2 Corinthians 2
On one of Paul’s previous visits to Corinth, someone was apparently antagonistic toward Paul and threatened the well-being of Corinthian church and the Corinthian believers took action against him. They had apparently expelled him from their fellowship. Consequently, the offending individual demonstrated remorse. Paul urged the Corinthians to “forgive and comfort” and to “reaffirm” their love the offender. Otherwise, he might be “overwhelmed by excessive sorrow.”
- How does the church determine when someone’s behavior is destructive to the church?
- At what point should the church take action to protect individuals from upsetting the fellowship?
- What types of remedial action should or could be taken by the church to help the individual understand the effects and consequences of his or her actions?
In these verse Paul describes his difficulty in finding his ministry partner Titus and the lack of inner peace he was experiencing as a result. Nevertheless, he knows that Christ is everywhere and that he is living his life a sacrifice (in the Old Testament, the sacrifices were sometimes described as a fragrant aroma). He asks the rhetorical question, “Who is adequate for such a ministry?” He will pick up on this idea of adequacy later in the letter. Paul concludes the section in verse 17 by once again defending his ministry by comparing it to those false apostles who exploit would be disciples financially.
- At what times do you experience inner peace?
- How would your life be different if you lived it as if you were a living sacrifice to God through Christ?
2 Corinthians 3
Paul states that, unlike others, he does not need a letter or introduction or recommendation. The Corinthians are all the proof he needs of his apostleship and the authenticity of his ministry. Paul says that he is adequate (qualified, sufficient) because God has made him so, not because of his own abilities. Paul critiques the Old Covenant (the Moses Covenant) as a ministry of death that led to glory. The New Covenant (Jesus Covenant) is a ministry of righteousness that surpasses the glory of the Old Covenant such that it no longer has any glory. He recounts that Moses had to wear a veil over his head after being in the presence of God so that God’s glory would not overwhelm those who saw him. Just as the glory of God faded from Moses’ face over time, the glory of the Old Covenant has faded in light of the New Covenant. Paul says that the glory of God has been revealed because Jesus has lifted the veil. And when anyone turns to God in Christ, the veil revealing the glory of God is removed. The long and the short of it is that the only way to see God’s glory is through faith in Jesus Christ. As in many other places in Paul’s writings, he describes transformation into the character of Christ as the result of seeing God’s glory.
- What kind of legacy are you leaving in the lives of other people? If your resume consisted only of your impact on other people, how impressive would your resume be?
- How has faith in Christ aided your understand of who God is?
- Where are you in the process of being transformed into the image of God?
2 Corinthians 4
Paul says that his ministry reveals the truth of God, but that the truth of God is veiled or hidden from those who are perishing. In order words, those who do not know Christ do not understand the gospel and cannot understand the things of God because “the god of this world has blinded their eyes.” In other words, Satan has blinded unbelievers to the truth of God in Christ.
- Have you ever been frustrating in talking with not-yet-Christians who seemingly refuse to understand the gospel?
- How does Paul’s teaching in these verses help you understand what is happening in the lives of not-yet-believers?
- How might you relate to not-yet-believers differently if you were adopt Paul’s understanding of their situation?
Paul says that his goal is that others will see the glory of God even through his weakness. He talks about the power of perseverance. Even though he is afflicted, anxious, persecuted, knocked down, he is NOT in inescapable trouble, in despair, deserted, destroyed. He carries a with him the death of Jesus, so that Jesus’ life might also be revealed through him. Paul also writes that he speaks of what he knows, that the same Jesus who will raise up the Corinthians will also raise him up. The end result of this knowledge is the giving of thanks to God. Said differently, Paul gives thanks for salvation through Jesus Christ. As more and more people come to salvation in Christ and give thanks, the gospel will spread even further.
- In what way have you contended for the faith that resulted in being “afflicted, anxious, persecuted, knocked down?”
- Have you been “in inescapable trouble, in despair, deserted, destroyed?” How did you respond? What gave you the strength to persevere?
- How has your gratitude to God for salvation in Jesus Christ overflowed in thanksgiving?
- How has God used your life to spread the grace of God to more and more people?
Paul draws a distinction between the outer and inner man. Our physical bodies lose strength and waste away. But our inner person can undergo regular repair and restoration (see 2 Corinthians 3:18). Paul says that the sufferings he has encountered is “momentary and light.” This is quite a remarkable claim given the list of difficulties he lists later in this letter (2 Corinthians 11:23-29). But he says that all his hardship is well worth the it because it pales in comparison to the glories he anticipates in Christ. He concludes by saying that he chooses to focus on the things that are not seen (with human eyes) rather than those things which are seen because what we cannot see is what lasts forever. Our bodies are temporary, but our spirits, redeemed by Christ, last forever.
- Compared to Paul’s list of the hardships he has encountered because of his faith, how do your hardships stack up?
- Given all these hardships, Paul’s level of commitment to Christ was quite high. How does your level of commitment stack up?
- What do you think drove Paul to endure such hardships and to call them “momentary and light?”
- Are you more committed to the things that you can see or to those things that are eternal?
- In your discussion with your LIFE Group, what is your main take away?
- What one thing will you do differently this week because of this discussion?
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