Daily Bible Studies
|Series Theme: 2 Corinthians Studies|
Chapters 2 to 4
Chapter: 2 Cor 2
Passage: 2 Cor 2:12-17
A. Find Out:
1. Where had Paul gone and why? v.12,13
2. What two things had God done with them? v.14
3. What did Paul say they were? v.15
4. How did that have different effects? v.16
5. What did he say they didn't do? v.17a
6. What instead were they doing? v.17b
In chapter 1 Paul had spoken about his travel plans and how they had changed. Here again he speaks of exactly the same thing, of how he had gone somewhere but had felt unhappy and so had moved on. However (he implies), this is not a waste of time because wherever we go we bring the knowledge of God.
Observe carefully how Paul describes what happens to them.
First, they are led by God. Even when they make changes to their original plan it is because of God's planning.
Second, it is like they are being led by Christ, the victor, in a triumphal procession (picture of what happened when victorious Roman generals returned home with their captives), so that through them Christ is glorified.
Third, it is as if wherever they go they bring a fragrance with them (imagine a woman with a strong perfume entering a room), which is the knowledge of God.
Fourth, that perfume will have two different effects, this knowledge of God. For some people it will bring in life as they accept Him, while for others it confirms their death as they reject him. No, wherever they go their lives had impact and other lives were changed. No waste there!
A. Find Out:
1. What does Paul now ask? v.1
2. What does he say the Corinthian church is? v.2
3. How are they that? v.3
4. How sure is he about that? v.4,5
5. What has God made them? v.6a
6. In what way? 6b
Paul has just been writing about his own ministry and as he writes he anticipates some objectors saying he is commending himself. In a sense he is being very defensive. He is on difficult ground trying to bring gentle correction to this church.
No (he implies), I don't need to commend myself for you are my commendation. You are like a letter written to the rest of the world. The Holy Spirit has written on your hearts as a result of our ministry and that is visible for anyone to see. You are the proof of our ministry.
Look, he continues, I'm quite confident about that. I'm not confident in myself, but I am confident that Christ has worked in you and therefore, as I stand before God, I know that He declares us competent, because He called us and made us ministers of His word and His Spirit applied it and produced the fruit of you!
In this very defensive writing of Paul's, note also his confidence. he is not afraid to say that he is a leader, that he has the right to bring correction to them, because he knows his calling and he knows that the fruit of his calling is obvious to everyone. They, the Corinthian church were the obvious fruit of his ministry, so that both confirmed his ministry and gave him the right to correct them.
A. Find Out:
1. What were the characteristics of the Old Testament ministry? v.7
2. What does Paul say about the new ministry? v.8
3. How again does he contrast the two ministries? v.9
4. How yet further does he do that? v.10
5. How, finally, does he do that yet again? v.11
Paul has just written about the Corinthian church and has already started using contrasts. They were a letter written not in ink but in the Spirit (v.3), not on stone but on their hearts (v.3), of a covenant not focussed on the letter but on the Spirit (v.6). Now he continues to contrast the old and the new covenants.
First of all let's note the things he says about the old covenant. It brought death, it was engraved on stone, it came with God's glory which was reflected on Moses face but which faded away (v.8,11). It condemned men (pointed out their failure).
The new covenant, by contrast, is a ministry of the Spirit (v.8), it brings righteousness (v.9), it brings surpassing glory (v.10) which is a lasting glory (v.11).
Why is Paul saying all this? What is the emphasis of these words? Basically he is saying that the old covenant condemned men and the new brings righteousness. There must be implied behind this, therefore, that Paul is saying, I'm not here to condemn you but to encourage you to bring righteousness to the fore. The old emphasised the written law, the new emphasised the Spirit, so he's saying, I'm not coming to lay down rules but I want you to be a people who live by the Spirit of God.
A. Find Out:
1. What did this hope produce in Paul? v.12
2. How did he differ from Moses? v.13
3. What is the effect of the old covenant? v.14,15
4. What happens when a person is saved? v.16
5. What happens where the Lord is? v.17
6. So what is happening to us today? v.18
Paul has just written about the fading glory of the old covenant and the unfading glory of the new. Now he continues to consider these things and the effects they have.
First, he says because we have an unfading glory we are bold. Moses, he says, couldn't be bold because he knew the glory faded away, so he covered his face with a veil so the people couldn't see the glory and couldn't see it fading away. We don't have to worry like Moses, for the glory we have is unfading. What is that glory? It is the expressed or manifest presence of God. It was seen as a bright cloud in the Old Testament times, but is the expression of the Holy Spirit today. Because the Spirit dwells in us, God's glory is with us at all times, changing us, making us more like Jesus every day.
Second, he says that not only was there a veil over Moses face there was also a veil over the people's hearts which restricted or limited their understanding and their faith. Now, he says, that veil is taken away because the Holy Spirit comes to live within and He brings understanding, He brings revelation, He releases faith as He speaks. The new covenant is all about the Holy Spirit, the Spirit of Jesus.
A. Find Out:
1. What was the effect of this ministry on Paul? v.1
2. What had they done and what did they not do? v.2a
3. On the other hand what did they do? v.2b
4. To whom is the gospel veiled? v.3
5. Why? v.4
6. So who did Paul preach? v.5
Having just spoken about the wonder of the new covenant, Paul can say that it is this wonder that help them not loose heart. Yes pressures do come, obstacles do arise, people are negative, but this Gospel is still glorious and worth every bit of it!
Look, he says, we don't go about bringing the Gospel in an underhanded way, distorting the truth, seeking to deceive people. No, everything we do is open and above board. We simply set forth the truth plainly and thus we can stand with clear consciences before both God and men. There is nothing underhand about the Gospel.
Yes, he continues, there will be some for whom the Gospel still seems to be veiled so they can't see it, but those are people who are simply blinded by Satan and who refuse to see and who will be lost in eternity. These people just cannot see how wonderful Christ is. Paul preached Christ, not himself (his own experience), because response to Christ is the means by which God decides our eternal destiny. Some do not see his wonder and reject what they are hearing. That is simply an indication of the state of their heart. If it continues….. eternal death.
A. Find Out:
1. What did God say and then do, and why? v.6
2. What do we have? v.7
3. How did Paul describe his life? v.8,9
4. What did he say they did and why? v.10
5. What happens to Christian ministry and why? v.11
6. What did he say what happening? v.12
What truths! Paul has just written about the light of the Gospel, and that being hidden from some. Now he refers to the light that shines in us, the very presence of God within us. It comes by the word of God coming into our hearts and then by the Spirit of God coming to dwell in us. We are but earthen vessels, rather crude pottery, but within us we have something glorious. When we are enabled to do great things, remember, we're just the earthen vessels, it's the glory who dwells within who achieves it.
Paul then describes how it works with him in his ministry. They were hard pressed, perplexed, persecuted, struck down. Those are the words that he uses to describe what had happened to them. BUT, they weren't crushed, in despair, abandoned or destroyed, all the things you would expect to happen as a result of those things. Oh no, they were instead constantly displaying the same submission to death (IF it was to come) that Jesus displayed at the Cross, submitting to his Father's will. This was the heart of their ministry: submission to God in all things.
Why does God allow this to happen to His servants? So that when they come through it, both they and the world around them will realise that is must have been God who achieved it.
A. Find Out:
1. What follows what, and why? v.13
2. What did Paul say they knew? v.14
3. What was happening through their ministry? v.15
4. What was happening in them? v.16
5. What was all that achieving? v.17
6. So what did they fix their eyes upon? v.18
Paul has been writing about how God preserves them in their ministry to glorify Himself. Now he reminds them why he speaks as he does. It is because he believes what he does, and it is the Holy Spirit who has brought him to that believing. He knows that God who raised Jesus will also raise Paul at the appropriate time to grant him eternal life, and that truth affects everything he does.
The result of this, says Paul, is that God's grace is able to reach out through them to many, many people and God is glorified. Because he knows this is happening (he will be glorified in eternity and God is being glorified now) he doesn't lose heart. At times he is made aware of just how frail he is, he feels his body is running down, it's wasting away with the passing of years and the pressure of life, but he also knows that on the inward side, the spiritual side, the more and more he goes on doing the will of God, the more and more the Lord is renewing him on a daily basis. The daily affliction and perseverance in God's will is achieving glory in heaven which Paul will receive when he gets there. It is that truth that helps him through the difficult days here. He sets his mind on eternity and that carries him through time.
In this second group of 7 studies we have seen Paul speaking about:
Again here there is a framework of history on which Paul hangs teaching. They had gone to Troas , then to Macedonia (history), yet wherever they went it was like they shed an aroma (knowledge) of Christ. He feared that would be seen as boasting but says he doesn't need to because they themselves were his letter of commendation, a fruit of the ministry of the Spirit. He then explains this in terms of the Old versus the New covenants. He acknowledges that his ministry is from God and therefore they present it openly and plainly. If people refuse it, it is because they are blinded by Satan. God shines His glory into us, so while we are merely ‘earthen vessels', all the glory is His.
1. When we trust God to lead, all will work out to His glory.
2. When God calls, He equips, we are competent in Him.
3. The Holy Spirit is changing us gradually to be more like Jesus.
4. We are but like earthen vessels that hold the glory of God.
5. God is able to reach out through our weakness.
Thank the Lord that He lives in you. Ask that His glory may be seen more and more through you.
PART 3 : "Eternity Decrees the Present "
In this next Part see how an awareness of our eternal destiny prompts how Paul (and we?) lives today. Paul's ministry was what it was because of what Christ had done and will do in eternity.