A. COLLECTION FOR THE CHRISTIANS IN JERUSALEM
1. For some time Paul had it on his heart to take up a collection to alleviate the poverty of the Christians in Jerusalem – these two chapters deals with his continuation of this endeavour.
2. During their previous visit to the Corinthians, Titus, encouraged by Paul but also of his own accord, encouraged them to contribute to this cause and they responded very enthusiastically, promising to give abundantly. (8:6,16)
3. Paul boasted to the Macedonian churches (Philippi, Thessalonica and Berea) about this which kindled a tremendous zeal in them.
a. First of all they gave themselves to the Lord more completely. (8:5)
b. Then, though they were very poor and going through all kinds of tribulation, they responded with great joy and contributed way above their financial ability. (8:2)
c. When Paul was reluctant to take their offering, they actually pleaded with him to do so. (8:4)
4. Paul is now using this testimony as well as other arguments, to motivate the Corinthians to do likewise:
a. Just as they are already rich in faith, knowledge of the Word, zeal and love, let them now also be rich in this act of giving. (8:7)
b. It is a test whether their zeal is genuine. (8:8)
c. The Lord Jesus set the example by leaving the riches of heaven and becoming one with the spiritually poor down below, so that they may share in his heavenly riches. (8:9)
d. Titus is going ahead of Paul to arrange this matter so that they will not be embarrassed when he arrives (possibly accompanied by one or two Macedonians) and finding that they are not ready with their gift. (9:3-5)
e. Should a gift be hastily be put together, it will not come from their hearts but will seem to have been forced upon them. (9:5)
5. In these two chapters Paul also gives a number of general guidelines and incentives pertaining to giving:
a. When you have promised to give, then give what you have promised. (8:11)
b. If you sow sparingly into the lives of others when they are in need, they will sow sparingly into your life when you are in need. (9:6)
c. Give from what you have (do not borrow money in order to be able to give). (8:12)
d. The giver must not impoverish himself to enrich another; the idea is to try to bring people to a more equal level. (8:14,15)
e. Everyone must determine for himself how much to give. (9:7) (He must not succumb to pressure or try to match the gift of a wealthier person.)
f. A giver must not mourn for what he has given, seeing it as a loss, but must rejoice in having been able to make someone else happy. (9:7)
g. God loves a joyful giver. (9:7)
h. The Lord is the source of both our seed and our harvest and He can replenish what we have given away. (9:8-10)
i. Giving has the glorious side-effects that:
i. It results in a praise offering to God, by those that receive the gift.
ii. It forges a bond of love between the giver and the receiver and between the giving and receiving congregation.
6. Paul also addresses the aspect of responsibility in handling of funds:
a. It must be handled by members that have proven themselves to be faithful.
b. Accounting for such funds is not only a matter between the keeper and God, but there must be an openness towards the givers so that they (8:18-23) will be convinced that all is done honestly.
c. In this way the Lord’s Name will not be clouded by gossiping of dishonesty.
7. Finally Paul looks up to heaven and gives glory to God for his Gift which is greater than can be described in words. (9:15)
B. PAUL DEFENDS HIS APOSTOLIC AUTHORITY
1. Though most of the Corinthians now accepted Paul’s authority, there were still those that questioned it, so he has to continue defending himself, though doing so unwillingly, and in the meekness and friendliness of Christ. (As a friend would do towards his friend to preserve their friendship).
2. Those that oppose him say that:
a. His ministry is in the flesh (not anointed by the Spirit). (10:2)
b. Though his letters carry weight, he is a poor spokesman (in comparison to some of the Greek orators.) (10:10)
c. (Let us keep in mind that Moses and Jeremiah also found it difficult to speak, yet were mightily used by God. Being an eloquent speaker is not the main requisite for being a strong leader.)
3. Paul’s answer to these accusations are:
a. Though he is still in the body, he is a Christian as much as they are. (10:7)
b. They must also look at the deeds (miracles) God is performing through him when he is with them. (10:11)
c. The weapons he is using (the Word, faith, love, prayer, truth, Eph 6:13-18) in his warfare for their salvation, are not human ideas but are of God and are powerful to (10:4,5):
i. Destroy the devils plans (of opposition against the building of God’s Kingdom).
ii. Cast down strongholds (strong human arguments and doctrines).
iii. Break down walls of resistance (against accepting Jesus as Saviour – walls of independence and love for the world).
iv. Capture the rebellious thoughts of people and lead them to obey Christ.
d. These false teachers are measuring themselves by their own human standards which is not how God sees them; they should measure their lives by God’s standards. (10:12,17,18)
e. That he is not speaking to a congregation established by someone else, but to the one he and his co-workers found (10:13-15).
f. Once they have been properly established in Christ, he will use their congregation as a base to travel deeper inland and to establish more congregations. (10:16)
C. PAUL CONTRASTS HIMSELF WITH THE FALSE APOSTLES
1. He reiterates that defending oneself instead of preaching Christ, is foolishness, but that he has no option but to continue with this foolishness for he is jealous of their commitment to the truth and there is no other way of accomplishing this, but by contrasting himself with those teachers that he now openly accuses of being false apostles, deceitful workers. (11:1)
2. Regarding his own ministry:
a. He is jealous of their love and devotion, not to himself, but to Christ. (11:2)
b. When first introducing them to Christ, he stood to one side so that, coming from heathendom, they could give their very first trust, their very first spiritual love to Christ himself as a virgin girl gives herself to her bridegroom for the first time. (11:2)
c. Though he might perhaps not be such a great speaker, he did not lack in knowledge. (11:6)
d. He did not even take any money from them at all but used funds supplied by other congregations so as not to burden them – did he perhaps do wrong in so doing; to bring them the Gospel without charging them anything for it? (11:7-9)
3. If the Corinthians really were as wise as they considered themselves to be:
a. Why do they accept ministers that (11:20):
i. Are puffed up with pride and rule over them?
ii. Make slaves of them (Putting all sorts of hard labour, laws and bondages on them)?
iii. Devour them (Require them to pay large amounts for their ministry)?
iv. Lay hold of them (Like grabbing them by the shoulders, shaking them and shouting at them; preaching a Gospel without grace, causing them to be in constant fear and trembling)?
v. Hit them in the face (Piling shame on them without the answer of forgiveness and grace)?
b. Why do they so readily accept (11:4):
i. A different Jesus (A teaching and personal example that does not glorify nor show the character of Christ)?.
ii. Ministry in a different spirit (arrogant and proud).
iii. A strange Gospel (That is not in line with the teaching of Christ)?
c. They would not believe that such an arrogant ministry flows from a loving God?
d. They would recognize these as false apostles, servants of the devil, presenting themselves as God’s angels of light which is not strange for even the devil can do that. (They will in the end be exposed, for their works will reveal that they are servants of the devil.) (11:13,14)
4. He fears that as Eve was deceived by the devil in the Garden of Eden to believe his slanderous words of accusation against God, they too have been beguiled by the false apostles to the point where they are in danger of losing their commitment to Christ. (11:3)
5. In contrast to this false ministry they should look at his own ministry:
a. Though he might perhaps not be such a great speaker, he did not lack in knowledge. (11:6)
b. He did not even take any money from them at all but used funds supplied by other congregations so as not to burden them – did he perhaps do wrong in so doing; to bring them the Gospel without charging them anything for it; was this spiritual weakness? (11:8,9)
c. Regarding the things the false teachers boast of and put forward as credentials, he can easily match them for he too is a Hebrew, an Israelite, a descendant of Abraham and a servant of Christ. (11:22,23)
d. But can they match him in the following examples of sacrificing and enduring of punishment for the sake of Christ (11:22-29):
i. Abundant service?
ii. Being beaten for the Gospel way above what is acceptable?
iii. Serving unjust sentences in jail?
iv. In fear of death ever so often?
v. On five occasions having been flogged 39 blows by the Jews?
vi. Three times having been beaten with sticks on the spine?
vii. Once stoned?
viii. Shipwrecked on three occasions, floating on the open sea for a day and a night?
ix. Traveling ever so often?
x. In danger of being drowned when crossing rivers?
xi. In danger from kinsmen?
xii. In danger from the heathen?
xiii. In danger in the city, in the desert, on the sea from those pretending to be my brothers in the Lord?
xiv. Hard labour?
xv. Sleepless nights, often?
xvi. Hunger and thirst, often going without meals?
xvii. Suffering from cold and even being naked?
xviii. Escaping arrest by being lowered in a basked through a window in the wall of Damascus?
xix. In overcoming one stumbling block after the other?
xx. On top of that, his intensive care for all the congregations he founded?
6. Paul would therefore, when it comes to boasting or presenting his credentials:
a. Not boast in how great he is, how good a speaker he is or of what good heritage he is.
b. He would rather boast and give as credentials, evidence of how small he had to become, how much he had to sacrifice, how much he had to suffer and how weak he was in the course of his ministry: these are the credentials of a true servant of God.
D. PAUL’s HEAVENLY VISION AND THORN IN THE FLESH
In closing as regards proof of his apostleship, he mentions an extraordinary experience he had and the effect it has on his ministry:
1. He was snatched away into the third heaven (above the atmosphere, above the starry heavens, into Paradise, the dwelling place of God)
2. He cannot say whether he was transported in body and spirit or merely in the spirit.
3. There he heard things said that cannot be translated into human language and even if they could, he was not allowed to say anything about.
4. This is something a person could gloat about but he would refrain to do so for it did not happen because of his supernatural power for which he should be glorified; it was an act of God.
5. In fact the Lord himself saw to it that he would not be tempted to uplift himself:
a. He put a thorn into his flesh.
b. This thorn was an angel of satan that buffeted him continually.
c. It drains his strength.
d. (At what this infliction was, we can only guess, which brings no answer. We can just repeat what Paul says, that it was a severe demonic tormenting that also caused him physical pain as when a thorn is embedded in one’s flesh.)
e. Three times he cried out to God that He may cause this demonic angel to depart.
f. God’s answer was that He would sustain him by his grace to live with it.
g. By keeping him weak and utterly dependent on God, He is keeping him humble.
h. When humble, he is an open channel for God’s power to flow unhindered through him.
6. Paul would therefore boast of his weaknesses for his many weaknesses are the reason why God uses him mightily and not the exhilarating vision he had. (12:10)
7. He therefore does not complain about, but cherishes such mistreatments, persecutions, fears and insults as are allowed by God, for they cause him to be weak whereby God’s power is released through him.
8. Here is the spiritual paradox: “When at my weakest, I am at my strongest.” (12:10)
9. This power of God flowing through him resulted in many signs and miracles which are God’s ways of proving the authenticity of his apostleship ministry. (12:11)
E. PAUL’S FINAL CAUTIONING AND ADVICE
He was now about to visit them for the third time and would therefore want them to take note of the following:
1. During his previous visits, neither he, nor his co-workers sponged on them or ministered for the sake of material gain for as a father is to provide for his children, he would rather prove for them than having them provide for him. (12:14)
2. This is also the basis on which he would operate during his forthcoming visit. (12:14)
3. He would rather give than receive from them, yes he would gladly give himself away to them in overflowing love, though they would not love him in return. (12:15)
4. What he wants of them, is not their material possessions but their lives and that for Christ. (12:14)
5. He is saying this in fear of being once more humiliated by finding them in a state of unrepentant sin such as quarreling, jealousy, anger, selfishness, slander, gossip, arrogance and other disorderly behaviour or even sexual immorality and licentiousness. (12:20)
6. By coming there for the third time, he will be saying the same things to them for the third time which means that he will leave no doubt as to God’s will. (13:1; Deut 19:15)
7. If then they want to experience God speaking through him in power not mincing his words, so let it be. (13:2,3)
8. Yes, on his first coming Christ was crucified in weakness, but he rose again and is now living by God’s power. (13:4)
9. Likewise on their previous visits he and his co-workers came clothed in softness and weakness. (13:4)
10. This time they will be coming in power, sparing no one. (13:4)
11. As they share in Christ’s initial weakness; they also share in his present power, which they exert for their sake. (13:4)
12. Therefore they should once more examine themselves carefully to see whether their faith in Christ is genuine and has brought about their salvation, that Christ is indeed in them and that they are not still living as castaways in their sin. (13:5)
13. The authority which the Lord gives, is for building up of God’s people and not for breaking them down; ministers must therefore take care in what and how they minister to their flock (13:10):
a. (Excessive reprimanding can bring about discouragement.)
b. (A happy-go-lucky, easy going ministry can result in them having no respect for God and a careless lifestyle admitting all kinds of sin.)
c. (An unbalanced ministry that over emphasizes certain doctrines and minimizes others or never speaks about them, will result in an unbalanced flock. If you are ministering to people, when last did you preach on life after death (heaven and hell) the last days, the second coming of Christ and the virtue of integrity (speaking the truth)?
d. We need to continually hear from the Holy Spirit for He is the One that must shape and mould his people. (We do not want misshapen Christians with double sized heads, eyes and ears and half sized arms, legs, hands and feet (spiritually speaking).
14. Here are some virtues Paul advises us to cultivate (13:11):
a. Rejoice – always. (The devil finds it very difficult to lead a rejoicing Christian astray, for such is happy with what he has, but a sulking unhappy one is an easy prey, for such a one is looking around for something to make him happy.)
b. Become perfect. (As Jesus is perfect; keep your eyes on him and not on your imperfect husband or wife).
c. Be teachable. (Like a student at school or you will never learn to walk like Jesus and your fellow Christians will leave you behind.)
d. Work and pray for unity in the congregation. (This comes by members having the humble attitude of Christ).
e. Be men and woman of peace. (Then the God of peace will be your closest friend.)
f. Greet one another with a holy kiss (13:12).
i. (Some people feel unloved and insecure, for they do not receive love in their homes. To them it means a lot even just to be touched by the hand of someone else. Therefore there needs to be some physical contact between believers. Jesus not only healed the man with the leprosy but first of all touched him).
ii. (It is therefore not sufficient just to shout a greeting or wave with the hand.)
iii. A holy kiss is not the passionate kiss by which a loving husband kisses his wife.
iv. The kiss must not kindle fleshly passion between the two that are kissing.
v. (Between Christian brothers and sisters, a hug might be better so as not to give the devil an opportunity of turning good intentions into bad fruit.)
vi. It must convey the love of Christ, so it must flow from the Spirit.
vii. (To prevent the spread of disease, it might be better to kiss one another on the cheeks.)
15. In closing Paul speaks out over them the blessing of all three Persons in the Godhead (13:13):
a. The love of the Father. (That loved the world so much that He gave his beloved Son to be sacrificed for it.)
b. The grace of the Son. (Who is able to bestow grace on sinners because He bore the punishment for their sin.)
c. The fellowship of the Holy Spirit. (That was sent from heaven to live inside of the believer, right in his heart.)
16. This letter reveals to us Paul’s immense dedication towards the ministry to which the Lord called him and especially his love and care for the congregations the Lord helped him to establish. He fights for them like a mother fights for her little baby that is threatened by a snake. She is willing to lose her dignity and even her life to save it. What a challenge to every minister that reads this powerful portion of Scripture that was preserved for our benefit!
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