Deuteronomy 31, Jeremiah 23, 2 Corinthians 7

Read Deuteronomy 31, Jeremiah 23, and 2 Corinthians 7 today. This devotional is about 2 Corinthians 7.

At the end of chapter 6, God’s word told us not to be unequally yoked with unbelievers (v. 14). One reason to obey this command is the promise of God in verse 16, “I will be their God, and they will be my people” and the promise in verse 18, “I will be a Father to you… says the Lord Almighty.” These are promises of a unique, personal, family relationship with God. What relationship with an unbeliever can replace that? There is no greater promise that could be made to a man or woman than this kind of love from God.

Today’s passage began with the word, “therefore.” What Paul says in verse 1, therefore, is a conclusion based on those last few verses of chapter 6 where Paul repeated these promises of God from the Old Testament. Given that God has promised us this, what is the best way we could respond? According to verse 1, “let us purify ourselves… perfecting holiness out of reverence for God.” As believers, we learn to choose righteousness over sinfulness, holiness over unholiness by believing that God’s promises of fellowship with him will be better–far better–than anything sin can offer us, including the companionship of being yoked with unbelievers.

In the moment of temptation, this is one truth we can remind ourselves of to help us choose what is right over what is sinful. This isn’t the only thing we have to help us be holy, but it is a powerful motivator when the lure of temptation draws us toward sin. Since we reverence God, let us choose what is holy over what is unholy. May God grace us to do that today.

Deuteronomy 24, Jeremiah 16, 2 Corinthians 2

Read Deuteronomy 24, Jeremiah 16, and 2 Corinthians 2. This devotional is about 2 Corinthians 2.

One of the issues we have in interpreting 1 and 2 Corinthians is that there were letters exchanged between the Corinthians and Paul that we do not have. Paul also referenced visiting them (v. 1: “another painful visit”) but that visit is not discussed in Acts–though scholars have made a good explanation of where it could have happened. 

Some have compared reading 1st and especially 2nd Corinthians to listening to one half of a phone conversation. If you’ve ever done that, for instance when your spouse is talking on the phone in your presence, you know how confusing it can get. You listen to what your spouse says and then try to imagine what might have been said on the other end of the conversation, the one you can’t hear. At least, that’s what I do when someone is talking on the phone near me….

Anyway, we have these two letters, but there were other communications between Paul and this church that we don’t have. That means we have to speculate somewhat. We can still understand what the Holy Spirit was teaching through Paul, we just don’t know–for certain, at least–all the details.

It is true that Paul commanded the church to discipline a man from the church in 1 Corinthians 5:13. It is also true that, here in 2 Corinthians 2, Paul commanded the church to restore a man to fellowship who had been under discipline. Some scholars think, though, that this is actually a different case of church discipline than the one Paul ordered in 1 Corinthians 5. Whether the man referenced in the passage today is the same guy as 2 Corinthians 2 or not, it seems clear that the church had removed him from its fellowship (v. 6) and that he repented and sought to be restored to fellowship (v. 7a). But the Corinthian church was having a hard time with the forgiveness part. In verse 7 Paul commanded them to “forgive and comfort him” and in verse 8 he encouraged them “to reaffirm your love for him” (v. 8b).

Forgiveness is sometimes easy. When someone has sinned against us in ways that we also have done toward others, we might find it easier to forgive. When we don’t really feel like we’ve been harmed, it may be easy to forgive. When we empathize with why someone sinned, it is not nearly as hard to receive that person’s repentance. But those situations–the easy to forgive ones–are rare. Much of the time we wallow in the pain caused by the sin of others and we are tempted to return equal pain and then some more to the one who sinned against us. Imagine an entire church filled with people who felt that way. Imagine what it must be like for the repentant sinner not to be received. Forgiveness is rarely easy, but it is always right when there is repentance. If you are struggling to forgive someone, even though you know they have changed their minds about their sin, ask God to give you the grace that he showed to us when he forgave us in Christ.

2 Corinthians 13

2 Corinthians 13
Today we finish the Corinthian correspondence by reading 2 Corinthians 13.

Paul wrapped up this letter by warning the Corinthians again about his coming visit. He was hopeful, as we saw in earlier chapters, that his visit would be warm and affirming. Yet, he was concerned about how he would be received and whether or not he would have to deal with those who were in sin through church discipline (v. 2b). Rather than waiting for Paul to arrive and sort the situation out, it would be better if the church examined and corrected itself. So, Paul urged them in verses 5-6 to examine themselves “to see whether you are in the faith.” If someone is a genuine believer in Christ, certain things will be true. One of those things is dealing properly with sin in his or her life. Genuine Christians sin and may resist dealing with sin for a time, but no genuine Christian will be complacent when there is serious, ongoing sin in their lives over an extended period of time. Anyone who calls himself a Christian but lives in sin for an ongoing length of time is either headed toward God’s discipline in his or her life or not one of God’s children at all. Since the Corinthians were once again tolerating unrepentant sin in their church (v. 2), Paul called them to examine themselves.

There are some Christians who struggle with doubts about their salvation, some for many years. These believers live in a state of continual self-evaluation. Since none of us is perfect, there is always evidence of our sinfulness in our lives. Many Christians overlook all the positive growth and godly character qualities they have developed and focus only on their in struggles. This passage really isn’t for them.

Instead, this passage is for those who are highly confident of their salvation, but display little to know fruit in their lives–no souls saved, no growth in holiness, nothing really but an empty profession of faith. That person is in a dangerous place because their lives show more evidence of unbelief than of genuine faith.

Could that be you? Does your life give evidence that you are a Christian or do you comfort yourself that you are a Christian based only only your profession of faith?

2 Corinthians 12

Today’s reading is 2 Corinthians 12.

Paul continued defending his ministry in today’s reading. Remember that this started back in chapter 10 and continued through chapter 11. His defense was necessary because people within the church attempted to discredit him and his ministry. Paul referred to the things he said about himself as “boasting” because he is talking about himself, explaining why the Corinthians should appreciate him and be champions of his ministry instead criticizing and doubting him. Paul hated doing this (v. 11). But he felt it was necessary so that he could strengthen them in their faith (v. 19) and prune the sin from the body (vv. 20-21).

This chapter recounts the revelations he had seen (v. 1) and the supernatural powers that had God had used him to work (v. 12). But rather than truly “boasting” about these things, Paul mentions them as evidence of his apostleship, but also included how God had humbled him by giving him his infamous “thorn in the flesh.” People have speculated what the “thorn in the flesh” might be but Paul never specified. Maybe he didn’t specify what it was because he did not want people to know; maybe he didn’t specify because the Corinthians already knew what it was. Regardless, Paul used the “divine passive” to describe how he received this “thorn.” The “divine passive” is when someone uses the passive voice to describe something God did. Paul used it in verse 7b when he says, “I was given a thorn in my flesh….” We know that God gave it to him because Paul said he received it “to keep me from becoming conceited.” We also know that it came from God because he “pleaded with the Lord to take it away from me” (v. 8). Despite the fact that God gave it to him, he called it “a messenger of Satan” which probably means that it limited his ability to do the Lord’s work.

Paul “pleaded” with God to rescue him from this thorn in the flesh three times according to verse 8. Instead of answering his prayer with deliverance, God answered it by promising his grace to Paul to deal with this “thorn,” whatever it was. Although this problem created weakness for Paul physically, it strengthened him spiritually just as God promised when he said, “my power is made perfect in weakness” (v. 9c).

Do you have any nagging problems in your life? They may not be physical or even visible to others but they discourage you, limit you in some way, and cause you distress. God’s promise to Paul in verse 9 is an opportunity for all of us who know Christ. The hardship(s) you and I face in life may be the thing that keeps us walking with God, keeps us depending on his power, and calls us to look to him in faith daily. Next time you find yourself pleading with God to take the problem away, ask instead for his grace to endure it and for his power to work in your spiritual life in a greater way.

2 Corinthians 11

Today we’re reading 2 Corinthians 11.

Yesterday, as we read chapter 10, we saw how concerned Paul was about having to boldly confront somebody within the church at Corinth. Judging from what Paul wrote at the end of chapter 10 and here in chapter 11, the person or people he was concerned about were heavy self-promotors (10:12, 18; 11:5, 21). In today’s reading, Paul was quite emotional about how effectively these people had ingratiated themselves with the church and, it seems, how they had marginalized Paul and his ministry (v. 12). While he was concerned about these personality conflicts, he was more concerned about the false doctrine these “personalities” were bringing (v. 4, 13). This chapter is one of several in Paul’s letters where he reviewed his personal history as a servant of Christ (vv. 21-33). Not only did he suffer much for the gospel throughout his ministry, he also suffered much for the benefit of the Corinthians directly (vv. 7-12). Yet the Corinthians seemed unmoved by how much Paul had done for them and had sacrificed for the Lord. To them, Paul was an inferior speaker (v. 6) and others were deserving of equal status and respect to him (vv. 12, 19-20).

What Paul was saying in this chapter extends into chapter 12 as well, so we’ll see more on Monday when we read that. But the problem he addressed in this chapter continues today. It’s the myth of the greener grass, the idea that what I’m getting now isn’t as good as what I could get from others. I’ve seen this repeatedly in my adult life and in the ministry. Dr. So-and-so from out of town is a great speaker, a godly man, someone whose opinion isn’t inspired and infallible, but almost…. Meanwhile, faithful elders, patient pastors, good bosses, giving spouses, or others are taken for granted. This isn’t to say that Dr. So-and-so isn’t everything they claim him to be. He may be a godly man and a great servant of Christ or he may be a false teacher who is really persuasive (v. 4). The point is that people by nature get used to what they have and become bedazzled by the new thing, the author they just learned about, the new church in town, or the girl that caught their eye today. New things are exciting because they are new but the newness wears off eventually. Do we recognize and appreciate the good things in our lives that have been there a long time, consistently serving us well?

The church in Corinth was started by Paul at great person cost (verses 7-9, Acts 18:1-11). He was willing to do hard things to purify the church for the glory of Christ (v. 2) and was tormented with concern for them even when he was doing God’s work in other cities (vv. 28-29). Yet the church never seemed to appreciate him very much and constantly, negatively compared him to others. There is probably some realm in your life or some point in your past where you did something similar-took for granted someone who was faithfully and deeply devoted to you and negatively compared them to someone who hadn’t done anything for you except, maybe, collect your money when they sold you a book or a seminar. I’m guilty of this as well and–just in case you are wondering-I’m not talking about myself here. This passage just reminded me of something I’ve seen more than a few times in my life. Whether we recognize it or not, all of us have benefited from others who served us consistently and without complaint. Let’s be careful to appreciate and be thankful to the Lord for them instead of being quick to point out their flaws when compared to others. Whether your realize it or not, you probably have it better than you think so be thankful for the contribution other people have made to your life for God’s glory.

2 Corinthians 10

Today’s reading in 2 Corinthians 10.

Chapters 8-9 were about the collection Paul was coming to receive from the Thessalonians. He was concerned, though, that his visit would require some tough love (vv. 1-2). It is unclear who Paul was expecting to have a confrontation with, but it is clear that he wanted to avoid the confrontation, if possible, by appealing “by the humility and gentleness of Christ” (v.1) to his potential opponents.

If they did not back down, Paul promised to be bold (v. 2) in his confrontations with them. This was the opposite of what the Corinthians expected (vv. 10-11). In the past they found his letters to be strong but his real life approach to be weak (v. 10). This time he promised just the opposite (v. 11). He was confident that he had the spiritual weapons he needed to win the victory in Corinth for Christ (v. 4). And what were those weapons? Argumentation (v. 5) and church discipline (v. 6). When Paul says, “We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ” he is speaking of the battle of ideas, of truth claims. When he encountered false teaching, he was more than prepared to defeat their arguments with his own argumentation. He was also capable subjecting thoughts to the Lordship of Jesus Christ.

What we see in the first 6 verses of this chapter is that spirituality and clear thinking and communication are not enemies but partners to the glory of God. Unfortunately, there is a lot of teaching out there that disparages a godly use of the mind to trade it in for something more “spiritual.” To Paul, using his mind for the glory of God to rebuke and correct false teaching was a deeply spiritual act. Developing his mind was part of living to the glory of God; so was using it for the good of God’s people.

I find that a lot of Christians are not readers. We spend little time developing our minds and filling it with great content to be used by God. Some even try to set “spirituality” against the intellect as if they were enemies. But part of following Christ and maturing in him is learning to control your own thoughts as well as to refuse Satan’s. In addition to spending time daily in God’s word, be someone who regularly reads in order to be more effective in service for Christ. Join a small group and a Calvary Class and let us help you identify your weak areas and learn to grow in them.

2 Corinthians 9

Today let’s read 2 Corinthians 9.

This chapter continued the subject Paul began in chapter 8. Both chapters are about the collection for the suffering believers in Jerusalem.

Yesterday, I’M SURE YOU RECALL, was about how the men collecting the offering would behave honorably with the money. They would do what is right in God’s sight and in the eyes of men.

Today, here in chapter 9, the subject shifted to the givers of the offering. The Corinthians had already eagerly agreed to give (vv. 1-2) but Paul was sending some of his associates to help the Corinthians to do what they had pledged to do (vv. 3-5). Starting with verse 6, Paul supplied some motivation for the believers in Corinth to give generously. There are two things that should motivate their giving:

  1. The opportunity to reap abundantly (vv. 6-11).
  2. The opportunity to cause other believers to give thanks to God (vv. 12-15).

Verses 6-11 describe the first reason to give generously which is that giving generously is an opportunity to reap abundantly. Although the New Testament never promises wealth and prosperity for believers, this passage tells us that God financially blesses those who give generously. Verse 11 is very clear about this: “You will be enriched in every way so that you can be generous….” God gives material blessings to those who give generously.

Verses 12-15 talk about the spiritual results of giving generously which is that those who benefit from your giving will give thanks to God. If you have ever received an unexpected gift, especially if it was one that met an immediate need in your life, you understand these verses. Financial problems create stress for people; they cause people to worry and feel anxiety. The Bible commands believers not to worry but to ask God for his help. When God uses the giving of another person to provide that help, the believer who was rescued financially will be awed at the power of God, grateful that he answers prayer, and will naturally return thanks to the Father for his provision.

How is your giving? Have you stopped giving because you’re worried about your finances? Have you made the excuse that you can’t afford to give but you will when your financial picture improves? This passage, and many others in the Old and New Testaments, call on us to give first and trust God to provide. Giving is an act of faith because when we give our money or our time or other resources for the Lord’s use, we lose the benefits of that money, time, or whatever. So we give it up in faith asking the Lord to provide for us in the future. This passage says he will. Are you willing to claim God’s promise on this and give generously to his work?