Today’s selected reading continues in the second epistle of the apostle Paul in the New Testament which was written unto the Corinthian saints. More specifically, today’s passage is found in the first thirteen verses of the second chapter of this epistle. Upon reading this particular set of verses within the second chapter of this second epistle you are immediately struck with the reality that the apostle Paul is referencing the previous epistle he had written. In fact, even you read the words which are contained within these eleven verses you will find the apostle almost grieved and sorrowful for the tone of his former epistle which he had written unto this congregation. Please understand and make no mistake about it that the apostle Paul regretted writing his previous epistle unto this congregation, for the church was in serious danger and peril before the Lord. In fact, when you read the first epistle which the apostle wrote unto the Corinthian congregation you will find that he appeared to have received report concerning the condition of the church after his departure. According to the New Testament book of Acts it was in the city of Corinth where the apostle purposed and resolved to preach unto the Gentiles only. It was in the city of Corinth where the ruler of the synagogue, along with his entire house believed in the Lord and were baptized. As you come to the end of this particular section within the New Testament book of the Acts you will find the apostle Paul—perhaps together with Timothy and Silas—spending one year and six months in the city of Corinth preaching the gospel concerning Christ, establishing the body of Christ within the city of Corinth, and ministering unto the saints.
When the first epistle which the apostle Paul has written unto the Corinthian congregation had drawn to a close we find the apostle including Timothy in his final remarks, for he hoped that Timothy would make his way to this church of God which was in Corinth. The apostle Paul instructed this congregation to ensure that should Timothy come unto them he be permitted to do so without fear or trepidation. I have often believed that while it is true Timothy was a son in the faith to the apostle Paul, and while it is true that Timothy minded those things which were of the Lord and worked the work of Christ, he was undoubtedly given to fear. There is every indication that Timothy’s presence in the city of Corinth came directly on the heels of the apostles first letter unto the church of God there—a letter which was heavy in its nature and context. There is not a doubt in my mind the apostle Paul had hoped Timothy would make his way unto the church of God which was at Corinth in order that he might oversee that which the apostle Paul sought to set in order with his first epistle. There seems to be every indication within this second epistle that the apostle Paul recognized the tremendous tone and weight of the epistle he had written unto the saints which were at Corinth. If you go back and reread the first epistle the apostle wrote unto the saints which were at Corinth you will find that there was much which needed to be addressed and corrected, for the church had found themselves given to division and schisms among themselves. It was reported unto the apostle Paul that there was sexual immorality not only present among this congregation, but also seemingly excised and overlooked by the members of the church. Moreover, this particular congregation refused to allow themselves to be demeaned and defrauded, and thus took their brothers and sister to court among the Gentiles.
When I read the words which are contained within this second chapter of this second epistle written unto the Corinthian congregation I can’t help but be struck with the tremendous reality the apostle Paul recognized that his first letter had made the members of this congregation both sorry and sorrowful—two distinct realities which aren’t in and of themselves negative within the life of any saint of God. It was the apostle Paul who wrote that it is goody sorrow that leads to repentance, and that it was the goodness of the Lord which leads to repentance. As surely as the first epistle which was written unto the Corinthian congregation might have been weighty in its tone and message, it was absolutely necessary for the apostle Paul to address that which had been reported unto him. It would have been very easy for the apostle to leave this church unto themselves, and leave them to figure this called Christian living out for themselves, but the apostle Paul could not do so. What I do love about the epistles wrote unto the various churches is that the apostle Paul was daily, was weekly, was monthly, was annually concerned with the condition of the churches. The apostle Paul could and would not leave the churches unto themselves after he had been used to establish them within the earth. The apostle Paul not only wrote various letters to the churches he had established within Asia, but he also sent like-minded ministers and fellow servants and Co-laborers in Christ unto the churches. The Corinthian congregation was one such congregation and body of believers the apostle sought to send like minded ministers unto in order that their presence might further facilitate the growth and maturity of the church. If you read and study the New Testament of Scripture you will find that there are a total of twenty-seven books contained therein, and of those twenty-seven books thirteen of those books are the letters the apostle Paul wrote unto the churches, and three specific individuals within the church at that time. Rome, Corinth, Galatia, Ephesus, Colossae, Philippi, and Thessalonica were the individual churches the apostle Paul wrote to, while Timothy, Titus and Philemon were the three individuals whom the apostle Paul wrote to. Timothy of course was the final recipient of the writings of the apostle Paul, for it was unto Timothy the apostle wrote while he was preparing to go the way of all the earth and meet face to face the One He had followed ever since He appeared to him on the road to Damascus.
The more I read and the most I study the epistles the apostle Paul wrote unto the churches in Asia which he had partnered with fellow labourers and saints to establish, the more I can’t help but be completely and totally gripped with the fact the apostle found it necessary to engage the churches even after his departure. If you read the twentieth chapter of the New Testament book of the Acts of the apostles you will find the apostle Paul giving a farewell speech to the elders of the church which was in Ephesus, and within that farewell, he emphatically and unreservedly declared that after his departure savage wolves would come in among them which would seek to destroy the flock of God which had been established there. I can’t help but wonder if after each time the apostle Paul left one of the churches he helped establish he wasn’t daily gripped with the state and condition of the church. Of course we know and understand the apostle Paul could not remain in one particular place indefinitely, and there was no single congregation and body of believers he could devote all his time to, and it was therefore necessary for him to continue his journey throughout the province of Asia visiting the various churches he had helped establish and plant—that was until he was arrested and imprisoned. The final letter which the apostle Paul wrote within his life—a letter that was written unto Timothy his spiritual son in the faith—was written while in chains in a Roman prison as he was preparing for that day when he would meet the Master he had faithfully followed for nearly three decades. What I so love about the thirteen letters we find within the New Testament is the apostle’s undying love and affection toward the churches he helped establish within the earth among the provinces of Asia. The letters which the apostle Paul wrote were powerful demonstrations of his affection and desire for the various churches and congregations, and for the individual members which made up those churches. This is further confirmed when you read the eleventh chapter of this second epistle written unto the Corinthians, for the apostle writes the following words—“Beside those things that are without, that which cometh upon me daily, the care of all the churches” (2 Corinthians 11:28).
If you begin reading the second chapter of the second epistle the apostle Paul wrote unto the saints which were at Corinth, you will find the apostle Paul—not only speaking of his presence within Corinth, but also the words which he had written unto the congregation. Consider if you will the words which are recorded in the first four verses of this second chapter—“But I determined this with myself, that I would not come again to you in heaviness. For if I make you sorry, who is he then that maketh me glad, but the same which is made sorry by me? And I wrote this same unto you, lest, when I came, I should have sorrow from them of whom I ought to rejoice; having confidence in you all, that my joy is the joy of you all. For out of much affliction and anguish of heart I wrote unto you with many tears; not that ye should be grieved, but that ye might know the love which I have more abundantly unto you” (2 Corinthians 2:1-4). Notice what is written and recorded within that fourth verse, for within that fourth verse we find the apostle Paul referencing the tremendous affliction and anguish of heart which consumed him as he wrote the first epistle unto this congregation. What’s more, is that in addition to this much affliction and anguish of heart, the apostle Paul wrote that first letter with many tears. The apostle Paul would go on to write that his affliction, his anguish of heart, his many tears were not to cause them to be grieved, but in order that they might know the love which he had more abundantly unto them. I can’t imagine it was easy for the apostle Paul to write such words which were contained within that first letter unto the Corinthian congregation, for the apostle knew there was much that needed to be corrected among the individual members of the congregation. Please don;’t miss the significance and importance of this, for the apostle Paul was neither afraid, nor was he ashamed to confront and address the issues which were plaguing the Corinthian congregation. The apostle Paul wasn’t willing to abandon the Corinthian congregation unto themselves, and not only wrote a letter to them addressing and confronting the issues, but he also sought to send Timothy and Apollos unto them on the heels of the letter he had written.
As I read the words which are contained within this second chapter of the second epistle written unto the Corinthian congregation, I can’t help but be reminded of an Old Testament example of one who refused to address the sin and transgression that was taking place within the house of the Lord in Shiloh. In order to fully understand and comprehend the full scope of what was taking place at the house of the Lord in Shiloh, it’s necessary to begin reading with and from the twelfth verse of the second chapter of the Old Testament book of First Samuel: “Now the sons of Eli were sons of Belial; they knew not the Lord. And the priests’ custom with the people was, that, when any man offered sacrifice, the priest’s servant came, while the flesh was in seething, with a fleshhook of three teeth in his hand; and he struck it into the pan, or kettle, or caldron, or pot; all that the fleshhook brought up the priest took for himself. SO they did in Shiloh unto all the Israelites that came thither. Also before they burnt the fat, the priest’s servant came, and said to the man that sacrificed, Give flesh to toast for the priest; for he will not have sodden flesh of thee, but raw. And if any man said unto him, Let them not fail to burn the fat presently, and then take as much as thy should desireth; then he would answer him, Nay; but thou shalt give it me now: if if not, I will take it by force. Wherefore the sin of the young men was very great before the Lord: for men abhorred the offering of the Lord” (1 Samuel 2:12-17). The sin and transgression of Eli’s two sons—Hophni and Phineas—was further compounded by that which we continue reading in the same chapter beginning with the twenty-second verse of this second chapter—“Now Eli was very old, and heard all that his sons did unto all Israel; and how they lay with the women that assembled at the door of the tabernacle of the congregation. And he said unto them, Why do ye such things? For I hear of your evil dealings by all this people. Nay, my sons; for it is no good report that I hear: ye make the Lord’s people to transgress. If one man sin against another, the judge shall judge him: but if a man sin against the Lord, who shall intreat for him? Notwithstanding they heartened not unto the voice of their father, because the Lord would slay them” (1 Samuel 2:22-25 ).
If you continue reading this Old Testament book of First Samuel you will find Eli being confronted—not once, but twice by to different individuals. Beginning to read with the twenty-seventh verse of this same chapter we find the following account of a man of God which came unto Eli with a word and message from the Lord. Consider if you will the words and language that is found concerning this visit from the man of God beginning with the twenty-seventh verse: “And there came a man of God unto Eli, and said unto him, Thus saith the Lord, Did I plainly appear unto the house of thy father, when they were in Egypt in Pharaoh’s house? AND did I choose him out of all the tribes of Israel to be my priest, to offer upon mine altar, to burn incense, to wear an ephod before me? And did I give unto the house of thy father all the offerings made by fire of the children of Israel? Wherefore kick ye at my sacrifice and at mine offering, which I have commanded in my habitation; and honoured thy sons above me, to make yourselves fat with the chiefest of all the offerings of Israel my people? Wherefore the Lord God of Israel saith, I said indeed that thy house, and the house of thy father, should walk before me for ever: but now the Lord saith, Be it far from me; for them that honour me I will honour, and they that despise me shall be lightly esteemed. Behold, the days come, that I will cut off thine arm, and the arm of thy father’s house, that there shall not be an old man in thine house. And thou shalt see an enemy in my habitation, in all the wealth which God shall give Israel: and there shall not be an old man in thine house for ever. And the man of thine, whom I shall not cut off from mine altar, shall be to consumed thine eyes, and to grieve thine heart: and all the increase of thine house shall die in the flower of their age. And this shall be a sign unto thee, that shall come upon thy two sons, on Hophni and Phineas; in one day they shall die both of them. And I will raise me up a faithful priest, that shall do according to that which is in mine heart and in my mind: and I will build him a sure house; and he shall walk before mine anointed fore ever. And it shall come to pass, that every one that is left in thine house shall come and crouch to him for a piece of silver and a morsel of bread, and shall say, Put me, I pray thee, into one of the priests’ offices, that I may eat a piece of bread” (1 Samuel 2:27-36).
That which we read in the second chapter of this book of First Samuel is further confirmed by that which we read in the third chapter when the Lord appeared unto Samuel while he ministered before the Lord in the house of the Lord. Three times within a single night the voice of the Lord called unto Samuel, and after heeding the advice of Eli the priest, and responding accordingly, the voice of the Lord continued to speak unto Samuel, thus revealing events which would come upon the house of the Lord in Shiloh, and upon the house of Eli. Consider if you will the words which are recorded beginning with the tenth verse of the third chapter concerning that encounter Samuel had with the Lord that night: “And the Lord came, and stood, and called as at other times, Samuel, Samuel. Then Samuel answered, Speak; for thy servant heareth. And the Lord said to Samuel, Behold, I will do a thing in Israel, at which both the ears of every one that heareth it shall tingle. In that day I will perform against Elie all things which I have spoken concerning his house: when I begin, I will also make an end. For I have told him that I will judge his house for ever for the iniquity which he knoweth; because his sons made themselves vile, and he restrained them not. And therefore I have sworn unto the house of Eli, that the iniquity of Eli’s house shall not be purged with sacrifice, nor offering for ever. And Samuel lay until the morning, and opened the doors of the house of the Lord. And Samuel feared to shew Eli the vision. Then Eli called Samuel, and said Samuel, my son. And he answered, Here am I. And he said, What is the thing that the Lord hath said unto thee? I pray thee hide it not from me: God do so to thee, and more also, if thou hide any thing from me: god do so to thee, and more also, if thou hide any thing from me of all the things that he said unto thee. And Samuel told him every whit, and hid nothing form him. And he said, It is the Lord: let him do what Shemeth Him good” (1 Samuel 3:10-18).
IN the fourth chapter of the New Testament epistle written unto the Hebrews we find the following declaration concerning the word of God, and it’s present and impact within the life of the saints of God—“For the word of God is quick, and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit, and of the joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart. Neither is there any creature that is not manifest in His sight: but all things are naked and opened unto the eyes of Him with whom we have to do” (Hebrews 4:12-13). When you come to the fourth chapter of the apostle Paul’s second epistle which was written unto Timothy, his spiritual son in the faith, you will find very specific instruction given unto Timothy concerning the ministry he was called to among the church of Jesus Christ. Beginning with the first verse of the fourth chapter we read the following words—“I charge thee therefore before God, and the Lord Jesus Christ, who shall judge the quick and the dead at His appearing and His kingdom; preach the word; be instant in season, out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort with all long suffering and doctrine. For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but after their own lusts shall they heap to themselves teachers, having itching ears; and they shall turn away their ears from the truth, and shall be turned unto fables. But watch thou in all things, endure afflictions, do the work of an evangelist, make full proof of thy ministry” ( 2 Timothy 4:1-5). What’s more, is that if you turn back just a few verses into the previous chapter you will fin additional commentary and insight concerning the word of God, as the apostle Paul sought to further instruct Timothy in both his faith and ministry—“But continue thou in the things which thou hast learned and hast been assured of, knowing of whom thou hast learned them; and that from a child thou hast known the holy scriptures, which are able to make thee wise unto salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus. All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness: that the man of God may be perfect, throughly furnished unto all good works” (2 Timothy 3:14-16).
When you read the second and third chapters of the Old Testament book of First Samuel you will find that not only did Eli’s sons Hophni and Phineas despise the offerings and sacrifices of the Lord at His house among the people of God in Shiloh, but they also engaged themselves in sexual immorality with the women who came unto the house of the Lord to worship the Lord with their offerings and sacrifices. Perhaps certain of these women came with their husbands and Hophni and Phineas engaged in adulterous affairs with certain women who apparently offered more than sacrifices and offerings at the house of the Lord. When you read the account of Eli, you will find that although he knew and was aware of the sin and transgression of his sons which were committed at the house of the Lord, he chose not to restrain them, nor the sin and transgression they committed in the sight of the Lord. When the Lord appeared unto Samuel for the third time that night He revealed unto the young boy the transgression and iniquity of the house of Eli, and specifically how Eli knew and was aware of the transgression and iniquity which his sons committed, and yet he chose to do absolutely nothing about it. Of course Scripture reveals how Eli spoke unto his sons concerning the transgression and iniquity which they were committing in the house of the Lord, but the Lord revealed unto Samuel that while he knew of their transgression and iniquity, he chose not to restrain them from committing such acts. It is absolutely necessary and imperative that we recognize and understand that which took place in Israel, that which took place in the house of the Lord, and that which took place in the house of Eli, for not only was Eli unwilling to restrain the sin and transgression among the ministers of the Lord, but he was also unwilling to restrain the iniquity and transgression that took place in the house of the Lord. Samuel—according to the word of the Lord—rebuked Eli for knowing of the sin and transgression of his sons, and yet doing absolutely nothing to refrain and restrain their transgression and iniquity from continuing. Oh how great a tragedy it is in the house of the Lord when ministers are unwilling to confront and deal with sin and transgression which is committed among the members of the body, and even ministers of the Lord who themselves are committing transgression and iniquity before and against the Lord.
In the fourth chapter of the epistle which was written unto the Hebrews we discover how the word of God is quick, and powerful, how the word of God is sharper than any two-edged sword, and that it pierces even to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit, and of the joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart. What’s more, is that the author of this epistle goes on to write and declare that there is no creature that is not manifest in the sight of God, but all things are naked and opened unto the eyes of him with whom we have to do. The author of the epistle written unto the Hebrews revealed the tremendous power of the word of God to pierce and to divide, and how it is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the hearts of men. The apostle Paul wrote unto Timothy his spiritual son in the faith that the day would come when men would no longer endure sound doctrine, but after their own lusts would heap to themselves teachers, having itching ears. The apostle Paul declared unto Timothy that such men would turn their ears away from the truth, and would be turned unto fables. Immediately before making such a declaration unto Timothy the apostle Paul instructed him to preach the word, to be instant in season and out of season, to reprove, to rebuke, and to exhort with all long suffering and doctrine. Even before this, the apostle Paul declared unto Timothy that all Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, and for instruction in righteousness. It is necessary and imperative that we recognize and pay close attention to what we are reading these passages of Scripture, for Scripture and the word of God are necessary to bring rebuke, reproof, correction, and instruction in righteousness. We dare not lose sight or refuse to lay hold of this reality, for there is a great need for men and women who are willing to rise up according to and with the full authority contained within the word of God reprove, rebuke, correct and instruct men and women in righteousness. There is a great and powerful need for men and women who are unwilling to hold any punches when it comes to proclaiming the word of the Lord according to the word of God, and bring correction where correction is necessary.
Whereas Eli refused to deal with, confront and restrain the iniquity and transgression of his two sons Hophni and Phineas, the apostle Paul was unwilling to allow the churches to continue and persist in their transgression and iniquity. The entire first epistle which was written unto the Corinthian saints—thought it was written with much affliction and anguish of heart, and though it was written with much tears—was written to instruct the Corinthian congregation in matters of righteousness before the Lord. That first letter was written to bring correction and reproof where they were needed, and was written to combat specific mindsets, attitudes, actions, thought processes and patterns which had crept into the church of God which was at Corinth. I absolutely love the words the apostle Paul wrote in the second chapter of this second epistle unto the Corinthian congregation, for he acknowledged the tremendous difficulty he had in writing that letter unto them. I would dare say that writing such a letter took a great and tremendous toll on the apostle, for he fully and completely acknowledged the affliction and anguish of heart he experienced when writing unto this church. It was this church and these people whom he spent a full year and six months establishing them, ministering unto them, and preaching the gospel concerning Jesus Christ. It was within this church and this congregation the apostle Paul ministered side by side together with Timothy and Silas according to the gospel concerning Jesus Christ. After his departure, however, reports started reaching his ears concerning that which was taking place among the members of the congregation, and the apostle could not sit idly by and allow this church to destroy and tear itself apart. The apostle acknowledge the tremendous love he had for this congregation, and the affliction, the anguish of heart, and the many tears he cried were direct manifestations of the love and affection he had toward this church, for it was love which caused him to write unto them and bring correction and instruction where both were needed. Oh that we would recognize the great deal of love and affection that needs to surround correction and rebuke, reproof and instruction of righteousness, for there are countless ministers who would be heavy-fisted in the way they deal with and handle iniquity, transgression and sin among the members of the body of Christ.
I can’t help but be reminded of the words the apostle Paul wrote in the fourth chapter of the epistle he wrote unto the saints which were at Ephesus, for it is what we find within this chapter that helps us understand and grasp what is so necessary and vital when we are attempting to bring correction and instruction in righteousness among the members of the body of Christ. Beginning with the eleventh verse of the fourth chapter we find the following words written by the apostle concerning those who had been given unto the body of Christ—namely, apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors and teachers: “And He gave some, apostles; and some, prophets; and some, evangelists; and som, pastors and teachers; for the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ: till we all come in the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, unto a perfect man, unto the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ: that we henceforth be no more children, tossed to and fro, and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the sleight of men, and cunning craftiness, whereby they lie in wait to deceive; but speaking the truth in love, may grow up into Him in all things, which is the head, even Christ: from whom the whole body fitly joined together and compacted by that which every joint suppliers, according to the effectual working in the measure of every part, maketh increase of the body unto the edifying of itself in love” (Ephesians 4:11-16). BUT SPEAKING THE TRUTH IN LOVE! Please don’t miss the significance and importance of these words, for when writing to the Galatian congregation the apostle Paul asked the following question of them—“Am I therefore become your enemies, because I tell you the truth?” (Galatians 4:16). Although the first epistle the apostle Paul was heavy and weighty—both in tone and language—it was absolutely necessary, for the apostle wrote from a place of great affliction and anguish of heart, and it was from that place he dared speak the truth in love. I would dare say that until and unless you are willing to speak the truth in love, and unless your heart and soul are gripped with much affliction and anguish, you dare not make any attempt to bring correction and/or instruction in righteousness. Only those whose hearts are tender before the Lord, and only those who are willing to operate from a place of love, and form that Place of love dare make any attempt to bring correction and instruction where iniquity and transgression are found.