While Dave visits family this week, I’ll be filling in and building a message from II Corinthians. Here are a few thoughts from our next chapter (3) in this second letter to the Corinthians.
Last week, Dave addressed God’s desire for reconciliation and restoration in church community, and challenged us to embrace the “messiness” of conflict and healing in church relationships (an alternative to running away from the problems).
In chapter 3, Paul initiates a theme that winds through the whole book–that of shoring up his AUTHORITY to preach the gospel and advise the church.
Remember that Paul was an “itinerant” missionary. Though he sometimes spent as much as a year in one place, establishing and nurturing a small church there, he eventually moved on to other parts of the Mediterranean world. This left the young believers in these pagan regions vulnerable to secular influences, cult-driven worship, or heresies spun by opportunistic “evangelists” who dropped in after Paul left. It appears that some of these bad “influencers” in Corinth had questioned Paul’s ministry–perhaps it wasn’t “philosophical enough” for them, his message was “too simple,” his miracles weren’t “convincing” enough, etc.
Whatever the reason, Paul thinks it’s important to establish in this letter that he is in fact working on behalf of Jesus, and the true gospel.
So, how does he make his case? In chapter 3, he begins by suggesting that TRANSFORMATIONAL SPIRITUAL GROWTH is the best marker for deciding if Paul’s ministry is legit. He argues that “letters” (dependence on the Old Testament law, or perhaps some kind of deep philosophical knowledge) are not capable of changing lives. But the Corinthians who believed Paul’s gospel are noticing a real, marked difference in their behaviors, their attitudes, their relationships–now that they’ve entered into a relationship with God through Christ.
Paul sets this down to the work of the Holy Spirit! It’s not a set of doctrines, a body of rituals, or a “feel good” inspirational message that makes us more like Jesus–it’s the confidence that we are accepted, loved, and invited into intimacy with Jesus by His indwelling Spirit.
That’s the GOOD NEWS–and it makes a gradual, but real difference in our lives. That is, if we live out the reality in our daily experience!
So, here are some questions you might want to incorporate into ABF time:
- Do I feel uncomfortable sharing the “gospel” with my unsaved friends and families? Why, or why not? Do I not trust the message enough–or its potential to make a difference in someone’s life–to share it with an unbeliever?
- Have I seen any gradual improvement in my attitudes, behaviors and relationships since coming to Jesus? Am I STILL growing in these areas (if only, a little at a time . . . discussed in vs. 18)? If not, WHY, or what might be missing from my exercise of faith?
- Do I still fear condemnation from God, given that the ministry of “righteousness” (“just approval by God”) has rescued me from the punishment attached to my sin? Why might I be afraid to embrace and offer grace to others, though I say I believe in it?
Hope these thoughts lead us to drink deeply of God’s Word this coming Sunday (and throughout the week)!