Would you like to have a glimpse of Jesus’ glory? At the very early stages of His earthly ministry, Jesus performed a miracle at a wedding. Not everyone noticed, but the disciples and Mary, the mother of Jesus, were probably well aware of what had just taken place. Jesus had come to the rescue of the wedding host, who had run out of wine for the festivities. Jesus had the servants fill casks with water and the He miraculously turned the water into wine. Not exactly a simple parlor trick. And John describes it as the “first glimpse of his glory.” This was just the beginning. There would be much more to come. And isn’t that what we would like to see? Wouldn’t it be great if Jesus would do a little wine-into-water action in our lives? But when we read these stories we fail to remember that Jesus has done something far greater in our world. He has turned sinful men and women, condemned to death for their rebellion against God, into children of God. He has brought the spiritually dead back to life. He has restored those who were God’s enemies into friends of God. Jesus has restored sight to the blind, who had been living in spiritual darkness. What Jesus did that day was a glimpse of what was to come: Transformation. God-ordained, supernatural, Spirit-empowered transformation of something ordinary into something extraordinary.
Who was Jesus? There are a lot of opinions as to the answer to that question. Some say He was just another man, a good man, but a man nonetheless. Others say He was a great teacher and left us a wonderful example to follow, not unlike Gandhi or Mother Teresa. Still others claim He never existed at all. He is a myth, a figment of man’s fertile imagination. And yet, there are still those who believe Him to be who He claimed to be: The Son of God and the Savior of the world. The author of the book of John, also known as the Gospel of John, would fall into the latter category. And because the author of John was the disciple of Jesus who bore that name, He has some very strong and extremely personal opinions about who Jesus was and what He came to accomplish. John’s gospel is very intimate, providing us with an up-close and personal glimpse into the life of the Son of God. He will introduce Jesus as the Word of God, the co-creator of the universe, working alongside the Father and the Spirit to produce all that exists in the world. But Jesus is also the God-man, God in human flesh, come to earth to redeem sinful men from the self-imposed death sentence. In the very first chapter alone, John will use a wide range of names, titles, metaphors and designations to describe His teacher, friend, rabbi, and Savior.
Today, we begin a new study in the gospel of John. One of the things that sets the gospel of John apart from the other three gospels is its emphasis on Jesus’ deity. He gives the purpose statement behind his gospel in the last two verses of the final chapter: “Now Jesus did many other signs in the presence of the disciples, which are not written in this book; but these are written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name.” He wanted his readers to believe in the deity of Jesus. He was the God/Man, God incarnate. He was not just another rabbi, teacher, moralist, or martyr. Jesus was God in human flesh, who was sent on a mission by His Father to redeem man from the condemnation of sin and the penalty of death. He was the long-awaited Messiah, the Christ, who came to pay the penalty for man’s sin and offer His life as a substitutionary atonement for all those who believed. Belief will be a key word throughout the gospel, with the more traditional Greek word for faith, pistis, never used once.
As we work our way through this phenomenal book, be sure to read along each day so that you get the full flavor of the text we will be covering. This podcast is meant to compensate your reading of God’s Word, not replace it. So, get out your Bible and let’s get started with the Gospel of John.
With this episode, we’ll wrap up our study in 2 Corinthians. We’ll close it out by looking at the final chapter in the book, chapter 13. In it, Paul is going to demand that the Corinthian believers test themselves. He wants them to do some serious soul-searching to determine if they are really in the faith, or not. As we will see, Paul is not really questioning their salvation, as much as he is raising some serious doubts about the effectiveness of their sanctification. The problem as he saw it, was that their lifestyle wasn’t tracking with their profession of faith. Their behavior was not matching their belief. For Paul, life change was non-optional for the believer. True conversion brought about true life transformation. Spiritual maturity is to be characterized by increasing Christ-likeness. Transformation into the likeness of Christ is one of the primary byproducts of coming to faith in Christ. Paul was done having his authority as an apostle questioned. He was through letting the Corinthians raise doubts about his credentials and his right to speak for Christ. They needed to spend more time examining their own lives. They needed to concentrate on becoming who God had called them to be, rather than worrying if Paul was who he claimed to be.
Power in weakness. That is NOT a part of the American cultural mindset. Weakness is nothing more than what it is: weakness; and it is to be avoided at all costs. We are strength-addicted. We want strong bodies, strong portfolios, healthy and robust social lives, strong kids, strong marriages, and the protection of a strong military infrastructure, backed by a strong government that reflects our strongly held political beliefs. But, as we will see in 2 Corinthians 12, Paul is going to take a dramatically different approach to life, finding pleasure in weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions and troubles. It would be easy to write off Paul as a man with some serious issues. He wasn’t realistic about life. Or maybe he didn’t really know what it was like to suffer. But Paul will make it perfectly clear that he was well-acquainted with sufferings of all kinds. He was the poster-boy of suffering. But rather than loathe the trials and tribulations of life, Paul saw them as unique opportunities to watch God work. Because he had learned from experience that God’s power is made perfect in man’s weakness. So, in essence, his weakness was actually the key to discovering and experiencing true strength.
In this episode, you are going to hear me refer to some events from an earlier period of my life, when this particular blog was originally written. They offer a historical record of a time when the circumstances of life seemed to be giving me a run for my money. But it just so happened that my time in the Word at the time when all these things were going on had me in the book of 2 Corinthians, and in this particular passage. It was timely, to say the least. Here, in 2 Corinthians 11:16-33, I was given an opportunity to compare my sufferings with those of Paul. And it was not a fair fight. He won hands-down. But the amazing thing is that Paul was prone to brag about his sufferings, not whine about them. Instead of complaining about all that had happened to him in his ministry for Christ, he found reason to rejoice in the weaknesses his circumstances had revealed. Weakness is not something we tend to appreciate or even want to admit. Weakness is to be avoided at all costs, just like suffering. But for Paul, it was his sufferings that revealed his weakness, and it was his weakness that reminded him of his need for God. It was his lack of power that reminded him to rely on the power provided to him through the indwelling Spirit of God. And that was something worthy bragging about.
Is the truth really relative? Well, the truth is, many today believe that it is. They have listened to the enlightened ones of our day and bought into the notion that truth is subjective and the versions of the truth are as many as there are people on the planet. But that version of the truth is nothing more than a lie of the enemy. It stands against what God has claimed about Himself, that He is the God of all truth. It also stands against what Jesus claims about the Word of God, “Your word is truth.” But truth has always been under attack and it was no different in Paul’s day. So, in 2 Corinthians 11:1-15, we will take a look at Paul’s defense of the truth. He will expose the gullible, tolerant and undiscerning nature of the Corinthians believers, reprimanding them for their too-easy-acceptance of falsehood disguised as truth. It didn’t seem to matter if someone was teaching a different Jesus, a different gospel or a different Holy Spirit, they were more than willing to accept it as truth. And all to their own detriment. But Paul stood in the gap. He refused to give in. He refused to put up with falsehood. Because the truth of God matters.
Whether we want to admit it or not, we’re almost all pacifists. I’m not talking about your opinion as to whether a country should go to war or whether a Christian should take up arms. No, I am talking about our unwillingness to speak out against false teaching in the church and to stand up for the truth of the gospel. We’ve become increasingly more politically correct, unwilling and afraid to say what needs to be said. We’re inherently non-confrontational, even when it comes to defending the truth of God’s Word. Here in chapter ten of 2 Corinthians, Paul is going to go on the offensive and deal with what he sees as a real threat to his ministry and the overall health of the church. He wasn’t some kind of fading wall-flower, too scared to speak up or risk rejection. The gospel was everything and he was unwilling to tolerate anyone who threatened its integrity and clouded its message. In the very next chapter he will accuse the believers in Corinth: “You happily put up with whatever anyone tells you, even if they preach a different Jesus than the one we preach, or a different kind of Spirit than the one you received, or a different kind of gospel than the one you believed.” But not Paul.
In chapter 9 of 2 Corinthians, Paul continues to deal with the sometimes unpopular topic of giving. For Paul, giving was not a dirty word, it was simply an expression of gratitude for all that God has done for us. God has been gracious, so why shouldn’t we be? God has given to us freely and richly, so why would we not be willing to share with others? Selfishness has no place in the body of Christ. A me-centered attitude is antithetical to all that Christ taught and the life that He modeled. So, for Paul, giving was to be a normal and natural part of the believer’s life. And what was amazing about the kind of generosity Paul describes is that God is the one who gets the glory, not the giver. Just as misuse of financial assets within the church can damage the reputation of God, our generous giving brings glory and honor to Him. The lost world is given a first-hand glimpse into the goodness of God through the goodness expressed by His children through their overflow of generosity to those in need. Jesus had told His followers that the world would recognize them as His disciples by their love for one another. And loving generosity is a tangible expression of that love.
Integrity. It’s a long-lost art. And sadly to say, even within the church, in some instances. And nowhere does a lack of integrity show up more regularly or egregiously than when it comes to the handling of money. And the same was true in Paul’s day. That’s why he takes time to assure the believers in Corinth that he is a man of integrity, who can be trusted to care for their financial gifts for the needy believers in Jerusalem. He had gone out of his way to ensure that their donations to the cause were going to get where they belonged. No skimming of funds for personal gain. No mishandling or cooking of the books. For Paul, this was about the integrity of the gospel more than anything else. Any mismanagement of the funds given to aid the church in Jerusalem would end up harming the cause of Christ and bring shame to the name of God. So, in 2 Corinthians 8:16-24, we will see Paul assuring the Corinthians that he can be trusted. But, in a way, he is teaching them a valuable lesson on personal integrity. All that we do reflects either positively or negatively on the Kingdom of God. How we handle ourselves when it comes to the affairs of the church is vitally important to the reputation of the church.
Giving. It’s become a dirty word within the church today. We hate sermons that talk about giving. We can’t stand it when the church begins yet another giving campaign. It can almost seem like all the church is interested in is money. But in 2 Corinthians 8:1-15, we are going to see the apostle Paul unapologetically broach the subject of giving. He isn’t embarrassed by it and feels no remorse for asking the Corinthians to generously and sacrificially give to meet the needs of others within the body of Christ – even those living in another part of the world. For Paul, the ultimate model for giving was Jesus Christ Himself, who gave His own life in order that sinful, condemned men and women might be made right with God. Paul describes it this way: “he became poor, so that by his poverty he could make you rich.” So, why wouldn’t believers who have been richly blessed by Christ, be willing to sacrificially give of what they have in order to bless the lives of those in need? For Paul, giving was a privilege, not a burden. It was a right, not a requirement. Giving was another form or worship, passing on the love and grace of God to those who were in need. The degree to which we are generous to others is directly tied to our understanding of God’s generosity to us.
There is a kind of sorrow that is nothing more than feeling sorry for yourself. You regret what has happened because of something you have done. It has thrown a wrench into your life and made things difficult for you. It has resulted in alienation from others or even open hostility. You regret what you have done because you don’t like the ramifications. But then there is the feeling of sorrow over what you have done. That is something different altogether. That kind of sorrow is not tied to the ramifications of your actions, but to the action itself. In 2 Corinthians 7, Paul is going to deal with just how vastly different these two kinds of sorrow really are. He will refer to one as worldly sorrow and the other as godly sorrow. And for the believer, there is only one option, because worldly sorrow lacks repentance. It comes with only regret. And regret never results in life change. At least not for long. So, Paul is going to give the Corinthians a brief, but important lesson on what godly sorrow looks like and why it is so important in the life of the believer. At the end of the day, God is looking for true life change. He wants to produce in us a sorrow that will not only regret our sinful actions, but desire to repent of them once and for all. Because that kind of sorrow produces life, joy and peace with God.
What does spiritual transformation look like? Is it measurable or even identifiable? For Paul, the answer would be a simple, but resounding, “Yes.” His life was proof of the inner transformation that Christ was bringing about within him. Talking about spiritual change proves nothing. Claiming to have a vibrant walk with God is great, but it doesn’t amount to a hill of beans if that change doesn’t show up in real life. True spiritual transformation has physical and tangible manifestations. They’re visible and highly objective, not subjective. They will stand out among the crowd of posers and fakers. And Paul’s life was living proof. Even in the midst of trials and tribulation of all kinds, Paul was still sharing the gospel and giving his life to the cause of Christ. He faced rejection and ridicule with a stubborn resolve that was based on the belief that God’s power shows up best in the middle of our weakness. That’s why he could say, “I am glad to boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ can work through me.” As we unpack 2 Corinthians 6, Paul is going to give us a much-needed reminder on living out our inner transformation so that all can see it and be blessed by it.
What’s your purpose in life? Why are you here and what is it you feel compelled to accomplish in the time God gives you on this planet? For Paul, the answers to those two questions were one and the same: To call people back to God. He was single-minded when it came to his life’s purpose, knowing beyond a shadow of a doubt that he had been commissioned by God to share the good news of Jesus Christ so that a lost and dying world might be reconciled to God. This wasn’t just Paul’s profession, it was his obsession. It drove his agenda. It motivated his every waking moment. He knew there was no more important task to perform in this life than presenting the message of new life in Christ to those who were dead in their trespasses and sins. It was job number one and he did it well. And as we look at 2 Corinthians 5:11-21, we will hear Paul express his deep-seated belief that this ministry of reconciliation was not his alone. It is the responsibility of each and every individual who calls themselves a child of God and a follower of Jesus Christ. Yes, there are certainly good deeds to be done and acts of mercy and compassion to be accomplished in the world. But if we fail to share the gospel, we may end up feeding their stomach, but fail to meet the needs of their soul.
Goals. Some people love them, while others hate them. Some avoid them like the plague. But for the apostle Paul, he had one simple goal: To please God. Gone were the days of ladder-climbing and resume-building. He had no one to impress. He had no earthly achievements to pursue or temporal objectives to reach. For him, it was all about living his life in order to please the one who had called him. That’s why he could say that, whether he was dead or alive, his sole ambition was to please God. Today, as we look at 2 Corinthians 5:1-10, we want to get a glimpse into this single-minded outlook of Paul. It isn’t that he was against achieving anything in this life. It was that he had a long-term perspective that focused on the hereafter far more than the here-and-now. Yes, he was busy sharing the gospel and traveling near and far to make it happen, but he wasn’t out to be the best evangelist on the planet. He could care less whether he made a name for himself or got a lot of credit for all he had done. He knew there was only one person’s opinion that mattered when it came to whether he had done a good job. And that was God. Paul saw life on this planet as temporary. He was headed somewhere much better. But he was going make the most of his days here on earth. All so he could one day stand before His maker and hear him say, “Well done, good and faithful servant.”
Suffering. Not exactly a topic most of us want to dwell on. But for Paul, suffering was an ever-present reality of his life. He had grown accustomed to it and had learned that it was part and parcel of his life as an apostle of Jesus Christ and a messenger of the good news. You see, Paul had an eternal perspective that allowed him to see present suffering with a future outlook. And in 2 Corinthians 4:8-18, Paul is going to provide the Corinthian believers with a glimpse into how he viewed the trials and tribulations of life. His perspective may sound a bit odd to us, but it is actually the same attitude that Christ had while He was on earth. He knew that His suffering was all a part of God’s divine plan. He was fully aware that His rejection by men was inevitable and His death at the hands of man, unavoidable. It had to happen. His death was God’s will and the only way in which the sins of man could be atoned for – once and for all. So, Paul had no problem accepting the struggles in his own life. Who was he to think he could escape trials when His sinless Savior had been willing to die a sinner’s death on behalf of sinful mankind? Paul didn’t like pain. He didn’t pursue suffering. But he was willing to accept it when it showed up because he knew how the story ends.
In today’s episode, based on 2 Corinthians 4:1-7, we will hear Paul describing himself as a jar of clay, a seemingly value-less vessel, made of the basest of materials, but containing the very glory of God in the form of the Holy Spirit. For Paul, the unbelievable reality of his position as a son of God and a spokesman for the gospel of Jesus Christ was never something he took for granted. He was not impressed with himself, and so, he really saw no reason to waste his time trying to impress others. It was enough to him that he was used by God. So, all the hub-bub about his credentials or qualifications to be an apostle meant nothing to him. He knew he was being used by God because he had seen the life change among the believers in Corinth. And he was content in knowing that the power of God dwelt within him, and shown out of him to all those around him. His resume was of no significance. His accomplishments were pointless and meaningless. It was all God. He was the one who was doing the work. Paul was simply an unworthy vessel, an instrument in the Redeemer’s hands, accomplishing His divine will, not because of Paul, but in spite of him. The power was all God’s. And the glory was His as well.
Ever since the fall, mankind has been attempt to restore their broken fellowship with God by trying to do things to please Him. Even as man eventually created false gods to replace the one true God, they still felt obligated to keep that god pleased by offering sacrifices and paying homage. Measuring up has been and continues to be a full-time job for men and women. It shows up in all kinds of way. We try to find success through everything from sports and work to relationships. We feel the constant pressure to do more and work harder to impress others, so that we might be accepted and achieve some measure of success in our lives. For Paul, the arrival of Jesus onto the stage of human history was a game-changer. Gone were the days of striving and attempting to earn favor with God through self-effort. For Paul, as a good Jew and former Pharisee, the old covenant of the Mosaic law had been the primary way in which men attempted to get back into and remain in God’s good graces. But it had failed miserably. All the law did was expose man’s sin. It couldn’t get rid of it. But the new covenant, based on Jesus’ death and the shedding of His blood, makes it possible for men to be set free from slavery to sin and provides them with the power to live in obedience to His will. Today’s episode is based on 2 Corinthians 3:7-18.
In today’s episode, based on 2 Corinthians 3:1-6, Paul is going to deal with the ongoing debate regarding his qualifications as an apostle. But rather than continue to defend himself and wax eloquent about his obvious gift sets and credentials, Paul is going to defer and give all credit to God. He knew that he was being used by God, and that anything he had accomplished had been as a result of God’s power, not his own. He knew full well that many lives had been changed in Corinth as a result of his ministry there, but he also knew that he had been nothing more than a messenger, spreading the good news of Jesus Christ. Any transformation that had taken place had been the work of the Spirit, and he deserved none of the credit. But Paul was firmly convinced that his calling was real and his position as an apostle of Jesus Christ had been proven. The changed lives of the Corinthians were more than enough proof. And he felt no need to continue to defend himself against those who wanted to disparage his motives and methods. He would simply keep doing what he had been called to do, against all odds and whether anyone fully recognized or appreciated the part he had played. God was working. And for Paul, it was enough to be used by God and have His good pleasure.
Fortunately for us, we don’t live in a culture that condones slavery. It is an embarrassing and indefensible part of our past that we would prefer to forget. But as we look at 2 Corinthians 2:14-17, we will hear Paul using slavery as a way to describe his relationship with Christ. This will probably be somewhat of an assault on our modern sensibilities. But for the average Corinthian, slavery was a normal and ubiquitous part of their daily lives. Slaves were everywhere. There were slaves of war. There were indentured servants. There were those who had been forced into slavery because they couldn’t pay their bills or settle their debts. While slavery in that day certainly had an ethnic and racial component to it, it was really more about economics and power. Those nations that were conquered by more powerful foes, often found their subjects turned into slaves and having to do the bidding of a foreign king. Their freedoms were lost and their rights to live as they pleased, taken from them. And that is the picture Paul describes concerning His relationship with God and His Son, Jesus Christ. But for Paul, this was positive, not negative. He was pleased to be the slave of Christ. He considered it an honor to do the will of God the Father as He submitted to the Lordship of Jesus in His life. He belonged to Christ and was more than willing to be His captive, and to live a captivating life that drew men to the saving work of Jesus and His gift of eternal life.
Welcome to Devotionary, where we make the Bible accessible and applicable.
In this episode, titled, “Tough Love”, we’ll learn about another letter Paul had sent to the church in Corinth that has long since been lost. But that letter evidently contained some harsh words from the apostle. He had stepped on some toes and offended some of the members of the local congregation. But his intent had been to bring healing, not hurt. He had been out to call the church to accountability and obedience. As a result, he had been forced to say some things that were, at face value, offensive and hard to receive, but which, in the long-run, had their intended impact on the Corinthians. As Christians, we can sometimes find it hard to say what truly needs to be said. We don’t want to offend anyone. We don’t want to be accused of being judgmental or holier-than-thou. So, even when we see fellow believers acting in ways that are not honoring to Christ, we tend to keep our mouths shut. Afraid of turning a friend into a potential enemy, we fail to speak up and say what needs to be said. And, as a result, the body of Christ suffers. 2 Corinthians 2:1-13 is all about tough love, a difficult thing to pull off, but a non-negotiable necessity if the church is going to be effective.
Are you a man or woman of your word? Can people trust what you say? As we look at verses 12-24 of 2 Corinthians 1, we’re going to see Paul defending his integrity against attacks from an undisclosed group of individuals within the church at Corinth. He was going to have to give them proof that he was trustworthy and as good as his word. They had no reason to doubt what he said or question what he taught. There were those who were basically accusing him of lying because he had promised to make another visit to Corinth, but had failed to do so. But rather than asking Paul what reason he might have had for the delay, they simply spread rumors about his veracity and reliability. But this kind of accusation wasn’t going to sit well with Paul, not because he cared that much about his personal reputation, but because he was an ambassador and representative of Jesus Christ. As an apostle, he couldn’t afford to have his word questioned, because he spoke on behalf of Jesus. Truth was paramount to Paul. False gospels and messages that twisted the facts about Jesus and His redemptive work on the cross were not to be tolerated. So, to be accused of being untrustworthy was unacceptable to Paul. The message he carried was too important to let anyone question his integrity or doubt the reliability of the words that came out of his mouth
As Paul opens his second letter to the church in Corinth, he does so with his normal salutation, offering them grace and peace from God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. But in verses 1-11 of 2 Corinthians, he gets right to the point of his letter. Much of what he is going to attempt to do with this letter is defend himself against those who have questioned his motives and raised doubts about his apostleship. After all, Paul wasn’t one of the original twelve. He had received his calling on the road to Damascus and had, since that time, claimed to be an apostle on an equal standing with Peter, James, John or any of the other disciples of Christ. He claimed to have been called and commissioned by Jesus Himself. So, his words carried divine weight. His admonitions and teachings were not his personal opinion, but the words of God. And Paul will begin his letter by conveying the suffering he has endured as an apostle of Jesus Christ. His life had been anything but easy. He had endured a great deal for the cause of Christ. And now, he wanted to pass on to the Corinthians believers all that he had learned in suffering for and being comforted by Christ. He wanted them to learn to lean on God.
Today, we begin a new series on the book of 2 Corinthians. As we make our way through this letter, be sure to read each day’s passage in order to better follow what is going on.
ThIs it is. The final part of Paul’s letter. And he ends it with a bang, not a whimper. He has not run out of steam or things to say, but like all good things, they must come to an end. So, he wraps it all up with one last admonition to be wary, watchful, faithful, courageous and strong. Oh, and to love. That one was especially important to Paul. This final charge, found 1 Corinthians 16: 10-24 is simple, yet powerful. In it, Paul provides the Corinthians, and us, with a strong message to which anyone would be wise to listen. The overall theme of Paul’s letter has been one of community in the face of the constant temptations to live in disunity and isolation. The body of Christ is meant to be an organism, not an organization. The members of the body are gifted by the Spirit of God in order that they might encourage and serve one another. There is no place for competition or conflict. Pride, arrogance and self-centeredness are to be avoided at all costs, recognizing them as cancers that can destroy the body from within. The ongoing well-being of the body of Christ requires an attitude of unity, cooperation, selfless service and sacrificial love. The time is short and the need great. So, we are to stay focused and faithful.