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August 24, 2021 7:00 am
This week we want to dig into Paul's second letter to the Corinthian church. This is probably one of the most ignored letters and under red letters and under estimated letters in all the New Testament, I guarantee you, most of you have not spent as much time here as you have in Romans or Ephesians or others, but it is a precious letter. One of my very favorites and I hope by the time I'm gone. My enthusiasm for this letter will rub off on you. Let's talk a little bit this to a little bit of review member. The apostle Paul came to Corinth in 50 to 51 A.D. he let a bunch of people to Christ. The established church. He spent 18 months. They are discipling the believers and then he left town. Sadly, however, the church in Corinth went on to become the most carnal and fleshly church that the apostle Paul ever started. In fact, Paul has already written one letter to them the letter of first Corinthians from Ephesus, where he was discipling the young believers in that church about their multiple issues in Corinth of sin and carnality we studied that letter last week and and now we find out in second Corinthians that Paul had hoped his first letter would clear everything up all of the problems but it did. As a matter of fact on top of everything else.
Paul now here's an emphasis that a group of false teachers have moved into the church of Corinth and that they were teaching not only false doctrine. There, but that they were undermining Paul's character and his apostolic credentials. He also learns while these an emphasis that this movement against him is gaining traction in Corinth and that it's beginning to turn many of the Corinthian believers against Paul and so Paul made a trip from Ephesus to Corinth in 53 A.D. to try and straighten out all this mess and on this trip.
He was tried to be very gentle. He tried to be extremely soft with the believers in Corinth, but they misinterpreted that for weakness and so they just ignored it. This is why he says in second Corinthians 1010 for his enemies. These false teachers from say Paul's letters are weighty but in person. He is unimpressive. Well, they're talking about this visit. When Paul tried to be nice and easy and gentle with them so Paul decides to make 1/3 journey to Corinth. He says in second Corinthians 13 one. This will be the third time I am coming to see you and let's let's remind ourselves what the times are the first time.
The apostle Paul came to Corinth was when we started the church yet right. Acts chapter 18 the second time Paul went to Corinth we just mentioned it was between the two letters first and second Corinthians, to try to iron out the problems there and now Paul says I'm about to make 1/3 visit and he tells them. I just want you to know I'm through with the gentle approach.
Listen to what Paul says.
He says chapter 13 verse two. I told you previously says that is when I was there on my second visit and all the laughs and I say again in advance to those who have sinned and to all the rest of you as well that when I come this third time, I will not spare anyone.
I am writing this, Paul says while absent in the hopes, my way though in those than when I arrived there I will not have to use severity in accordance with the authority that the Lord has given me as an apostle yell, so I did want to tell you I would not want to be on the receiving end of Paul coming into town like this.
Would you know, not at all. So Paul's letter to the Corinthians.
The second letter by way of review them has three purposes one to exhort the Corinthians to clean up their act. Cleanup the sin in the church so that Paul doesn't have to when he gets there.
Number two to expose these false teachers and warn the Corinthians not to listen to them and number three to defend himself from the accusations that these false teachers were making against him.
And of these three purposes it's really purpose number three that dominates the letter of second Corinthians.
Let's talk for a minute about these false teachers who were in Corinth y'all still with me about okay, okay, we often call these guys Judaizers. That's the common name that is used today. They were Jews from Jerusalem who claimed that they believed in Jesus, but who taught a different plan of salvation, a different gospel then the apostle Paul and all the rest of the apostles taught in second Corinthians chapter 11 verse four Paul says that these men quoting now preach another Jesus, whom we have not breached and the another gospel a different gospel. Now what was this different gospel that these Judaizers preached. Well, these guys went around telling Gentile Christians that yes trusting the work of Christ on the cross is good but you still have to keep the Old Testament law to be say. So the difference was make sure you get this now when it comes to getting into heaven and getting eternal life.
Here's the difference. The true gospel wanted Paul was preaching and Peter and James and John isn't getting into heaven and getting eternal life is based on trusting the shed blood of Jesus plus nothing to Judaizers gospel said that heaven and eternal life are based on trusting the blood of Jesus plus human works, and in this case Jewish religious works, being circumcised, keeping the Sabbath observing the kosher laws and so on. You see the difference okay and the Bible tells us that these Judaizers followed Paul around wherever he went, and when he would leave town, they would infiltrate the young church that Paul had established in whatever town it was and they would begin to theologically mislead all the baby Christians that Paul had left behind, and this is just what they had started to do in Corinth. Now Paul did not like these guys because they were misleading people because they were teaching heresy because they were distorting the gospel wasn't personal, but he didn't like him. In Galatians 1 verse eight he says they should be accursed in second Corinthians 1113 I love this why he says for such men are false apostles, deceitful workers, disguising themselves as apostles of Christ. I watched for Satan disguises himself as an angel of light. So is it any wonder that his servants also disguise themselves as servants of righteousness to see what he just did here.
He just called these guys servants of Satan keep all tell us how you really feel he did not like these guys. And guess what they did like him. And when they moved in the Corinth, they began to to make allegations against him and they began to criticize the may criticize his physical appearance. They made fun of his speaking skills. They impugned his motives in the service of Christ. They accused him of being arrogant. They challenged his credentials as a true apostle of Christ.
All of this you find right in second Corinthians. I've given you the references and on and on and on it went with these guys and as we said a moment ago. This constant stream of slander against Paul was beginning to turn the Corinthian believers against Paul and it broke Paul's heart.
Remember he had led most of these people to Christ the Savior 18 months discipling them. I mean anybody ought to know the heart of Paul. It should have been. These guys and it broke his heart that they were turning against him and look what he says in his letter he says to them. Second Corinthians 72 make room for us meeting himself in your heart. We wronged no one, we corrupted no one, we we were there with you.
You know us.
We took advantage of.
No one we conducted ourselves toward you in holiness and godly security. God knows he says I love you, for I will gladly spend everything and he spent for you. So let's summarize the apostle Paul writes this letter of second Corinthians and 53 to 54 A.D. on his way traveling there number one to deal with the ongoing sin in that church number two to expose these false teachers and to who has crept into the church and to tell the Corinthians not to listen to them and number three to defend himself personally from the attacks of these Judaizers and the result is one of the most personal. I think the most personal of all of Paul's letters in the New Testament. You see his heart. You see, his motives you see you know what motivates him. He really bears his heart and his soul.
In this letter and I want to urge you now with this little bit of background that I've given you to go back and really read this letter. Understanding now what's going on and to let Paul's love for these people's spiritual children in Christ and to let Paul's heart for the work of the gospel and for the truth of the gospel grip you now that you understand a little bit of what he's talking about and what's going on with me. All right, now that's as far as were going to go in second Corinthians, because now you understand it right right okay we are now going to stop and ask our most important question. So are you ready in.
Are you ready are you all you guys allowed and you ready, here we go nice allowed. Come on now want to pray for Alonso one will were going to do with this letter. What we've done with so many of the really large letters in the New Testament, and that is what is going to pick one vitally important spiritual truth that is covered in the letter to focus on as we can possibly cover the whole letter and we find this one truth in second Corinthians chapter 12 let's look at the context before we dig in verse two Paul says I knew a man he's talking about himself 14 years ago was caught up to the third heaven don't even ask. I have no idea our and and this man was caught up in the paradise. I can tell you that's what it means and heard things that a man is not permitted to repeat here on earth. Can you imagine what Paul must've seen. Can you imagine what Paul must've experienced that he wasn't even allowed to come back and tell us about it. You say, why wouldn't he be allowed to come back and tell us about it.
I don't know. My suspicion is if we really knew how great heaven was everybody he would go down and jump in front of the Metro to get there as soon as we could because that's how great it is, but that's only a guess. I don't know why he wasn't permitted to tell us watch but because of the greatness of these revelations that God gave me to keep me from exalting myself. There was given me a thorn in the flesh, a messenger of Satan to torment me.
The King James translate this word buffet me and literally means beat somebody black and blue to buffet me to beat me up to keep me from exalting myself. You say, what was his thorn in the flesh.
We don't know, some kind of physical malady of some kind of Paul was suffering from some people think it's bad eyesight. We really don't know but whatever it was it was definitely beating him up and he was suffering from it. Watch concerning this thorn, I asked the Lord three times that it might depart from me, guys. You think the apostle Paul had a good prayer life, not would you like to be able to pray like the apostle Paul knew how to pray.
Yeah, three times. He prayed and asked God to take it away from him and three times God told him no, my grace is sufficient. He said, but no Paul I'm not taking it away from now. Here's our question. That's our context here's our question why why did God say I'm not taking this away even though it's causing you suffering Paul will be answer is that there wasn't some anything wrong with Paul's prayer life. The answer is that God was using this suffering to produce some spiritual things in Paul's life that God knew he couldn't produce any other way that followers of Christ today, my friends, this is really important that we understand this, we must understand God is not Santa Claus. We must understand God is not a genie in the lamp who gives us whatever we want. God is our heavenly what father he's our parent and we are his children and his goal is to raise us as his children to be godly and holy and Christlike people and to do this, there are certain spiritual things he must teach us that we can only learn through the gateway of suffering that's why you left this in Paul's life now. What are these three things.
Well let me tell you what they are and were done number one is humility. Let's go back to what Paul just said in second Corinthians 12. Stay with me because of the greatness of these revelations. Paul says to keep me from next two words exalting myself. There was given me a thorn in the flesh, a messenger of Satan to buffet me and just in case you didn't catch it the first time Paul tells you why again. How was he say to keep me from what exalting myself. That's right folks.
First Peter 55 God as opposed to the proud but gives grace to the humble. Proverbs chapter 15 verse 32 says before, on or comes what humility pay the Bible's clear friends.
In order for God to bless us.
He's got a humblest and he's gotta keep us humble and only suffering humbles our high opinion of ourselves and only ongoing suffering keeps us ongoing Lee humble, which is why God lets all of us as Christians have some in our life.
You know what I've learned that success doesn't produce humility in anybody. You learn that now I never heard anybody get humble from success noted that it produces the opposite produces arrogance and can we be honest enough to say that were all arrogant or are you okay with that yeah will in the flesh. We all are right. Some of us have a bigger problem with that than others, but were all arrogant and God is opposed to the arrogant someone ordered to bless our lives what you gotta do what you gotta do is gotta teach us how to be humble and keep us that way. That's why he sent suffering in our life. There is nothing else that lets the air out of a balloon like suffering number two. The second spiritual thing that we can learn only through suffering is reliance on God instead of ourselves to the work. Paul's testimony second Corinthians chapter 1 he says we want you to know brothers about the hardships we suffer in Ephesus. We were afflicted far beyond our ability and felt the sentence of death in ourselves. This happened to us what this Paul said God let this happen to us what the in order that we might what's the next word.
Learn area go, that we might learn something.
Not to rely on ourselves but on God.
Let's be honest again and admit not only are we all arrogant in the flesh, but we are all self-sufficient in the flesh.
We are all self-reliant in our flesh we all want to depend on ourselves instead of God or anybody else that's just the way were made and it's only when God brings us to the water and of ourselves through suffering work out a plan and were out of ideas and what outer schemes where out of everything we got nothing. Only then do we learn and are we willing to rely on God hundred percent because we don't have anything else we don't have anything else so hey I level one country preacher said.
He said that this when you get to this point you are shipwrecked on omnipotence, a love and and when you God takes it all away in your suffering. Hey you know what, that's when we learn how to depend on Christ instead of ourselves. And folks, this by depending on Christ instead of ourselves. This is how we unlock the power of God in our life but the only way to get us there is to take everything and strip us down because given the chance to trust ourselves. Why we will Paul says.
He says most gladly. This is the most un-American verse in the Bible. Most gladly therefore I will boast in my weaknesses that the power of Christ may rest on me.
Look for when I am we and rely on Jesus instead of myself. Then I am strong now to an unbeliever.
This is oxymoronic nonsense.
I just read, but for those of us who know crisis makes all the sense in the world because when we are not relying on ourselves but on the Holy Spirit himself. That's when were really strong. A man, a man in the only way to get us there is to suffering. Finally, number three lesson we only learn to the doorway of suffering is mercy and compassion for other people watch, Paul says, second Corinthians 1. Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our what sufferings that we may next word. What learn how to comfort others who are in any suffering with the comfort God has given us. Have you ever been in a situation where you can go into terrible pain in your life is been a terrible tragedy in your life and all these people come up to you and the patch on the back civil to pray for you, you know, don't forget Romans 828 all things work together for good, God get you know, give thanks on saying and and and you know they mean well, but the pistol root, they don't give any real comfort you know you feel worse sometimes when they walk away and then there's this one person who comes across the church lobby. Maybe with tears in their eyes. They fill their arms around you and they just hug you and maybe they'll say were but they just stand there with you and hold you and weep with you and you get more comfort from that person. All the other people who walked by you. Pat me on the back now to that person know how to do that I had that happen once in the worst days with my daughter Jill.
Someone did that here church and I just broke down and wept like a baby and they were holding me up literally holding me up.
How did they learn to comfort people like that will they suffer.
That's how you can be sure my friends that the person who comforts. The best is the person who was suffered the most.
When I was in Egypt in 2004, leading the tour we were in the L Khalili bazaar out of any of you ever been there to see huge bizarre in our group was spread all around buying stuff in and I was sitting with a couple of friends on the tour having a cup of coffee at one of the little outdoor cafés and as we were just sitting there talking up came this young lady she looked to be about. I don't know, 15, 16, 17 something like that Egyptian and she handed me a little laminated card and on this card it said I cannot speak but I am trying to better myself by going to school. Will you help me and sorry for my pocket. I took out 50 Egyptian pounds is not that much money, but for an Egyptian it's a fair bit of money and I gave it to, and you wouldn't believe what happened next. She fell on her knees right there in the middle of the bazaar and took my hand and started kissing my hand and rubbing her face against my hand, with tears coming down her face and I kept trying to get her to get up and I kept trying to tell her you know I kept making the sign of the cross, telling her that I was given a tour because of Jesus. But you know I did know how to speak Arabic and she couldn't say anything and she just kept kissing my hand and kissing my hand and rubbing her face so my end. And finally, when she went away. One of the people who was sitting with me said man that was pretty amazing. He said why did you give her the money and I sauté why I said because for 12 years I've been living with a little girl who can't speak and we suffered together and we've her. Together, and I said you know what, 12 years ago I wouldn't even notice that girl 12 years ago. If she to come up tried to give me that card to just shoot her way which God is change my life to suffering and friends. That's what happens when we suffer. All of a sudden, God changes us into people who now see things we didn't see before.
And we feel things we didn't feel before and we understand the hurts of other people like we didn't understand before. And that's what God wants to do and you with your follower of Christ is to get you to that point and friends.
The only way he can get you and me. There is to the doorway, suffering to summarize their some levels of Christian growth that we can only attain to the doorway, suffering, number one genuine deep humility number two other reliance on God instead of ourselves. And number three compassion and mercy for other people, you know, if we were to go around tonight and asked for prayer requests.
I'll bet you every single one of us here could give a prayer request about something happening in our lives really hurts bad that we are really struggling with that is really causing suffering in our life because there suffering in everybody's life and we have to get over the idea my friends that his followers of Jesus. One day the heavens are just going to open and all of a sudden the sons coming through and they'll never be any more problems in our life and the never be anymore suffering in our life. We got to get over that idea because it's not going to happen because it's not God's plan for us to have no suffering in our life because it wouldn't be good for us to have no suffering in our life friends, if you had no suffering and pain in your life. If God took the pressure off you and me almost immediately, we would inflate right up like a puffer fish and be the most arrogant person be the most self-reliant person be the most callous person to other people in need no as followers of Christ suffering is meant to be in our life that is the truth and don't you accept some cheap and superficial explanation for your suffering from some TV preacher or some radio preacher that you don't have enough faith that your prayer life and strong enough that God is doesn't favor and told him that no, no, no, that's all lies. Suffering will always be in your life in my life because you know why suffering burns out shallowness in our lives. That's why we close with a quote from the great St. Andrew Murray. Some of you may know who he is part of his life. He was bedridden with a bad back wasn't able to walk and here's what he wrote. He said God brought me here by his will and in that I will rest. He is teaching me and in his good time he will bring me out. Therefore, I am here in bed suffering by his appointment in his keeping under his training and for his specified time, not my will but his be done to embrace the suffering God sends into our life because we understand why it's there.
We understand what God wants to use it to do. This is a mark of spiritual maturity.
Paul said that I would boast in my weaknesses in my suffering. Andrew Murray said that friends. That's where I hope you and I can get to Sprague with our heads bowed and her eyes closed. I want to give you a moment to talk to God about that prayer request that you would've given me a moment ago. Without asking that's causing pain and heartache and suffering two years and I want you to talk to God and tell him that you understand better now why that's there and asked for his help to embrace it. Instead of despising because of the lessons he's going to teach you through, take a moment and pray. Dear Lord Jesus is not one of us here who likes pain and is not a one of us here who wants it in our life.
The Lord help us to learn the lessons of tonight and help us to embrace the pain and suffering that you allowed them to each one of our lives is your children because we understand why it's there. We understand what you're trying to teach us no better bring us to the place that we can say with the apostle Paul. I boast in my weaknesses for when I am weak in Christ can be strong in me change our lives because we were here tonight and encourage our hearts, even through the hard time we pray these things in Jesus name. What are God's people say that