A. A TREASURE IN CLEAN BUT FRAGILE CLAY JARS
1. Since this ministry was received by God’s grace, we never give up for his grace is enabling us to go on.
2. This ministry calls for absolute purity and transparency; we therefore:
a. Let go of all secret, hidden shameful things.
b. Purge our motives of malicious intent (intending to harm or enrich ourselves).
c. Refrain from distorting the Word of God.
d. Reveal the truth by bringing it out of darkness into the light (presenting it in a way that it can be understood).
e. Walk in the light where God can see us.
f. We ask every person to accept us, having judged us by his own conscience.
3. Having taken all these precautions to reveal the pure Gospel to men:
a. There is no longer any veil covering or obscuring it.
b. If some still cannot see it, it is because of their unbelief.
c. The problem lies within themselves.
d. The god of this world (satan), blinded their spiritual perception so that the light of Christ that brings God’s glory to man, may not shine into their lives.
4. Paul’s motive for ministering to the Corinthians is pure:
a. He is not trying to persuade them to become his disciples.
b. He is pointing them to Christ which brings no benefit to him.
c. He has no intention to rule over them; on the contrary he wants to be their servant.
5. The One that sent Paul to them, is God:
a. The God of light that, when creating this world, caused light to shine forth from darkness.
b. He caused the light of the knowledge of the glory of God as experienced in Jesus Christ to enlighten their hearts when they were in darkness like this world was on the day of creation.
c. He is now causing that Light to shine forth from him to them.
6. This ministry is God’s precious treasure:
a. He allows it to be kept and carried around in us that are as fragile and unattractive as jars of clay that are normally used for carrying water, jars that are cheap and replaceable.
b. He ordained it to be like this that people may seek after the ointment, the oil, the salvation that is in the jar and not get excited by the beauty, the outward appearance of the jar.
7. The buffeting of the jars (God’s ministers):
a. They are under pressure but not depressed (Under pressure from the outside but not gloomy on the inside).
b. Distressed, embarrassed, perplexed but not failing to find a way out.
c. Persecuted by man but not deserted by God.
d. Cast down in the dust but not destroyed for they are raised up by God.
8. God’s reason for allowing the buffeting:
a. There is a spiritual principle that death precedes life.
b. Christ had to die on the cross before He could arise in his glory.
c. The death of Christ works within the Christian, causing the old sinful man (nature) to die in order that the new man (nature) may arise and live in victory.
d. The buffetings are helpful to put this old sinful nature to death.
e. The fact that Christians (and especially Christian ministers) can endure such buffeting and not perish or lose heart, brings glory to their God that sustains them.
f. The greater the minister experiences this “death of Christ” within himself, the greater the river of spiritual life that flows from him to those to whom he ministers. (V11, 12)
g. As death was working in Paul, iife was working in the Corinthians.
h. We need the death of Christ just as much as we need the life of Christ.
9. This ministry sprouts from the Spirit of faith:
a. He works within us the deep conviction of the truth of the message that we are speaking forth.
b. It was He that worked the faith in God’s people of old, the faith by which they spoke forth his Word (Ps. 116:10).
c. This Spirit of Faith also reveals the end-time glorious resurrection of all saints which now gives them faith to persevere.
10. The more the people that are affected by this ministry, the greater the grace of God blossoms forth and the greater the praise that will be offered to his glory.
11. For these reasons we do not give up hope for:
a. Though the outer man gradually perishes and fades away, the inner man is daily being renewed (and is maturing).
b. The weight of pressure we are now experiencing is very small in comparison to the weight of glory we will receive in return.
c. The things that can be seen and that are being put to death are temporal, but the unseen inner things of the spirit that are renewed and growing, are eternal.
B. MY TENT, MY HOUSE AND MY REWARD
1. Living here on earth is like living in a tent, fixed to the earth with pegs, pitched as a temporary dwelling only and quick to break down,.
2. When it is taken down, we move on to our real, permanent homes in heaven that have been constructed by God himself.
3. The discomfort and poor shelter of our tent dwelling, sometimes causes us to sigh and long to move into the proper covering of our eternal home.
4. Let us however make sure that we will not be standing before God, naked and ashamed in our sinful lives, but that we will be clothed in the righteousness of Christ for only those thus clothed can hope for that eternal home.
5. Indeed, no-one wants death to strip him even of the little joy he enjoyed on earth, but would rather that this temporary tent be swallowed up by God’s eternal life of total fulfilment.
6. As we experience the indwelling of the Holy Spirit which God gave us as a foretaste of that eternal glorious enjoyment, our faith is strengthened, we see that home from afar and long to live there with the Lord.
7. If we had the choice we would go there right now, but while God appoints us to live down here below, we apply ourselves to please him just as we will once we are there with him.
8. Pleasing him is very important for when we go to our eternal home, we are also going to the judgment seat of Christ to receive from him according to what we did while living in the body down here below; be it good or bad.
C. THE MINISTRY OF RECONCILIATION
1. Since we have reverence for God we try to reveal him to men in a convincing way.
2. Paul therefore trusts that their ministry and lives are just as transparent to the Corinthians as they are to God.
3. What is more, he trusts that the Corinthians will be able to boast about them to those that boast about who they are in the flesh and have no regard for the work God does in the heart.
4. When we minister truths that are above the comprehension of some of the listeners, God still understands and is glorified.
5. Most of that which we minister can be understood and makes sense to the average listener so that they can benefit by it.
6. The love that flows from Christ, motivates us in our ministry and urges us on.
7. It is this love that made Christ to die for all.
8. His death was a reciprocal death which means that when He died, it was exactly the same as if each one for whom He died, had, in him, died personally.
9. This means that those for whom He died, personally died on that day and hour and are no longer alive; their old nature is dead and buried so that they are now living for Him that died and was resurrected for them for a dead body is totally unable to live for, or do anything for himself.
10. We therefore no longer see those for whom Christ died as they were before they were born again; we see them as new resurrected spiritual beings, just as we now do not associate with Christ as He was when living down below in the flesh, but we associate with Him as a Spiritual being.
11. When someone enters into Christ by faith he is newly created by God into an entirely new spiritual being; the old nature of the flesh has passed away; all has become new.
12. This is an act of God.
13. By this act, God removed the enmity between Him and man that existed since Adam’s fall and reconciled man with himself, which means that the recreated man is now once more in intimate friendship and fellowship with God.
14. The legal basis on which God did this, was the acceptance of the sacrificial death of his Son on the cross as conclusive punishment, whereby the sin of man was entirely paid for and wiped out as if it never existed.
D. AMBASSADOR’S FOR CHRIST
1. This ministry of reconciling God with man, has now been entrusted to Paul and his associates.
2. They therefore act as God’s ambassadors, as if God is personally speaking through them and implore the Corinthians to be reconciled to God.
3. (Reconciliation is not only a once off happening when man’s guilt is removed and he is clothed with the righteousness of Christ, it is also an ongoing process whereby the old nature is day by day put to death and Christ’s nature is implanted into the heart. That which, on the day of the new birth was received legally is afterwards gradually worked out in practise.)
4. The message Paul received from the King and convey to them, is that God took the sin of humanity and lumped it on Christ, so that He became the embodiment of all the sin man ever committed; vice versa the Father took the right standing, the right living, the pure motives the complete holiness of his Son and wrapped man in it so that he would look exactly, just as holy and glorious as his Son in whom He was and is well pleased.
5. But Paul and his associates are not only ambassadors for Christ, but also co-workers with the Corinthians in their sanctification and therefore implore them not to belittle the grace of God offered to them.
6. God chooses the appropriate time to extend his helping hand to people.
7. That time of God’s kindness to them has come; they must not let this glorious opportunity slip by.
8. As co-workers in their sanctification, Paul and company take care to toe the line in order not to be stumbling blocks to them in appropriating God’s grace.
9. What is more, they recommend themselves as examples of Christian excellence by:
a. Showing great patience and endurance under pressure of all kinds:
i. When oppressed (under pressure and denied the normal comforts of life).
ii. When in fear (fearing to be tortured or killed).
iii. When beaten (as in jail).
iv. When unjustly arrested and locked up in jail.
v. When injured by angry mobs.
vi. By their unending labour for Christ and man.
vii. When lying awake at night (because of the discomfort of their surroundings, pain inflicted by beatings and stoning or when praying for the congregations entrusted to them).
viii. In bearing with the pains of hunger.
b. Displaying all the characteristics of Christ in their attitude and lifestyle:
i. Purity (sexually: not having affairs with the ladies they ministered to, non-abuse of intoxicating substances, not partaking in worldly parties).
ii. Having exceptional knowledge of the Gospel and relating truths.
iii. Friendliness towards all people.
iv. Bearing with those that are slow in responding to the Gospel.
v. Being full of the Holy Spirit.
vi. Demonstrating the love of God with no ulterior motives.
vii. By graciously accepting honour in such a way that it never distracts from the honour due to God.
viii. By bearing with slandering and dishonour without retaliating.
ix. By enticing people away from the world and befriending them with Christ, yet doing so in absolute integrity.
x. By gradually dying in the body and flesh yet being very much alive in the spirit!
xi. Chastised by God but still alive.
xii. Mourning (for the lost and unrepentant) yet always filled with joy.
xiii. Poor in worldly possessions but imparting heavens riches to others.
xiv. Being people having nothing (materially) yet possessing all that is worthwhile (the riches bequeathed by Christ).
10. Having said this, Paul goes on to say that he has spoken honestly to them from a heart that is wide open and has much room for them (revealing his love).
11. However that part of their hearts that contain affection (love) for him and his companions, is very narrow and needs to be widened, for Christian ministers and their members need to have an intimate, loving relationship with one another.
12. They need to open up as a child to his parent.
E. TEMPLES OF GOD
1. Although Paul advocates mixing with unbelievers in order to draw them to Christ, he warns against a too close association for the are in two entire different worlds as seen in the following examples:
a. There is no overlapping between righteousness and unrighteousness.
b. Light has no share in darkness.
c. There is nothing in Christ that can also be seen in the devil.
d. What spiritual ground does the believer share with the unbeliever?
e. What resemblance does worship in the temple of God share with that of worship in heathen temples?
2. A Christian is a temple of God in whom his Spirit dwells and moves.
3. To them, He is God (protecting them and supplying for them) and they are his people (serving and loving Him) as what was even said of his people of old (Lev 26:12).
4. For that reason and in order to have the fullest communion with God, they are to remove themselves spiritually, emotionally and even physically from their midst and not get involved with any of their sinful talks and practices.
5. In so doing, the Lord will not only share their temple, but even share their inner home and be to them a father and they will be his sons and daughters.
6. Having these glorious promises from the Lord, let every Christian cleanse himself from all defilement, both of the body and of the mind and go all the way in sanctifying himself in reverence to God.
F. PAUL’S JOY FOR THE POSITIVE REACTION TO HIS FIRST LETTER
1. Paul now continues from where he left off in 2:13 where he told of his going to Macedonia to look for Titus.
2. Firstly he tells of the hardships they endured since their arrival there.
3. They not only suffered physical onslaught but also inner tribulation.
4. Inner turbulence of the soul may be caused by allowing circumstances to cause concern, fear etc. Could it perhaps also be because of direct demonic onslaught, a wrestling with the forces of evil spoken of in Eph 6:11: “… for our struggle is not against flesh and blood but against the principalities, the powers, the world rulers of darkness of this age, the evil powers in the air.”
5. In the midst of this suffering, finding his friend Titus as well as receiving the good news of the Corinthian’s repentance, brought an overwhelming joy to Paul.
6. First of all it removed his sorrow for having had to hurt them by speaking so harshly, for he saw that their sorrow that had lasted for a very short while, then turned out to be to their good for it led to their repentance.
7. Sorrow caused by the sorrows of the world may lead to a person’s death unless his sorrow is countered by consolation.
8. However, sorrow worked by God, pertains to sin and leads to repentance, which relieves the soul of its stress and turns its sorrow to joy.
9. The sorrow brought by Paul’s letter was worked in accordance with God’s will and worked in its readers:
a. Indignation towards the culprit.
b. Taking responsibility for what had happened.
c. The will to deal with the problem by bringing the offender to task.
d. An eagerness to clear the congregation of the cloud of guilt and shame.
10. In so doing, they illustrated clearly that they abhorred this sinful deed and had no intention of tolerating such behaviour.
11. Titus too was filled with joy when perceiving their strong positive reaction to his and Paul’s taking this action.
12. Paul therefore now:
a. Is comforted.
b. Overflows with joy.
c. Boasts to others about this congregation which he founded.
d. And has great liberty to minister to them in future.
13. (In this we see the tribulation of soul through which pastors that are true to God go when their flock fall into sin and they have to deal very sternly with them; but we also see their abundant joy when the guilty ones repent and the congregation is once more purified by the Blood of the Lamb, with all its shame removed.)
IF YOU HAVE BEEN BLESSED BY THIS STUDY GUIDE AND WISH TO SHARE IT WITH US, OR HAVE ANY REQUEST, QUERY OR OTHER COMMENT, PLEASE USE THE CONTACT FORM BELOW.
SHARE WITH OTHERS: Have you enjoyed this study guide? Then please share it with your friends by way of social media such as Facebook, etc. In so doing we join hands in bearing out the Good News.