. He then blesses the God who blesses His people by comforting/encouraging them in all their affliction. The translation of “comfort” is somewhat misleading. The word (parakaleo Strong''s #3870) literally means to “call along side,” not “come alongside.” It is more usually translated “beseech” or “exhort” in the KJV, but in modern times “encourage” is preferred in most contexts. “Comfort” has the idea of “there-there now,” as in comforting a toddler who got a boo-boo on their knee. There is a Greek word for this (paramutheomai Strong's #3888) which means to “speak alongside” and used of folks consoling Mary and Martha over the death of their brother (Jn 11:19,31). The only other times it is used in the NT are in 1Thessalonians 2:11 and 5:14.
The purpose of encouragement is to produce courage for “patient enduring of suffering” (verse 6), not the marshmallow comfort of feeling that something bad shouldn't have happened to you. There is a place for that, but Paul's usage of encouragement, here, and at other places is that of strengthening to face difficulties. So God gives encouragement in tough times (usually through the truth -Rom 15:4 encouragement). When we are weighed down beyond our power to endure, we draw on His power and grace to endure (by abiding in Christ, the Vine, and His words -Jn 15). But God does this, so we can use what we've learned to help others, thus having a fruitful ministry in helping them persevere for the prize (saved=glorification -verse 6). Paul doesn't trust in His strength to endure, but trusts in God who raises the dead (as happened to him at Lystra -Acts 14:19).
Paul's hope on behalf of the Corinthians is sure, because as they partake of suffering they will partake of the encouragement or reward (Rom 8:17). God has delivered, does deliver, and will deliver. The three aspects of salvation (justification, sanctification, and glorification) are in these verses. Notice that the hope is in the future aspect of God's deliverance. Paul considers the prayers of the believers an aid in his deliverance, so that thanks and praise might be given by many to God.
1:12-24 In the second half of the chapter Paul turns to defending himself and message against the accusations and fault-finding of Satan's agents, because he had changed his plans to visit them. In not coming to visit them when they were more engrossed in sin, he was sparing them the judgment they would experience in person. In verse 20 God is glorified as we respond affirmatively to His promises (causing the revelation of His character, actions, and bestowal of reward). In verse 21 Paul states that God “establishes” (as in on a foundation), “anoints” (as in empowers), and “seals” (as protectively mark). Paul says that the Holy Spirit is a down-payment, or promise of more to come (the Spirit of Glory). See comments on Ephesians 1.
Paul mentions an important ministry principle, in the last verse. God gives authority to leaders to build others up in their faith (belief and trust in God's revelation), for them to experience joy (fellow-workers with the individuals for their joy). Sometimes bad leadership is more concerned about their own joy, rather than the joy of those they serve. Usually those who object to authority are not walking or living by God's promises (Heb 11:6), and don't have joy to begin with.

Application: God gives encouragement in difficult times so we can endure, and help others as we've been helped.

Prayer: God, thanks that You give encouragement in response to my prayers and those of others, so I can draw upon you grace and endure for the prize; please guide me in helping others experience Your encouragement. Amen.

2 Corinthians 2 Fragrance of Life or Death
2:1 But I determined this for myself, that I would not come to you again in sorrow. 2 For if I make you sorry, then who will make me glad but he who is made sorry by me? 3 And I wrote this very thing to you, so that, when I came, I wouldn’t have sorrow from them of whom I ought to rejoice; having confidence in you all, that my joy would be shared by all of you. 4 For out of much affliction and anguish of heart I wrote to you with many tears, not that you should be made sorry, but that you might know the love that I have so abundantly for you.
5 But if any has caused sorrow, he has caused sorrow, not to me, but in part (that I not press too heavily) to you all. 6 Sufficient to such a one is this punishment which was inflicted by the many; 7 so that on the contrary you should rather forgive him and comfort him, lest by any means such a one should be swallowed up with his excessive sorrow. 8 Therefore I beg you to confirm your love toward him. 9 For to this end I also wrote, that I might know the proof of you, whether you are obedient in all things. 10 Now I also forgive whomever you forgive anything. For if indeed I have forgiven anything, I have forgiven that one for your sakes in the presence of Christ, 11 that no advantage may be gained over us by Satan; for we are not ignorant of his schemes.
12 Now when I came to Troas for the Good News of Christ, and when a door was opened to me in/by the Lord, 13 I had no relief for my spirit, because I didn’t find Titus, my brother, but taking my leave of them, I went out into Macedonia. 14 Now thanks be to God, who always leads us in triumph in Christ, and reveals through us the sweet aroma of his knowledge in every place. 15 For we are a sweet aroma of Christ to God, in those who are being saved, and in those who are perishing; 16 to the one a stench from death to death; to the other a sweet aroma from life to life. Who is sufficient for these things? 17 For we are not as so many, peddling the word of God. But as of sincerity, but as of God, in the sight of God, we speak in Christ.

Observations: 2:1-4 Paul had written the second lost letter (see intro) not to make them sad, but to cause them to repent. Our initial reaction to someone reproving or rebuking us is to think that they hate us; but the opposite is usually the case. Only those who genuinely love us will care enough about our present and eternal destiny to risk rejection in saying something we might not want to hear. The Corinthians were a source of joy to Paul, so he wouldn't want to cause them unnecessary sorrow.
2:5-11 Many think that this section refers to the incestuous sinner from 1Corinthians 5 who had been disciplined by the Body, per Paul's instructions, although some think it refers to someone who had slighted Paul (about which we have no context). The former view has more to commend it, since it does give us a context and instruction for accepting back into fellowship those who repent. By continuing to shun the repentant believer and not forgive them, bitterness would result, a red-flag for attracting demonic attention and resultant defilement of many (Heb 12:15). The purpose of God is not to have us dwell on past sin, but present holiness, and future glory. Satan's purpose is otherwise.
2:12-17 Paul goes back to His change of travel plans, in looking for Titus, who is mentioned eight times more in this book, than in the one that bears his name. Apparently Titus had information about the Corinthians that Paul was anxious to know, because of his concern for them. It was in Troas that Paul first received his Macedonian call (Acts 16:8-9), which resulted in his ministry to the Corinthians. He arrived there through much persecution and affliction. Reflecting on the ministry that resulted, Paul praises God for the victory over the trials that God had given the apostolic band, as they were in union with Christ. Through them, the sweet aroma of Christ was revealed to all, to those who are being saved (present tense) Christ is the aroma of life. To those who reject and are perishing, it is the stench of death. God makes them sufficient/worthy/adequate (3:45) for this honor and labor. Paul doesn't peddle the word of God for personal profit, but speaks with pure motives (sincerity) knowing he will have to give an account to God.

Application: We need to forgive ourselves and others as God has forgiven us, so we can move on, away from our sin, to better and brighter things; otherwise, Satan will use guilt, bitterness, and disunity to disrupt God's plans for our lives.

Prayer: God, thanks that You accept us back into fellowship with You when we repent; may we accept ourselves, and each other, as You have accepted us. Amen.

2 Corinthians 3 From Glory to Glory
3:1 Are we beginning again to commend ourselves? Or do we need, as do some, letters of commendation to you or from you? 2 You are our letter, written in our hearts, known and read by all men; 3 being revealed that you are a letter of Christ, served by us, written not with ink, but with the Spirit of the living God; not in tablets of stone, but in tablets that are hearts of flesh. 4 Such confidence we have through Christ toward God; 5 not that we are sufficient of ourselves, to account anything as from ourselves; but our sufficiency is from God;
6 who also made us sufficient as servants/ministers of a new covenant; not of the letter, but of the Spirit. For the letter kills, but the Spirit gives life. 7 But if the service/ministry of death, written engraved on stones, came with glory, so that the children of Israel could not look steadfastly on the face of Moses for the glory of his face; which was passing away: 8 won’t service of the Spirit be with much more glory? 9 For if the service of condemnation has glory, the service of righteousness exceeds much more in glory. 10 For most certainly that which has been made glorious has not been made glorious in this respect, by reason of the glory that surpasses. 11 For if that which passes away was with glory, much more that which remains is in glory.
12 Having therefore such a hope, we use great boldness of speech, 13 and not as Moses, who put a veil on his face, that the children of Israel wouldn’t look steadfastly on the end of that which was passing away. 14 But their minds were hardened, for until this very day at the reading of the old covenant the same veil remains, because in Christ it passes away. 15 But to this day, when Moses is read, a veil lies on their heart. 16 But whenever one turns to the Lord, the veil is taken away.
17 Now the Lord is the Spirit and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty. 18 Now, we all, with unveiled face beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are transformed into the same image from glory to glory, even as from the Lord, the Spirit.

Observations: 3:1-5 Paul wants to establish his credibility so the Corinthians will listen and follow what he says. But since some would charge him with presumptuous self-promotion, he cites the work in the lives of the Corinthians as his letter of recommendation from the Spirit of God. Wisdom is justified by her children. They, at least the ones who heard and obeyed, fleshed out the word of God in their lives, becoming living epistles. This wasn't a result of Paul, but God working through Paul to bless them, as Paul spoke God's word.
3:6-16 Paul then contrasts the letter of the law which God wrote to tablets of stone in the OT, which produces death for sin, with that which the Spirit wrote in their hearts and results in life. Probably some of Paul's detractors were Jewish (as was the case in much of Acts), so he demonstrates the superiority of the glory of the Spirit in the New Covenant to that of the Old Covenant (much like the author of Hebrews does). Paul was a minister of the New Covenant (see comments on Jer 31:31), specifically that aspect of the Spirit giving life. The OT came with a glory that fades, as shown by Moses losing the mountain glow. The NT has a greater glory, which surpasses that of the Law. The glory of the NT will remain, as the next two chapters detail. This is Paul's hope. Many Jews, in both the time of Moses and Paul's time, reject God's law and authority in their lives, and thus their minds became insensitive to truth and were hardened.
Acts 28:27 For the hearts of this people have grown dull. Their ears are hard of hearing, And their eyes they have closed, Lest they should see with their eyes and hear with their ears, Lest they should understand with their hearts and turn, So that I should heal them."
So they don't respond to the truth and turn to God. But when the Holy Spirit convicts them (Jn 16:8), and they turn to the Lord, the veil is taken away, and they can see clearly.
6:17-18 Paul equates the Lord with the Spirit (see sentence immediately above). Where the Spirit of the Lord is (who now resides in their hearts as a seal – see 1:22) there is liberty, or freedom, from sin (Jn 8:31-32; Rm 6:18) and the law, and death (Rm 8:2 For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has made me free from the law of sin and death.). Now, having the veil removed, and seeing clearly the glory of the Lord, we are transformed (metamorphosized). This word is used of us in Romans 12:1-2 when we go from being carnal caterpillars to beautiful butterflies, by the renewing of our minds, and of Jesus on the Mount of Transfiguration (Mt 17:2; Mk 9:2) when He was seen clothed with His glory. The former leads to the latter for us. We are transformed into the same image, for one degree of glory to another, as a result of the ministry of the Spirit, who conforms us to the image of Christ (Rom 8:29), as we focus on Him.

Application: As we turn to the Lord, and keep focused on Him, we will be changed into His image.

Prayer: God, thanks for the ministry of Your Holy Spirit in my life, and Your desire to give me freedom and glory; may I be responsive and receptive, and become more like Jesus. Amen.

Digging Deeper

God in a nutshell: God gives encouragement so we can endure, and share it with others. God always leads those who follow Him into victory.

Build-a-Jesus: Jesus shines in hearts by the power of the Holy Spirit, enabling those who receive Him to be transformed into His image and share in His glory.

Us in a nutshell: Those who seek to serve God will be welcome by those who seek God according to truth, and despised by those who don't. God's servants are made sufficient by God's Spirit to do His will, regardless of the response of others. Those who respond well, become like Christ, both now, and in the future.

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