Paul, you will recall, was put out to the extreme, I think to the point where it began to distract him in His service to Christ.  After his second visit to Corinth, he was so saddened and deflated that he simply quietly returned to Ephesus.  In Ephesus, he wrote the “angry” letter that he sent and then wished he hadn’t.  He began to be distracted here, I think – you know, that gnawing thing in your mind and gut that just makes you crazy to know what happened?  I wasn’t there, but Paul was one of us – human – and it seems reasonable that he would have human responses.

He was becoming so distracted, he left Ephesus and set out for Troas, where Titus was after his own trip to Corinth.  It is entirely reasonable that Paul was after news of what happened with that letter that might have been like a hand grenade in the wrong setting.  He didn’t find Titus, so he went looking for him in Macedonia, eventually finding him, and receiving a blessed report that at least a majority of the people there were with Paul and not the false teachers that were calling themselves “super apostles” and attacking Paul’s character.

So what is the first thing Paul chose to confront these “super apostles” with?  The idea of suffering, and how that suffering perfects the believer.  We talked about how the false teachers were essentially trying to use the gospel as a means of gain, and that’s never good.  Paul, on the other hand, would not allow the Corinthians to support him while he was there.  We talked about how Paul had gone through real life-threatening trials for the sake of the gospel.  Were any of these false apostles ever stoned for preaching his message?  Not ever.  Paul was.  Were any ever beaten with rods for speaking publicly about Christ?  No, but Paul was, and he was even given 39 lashes on three different occasions.  (One more stroke is a death sentence, if you didn’t know.)  Had any of them ever been shipwrecked and lost at sea?  Paul was, for a day and a night, for the sake of the work of Jesus on earth.  No, beloved, suffering perfects us – if we will cooperate with God and let it.

What we saw was Paul talking about how the Lord had led him in real triumph – but it wasn’t Paul’s triumph, it was Christ’s.  He speaks greatly here of his own motives in writing that angry letter, and what that meant to the work, his own state of mind, and the effect it had on the Corinthians.  It is a sort of apology in our modern sense, but also an explanation of why he wrote it.

Last week, in Chapter 3, we studied the actual connection between the Old and New Testaments, or Covenants.  Paul compared them directly.  This is a particularly crucial area of study, because if you get the Covenants confused, or worse ignore the one that has gone before, you end up with some really whacked-out ideas on things like tithing, resisting sin, like that.  We saw that we live in a new and spiritual reality (more of the now/coming, present/future kingdom stuff we’ve been talking about on and off since we studied Ephesians), and that it is a reality that needs to be intentionally chosen to live in by act of will on our parts.  Walking in the Spirit requires that we chooses to set aside all those old acts of the flesh (sins) that will kill us, and instead choose life, being renewed in our minds, and transformed in our characters into the image of our Lord Jesus Christ.

This week, we will see the continuation of that theme and its development by Paul and application to our lives.  Let’s dig in and see what Paul is talking about.

I broke the chapter down like this:

KV7:  The Work is All The Lord’s – If We Let Him Work

7:  But we have this treasure in earthen vessels, so that the surpassing greatness of the power will be of God and not from ourselves;

1-6:  The Righteous Contrasted with the Unrighteous

7-12:  The Internal Contradictions in Us Glorify God

13-15:  Honouring God Now Will Cost Us Everything

16-18:  Focus on the Unseen and Spiritual Reality!

Paul, in context here is speaking to believers.  This is important, because he is discussing salvation in a way that is largely ignored in Christendom, and seems poorly understood by all except the faithful, and that is sanctification, the act of God imparting His holiness to us through His work and our cooperation. 

We should contrast this with justification, the act of God declaring us righteous in the first place.  This is why Christ died in our place according to the Gospel.  He became human, he lived for between 33 and 34 years as a human, in obedience to God under the Law of Moses, and then deliberately and knowingly gave up that life as a perfect substitutionary sacrifice for us vicariously on the cross.  All those big words are chosen and precise in their definition, but the basically mean that Christ died for OUR sins as a substitute (vicariously), atoning for them (propitiation), and then God declaring us righteous in Him (expiation), which pronounces us as faultless before God (justification).  This is a sole work of our triune God, as opposed to sanctification, which God allows His new creations in Christ to learn to CHOOSE to do His will, and instead of simply imputing His righteousness (giving us the righteousness of another, Christ) monergistically (alone by Himself), He imparts His righteousness to our changed natures by teaching us to choose His will and live according to His Word.  This is defined as sanctification, the process whereby He makes us holy, and it is said to by synergistic, that is we are allowed by God to participate in the act by our choices, that will move out into our works.  However, it is still mostly His work – and none of what we do to become holy is worth two cents if we have not been born again, or saved, or converted, or justified, or redeemed, or regenerated – whatever term you want to choose for justification.

Paul is speaking of sanctification here to believers, and when justification does come up (as it does in v.15, for example), it is mentioned as happening as a result of Christians that have said yes to sanctification and are choosing to live as God commands.  We’ll see that when we get to that.  Let’s hop in right here.

KV7:  The Work is All The Lord’s – If We Let Him Work

7:  But we have this treasure in earthen vessels, so that the surpassing greatness of the power will be of God and not from ourselves;

Here, I am simply restating Paul’s point, though there are some highlights to this key verse.  We have this treasure in “earthen vessels.”  Some have referred to these as “cracked pots,” and although I cannot find an authority I personally trust that translates it that way, I can see the analogy, and it is useful.  The cracks are leaks that let God’s grace leak out to others around us.  My problem with this is the use of this phrase by Charismaniacs to explain how it is that every believer has the ability to do miracles.  Please see our studies in 1 Corinthians to my answer to that, especially chapters 12 through 14.  This is not a proper translation of the phrase.  A better translation (and MUCH more widely accepted) is “jars of clay.”  This applies in multiple ways to humanity, beginning in Genesis 2, where in verse 7, we read that God made us from the dust of the ground.  Beloved, dust plus water = mud, which is a basic form of clay.

Another thought that I found running through a lot of the commentary that I saw and definitely agree with is the idea of those jars of clay being temporary.  All men, believers or not, will have some kind of resurrection, into a body that is fit for their eternal state.  The unregenerate will have bodies that God will give them (seen in Rev. 20:11-15) to enter their eternal state.  The regenerate are seen in their new bodies even earlier in that same chapter in verse 4-6.  All those that died in Christ (and all those that remain alive at Jesus’ coming) are given new bodies and enter into their eternal state about 1000 years before the unregenerate.  I’m not trying to start arguments, I’m just pointing out what information those texts give.

Those regenerate believers are clothed in their new bodies at the return of Christ based on their sanctification.  Revelation 19:7, 8 say:  “‘Let us rejoice and be glad and give the glory to Him, for the marriage of the Lamb has come and His bride has made herself ready.’ It was given to her to clothe herself in fine linen, bright and clean; for the fine linen is the righteous acts of the saints.”  Twice in that passage it tells us that the bride of Christ, that is the universal church, that body of regenerate believers without the dross of false converts that have always dragged the body of Christ down, has a part to play in its own sanctification.  First, it says that the Bride has “made herself” ready.  One must choose to be active in that preparation for the wedding supper.  Second, it says that her white clothing was representative of “the righteous acts of the saints,” the most common word in the New Testament for the rank-and-file believer. 

We should understand that the “bride” thing is an analogy that helps us to understand Christ’s relationship with His church.  There is more I could say about the symbolism of a Galilean wedding, but we will be here all night and won’t get to the chapter.  We can do this another time, perhaps.  First, we have to choose to cooperate with God as Paul is advocating here in this chapter.

1-6:  The Righteous Contrasted with the Unrighteous

What I mean here is that what is being contrasted is the lifestyles of the people groups, not the people so much.  The life choices of the unrighteous (which are becoming more and more manifest in this present day) are decidedly different than the life choices of the regenerated saint of God.  This at least should be self-evident.  For the unbelievers that pretend (or deceive themselves into thinking) they are believers, the choices real believers make are often a mystery.  Why, for instance, do real believers have such an issue with aborting an unwanted pregnancy?  It isn’t my goal to explain that here, but that’s a very real one I hear all the time.  Those are human babies, often created by sinful actions in the first place (such as premarital sex), and their termination is nothing but an attempt to remove the consequences of sinful actions.  It isn’t exactly what I would call living in reality, and if such an individual IS actually telling themselves the truth and fully aware that they are murdering a defenseless child, that makes them a heinous monster on the same level as Stalin, Mao, or Hitler.  But that is just to complete my definition.  Let’s get into the text and see how Paul actually compares the two lifestyles.

1:  Therefore, since we have this ministry, as we received mercy, we do not lose heart,

  • Paul is taking a moment in the first phrase to set the context of this passage with what has immediately gone before.  “This ministry” is seen in the passage immediately preceding, and that is the ministry of a new and spiritual reality, that service [the meaning of ministry in Greek] we must deliberately choose to live in all the time (more often than daily it seems).  THAT ministry that we looked at last week.
  • “As we received mercy.”  It is important here to see that this is in the passive voice, which means that it is an action performed on us, not we who are performing the action (the active voice).  We have been shown or granted mercy or compassion.  The Greek tense is the Aorist, and this is a past perfect in English, so we were shown mercy, and that mercy-showing is continued right up to the present.  This is important, because that is how God has shown us His mercy and compassion!
  • “We do not lose heart.”  The Greek work kardia does NOT occur here, so this phrase is an equivalent.  I hate that, but even the NASB has to do it sometimes.  I prefer the alternate, “We do not grow weary.”  To me, it is more clear in the English and closer to the Greek text.  What does Paul mean?
  • Have you ever actually tried to walk in the Spirit, in this kind of service to others?  I can tell you that for the flesh, that old nature part of us that is bound to the earth and its world system, it is absolutely flat-out exhausting.  I tried to do it for years.  Because I at least used to be a strong man, I was able to do it for a good while.  And then my health broke.  People started to wonder about me when I either couldn’t or didn’t want to go to the meetings, a sure sign something is wrong when you begin to avoid spiritual activities.  I had grown weary – not of the activity – but of the effort I had to expend to keep up appearances.  Paul is talking about the opposite of this kind of weariness.
  • Paul is talking about the kind of weariness that just keeps going because it wants to see the will of God done no matter what.  Long past the physical limits, long past the wearing out of patience, long past the ability to sleep or even stand, somehow, we are there to see that person accept Christ’s remedy.  To preach the Bible Study, not to put too fine a point on it.  To see a certain ministry succeed.  We do not lose heart – and Paul is coming to this point – because it isn’t our heart, it is Christ’s.

2:  but we have renounced the things hidden because of shame, not walking in craftiness or adulterating the word of God, but by the manifestation of truth commending ourselves to every man’s conscience in the sight of God.

  • Paul introduces the topic of how we just spiritually keep going, and now begins to compare and contrast it with the alternative, the worldview of the unregenerate.  Here it says, “…we have renounced the things hidden because of shame…”  What is Paul talking about here? 
  • Paul is talking about the deeds that sinners do in darkness.  Those who are walking in the new and spiritual reality, that is walking in the light as the Apostle John puts it, “renounce” those thoughts, words, or deeds.  We have sworn them off, so to speak.  We have refused to do them any longer because they displease our master, Christ Jesus.
  • “Not walking in craftiness.”  We are no longer doing the “allworking” of unscrupulous conduct in everything we do (Vine’s).  The Word can be translated as “cunning craftiness,” or as “subtlety,” much like a certain lizard used in a certain garden at the beginning of the world…
  • “Or adulterating the Word of God.”  The Greek word is worthy of noting, doloo, and it means to ensnare, or to corrupt, therefore to handle deceitfully.  Beloved, this is something people do!  For example, they can mingle false doctrines or notions with the Word of God.  Mormons do this when they tell you that Jesus died for your sins, but have to have a 5-hour lecture to explain what they mean is that Jesus was an evolving space alien of a race that we are evolving toward, and when he died for us, it means that he shed his shell on this plane of existence so he could proceed to the next one, and we need to follow him, because we will be like him.  Now THAT’S a load of doloo.  Vine says it this way, and I love this definition – “to corrupt by way of hucksterizing.”  Well, isn’t that what the space alien idea sounds like from the guys that have the Moronic priesthood?  Sure does to me.
  • No, instead, says Paul, we are those that by “manifesting the truth,” that is, showing what is real by our thoughts, words, and deeds, we commend (or establish) what we are saying AS the truth so that we can have an effect on EVERY person’s conscience toward God.  I particularly like what Vine has to say, so I offer it to you in the spirit of understanding:
  • “…commending oneself to every man’s conscience,” 2 Cor. 4:2; cf. 5:11. There may be a “conscience” not strong enough to distinguish clearly between the lawful and the unlawful, 1 Cor. 8:7, 10, 12 (some regard consciousness as the meaning here). The phrase “conscience toward God,” in 1 Pet. 2:19, signifies a “conscience” (or perhaps here, a consciousness) so controlled by the apprehension of God’s presence, that the person realizes that griefs are to be borne in accordance with His will. Heb. 9:9 teaches that sacrifices under the Law could not so perfect a person that he could regard himself as free from guilt.”  That’s what Paul is saying if you ask me.

3:  And even if our gospel is veiled, it is veiled to those who are perishing,

  • What Paul says here could be said in more modern English, “And even if their consciousness is not able to see or understand the gospel, it is only those that are perishing that will not understand.”  What I see this as meaning is that it is not our job to make an unbeliever understand the Gospel, though we should be understandable, and not hide things in big words.  We should make this free gift of God available to everyone and that should be reflected in the words with which we communicate it, but if someone doesn’t or rather won’t see it, it isn’t our job to convince them.  So much for apologetics, at least as a witnessing tool.  We are to move on to the next person and explain it to them, and let the perishing deal with their own nonsense.  Apologetics real use is to help believers understand their own faith, if you ask me, but again, that isn’t our subject.

4:  in whose case the god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelieving so that they might not see the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God.

  • Why is it that we should just move on?  Well, we aren’t up against human stupidity, and believe me, there’s already enough of that to go around.  We are really up against principalities, and powers, and the rulers of dark forces in high places.  This kind of enemy requires a different set of weaponry and different tactics.  Prayer is what that needs. 
  • The god of this world is none other than Lucifer himself.  He has the ability to blind the minds of those individuals that do not believe.  And beloved, there are many ways of blinding someone to the gospel.  Some of that is intellectualism, and I say that because WE are intelligent and intellectual people here.  We need to take care that WE are not blinded to the Gospel by our own sin.  I was for years.  I probably still am in some ways because I am still here!  Either that, or I’m like Paul, and I have to stick around because of you sinners… [hahahahahaha]. I’m sorry, I don’t actually think that.  But what are these people blinded to?
  • The light of the gospel of the glory of Christ!  He who is the very image [eikon, of Christ in relation to God, 2 Cor. 4:4, “the image of God,” i.e., essentially and absolutely the perfect expression and representation of the Archetype, God the Father… (Vines)] of God!  Do you know the Gospel?  God the Son became human for 33-34 years and lived a life of perfect submission to God the Father under the Law of Moses, and then willingly and knowingly gave that life up to die vicariously in our place so as to pay the penalty for our sins, because we were unable to do so.  Because Jesus, the man in question, pleased God so much with that perfect sacrifice, God raised Him from the dead, and demonstrated that He had paid the penalty for our sins, broken its power in our lives, and will someday clear its presence from our lives when He comes back again.  All of this was foretold in the Scriptures, and fulfilled by the man Jesus, the Christ [Hebrew, Messiah; English, Anointed One].  That’s the Gospel.
  • This Jesus is the very image of God.  The Greek word is eikon.  We get our word “icon” from it, and it is literally a “representation” of God when seen in Christ in relation to God, as opposed to the pictures of Cesare Borgia, who is the modern model for Christ.  If you don’t know who he was, he was the son of Pope Alexander, and he was a horrible apostate son of a horrible apostate father.  But Jesus is the “exact representation” of God in Hebrews 1:3. 

5:  For we do not preach ourselves but Christ Jesus as Lord, and ourselves as your bond-servants for Jesus’ sake.

  • Paul is actually referencing the summary argument so far with the start of this verse.  Because of the service we do of walking in reality before God, and because we have sworn off those evil deeds we did before God saved us, and because we demonstrate the truth of God’s reality with our lives all the time, and because we are NOT blinded as the unbelievers, we say this.
  • We do NOT preach ourselves but Christ as Lord.  Paul is in effect saying, “You didn’t actually think WE were in charge, did you?”  Yes, that is my paraphrase, but I’m not wrong.  It is Christ who is our Lord, and He is why we do all these things like walking in reality, and swearing off the deeds of darkness, etc.  It is because Jesus is Lord, and WE want to please Him…
  • …because we are your doulous for the sake of Jesus.  We are your slaves in His service.  Jesus is our Master.  We must please Him by doing His will.  And this is even visibly represented on a pastor’s garb sometimes.  That conical?  It’s supposed to represent that we as pastors are Christ’s slaves.  It is take willingly, too, but I’m not going to go down that particular rabbit hole at this time.
  • Paul’s point is, WE serve YOU in CHRIST’S name.

6:  For God, who said, “Light shall shine out of darkness,” is the One who has shone in our hearts to give the Light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Christ.

  • And that service to you in Christ’s name is important because it is GOD who is the one who said that light would come out of darkness, and it is GOD that has caused that light to shine in our hearts, and it is that light that gives us the knowledge of the glory of God – in the face [countenance] of Christ.
  • God has placed the emphasis of the believer upon the person of His Son Jesus the Christ.  Anyone who tries to alter that is preaching another gospel and is accursed in the strongest possible sense.  Anyone that tries to complicate that or add to that, same idea – these kinds of teachers are self-condemned unless they repent.  Paul stood for Christ, and he is calling us to walk down the path he himself is on.

So in this first paragraph, we have seen the behaviour, and to some extent even the motives and sources of the regenerate believer contrasted with the unregenerate unbeliever.  This difference is pointed out by Paul of a reason, seen in the next paragraph.

7-12:  The Internal Contradictions in Us Glorify God

Maybe, like me, you were kind of forced to think about the places where you were NOT yielded to Christ, and were not walking after the spirit, and you have not renounced those things that you hide for the shame of them.  Rejoice, Beloved!  The reason for this is that these contradictions between who we actually are and who God has called us to be are the very things that Glorify Him.  Let’s look at the text.

7:  But we have this treasure in earthen vessels, so that the surpassing greatness of the power will be of God and not from ourselves;

  • You will recall that I took this as the verse that was key to my understanding of the chapter text.  I fell like I need to give a bit of a caution here for you to buckle up because I saw a lot and have a lot to say, but I’m not going to do that.  I will attempt to discipline myself to put it into as understandable terms as I can.
  • That first phrase is referring to the context-giving phrase of “…the Light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Christ.”  That is the treasure Paul speaks of here.  And we have that treasure in “earthen vessels.” 
  • I spent some time looking up what that means, because it can be a puzzling phrase, thanks in no small part to idiotic non-translations like the Passion or the Voice that translate that phrase “earthen vessels” as “cracked pots” or some such similar verbiage.  It is an easy analogy to grab onto, and it can be a useful one to demonstrate that it is really Christ in us and the goodness leaks out to the world as we live our lives in submission to Him.  The thing that makes me hate the phrase though, is the Charismaniac idea that the stuff that leaks out of the cracks in us is the ability and power to do miracles and great signs in Jesus’ name.  Nothing like that is actually meant – it cannot be, because we saw that in our studies of 1 Corinthians, particularly chapters 12 through 14.  Certain gifts had a built-in expiry in them, and they were each sign/wonder gifts because the completion of Scripture made them unnecessary.  And I’m not going further with that analysis, because we have that material covered and posted on BereanNation.com in our 1 Corinthians Book Study page, and it has links to all the notes, and all the Livestream Video Replays.
  • So what treasure do we have again?  It is the “Light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.”  It is the Gospel – in all of its glory, as seen in the life and death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, our Lord.  Why do I say that?
  • Well, I said it because Paul said it, and he said it so that the surpassing greatness of the power we are talking about would be of God.  That it would be about God.  That it would have God as its sole source.  And so that it would not be of us, the nobodies that are your slaves in Christ’s service – it is Him we are proclaiming, no our own selves.

8:  we are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not despairing;

  • Paul begins to explain how this could not possibly have come from us by describing the state of the slaves of God for your sake.  The Greek for what Paul said is pretty literal here.  “Afflicted” means to suffer affliction.  It comes from a Greek root meaning to crowd out, or to be thronged.  Your way is restricted, narrowed – in everything.  Figuratively, it means to suffer tribulation.  Yet in all of our being crowded or mobbed, we are not crushed.  “Crushed is a similar concept, meaning to “crowd into a narrow space.”  So yes, we are crowded into a narrow space, but by the grace of God, we are NOT crowded into a narrow space.  What?  Is Paul becoming a contrarian?  I don’t think so, see what else he says here.
  • We are perplexed.  The Greek here means “to have no way out,” primarily.  But we are not despairing.  The Greek here means that “we are not destitute of resources, we are not utterly without hope.”  No, Paul is not being contrary, He is using a hyperbolic statement to make his point.  We may be suffering these kinds of things, but our Lord has not left us without resources that we can depend on in these sufferings.

9:  persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed;

  • Similar things here as in verse 8.  “Persecuted” means “driven away,” which is what persecution does as an effect.  But not forsaken, which means “not left behind,” which is an interesting kind of phrase.  We are driven out, but we have not been left behind.  The world hates us and tries to get rid of us – and we will not be left behind.  Shades of a harpazo event?  Perhaps, I can’t say no, though I don’t think that’s Paul’s point of reference here.  Struck down means “To throw to the ground prostrate.”  But not destroyed means “not destroyed completely.”  What is that talking about?  I think a good reference here is Matthew 10: 28, which says, “Do not fear those who kill the body but are unable to kill the soul; but rather fear Him who is able to destroy both soul and body in hell.”
  • Paul’s language here suggests that he and his fellow servants who would serve Christ by serving the church will suffer persecution.  The persecutors will at some point restrict, confine, drive away (perhaps underground in the figurative sense), and throw us down (even kill) us to the ground.  Paul is saying here that despite their best efforts, they will not succeed, because when they drive us away, we will flee somewhere else.  When they finally pin us down and we have no place else to run, then we are still not without resources to stand for Christ.  And when they finally kill us (probably to shut us up), we will not be destroyed, because to be absent in the body is to be present with the Lord (2 Cor. 5:6-8).  They do us a favour by sending us to be with the one we were trying to serve anyway.  Think it won’t happen?  It already is – just ask James Coates in Edmonton.

10:  always carrying about in the body the dying of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our body.

  • Paul continues with this oxymoronic statement, about how in always dying to ourselves with Christ, His very life is also manifest within our bodies!  Sure, this is in an ultimate sense perhaps speaking of our final resurrection before the eternal state, but I think it has present real-world applications.  I know that in serving Christ, I have understood things in a flash that had previously puzzled me for decades.  I can do and understand things when I am serving Him that I cannot see or even guess at on my own.  Like the text of this chapter this evening.  I have literally read this more than 30 times over the years, even studying the text in some detail – but I’ve never seen it like I did preparing for this study.  And that’s just one mundane example.
  • Most of you know that I have some very serious health problems.  I’m diabetic, I’ve had (at least) one heart attack (and don’t want another), I have high blood pressure, high cholesterol, I’m overweight and can’t seem to lose it to save my life, I have various physical nicks and dings from years of hard work and hard living (I wasn’t always a believer), and I’m pretty broken.  And to listen to me now, would you know any of that if I hadn’t told you? 
  • How about this?  I have for years battled clinical depression.  I’ve seen doctors (and got pills), I’ve talked to psychologists and psychiatrists (and it kind of helped but not nearly enough), and I’ve had plenty of reasons for that kind and level of depression.  I’ve had TWO failed businesses, I’ve been through personal bankruptcy, my oldest child tried to end themselves, I have two kids with mental illness problems, and I live in a 1200-square-foot house with a dog who sheds enough every three days to build another dog, two cats that puke all over the house, three teenagers (enough said there, that tells a story by itself), and a woman that I love with my whole being, but can frustrate the hound out of me by always being right!  And despite all that, my wife is right a lot of the time, which is good when I’m not.  My kids have come to see me as DAD, not buddy, and they respect me.  We have, because of the small house, had to actually work through problems with each other instead of just staying in our bedrooms and closing the doors (none of THEIR doors have locks).  How’s that song go?  “Love grows best in little houses.”  I could counterpoint each one of the things I said that drive my depression at times.  For sake of time, I won’t but every single one of them are testament to the truth of Paul’s words in this verse – I am always carrying around the death of the Lord Jesus so that His resurrection life may be seen in the mess I call a life – and He makes it ALL worthwhile.  Praise the Lord!  Hallelujah!

11:  For we who live are constantly being delivered over to death for Jesus’ sake, so that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our mortal flesh.

  • Paul here is just reiterating the truth of what I just expanded on in the last verse, but he is adding a very salient point – we go through these trials and stuff in order that the life of Jesus will be manifested in our mortal flesh.  What does that word manifested mean?
  • The Greek word here is one we’ve seen before, by the way.  It is phaneroo, to make apparent or evident.  It is to display His power in our lives, not by making us healthy or wealthy, but by letting the effects of His grace be seen in our lives by others.  Now Beloved, that has a bit of a proviso that goes with it.  We can’t always choose to avoid people and hide in our basements!  We have to live our lives with others, and with others in mind.  You are always living out an example of some kind, whether you like it or not, whether you mean to or not.  Beloved, let it be a GOOD example to the world, and not a bad one.  Don’t leave your first love (Christ).  Don’t be an Ephesian.  Don’t make doctrine, as critically important as that is, be thing you live for.  Good doctrine is essential, but so is your love for Christ, and if you lose that, you’re going to lose the good doctrine anyway.  And learn good doctrine, because you will be surprised at how that will light you on fire for Christ, and I mean that in a good way, not in a burned-at-the-stake way.

12:  So death works in us, but life in you.

  • This verse is kind of like Paul is saying “We did the hard part.  All you have to do is follow our example.”  And make no mistake, death is the price we will pay for following Christ.  You will at least die to yourself and your own fleshly nature.  Don’t run from that, endure that kind of pain.  And I saw something else that applies to all those especially who will serve God’s people that I will share.
  • This is the price of the ministry of the Word.  When you serve others this way, it will bring death about in you.  (This is a good thing, we are to bear it like a cross, the instrument of our slow and torturous death.)  Paul did it, and so must all those who would serve the church in this way.  Sometimes at the hands of the very church you will serve.  Don’t run from that, and don’t be surprised or offended when it happens.

You see, the ultimate thing I see in this passage of the text is the kind of testimony we will be able to give to a dying world.  Not everyone who will ever be saved is saved yet, or we would no longer be here.  There would be no need for us to be here, and God would take us home before His wrath is poured out in a final sense on this place we have called home all our lives.  Thank God that he has called us further up and further in to another, a heavenly country, where our citizenship really is, and thank God that we will get to see it someday.  Hopefully soon.  Hold the line, Beloved.  Those are our orders from the King.

13-15:  Honouring God Now Will Cost Us Everything

In fact, those orders will cost us everything in the here and now.  Nonetheless, it is His command.  And after His rescue of us, can we do any less?  Dare we do any less?  And the great news that Paul has already shared with his Corinthian brothers and sisters is that we are never without resources – if we hold the line.  Let’s look at the text and see what he is saying.

13:  But having the same spirit of faith, according to what is written, “I BELIEVED, THEREFORE I SPOKE,” we also believe, therefore we also speak,

  • Paul here is quoting the Old Testament Scriptures.  In his quotation, he is talking about how WE are to have the same spirit of faith according to what is written in that quote.  He is selectively editing that quote, and so will we in the manner he did, but we do need to have an understanding of the texts as they relate to the New Testament.
  • The portion of the OT that Paul is quoting is Psalm 116.  This Psalm quote is from an imprecatory section of Psalm 116.  The title of Psalm 116 is, “Thanksgiving for Deliverance from Death!”  The titles in the Psalms are written by the authors of the Psalms, and many scholars consider them to be part of the inspired text!
  • We will look at the whole Psalm that Paul quotes here so we may see the context: 
    • I love the LORD, because He hears
    • My voice and my supplications.
    • Because He has inclined His ear to me,
    • Therefore I shall call upon Him as long as I live.
    • The cords of death encompassed me
    • And the terrors of Sheol came upon me;
    • I found distress and sorrow.
    • Then I called upon the name of the LORD:
    • “O LORD, I beseech You, save my life!”
    • Gracious is the LORD, and righteous;
    • Yes, our God is compassionate.
    • The LORD preserves the simple;
    • I was brought low, and He saved me.
    • Return to your rest, O my soul,
    • For the LORD has dealt bountifully with you.
    • For You have rescued my soul from death,
    • My eyes from tears,
    • My feet from stumbling.
    • I shall walk before the LORD
    • In the land of the living.
    • I believed when I said,
    • “I am greatly afflicted.”
    • I said in my alarm,
    • “All men are liars.”
    • What shall I render to the LORD
    • For all His benefits toward me?
    • I shall lift up the cup of salvation
    • And call upon the name of the LORD.
    • I shall pay my vows to the LORD,
    • Oh may it be in the presence of all His people.
    • Precious in the sight of the LORD
    • Is the death of His godly ones.
    • O LORD, surely I am Your servant,
    • I am Your servant, the son of Your handmaid,
    • You have loosed my bonds.
    • To You I shall offer a sacrifice of thanksgiving,
    • And call upon the name of the LORD.
    • I shall pay my vows to the LORD,
    • Oh may it be in the presence of all His people,
    • In the courts of the LORD’S house,
    • In the midst of you, O Jerusalem.
    • Praise the LORD!
  • The Psalm is 19 verses long, and in context, the point of the portion that Paul has selected [the part I have italicized] is to be thankful in the midst of the sufferings that YHWH is allowing the Psalmist to experience!  And THAT is the context in which Paul is using it here.
  • Now, with that understanding, we need to understand why Paul is selectively editing this passage.  Of course, we can see that 19 verses is not what Paul wants to exposit, so he has picked the part that he wished to reflect his thoughts.  What was he “speaking” that he did not state in the verse itself?  It is logical that Paul, inspired by the Holy Spirit, had in mind the kind of things that the Psalmist was facing.  The Psalmist said that even though he believed, he was greatly afflicted.  That Hebrew word for “afflicted” is the same word in Greek used here.  Why was the Psalmist afflicted?  Perhaps it had something to do with the next verse – “All men are liars.”  But even in that place of affliction, where he was lied to, or perhaps about, or both, the Psalmist made a decision.  He focused on the benefits of the Lord, and not on the afflictions that he was acknowledging.  That is what Paul is doing here.  “We believe [the same way], therefore we also speak [the same way].” 

14:  knowing that He who raised the Lord Jesus will raise us also with Jesus and will present us with you.

  • Paul is adding to the thought he began in the previous verse, saying that we believe and speak the same way because we know He who raised the Lord Jesus will raise us also with Jesus and will present us with you.
  • A little grammar lesson here on the phrase “will present us with you.”  This does not mean that Jesus will present us to Paul.  It means that He will present us alongside Paul to God.  I know it’s a minor distinction, but Paul was just a man like us, and this is the meaning reflected in the Greek, not the former.  We will all be presented to Jesus alongside Paul and his fellow workers at the same time.

15:  For all things are for your sakes, so that the grace which is spreading to more and more people may cause the giving of thanks to abound to the glory of God.

  • And why not?  Former missionary to the Amazon basin in Ecuador Jim Elliot put it like this:  “He is no fool that gives up what he cannot keep to gain that which he cannot lose.”  Paul understood the costs clearly.  I can hear the conversations he must have had with some folks in his travels.  “You don’t know what it’s like, Paul.  You aren’t facing the same kind of oppression I’m facing as a slave to Philemon.  He’s unreasonable!  He’s…I have to go back, don’t I.”  That was Onesimus, Philemon’s slave from Colossae.  We studied that book too.  And somehow (I think we all KNOW how), Onesimus bumped into Paul in Rome.  And Paul led the man to Christ.   And Onesimus knew.  And so He went.  It very well could have cost him everything, especially his life as a runaway slave.  You know, Paul didn’t actually say anything about slavery.  It was just a fact of the times in which he lived.  We should be the same way with some things.  “Black Lives Matter!”  Of course they do.  Moving on… That should be how that conversation goes.  “George Floyd was murdered by a white cop!”  Okay, now we have a bit more we have to work with, but do you see what I mean?  Everything we do and say should be drowned in a good helping of grace before we serve it.  Not that we ever avoid the truth, but we can control how we say things, and Proverbs 15:1 tells us that a soft answer turns away wrath.  If we are wise about what we say and do (and even think), we can much more easily stand for Christ.
  • My point here is that it is that kind of grace that will really stand out to people.  And that will draw people toward you, who can share Christ as the reason why you think, say, and do what it is you think, say, and do!  You know, it can take 15 seconds to tell someone that Jesus became human, died on the cross for our sins, and rose from the grave to prove it, and if you will believe that you can be saved from God’s coming wrath on the world.  I  timed that on a stopwatch, friends!  That took 13.32 seconds!  And it is a COMPLETE Gospel!  You don’t have to be a great orator or biblical scholar, Beloved.  Every saint of the Most High God should be able to do this!  Okay, I’ll move on.  Anyone want to try to make a Gospel Vitamin?  [invite them to try]

Yes, it will cost us everything we are and everything we own to live for Jesus now.  But isn’t that a hair overly dramatic?  It’s going to cost you everything you are and have regardless of who you live for.  Why not make your life worth something that has eternal value?  I’m not suggesting you should toss your possessions away, God gave those to you to look after, and you should do that – that’s part of His training program for us.

16-18:  Focus on the Unseen and Spiritual Reality!

And this is Paul’s point in everything he has said in this chapter!  After talking last week in great detail about the spiritual reality we are supposed to moment-by-moment choose to live in, and after comparing the Old and New Covenants, and how we are supposed to live in the New Covenant, and then comparing the regenerate and unregenerate choices and responses to the New Covenant, Paul is telling us that we must focus on walking in the New Covenant.  Translation?  “Walk in a worthy manner,” says Paul in three different places in those exact words!  (Eph. 4:1, Col. 1:10, and 1 Thess. 2:12)  Interestingly, Jesus refers to this phrasing in His letter to Sardis in Revelation 3:4.  Sardis, you will recall, had the reputation for being alive, but was actually dead, having not completed her works.  Nevertheless, there were a few who had not so soiled their garments, according to  the Lord Christ, and would walk with Him in white, for they are worthy.

Why is it that in Christendom at large today that this seems true, or worse, like Laodicea, we are blind and unaware of the truth as it is in Jesus, and are neither able to recognize nor defend it?  It seems that with rare exceptions, all fall into this, “Let’s worship God, but the way we want, paying no attention to bringing Him glory or to what it is HE wants.  It is His house, should we not act as He tells us, in the way and by the means He has specified?  Should we not actually BE born from above, or regenerated to participate in His house?  Should we not be walking in regenerated character?  And yet today, in the mainline Baptist and Presbyterian denominations in Canada, we have unregenerate men playing the role of shepherd who are thoroughly unqualified and leading God’s people astray, and men who are qualified by God to preach His word unable to do so.  How does that happen?  It happens when God’s people the church take their eyes off of the doctrine and practice He gave us, and like those in Ephesus long ago, leave their first love for Christ and His word!  Then “liberals” creep in with things like so-called “higher” criticism to try to destroy the foundations of faith, the Holy Scriptures.  They say stupid things like “Peter didn’t actually write the second letter of Peter.”  “There were two different Isaiahs that wrote Isaiah.”  You get the idea. 

Beloved, those are the times we live in.  How can we respond to this assault on the truth of God?  I’ve had the cause and opportunity to think about that this week.  I won’t go into details, though some of you know how I was accosted on Sunday over Facebook Messenger.  That’s all I will say, and I am NOT looking for your support on this, or your help.  If I was, I would say so.  What I will say is that false brothers (and sisters, e.g., Jory Micah for example) have snuck in while we remained unaware (and that’s because they sneaked in, not came through the front door announcing themselves).  These individuals are used by Satan to turn the church from its purpose to glorify Him with fake-news type issues like “abortion is okay with God” or other nonsensical stuff.  I am certain that this or a version of this is what was actually happening in Corinth.  How did they recover?  The same way we can.

We can withstand this by regaining our focus on what actually matters, and that is the New Covenant, created in that new and spiritual reality that Paul is so ably proclaiming in this text.  Let’s hop into the text and see.

16:  Therefore we do not lose heart, but though our outer man is decaying, yet our inner man is being renewed day by day.

  • Paul begins with a very simple example:  His own physical body.  I am presently gaining an understanding of this verse.  It is pretty clear that my outward man is decaying.  On Tuesday of this week, I had an ultrasound of my shoulder, and it revealed to me (more importantly to my doctor) that I have some old injuries that never healed, and have definitely affected my “quality of life,” as it were.  Now that I’m getting a little older, it’s starting to hurt in a way I can no longer ignore because I’m tough.  I do not have the same range of motion I once had, and my shoulder feels like Sammy Sosa hit it with a bat half the time.  But the Lord is good, and I am Christ’s and I am being transformed day by day, by His renewing of my mind, and sanctification that He is helping me choose.  I am more like a strobe light in that respect, but I am getting progressively better as I walk with Him in the Spirit, and put off the deeds of the flesh, which you will all recognize is not easy to do.  It is for this reason, the spiritual growth in Christ that I keep seeing in myself, amazingly beyond belief, and more than I could ever manage myself, that I do not lose heart, that is, my motivation to keep going.
  • This can be expanded to all of the trials and tribulations that we face, by the way, including the ones I faced this past Sunday.  It is true that our flesh is failing.  But because our inner man is being renewed day by day, we can begin to walk according to that renewed man that Christ gave us when He justified us.  We cannot normally walk this way if we are not born of Him, born again, from above.  However, we ARE born of God.  We CAN yield to the Spirit in our lives.  We can see and walk according to the truth as it is in Jesus.  It is for these reasons that we do not “lose heart,” or “grow weary” as we discovered earlier at the beginning of the chapter.  We continue to give in to the Holy Spirit, and we then walk in that Spirit.  When we focus on this, we are able to stand for the truth, and it doesn’t matter what comes down the pipe at us.  Our lives no longer matter in the great cause of Jesus and the establishing of His kingdom by living by it’s law now.  And the only way its law can be against the laws of Canada is if Canada by its national stupidity makes it so.  For the record, I can see the start of that now.  Notice I am in my basement office and not in the pulpit where I prefer to preach from.  We are only allowed 10 people in the building, never mind that we have several separated rooms that we clean after each use and have a fire-department rated capacity for 206 people in the sanctuary.  The cult of COVID-19 has seen fit to restrict our access to the building.  And we STILL do not lose heart.

17:  For momentary, light affliction is producing for us an eternal weight of glory far beyond all comparison,

  • Why does Paul say that HE is not losing heart (and we shouldn’t either)?  Because what we are going through at the moment is hardly worth mentioning.  Now, I have to ask – do you recall who the ruler of the known world was at the time this was written?  It was Nero.  Remember T. R. Glover’s quote about Nero?  He said, “The day would come when men would call their sons Paul and their dogs Nero.”  Why?  Because one now lives in Heaven with our King, and one is now where he belongs, and people understand what a man Paul was, and what an infernal tyrant Nero was.  We remember them for who they really were, not by the false narrative that Nero circulated successfully at the time.
  • And what did Paul call this life-threatening persecution under which he had already suffered a stoning, and shipwreck, and 39 lashes three times?  Are you ready?  Are you sitting down?  He called it “momentary light affliction.”  To Paul, with the perspective of an all-powerful redeemer and God, it was no big deal at all. 
  • In fact, Paul let the Corinthians in on a little secret – those trials and tribulations that the church was now suffering were actually producing an effect – and that effect had (and still has) eternal ramifications!  He said that this momentary light affliction was producing in us (or for us, both are valid translations, and in effect mean the same thing anyway in that it benefits us) and eternal weight of glory that is far beyond comparison with the present momentary light affliction.  We can know that this is one of the 67 references in the NT where this use of the Greek aionion means “eternal” because it is contrasted in verse 18 with proskairos, literally “for a season,” or the permanent set against the temporary.  We’ll see in a moment.  Paul is telling us that the things we are going through are not worthy to be compared with the glory that is waiting for us when we finally get there.

18:  while we look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen; for the things which are seen are temporal, but the things which are not seen are eternal.

  • Here it is.  Paul explains what should be the focus of the believer.  Surprise, surprise, it is not the things which are seen.  It isn’t the cult of COVID-19 and their drastic and unscientific and even harmful restrictions.  It isn’t the global political hegemony trying to create a tyrannical one-world system to control every aspect of our lives.  These things, without a doubt, and without apology, are very real.  We can SEE them!  Because they are making themselves known, and if you have been paying attention, not for the first time, though the scale of the public buy-in is a first.  The News headlines are NOT going to help us face any of this stuff, Beloved.
  • No, we must instead focus on the things which are unseen.  What is that related to?  I’m glad you asked!  It’s faith, Beloved.  Let’s look.  Hebrews 11:1-3 says, “Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen. For by it the men of old gained approval.  By faith we understand that the worlds were prepared by the word of God, so that what is seen was not made out of things which are visible.”  I would like to read you what Vine has to say about this “assurance” of faith. 
    • hupostasis (ὑπόστασις, 5287), lit., “a standing under, support” (hupo, “under,” histemi, “to stand”), hence, an “assurance,” is so rendered in Heb. 11:1, RV, for KJV, “substance.” It here may signify a title-deed, as giving a guarantee, or reality.
  • Beloved, it is the assurance, that hypostasis, that support, that guarantee that we are to look at by faith.  Remember how we define that word “faith?”  The Greek pistis means a firm persuasion or opinion held.  And beloved, we know that it isn’t even OUR faith, it is Christ’s.  Galatians 2:20 tells us that.  These are the things that are unseen.
  • But why?  Why the focus on the unseen, New-Covenant spiritual reality?  It isn’t happening all around us!  Well, you’re right, and that is why it takes an act of the will to focus on it.  It is because the things that are happening around us and demanding our attention are TEMPORARY!  The NASB here has the word “temporal,” which isn’t wrong – that means “bound by time and space.”  Remember, the Greek word we just said was here in verse 17, proskairos, which carries the meaning of temporary as one of its meanings.
  • What is Paul saying we should focus on?  The unseen things – because they are ETERNAL, in contrast to the visible things and their temporary nature.  All of the noise around us will one day for us end, beloved.  It might be at Christ’s return, or it might be at Christ’s return for us personally (our death), but either way, all that nonsensical stuff will end.  The distracting headlines will cease.  The frenetic, break-neck acceleration towards the precipice will stop (before or after we go over the edge) – and when it does, we will be with Christ.  And Beloved, given what He did, and became, and went through for us, isn’t a little suffering worth that?  I think so.

Paul knew.  He saw all of it, I believe.  Back in Acts 9, when the Lord spoke to Ananias, the man that would heal Saul of Tarsus of the blindness that Christ Himself struck Paul with to get his attention, He said to Ananias that He was showing Paul the things he would suffer in the service of Christ.  And Paul said yes, Beloved.  Why?  Because he was personally caught up to the third heaven, and saw what awaited him there – and what waits for every one of us who will faithfully walk with Christ, whatever that may mean for us.  He looks at us from the pages of the New Testament and asks us – “Isn’t a little suffering worth all of the glory that is coming?”

Christian – what is your answer?

You don’t have to answer me.  You have to answer Christ.  Let that sink in a little, Beloved.  We serve Him, not the state, or the cult of COVID-19, or the agenda of the globalist hegemony.  But answer you must.  I leave you to seek and find that answer.

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