2 Corinthians 10-13 God's Grace is Power

2 Corinthians 10-13 God's Grace is Power

Psalm 142:1-7 Prayer of the Persecuted
Ps 142:1 A contemplation by David, when he was in the cave. A Prayer. “I cry with my voice to Yahweh. With my voice, I ask Yahweh for mercy. 2 I pour out my complaint before him. I tell him my troubles. 3 When my spirit was overwhelmed within me, you knew my path. In the way in which I walk, they have hidden a snare for me.
4 Look on my right, and see; for there is no one who is concerned for me. Refuge has fled from me. No one cares for my soul. 5 I cried to you, Yahweh. I said, "You are my refuge, my portion in the land of the living." 6 Listen to my cry, for I am in desperate need. Deliver me from my persecutors, for they are stronger than me. 7 Bring my soul out of prison, that I may give thanks to your name. The righteous will surround me, for you will be good to me."

Observations: 142:1-7 David wasn't having one of his better days. According to the superscription, he's the anointed king, hiding out in a cave, hunted by Saul the insane. He calls out to the God he trusted against Goliath, and the lion, and bear. He doesn't just need physical protection, but emotional rescue as well. He's troubled, overwhelmed, in desperate need, and feels abandoned, imprisoned, and all alone. Yet he bases his prayer on the truth that God knows what's going on and is his refuge, and his possession in the land of the living. David expresses confidence that God will deliver him, and he will be able to praise God for His goodness in the congregation of the righteous. See Groaning in the Garden for how Jesus prayed when feeling overwhelmed.
Application: When you feel like God has abandoned you and the bad guys might win, don't abandon God by ceasing to pray; He wants you to trust Him so He will get the thanks and glory for the save.
Prayer: Mighty God, You are my refuge when oppressed, my hope in times of trouble; don't let me lose perspective, but keep me looking to You for help until I can praise You for Your preservation and deliverance. Thanks that You are always faithful. Amen.

TMS Romans 1:16 Not Ashamed
Rom 1:16 “For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ,
for it is the power of God to salvation
for everyone who believes,
for the Jew first and also for the Greek.
17 For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith to faith;
as it is written, 'The just shall live by faith.' “

Observations: 1:16 If you were married to the most wonderful person in the universe, would you be ashamed of that fact? If you had the sure and only cure for cancer, would you hide it because of what someone might say? Well, you are married to Christ (Rm 7:4) and you do have the only and sure cure for sin. So why would you be tempted to be ashamed of it? The gospel or good news is the power of God for bringing about compete salvation to those who believe. So share it with others, unless it's not working for you, in which case, keep quiet until you fix that problem by faithfully obeying. See comments on Romans 1:16-17 for a deeper understanding of this verse in context.

Application: We should be bold in sharing what is true and beneficial to both ourselves and others. Why would you be ashamed of it?

Prayer: God, thanks for those who shared the good news about You and Your plan with me, so I could believe it; open my eyes to how You want me to share it with others. Thanks again. Amen.

2 Corinthians 10-13 These final chapters of the book are difficult to read because the applicable principles have to be mined out of the “dispute” Paul has with his detractors (those doing the devil's work) at Corinth, who have disguised themselves as apostles and ministers of righteousness. They sought to derail the spiritual progress of growth of the Corinthians attacking his credibility, authority, motives, speaking style, etc. The more carnal of the Corinthians were being swayed away from following the truth as taught by Paul. So Paul responds to some of the allegations, and then has to preempt the charges that he's boasting. There are good lessons in here about dealing with detractors, but the major lessons about the sufficiency of God's grace, and victory over sin and demonic opposition just could be life-changing.

2 Corinthians 10 Spiritual Warfare
10:1 Now I Paul, myself, entreat you by the humility and gentleness of Christ; I who in your presence am lowly among you, but being absent am bold toward you. 2 Yes, I beg you that I may not, when present, show courage with the confidence with which I intend to be bold against some, who consider us to be walking according to the flesh. 3 For though we walk in the flesh, we don’t wage war according to the flesh; 4 for the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh, but mighty before God to the throwing down of strongholds, 5 throwing down imaginations and every high thing that is exalted against the knowledge of God, and bringing every thought into captivity to the obedience of Christ; 6 and being in readiness to avenge all disobedience, when your obedience will be made full.
7 Do you look at things only as they appear in front of your face? If anyone trusts in himself that he is Christ’s, let him consider this again with himself, that, even as he is Christ’s, so also we are Christ’s. 8 For though I should boast somewhat abundantly concerning our authority, (which the Lord gave for building you up, and not for casting you down) I will not be disappointed, 9 that I may not seem as if I desire to terrify you by my letters. 10 For, "His letters," they say, "are weighty and strong, but his bodily presence is weak, and his speech is despised." 11 Let such a person consider this, that what we are in word by letters when we are absent, such are we also in deed when we are present.
12 For we are not bold to number or compare ourselves with some of those who commend themselves. But they themselves, measuring themselves by themselves, and comparing themselves with themselves, are without understanding. 13 But we will not boast beyond proper limits, but within the boundaries with which God appointed to us, which reach even to you. 14 For we don’t stretch ourselves too much, as though we didn’t reach to you. For we came even as far as to you with the Good News of Christ, 15 not boasting beyond proper limits in other men’s labors, but having hope that as your faith grows, we will be abundantly enlarged by you in our sphere of influence, 16 so as to preach the Good News even to the parts beyond you, not to boast in what someone else has already done. 17 But "he who boasts, let him boast in the Lord." 18 For it isn’t he who commends himself who is approved, but whom the Lord commends.

Observations: 10:1-6 Paul's detractors charged him to be bold when he writes and weak when in person. The reality was that Paul didn't want to use his authority to chasten them in person, hoping to have them learn at the lower volume. If he was bolder in person, they'd accuse him of that too. Paul recognizes that the battle is a spiritual one, and the weapons required for not being a casualty are spiritual. The carnal weapons of defamation, intimidation, misrepresentation, and outright lies are tools of Satan. The major weapon in God's arsenal is truth (Eph 6:14,17) which can demolish the satanic strongholds of lies, false thinking, and bogus argumentation of the agents of the evil one. The truth is what destroys every rival to the true knowledge of God, and brings every thought into the service of Christ. Incorrect thoughts (dark falsehoods) are dispelled by the light of truth. People go off the path of righteousness because of incorrect perceptions and thinking (which Satan encourages).The defense is to not allow any of our thoughts to drift from the truth, but bring our purposes and aspirations into obedience to His will. See the Truthbase.net series: Spiritual Warfare: Defense Against the Dark Arts for learning how to become a spiritual ninja. Those who continued to serve the dark side would suffer judgment.
10:7-11 God gives authority/power for building others up, which is how Paul wants to use it toward them, but if they persist in doing the devil's work, he will judge them boldly when he comes.
10:12-18 Paul gives a great comment on the wisdom of comparing oneself to others as a measure of their worth. It's not wise. God's estimation of us is what matters, because He sees all and understands all. It looks like Paul's critics were complaining about his “right” to preach in Corinth, and might have been trying to take credit for Paul's work, which would have undermined his support in seeking to reach those beyond Corinth.

Application: What ultimately matters is what the Lord thinks of us, not what others say, or even what we think. What does Christ think of you?

Prayer: Lord Jesus, I desire to do what is right in Your sight, using Your tools to do Your will. Please guide me and protect me. Thanks. Amen.

2 Corinthians 11 Suffering to Serve
11:1 I wish that you would bear with me in a little foolishness, but indeed you do bear with me. 2 For I am jealous over you with a godly jealousy. For I married you to one husband, that I might present you as a pure virgin to Christ. 3 But I am afraid that somehow, as the serpent deceived Eve in his craftiness, so your minds might be corrupted from the simplicity that is in Christ. 4 For if he who comes preaches another Jesus, whom we did not preach, or if you receive a different spirit, which you did not receive, or a different "good news," which you did not accept, you put up with that well enough.
5 For I reckon that I am not at all behind the very best apostles. 6 But though I am unskilled in speech, yet I am not unskilled in knowledge. No, in every way we have been revealed to you in all things. 7 Or did I commit a sin in humbling myself that you might be exalted, because I preached to you God’s Good News free of charge? 8 I robbed other assemblies, taking wages from them that I might serve you. 9 When I was present with you and was in need, I wasn’t a burden on anyone, for the brothers, when they came from Macedonia, supplied the measure of my need. In everything I kept myself from being burdensome to you, and I will continue to do so. 10 As the truth of Christ is in me, no one will stop me from this boasting in the regions of Achaia. 11 Why? Because I don’t love you? God knows. 12 But what I do, that I will do, that I may cut off occasion from them that desire an occasion, that in which they boast, they may be found even as we. 13 For such men are false apostles, deceitful workers, masquerading as Christ’s apostles. 14 And no wonder, for even Satan masquerades as an angel of light. 15 It is no great thing therefore if his servants also masquerade as servants/ministers of righteousness, whose end will be according to their works.
16 I say again, let no one think me foolish. But if so, yet receive me as foolish, that I also may boast a little. 17 That which I speak, I don’t speak according to the Lord, but as in foolishness, in this confidence of boasting. 18 Seeing that many boast after the flesh, I will also boast. 19 For you bear with the foolish gladly, being wise. 20 For you bear with a man, if he brings you into bondage, if he devours you, if he takes you captive, if he exalts himself, if he strikes you on the face. 21 I speak by way of disparagement, as though we had been weak. Yet however any is bold (I speak in foolishness), I am bold also.
22 Are they Hebrews? So am I. Are they Israelites? So am I. Are they the seed of Abraham? So am I. 23 Are they servants of Christ? (I speak as one beside himself) I am more so; in labors more abundantly, in prisons more abundantly, in stripes above measure, in deaths often. 24 Five times from the Jews I received forty stripes minus one. 25 Three times I was beaten with rods. Once I was stoned. Three times I suffered shipwreck. I have been a night and a day in the deep. 26 I have been in travels often, perils of rivers, perils of robbers, perils from my countrymen, perils from the Gentiles, perils in the city, perils in the wilderness, perils in the sea, perils among false brothers; 27 in labor and travail, in watchings often, in hunger and thirst, in fastings often, and in cold and nakedness. 28 Besides those things that are outside, there is that which presses on me daily, anxiety for all the assemblies. 29 Who is weak, and I am not weak? Who is caused to stumble, and I don’t burn with indignation? 30 If I must boast, I will boast of the things that concern my weakness. 31 The God and Father of the Lord Jesus Christ, he who is blessed forevermore, knows that I don’t lie. 32 In Damascus the governor under King Aretas guarded the city of the Damascenes desiring to arrest me. 33 Through a window I was let down in a basket by the wall, and escaped his hands.

Observations: 11:1-15 The sarcasm gets pretty thick as Paul speaks the language the Corinthians understand to move them back to the truth. His goal was to have them be a pure bride of Christ, but Satan and his agents were working overtime to try to thwart that endeavor. Satan twists and distort truth, like he did with Eve, to move people away from the light and God's blessing. The Corinthians were all to eager to accept and believe something new, from a smooth talker, rather than the truth. Paul defends his message as the truth, and his conduct towards them as love, and not exploitation. Within those who call themselves followers of Christ are Satan's agents, masquerading as apostles, ministers of righteousness. Satan himself dresses up as an angel of light. So how do you recognize the bad guys? If you don't know the answer to that you're probably already deceived. The noble minded Bereans had a great method for detecting the demonic, they daily searched and compared what was said to the truth in the Scriptures (Acts 17:10-11). Fortunately there weren't any theology books or commentaries written to cloud the issue.
11:16-33 Paul says that if they think he is a fool they could at least indulge him a little and listen to what he had to say. He gives a brief resume of his job as an apostle of Christ. This list is even more amazing when you realize that this is the miracle working apostle Paul, who could heal the sick and raise the dead. The fact that God let him experience such suffering was okay with him because it deepened his dependence upon God (as the next chapter will show), and Paul meant what he wrote in Romans 8:
16 The Spirit Himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, 17 and if children, then heirs --- heirs of God but co-heirs with Christ, if indeed we co-suffer with Him, that we may also be co-glorified together. 18 For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us.
Application: God allows His choicest servants to suffer and experience both human and demonic opposition in doing His will. The secret to sustaining oneself is in the next chapter.

Prayer: God, thanks that You are in control of the events even when they look terrible; may I develop the response to You that Paul had: You are blessed forevermore. Amen.

2 Corinthians 12 God's Grace is Sufficient
12:1 It is doubtless not profitable for me to boast. For I will come to visions and revelations of the Lord. 2 I know a man in Christ, fourteen years ago (whether in the body, I don’t know, or whether out of the body, I don’t know; God knows), such a one caught up into the third heaven. 3 I know such a man (whether in the body, or outside of the body, I don’t know; God knows), 4 how he was caught up into Paradise, and heard unspeakable words, which it is not lawful for a man to utter. 5 On behalf of such a one I will boast, but on my own behalf I will not boast, except in my weaknesses. 6 For if I would desire to boast, I will not be foolish; for I will speak the truth. But I refrain, so that no man may think more of me than that which he sees in me, or hears from me. 7 By reason of the exceeding greatness of the revelations, that I should not be exalted excessively, there was given to me a thorn in the flesh, a messenger of Satan to torment me, that I should not be exalted excessively.
8 Concerning this thing, I begged the Lord three times that it might depart from me. 9 He has said to me, "My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness." Most gladly therefore I will rather glory in my weaknesses, that the power of Christ may rest on me. 10 Therefore I take pleasure in weaknesses, in injuries, in necessities, in persecutions, in distresses, for Christ’s sake. For when I am weak, then am I strong.
11 I have become foolish in boasting. You compelled me, for I ought to have been commended by you, for in nothing was I inferior to the very best apostles, though I am nothing. 12 Truly the signs of an apostle were worked among you in all patience, in signs and wonders and mighty works. 13 For what is there in which you were made inferior to the rest of the assemblies, unless it is that I myself was not a burden to you? Forgive me this wrong. 14 Behold, this is the third time I am ready to come to you, and I will not be a burden to you; for I seek not your possessions, but you. For the children ought not to save up for the parents, but the parents for the children. 15 I will most gladly spend and be spent for your souls. If I love you more abundantly, am I loved the less? 16 But be it so, I did not myself burden you. But, being crafty, I caught you with deception. 17 Did I take advantage of you by anyone of them whom I have sent to you? 18 I exhorted Titus, and I sent the brother with him. Did Titus take any advantage of you? Didn’t we walk in the same spirit? Didn’t we walk in the same steps? 19 Again, do you think that we are excusing ourselves to you? In the sight of God we speak in Christ. But all things, beloved, are for your edifying. 20 For I am afraid that by any means, when I come, I might find you not the way I want to, and that I might be found by you as you don’t desire; that by any means there would be strife, jealousy, outbursts of anger, factions, slander, whisperings, proud thoughts, riots; 21 that again when I come my God would humble me before you, and I would mourn for many of those who have sinned before now, and not repented of the uncleanness and sexual immorality and lustfulness which they committed.

Observations: 12:1-7 In contrast to his descent over the city wall at the end of chapter 11, Paul describes his ascent (cf verse 7) up to heaven/Paradise. He doesn't know if it was an “in the body” physical transport, or an “out of the body” transcendent spiritual experience (like Ezekiel was “in the spirit” -Ezk 1:1). The vision of heaven was part of what made him so willing to endure the hardships described in the previous chapters. He could not speak of what he had seen and heard but appealed to the experience as a means of validating his words over those of his opponents. Because of this revelation, God also gave him a thorn in the flesh, a painful demonic messenger to torment him, so that he would not become haughty, but would be reminded of his humanity.
12:8-10 Three times Paul asked the Lord to have the demonic affliction removed from him. Jesus prayed three times in the Garden as well. Three is not the magic limit, for we should pray for whatever concerns us (Phil 4:6-7). If we're anxious about something, we should tell God about it, as often as we're anxious about it. When we're tempted to be independent of God, prayer is a good way to express our submission and dependence. On the other hand, we should also listen to what God has to say in response. Some folks think that they need to badger or nag God to get what they want. Their time would be better spent discerning God's will in an issue than seeking to impose their will on God. God knows about our needs before we ask Him. His hearing and memory are impeccable. In response to Paul's prayers, God said it's better if he keeps the problem, because His grace was sufficient for him. Rather than pout, Paul praised God that he would experience greater dependence upon God, and see His power at work in his life. Note the equation of grace and power. Paul goes beyond the praise, to taking pleasure in the things that cause a deeper experience of God's grace in his life. That supernatural dependence upon God is the mark of a true apostle, not the miracles described below which Satan can counterfeit.
12:11-21 Paul fears he has become foolish in boasting, but the questioning of his credentials made it necessary to state why they should pay more attention to him, than the agents of Satan. The authenticating signs of an apostle, signs, wonders, and miracles, healing the sick, casting out demons, raising the dead, were done repeatedly in their sight. So why doubt? (If someone claims to be an apostle today, and doesn't demonstrate these things, try stoning them and see if they come back to life. A true apostle like Paul would thank you for it.) Paul thickly lays on the sarcasm concerning making them inferior to the other churches by not being a burden to them. But all he's done has been for their edification. But he fears that when he does make it to see them they will be the same carnal Corinthians they were when he met them, or worse. He would be humbled because his ministry had not helped them be victorious over their sin, and he would mourn for those who had not repented of their immorality. Review the list of sins and see if they are in your life and church. They shouldn't, but they frequently do among believers who have been deceived by Satan's agents, and refuse to seek and do God's will.

Application: In our weakness God's powerful, sustaining grace is manifested, and He is glorified.

Prayer: God, I believe that whatever You've brought into my life, or allowed to remain in my life is for my benefit so I will dependently draw on Your power to live victoriously and rejoice. Thanks. Amen.

2 Corinthians 13 In the Faith?
13:1 This is the third time I am coming to you. "At the mouth of two or three witnesses shall every word be established." 2 I have said beforehand, and I do say beforehand, as when I was present the second time, so now, being absent, I write to those who have sinned before now, and to all the rest, that, if I come again, I will not spare; 3 seeing that you seek a proof of Christ who speaks in me; who toward you is not weak, but is powerful in you. 4 For he was crucified through weakness, yet he lives through the power of God. For we also are weak in him, but we will live with him through the power of God toward you. 5 Test your own selves, whether you are in the faith. Test your own selves. Or don’t you know as to your own selves, that Jesus Christ is in you?—unless indeed you are disqualified. 6 But I hope that you will know that we aren’t disqualified.
7 Now I pray to God that you do no evil; not that we may appear approved, but that you may do that which is honorable/good, though we are as reprobate. 8 For we can do nothing against the truth, but for the truth. 9 For we rejoice when we are weak and you are strong. And this we also pray for, even your perfecting. 10 For this cause I write these things while absent, that I may not deal sharply when present, according to the authority which the Lord gave me for building up, and not for tearing down.
11 Finally, brothers, rejoice. Be perfected, be encouraged, be of the same mind, live in peace, and the God of love and peace will be with you. 12 Greet one another with a holy kiss. 13 All the saints greet you. 14 The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, the love of God, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit, be with you all. Amen.

Observations: 13:1-6 So Paul is planning to see them for the third time, and he will judge those who have not repented of their sin and are still causing the church problems. How exactly Paul would judge them isn't specified, but the threat is an incentive to obey. Christ was crucified in weakness but lives through the power of God. Paul is “weak” or dependent upon Christ, but the power of God is manifested through Paul toward the Corinthians. Paul exhorts them to examine and test themselves to see if they are “in the faith.” This does not mean to check that they've accepted Christ, but rather to see if they are abiding in Christ and drawing on His power, as He is in union with them. Then they would do His will, and walk in His way, not their own, nor Satan's. But Jesus the Messiah would not be in union with them if they are disqualified, rejected, unfit, not passing the test, due to their unholiness and sin.
13:7-10 Paul prays that they would “do no evil.” This is a higher standard than “Don't be evil;” you can do a lot of evil before it characterizes you as being evil. Paul is not so much concerned for how he appears, but for their goodness. He also prays for their perfecting, being equipped, mended or unified (only used here in the NT, although the verb is used in verse 11 and 1Cor 1:10). That's why he's writing the letter, that they be useable and blessable, in accord with the authority God gave him for building them up.
13:11-14 In concluding, Paul turns to some of the themes with which he opened 1Corinthians (especially 1:10 how they will glorify God). He wants them to have joy, to be unified/perfected, be encouraged together, and live in unity and peace. Then the God of love and peace will dwell with them. He reminds them again to greet one another with a holy kiss (see comments on 1Cor 16:20; cf Rom 16:16; 1Thess 5:26) as evidence of their brotherly love for each other.
He closes with a wish for the blessing of the triune God to be upon them.

Application: God has revealed that He wants believers to repent of evil, do good, and be equipped to live with other believers to bring Him glory. Is that your faith?

Prayer: Heavenly Father, I want to live as You desire; thanks that Your grace is sufficient for all my needs. Amen.

Digging Deeper

God in a nutshell: God makes all the grace we need to live as He desires. It is all-sufficient power.

Build-a-Jesus: Jesus the Lord of grace, dwells in those rightly related to Him. He wants an intimate relationship with holy believers.

Us in a nutshell: We have the privilege of drawing upon the limitless grace of God to have power to live victoriously in all we face. Demonic and human opposition, as well as our needs and trials are no match for God's grace.

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