Paul’s Visions and His Thorn
12:1 I must go on boasting. Though there is nothing to be gained by it, I will go on to visions and revelations of the Lord. 2 I know a man in Christ who fourteen years ago was caught up to the third heaven—whether in the body or out of the body I do not know, God knows. 3 And I know that this man was caught up into paradise—whether in the body or out of the body I do not know, God knows—4 and he heard things that cannot be told, which man may not utter. 5 On behalf of this man I will boast, but on my own behalf I will not boast, except of my weaknesses—6 though if I should wish to boast, I would not be a fool, for I would be speaking the truth; but I refrain from it, so that no one may think more of me than he sees in me or hears from me. 7 So to keep me from becoming conceited because of the surpassing greatness of the revelations,1 a thorn was given me in the flesh, a messenger of Satan to harass me, to keep me from becoming conceited. 8 Three times I pleaded with the Lord about this, that it should leave me. 9 But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. 10 For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong.
Concern for the Corinthian Church
11 I have been a fool! You forced me to it, for I ought to have been commended by you. For I was not at all inferior to these super-apostles, even though I am nothing. 12 The signs of a true apostle were performed among you with utmost patience, with signs and wonders and mighty works. 13 For in what were you less favored than the rest of the churches, except that I myself did not burden you? Forgive me this wrong!
14 Here for the third time I am ready to come to you. And I will not be a burden, for I seek not what is yours but you. For children are not obligated to save up for their parents, but parents for their children. 15 I will most gladly spend and be spent for your souls. If I love you more, am I to be loved less? 16 But granting that I myself did not burden you, I was crafty, you say, and got the better of you by deceit. 17 Did I take advantage of you through any of those whom I sent to you? 18 I urged Titus to go, and sent the brother with him. Did Titus take advantage of you? Did we not act in the same spirit? Did we not take the same steps?
19 Have you been thinking all along that we have been defending ourselves to you? It is in the sight of God that we have been speaking in Christ, and all for your upbuilding, beloved. 20 For I fear that perhaps when I come I may find you not as I wish, and that you may find me not as you wish—that perhaps there may be quarreling, jealousy, anger, hostility, slander, gossip, conceit, and disorder. 21 I fear that when I come again my God may humble me before you, and I may have to mourn over many of those who sinned earlier and have not repented of the impurity, sexual immorality, and sensuality that they have practiced.
Or hears from me, even because of the surpassing greatness of the revelations. So to keep me from becoming conceited
2 Corinthians 11
Paul and the False Apostles
11:1 I wish you would bear with me in a little foolishness. Do bear with me! 2 For I feel a divine jealousy for you, since I betrothed you to one husband, to present you as a pure virgin to Christ. 3 But I am afraid that as the serpent deceived Eve by his cunning, your thoughts will be led astray from a sincere and pure devotion to Christ. 4 For if someone comes and proclaims another Jesus than the one we proclaimed, or if you receive a different spirit from the one you received, or if you accept a different gospel from the one you accepted, you put up with it readily enough. 5 Indeed, I consider that I am not in the least inferior to these super-apostles. 6 Even if I am unskilled in speaking, I am not so in knowledge; indeed, in every way we have made this plain to you in all things.
7 Or did I commit a sin in humbling myself so that you might be exalted, because I preached God’s gospel to you free of charge? 8 I robbed other churches by accepting support from them in order to serve you. 9 And when I was with you and was in need, I did not burden anyone, for the brothers who came from Macedonia supplied my need. So I refrained and will refrain from burdening you in any way. 10 As the truth of Christ is in me, this boasting of mine will not be silenced in the regions of Achaia. 11 And why? Because I do not love you? God knows I do!
12 And what I am doing I will continue to do, in order to undermine the claim of those who would like to claim that in their boasted mission they work on the same terms as we do. 13 For such men are false apostles, deceitful workmen, disguising themselves as apostles of Christ. 14 And no wonder, for even Satan disguises himself as an angel of light. 15 So it is no surprise if his servants, also, disguise themselves as servants of righteousness. Their end will correspond to their deeds.
Paul’s Sufferings as an Apostle
16 I repeat, let no one think me foolish. But even if you do, accept me as a fool, so that I too may boast a little. 17 What I am saying with this boastful confidence, I say not as the Lord would1 but as a fool. 18 Since many boast according to the flesh, I too will boast. 19 For you gladly bear with fools, being wise yourselves! 20 For you bear it if someone makes slaves of you, or devours you, or takes advantage of you, or puts on airs, or strikes you in the face. 21 To my shame, I must say, we were too weak for that!
But whatever anyone else dares to boast of—I am speaking as a fool—I also dare to boast of that. 22 Are they Hebrews? So am I. Are they Israelites? So am I. Are they offspring of Abraham? So am I. 23 Are they servants of Christ? I am a better one—I am talking like a madman—with far greater labors, far more imprisonments, with countless beatings, and often near death. 24 Five times I received at the hands of the Jews the forty lashes less one. 25 Three times I was beaten with rods. Once I was stoned. Three times I was shipwrecked; a night and a day I was adrift at sea; 26 on frequent journeys, in danger from rivers, danger from robbers, danger from my own people, danger from Gentiles, danger in the city, danger in the wilderness, danger at sea, danger from false brothers; 27 in toil and hardship, through many a sleepless night, in hunger and thirst, often without food,2 in cold and exposure. 28 And, apart from other things, there is the daily pressure on me of my anxiety for all the churches. 29 Who is weak, and I am not weak? Who is made to fall, and I am not indignant?
30 If I must boast, I will boast of the things that show my weakness. 31 The God and Father of the Lord Jesus, he who is blessed forever, knows that I am not lying. 32 At Damascus, the governor under King Aretas was guarding the city of Damascus in order to seize me, 33 but I was let down in a basket through a window in the wall and escaped his hands.
2 Corinthians 10
Paul Defends His Ministry
10:1 I, Paul, myself entreat you, by the meekness and gentleness of Christ—I who am humble when face to face with you, but bold toward you when I am away!—2 I beg of you that when I am present I may not have to show boldness with such confidence as I count on showing against some who suspect us of walking according to the flesh. 3 For though we walk in the flesh, we are not waging war according to the flesh. 4 For the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh but have divine power to destroy strongholds. 5 We destroy arguments and every lofty opinion raised against the knowledge of God, and take every thought captive to obey Christ, 6 being ready to punish every disobedience, when your obedience is complete.
7 Look at what is before your eyes. If anyone is confident that he is Christ’s, let him remind himself that just as he is Christ’s, so also are we. 8 For even if I boast a little too much of our authority, which the Lord gave for building you up and not for destroying you, I will not be ashamed. 9 I do not want to appear to be frightening you with my letters. 10 For they say, “His letters are weighty and strong, but his bodily presence is weak, and his speech of no account.” 11 Let such a person understand that what we say by letter when absent, we do when present. 12 Not that we dare to classify or compare ourselves with some of those who are commending themselves. But when they measure themselves by one another and compare themselves with one another, they are without understanding.
13 But we will not boast beyond limits, but will boast only with regard to the area of influence God assigned to us, to reach even to you. 14 For we are not overextending ourselves, as though we did not reach you. For we were the first to come all the way to you with the gospel of Christ. 15 We do not boast beyond limit in the labors of others. But our hope is that as your faith increases, our area of influence among you may be greatly enlarged, 16 so that we may preach the gospel in lands beyond you, without boasting of work already done in another’s area of influence. 17 “Let the one who boasts, boast in the Lord.” 18 For it is not the one who commends himself who is approved, but the one whom the Lord commends.
2 Corinthians 5-9 (3.11.23)
Grab your Bible and let’s go deeper into 2 Corinthians 9.
Look with me at 2 Corinthians 9:6-8: The point is this: whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows bountifully will also reap bountifully. Each one must give as he has decided in his heart, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver. And God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that having all sufficiency in all things at all times, you may abound in every good work.
Paul’s teachings to the New Testament church in 1 & 2 Corinthians includes specific counsel of how God’s people are to steward (manage) God’s resources for God’s glory. We do this by being joyful, regular, and generous givers to the local church in which God has us a committed member. The resources God intends for His bride (the body of Christ; the church) to have, is to come from the redeemed individuals who are a part of that local body.
If we are not a regular part of the body of Christ, we are members of the body of Christ who are acting like orphans. We have no pastor/elders to whom to submit; no body to whom we can be a blessing; and no local context to use our time, talents, and treasure to help make disciples. Essentially, if you are saved and without a local church home that you are committed to, you are in sin and need to repent.
Faithful participation in para church organizations like SFJMC is a great addition to our home-base involvement in the local church. This is why Soldiers for Jesus’ by-laws demand that every patch holder is a faithful member and participant in a local church. A part of this faithful membership to a local body is to support the ministry that feeds and leads you with joyful, regular, and generous giving.
This is built on the biblical practice of first-fruits giving. God calls for His people to give to Him of their first fruits. This simply means that the first of your income is joyfully given to the Lord as an act of worship and a testimony of whom you love and trust in more than anything else. If you love comfort most, you will pay the mortgage first; if you love your family most, you will pay for the groceries first; if you love your entertainment the most, you will pay the cable bill first, and so on. One of the practical ways we show God and others that we love and trust Him the most is to faithfully give Him our first fruits.
The problem is all too often, we sinfully decide what kind of lifestyle we want or think we should have and then we look to give God what is left over, if we give Him anything. This is completely backwards. We are to prayerfully seek God and commit what we will faithfully give to Him, and then make our lifestyle fit with what is left. This way, He is first and everything else falls under Him.
In today’s passage, Paul gives one of many critical instructions on the way in which we are to practice first-fruits giving to our local church.
2 Corinthians 9:7 Each one must give as he has decided in his heart, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver.
To give reluctantly means you really do not want to give of your first fruits, but you feel obligated. If this is your attitude towards giving to God, then don’t go any further until you do business with why your heart is not so in love with God and so trusting of God. Lack of love and trust is directly related to reluctance to give to Him of your first fruits.
This is super important because Paul stresses instead of giving reluctantly, we are supposed to give cheerfully!
The word “cheerful” in the Greek is the word “hilarion.” It’s where we get our English word, hilarious.
God loves a hilarious giver. This should give us an idea of how joyful God intends our giving to be.
We need to understand what God is trying to teach us about how amazing it is when we live an open-handed life. It should bring us an immense amount of joy and bring God an immense amount of glory!
1 Corinthians 16:1-2 Now about the money being collected for the Christians in Jerusalem: You should follow the same procedures I gave to the churches in Galatia. On every Lord’s Day, each of you should put aside some amount of money in relation to what you have earned and save it for this offering. Don’t wait until I get there and then try to collect it all at once.
Paul taught believers are to set aside a regular amount each week and give it to the church.
Are you faithful in your commitment to give God the first fruits of your labor? Or do you haphazardly give only when there is extra or when you get around to it? Paul is saying, giving should be a regular habit. The local church is dependent on the regular giving of its people. Like any organization, including our own, it will not operate correctly if its members are flippant and not timely in their giving. The church cannot steward its resources well for the work of the ministry if it doesn’t have a reliable base to budget and live off of. The regular giving of the saved is important.
The other problem that often arises is this: when times get tough, people start dipping into this committed first-fruits giving to help bail them out. If you truly are giving God your first fruits, then when money is tight, this is the last thing you should be adjusting. Everything else that comes after this should feel the hit before your giving does. You are much better off adjusting the cable, your eating out money, or the Starbucks fund than what you have committed to the Lord. This practice will allow your giving to be a faithful and uninterrupted, regular practice.
2 Corinthians 8:2-3 Though they have been going through much trouble and hard times, their wonderful joy and deep poverty have overflowed in rich generosity. For I can testify that they gave not only what they could afford but far more. And they did it of their own free will.
I love this passage we read this week. These Christians were so generous and open-handed with their giving that they gave sacrificially, even though they were experiencing deep poverty.
It is important to understand, what is generous to one person can be completely different to what is generous to another. Not because it’s a matter of opinion, but because God has entrusted each of us with a different amount of resources. Jesus highlights this when pointing out the generosity of the widow’s mite in comparison to the larger gift of the wealthy leaders.
So how do we figure out what is generous?
We can start by looking at Jesus. He gave sacrificially. This simple truth should rock us as we consider the depth of Jesus’ generosity by becoming our atoning sacrifice on the cross. This truly should fly open the gates of our hearts to give much more than we did when in sin, especially when considering that this giving is to advance the kingdom of our great God.
Let me make it even more practical: how do you know you are giving sacrificially?
ANSWER: it costs you something!
Generous or sacrificial giving is not out of the abundance of your lifestyle (what you can afford to give away without impacting you). Instead, generous or sacrificial giving means you give up something significant in your lifestyle to be a blessing to others. Paul is saying, it is our joy to do this with regularity. It is ultimately for the glory of God that we consider how generous we can be to help advance His kingdom.
If you are trying to figure out a minimum number required to give, then your giving is already from a heart that is more about how much you can keep for you and less about how much you can give to advance the gospel. Remember, any of the giving we do is in the name of the One to whom it all belongs anyway! This should change how we look at this.
Now, generous giving can also mean that you are looking for ways to give to other advancements of the gospel in addition to your first fruits given to your local church. A few examples are: support a missionary, give to a local gospel ministry in your city, or give above and beyond your regular pledge to SFJMC. Another thing I encourage you to do is set aside a little bit each month to what Jennifer and I call “gospel gifts.” This money is simply set aside and available to give to anyone you come into contact with who has a need you feel helps you put on display the gospel of Jesus Christ. It’s hard to do this often unless we have made plans to set it aside in advance.
When we as Christians begin to discover this kind of open-handed living, we will find the old saying is very true:
”God will do way more with what you have left after you generously give than you could ever do with the full amount.”
A final point related to generous giving: our Scripture today says we are not to give under compulsion!
This means, you don’t emotionally and flippantly just give it all away and not steward well the rest of what God has called you to. Generous giving is not reckless giving; it is prayerfully and wisely giving as a good steward.
To close: there is no time like the present to take a fresh look at this practice in your Christian walk.
Are you joyfully, regularly, and generously giving God of your first fruits and not just your leftovers?
Do you ultimately trust that as you are faithful to Him, He will provide for you everything you need?
Don’t ever forget, all that you have is God’s, not yours! He has entrusted it to you to manage it for Him.
Go to God in prayer about these things. Sit with your family and seek God together. Be willing to get counsel if needed. Be willing to repent and start a new obedient practice today. God’s word is clear on this issue. Paul has dedicated a lot of his writing in these chapters to this. We need to be willing to submit ourselves to God’s word and practice these things.
By His grace and for His glory
Joshua “Shepherd” Kirstine
Soldiers For Jesus MC
2 Corinthians 9
The Collection for Christians in Jerusalem
9:1 Now it is superfluous for me to write to you about the ministry for the saints, 2 for I know your readiness, of which I boast about you to the people of Macedonia, saying that Achaia has been ready since last year. And your zeal has stirred up most of them. 3 But I am sending1 the brothers so that our boasting about you may not prove empty in this matter, so that you may be ready, as I said you would be. 4 Otherwise, if some Macedonians come with me and find that you are not ready, we would be humiliated—to say nothing of you—for being so confident. 5 So I thought it necessary to urge the brothers to go on ahead to you and arrange in advance for the gift2 you have promised, so that it may be ready as a willing gift, not as an exaction.3
The Cheerful Giver
6 The point is this: whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows bountifully4 will also reap bountifully. 7 Each one must give as he has decided in his heart, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver. 8 And God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that having all sufficiency5 in all things at all times, you may abound in every good work. 9 As it is written,
“He has distributed freely, he has given to the poor;
his righteousness endures forever.”
10 He who supplies seed to the sower and bread for food will supply and multiply your seed for sowing and increase the harvest of your righteousness. 11 You will be enriched in every way to be generous in every way, which through us will produce thanksgiving to God. 12 For the ministry of this service is not only supplying the needs of the saints but is also overflowing in many thanksgivings to God. 13 By their approval of this service, they6 will glorify God because of your submission that comes from your confession of the gospel of Christ, and the generosity of your contribution for them and for all others, 14 while they long for you and pray for you, because of the surpassing grace of God upon you. 15 Thanks be to God for his inexpressible gift!
Or I have sent
Greek blessing; twice in this verse
Or a gift expecting something in return; Greek greed
Greek with blessings; twice in this verse
Or all contentment