(On November 1, we published the first 5 of the “ten best things in Second Corinthians.” Today, we complete the list.This ranking, of course, is purely arbitrary and personal, nothing official.)
6) II Corinthians 8:1-5 — A great example of giving.
The Lord’s churches in the region of Macedonia (which took in Philippi, Thessalonica, and Berea) were something to brag about. Paul used them as examples: “This is how it’s done!”
Denominational publications will highlight an individual church for its outstanding record in ministry, growth, or evangelism. Critics will often take exception to doing so, suggesting that to single out one church for its accomplishment is to encourage pride and makes other churches feel inferior. Maybe so, but there is good scriptural precedent for using the heroics of one congregation to inspire others.
You have to love the way Paul adds layer upon layer in lauding the giving of the Macedonians:
–they gave liberally, even though experiencing affliction.
–their sacrificial giving was accompanied by (inspired by?) an abundance of joy and deep poverty. These overflowed in a wealth of liberality. (Not exactly the formula financial experts recommend, but in the case of this amazing group of believers, it worked.)
–Their giving was not only according to their ability but beyond that!
–In fact, they begged for the privilege of supporting the saints with their offerings. (That tells you they realized that giving is a privilege, and far more than a duty. Only the godliest of believers ever climb high enough to see this truth.)
–Best of all, before they did anything, they first gave themselves to the Lord and then to “us” by the will of God. Only then did they begin giving. And brother, did they ever give!
7) II Corinthians 9:6-9 — Some principles of giving.
Principles for contributing to the Lord’s work through the offering plate are found throughout the Word, and not bunched up in one place. (See Matthew 6:19-21 for starters; also Matthew 23:23 and I Corinthians 16:2. )
Here are some of the insights from this passage in chapter 9….
–You determine the size of your harvest you want to reap by the size of the sowing you are willing to do. (9:6) I know, I know—this sounds like something a televangelist would spout in an attempt to separate you from your hard-earned cash. But it’s a truth from Scripture, even if some do abuse it.
–What you purpose in your heart determines the worth of your gift. (9:7) Some have wondered how Heaven assesses the true value of our contributions. Does God read the numbers on our checks? I’ve heard people say the value is determined by how much you have left over after giving. While that is worth thinking about, there is a more reliable method. God gives our gifts the same value we place on them. That is, if my contribution is really important to me, it matters to Him. If it means nothing to me, it means the same to Him. That’s why what we “purpose in (our) heart” is so critical.
–God wants you to have enough to be able to give generously. (9:8) Not necessarily enough to buy that Audi or the widescreen high-definition television, but enough to be generous in giving to those in need or in ministry, doing the work of the Lord. To our shame, we often treat excess income as an opportunity to indulge our whims and materialistic urges.
(Note: Pastors who shy away from preaching on giving do their people a great disservice. Churches that look for ways to protect their members from the offering plate are caving in to the carnal fears of some–those who do not like to give–and failing the Lord and those who love to give. Many pastors are going to be in big trouble at judgement when their members arrive empty-handed, having laid up little or no treasure in heaven (see Matthew 6:19-20) because their shepherds were such cowards who feared criticism. Let the minister help the people overcome the chokehold of greed, the burden of materialism, and the fear of giving. Let ministers teach their people it is more blessed to give than to receive. )
8) Chapters 10 and 11.– Paul invites us in for a personal look at his embattled situation.
Consider the revelations this esteemed apostle makes concerning himself….
–“My critics say I’m meek in person but bold when absent.” This is evidently a reference to the power he conveys through his letters. (10:1) Paul answers that they are being superficial, judging according to the flesh (see 10:7), and this is not the plane on which spiritual warfare is conducted (10:4-5).
–They say, “His letters are weighty and strong, but his personal presence is unimpressive, and his speech contemptible” (10:10). Paul thought he was being properly humble when in their presence, but immaturity does not recognize nor value humility. They liked “star power!” And they found that in Paul’s critics.
Let every pastor who has ever been reproached for his less-than-powerful mannerisms take comfort in this criticism of Paul. Some people think to be “anointed” and “filled with the Spirit” is to be loud, forceful, and personally persuasive. Humility and quietness have no place in such thinking.
Paul told his hearers that when he finally gets to their church, he would be just as forceful in person as in his letters (10:11). It appears he has just about run out of patience with this bunch.
–Who are your critics, Paul? In 10:12, he speaks of “those who commend themselves,” people who “measure themselves by themselves,” and such. They boast (10:17) and they put Paul down as a johnny-come-lately, not a bonafide apostle whom they should follow and to whom they are obligated to support financially (see 11:5ff). Paul calls these critics “false apostles, deceitful workers, disguising themselves as apostles of Christ” (11:13). Later, in 12:11, he calls them “super-apostles,” a wonderful instance of the apostle’s sarcasm.
–So, Paul, are you an authentic apostle? Where are your credentials? His answer comes in the amazing litany of 11:21-33. We don’t have space to do it justice here, so I’ll simply point out that Paul gives a “reverse resume’.” Instead of listing his accomplishments, awards, and decorations as proof of his apostleship, he shows them his scars (11:23-27). We are stunned into silence. Christian workers who have thought they were suffering for Jesus will read this and be ashamed of their self-centeredness.
Paul had good precedence for “showing them his scars” to verify his genuineness. In Luke 24:39 and John 20, Jesus did this very thing, literally.
9) II Corinthians 12:7-10. When I’m weak, I’m strong.
Paul could have written a best-seller called “My 60 Minutes in Heaven.” Or something like that.
The opening verses of chapter 12 refer to just such an experience Paul had. (Note that he begins by referring to “a man in Christ Jesus” and ends by admitting he’s being autobiographical: “…to keep me from exalting myself…. 12:7).
Some think this “visit to Heaven” occurred when Paul was stoned by opponents, dragged out of the city, and left for dead (Acts 14:19). There’s no way to know.
One problem of having such a celestial vision would be pride. “How wonderful to the Father I must be!” So, to put a stop to that business, Paul says a problem was given to him, one he called “a thorn in the flesh,” which originated with Satan, and which did not yield itself to prayer. What was the problem? He didn’t say, and we should give thanks for that. Otherwise, God’s hasty servants would have presumptuously built theologies around that particular infirmity and laid more burdens on His people.
“My grace is sufficient for you; my power is perfected in weakness” (12:9). That is a word from God, heard only by Paul but conveyed to us through the written Word, and aren’t we glad. Even though it makes little sense to the outside world, we find ourselves amening him when he concludes, “Most gladly, therefore, I will rather boast about my weaknesses, that the power of Christ may dwell in me.”
10) II Corinthians 13. Quit testing me; test yourself.
He says in 13:3, “You are looking for proof of Christ in me.” That is much of the burden of this epistle, the harassment he was receiving from this congregation which owed its very existence to his ministry. We’ve already looked at the proof Paul gave them.
Instead of examining him, Paul says, “Test yourselves to see if you are in the faith” (13:5). He adds, “Jesus Christ is in you. That is, unless you fail the test.” And then, “I trust that you will realize that we ourselves do not fail the test.”
Earlier in this epistle, Paul told this congregation, “For this purpose I wrote to you, that I might know the proof of you, whether you are obedient in all things” (2:9).
He ends the epistle with this wonderful prayer-wish: “Finally, brethren, rejoice, be made complete, be comforted, be like-minded, live in peace; and the God of love and peace shall be with you” (13:11).
And then this benediction: “The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, the love of God, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all. Amen” (13:14).