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Experiencing God in Christian Ministry

2Corinthians 1 (web)

1:1 Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus through the will of God, and Timothy our brother,
to the assembly of God which is at Corinth, with all the saints who are in the whole of Achaia:
1:2 Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.

Minister Empathy

1:3 Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ,
the Father of mercies and God of all comfort;

1:4 who comforts us in all our affliction,
that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction,
through the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God.
1:5 For as the sufferings of Christ abound to us,
even so our comfort also abounds through Christ.
1:6 But if we are afflicted, it is for your comfort and salvation.
If we are comforted, it is for your comfort,
which produces in you the patient enduring of the same sufferings which we also suffer.
1:7 Our hope for you is steadfast, knowing that,
since you are partakers of the sufferings, so also are you of the comfort.

1:8 For we don't desire to have you uninformed, brothers,
concerning our affliction which happened to us in Asia,
that we were weighed down exceedingly, beyond our power,
so much that we despaired even of life.
1:9 Yes, we ourselves have had the sentence of death within ourselves,
that we should not trust in ourselves, but in God who raises the dead,
1:10 who delivered us out of so great a death, and does deliver;
on whom we have set our hope that he will also still deliver us;
1:11 you also helping together on our behalf by your supplication;
that, for the gift bestowed on us by means of many,
thanks may be given by many persons on your behalf.

Minister in Holiness and Sincerity

1:12 For our boasting is this: the testimony of our conscience, that in holiness and sincerity of God,
not in fleshly wisdom but in the grace of God we behaved ourselves in the world,
and more abundantly toward you.
1:13 For we write no other things to you, than what you read or even acknowledge,
and I hope you will acknowledge to the end;
1:14 as also you acknowledged us in part, that we are your boasting,
even as you also are ours, in the day of our Lord Jesus.
1:15 In this confidence, I was determined to come first to you, that you might have a second benefit;
1:16 and by you to pass into Macedonia, and again from Macedonia to come to you,
and to be sent forward by you on my journey to Judea.
1:17 When I therefore was thus determined, did I show fickleness?
Or the things that I purpose, do I purpose according to the flesh,
that with me there should be the "Yes, yes" and the "No, no?"
1:18 But as God is faithful, our word toward you was not "Yes and no."
1:19 For the Son of God, Jesus Christ, who was preached among you by us,
by me, Silvanus, and Timothy, was not "Yes and no," but in him is "Yes."
1:20 For however many are the promises of God, in him is the "Yes."
Therefore also through him is the "Amen," to the glory of God through us.

Rely on God to Establish

1:21 Now he who establishes us with you in Christ, and anointed us, is God;
1:22 who also sealed us, and gave us the down payment of the Spirit in our hearts.
1:23 But I call God for a witness to my soul, that I didn't come to Corinth to spare you.
1:24 Not that we have lordship over your faith, but are fellow workers with you for your joy.
For you stand firm in faith.

Discussion Questions

vs 3-11 What experiences of comfort and deliverance has the Lord brought you through that may be an encouragement to others?
How do our prayers help others, and what does this imply about our role in God's ministry?
vs 12-20 What has been your experience with and you opinion concerning Christian messages which are unclear or ambiguous?
Paul apparently had made plans to come to them, but then changed his mind. So why is it that he makes a big deal about "Yes, yes" and "No, no" thing?
vs 21-24 What effects does the Holy Spirit produce in us?
What phrases here support the doctrine of Eternal security (Once saved, always saved)?



2Cor 1:1,2 Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God, and Timothy our brother, To the church of God in Corinth, together with all the saints throughout Achaia: Grace and peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.

While 2Corinthians is a response to the Corinthians actions as a result of Paul's first letter to them, much of it also gives us insight into Paul's view of Christian ministry which is a major theme in this letter. Though "there are different kinds of service" 1Cor 12:5, every mature Christian is to be involved in some sort of ministry, and as such will find guidance and application from this letter with regards to one's attitude in ministry and with regards to its implementation. Such are given not as the individual wills, nor as institutional leaders will, but as the Spirits determines. "All these are the work of one and the same Spirit, and he gives them to each one, just as he determines." 2Cor 12:11

Just to comment on the greeting, typical of Paul to note his credentials, but also typical of Paul to give recognition to other members of his team. Despite one's personal calling - even that of apostleship - ministry involves teamwork. But with regards to his credentials, it was God's will that Paul be an apostle. Prior to receiving the Holy Spirit, the Eleven presumptuously chose by lot an apostle to replace Judas (Acts 1). That's not the way the Lord chooses an apostle. While Matthias was the Eleven's choice, Paul was the Lord's choice of whom he said, "This man is my chosen instrument to carry my name before the Gentiles and their kings and before the people of Israel." Acts 9:15 and the Lord said to him, "The God of our fathers has chosen you to know his will and to see the Righteous One and to hear words from his mouth. You will be his witness to all men of what you have seen and heard." Acts 22:14,15 And we find Paul much more responsible than the other apostles in carrying out the Great Commission.

Christian Empathy

2Cor 1:3-7 For just as the sufferings of Christ flow over into our lives, so also through Christ our comfort overflows. Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves have received from God. If we are distressed, it is for your comfort and salvation; if we are comforted, it is for your comfort, which produces in you patient endurance of the same sufferings we suffer. And our hope for you is firm, because we know that just as you share in our sufferings, so also you share in our comfort.

One of the possible answers to the question, "Why is this happening to me?" which we all ask from time to time is that God may be subjecting us to troubling circumstances so that we may develop empathy for those who are likewise suffering.

In fact even of Christ it is written, "For this reason he had to be made like his brothers in every way, in order that he might become a merciful and faithful high priest in service to God, and that he might make atonement for the sins of the people. Because he himself suffered when he was tempted, he is able to help those who are being tempted." Heb 2:17,18 and "we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we areó yet was without sin." Heb 4:15 And conversely Jesus said of his apostles, "You are those who have stood by me in my trials." Lk 22:28

Also note an example in Paul's life who says, "Because of my chains, most of the brothers in the Lord have been encouraged to speak the word of God more courageously and fearlessly." Php 1:14

But while some receive comfort and encouragement from other people, here he speaks also of receiving comfort from God. Used to be that people would find a tree on a hill and cut down all the trees around it so that alone it would have to endure the wind. After some time they cut it down and used it as a mast of a ship. For enduring tribulation alone can make one particularly strong.

Why is this happening to me?

2Cor 1:8-11 We do not want you to be uninformed, brothers, about the hardships we suffered in the province of Asia. We were under great pressure, far beyond our ability to endure, so that we despaired even of life. Indeed, in our hearts we felt the sentence of death. But this happened that we might not rely on ourselves but on God, who raises the dead. He has delivered us from such a deadly peril, and he will deliver us. On him we have set our hope that he will continue to deliver us, as you help us by your prayers. Then many will give thanks on our behalf for the gracious favor granted us in answer to the prayers of many.

An aspect of going through difficult situtations that is often overlooked is their potential effect to enhance one's ministry by But it is not simply one's reaction to circumstances that is the essential issue, but rather one's experience of God's comfort in the midst of difficult circumstances. For the Christian life is cannot be lived simply on the basis of one's own will and decisions, but rather in the midst of obeying God the Christian finds strength in his experience of God.

Paul found strength in the midst of circumstances he describes as ,"We were under great pressure, far beyond our ability to endure." But his strength was not found in his will or determination.  It is good for Christians to go through distressing circumstances, for as Paul says, "this happened that we might not rely on ourselves but on God." Whether we tend to rely on ourselves or on other people, we need to learn to rely on God, setting our hope upon Him to deliver us.

Relying on God is a process learned by persevering through troubles. If you intend to serve God through the long-haul expect setbacks and discouragements, even disillusionment as one's expectations are torn apart. It's all part of the process of learning to rely on God. Israel was sent into the desert to learn to rely on God. "He humbled you, causing you to hunger and then feeding you with manna, which neither you nor your fathers had known, to teach you that man does not live on bread alone but on every word that comes from the mouth of the LORD." Deut 8:3

"Those who know your name will trust in you, for you, LORD, have never forsaken those who seek you." Ps 9:10

Sacrifice thank offerings to God, fulfill your vows to the Most High, and call upon me in the day of trouble; I will deliver you, and you will honor me. Ps 50:14,15

Sincere Christian Conduct

2Cor 1:12 Now this is our boast: Our conscience testifies that we have conducted ourselves in the world, and especially in our relations with you, in the holiness and sincerity that are from God. We have done so not according to worldly wisdom but according to Godís grace.

Now just as in the book of Galatians, so also Paul is alluding to a contrast between his team and that of the those who are having a bad influence upon the Corinthians. For example he later says, "we have renounced secret and shameful ways; we do not use deception, nor do we distort the word of God. On the contrary, by setting forth the truth plainly we commend ourselves to every manís conscience in the sight of God." 2Cor 4:2, alluding to those who are distorting the gospel to justify their shameful lifestyle. And also he says later, "Unlike so many, we do not peddle the word of God for profit. On the contrary, in Christ we speak before God with sincerity, like men sent from God." 2Cor 2:17 alluding to those in Corinthin who are peddling the gospel for financial gain.

A good principle of living, "I strive always to keep my conscience clear before God and man." Acts 24:16  So "Pray for us. We are sure that we have a clear conscience and desire to live honorably in every way." Heb 13:18

Don't Overcomplicate it

2Cor 1:13,14 For we do not write you anything you cannot read or understand. And I hope that, as you have understood us in part, you will come to understand fully that you can boast of us just as we will boast of you in the day of the Lord Jesus.

Paul's sincerity is revealed by his frankness in communication. He doesn't have a hidden agenda. He is open and direct in his communication and speaks plainly. If you read post-Biblical theologians, many of them are hard to understand, even while using an abundance of words and very little scripture. To me that's just a sign of a poor teacher. Many such people like to say things that "sound" spiritual but which are so vague as to be practically meaningless. "The goal of this command is love, which comes from a pure heart and a good conscience and a sincere faith. Some have wandered away from these and turned to meaningless talk.They want to be teachers of the law, but they do not know what they are talking about or what they so confidently affirm." 1Tim 1:5-7 And  "I fear, lest somehow, as the serpent deceived Eve by his craftiness, so your minds may be corrupted from the simplicity that is in Christ." 2Cor 11:3 Don't overcomplicate it. The Bible is alot easier to understand than the writings of many post-Biblical theologians.

Plan Intentionally and Decisively

2Cor 1:15-20 Because I was confident of this, I planned to visit you first so that you might benefit twice. I planned to visit you on my way to Macedonia and to come back to you from Macedonia, and then to have you send me on my way to Judea. When I planned this, did I do it lightly? Or do I make my plans in a worldly manner so that in the same breath I say, "Yes, yes" and "No, no"? But as surely as God is faithful, our message to you is not "Yes" and "No." For the Son of God, Jesus Christ, who was preached among you by me and Silas and Timothy, was not "Yes" and "No," but in him it has always been "Yes." For no matter how many promises God has made, they are "Yes" in Christ. And so through him the "Amen" is spoken by us to the glory of God.

The point is to be intentional walking in one's convictions rather than half-heartedly indecisive about one's plans. While one should not boast presumptuously about one's plans, making false promises.

And whatever God has promised will come to pass because He is faithful to his word, and so should we be faithful to our word according to the spirit of the law, "When a man makes a vow to the LORD or takes an oath to obligate himself by a pledge, he must not break his word but must do everything he said." Num 30:2 "If you make a vow to the LORD your God, do not be slow to pay it, for the LORD your God will certainly demand it of you and you will be guilty of sin." Deut 23:21

Sealed with a Guarantee

2Cor 1:21,22 Now it is God who makes both us and you stand firm in Christ. He anointed us, set his seal of ownership on us, and put his Spirit in our hearts as a deposit, guaranteeing what is to come.

Jesus said, "All men will hate you because of me, but he who stands firm to the end will be saved." Mt 10:22 But in fact those who are in Christ will stand firm to the end due to the nature of the regeneration, as John wrote, "No one who is born of God will continue to sin, because Godís seed remains in him; he cannot go on sinning, because he has been born of God." 1John 3:9 Thus he could say of those who leave the faith, "They went out from us, but they did not really belong to us. For if they had belonged to us, they would have remained with us; but their going showed that none of them belonged to us." 1John 2:19 For no one born of God leaves the faith.

Yet standing firm also involves exercising faith. "Because it is by faith you stand firm." 2Cor 1:24b Those who are of the faith will in fact exercise their faith and characteristically follow Jesus, "My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me." John 10:27 And by doing so show themselves among the elect.

The Holy Spirit is a seal in two senses. One is that he is a sign of ownership. For "if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he does not belong to Christ." Rom 8:9 "And you also were included in Christ when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation. Having believed, you were marked in him with a seal, the promised Holy Spirit, who is a deposit guaranteeing our inheritance until the redemption of those who are Godís possession" Eph 1:13,14 Those who are in Christ are eternally secure.

Avoid Micromanaging the Mature

2Cor 1:23,24 I call God as my witness that it was in order to spare you that I did not return to Corinth. Not that we lord it over your faith, but we work with you for your joy, because it is by faith you stand firm.

Christian leadership are to lead by example, not lording it over the flock. Peter writes to the elders, "Be shepherds of Godís flock that is under your care, serving as overseersó not because you must, but because you are willing, as God wants you to be; not greedy for money, but eager to serve; not lording it over those entrusted to you, but being examples to the flock." 1Peter 5:2,3 If Christian followed your example what do you suppose the Christian community would look like today?

Likewise Jesus said to his disciples, "You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their high officials exercise authority over them. Not so with you. Instead, whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first must be your slaveó just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many." Mt 20:25-28

Interesting to note Paul's application here. Sometimes the best thing is to leave people alone to apply themselves, rather than micromanaging. One is reminded of the over-protective mother who never lets her kids grow up. Christian leadership needs to allow for Christians to take initiative and apply themselves, not being micromanaged. Too much emphasize on institutional programs, and too few opportunities to minister as a mature Christian with freedom from unnecessary oversight will make the church into a bunch of babies who never grow up.

The Berean Christian Bible Study Resources Jan 27,2022