2 Corinthians 6-9 All-Sufficient Abundant Grace

Corinthians 6-9 All-Sufficient Abundant Grace

Psalm 141:1-10 Developing a Fragrant Life
Ps 141:1 Of David “Yahweh, I have called on you. Come to me quickly! Listen to my voice when I call to you. 2 Let my prayer be set before you like incense; the lifting up of my hands like the evening sacrifice. 3 Set a watch, Yahweh, before my mouth. Keep the door of my lips. 4 Don’t incline my heart to any evil thing, to practice deeds of wickedness with men who work iniquity. Don’t let me eat of their delicacies.
5 Let the righteous strike me, it is kindness; let him reprove me, it is like oil on the head; don’t let my head refuse it; Yet my prayer is always against evil deeds. 6 Their judges are thrown down by the sides of the rock. They will hear my words, for they are well spoken. 7 "As when one plows and breaks up the earth, our bones are scattered at the mouth of Sheol." 8 For my eyes are on you, Yahweh, the Lord. In you, I take refuge. Don’t leave my soul destitute. 9 Keep me from the snare which they have laid for me, from the traps of the workers of iniquity. 10 Let the wicked fall together into their own nets, while I pass by."

Observations: 141:1-10 David calls to God for help against evil doers and his own evil tendencies. He not only wants his prayers to be pleasing in God's ears, but his other words and works as well. To be pleasing he needs purity of heart, and so he asks God, and gives Him permission to do whatever it takes to make him holy, including changing his desires. Then David goes into the realm that sets him apart from most, he asks God to use others to reprove (bring sin to light) and even smack him on the side of the head if necessary. Not only will he not object, but it will be like the invigorating oil which flows from brothers dwelling in unity (133:2). In contrast, he asks for protection from the wicked who seek to destroy him, as God causes him to triumph.
Application: Give God permission to remodel your heart and mouth, and cooperate with Him and His subcontractors.
Prayer: God, may my desires, words, and works be like incense before You; please bring people into my life who can help me achieve that objective, and protect me from those who seek to destroy rather than build. Thanks that I can trust You to answer these requests. Amen.

TMS Matthew 4:19 Fisher of Fish or Men?
Mt 4:19 “Then He said to them, 'Follow Me,
and I will make you fishers of men.'
20 They immediately left their nets and followed Him.”

Observations: 4:19 Simon (Peter) and Andrew were already believers in Jesus, the Lamb of God and Messiah (John 1:35-42), but now He calls them to follow Him. Their job is to follow, and His job is to develop them into those who fish for souls. Fish perish, people last forever. See comments on Mark 1 (the purpose of our lives needs to be considered from the perspective of eternity) and comments on the miraculous catch of fish in Luke 5. In light of Jesus' mission on earth to train the disciples, following Him meant leaving their jobs. For most, the “call” is not to leave one's occupation (Col 3:23-24), but to do it to the glory of God. Fishing for men requires similar skills to fishing for fish (being where the fish are, at the right time, bait, patience, work, etc.). Would you rather enter heaven with a slew of fish skeletons, or a haul of souls who will live for eternity in heaven as a result of your following Christ?
4:20 Note the immediate obedience, regardless of what it cost.
See Relationships in and out of the Body and Evangelism Objectives for fishing tips. This is a really easy verse to memorize if you haven't already done so.

Application: Those who follow Christ become fishers of men; no fishing, no following.

Prayer: Lord Jesus, I will follow You; I want to give my life to more than rotting fish; help me become a fisher of eternal souls, to save them from judgment. Amen.

2 Corinthians 6-9 The major “good stuff” of this post is in chapters 8-9 on the all-sufficient enabling grace/power of God that abundantly meets all our needs in this life, as we seek to do His will. However, don't miss chapter 6 which is important for understanding the reconciliation God wants believers to have with Him and ends with how to achieve that (holiness). In between Paul paints a portrait of a true servant of God. Chapter 7 opens with a great verse, and then it gets a little murky, with a few bright spots as Paul describes the difficulties of following and serving God in a fallen world.

2 Corinthians 6 Separated from Sin, Joined to God
6:1 Working together, we entreat also that you not receive the grace of God in vain, 2 for he says, "At an acceptable time I listened to you, in a day of salvation I helped you." Behold, now is the acceptable time. Behold, now is the day of salvation. 3 We give no occasion of stumbling in anything, that our service may not be blamed, 4 but in everything commending ourselves, as servants of God, in great endurance, in afflictions, in hardships, in distresses, 5 in beatings, in imprisonments, in riots, in labors, in watchings, in fastings; 6 in pureness, in knowledge, in patience, in kindness, in the Holy Spirit, in sincere love, 7 in the word of truth, in the power of God; by the armor of righteousness on the right hand and on the left, 8 by glory and dishonor, by evil report and good report; as deceivers, and yet true; 9 as unknown, and yet well known; as dying, and behold, we live; as punished, and not killed; 10 as sorrowful, yet always rejoicing; as poor, yet making many rich; as having nothing, and yet possessing all things.
11 Our mouth is open to you, Corinthians. Our heart is enlarged. 12 You are not restricted by us, but you are restricted by your own affections. 13 Now in return, I speak as to my children, you also be open wide.
14 Don’t be unequally yoked with unbelievers, for what fellowship have righteousness and iniquity? Or what fellowship has light with darkness? 15 What agreement has Christ with Belial? Or what portion has a believer with an unbeliever? 16 What agreement has a temple of God with idols? For you are a temple of the living God. Even as God said, "I will dwell in them, and walk in them; and I will be their God, and they will be my people." 17 Therefore, "’Come out from among them, and be separate,’ says the Lord. ‘Touch no unclean thing. I will receive you. 18 I will be to you a Father. You will be to me sons and daughters,’ says the Lord Almighty."

Observations: 6:1-2 The last chapter ended with Paul imploring the Spirit-sealed (1:21-24) Corinthians to be reconciled to God. In 5:19 the world is reconciled to God in Christ, but then in 5:20, Paul exhorts those who have been reconciled, by God not imputing their trespasses against them, to be reconciled by being righteous. He elaborates on that theme in this chapter, imploring those who have received the grace of God to not have it be in vain, or to no profit, but to live so as to receive all that God has in store for them. To receive God's grace in vain, is to not do anything profitable with it (as in the parable of the talents). The grace is supposed to be used to gain reward. The quote is from Isaiah 49, which when understood in its context, fits well with 2Corinthians 5 and the rest of chapter 6.
Isa 49:3 He said to me, “You are my servant, Israel, in whom I will be glorified. ” 4 But I said, “I have labored in vain; I have spent my strength for nothing at all. Yet what is due me is in the Lord’s hand, and my reward is with my God.” 6 he says: “It is too small a thing for you to be my servant to restore the tribes of Jacob and bring back those of Israel I have kept. I will also make you a light for the Gentiles, that my salvation may reach to the ends of the earth.” 8 This is what the Lord says:“In an acceptable time I have heard you, and in the day of salvation I will help you; I will keep you and will make you to be a covenant for the people, to restore the land and to reassign its desolate inheritances, 9 to say to the captives, ‘Come out,’ and to those in darkness, ‘Be free!’
6:3-10 Paul defends his ministry to the Corinthians, in not being a stumbling block but instead enduring in his service to them, so they can experience God's full salvation and freedom, culminating in the blessedness God intended (6:18). He lists the ways in which he demonstrates that He is a servant of God, which should make folks realize that one doesn't serve God for just the benefits of this life (his point in 1Cor 15:19,32). In serving them, he has become poor, but makes them rich, yet he himself will possess all in the future. He has given himself for them, and he asks them to return the favor.
6:11-18 The thing that will keep believers from reaping the benefits God has for them in Christ, is failing to use the grace He gives to separate from the sin and sinful relationships which keep them from being rightly related to God. If we are joined to sin and sinners, we can't be joined to a holy God. The nation of Israel couldn't be blessed while looking like pagans. The whole point of having the nation be holy or distinct from those around them was so that it was clear that they were God's people. Then when He blessed them, it would be clear that they were getting blessed because they were His people, and others would be drawn to Him. If they looked just like the pagans, there would be no point to blessing them.
The reason Paul had to exhort the Corinthians to be open hearted toward him was because they were restricted by giving their heart to the wrong things and people. Joining themselves to unequal relationships with unbelievers, participating in pagan worship and practices, cut them off from the relationship God wanted to have with them. In the Ancient Near East you were considered disloyal to your king or friend if you were friends with his enemies. Being friends with God's enemies is disloyalty to God. In 1Corinthians 3:16 and 6:19 Paul taught that believers are a sanctuary or temple in which God dwells. By defiling that temple one became an unfit subject for blessing, and instead an object of judgment. Paul quotes Leviticus 26:12 or Ezekiel 37:27 (or any of a number of OT verses) to underscore the need for the Corinthian believers to separate themselves from pagans and pagan practices to be reconciled to Him and experience the relationship and rewards for which He created them (chapter 5). Otherwise they'll miss it.

Application: Holiness (separation from sin) is essential for a rewarding relationship with God. It's your choice. Listen to “Ain't Gonna Reign No More” on Truthbase.net for help in doing so.

Prayer: God, help me use the grace/power You've given me to separate from sin and be loyal to You, so You can dwell with me and bless me. Amen.

2 Corinthians 7 Perfecting Holiness
7:1 Having therefore these promises, beloved, let us cleanse ourselves from all defilement of flesh and spirit, perfecting holiness in the fear of God. 2 Open your hearts to us. We wronged no one. We corrupted no one. We took advantage of no one. 3 I say this not to condemn you, for I have said before, that you are in our hearts to die together and live together. 4 Great is my boldness of speech toward you. Great is my boasting on your behalf. I am filled with encouragement. I overflow with joy in all our affliction.
5 For even when we had come into Macedonia, our flesh had no relief, but we were afflicted on every side. Fightings were outside. Fear was inside. 6 Nevertheless, he who encourages the lowly, God, encouraged us by the coming of Titus; 7 and not by his coming only, but also by the encouragement with which he was encouraged in you, while he told us of your longing, your mourning, and your zeal for me; so that I rejoiced still more. 8 For though I made you sorry with my letter, I do not regret it, though I did regret it. For I see that my letter made you sorry, though just for a while. 9 I now rejoice, not that you were made sorry, but that you were made sorry to repentance. For you were made sorry in a godly way, that you might suffer loss by us in nothing. 10 For godly sorrow works repentance to salvation, which brings no regret. But the sorrow of the world works death. 11 For behold, this same thing, that you were made sorry in a godly way, what earnest care it worked in you. Yes, what defense, indignation, fear, longing, zeal, and vengeance! In everything you demonstrated yourselves to be pure in the matter.
12 So although I wrote to you, I wrote not for his cause that did the wrong, nor for his cause that suffered the wrong, but that your earnest care for us might be revealed in you in the sight of God. 13 Therefore we have been encouraged. In our encouragement we rejoiced the more exceedingly for the joy of Titus, because his spirit has been refreshed by you all. 14 For if in anything I have boasted to him on your behalf, I was not disappointed. But as we spoke all things to you in truth, so our glorying also which I made before Titus was found to be truth. 15 His affection is more abundantly toward you, while he remembers all of your obedience, how with fear and trembling you received him. 16 I rejoice that in everything I am confident concerning you.

Observations: 7:1-4 It's vital to understand what the promises are which serve as the motivation of holiness. The immediate context of chapter 6 (and 5) is experiencing a righteous relationship with God (you will be My people), founded upon Christ's death, but extending to the glorification/salvation of those who come out of darkness and walk in the light (repent), are a holy temple indwelt by the Spirit of God (which means under His control, rather than being quenching the Spirit), and experiencing the covenantal blessings for which God saved them. This relationship of blessing is only for a people who are holy (as the OT abundantly demonstrated). Therefore Paul calls the carnal yet beloved Corinthian Christians to cleanse themselves (this is the believer's job -Js 4:8) from all defilement (which would disqualify them from relationship, reward, and blessing), outward and inward (there's that renewed mind again -Rm 12:1-2), with the result that they perfect or accomplish their holiness (being separate or distinct from the way they were, and those around them), in the fear of God (careful to do what is right in His sight). Fear is appropriate, because failure to do so will result in loss (1Cor 3:15; 2Cor 5:10)
7:5-16 Someone had apparently been doing Satan's work in turning the Corinthians against Paul and he wrote a strongly-worded letter in hopes of getting them to repent and be accepting of him and his teaching. The situation and letter-writing caused him grief; it caused them grief; but it worked; they repented; and then there was joy. Paul was greatly encouraged when Titus brought word of their response and movement in the right direction. Verse 10 is another verse frequently quoted out of context: salvation here is not about regeneration/justification but revival/sanctification. Godly sorrow (conviction of sin by the various means the Holy Spirit uses, in this case Paul's letter) should bring about repentance, and that leads to salvation (glorification via sanctification). If there is a lack of joy, there should be some reflection and repentance.

Application: Holiness is optional, but it's not an option, for those who will be glorified. It is not automatic; you have to reflect, repent and cleanse yourself, to perfect and maintain holiness. Only then can we experience God's promises.

Prayer: God thanks for calling me to be holy as You are holy so that I can experience You and the best possible life on this planet. Amen.

2 Corinthians 8 Grace of Giving
8:1 Moreover, brothers, we make known to you the grace of God which has been given in the assemblies of Macedonia; 2 how that in much proof of affliction the abundance of their joy and their deep poverty abounded to the riches of their liberality. 3 For according to their power, I testify, yes and beyond their power, they gave of their own accord, 4 begging us with much entreaty to receive this grace and the fellowship in the service to the saints. 5 This was not as we had hoped, but first they gave their own selves to the Lord, and to us through the will of God. 6 So we urged Titus, that as he made a beginning before, so he would also complete in you this grace.
7 But as you abound in everything, in faith, utterance, knowledge, all earnestness, and in your love to us, see that you also abound in this grace. 8 I speak not by way of commandment, but as proving through the earnestness of others the sincerity also of your love. 9 For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that, though he was rich, yet for your sakes he became poor, that you through his poverty might become rich. 10 I give a judgment in this: for this is expedient for you, who were the first to start a year ago, not only to do, but also to be willing. 11 But now complete the doing also, that as there was the readiness to be willing, so there may be the completion also out of your ability. 12 For if the readiness is there, it is acceptable according to what you have, not according to what you don’t have. 13 For this is not that others may be eased and you distressed, 14 but for equality. Your abundance at this present time supplies their lack, that their abundance also may become a supply for your lack; that there may be equality. 15 As it is written, "He who gathered much had nothing left over, and he who gathered little had no lack."
16 But thanks be to God, who puts the same earnest care for you into the heart of Titus. 17 For he indeed accepted our exhortation, but being himself very earnest, he went out to you of his own accord. 18 We have sent together with him the brother whose praise in the Good News is known through all the assemblies. 19 Not only so, but who was also appointed by the assemblies to travel with us in this grace, which is served by us to the glory of the Lord himself, and to show our readiness. 20 We are avoiding this, that any man should blame us concerning this abundance which is administered by us. 21 Having regard for honorable things, not only in the sight of the Lord, but also in the sight of men. 22 We have sent with them our brother, whom we have many times proved earnest in many things, but now much more earnest, by reason of the great confidence which he has in you. 23 As for Titus, he is my partner and fellow worker for you. As for our brothers, they are the apostles of the assemblies, the glory of Christ. 24 Therefore show the proof of your love to them in front of the assemblies, and of our boasting on your behalf.

Observations: 8:1-6 These next two chapters are great for understanding giving (money, among other things, like time and strength). Paul wants the Corinthians to know how God's grace (motivating power) was at work in the Macedonian churches (like Philippi), enabling them to give liberally beyond their ability. The secret was that they first gave or dedicated themselves to God, and then to others. Titus was going to come and pick up the gift for the persecuted saints in Jerusalem.
8:7-15 Giving is a grace, which requires abiding and drawing on God's power to make it happen. Like the widow's mite, it requires a dependent trust in God. The Corinthians had purposed to give, and now Paul was urging them to follow through on their pledge, not by way of commandment, but in light of what would be expedient or profitable for them. They would lose by not giving. He motivates them with the example of the other churches, and that of Christ. The goal is not for them to become poor but for them to share what God has given them, so God can meet the needs of others through them. God doesn't meet the needs of the saints in Jerusalem directly, because He wants those in Jerusalem to deepen trust and dependence, and those in Corinth to develop Christlikeness, and decrease their dependence upon things in this life. The net result, as we'll see, is praise to God, as He meets needs all around. The passage Paul cites from Exodus 16:18 is in reference to gathering manna in the wilderness, not to sharing, since each gathered varying amounts, but God made sure all had enough. Paul focuses on the equality aspect of the OT, that all had enough. This is not Christian communism, but rather a family concern for each other. We'll see in 2 Thessalonians 3:12 that if believers don't work, they shouldn't be supported in their laziness, and shouldn't eat. This is a case of believers being in need due to circumstances beyond their control, and others helping. See the multi-part series on Faithfulness with our Treasure Getting, Giving to God, Giving to Ourselves, Giving to Others, to develop your own Biblical philosophy of finances.
8:16-24 To transport and administer the financial gift, and avoid any impropriety in the sight of God and man Titus and an unnamed brother whom everyone but us knows (Luke, Barnabas??) Their giving was a demonstration of their love. Love is about meeting needs.

Application: How does God's grace enable you to give so others can be blessed and God glorified?

Prayer: Lord Jesus, thanks for becoming poor so I might become rich; may that same grace be at work in my life. Amen.

2 Corinthians 9
9:1 It is indeed unnecessary for me to write to you concerning the service to the saints, 2 for I know your readiness, of which I boast on your behalf to them of Macedonia, that Achaia has been prepared for a year past. Your zeal has stirred up very many of them. 3 But I have sent the brothers that our boasting on your behalf may not be in vain in this respect, that, just as I said, you may be prepared, 4 so that I won’t by any means, if there come with me any of Macedonia and find you unprepared, we (to say nothing of you) should be disappointed in this confident boasting. 5 I thought it necessary therefore to entreat the brothers that they would go before to you, and arrange ahead of time the generous gift that you promised before, that the same might be ready as a matter of generosity, and not of greediness.
6 Remember this: he who sows sparingly will also reap sparingly. He who sows bountifully will also reap bountifully.
7 Let each man give according as he has determined in his heart; not grudgingly, or under compulsion; for God loves a cheerful giver.
8 And God is able to make all grace abound to you, that you, always having all sufficiency in everything, may abound to every good work.
9 As it is written, "He has scattered abroad, he has given to the poor. His righteousness remains forever." 10 Now may he who supplies seed to the sower and bread for food, supply and multiply your seed for sowing, and increase the fruits of your righteousness; 11 you being enriched in everything to all liberality, which works through us thanksgiving to God. 12 For this service of giving that you perform not only makes up for lack among the saints, but abounds also through many givings of thanks to God; 13 seeing that through the proof given by this service, they glorify God for the obedience of your confession to the Good News of Christ, and for the liberality of your contribution to them and to all; 14 while they themselves also, with supplication on your behalf, yearn for you by reason of the exceeding grace of God in you. 15 Now thanks be to God for his unspeakable gift!

Observations: 9:1-5 Paul reminds the Corinthians of their promise to provide a generous financial gift for the saints in Jerusalem and how their desire to give has spurred on others. Then he urges them to get it together ahead of time so the brothers could come by and take it to Jerusalem.
9:6-15 Paul now gives the key verses on giving:
We reap what we sow, so sow bountifully (Luke 6:38);
Giving is a free-will decision, which one should purpose and plan to do;
God love a cheerful, joyous giver (cf OT free-will offerings);
Since giving is a grace, God makes available to us all we need, not just to give financially, but to have all we need to abundantly do every good work (Eph 2:10). This means that whatever is God's will, is doable, since He gives us all we need to do it. There are no excuses for failing to obey, or live in love, or walk in the light, or have the victory, because God gives us all we need to accomplish it. Since He's planned out the good works He wants us to do, surely He knows what it takes to do them.
Not only does God supply what we need, but He does so abundantly, multiplying our resources and efforts, so we can yield a harvest of righteousness. Note that Paul moves beyond giving to righteousness.
As God enriches us to enable us to give liberally, He does so, in order to glorify Himself, as the result of our giving causes thanksgiving to be given to Him. We're just the middlemen, passing on His stuff for His purposes, and praise.
Giving not only blesses others but causes them to bless God for the obedience to the gospel. See comments in the beginning of Matthew for understanding the gospel as the good news that God is coming to set up the kingdom promised in the OT (Isa 40, especially verse 10). The message of the kingdom is that God would reward righteousness. By giving, the Corinthians demonstrated righteousness in obedience God's promises. This would result in more praise to God for the virtue of the Corinthians among the saints in Jerusalem (who had good reason to doubt it). It also results in prayer to God for the Corinthians' prosperity and spiritual well being. The gift beyond description can only be referring to Christ, who is the model and motivating impulse behind all gracious giving.

Application: If God gives you all the grace you need to do His will, what prevents you from doing it?

Prayer: God, thanks for the generosity You displayed in sending Jesus to die for my sins; thanks that You give me all the grace I need to give myself to You and Your purposes. May You receive through my life the praise and glory You desire and so richly deserve. Amen.

Digging Deeper

God in a nutshell: God gives us all we need to do His will, abundantly. He wants a relationship with us, and has done all that's necessary to make that possible.

Build-a-Jesus: Jesus emptied Himself to become poor for our sake so we could become rich.

Us in a nutshell: We need to draw upon God's limitless grace to separate from sin, and serve others, knowing God will give us all the grace we need to do His will.

Where to Go for More:
See the multi-part series on Faithfulness with our Treasure Getting, Giving to God, Giving to Ourselves, Giving to Others, to develop your own Biblical philosophy of finances.

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