Tag Archive for 'Paul'

Suffering 4

2 Corinthians

2 Corinthians 4:16-18
So we do not lose heart. Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day. 17 For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, 18 as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal.

In his commentary on 2 Corinthians Garland says, “He understands that through his suffering he shared Christ’s death and received new life (Philippians 3:10-11). Savage* captures Paul’s thought:

It is precisely because his outer man is decaying that his inner man is being revewed day by day (v. 16). His outer afflictions serve to multiply the glory of his inner man (v. 17). His critics fail to see this increasing weight of glory because it is accumulating in his heart (v. 6), a place hidden to their externally minded outlook.

Most cannot see this transformation because they only look at the outer surface of humans. From this vantage point, it looks like Paul is falling apart instead of being gloriously renewed. Caird** explains this process well and why God designed it so:

But it is a secret process, invisible both to the outsider and to the believer himself, known only to faith. To protect that faith from the encroachments of pride, which would turn spiritual renewal into a human achievement instead of accepting it as a gift of grace, God has provided that the process be concealed within an ‘earthenware vessel,’ a perishable body subject to pain and decay (2 Corinthians 4:7; cp. 2 Corinthians 12:7-9). Those whose eyes are not on the seen and transient, but on the unseen and eternal, can detect beneath the decay of the outer nature an inner life which is being daily renewed.

*Savage, Power through Weakness, 183.
**G.B. Caird, Paul’s Letters from Prison, New Clarendon Bible (Oxford: Clarendon, 1976)

Two things strike me.

One is how similar the Church is in the U.S. compared to the Corinthians and how we look at the “outer man” to determine how well they are doing spiritually. This can refer to outward appearance or outward actions. We judge people by how healthy they appear. If someone is afflicted we ask why this is. Do they lack faith? Are they doing something wrong? Why isn’t God blessing them? And yet the Bible speaks out against this time and again. (John 9:2-3)

The other is how He uses uses earthen vessels who can be hard pressed, perplexed, persecuted and struck down so that we cannot rely on ourselves and be able to say that we are being renewed because of our own efforts.

Although our afflictions can seem unbearable, the “weight of glory” will be so great in heaven that it is incomparable to our earthly suffering. Since we cannot imagine this now, we must believe this by faith. (see also Romans 8:18)

Contrasts Between Present Affliction and Eternal Glory

2 Corinthians

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In his commentary on 2 Corinthians Garland points out “a series of contrasts between the present affliction and the eternal glory that follows” in 4:16-5:9.

outward man / inner man
wasting away / being renewed
slight / beyond measure
momentary / eternal
affliction / glory
what can be seen / what cannot be seen
tentlike house / building from God
earthly / heavenly
destroyed / eternal
stripped naked / clothed
mortality / life
preparation, the guarantee of the Holy Spirit / not yet
sight / faith
at home in the body / away from the Lord

I would like to try to highlight these things within the passage. The specific colors have no meaning. They are just alternated to show the pairs hopefully without too much confusion.

2 Corinthians 4:16-5:10 (NIV)
Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. 17 For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. 18 So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.

5:1 Now we know that if the earthly tent we live in is destroyed, we have a building from God, an eternal house in heaven, not built by human hands. 2 Meanwhile we groan, longing to be clothed with our heavenly dwelling, 3 because when we are clothed, we will not be found naked. 4 For while we are in this tent, we groan and are burdened, because we do not wish to be unclothed but to be clothed with our heavenly dwelling, so that what is mortal may be swallowed up by life. 5 Now it is God who has made us for this very purpose and has given us the Spirit as a deposit, guaranteeing what is to come.

6 Therefore we are always confident and know that as long as we are at home in the body we are away from the Lord. 7 We live by faith, not by sight. 8 We are confident, I say, and would prefer to be away from the body and at home with the Lord. 9 So we make it our goal to please him, whether we are at home in the body or away from it. 10 For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, that each one may receive what is due him for the things done while in the body, whether good or bad.

Paul Commending Himself

2 Corinthians

On the surface, Paul can appear to be brash, defensive and prideful in his letters.

While he does rebuke the Corinthians for egregious sins and misconstruing the gospel message, he is actually very tactful in the way he goes about it when reading his letters as a whole. He starts his letters with thanksgiving for them and the gifts they have. He talks about how much he loves them and how they are fellow workers and brothers and sisters in Christ. He rebukes or admonishes them and then encourages them. He is often very concerned and even anxious of how stern his letters may seem. (2 Corinthians 2:4)

As mentioned in previous posts, Paul is defending the use of God’s power through Paul’s weakness, contrary to what the Corinthians thought a minister of Christ should be. Garland says, “The Corinthians have therefore failed to see God’s power at work in Paul’s suffering, which suggests that they have failed to grasp the full meaning of the cross.”

Paul uses the word commend often in 2 Corinthians. We may understand this word to mean boasting.

2 Corinthians 3:1
Are we beginning to commend ourselves again? Or do we need, as some do, letters of recommendation to you, or from you?

2 Corinthians 4:2
But we have renounced disgraceful, underhanded ways. We refuse to practice cunning or to tamper with God’s word, but by the open statement of the truth we would commend ourselves to everyone’s conscience in the sight of God.

2 Corinthians 6:4
but as servants of God we commend ourselves in every way: by great endurance, in afflictions, hardships, calamities,

Garland says, “‘Commendation’ needs to be understood in the context of friendship and recommendation in the ancient world. Paul does not use self-commendation in a negative sense to mean self-applause. Marshall* shows that it refers to a recognized way of establishing friendships:

…self-commendation was an accepted and common convention which differs little from written commendation by third parties. praise or complimentary phraseology is a traditional though not essential element of both third party and self-commendation and was acceptable if done inoffensively; even extravagant praise by a recommender was acceptable, especially if the recommended proved himself to be worthy of it.

Self-commendation is therefore equivalent to self-introduction.”

Just to touch on boasting–this is also not always negative if it is boasting in the Lord. This was established in the Old Testament:
Jeremiah 9:24
“but let him who boasts boast in this, that he understands and knows me, that I am the LORD who practices steadfast love, justice, and righteousness in the earth. For in these things I delight, declares the LORD.”

For me, these things help me to understand Paul and his letters much differently.

*Marshall, Enmity in Corinth, 266-67

Suffering 3

2 Corinthians

2 Corinthians 1:9
Indeed, we felt that we had received the sentence of death. But that was to make us rely not on ourselves but on God who raises the dead.

Our human nature wants us to place our confidence on our own strength and intellect rather than on God.

Calvin says, “We are not brought to real submission until we have been laid low by the crushing hand of God.”

Garland says, “When things are at their worst and all human resources are exhausted, then one is most receptive to learning about the power of God.” And, “God’s power is made perfect in the weakness of the cross of his Son, and that divine pattern of working in the world continues in the cruciform ministry of his apostle.”

Dr. Roger Spradlin says, “Most Christians, want the product of Paul’s life (his maturity), but not the process of his life (the suffering).”

We need to also allow God to work in our loved ones lives in this way. We should certainly pray for healing and deliverance. But we should also pray for (true) comfort, patience, perseverance, and that they would seek God in their suffering and allow Him to glorify Himself in whatever way He sees fit.

Suffering 2

2 Corinthians

2 Corinthians 1:3-4 is very familiar to me and was mentioned a couple of posts ago. But verse 5 is one that has slipped by me that really stuck out this time.

2 Corinthians 1:3-5
Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, 4 who comforts us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God. 5 For as we share abundantly in Christ’s sufferings, so through Christ we share abundantly in comfort too.

In Garland’s commentary on 2 Corinthians he says, “In describing his sufferings in Christ, Paul pictures a balance sheet of two columns: sufferings of Christ versus comfort through Christ. Ministering in this evil age brings him a surplus of suffering that becomes almost unbearable. But the consolation column also shows a surplus, and it more than balances the suffering.” (ultimately Romans 8:18)

What are sufferings in Christ? Garland says it is in part our being baptized into His death (Romans 6:3), share in His sufferings to also share in His glory (Romans 8:17) and being like Him in His death (Philippians 3:10-11).

If we are to be Christ-like, we will also, like Him deny ourselves, take up our cross daily (Luke 9:23), be poor in spirit (Matthew 5:3) and receive God’s strength through weakness which is a thoroughly counter-cultural view.

Garland quotes Hanson:

…because Christians do not merely imitate, follow or feel inspired by Christ, but actually live in him, are part of him, dwell supernaturally in a new world where the air they breathe is his Spirit, then for them henceforward suffering accepted in Christ must bring comfort, death accepted in Christ must bring life, weakness accepted in Christ must bring strength, foolishness accepted in Christ must bring wisdom.

Suffering 1

2 Corinthians

Hanson* cites S. Weil that Christianity did not profess to cure suffering but did profess to use it.

Christianity faces it [suffering] by making suffering the means by which healing and rescue were brought to the world, and the very stock-in-trade and accustomed diet of Christians, yet to Christians suffering is not a deliberately contrived instrument for atonement as it is to the Indian fanatic who tortures himself in order to gain the peace of detachment, but and evil force in the world which yet by Christ’s atonement can be used for redemption and healing, even in the individual’s personal life.

Garland says, “This conviction helps explain why Paul never tried to explain the problem of suffering as many try to do today, he did not welcome it, but he never asked why bad things happen to good people… he embraces it.”

Many in Corinth doubted Paul’s ability to minister because of his own weaknesses and suffering. Why would God use someone so weak in speech and physical features? Why would God bless him with the ministry of the Gospel and also cause him so many tribulations on his travels? In 2 Corinthians Paul spends much of the letter explaining how God makes His power more obvious through these weaknesses, which is completely contrary to the Corinthian’s perspective, especially when compared to the super-apostles. (2 Corinthians 11:5)

*Hanson, II Corinthians, 34.

Grace and Peace To You

2 Corinthians

2 Corinthians 1:2
Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.

In his commentary on 2 Corinthians Garland says, “The greetings are not ordinary good wishes but blessings that have become a spiritual reality through the death and resurrection of Christ.”

Later on he says, “‘Grace’ is the foundation of their Christian existence and most clearly expresses Paul’s understanding of Christ’s work of salvation which presents us with the undeserved forgiveness of our sins and our unearned acceptance by God (Rom 3:23-24). ‘Peace’ is the effect of God’s action in Christ. It is not simply the absence of hostility under the Pax Romana* but peace that God won through Christ’s death, defeating the supernatural enemies and bringing about reconciliation (Rom 5:1; Eph 2:17; Col 1:20). It covers a person’s physical and spiritual well-being and wholeness, which can only be given by God (see Isa 48:18; Psalm 85:10).”

In the same way when Jesus said, “Peace be with you,” it wasn’t just a way of saying hello or a traditional Jewish greeting.

John 20:19
On the evening of that day, the first day of the week, the doors being locked where the disciples were for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood among them and said to them, “Peace be with you.”

He is truly the bringer of peace.

John 14:27
Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid.

John 16:33
I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world.”

*Pax Romana, Latin for “the Roman peace” (sometimes Pax Augusta), was the long period of relative peace and minimal expansion by military force experienced by the Roman Empire between 27 BC and 180 AD.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pax_Romana

Zealots

Zealots, whatever their cause, invariably lack a sense of humor.

–Paul Graham

I take exception to that!

I went to a restaurant that serves ‘breakfast at any time.’ So I ordered French Toast during the Renaissance.

–Steven Wright

My most humorous (or sad) Bible verse:
Acts 17:23

For as I passed along and observed the objects of your worship, I found also an altar with this inscription, ‘To the unknown god.’ What therefore you worship as unknown, this I proclaim to you.

–Paul

What’s yours?

Holy Kiss

1 Corinthians

1 Corinthians 16:20
All the brothers and sisters send greetings. Greet one another with a holy kiss.
(NRSV)

In Garland’s commentary on 1 Corinthians he says, “The kiss is more than an extension of social custom, since it is identified as ‘holy.’ It was a distinctive practice that served as a sign of mutual fellowship among persons of mixed social background, nationality, race, and gender who are joined together as a new family in Christ.”

This reminded me of a blog post I came across:

Why You Should Hug In Church

Related Scripture:
Romans 16:16, 1 Corinthians 16:20, 2 Corinthians 13:12, 1 Thessalonians 5:26

“God never gives you more than you can handle”

1 Corinthians

Is this Scriptural? 1 Corinthians 10:13 says, “No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation he will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it.”

What many fail to realize is that 1 Corinthians chapters 8-10 involves eating food sacrificed to an idol at the temple of an idol, eating food bought from a market which may or may not have been sacrificed to an idol and eating in the home of an unbeliever.

This is a serious enough issue that Paul devotes quite a bit of his letter to it. Socializing and eating together was an important part of the Corinthian culture both personally and for business networking (to use a modern term). At the same time idol worship and sacrificing was so common that it was difficult to avoid. It’s not just a matter of causing others to stumble (1 Corinthians 8:10-11) but that idol worship is participation in the demonic (1 Corinthians 10:20).

Paul tells the Corinthians in 10:12, “Therefore let anyone who thinks that he stands take heed lest he fall.” (…back into idol worship and falling away from the faith.)

Some have dissected the phrase “God never gives you more than you can handle” but I don’t see the value in it if it isn’t Biblical.

Jump ahead to 2 Corinthians 1:8-9, “For we do not want you to be ignorant, brothers, of the affliction we experienced in Asia. For we were so utterly burdened beyond our strength that we despaired of life itself. Indeed, we felt that we had received the sentence of death. But that was to make us rely not on ourselves but on God who raises the dead.” I would guess Paul wasn’t thinking, “God never gives you more than you can handle.” Although it did strengthen his faith and he continues to have hope in God. “He delivered us from such a deadly peril, and he will deliver us. On him we have set our hope that he will deliver us again.”
(2 Corinthians 1:10)

There are all kinds of questions and issues that go along with this that I’m not prepared enough or wise enough to write about at this time other than to point to some Scripture on God’s Sovereignty from 30nov07. Someday I’d like to expand on “strangely comforting.”

Lawsuits, Disputes and Misquoted Scripture

1 Corinthians

Paul speaks against lawsuits among believers:
1 Corinthians 6:1-9:
“When one of you has a grievance against another, does he dare go to law before the unrighteous instead of the saints? Or do you not know that the saints will judge the world? And if the world is to be judged by you, are you incompetent to try trivial cases? Do you not know that we are to judge angels? How much more, then, matters pertaining to this life! So if you have such cases, why do you lay them before those who have no standing in the church? I say this to your shame. Can it be that there is no one among you wise enough to settle a dispute between the brothers, but brother goes to law against brother, and that before unbelievers? To have lawsuits at all with one another is already a defeat for you. Why not rather suffer wrong? Why not rather be defrauded? But you yourselves wrong and defraud–even your own brothers! Or do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God?”

In Garland’s commentary on 1 Corinthians he says, “The aim of the ancient lawsuit was to prevail over another, and that usually involved an assault on the opponent’s character. Paul rejects this philosophy altogether; to try to down a fellow Christian before, and with the aid of, those who do not worship God is completely inimical to Christian love.”

Jesus tells us to love our enemies and not retaliate when an offense is committed. Should not this apply to fellow brothers and sisters also?
Matthew 5:38-48
“You have heard that it was said, ‘An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.’ But I say to you, Do not resist the one who is evil. But if anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also. And if anyone would sue you and take your tunic, let him have your cloak as well. And if anyone forces you to go one mile, go with him two miles. Give to the one who begs from you, and do not refuse the one who would borrow from you. “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven. For he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust. For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? And if you greet only your brothers, what more are you doing than others? Do not even the Gentiles do the same? You therefore must be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect.

How are we to deal with this? Matthew 18:19-20 is an often (mis)quoted passage when referring to prayer. But looking at the context it can be seen that it’s part of a passage in how to deal with disputes.
Matthew 18:15-20
“If your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault, between you and him alone. If he listens to you, you have gained your brother. But if he does not listen, take one or two others along with you, that every charge may be established by the evidence of two or three witnesses. If he refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church. And if he refuses to listen even to the church, let him be to you as a Gentile and a tax collector. Truly, I say to you, whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven. Again I say to you, if two of you agree on earth about anything they ask, it will be done for them by my Father in heaven. For where two or three are gathered in my name, there am I among them.”

I’m not wise enough to say exactly how to go about this in the present day, when it might be absolutely necessary to go to court etc. I just thought it might be good to mention these things and tie a few passages together even if for only my own benefit.

God’s Wisdom

1 Corinthians

The Corinthians were very much into secular wisdom, individualism, egocentricity, prestige, power, philosophy, debate, etc.

I love how God in His wisdom had Paul preach what is foolish to the Corinthians.

1 Corinthians 1:21-24
For since, in the wisdom of God, the world did not know God through wisdom, it pleased God through the folly of what we preach to save those who believe. For Jews demand signs and Greeks seek wisdom, but we preach Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews and folly to Gentiles, but to those who are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God.

It’s interesting how Jesus and Paul made it more difficult to be saved than easy. They wanted to make sure that Christians are true believers who are drawn by God and spoken to by the Holy Spirit instead of those who just agree with the Gospel on an intellectual level and don’t truly believe or love God.

What could be more foolish to people like the Corinthians than a person dying on a cross? David Garland in his commentary on 1 Corinthians says, “To be full of oneself as a golden-tonged orator is the opposite of emptying oneself (of oneself), which is the paradigm presented by the cross.” He goes on later to say, “He does not say that he preached the resurrected Christ, but the crucified Christ. Crucifixion and resurrection belong together as part of the gospel story (1 Corinthians 15:3-5), but the cross was repugnant to ancient sensibilities and assailed the world’s self-centeredness and self-destructive ways. It was not yet the ‘old rugged cross’ sentimentalized in hymns, embalmed in stained-glass windows, perched on marble altars, or fashioned into gold charms.”

There were no altar calls or asking people to pray the sinner’s prayer. The message was simple. The persuasion was left to the Holy Spirit.

As a side note I found that 1 Corinthians 1:21 (a) and 1 Corinthians 1:29 serve as bookends to what is explained in between. Together they are, “For since, in the wisdom of God, the world did not know God through wisdom, so that no human being might boast in the presence of God.”

It’s unlikely that the typical Corinthian (or us) is going to boast in something that seems foolish to us. Salvation through someone’s death on a cross is not something anyone would come up with in their own wisdom. And even if they did, it’s not something they would present as an orator for people to marvel at.