Paul next took on another difficult issue–variance in the Gospel. Many Jewish Christians of the time were displeased that the Gospel spread to the Gentiles. There was a council called in Jerusalem and the leadership (Which included Peter, James, and John as well as Paul and others) agreed after much prayer and discussion, that the Gentile Christians were only responsible to accept Christ and follow Him. They were not subject to Jewish circumcision or dietary laws.
So as Paul returned to the mission field, he was being followed and criticized by these Jewish Christians. They claimed that for the Gentile Christians to be truly saved, they had to follow Jewish tradition, dietary and circumcision law. So Paul was being discredited as an apostle and as a teacher. In the process, people were being drawn away from following Christ and causing division. So, Paul was calling those teachers out as frauds and telling the church that the gospel remained simply to know Christ and to follow him. It required nothing extra. It was bad enough that they were undermining Paul’s ministry, but, they were also teaching doctrines that simply did not line up with the truth.
Then and now, our salvation comes from accepting Christ as Lord and Savior of our lives–nothing more. There is no dress code, dietary law, traditional holiday to follow–we simply need to trust God and follow Christ. Amazingly, that looks different to different people. Some walk-in freedom to eat or drink in moderation; while others abstain from certain food or drink. Some folks dance and go to movies–while others completely refrain from those forms entertainment. Bottom line–salvation is still knowing Christ personally and following Him daily. If He leads you to live a structured and disciplined life, awesome! If he leads you to relax and enjoy socializing in the world–great. We are neither to judge or condemn.
Jesus said it best, “Seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness–and all these things will be added to you!” Matthew 6:33
God Bless You
I hope you will put up with me in a little foolishness. Yes, please put up with me! 2 I am jealous for you with godly jealousy. I promised you to one husband, to Christ, so that I might present you as a pure virgin to him. 3 But I am afraid that just as Eve was deceived by the serpent’s cunning, your minds may somehow be led astray from your sincere and pure devotion to Christ. 4 For if someone comes to you and preaches a Jesus other than the Jesus we preached, or if you receive a different spirit from the Spirit you received, or a different gospel from the one you accepted, you put up with it easily enough.
5 I do not think I am in the least inferior to those “super-apostles.”[a] 6 I may indeed be untrained as a speaker, but I do have knowledge. We have made this perfectly clear to you in every way. 7 Was it a sin for me to lower myself in order to elevate you by preaching the gospel of God to you free of charge? 8 I robbed other churches by receiving support from them so as to serve you. 9 And when I was with you and needed something, I was not a burden to anyone, for the brothers who came from Macedonia supplied what I needed. I have kept myself from being a burden to you in any way and will continue to do so. 10 As surely as the truth of Christ is in me, nobody in the regions of Achaia will stop this boasting of mine.11 Why? Because I do not love you? God knows I do!
Paul was defending his ministry. Specifically, He was defending his approach to ministry. His letters were and are packed with power. But, as Paul was sending the messages by letter many argued he was only bold from a distance. I am sure that there were days when Paul thought, “I gave up my life and role as a Jewish leader–for this???” But Paul made clear that we are in a spiritual war. It is a battle that requires spiritual weapons. We use those weapons for tearing down the strongholds in our, lives so that we can follow God closely. Paul faced the battle daily, he attacked it with prayer, study and continued faith in the God that brought him across the known world to bring Christ to the Gentiles.
In our lives, the formula remains the same trust God, follow Him read His word, pray–and remember our battles are spiritual ones. We can never give up, give in or simply ignore the daily battles we face. We have to attack them with the faith that God is with us and will assist in tearing down the strongholds in our lives. We, as His children, can fully rely upon God to carry us through the battles we face. We simply have to trust and follow him–no matter where that takes us.
God Bless You
By the humility and gentleness of Christ, I appeal to you—I, Paul, who am “timid” when face to face with you, but “bold” toward you when away! 2 I beg you that when I come I may not have to be as bold as I expect to be toward some people who think that we live by the standards of this world. 3 For though we live in the world, we do not wage war as the world does. 4 The weapons we fight with are not the weapons of the world. On the contrary, they have divine power to demolish strongholds. 5 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. 6 And we will be ready to punish every act of disobedience, once your obedience is complete.
7 You are judging by appearances.[a] If anyone is confident that they belong to Christ, they should consider again that we belong to Christ just as much as they do. 8 So even if I boast somewhat freely about the authority the Lord gave us for building you up rather than tearing you down, I will not be ashamed of it. 9 I do not want to seem to be trying to frighten you with my letters. 10 For some say, “His letters are weighty and forceful, but in person he is unimpressive and his speaking amounts to nothing.” 11 Such people should realize that what we are in our letters when we are absent, we will be in our actions when we are present.
Cheerful giving is one of the most difficult disciplines for Christians to acquire. We are taught from early days in our walk with God to give back what God has provided us. The tithe was the example God set early on. Giving back the 1st 1/10th of what you earn. Tithing frees people from being controlled by their pocketbooks. If God gets our 1st fruits and we manage the rest, we are able to see His blessing for ourselves and a discipline passed on to our kids.
Like the rest of the relationship, however, we need to treat giving not as an obligatory act, but as an act of worship. It should bring joy and thanksgiving to our hearts. God is not in it for the money…He is in it to free us from that which entangles us. Money remains one of the most entangling tools used by the enemy. We have to have money to survive. It is not a luxury. What we do with our money, and the way we regard it makes all the difference. We have to come to a place where we allow God to have control of our money, then we can be free of its control on us. That is the discipline. Help me, Lord, to let you be in control of my money!
God Bless You
Remember this: Whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows generously will also reap generously. 7 Each of you should give what you have decided in your heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver. 8 And God is able to bless you abundantly, so that in all things at all times, having all that you need, you will abound in every good work. 9 As it is written:
“They have freely scattered their gifts to the poor;
their righteousness endures forever.”[a]
10 Now he who supplies seed to the sower and bread for food will also supply and increase your store of seed and will enlarge the harvest of your righteousness. 11 You will be enriched in every way so that you can be generous on every occasion, and through us your generosity will result in thanksgiving to God.
12 This service that you perform is not only supplying the needs of the Lord’s people but is also overflowing in many expressions of thanks to God. 13 Because of the service by which you have proved yourselves, others will praise God for the obedience that accompanies your confession of the gospel of Christ, and for your generosity in sharing with them and with everyone else. 14 And in their prayers for you their hearts will go out to you, because of the surpassing grace God has given you. 15 Thanks be to God for his indescribable gift!
Paul was addressing another difficult subject–giving. The Church in Jerusalem was in dire straits. They had been persecuted by the Jewish community and by Rome and it left them decimated. Paul was asked to collect an offering to support the Church. The Corinthians had assisted before, but now they hesitated in giving–(partly because of Paul’s disciplining of them). So Paul confronted the issue directly–please give what you can not because of obligation, but for the simple ability to trust God and see him work.
Nothing has changed. God does not tax his kids. He asks us to give generously to support the church and His plan. Often we give out of wealth, but sometimes we are called to give from our poverty. It is that giving that defines our faith. He will provide and he will bless our generosity. We take steps of faith in giving and we watch God use what we have given to touch lives. We have no expectation for a return but know that God will prepare, protect and provide for us! We simply have to trust him in all things, even in giving back.
God Bless You
And now, brothers and sisters, we want you to know about the grace that God has given the Macedonian churches. 2 In the midst of a very severe trial, their overflowing joy and their extreme poverty welled up in rich generosity. 3 For I testify that they gave as much as they were able, and even beyond their ability. Entirely on their own, 4 they urgently pleaded with us for the privilege of sharing in this service to the Lord’s people. 5 And they exceeded our expectations: They gave themselves first of all to the Lord, and then by the will of God also to us. 6 So we urged Titus, just as he had earlier made a beginning, to bring also to completion this act of grace on your part. 7 But since you excel in everything—in faith, in speech, in knowledge, in complete earnestness and in the love we have kindled in you[a]—see that you also excel in this grace of giving.
8 I am not commanding you, but I want to test the sincerity of your love by comparing it with the earnestness of others. 9 For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sake he became poor, so that you through his poverty might become rich.
10 And here is my judgment about what is best for you in this matter. Last year you were the first not only to give but also to have the desire to do so. 11 Now finish the work, so that your eager willingness to do it may be matched by your completion of it, according to your means.12 For if the willingness is there, the gift is acceptable according to what one has, not according to what one does not have.
Paul delivered a difficult message. In his first letter to the Corinthians–Paul discussed issues of unity, purity, service, and love. The words were rebuffing and correcting–no child wants that kind of message from a parent. Paul birthed the Corinthian church and for him to mentor them so strongly hurt their feelings and drove them to examine everything they were and everything Paul taught them. They were heartbroken, and so was Paul. The rest of the story, however, was that they took Paul’s rebuke to heart and they matured. When his friend and compatriot Titus visited the church–he saw unity, love, discipline, and selflessness. They truly refreshed the weary friend and when he reported that to Paul, it brought him deep and lasting joy and peace. Nothing is more enriching than to see his church come to life and mature to become a spiritual factor for the region!!!
It is so difficult to bring hard messages–but, if God leads–those messages can bring growth and strength and prepare those that receive them for the spiritual warfare that lies ahead. We can never be truly joyful when we are called out on our stuff, but we can also never ignore the message from our Father and we can only trust him to lead us to the truth. We always have to look to him for direction and purpose and accept that we are not perfect and subject to correction. We need to accept it humbly and graciously and trust that God will use the discipline to prepare us for the journey! Help me, Lord to hear your truth and accept your truth with the love that you send it!
God Bless You
2 Make room for us in your hearts. We have wronged no one, we have corrupted no one, we have exploited no one. 3 I do not say this to condemn you; I have said before that you have such a place in our hearts that we would live or die with you. 4 I have spoken to you with great frankness; I take great pride in you. I am greatly encouraged; in all our troubles my joy knows no bounds.
5 For when we came into Macedonia, we had no rest, but we were harassed at every turn—conflicts on the outside fears within. 6 But God, who comforts the downcast, comforted us by the coming of Titus, 7 and not only by his coming but also by the comfort you had given him. He told us about your longing for me, your deep sorrow, your ardent concern for me so that my joy was greater than ever.
8 Even if I caused you sorrow by my letter, I do not regret it. Though I did regret it—I see that my letter hurt you, but only for a little while— 9 yet now I am happy, not because you were made sorry, but because your sorrow led you to repentance. For you became sorrowful as God intended and so were not harmed in any way by us. 10 Godly sorrow brings repentance that leads to salvation and leaves no regret, but worldly sorrow brings death. 11 See what this godly sorrow has produced in you: what earnestness, what eagerness to clear yourselves, what indignation, what alarm, what longing, what concern, what readiness to see justice done. At every point, you have proved yourselves to be innocent in this matter. 12 So even though I wrote to you, it was neither on account of the one who did the wrong nor on account of the injured party, but rather that before God you could see for yourselves how devoted to us you are. 13 By all this we are encouraged.
It is difficult to do life. Everyday pressures, expectations, and circumstances wear us down and push us to the edge. It was the same during Paul’s time. People were doing jobs, getting married, raising kids and dealing with life’s pressures and without technology. In the midst of that, Paul tells the people do not be unequally yoked. As a married couple, it is critical to be aligned. in life, we need to be aligned with those we count on to walk through life with us. If we are not, it adds a layer of complexity in an already complex situation. Is it doable, sure! Is it difficult–you bet! Bottom line Paul told the Corinthians–get aligned.
In our time, it is equally important to be aligned. Believers should consider faith as a critical component for marriage. If a couple does not share the same faith, it will mean strife at every major event. Going through a crisis together and aligned is often the only thing that allows the family to pass through to the other side. There is little in the world that encourages such alignment. Yet, when we see families aligned in faith, there is so much more harmony and unity in good and bad times. They operate with a purpose and a perspective that is bigger than themselves. In Paul’s time and now, folks must consider faith a critical component in choosing a life partner and in raising a family!
God Bless You
Do not be yoked together with unbelievers. For what do righteousness and wickedness have in common? Or what fellowship can light have with darkness? 15 What harmony is there between Christ and Belial[b]? Or what does a believer have in common with an unbeliever?16 What agreement is there between the temple of God and idols? For we are the temple of the living God. As God has said:
“I will live with them
and walk among them,
and I will be their God,
and they will be my people.”[c]
“Come out from them
and be separate,
says the Lord.
Touch no unclean thing,
and I will receive you.”[d]
“I will be a Father to you,
and you will be my sons and daughters,
says the Lord Almighty.”[e]
Paul realized better than most that his mission would be difficult and that God’s grace had to be sufficient to meet his needs. The Corinthian Church was a wealthy church, but the people had no intention of supporting Paul. So as he ministered, he also made tents. The tents supported the ministry. Further, Paul knew that it was a spiritual war and that the enemy and life would throw everything at him to neutralize or at least minimize his impact on spreading the Gospel across the world. So Paul very kindly, but directly lays it out–We are ministering despite poverty, beatings, accusation, imprisonment, loneliness near-death experiences, sadness–in short, NO MATTER WHAT! Paul knew that the more impact he was making, the more difficult the battle would become. So in his journey–he said, “Bring it on!”
What about us? Do we have the same call? Yes! We are to minister no matter what. We need to press on knowing it will not be easy and sometimes it will be darn near impossible. We should never expect this life to be easy. But, we can cling to the promise that the difficulties we experience now are nothing compared to the blessings that await us if we trust and follow Christ. (Romans 8-18) We have to look past the struggles and focus upon the prize–salvation to all who believe. Is it worth the struggles? ABSOLUTELY! That is why we must continue to seek first God’s kingdom and His righteousness–If we will, He will supply the rest. In good times and difficult times, God prepares, protects and provides, we simply have to trust Him!
God Bless You
As God’s co-workers, we urge you not to receive God’s grace in vain. 2 For he says,
“In the time of my favor I heard you,
and in the day of salvation I helped you.”[a]
I tell you, now is the time of God’s favor, now is the day of salvation.
3 We put no stumbling block in anyone’s path, so that our ministry will not be discredited.4 Rather, as servants of God we commend ourselves in every way: in great endurance; in troubles, hardships and distresses; 5 in beatings, imprisonments and riots; in hard work, sleepless nights and hunger; 6 in purity, understanding, patience and kindness; in the Holy Spirit and in sincere love; 7 in truthful speech and in the power of God; with weapons of righteousness in the right hand and in the left; 8 through glory and dishonor, bad report and good report; genuine, yet regarded as impostors; 9 known, yet regarded as unknown; dying,and yet we live on; beaten, and yet not killed; 10 sorrowful, yet always rejoicing; poor, yet making many rich; having nothing, and yet possessing everything.
11 We have spoken freely to you, Corinthians, and opened wide our hearts to you. 12 We are not withholding our affection from you, but you are withholding yours from us. 13 As a fair exchange—I speak as to my children—open wide your hearts also.