Thu, Aug 12, 2004

II CORINTHIANS 3-4

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Ministry of Pastor Joe Guglielmo teachings through the Bible, verse by verse for a better understanding of Gods Word.

II CORINTHIANS

 

            Please turn in your Bibles this evening to II Corinthians chapter 3 as we continue our study through the Word of God.  As we said last time, in this letter Paul is defending his position as an apostle, his character.  False teachers came in and were confusing and swaying the Corinthian believers, some even going back to the keeping of the Law and thus, Paul is going to continue to deal with these issues here in his second letter to the Corinthians. With that said, let’s begin reading in II Corinthians chapter 3 starting in verse 1 and let’s see what the Lord has for us this evening.

II CORINTHIANS 3

 

VERSE 1

            In the early church it was a common practice to send letters of commendation along with people because there were many false teachers who came in trying to deceive the brethren.  Even today as people call and say they would like to come to Calvary to share their gift on a Sunday or Thursday, they have recommendations from other Calvary pastors to authenticate, to show that they are real, not just wolves in sheep’s clothing.  Here Paul is saying “Do I really need to validate my ministry to you or get letters from you to prove or validate my ministry to others?”  Why did he need letters, they all knew Paul, he spent 18 months ministering to them?  (Acts 18:11).  Because many rejected his authority, his apostleship, even though it was the Lord who gave him this position in the body of Christ.  So how did Paul defend himself here? Let’s read on and see.

VERSES 2-3

            Paul says to them, “You want proof? You are our proof, you are the fruit that was born out of the ministry!”  You might say that they were living letters that validated Paul’s ministry.  Even today that is still true, fruit is our testimony.  Remember in Numbers chapter 16 as Korah rose up against Moses and Aaron, challenging their position of leadership they had and God judged Korah for their rebellion. Then in Numbers chapter 17 God shows the children of Israel who is to be called by God as priest and Moses gathers 12 rods, one from each of the 12 tribes of Israel and placed these rods before the Lord in the tabernacle of witness. Then in Numbers 17:8 we are told, Now it came to pass on the next day that Moses went into the tabernacle of witness, and behold, the rod of Aaron, of the house of Levi, had sprouted and put forth buds, had produced blossoms and yielded ripe almonds.  Fruit is the evidence of God’s calling or as Poole put it, “Nothing so commends a minister as the proficiency of his people.”

            In Exodus 24:12 the Lord told Moses He would put the Law on tablets of stone, but that was only temporary, for in Jeremiah 31:33 we are told, But this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, says the LORD: I will put My law in their minds, and write it on their hearts; and I will be their God, and they shall be My people.  And in Ezekiel 36:26 we are told, I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit within you; I will take the heart of stone out of your flesh and give you a heart of flesh.

            Thus, as we come to Christ, our hearts of stone are replaced with hearts of flesh that are now sensitive to the things of God.  Also, as people look at us they don’t see some cold, lifeless monument made of stone, at least they shouldn’t, but a living, breathing epistle or letter of Christ and what He has done in our lives for people to see and read!

VERSES 4-6

            Paul did not want the Corinthians to think he was boasting in what he accomplished and he tells them it was Christ working through him that enabled him to do these things or as Paul said, our sufficiency is from God.  Back in I Corinthians 2:1-5 Paul tells us, And I, brethren, when I came to you, did not come with excellence of speech or of wisdom declaring to you the testimony of God.  For I determined not to know anything among you except Jesus Christ and Him crucified.  I was with you in weakness, in fear, and in much trembling.  And my speech and my preaching were not with persuasive words of human wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power, that your faith should not be in the wisdom of men but in the power of God.

            How many of you feel you are ready for God to use you now?  Folks, we are never ready, we never feel adequate and that is the point.  Paul did not say, “Our sufficiency is in ourselves, our education, our experiences, our talents or whatever” but that “Our sufficiency is from God.”  If you truly believe that then you can rest in Him for it is the Lord working in you and through you and that truly takes the pressure off of you!

            What are we, as slaves to do?  To take the New Covenant, DIATHEKE (dee-ath-ay’-kay) in the Greek.  Of this word Moulton and Milligan tell us that it is “An ‘arrangement’ made by one party with plenary power, which the other party may accept or reject, but cannot altar . . . a covenant offered by God to man was no ‘compact’ between two parties coming together on equal terms.”  In other words, it is a unilateral covenant based upon the faithfulness of God and the finished work of Christ and all we must do is receive it by faith. That is what we bring to people, the Gospel of Jesus Christ, the grace of God for we are saved by grace through faith and not by the Law through works.  Paul tells us in Romans 8:2-4,For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has made me free from the law of sin and death.  For what the law could not do in that it was weak through the flesh, God did by sending His own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, on account of sin: He condemned sin in the flesh, that the righteous requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us who do not walk according to the flesh but according to the Spirit.

            You see, the Law is good but man is not.  The Law can’t save us, it can only show that we are sinners separated from God, thus, it brings death to us.  But the Spirit of God brings to us the grace of God found in Jesus which gives us life.  Remember as Moses went up on Mount Sinai to get the Law the children of Israel were already breaking it and God judged them for it, 3,000 men died that day when the Law was given, (Exodus 32:28).  Then, on the Day of Pentecost, as the Gospel of Grace was given, 3,000 men were saved!  (Acts 2:41). Thus, the Law kills but the Spirit gives life!

VERSES 7-11

            Paul wants the Corinthians to understand that the Law was not bad, it was not evil, the Law is good, it is perfect, it is right!  In fact the face of Moses glowed with the presence of God but it would not last, that glory faded. Why is that?  Listen to what Paul tells us in Galatians 3:19-26, What purpose then does the law serve? It was added because of transgressions, till the Seed should come to whom the promise was made; and it was appointed through angels by the hand of a mediator.  Now a mediator does not mediate for one only, but God is one.  Is the law then against the promises of God? Certainly not! For if there had been a law given which could have given life, truly righteousness would have been by the law.  But the Scripture has confined all under sin, that the promise by faith in Jesus Christ might be given to those who believe.  But before faith came, we were kept under guard by the law, kept for the faith which would afterward be revealed.  Therefore the law was our tutor to bring us to Christ, that we might be justified by faith.  But after faith has come, we are no longer under a tutor.  For you are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus.

            The purpose of the Law is to show us that we are sinners, it points us to the Messiah and just as Moses could not take the children of Israel into the Promise Land, neither can the Law take us into the new life.  Thus, Joshua, or Jesus took them in just as Jesus takes us into the new life!  The Law is good but it pale’s in comparison to the New Covenant for one brings death and the other life!

VERSES 12-16

            Please notice the contrast here between Paul and Moses.  Paul was bold to speak of the glory of the New Covenant because that glory will never fade away. But Moses, he covered his face because he did not want the children of Israel to see the fading glory of the Old Covenant.  Also, the children of Israel didn’t see the glory, it was covered, it was concealed but now in Christ the glory is revealed, we can see it and it is glorious!

            Now, for both Jews and Gentiles, the god of this age, Satan, has blinded, covered the face of people so they will not see Jesus.  It doesn’t matter how much you show them, if their eyes are covered, they can’t see!  Only Jesus can remove that veil so they can see, and thus, through prayer, binding the strongman, Satan, the eyes of those who can’t see will be opened and they will see Jesus!  It truly is a spiritual battle for the lives of men!

VERSE 17

            How many people place themselves under the Law today, just as they tried to do in Paul’s day?  It doesn’t work!  Yes, you may be able to shine for a while as you try to keep the Law but you will fail and fade because you are a sinner, we all are and we can’t keep the Law perfectly, as God requires!  Thus, where the Spirit of the Lord is, leading us to the grace of God through Jesus, we have liberty and we have freedom!  This is not a license to do whatever you want but a freedom to live honoring the Lord!  What happens as we do?  Let’s read on and see.

VERSE 18

            Now that the veil has been removed by Christ we can see Him through the Word of God. Yes, we can’t see Him clearly as face-to-face, but as we study, meditate, apply God’s Word to our lives the Holy Spirit is transforming us into the image of God step-by-step.  It is a life-long process as John tells us, Beloved, now we are children of God; and it has not yet been revealed what we shall be, but we know that when He is revealed, we shall be like Him, for we shall see Him as He is.   I John 3:2.  And notice that Paul doesn’t say, “from backsliding to glory” but from glory to glory.  That is how it should be!  David said in Psalm 17:15, As for me, I will see Your face in righteousness; I shall be satisfied when I awake in Your likeness.  May that be our hearts desire, to be satisfied as we are transformed into the likeness of God and that happens as we gaze upon Him and allow the Spirit of God to transform us!  And folks, He will complete the work in us, so don’t give up, He doesn’t!

II CORINTHIANS 4

 

VERSES 1-2

            When you see the word therefore ask yourself “what is it therefore?”  Paul uses it here because God has removed the covering from our eyes and we can see Jesus, and so let us boldly bring the Gospel of Christ forward, let us not be a “faint-hearted coward.”  You see, if God has done this for us, we should be able to go forth and bring the message to others.

            Please listen carefully to these words from Charles Spurgeon spoken long ago but fits in perfectly today.  He tells us, “Certain divines tells us that they must adapt truth to the advance of the age, which means that they must murder it and fling its dead body to the dogs . . . which simply means that a popular lie shall take the place of an offensive truth.” Think about that and today’s Seeker Friendly churches.  They try to trick people to come in and then they water down the Gospel so much with the idea that some might get saved.  Paul tells us that he just speaks the truth, he doesn’t water it down or try to trick people into the kingdom of God and may we be like Paul!  Paul’s ministry, his life was one of integrity and even if some would try to come against him, their own conscience knew Paul was a man of integrity, truth.  May that be seen in our own lives!

VERSES 3-4

            Notice that Paul is not blaming God or even himself for those that reject Jesus.  First the Devil has blinded their eyes and secondly, people are responsible for rejecting the Lord, for not wanting to believe.  Listen to what Jesus said in John 3:16-21, For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.  For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved.  He who believes in Him is not condemned; but he who does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God.  And this is the condemnation, that the light has come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil.  For everyone practicing evil hates the light and does not come to the light, lest his deeds should be exposed.  But he who does the truth comes to the light, that his deeds may be clearly seen, that they have been done in God. You see, they don’t believe because they love the darkness, the sin, the things they are doing more than God and thus, they are condemned for it!

            Today we have all these different sunblocks, in our house we have anywhere from SPF 6 to SPF 30!  The idea is these lotions are to block out the harmful rays of the sun so we don’t get skin cancer.  Now, in regards to our spiritual life, we can put things in our lives that block out the Son of God, we have so much stuff that He can’t touch our lives and transform us. Let Jesus shine on you and you will shine for Him!

VERSES 5-6

            We see all kinds of programs in the church today, even 12-step programs and they miss the point, it is a one-step program – it is Jesus Christ!  Paul is going to tell us in II Corinthians 5:17, Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new.  Or as The Amplified Bible puts it,Therefore if any person is [ingrafted] in Christ (the Messiah) he is a new creation (a new creature altogether); the old [previous moral and spiritual condition] has passed away. Behold, the fresh and new has come!”  The light of God has touched our lives and like being out in the sun affects our skin, so being in the Son of God affects our nature!  If you want to be more like Jesus, spend more time with Him!

VERSE 7

            Imagine the most beautiful diamond being displayed in an old, used matchbox.  All the glory would go to the diamond and nothing to the matchbox!  Thus, God has taken this treasure, the Gospel of Jesus Christ, the light of God, and placed it in these bodies of flesh, kind of like your everyday dishes instead of your fine china!  Why?  Because I can’t boast in how great I am and how lucky God is to have such a wonderful man as me, and neither can you – all the glory goes to God!

            In Judges chapter 7 we read the story of Gideon battling the 135,000 Midianites. You remember the story, Gideon had 32,000 soldiers and the Lord told Gideon it was too many so whoever was fearful was to leave and 22,000 left!  Still too many and the Lord brought Gideon’s army down to 300 men against 135,000 Midianites.  Why did He do that?  So when Israel was victorious they would not take the glory but give it to the Lord. Now here is the battle plan for Gideon and his men, Then he divided the three hundred men into three companies, and he put a trumpet into every man's hand, with empty pitchers, and torches inside the pitchers.  And he said to them, ‘Look at me and do likewise; watch, and when I come to the edge of the camp you shall do as I do: When I blow the trumpet, I and all who are with me, then you also blow the trumpets on every side of the whole camp, and say, “The sword of the LORD and of Gideon!”’  So Gideon and the hundred men who were with him came to the outpost of the camp at the beginning of the middle watch, just as they had posted the watch; and they blew the trumpets and broke the pitchers that were in their hands.  Judges 7:16-19.  And God gave Israel the victory but let me say this, the clay pots had to be broken before the light of the torches could shine and thus, Paul is now going to speak of brokenness, a brokenness that allows God to shine forth through us!

VERSES 8-12

            Notice the contrasting points Paul is making here. Yes, he is being pressured, squeezed in but he is not crushed because the Lord is with him.  Yes, situations are perplexing, they are bad, it may look like there is no way out but Paul was not utterly lost in the situation because Jesus was there with him.  Paul faced much persecution in his life for Christ, he suffered much but he knew the Lord would not leave him there, the Lord would see him through it because the Lord was with him. Yes, he was cast down, thrown down, stoned but God spared him, saved his life!

            How could Paul do that?  How could Paul feel that way?  Because he saw the sufferings of Christ, all He went through and realized as the servant of the Lord he has and will continue to have to go through these things for a servant is not better than his master!  In Mark 10:45 Jesus said, For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many.  Also, in Philippians 3:10 Paul said, that I may know Him and the power of His resurrection, and the fellowship of His sufferings, being conformed to His death.  You see, for the light to shine the vessel must be broken.  For the fragrance of Jesus to be released, the vessel must be broken.  I like what Theodore Steinway said, that forty-thousand pounds of pressure are exerted on the two-hundred forty-five strings of a piano that create beautiful harmony. For the music of Christ to come from our lives, pressure needs to be applied!

            In II Corinthians 4:12 Paul said, So then death is working in us, but life in you. Why did Paul say that?  Because some Corinthian believers had no pressure on them and they put Paul and the other Apostles down because they did. Paul is saying the only reason they have life in Christ is because of the sufferings he has gone through for them.  Not boasting but a reality!

VERSES 13-15

            Paul could speak because Paul believed. What a great principle for us to follow. Morgan, very strongly, put it this way, “That is one great secret of power and success in the Christian ministry.  If you do not believe, shut your mouth. That is a word for young ministers. If you do not believe, do not talk.”  I know that sounds harsh, but what are you going to give to people if you yourself don’t believe?

            Because Paul believed in resurrection life, he lived every day like it might be his last knowing that to be absent from the body, this tent, is to be present with the Lord!  You see, if you don’t believe that, then all kinds of things will move you from the coarse that God has for you.  Listen to how The Living Bible translates II Corinthians 4:15.  We are told, These sufferings of ours are for your benefit. And the more of you who are won to Christ, the more there are to thank him for his great kindness, and the more the Lord is glorified.

            Perspective is everything.  May we keep our eyes on Jesus as We are hard-pressed on every side, yet not crushed; we are perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed.  II Corinthians 4:8-9.  And then speak forth what you believe so that others can come to Jesus and grow in Him!  That is a healthy perspective knowing what can man do to us – absolutely nothing because God is in control and even in death, we live!

VERSE 16

            “What is this there for?”  In light of all these things, don’t give up, don’t lose heart, don’t be afraid, weary, tired, discouraged and-so-on. Why?  Because these bodies are going back to the dust of the earth anyway, God is not building them up but He is building up the inner man. It is as Michelangelo said, “The more marble wasted, the more the statue grows.”

Listen to Paul’s prayer for the Ephesians, he says, For this reason I bow my knees to the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, from whom the whole family in heaven and earth is named, that He would grant you, according to the riches of His glory, to be strengthened with might through His Spirit in the inner man, that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith; that you, being rooted and grounded in love, may be able to comprehend with all the saints what is the width and length and depth and height -- to know the love of Christ which passes knowledge; that you may be filled with all the fullness of God. Now to Him who is able to do exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that works in us, to Him be glory in the church by Christ Jesus to all generations, forever and ever. Amen.  Ephesians 3:14-21.  We tend to spend more time on the outward man that is perishing than the inner man that is eternal!

VERSES 17-18

            “How can Paul say ‘light affliction,’ he has no clue what I am going through?”  The reality is, you don’t know what he went through.  In II Corinthians 11:23-33, from The Living Bible, we are told, They say they serve Christ? But I have served him far more! (Have I gone mad to boast like this?) I have worked harder, been put in jail more often, been whipped times without number, and faced death again and again and again.  Five different times the Jews gave me their terrible thirty-nine lashes.  Three times I was beaten with rods. Once I was stoned. Three times I was shipwrecked. Once I was in the open sea all night and the whole next day.  I have traveled many weary miles and have been often in great danger from flooded rivers and from robbers and from my own people, the Jews, as well as from the hands of the Gentiles. I have faced grave dangers from mobs in the cities and from death in the deserts and in the stormy seas and from men who claim to be brothers in Christ but are not.  I have lived with weariness and pain and sleepless nights. Often I have been hungry and thirsty and have gone without food; often I have shivered with cold, without enough clothing to keep me warm.  Then, besides all this, I have the constant worry of how the churches are getting along: Who makes a mistake and I do not feel his sadness? Who falls without my longing to help him? Who is spiritually hurt without my fury rising against the one who hurt him?  But if I must brag, I would rather brag about the things that show how weak I am . . .

. . . God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who is to be praised forever and ever, knows I tell the truth.  For instance, in Damascus the governor under King Aretas kept guards at the city gates to catch me; but I was let down by rope and basket from a hole in the city wall, and so I got away! [What popularity!]

            You see, they are light when compared with eternity. Yes, you may suffer every day of your life but when compared with eternity, it amounts to nothing. These afflictions can produced anger, bitterness, hardness or glory that will be eternal.  You see, if we can sing with joy in our hearts when we are persecuted, who knows whom God will touch through it!

            In Acts chapter 16 Paul and Silas were in jail for their faith, freeing a demon-possessed girl. And in Acts 16:22-34 we are told, Then the multitude rose up together against them; and the magistrates tore off their clothes and commanded them to be beaten with rods.  And when they had laid many stripes on them, they threw them into prison, commanding the jailer to keep them securely.  Having received such a charge, he put them into the inner prison and fastened their feet in the stocks . . .

. . . But at midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God, and the prisoners were listening to them.  Suddenly there was a great earthquake, so that the foundations of the prison were shaken; and immediately all the doors were opened and everyone's chains were loosed.  And the keeper of the prison, awaking from sleep and seeing the prison doors open, supposing the prisoners had fled, drew his sword and was about to kill himself.  But Paul called with a loud voice, saying, ‘Do yourself no harm, for we are all here.’  Then he called for a light, ran in, and fell down trembling before Paul and Silas.  And he brought them out and said, ‘Sirs, what must I do to be saved?’ So they said, ‘Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and you will be saved, you and your household.’  Then they spoke the word of the Lord to him and to all who were in his house.  And he took them the same hour of the night and washed their stripes. And immediately he and all his family were baptized.  Now when he had brought them into his house, he set food before them; and he rejoiced, having believed in God with all his household. Eternal weight of glory!

            Yes, people can look at our lives from a worldly perspective and see them as nothing. But God looks at our heart, our faithfulness and receives us in glory, when we go to be with the Lord, and the things that are not seen yet will be seen!  May we not lose sight of the work that is before us, the things we will go through, the suffering that will come our way and keep in mind what Paul said in I Corinthians 15:58, Therefore, my beloved brethren, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that your labor is not in vain in the Lord.

II CORINTHIANS

Listen to this study with Real Audio TH2130

            Please turn in your Bibles this evening to II Corinthians chapter 3 as we continue our study through the Word of God.  As we said last time, in this letter Paul is defending his position as an apostle, his character.  False teachers came in and were confusing and swaying the Corinthian believers, some even going back to the keeping of the Law and thus, Paul is going to continue to deal with these issues here in his second letter to the Corinthians. With that said, let’s begin reading in II Corinthians chapter 3 starting in verse 1 and let’s see what the Lord has for us this evening.

II CORINTHIANS 3

 

VERSE 1

            In the early church it was a common practice to send letters of commendation along with people because there were many false teachers who came in trying to deceive the brethren.  Even today as people call and say they would like to come to Calvary to share their gift on a Sunday or Thursday, they have recommendations from other Calvary pastors to authenticate, to show that they are real, not just wolves in sheep’s clothing.  Here Paul is saying “Do I really need to validate my ministry to you or get letters from you to prove or validate my ministry to others?”  Why did he need letters, they all knew Paul, he spent 18 months ministering to them?  (Acts 18:11).  Because many rejected his authority, his apostleship, even though it was the Lord who gave him this position in the body of Christ.  So how did Paul defend himself here? Let’s read on and see.

VERSES 2-3

            Paul says to them, “You want proof? You are our proof, you are the fruit that was born out of the ministry!”  You might say that they were living letters that validated Paul’s ministry.  Even today that is still true, fruit is our testimony.  Remember in Numbers chapter 16 as Korah rose up against Moses and Aaron, challenging their position of leadership they had and God judged Korah for their rebellion. Then in Numbers chapter 17 God shows the children of Israel who is to be called by God as priest and Moses gathers 12 rods, one from each of the 12 tribes of Israel and placed these rods before the Lord in the tabernacle of witness. Then in Numbers 17:8 we are told, Now it came to pass on the next day that Moses went into the tabernacle of witness, and behold, the rod of Aaron, of the house of Levi, had sprouted and put forth buds, had produced blossoms and yielded ripe almonds.  Fruit is the evidence of God’s calling or as Poole put it, “Nothing so commends a minister as the proficiency of his people.”

            In Exodus 24:12 the Lord told Moses He would put the Law on tablets of stone, but that was only temporary, for in Jeremiah 31:33 we are told, But this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, says the LORD: I will put My law in their minds, and write it on their hearts; and I will be their God, and they shall be My people.  And in Ezekiel 36:26 we are told, I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit within you; I will take the heart of stone out of your flesh and give you a heart of flesh.

            Thus, as we come to Christ, our hearts of stone are replaced with hearts of flesh that are now sensitive to the things of God.  Also, as people look at us they don’t see some cold, lifeless monument made of stone, at least they shouldn’t, but a living, breathing epistle or letter of Christ and what He has done in our lives for people to see and read!

VERSES 4-6

            Paul did not want the Corinthians to think he was boasting in what he accomplished and he tells them it was Christ working through him that enabled him to do these things or as Paul said, our sufficiency is from God.  Back in I Corinthians 2:1-5 Paul tells us, And I, brethren, when I came to you, did not come with excellence of speech or of wisdom declaring to you the testimony of God.  For I determined not to know anything among you except Jesus Christ and Him crucified.  I was with you in weakness, in fear, and in much trembling.  And my speech and my preaching were not with persuasive words of human wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power, that your faith should not be in the wisdom of men but in the power of God.

            How many of you feel you are ready for God to use you now?  Folks, we are never ready, we never feel adequate and that is the point.  Paul did not say, “Our sufficiency is in ourselves, our education, our experiences, our talents or whatever” but that “Our sufficiency is from God.”  If you truly believe that then you can rest in Him for it is the Lord working in you and through you and that truly takes the pressure off of you!

            What are we, as slaves to do?  To take the New Covenant, DIATHEKE (dee-ath-ay’-kay) in the Greek.  Of this word Moulton and Milligan tell us that it is “An ‘arrangement’ made by one party with plenary power, which the other party may accept or reject, but cannot altar . . . a covenant offered by God to man was no ‘compact’ between two parties coming together on equal terms.”  In other words, it is a unilateral covenant based upon the faithfulness of God and the finished work of Christ and all we must do is receive it by faith. That is what we bring to people, the Gospel of Jesus Christ, the grace of God for we are saved by grace through faith and not by the Law through works.  Paul tells us in Romans 8:2-4,For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has made me free from the law of sin and death.  For what the law could not do in that it was weak through the flesh, God did by sending His own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, on account of sin: He condemned sin in the flesh, that the righteous requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us who do not walk according to the flesh but according to the Spirit.

            You see, the Law is good but man is not.  The Law can’t save us, it can only show that we are sinners separated from God, thus, it brings death to us.  But the Spirit of God brings to us the grace of God found in Jesus which gives us life.  Remember as Moses went up on Mount Sinai to get the Law the children of Israel were already breaking it and God judged them for it, 3,000 men died that day when the Law was given, (Exodus 32:28).  Then, on the Day of Pentecost, as the Gospel of Grace was given, 3,000 men were saved!  (Acts 2:41). Thus, the Law kills but the Spirit gives life!

VERSES 7-11

            Paul wants the Corinthians to understand that the Law was not bad, it was not evil, the Law is good, it is perfect, it is right!  In fact the face of Moses glowed with the presence of God but it would not last, that glory faded. Why is that?  Listen to what Paul tells us in Galatians 3:19-26, What purpose then does the law serve? It was added because of transgressions, till the Seed should come to whom the promise was made; and it was appointed through angels by the hand of a mediator.  Now a mediator does not mediate for one only, but God is one.  Is the law then against the promises of God? Certainly not! For if there had been a law given which could have given life, truly righteousness would have been by the law.  But the Scripture has confined all under sin, that the promise by faith in Jesus Christ might be given to those who believe.  But before faith came, we were kept under guard by the law, kept for the faith which would afterward be revealed.  Therefore the law was our tutor to bring us to Christ, that we might be justified by faith.  But after faith has come, we are no longer under a tutor.  For you are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus.

            The purpose of the Law is to show us that we are sinners, it points us to the Messiah and just as Moses could not take the children of Israel into the Promise Land, neither can the Law take us into the new life.  Thus, Joshua, or Jesus took them in just as Jesus takes us into the new life!  The Law is good but it pale’s in comparison to the New Covenant for one brings death and the other life!

VERSES 12-16

            Please notice the contrast here between Paul and Moses.  Paul was bold to speak of the glory of the New Covenant because that glory will never fade away. But Moses, he covered his face because he did not want the children of Israel to see the fading glory of the Old Covenant.  Also, the children of Israel didn’t see the glory, it was covered, it was concealed but now in Christ the glory is revealed, we can see it and it is glorious!

            Now, for both Jews and Gentiles, the god of this age, Satan, has blinded, covered the face of people so they will not see Jesus.  It doesn’t matter how much you show them, if their eyes are covered, they can’t see!  Only Jesus can remove that veil so they can see, and thus, through prayer, binding the strongman, Satan, the eyes of those who can’t see will be opened and they will see Jesus!  It truly is a spiritual battle for the lives of men!

VERSE 17

            How many people place themselves under the Law today, just as they tried to do in Paul’s day?  It doesn’t work!  Yes, you may be able to shine for a while as you try to keep the Law but you will fail and fade because you are a sinner, we all are and we can’t keep the Law perfectly, as God requires!  Thus, where the Spirit of the Lord is, leading us to the grace of God through Jesus, we have liberty and we have freedom!  This is not a license to do whatever you want but a freedom to live honoring the Lord!  What happens as we do?  Let’s read on and see.

VERSE 18

            Now that the veil has been removed by Christ we can see Him through the Word of God. Yes, we can’t see Him clearly as face-to-face, but as we study, meditate, apply God’s Word to our lives the Holy Spirit is transforming us into the image of God step-by-step.  It is a life-long process as John tells us, Beloved, now we are children of God; and it has not yet been revealed what we shall be, but we know that when He is revealed, we shall be like Him, for we shall see Him as He is.   I John 3:2.  And notice that Paul doesn’t say, “from backsliding to glory” but from glory to glory.  That is how it should be!  David said in Psalm 17:15, As for me, I will see Your face in righteousness; I shall be satisfied when I awake in Your likeness.  May that be our hearts desire, to be satisfied as we are transformed into the likeness of God and that happens as we gaze upon Him and allow the Spirit of God to transform us!  And folks, He will complete the work in us, so don’t give up, He doesn’t!

II CORINTHIANS 4

 

VERSES 1-2

            When you see the word therefore ask yourself “what is it therefore?”  Paul uses it here because God has removed the covering from our eyes and we can see Jesus, and so let us boldly bring the Gospel of Christ forward, let us not be a “faint-hearted coward.”  You see, if God has done this for us, we should be able to go forth and bring the message to others.

            Please listen carefully to these words from Charles Spurgeon spoken long ago but fits in perfectly today.  He tells us, “Certain divines tells us that they must adapt truth to the advance of the age, which means that they must murder it and fling its dead body to the dogs . . . which simply means that a popular lie shall take the place of an offensive truth.” Think about that and today’s Seeker Friendly churches.  They try to trick people to come in and then they water down the Gospel so much with the idea that some might get saved.  Paul tells us that he just speaks the truth, he doesn’t water it down or try to trick people into the kingdom of God and may we be like Paul!  Paul’s ministry, his life was one of integrity and even if some would try to come against him, their own conscience knew Paul was a man of integrity, truth.  May that be seen in our own lives!

VERSES 3-4

            Notice that Paul is not blaming God or even himself for those that reject Jesus.  First the Devil has blinded their eyes and secondly, people are responsible for rejecting the Lord, for not wanting to believe.  Listen to what Jesus said in John 3:16-21, For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.  For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved.  He who believes in Him is not condemned; but he who does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God.  And this is the condemnation, that the light has come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil.  For everyone practicing evil hates the light and does not come to the light, lest his deeds should be exposed.  But he who does the truth comes to the light, that his deeds may be clearly seen, that they have been done in God. You see, they don’t believe because they love the darkness, the sin, the things they are doing more than God and thus, they are condemned for it!

            Today we have all these different sunblocks, in our house we have anywhere from SPF 6 to SPF 30!  The idea is these lotions are to block out the harmful rays of the sun so we don’t get skin cancer.  Now, in regards to our spiritual life, we can put things in our lives that block out the Son of God, we have so much stuff that He can’t touch our lives and transform us. Let Jesus shine on you and you will shine for Him!

VERSES 5-6

            We see all kinds of programs in the church today, even 12-step programs and they miss the point, it is a one-step program – it is Jesus Christ!  Paul is going to tell us in II Corinthians 5:17, Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new.  Or as The Amplified Bible puts it,Therefore if any person is [ingrafted] in Christ (the Messiah) he is a new creation (a new creature altogether); the old [previous moral and spiritual condition] has passed away. Behold, the fresh and new has come!”  The light of God has touched our lives and like being out in the sun affects our skin, so being in the Son of God affects our nature!  If you want to be more like Jesus, spend more time with Him!

VERSE 7

            Imagine the most beautiful diamond being displayed in an old, used matchbox.  All the glory would go to the diamond and nothing to the matchbox!  Thus, God has taken this treasure, the Gospel of Jesus Christ, the light of God, and placed it in these bodies of flesh, kind of like your everyday dishes instead of your fine china!  Why?  Because I can’t boast in how great I am and how lucky God is to have such a wonderful man as me, and neither can you – all the glory goes to God!

            In Judges chapter 7 we read the story of Gideon battling the 135,000 Midianites. You remember the story, Gideon had 32,000 soldiers and the Lord told Gideon it was too many so whoever was fearful was to leave and 22,000 left!  Still too many and the Lord brought Gideon’s army down to 300 men against 135,000 Midianites.  Why did He do that?  So when Israel was victorious they would not take the glory but give it to the Lord. Now here is the battle plan for Gideon and his men, Then he divided the three hundred men into three companies, and he put a trumpet into every man's hand, with empty pitchers, and torches inside the pitchers.  And he said to them, ‘Look at me and do likewise; watch, and when I come to the edge of the camp you shall do as I do: When I blow the trumpet, I and all who are with me, then you also blow the trumpets on every side of the whole camp, and say, “The sword of the LORD and of Gideon!”’  So Gideon and the hundred men who were with him came to the outpost of the camp at the beginning of the middle watch, just as they had posted the watch; and they blew the trumpets and broke the pitchers that were in their hands.  Judges 7:16-19.  And God gave Israel the victory but let me say this, the clay pots had to be broken before the light of the torches could shine and thus, Paul is now going to speak of brokenness, a brokenness that allows God to shine forth through us!

VERSES 8-12

            Notice the contrasting points Paul is making here. Yes, he is being pressured, squeezed in but he is not crushed because the Lord is with him.  Yes, situations are perplexing, they are bad, it may look like there is no way out but Paul was not utterly lost in the situation because Jesus was there with him.  Paul faced much persecution in his life for Christ, he suffered much but he knew the Lord would not leave him there, the Lord would see him through it because the Lord was with him. Yes, he was cast down, thrown down, stoned but God spared him, saved his life!

            How could Paul do that?  How could Paul feel that way?  Because he saw the sufferings of Christ, all He went through and realized as the servant of the Lord he has and will continue to have to go through these things for a servant is not better than his master!  In Mark 10:45 Jesus said, For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many.  Also, in Philippians 3:10 Paul said, that I may know Him and the power of His resurrection, and the fellowship of His sufferings, being conformed to His death.  You see, for the light to shine the vessel must be broken.  For the fragrance of Jesus to be released, the vessel must be broken.  I like what Theodore Steinway said, that forty-thousand pounds of pressure are exerted on the two-hundred forty-five strings of a piano that create beautiful harmony. For the music of Christ to come from our lives, pressure needs to be applied!

            In II Corinthians 4:12 Paul said, So then death is working in us, but life in you. Why did Paul say that?  Because some Corinthian believers had no pressure on them and they put Paul and the other Apostles down because they did. Paul is saying the only reason they have life in Christ is because of the sufferings he has gone through for them.  Not boasting but a reality!

VERSES 13-15

            Paul could speak because Paul believed. What a great principle for us to follow. Morgan, very strongly, put it this way, “That is one great secret of power and success in the Christian ministry.  If you do not believe, shut your mouth. That is a word for young ministers. If you do not believe, do not talk.”  I know that sounds harsh, but what are you going to give to people if you yourself don’t believe?

            Because Paul believed in resurrection life, he lived every day like it might be his last knowing that to be absent from the body, this tent, is to be present with the Lord!  You see, if you don’t believe that, then all kinds of things will move you from the coarse that God has for you.  Listen to how The Living Bible translates II Corinthians 4:15.  We are told, These sufferings of ours are for your benefit. And the more of you who are won to Christ, the more there are to thank him for his great kindness, and the more the Lord is glorified.

            Perspective is everything.  May we keep our eyes on Jesus as We are hard-pressed on every side, yet not crushed; we are perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed.  II Corinthians 4:8-9.  And then speak forth what you believe so that others can come to Jesus and grow in Him!  That is a healthy perspective knowing what can man do to us – absolutely nothing because God is in control and even in death, we live!

VERSE 16

            “What is this there for?”  In light of all these things, don’t give up, don’t lose heart, don’t be afraid, weary, tired, discouraged and-so-on. Why?  Because these bodies are going back to the dust of the earth anyway, God is not building them up but He is building up the inner man. It is as Michelangelo said, “The more marble wasted, the more the statue grows.”

Listen to Paul’s prayer for the Ephesians, he says, For this reason I bow my knees to the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, from whom the whole family in heaven and earth is named, that He would grant you, according to the riches of His glory, to be strengthened with might through His Spirit in the inner man, that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith; that you, being rooted and grounded in love, may be able to comprehend with all the saints what is the width and length and depth and height -- to know the love of Christ which passes knowledge; that you may be filled with all the fullness of God. Now to Him who is able to do exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that works in us, to Him be glory in the church by Christ Jesus to all generations, forever and ever. Amen.  Ephesians 3:14-21.  We tend to spend more time on the outward man that is perishing than the inner man that is eternal!

VERSES 17-18

            “How can Paul say ‘light affliction,’ he has no clue what I am going through?”  The reality is, you don’t know what he went through.  In II Corinthians 11:23-33, from The Living Bible, we are told, They say they serve Christ? But I have served him far more! (Have I gone mad to boast like this?) I have worked harder, been put in jail more often, been whipped times without number, and faced death again and again and again.  Five different times the Jews gave me their terrible thirty-nine lashes.  Three times I was beaten with rods. Once I was stoned. Three times I was shipwrecked. Once I was in the open sea all night and the whole next day.  I have traveled many weary miles and have been often in great danger from flooded rivers and from robbers and from my own people, the Jews, as well as from the hands of the Gentiles. I have faced grave dangers from mobs in the cities and from death in the deserts and in the stormy seas and from men who claim to be brothers in Christ but are not.  I have lived with weariness and pain and sleepless nights. Often I have been hungry and thirsty and have gone without food; often I have shivered with cold, without enough clothing to keep me warm.  Then, besides all this, I have the constant worry of how the churches are getting along: Who makes a mistake and I do not feel his sadness? Who falls without my longing to help him? Who is spiritually hurt without my fury rising against the one who hurt him?  But if I must brag, I would rather brag about the things that show how weak I am . . .

. . . God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who is to be praised forever and ever, knows I tell the truth.  For instance, in Damascus the governor under King Aretas kept guards at the city gates to catch me; but I was let down by rope and basket from a hole in the city wall, and so I got away! [What popularity!]

            You see, they are light when compared with eternity. Yes, you may suffer every day of your life but when compared with eternity, it amounts to nothing. These afflictions can produced anger, bitterness, hardness or glory that will be eternal.  You see, if we can sing with joy in our hearts when we are persecuted, who knows whom God will touch through it!

            In Acts chapter 16 Paul and Silas were in jail for their faith, freeing a demon-possessed girl. And in Acts 16:22-34 we are told, Then the multitude rose up together against them; and the magistrates tore off their clothes and commanded them to be beaten with rods.  And when they had laid many stripes on them, they threw them into prison, commanding the jailer to keep them securely.  Having received such a charge, he put them into the inner prison and fastened their feet in the stocks . . .

. . . But at midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God, and the prisoners were listening to them.  Suddenly there was a great earthquake, so that the foundations of the prison were shaken; and immediately all the doors were opened and everyone's chains were loosed.  And the keeper of the prison, awaking from sleep and seeing the prison doors open, supposing the prisoners had fled, drew his sword and was about to kill himself.  But Paul called with a loud voice, saying, ‘Do yourself no harm, for we are all here.’  Then he called for a light, ran in, and fell down trembling before Paul and Silas.  And he brought them out and said, ‘Sirs, what must I do to be saved?’ So they said, ‘Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and you will be saved, you and your household.’  Then they spoke the word of the Lord to him and to all who were in his house.  And he took them the same hour of the night and washed their stripes. And immediately he and all his family were baptized.  Now when he had brought them into his house, he set food before them; and he rejoiced, having believed in God with all his household. Eternal weight of glory!

            Yes, people can look at our lives from a worldly perspective and see them as nothing. But God looks at our heart, our faithfulness and receives us in glory, when we go to be with the Lord, and the things that are not seen yet will be seen!  May we not lose sight of the work that is before us, the things we will go through, the suffering that will come our way and keep in mind what Paul said in I Corinthians 15:58, Therefore, my beloved brethren, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that your labor is not in vain in the Lord.

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