2 Corinthians 5

Today, read 2 Corinthians 5.

Yesterday in 2 Corinthians 4, we read that Paul and his companions did not lose heart despite the hardships they faced because they have a ministry that transforms lives by the power of Christ.

Today’s reading continued the theme of serving the Lord despite the costs that come with it. Another reason not to lose heart is eternity–“we have a building from God, an eternal house in heaven” (v. 1b).

Believers should long for eternity (vv. 2-8) but live for Christ with the time we have on this earth (vv. 9-10). Living for Christ means reaching out to non-believers with the life-transforming power of the gospel message (vv. 11-21), so this is why Paul and his team kept traveling, kept giving the gospel despite the pain of persecution and the difficulty of dealing with disrespectful churches.

There are so many powerful verses in this chapter!

  • verse 7: “For we live by faith, not by sight.”
  • verse 10: “For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each of us may receive what is due us for the things done while in the body, whether good or bad.”
  • verse 11: “Since, then, we know what it is to fear the Lord, we try to persuade others.”
  • verse 15: “And he died for all, that those who live should no longer live for themselves but for him who died for them and was raised again.”
  • verse 17: “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here.”
  • verse 20: “We are therefore Christ’s ambassadors, as though God were making his appeal through us. We implore you on Christ’s behalf: Be reconciled to God.”
  • verse 21: “God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.”

But the one that stands out to me today is verse 9, “So we make it our goal to please him, whether we are at home in the body or away from it.”

Pleasing God is not the same as trying to earn his love or his salvation. That’s impossible; God loved us unconditionally when we were still sinners and saved us as a gift of his grace alone. But, once saved by God’s grace, we want to become holy like he is and to rescue sinners like he did. God is pleased with these things because they are the evidence of the life of the Holy Spirit within us (v. 5) and because they show that we are “no longer living for” ourselves “but for him who died for” us “and was raised again” (v. 15).

Now that we are God’s children, our goal is to please him with our lives. Is this a goal that we think about daily? Whatever you face today, consider what it would look like to please the Lord in the things you pay attention to, the decisions and choices you make, and what you do with the time in front of you.

2 Corinthians 4

Read 2 Corinthians 4.

In 2 Corinthians 3, Paul defended his ministry to the Corinthians (3:1-6) and argued that the Corinthians themselves were a proof that God was working in Paul and his partners as they ministered.

In both 1 and 2 Corinthians, Paul addressed an undercurrent of disrespect the Corinthian believers had toward him. If God used you to establish a church, then some of the people there started disrespecting you, it would be natural and very human to become discouraged about the ministry. Add to that the kind of persecutions and pressures that Paul and his team faced (4:8-12) and it is easy to see how Paul might have been tempted to quit serving the Lord altogether.

Paul did not downplay the problems he faced for the gospel, but he opened this chapter by saying that, despite these problems, “we do not lose heart” (v. 1). Instead, the ability he and his team had to keep serving the Lord despite the very human weaknesses they had, reminded them that it was God working through them, not their own power or ability (vv. 7-12, 16-17).

Today’s chapter also touched on the method they used to reach people for Christ. Their method was to set “forth the truth plainly” (v. 2). There was no need to use deception or pressure or any other tactics to get people to trust Christ (v. 2a) because the problem unbelievers had believing the gospel was a spiritual problem, a blindness from Satan that veiled the glory of Christ in the gospel (vv. 3-5). The right approach, then, was to “preach Jesus Christ as Lord” (v. 5a) and depend on God’s power to save people (v. 6).

What were their qualifications for this ministry, then? Simply that they believed in Jesus: “It is written: ‘I believed; therefore I have spoken.’ Since we have that same spirit of faith, we also believe and therefore speak, because we know that the one who raised the Lord Jesus from the dead will also raise us with Jesus and present us with you to himself” (vv. 13-14). They gave the gospel and called people to repent and trust Jesus because that is the truth they believed when they became Christians.

Too often we are quiet about our faith because we think we don’t have the best arguments or the right answers or that we are not personally persuasive. These are excuses; what matters is that we have believed the gospel ourselves (v. 13) and that we are relying on God to work through us when we speak (vv. 5-6). Is there someone in your relationships–at work, in your family, in your neighborhood–who has not heard you share Christ? Is one of these excuses the reason why? Let the truth of this chapter encourage you and embolden you to speak up. Only Christ can remove the veil of unbelief from a person’s spiritual eyes. Our job is to faithfully and plainly share the message. If you get a chance today, step up to the opportunity to speak about Christ.

1 Corinthians 4

Read 1 Corinthians 4.

Some Christians have a regal view of the ministry. That is, they see pastors and other ministry leaders like monarchs. They look up to us, in some ways, so they think that everyone must give us honor and respect and treat us with reverence.

What nonsense.

Paul continued, here in 1 Corinthians 4, correcting the false ideas the Corinthians had about ministry leaders. Paul and Apollos were not in competition ( 1 Cor 2) with each other but instead were partners together in God’s work (1 Cor 3).

So, here in chapter 4, he says, think of us as “servants of Christ” (v. 1) who must be faithful (v. 2). Instead of living like modern day royals, Paul said we ministry leaders are “fools for Christ” (v. 10a). Instead of being put on a pedestal, we are paraded like prisoners of war (v. 9).

While some people treat us with honor and respect, that’s not the norm. Instead, people “curse” us (v. 12b) and “we are slandered” (v. 13a). People think we are the “scum of the earth, the garbage of the world” (v. 13c).

Being an elder is not majestic. It isn’t easy or particularly fun most of the time. When we are mistreated, we have to respond in a godly way, not the way we might want to. That means “When we are cursed, we bless…; when we are slandered, we answer kindly” (v. 12, 13). Most of the people in our church are kind to me. But some people have said the most unkind things to me or about me, sometimes in public meetings.

But, enough about me. Given what you know about ministry, don’t you want to become a ministry leader? That’s where Paul turned next in this chapter. Despite the pain that ministry leadership can bring, Paul wanted to build more leaders.

The Corinthians didn’t have enough “fathers” (v. 15). They needed more so Paul said, “I urge you to imitate me” (v. 16). He also sent Timothy to them to “remind you of my way of life in Christ Jesus, which agrees with what I teach everywhere in every church.”

That’s the essence of spiritual leadership: Know the truth. Teach the truth. Live the truth. Then encourage others to do the same.

No church has enough leaders. Our church could certainly use more. Are you growing in your knowledge of God’s truth? Are you teaching it while simultaneously living it out?

None of us is perfect but, when there is sin in your life that is out of step with what we believe and teach, are you dealing with it biblically?

This is what the church needs so that the gospel can advance and people can be redeemed from this lost, cursed world. Will you step up to the need and become a spiritual father?

1 Corinthians 2

Read 1 Corinthians 2.

In this chapter, Paul explained to the Corinthians his approach to ministry. That approach was to rely on the message of Christ (v. 2) and the power of God’s Spirit (v. 4).

Verses 14-15 described the differences between those who have God’s Holy Spirit and those who do not. Unbelievers―those who don’t have the Spirit―cannot welcome God’s truth because God’s truth is spiritual by nature.

Sometimes verse 14 is interpreted to mean that unbelievers cannot understand God’s word. That is not the point of the passage, however. The point of the passage is that an unbeliever is unable to believe, to welcome, to “accept the things that come from the Spirit of God” (v. 14).

Unbelievers may understand every fact of the Gospel or every doctrine of the Christian faith or they may not, but either way an unbeliever can only believe God’s truth if God’s Spirit is within.

This is why our outreach to unbelievers should consist of the pure gospel of Christ rather than persuasive techniques, convincing arguments, or powerful entertainment. Those might bring some genuine conversions–if there is any gospel at all in them–but they will also bring many false professions.

Only the Holy Spirit’s power can change a person’s will so that that person will welcome Jesus Christ and put his or her faith in him. So stick to the gospel message and pray for God to save through his Spirit.

That is the righteous approach to evangelism.

Acts 18

Read Acts 18.

In this chapter Paul met a couple, Aquila and Priscilla, who would become his friends and ministry associates. Verse 3 tells us that, in addition to having Christ in common, they also made a living by making tents just as Paul did when he needed money. That work allowed Paul to travel and give the gospel anywhere without asking anyone for money. However, earning a living that way meant spending less time preaching the gospel.

In verse 5, Luke dropped this into the story: “When Silas and Timothy came from Macedonia, Paul devoted himself exclusively to preaching….” Why would he do this? Why would he work part time with Priscilla and Aquila until Silas and Timothy showed up and then stop making tents and start preaching the gospel exclusively?

The answer is found in Philippians 4:15-16 which says, “Moreover, as you Philippians know, in the early days of your acquaintance with the gospel, when I set out from Macedonia, not one church shared with me in the matter of giving and receiving, except you only; for even when I was in Thessalonica, you sent me aid more than once when I was in need.” Second Corinthians 11:9 conveys the same information. So here in Acts 18:5 Luke alludes to the financial support the Philippian church sent by saying that “Paul devoted himself exclusively to preaching….” Their financial contributions made it possible for Paul and his team to concentrate on giving the gospel instead of splitting time between giving the gospel and earning a living.

Because of this passage, missionaries who provide for themselves by doing secular work on the mission field are called “tentmakers.” There are some good reasons to do tentmaking, but in most cases the gospel advances better when God’s servants can give it our full attention. That happens when God’s people give faithfully and generously to his work.

So, let me close this meditation by saying thank you to everyone who tithes to Calvary! Your faithful giving allows me to make a living for my family and funds our other staff members and expenses. The same is true for the missionaries our church supports. Their work is funded by our giving.

If you are not giving–or giving very little–please understand how important financial support is to our church and to our missionaries and re-prioritize your finances to support God’s work.

Note: Tomorrow we take a break from Acts and turn to reading the 1 & 2 Thessalonians.

Acts 11

Read Acts 11 today.

In Friday’s devotional about Acts 10, I suggested that there would be tensions in the early church as God transitioned her from a group of Jewish believers in Jesus into a trans-national, worldwide group with no ethnic distinctions. Here in Acts 11 we read about that tension.

Despite facing criticism for his fellowship with Gentiles (vv. 1-3), the Jewish believers accepted Peter’s account of how God saved the Gentiles and how they received the same sign of the Holy Spirit as the Jewish believers did in Acts 2 (Acts 11:4-17). They then praised God for his mercy on the Gentiles (v. 18) and a church that had begun gathering Antioch began actively evangelizing Gentiles (vv. 19-21).

Barnabas emerged at the end of today’s chapter. He was sent to Antioch from Jerusalem when the Jerusalem church heard about all that God was doing at Antioch (vv. 22-24). We’ve actually met Barnabas before in Acts 4. His real name is “Joseph” (Acts 4:36) but was nicknamed “Barnabas” because he was always so encouraging. He’s the guy who sold some property and gave all the money to the church which led Ananias and Sapphira to do what they did in Acts 5.

Barnabas also showed up in Acts 9:27 and he persuaded the church to accept Saul after his conversion. Now, here in Acts 11, when he saw how much God was doing in Antioch, he went and found Saul so that Saul could contribute to the growth and strengthening of that church (Acts 11:25-26).

Although Barnabas did not have the same role that God called Saul to occupy, he knew how to connect people together for the growth of God’s work. By no means was Barnabas a man who just served in the background; verse 36 says that he… met with the church and taught great numbers of people.” So he had a strong teaching gift and used that gift publicly to strengthen and grow God’s church.

Nevertheless, Barnabas served in the shadow of Saul because Saul was such a giant in the early days of the church. Yet he never viewed Saul as his rival or was jealous of how God chose to use Saul. He was a man who was all about the work God was doing, not about who was getting the credit for doing it.

Barnabas could have stayed in Antioch and held even greater authority and respect than he had, but he knew that this church would benefit from Saul’s gifting. So, in great humility, Barnabas recruited Saul’s help because it would be best for the church.

That is the attitude that all of us followers of Christ should have. God’s work is never about you or me. It is about doing what is best for the Lord’s church. If that means serving in someone else’s shadow, then let God be glorified.

Have you ever felt jealous of another believer who has gifts or positions or attention that you don’t have? Consider the life of Barnabas. If ministry is all about the minister, God will not be glorified and there will be problems in the growth and godliness of the church. If ministry is all about how best to glorify God, we should all be willing to step out of the way and let the most gifted and godly serve where they will be most effective.

Acts 8

Read Acts 8.

Jesus said that the disciples would be his witnesses in Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria, and to the rest of the earth back in Acts 1:8. Here chapter 8 of Acts, persecution (vv. 1, 4-5) moved the gospel from Jerusalem to Samaria.

Phillip, one of the first deacons (see Acts 6:5) went to Samaria, preaching the Gospel, and God began saving some of the Samaritans (v. 12). In verses 14-17, two of the Apostles–Peter and John–came up to Samaria to confirm that these Samaritans were genuine Christians. Many charismatic brothers and sisters of ours, and some non-charismatics, too, think that what Peter and John did is the normal Christian experience. In other words, some Christians think that every Christian needs to receive the Holy Spirit after they believe in Jesus. This is sometimes called the “Second Work of Grace” or the “Baptism of the Holy Spirit.”

I don’t agree with the interpretation that this is the normal Christian experience. I think this passage records an important phase in the development of the early church. I don’t want to go into that here in this devotional, but at the end of this devotional I’ll link to a page that explains my belief better than I can explain it.

What stands out to me is how Simon the Sorcerer (vv. 9-11) believed the gospel (vv. 12-13), yet wanted to buy the apostles’ power for himself (vv. 18-19). Peter rebuked him (vv. 20-23) and he repented (v. 24), so it looks like he was a genuine Christian. Had he not repented, it would have shown that his confession of faith was false (v. 20: “May your money perish with you”).

Yet, despite being a genuine Christian, he desires spiritual power for selfish reasons (v. 23). Verse 9 told us that Simon “boasted that he was someone great” so it seems, based on Peter’s rebuke (vv. 22-23) that he still had this desire in him. He wanted power to do ministry so that people would look up to him as a great man.

While they may not seek supernatural power like Simon did, many Christians do ministry for the same reason that Simon wanted the power to give the Holy Spirit. Some ministries–preaching, teaching, music. leadership–give people the opportunity to be looked up to, admired, and obeyed. When we aspire to serve God for ourselves, our hearts are “captive to sin” (v. 23). It is only a matter of time before our false motives will be revealed.

Because we’re all human, we all have mixed motives at times. Just as Peter confronted Simon and called him to repent, you and I may, at times, need the corrective rebuke of other believers when our ministry motives are mixed up and sinful.

Are you serving God for the right reasons? Do you regularly assess your heart and ask God to purify your motives? Are you willing to receive godly rebuke when your sinful motives slip out?

A healthy faith–and a healthy church–is not made up of perfection. It is made up of genuine believers who are growing. Part of that growth comes from having our movies purified, even in response to the rebuke of others.


I said I would link to an article here at the end. Here is that article: https://www.tvcresources.net/resource-library/articles/dealing-with-difficult-texts-acts-8-14-25

Matthew 4

Read Matthew 4.

Frank Sinatra’s famous song, “New York, New York,” contains the lyrics, “If I can make it there, I’ll make it anywhere.” If success in someone’s line of work requires finding a really big audience, then this line of lyrics is true. Get famous and successful in New York (or Hollywood) and you’ll be famous and successful anywhere else on earth because New York and LA are trend setters for the rest of the nation and for most of the world.

Here in Matthew 4:12, Jesus began the public phase of his life and ministry. He had been living in Nazareth, a small town southwest of the Sea of Galilee, where his mother, Mary, and Joseph were from (Lu 2:4). When he heard that John the Baptist was put into prison (Matt 4:12), Jesus moved.

But he didn’t move to Jerusalem–Israel’s equivalent of New York, New York. Instead, he moved to Galilee (v. 12); specifically, he moved to Capernaum (v. 13b).Capernaum was probably a bigger town than Nazareth but not much bigger or more influential than Nazareth. So this move to Capernaum wasn’t about seeking the largest possible audience.

Jesus also didn’t seek out the most influential audience or team members either. In verses 18-22 we read about call of Simon Peter, Andrew, James, and John. They were hardworking Galilean fishermen but they weren’t anything like Frank Sinatra in terms of influence or fame (or singing skill, probably).

Jesus also didn’t go minister to the wealthy and powerful. Instead, he went the the neediest, most neglected group of people there were–sick people (vv. 23-24).

So there you have it. When Jesus wanted to build a ministry he moved to a small town far way from the bright lights of Jerusalem, he called average guys to help him and they went to serve the least influential people possible.

Nobody would try to build a career this way–nobody but Jesus, that is.

But it worked. Verse 25 told us that “large crowds” from all over Israel–Jerusalem included–came to follow Christ. This is because Jesus’s ministry was about the power and grace of God, not the power of talent or networking or one’s hometown.

Are you relying on these things–talent, your network, or your place of ministry–for success?

Jesus did go to Jerusalem and he did minister there. I’m not saying it is wrong to go where the population and power is. I’m just wondering if we really trust God as we build lives and ministries for him or our confidence is in our cunning decisions.

2 Chronicles 2, Revelation 2

Read 2 Chronicles 2 and Revelation 2 today. This devotional is about 2 Chronicles 2.

David, his father, commanded Solomon to build a temple for the Lord and, here in 2 Chronicles 2, Solomon went to work on it. What stands out in this passage is Solomon’s desire that the temple be excellent. In his message to Hiram king of Tyre Solomon wrote, “The temple I am going to build will be great, because our God is greater than all other gods” (v. 5). Because greatness was the goal, Solomon asked for “a man skilled to work in gold and silver…” (v. 7). 

The contemporary application of this passage is not that a church building must be extravagant. The building is not the church and the early church met in homes and, later, tombs but still managed to glorify and worship God. God doesn’t require luxury accommodations from us; what he wants is our love. 

But when someone loves God, they want to give God their best. That may dictate decisions about how a building is designed and built. If a church has the means to build a magnificent church building and doesn’t have to go deeply into debt to do it, then a magnificent church building might be a fitting expression of that church’s love for God.

The contemporary application of this passage is to serve God with excellence. When you prepare to teach, give the best effort you can to studying and developing the lesson. When you serve in any other way, don’t show up late and wing it; if you love God, serve him with the very best effort and ability you have.

Are you giving your best effort to serving the Lord with excellence? What area(s) of your ministry need the kind of disciplined effort and high standards of excellence that Solomon demonstrated in this chapter?

Numbers 7, Isaiah 32, Galatians 1

Read Numbers 7, Isaiah 32, and Galatians 1 today. This devotional is about Numbers 7.

Numbers 7:2 says that the leaders of each tribe of Israel made offerings to the Lord to be used by the Levities and priest in their Tabernacle ministry. Those offerings were, according to verse 3: “…six covered carts and twelve oxen—an ox from each leader and a cart from every two. These they presented before the tabernacle.”

The oxen in this gift were not given to be slaughtered for sacrifices; they were to pull the carts that were also part of this gift. This kind of utilitarian offering was not commanded by God so Moses might have been uncertain if it was even appropriate to receive them as offerings. God spoke up, however, in verses 4-5: “The Lord said to Moses, ‘Accept these from them, that they may be used in the work at the tent of meeting. Give them to the Levites as each man’s work requires.’”

Te oxen and carts were useful and, therefore, a legitimate gift to the Lord for his work. Not every Levite needed them which is why the Lord said, “Give them to the Levites as each man’s work requires” (v. 5). Nevertheless, they were helpful to some of the Levites and, therefore, they were a thoughtful gift for the Lord’s work.

This is a reminder that people who serve the Lord in full-time ministry—pastors, church-planters, foreign missionaries, college and seminary professors, and others—need tools. Tools are an essential part of doing our work well for the Lord. I was away from my office when I wrote this devotional, but I was able to write it on a Macbook that our church purchased for me. I’m grateful that we have money in our budget for good tools; otherwise, the only productive time I would have would be time spent in my office.

I am involved in a few ministries outside of our church. My role is small and usually consists of me just giving advice. One of these ministries is frugal and spends money carefully and wisely. In terms of raw dollars, not a lot is spent of staff salaries or ministry expenses but in terms of percentages, a fair amount goes to those things. It would be an error, however, to think that the money spent on salaries and expenses is wasted. The people who receive pay offer valuable advice, guidance, leadership, and teaching. Without them, there would be no ministry, so paying them for their work and providing them with the tools they need is money well spent for God’s kingdom, even if it is not directly spent on the ministry’s core work. It is something to keep in mind when you choose which ministries to support and how that support is spent.

The men in this passage gave something they made to God’s work. As a ministry leader, I would honestly rather people gave money to the church so that we can decide whether to buy a certain kind of tool or what kind of tool we think will be most useful. But occasionally people buy stuff and donate it to the church. We’ve had people donate computers, projectors, couches and other kinds of furniture, and many other kinds of tools or materials that I can’t think of at the moment. Gifts like these–especially if they are things we actually need and will use (which is not always the case with donated stuff)–are a blessing to God’s work.

If you tithe faithfully to this church, thank you! Your obedience and generosity makes our ministries possible. If you are tithing but also have skills you can use here or see needs for physical things that you’d like to donate to the church, let this passage encourage you to contribute to God’s work in those ways.