TODAYíS READING: II CORINTHIANS 8-13
The grace of giving (chapters 8-9); Paul defends his ministry (chapter 10); the false religious system (chapter 11); Paulís final appeal to the Corinthians (chapters 12-13).
HIGHLIGHTS & INSIGHTS:
Todayís reading provides the clearest and most complete principles on giving in the entire New Testament (chapters 8-9). The Corinthians had committed to supplying funds to help the church in Jerusalem, but at this point, they had not yet followed through on their commitment. Paul writes to exhort them to fulfill their promise, and in the process, lays out the New Testament pattern for giving. Note some of the principles gleaned from these two chapters:
1. Giving should result from us already having given ourselves to the Lord. (8:5) 2. Jesus Christ is the ultimate picture of giving. We will never give more than our Lord has already given. (8:9) 3. We should be a generous giver. (9:6) 4. We should purpose in our hearts what we believe the Lord wants us to give. (9:7) 5. We should give cheerfully. In other words, not because we have to but because we want to. (9:7) 6. Giving is a proof of the sincerity of our love. (8:8) 7. It is the grace of God that allows us to give sacrificially.(8:1-3) 8. Godís grace can meet any need we have. (9:8)
We also read the simplest explanation of Godís grace in 8:9:
The ultimate gift is the grace that God has bestowed upon us. Perhaps grace is best understood by comparing it to mercy. Grace is God GIVING us what we DID NOT deserve. Mercy is God NOT GIVING us what we DID deserve. Take a minute to meditate upon the truth of 8:9. Meditate upon the price that Christ paid to purchase our redemption. Are our lives living out this truth to the lost world around us? May we see giving, not as a burden, but as an opportunity to spread the grace of Christ to the lost world.
Chapter 10 show us that even though the majority of the church repented of the things Paul addressed in the first epistle, there appears to be some who still questioned Paulís authority to say these things. As Paul defends himself and his authority, he was able to keep in perspective who the real enemy was. This is the context for 10:3-5. Itís easy for us to get to thinking that people are the enemy. We must remember that our warfare is not against flesh and blood. Our tendency is to begin to compare ourselves to the people weíre ticked off at, or that did something to wrong us. However, 10:12 lets us know this isnít wise. Thatís how the world thinks. We need to remember that our standard is not a human standard, but rather, the Lord Jesus Christ and His Word. In the final analysis, it doesnít matter how many people commend you or donít commend you. What matters is whether the Lord commends you!
Chapter 11 is a key chapter to understanding how our enemy operates in this world. What Satan attempts to do is the same thing he did against Eve. Satan wants to corrupt us from the simplicity in Christ. If you think about Adam and Eve, their ďBibleĒ was pretty simple. In fact, it really only had two verses: ďBe fruitful, and multiply, and replenish the earth,Ē and ďdonít eat of the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.Ē I mean how simple is that? Yet, Satan comes along, and by questioning the Word of God, is able to corrupt Eve from the simplicity of Godís command. This is the same thing Satan wants to do to us. How does Satan do this? He sends people who preach ďanother JesusĒ (Mormons and Jehovahís False Witnesses), or try and get you to receive ďanother spiritĒ (charismatic movementó Benny Hinn, Kenneth Copeland, Kenneth Hagin), or preach ďanother gospelĒ (Catholicism and other off shoots of Catholicism). We usually think Satan spends his time in !
the bars, crack houses, or other places we deem as wicked. God reveals in this chapter, however, that Satan spends most of his time at church! Satanís key work is within the sphere of religion. In fact, he still transforms himself into an angel of light. Satanís ministers (11:15) portray themselves as ministers of righteousness. They look good, they sound good, theyíre well-respected, but they proclaim a message that will not save, and they corrupt the simplicity found in Christ. A modern day example of such a minister is no doubt Robert Schueller. Now Iím sure he is a nice man. He looks good on television. He sounds genuine and sincere. He talks about the love of Jesus and the emptiness of life without Jesus. Thereís just one problem Ė he doesnít believe what the Bible says. He believes those that havenít heard the gospel can be saved by being a faithful follower of whatever it is that they believe. He believes sin is a bad self image. This is a man that looks!
like a minister of righteousness who is really a minister of!
We must judge every message and messenger, not by externals, but by the pure Word of God.
Chapter 12 faces us with a very sobering question: Do we really believe Godís grace is sufficient for us? I mean, when really it comes right down to it and weíre going through infirmities, reproaches, persecutions and distresses, do we really believe Godís grace is sufficient, or do we really just want the bad stuff to stop? What if it is during the tough times that the life of Christ shines the brightest in you? Letís face it, we donít really want to have to say ďfor when I am weak, then am I strong.Ē And yet, we can look around our own local church and see people that have had to go through infirmities, or reproaches, or persecutions, or distresses, and we have seen the life of Christ shine through them. Do we really want to say to God, ďLord, do whatever you want to do with my life so that Your glory may be revealed to those around meĒ? After all of these years, I still pray that prayer with fear and trembling. The things of this world still have an appeal to me e!
ven though I know they are vanity. Some may be able to say, ďAs long as my family has their health I donít care what else we have.Ē However, what do you say when God says itís through your infirmity, or the infirmity of one of your loved ones, that I want to reveal Myself? And what do you say when itís through a loved ones death that God wants to shine through your life? Is His grace still sufficient? May we seek to know Him so well, love Him so much, and be so desirous for His glory that we can honestly say, ďLord, your grace is sufficient for me.Ē
The parting words of the Apostle Paul to the Corinthians in chapter 13 should be something we try to remember to do each day: examine ourselves. How often do we really take stock of how weíre living our lives? Itís not enough to simple do it on Sundays. We need to be judging and examining ourselves on a daily basis. Am I ministering how God wants me to minister? What kind of ambassador of Christ was I today? Am I looking forward to His return? Do I love Him? Am I living proof that His grace is sufficient?