Paul Continues Caring For His Corinthian Friends

In the letter known as 2 Corinthians, Paul continued encouraging & instructing the church in Corinth (295).

Both here on earth & eventually in heaven, the aim of Christian life is to please God.  Here on earth, Paul saw himself as God’s ambassador to the world.  As such, he realized that he was always proclaiming — in his words & by his deeds — that we are reconciled to God solely through the sacrifice of his son Jesus.

cross-steps-to-peace-photo

Paul wanted the Corinthian believers to see themselves in this way, too.  Strengthened by the Holy Spirit, we are called to share this message of reconciliation with the world.  However, we must always maintain a careful degree of separation from the world, because the world is ruled by God’s enemy, Satan.

Candle-flame1

For various reasons, the Christian church in Jerusalem had fallen on hard times.  They were being persecuted by unbelieving Jews & by some Roman officials, to the extent that many had fallen into serious poverty.  By contrast, the church in Corinth was well off, so Paul repeatedly encouraged the Corinthians to support the impoverished Christians in Jerusalem.  But Paul emphasized that their gift wouldn’t be much of a gift, unless it was a willing sacrifice, like that which Jesus made for us.

Paul was especially concerned by false teaching about God in the Corinthian church.  Often, false teachers will mix the truth of God with the lies of the world.  Paul wanted the Corinthians to be on their guard against this.  But when contending with false teachers, Paul wanted the Corinthians to remain humble before God.

God had shown Paul that, in his flesh, he was not sufficient to do his job for Jesus; it was only by God’s grace that he was sufficient to do his job for Jesus.

8441892308_ffa5837a6e

So Paul concluded his letter with a warning.  When we preach that all our power comes from Jesus, we must be careful to examine ourselves — to be sure we’re practicing what we preach.  We must be careful to rely on Jesus, not on ourselves.

God, please help me to love relying on Your grace.

(295) 2 Corinthians 5-13

Paul’s Later Letters To His Corinthian Friends

After leaving Ephesus, Paul went through the northern regions of Greece, encouraging the believers with many messages (293). Then he came to the southern regions of Greece, where he stayed for three months in Corinth.

During his stay in Macedonia in northern Greece, Paul wrote again to his friends in Corinth.  It’s unclear if he wrote one more letter or two; but only one letter is available & it’s known as 2nd Corinthians (294).

In it, Paul exhorted the Corinthian believers to take Jesus as their model for individual service.  Our loving service to one another is what proves to the world that we are Christians.  Only when each member of the body is faithfully following Jesus, can the entire body faithfully witness to the world around us.

ambassador

Paul encouraged the Corinthians not to become overwhelmed by personal trials.  The Holy Spirit allows believers to go through trials in life for two reasons, he said: that we will find our comfort in him, and that we will share our comfort with others when they are experiencing similar trials.

comfort

Paul also encouraged the Corinthians to forgive repentant sinners.  Discipline is often necessary, but when it’s effective in leading to repentance, discipline must give way to love.  (In this part of the letter, it’s unclear as to which specific member of the Corinthian church Paul is referring.  In any case, the principle remains the same.)

Certain unbelieving Jews in Corinth continued to teach that people needed to become good Jews in order to become good Christians.  Paul continued to oppose this teaching, describing the law of Moses as a veil between us & God.  Jesus effectively removes that veil; now believers – both Jews & Gentiles — can look directly at God in the person of Jesus.  And, amazingly, the more we keep our eyes focused on Jesus, the more we become like him!

eye_on_Jesus

Paul explained that we come to Jesus as imperfect people.  The light of Christ shines in our hearts, and we see how imperfect we are.  Over time, the light of Christ gradually overcomes our natural darkness.  This process is completed in the next life, but it begins in this life, from the moment we begin to trust & serve in Jesus.  The more we keep our eyes focused on Jesus, the more we become like him!

God, please help me to love keeping my eyes on Jesus.

(293) Acts 20:2-3a

(294) 2 Corinthians 1-4

Paul Answers More Questions From His Corinthian Friends

In the letter known as 1st Corinthians, Paul continued answering questions from his Corinthian friends (292).

Members were being inconsiderate of one another.  Specifically, some were abusing freedom from Jewish dietary laws, by eating clean food that had been “sacrificed” to pagan idols.

Paul admitted that Christians have that freedom, but his main emphasis was to warn against exercising that freedom in a way that might confuse a new believer about those idols.  (God will not share our worship with pagan idols.)

Members were becoming seriously hypocritical.  Specifically, they were regularly participating in the fellowship meals of the body of Christ. But outside the church worship services, they were regularly quarreling with one another, gossiping about one another, and cheating one another!  Paul was appalled.

Members were trying to demonstrate gifts of the spirit in the power of the flesh. Paul listed numerous gifts of the Spirit, or ways in which the Holy Spirit works in & through faithful believers.  But then he insisted that such gifts were worth nothing at all, unless exercised in the spirit of Christ-like self-sacrificing love.

(Or, as a famous preacher once said: If you don’t love ‘em, you can’t bless ‘em!)

Members were allowing public worship to become a public circus. Paul considered two spiritual gifts — testifying about Jesus in foreign tongues, and prophetically speaking forth the word of God — preferring the latter. His main point was that public worship services need to be inviting to those who are lost & trying to find their way to God.

The Corinthian church members were also confused about the promised resurrection of the dead.

glorious-rapture-day2-505x284

They were failing to emphasize that this would effect all faithful believers. There were two related questions:

  • Will believers be raised from the dead in the way that Jesus was raised from the dead? Paul said that we will indeed.
  • If we’re going to be raised from the dead, what will our bodies be like then? Paul said that, in the resurrection, we will have glorified, perfected bodies, just like Jesus.

In this letter, it is also evident that Paul was committed to denying his independent self-life, in order to do the job that Jesus had given him.

Paul understood that Jesus was for everybody, so he wanted to share Jesus with everybody – regardless of their age, sex, class, race, income, religious background, residence, or any other thing.  Everybody was to be welcomed into the body of Christ.

Despite the different roles we may play as members, Paul insisted that we comprise the body of Christ together.  We need each other in order for the church to do its job for Jesus in this world.

God, please help me to love all different kinds of church members.

(292) 1 Corinthians 8-16

Paul’s First Letters To His Corinthian Friends

During his stay in Ephesus, Turkey, Paul seems to have written his first two letters to friends in the new church in Corinth, Greece.  The first of these two letters (referred to in the second) has been entirely lost.  The second of these letters is commonly known as 1st Corinthians (291).

The Holy Spirit had led Paul to plant the Corinthian church several years earlier.  And Apollos had had an effective ministry in Corinth, while Paul was in Ephesus.  But by the time of this letter, a number of issues & questions had arisen in the Corinthian church.

There was division in the church. Some of the Corinthian Christians were lining up behind Paul, but some were lining up behind Peter & others were lining up behind Apollos. Paul appealed to the Corinthian believers (& to us) not to permit any such divisions in the church.

division

Different teachers may emphasize different things about Jesus.  But the most important thing for all members of the body of Christ is to remain focused on Jesus, not on specific church leaders.

Sexual misconduct by church members was going uncorrected.  Paul’s corrective was that all believers should ask God, often, to point out anything in us that is offensive to him.

MISERERE CONFESSION

The lust for physical satisfaction & emotional comfort is so powerful, that we easily lose sight of how our selfish sexual sin is offensive to God.

Marriage was being treated as a temporary relationship for worldly convenience, instead of as a permanent union to glorify God.

Marriage

In his letter, Paul responded to various questions about marriage:

  • Isn’t it better to remain single than to marry? Staying single is good for those who can do it in a godly way, said Paul. But he stressed that marriage is intended by God for most people, — in part to provide godly expression for the natural human sexual appetites with which God has created us.
  • May husbands or wives abstain from sex in their marriages? Only by mutual consent and only for periods of prayer & fasting, said Paul. So long as the sex act was an act of love & respect, Paul opposed the unilateral withholding of sex by either marriage partner.
  • May a believing spouse leave an unbelieving spouse? No, said Paul, because God may want to use the witness of the believer — both to bring the unbeliever to faith in God, and to raise their children up unto God. But, if the unbeliever insists on leaving, then let him go.

God, please help me to love keeping You in the center of our marriage.

(291) 1 Corinthians 1-7

Jesus Versus Artemis

Before Paul left the city, there was a serious incident in Ephesus (290).  As Gentiles had become Christians & started worshiping the one true God, they had stopped worshiping the local false goddess, named Artemis.

Demetrius, a silversmith who made & sold silver models of the temple of Artemis, saw his business declining as a result.

003-paul-demetrius-artemis

So he called a meeting of all the local artisans who had similar businesses, and he said to them, “You can all see for yourselves that this fellow Paul is ruining our business. He has convinced many people that Artemis is not a goddess at all, so there is a real danger that her temple will lose all significance.  Worse than that, it’s possible that Artemis herself will become completely discredited!”

As the crowd of artisans heard these words, they became furious & started shouting, “Hail Artemis of Ephesus!”  Before long, the uproar spread throughout the whole city of Ephesus.

A mob grabbed Gaius & Aristarchus (two Greek Christians who were friends of Paul) and rushed them to the main assembly hall. Paul wanted to tell  the mob about Jesus & appeal for the release of his friends, but the other believers wouldn’t let him take that risk. Friendly governmental authorities even sent Paul a message begging him not to show himself in the assembly. Meanwhile the mob in the assembly hall was in chaos; many people didn’t really know why they were gathered there.

The Jewish believers sent Alexander to address the mob on behalf of Gaius & Aristarchus.  But when he was recognized as a Jew, the mob shouted him down, chanting, “Hail Artemis of Ephesus!” And this general uproar continued for two hours.

010-paul-demetrius-artemis

Finally, a city leader was able to calm the mob. “Fellow Ephesians!” he said. “Gaius & Aristarchus have not robbed temples or said evil things about Artemis. If Demetrius & the other artisans have any specific accusation against them, they must bring charges in court, according to our law. If there are larger policy issues to be considered, that will have to be done in a legal meeting of our citizens. But we cannot continue in this way; there really is no excuse for all this uproar.”  So the city leader dismissed the meeting.

After all the excitement died down, the Holy Spirit led Paul to call together the believers & share with them words of encouragement.  Then, Paul said good-bye to them & left Ephesus for the Macedonian region of Greece.

God, please help me to love being faithful to You, even in chaos.

(290) Acts 19:23-20:1

Jesus Changes People In Ephesus

During this time in Ephesus, God was also using Paul to do miracles (289).  When his aprons & handkerchiefs were given to sick people, they were healed of their diseases & evil spirits were expelled from them!

007-paul-ephesus

There were some Jews who also tried to use the name of Jesus to expel evil spirits – saying, “In the name of Jesus, whom Paul preaches, I command you to come out.”

One time, seven brothers — who were the sons of a Jewish High Priest named Sceva — were attempting to minister in this way, to a man possessed by an evil spirit.  But the evil spirit said to them, “I know Jesus, & I know Paul, but who are you?” Then the evil spirit attacked them violently & overpowered them all!

010-paul-ephesus

They ran away — wounded & with their clothes torn off!  All the Jews & Gentiles who lived in Ephesus heard about this; they were all astonished & began to give the name of Jesus greater honor.

The Holy Spirit led many believers to begin confessing their sins publicly, as they testified how Jesus was changing them.  Many of those who had practiced magic even burned their “magic books” in public!  (Altogether, they had paid fifty thousand silver coins for all those books.)

011-paul-ephesus

So, through many such powerful demonstrations, the good news kept spreading & the church in Ephesus kept growing stronger.

Subsequently, Paul began planning to travel through Greece, and then go on to Italy, before returning to Jerusalem. He sent Timothy & Erastus, two of his co-workers, to make ministry preparations in Greece, while he stayed a while longer in Ephesus.

God, please help me to love being used by You, however You choose.

(289) Acts 19:11-22

Paul Serves Jesus In Ephesus

After Apollos had sailed westward to the Greek city of Corinth, Paul travelled westward by land to the Turkish city of Ephesus (288).

There he found a group of new believers in Jesus & he asked them, “Did you receive the Holy Spirit when you became believers?” “We have not even heard that there is a Holy Spirit,” they answered. “Then, what kind of baptism did you receive?” Paul asked. “The baptism of John the Baptizer,” they answered.

Paul said, “John baptized people with water as a sign that they had repented & decided to stop sinning.  But John also told the people of Israel to believe in the one who was coming after him – who is Jesus.  Jesus baptizes people with God’s Holy Spirit.

When they heard this, twelve of them asked to be baptized in the name of Jesus.  As Paul placed his hands on them, the Holy Spirit came upon them; all twelve of them began testifying boldly, in different languages & dialects, about how Jesus was changing their hearts & changing their lives.

005-paul-ephesus

For the next three months, Paul taught in the Ephesian synagogue, trying to convince the people that the kingdom of God which Jesus proclaimed really was good news. But some of the Jews in that synagogue stubbornly refused to believe in Jesus; instead they said evil things before the whole assembly about Jesus & about those who believed in him.

006-paul-ephesus

So Paul left the synagogue, taking the Christian believers with him, and he began to hold daily meetings in the lecture hall of Tyrannus. This went on for two years, so that all the people who lived in that area of Turkey, both Jews & Gentiles, heard the good news of Jesus Christ.

God, please help me to love being led by Your Holy Spirit.

(288) Acts 19:1-10