Sabbatical 2017

Sabbatical 2017
Arc de Triumph

Saturday, December 3, 2016

Chronological Reading Plan for Dec 4, 2 Cor 5-9

Today's readings are 2 Cor 5-9. Tomorrow's are 2 Cor 10-13.

Paul goes deeper into his teaching of the gospel in 2 Cor 5. Believers have been given the indwelling Holy Spirit as a guarantee fo their salvation. This teaching, while being familiar to us, is a radical change from traditional Jewish teaching. Before Pentecost, the Holy Spirit ministered in much the same manner, but only as an outside influence on men and women. Now, with the ascension of Christ and the outpouring of the Spirit, those who believe in Christ as Savior and Lord have the Spirit inside them. His presence not only assures them of their salvation, but He is with them wherever they go. Paul accomplishes two things with this teaching. First, believers know that they are not alone in their efforts to obey. The Spirit is there to help them and guide them. Second, they don't have to worry about their eternal destiny, the Spirit inside them is their guarantee. Both points should be an encouragement to share the gospel with others, all kinds of others (2 Cor 5:11-21).

Paul reinforces the gospel message with urgency and warning in 2 Cor 6. In spite of any hardship or trial, the church is to be a dispenser of grace, living examples of the transformation Christ offers all people. Christians will seem impoverished and naive to the world. In reality, they have everything and are rich beyond compare.  As such, they are to treat their bodies as a temple that houses Jesus Christ and His Spirit.  

Paul provides a curt reminder that they are not quite as mature as they believe themselves to be (2 Cor 6:11). They are squandering their salvation on teaching that is self-centered and appealing to the world. Thye have lost the freedom they're given in Christ and are bound to the world. This is something to be avoided.  Paul is not telling them not to associate with the world. He is cautioning them not to be intricately bound and dependent upon the world but to be dependent upon God. 

2 Cor 7 is a defense of Paul's teaching. Other have come in behind him and made accusations. Apparently, the Corinthian church has embraced them. Still, Paul is encouraged by the fact that the Corinthian church has been led to repent. Paul reminds them that the preaching of the gospel should always lead to repentance and freedom, not guilt.

Paul gives instruction on giving in 2 Cor 8. The churches in Macedonia gave generously, even though they were in severe poverty. They gave "according to their means." Paul encourages the Corinthians to "excel in this act of grace" as proof of genuine, godly love (2 Cor 8:7-8). Paul portrays giving as an act of love and gratitude rather than an obligation in 2 Cor 9. When giving is done cheerfully and willingly, blessings ensue.

While reading these early epistles, it would be good to keep in mind their newness to the original readers. While some of what we read may sound familiar to us, for the Corinthians, it may well have been the first time they heard this level of teaching. Inspired by the Holy Spirit, Paul lays the foundation for the new church and establishes tenets that survive to this day. For those living in the first century, following these teachings would require drastically altering their worldviews and ways of living. Perhaps for some if us, it may be the same. Maintaining objectivity in our reading can be difficult. There are issues that remain deeply ingrained in us that may not necessarily be biblically true. There are other issues that we feel strongly about that may not align with what the Bible actually says. Reading with fresh eyes and discarding our preconceptions can be enlightening, if we are bold enough to set everything else aside and embrace the Scriptures, in context, for what they say.

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