Today’s selected reading continues in the second New Testament epistle written by the apostle Paul unto the Corinthian saints. More specifically today’s passage is found in the seventh and eighth chapters of this New Testament book. “Having therefore these promises, dearly beloved, let us cleanse ourselves from all filthiness of the flesh and spirit, perfecting holiness in the fear of God” (2 Corinthians 7:1).
“Receive us; we have wronged no man, we have corrupted no man, we have defrauded no man. I speak not this to condemn you; for I have said before, that ye are in our hearts to die and live with you. Great is my boldness of speech toward you, great is my glorying of you: I am filled with comfort, I am exceeding joyful in all our tribulation” (2 Corinthians 7:2-4).
“For, when we were come into Macedonia, our flesh had no rest, but we were troubled on ever side; without were fightings, within were fears. Nevertheless God, that comforteth those that are cast down, comforted us by the coming of Titus; and not by his coming only, but by the consolation wherewith he was comforted in you, when he told us your earnest desire, your mourning, your fervent mind toward me; so that I rejoiced the more. For thought I made you sorry with a letter, I do not repent, though I di repent: for I perceive that the same epistles hath made you sorry, though it were but for a season” (2 Corinthians 7:5-8).
“Now I rejoice, not that ye were made sorry, but that ye sorrowed to repentance for ye were made sorry after a godly manner, that ye might receive damage by us in nothing. For godly sorrow worketh repentance to salvation not to be repented of: but the sorrow of the world worketh death. For behold this selfsame thing, that ye sorrowed after a godly sort, what carefully it wrought in you, yea, what clearing of yourselves, yea, what indignation, yea, what fear, yea what vehement desire, yea, what zeal, yea what revenged! In all things ye have approved yourselves to be clear in this matter” (2 Corinthians 7:9-11).
“Wherefore, though I wrote unto you, I did it not for his cause that had done the wrong, nor for his cause that suffered wrong, but that our care for you in the sight of God might appear unto you. Therefore we were comforted in your comfort: yea, and exceedingly the more joyed we for the joy of Titus, because his spirit was refreshed by you all. For If I have boasted any thing to him of you, I am not ashamed; but as we spake all things to you in truth, even so our boasting, which I made before Titus, is found a truth. And his inward affection is more abundant toward you, whilst he remembereth the obedience of you all, how with fear and trembling ye receive him. I rejoice therefore that I have confidence in you in all things” (2 Corinthians 7:12-16).
“Moreover, brethren, we do you to wit of the grace of God bestowed on the churches of Macedonia; how that in a great trial of affliction the abundance of their joy and their deep poverty abounded unto the riches of their liberality. For to their power, I bear record, yea, and beyond their power they were willing of themselves; praying us with much intreaty that we would receive the gift, and take upon us the fellowship of the ministering to the saints. And this they did, not as we hoped, but first grace their own selves to the Lord, and unto us by the will of God. Insomuch that we desired Titus, that as he had begun, so he would also finish in you the same grace also. Therefore, as ye abound in every thing, in faith, and utterance, and knowledge, and in all diligence, and in your love to us, see that ye abound in this grace also. I speak not by commandment, but by occasion of the forwardness of others, and to prove the sincerity of your love. For ye know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that, though he was rich, yet for your sakes he became poor, that ye through his poverty might be rich. And herein I give my advice: for this is expedient for you, who have begun before, not only to do, but also to be forward a year ago. Now therefore perform the doing of it; that as there was a readiness to will, so there may be a performance also out of that which ye have. For if there be first a willing mind, it is accepted according to that a man hath, and not according to that he hath not. For I mean not that other men be eased, and ye burnbled. But by an equality, that now at this time your abundance may be a supply for their want, that their abundance also may be a supply for your want: that there may be equality: As it is written, He that had gathered much had nothing over; and he that had gathered little had no lack” (2 Corinthians 8:1-15).
“But thanks be to God, which put the same earnest care into the heart of Titus for you. For indeed he accepted the exhortation; but being more forward, of his own accord he went unto you. And we have sent with him, the brother, whose praise is in the gospel throughout all the churches; and not that only, but who was also chosen of the churches to travel with us with this grace, which is administered by us to the glory of the same Lord, and declaration of your ready mind: avoiding this, that no man should blame us in this abundance which is administered by us: providing for honest things, not only in the sight of the Lord, but also in the sight of men. And we have sent with them our brother, whom we have oftentimes proved diligent in many things, but now much more diligent, upon the great confidence which I have in you. Whether any do inquire of Titus, he is my partner and fellow helper concerning you: or our brethren be inquired of, they are the messengers of the churches, and the glory of Christ. Wherefore shew ye to them, and before the churches, the proof of your love, and of our boasting on your behalf” (2 Corinthians 8:16-24).
When you come to the seventh chapter of this epistle written by the apostle Paul you will encounter and come face to face with tremendous truth surrounding the eager and earnest desire to not only provide comfort but also receive comfort from the Corinthian congregation. If you take the time to read the words which are found in this passage of Scripture you will find an incredible amount of language that is presented here before us concerning the ministry of the apostle Paul and his desire for the Corinthian congregation. If you begin reading with and from the first and opening verse of the seventh chapter you will find the apostle Paul speaking of certain promises and as a direct result of those promises the apostle Paul appealed to the Corinthian congregation to cleanse themselves from all filthiness of the flesh and spirit as they perfected holiness in the fear of God. Pause for a moment and consider the awesome truth surrounding those words—not only based on the promises the apostle Paul referred to but also the appeal he made unto the Corinthian saints. The apostle Paul appealed to the Corinthians based on the promises they had in the person of the living and eternal God. With this being said, however, the question then becomes what promises is the apostle Paul speaking of. In order to truly understand the words which are found in this passage of Scripture it is absolutely necessary to call and draw your attention to the words which are found in the sixth chapter of this epistle for it helps us to understand a portion of the promises the apostle Paul was spoken of:
“O ye Corinthians, our mouth is open unto you, our heart is enlarged. Ye are not straitened in us, but ye are straitened in your own bowels. Now for a recompense in the same, (I speak as unto my children,) be ye also enlarged. Be ye not unequally yoked together with unbelievers: for what fellowship hath righteousness with unrighteousness? And what communion hath light with darkness? And what concord hath Christ with Belial? Or what part hath he that believeth with an infidel? And what agreement hath the temple of God with idols? For ye are the temple of the living God; as God hath said, I will dwell in them, and walk in them; and I will be their God, and they shall be my people. Wherefore come out from among them and be ye separate, saith the Lord, and touch not the unclean thing; and I will receive you, and will be a Father unto you, and ye shall be my sons and daughters, saith the Lord Almighty” (2 Corinthians 6:11-18).
The words and language we find in this passage of Scripture are absolutely and incredibly astounding when you take the time to think about them for when we come to the seventh chapter of this second epistle written unto the Corinthian saints we find the apostle Paul appealing unto them according to the promises which he had spoken of—promises which they had in the living God. In the sixth chapter of this epistle we find the apostle Paul quoting from the ancient Hebrew prophet the promise the living God made unto His people and how He would dwell in them and walk in them. What’s more is that not only did the apostle Paul quote the incredible truth of the living God dwelling in His people and walking in them but also how He would be their God and how they shall be His people. What makes this so incredibly interesting when you take the time to think about it is you sort of get the same language in the sixth chapter as you do in the opening verse of the seventh chapter. In the seventh chapter the apostle Paul appeals to the Corinthians to cleanse themselves from all filthiness of flesh and spirit while in the final verses of the sixth chapter we find the apostle Paul appealing unto them to come out from among them and be separate—and not only come out and be separate but also touch not the unclean thing. This entire reality is based on the incredible truth that we are the temple of God which has been made without human hands. In the sixth chapter of the first epistle written by the apostle Paul we find him emphatically declaring unto the Corinthian saints how they were the temple of the Holy Spirit while here in the sixth chapter we find the apostle Paul taking this a step further and declaring unto them how they were the temple of the living God. With this in mind I invite you to consider the following words which are found in the sixth chapter of the first epistle written by the apostle Paul unto the Corinthian saints:
“Know ye not that your bodies are the members of Christ? Shall I then take the members of Christ, and make them the members of an harlot? God forbid. What? Know ye not that he which is joined to an harlot is one body? For two, saith he, shall be one flesh. But he that is joined unto the Lord is one spirit. Flee fornication. Every sin that a man doeth is without the body; but he that committeth fornication sinneth against his own body. What? Know ye not that your body is the temple of the Holy Ghost which is in you, which ye have of God, and ye are not your own? For ye are bought with a price: therefore glorify God in your body, and in your spirit, which are God’s” (1 Corinthians 6:15-20).
Please don’t miss the words and language which are found in this passage of Scripture for while in the sixth chapter of the second epistle the apostle Paul appealed to the Corinthian saints to come out from among them and be separate while touching not the unclean thing he would here in this passage appeal to them to flee fornication. In direct response to their being the temple of the Holy Spirit the apostle Paul appealed to them to flee fornication for every sin that a man does is against without the body, but that one who commits fornication sins against his own body. Oh we dare not and must not miss and lose sight of the tremendous language that is found in this passage of Scripture for there appears to be this intrinsic link and connection between our being the Temple of the Holy Spirit and fleeing fornication and our being the temple of the living God and coming out and being separate whilst touching not the unclean thing. It is absolutely necessary we recognize and understand the words and language which are found in these passages of Scripture for they call and draw our attention to the tremendous truth surrounding our individual bodies as being temples of the Holy Spirit as well as our collective bodies as one being the temple of the living God. It’s worth noting how the apostle Paul didn’t declare unto the Corinthians how they were temples of the Holy Ghost thus indicating and speaking of multiple temples but rather how they were the temple of the Holy Spirit. That which the apostle Paul spoke unto the Corinthians was that they were indeed and were in fact a single collective temple of the Holy Spirit—a dwelling place that was made for the Holy Spirit.
I have to admit I am absolutely and incredibly stunned with and by the words which are found in the sixth chapters of both the first and second epistles written by the apostle Paul unto the Corinthian saints for the apostle Paul speaks of their being the temple of the Holy Spirit—and not only the temple of the Holy Spirit but also the temple of the living God. As a direct result of their being the temple of the Holy Spirit and the temple of the living God they were to cleanse and purify themselves from all filth, all immorality, all fornication and all manner of evil. In the seventh chapter of the second epistle written by the apostle Paul unto the Corinthian saints we find the apostle Paul inviting and appealing unto them to cleanse themselves from all manner of filthiness of flesh and spirit as they perfected holiness in the fear of the Lord. In all reality we must needs understand and acknowledge this powerful truth for it calls and draws our attention to the truly wonderful reality of how holiness is not only something we pursue but it is also something which is indeed perfected within our beings. Not only this but holiness is something that is perfected in us in the fear of the Lord. We dare not and must not miss and lose sight of this for it calls and draws our attention to the great and present need for our not only pursuing holiness but also our being perfected in holiness. We must needs understand and acknowledge this within our hearts and our minds for there is a strong and passionate appeal for us to be those who not only come out and be separate and not only those who touch not the unclean things but also those who flee fornication with all diligence.
What adds even more weight and significance to this is when you think about the words the apostle Paul spoke in the twelfth chapter of the first epistle written unto the Corinthian saints. It is in the twelfth chapter of the first epistle written by the apostle Paul unto the Corinthian saints we find him speaking unto them concerning their being one body which was made up of many members. In order to truly understand the words which are found in the seventh and eighth chapters we must needs recognize that not only are we the temple of the Holy Spirit and the temple of the living God but we are also the body of Christ with many members. When the Lord Jesus was laying aside His divinity and the glory he had with the Father in heaven there would be a physical and natural body that would be prepared for Him in this earthly realm. It is absolutely necessary for us to recognize and pay close attention to the words which are found in this passage of Scripture for what we find in it is the powerful truth surrounding the church as being the body of Christ and how incredibly interconnected and intrinsically linked the body of Christ is. With this being said I invite you to consider the following words which are found in the twelfth chapter of the first epistle written by the apostle Paul unto the Corinthian saints beginning with the first verse:
“Now concerning spiritual gifts, brethren, I would not have you ignorant. Ye know that ye were Gentiles, carried away unto these dumb idols, even as ye were led. Wherefore I give you to understand, that no man speaking by the Spirit of God calleth Jesus accursed: and that no man can say that Jesus is the Lord, but by the Holy Ghost. Now there are diversities of gifts, but the same Spirit. And there are differences of administrations, but the same Lord. And there are diversities of operations, but it is the same God which worketh all in all. But the manifestation of the Spirit is given to every man to profit withal. For to one is given by the Spirit the word of wisdom; to another the word of knowledge by the same Spirit; to another faith by the same Spirit; to another the gifts of healing by the same Spirit; to another the working of miracles; to another prophecy; to another discerning of spirits; to another divers kinds of tongues; to another the interpretation of tongues: but all these worketh that one and the selfsame Spirit, dividing to every man severally as he will” (1 Corinthians 12:1-11).
“For as the body is one, and hath many members, and all the members of that one body, being many, are one body: so also is Christ. For by one Spirit are we all baptized into one body, whether we be Jews or Gentiles, whether we be bond or free; and have been all made to drink into one Spirit. For the body is not one member, but many. If the foot shall say, Because I am not the hand, I am not of the body; is it therefore not of the body? And if the ear shall say, Because I am not the eye, I am not of the body; is it therefore not of the body? If the whole body were an eye, where were the hearing? If the whole were hearing, where were the smelling? But now hath God set the members every one of them in the body, as it hath pleased him. And if they were all one member, where were the body? But now are they many members, yet but one body. And the eye cannot say unto the hand, I have no need of thee: nor again the head to the feet, I have no need of you. Nay, much more those members of the body, which seem to be more feeble, are necessary: and those members of the body, which we think to be less honourable, upon these we bestow more abundant honour; and our uncomely parts have more abundant comeliness. For our comely parts have no need: but God hath tempered the body together, having given more abundant honour to that part which lacked: that there should be no schism in the body; but that the members should have the same care one for another. And whether one member suffer, all the members suffer with it; or one member be honoured, all the members rejoice with it. Now ye are the body of Christ, and members in particular” (1 Corinthians 12;12-26).
While the seventh chapter of the second epistle written by the apostle Paul begins with an appeal to cleanse oneself from all filthiness of the flesh and spirit as they are perfected in the fear of God it immediately and quickly transitions into a place where the apostle Paul writes of the conflicts and struggle which he and his companions faced. What’s more is that not only did the apostle Paul speak of the conflict and struggle which he himself faced but also that which we as the saints of God face on a consistent and continual basis. In fact if you read this second epistle—perhaps even more than the first epistle—you will find an incredible amount of language contained therein concerning the trials, the troubles, the tribulations, the suffering and the afflictions which the saints of God face on a consistent basis. I would dare say that you cannot truly understand this second epistle written by the apostle Paul without and apart from recognizing the continual sorrows, the continual anguish, the continual struggles and conflicts the apostle Paul—and only the apostle Paul but also the saints of God faced within and throughout their daily lives as the saints and disciples of the living God. Beginning with the first and opening chapter of this epistle we find the apostle Paul emphatically speaking of the suffering of the members of the body. What adds even more weight to this is when you think about and consider the fact that the suffering of one member of the body does not take place in a vacuum nor does it take place in a bubble. The apostle Paul declared in the twelfth chapter of the first epistle written unto the Corinthians how when one member suffers all the members suffer together with them. Similarly when one member rejoices all the members of the body rejoice with them. Consider if you will the following words which are found in the fourth and fifth chapters of the first epistle written by the apostle Peter unto the saints which were scattered abroad throughout Asia and Europe during those days:
“Beloved, think it not strange concerning the fiery trial which is to try you, as though some strange thing happened unto you; but rejoice, inasmuch as ye are partakers of Christ’s sufferings; that, when his glory shall be revealed, ye may be glad also with exceeding joy. If ye be reproached for the name of Christ, happy are ye; for the spirit of glory and of God resteth upon you: on their part he is evil spoken of, but on your part he is glorified. But let none of you suffer as a murderer, or as a thief, or as an evildoer, or as a busy body in other men’s matters. Yet if any man suffer as a Christian, let him not be ashamed; but let him glory God on this behalf. For the time is come that judgment must begin at the house of God: and if it first begin at us, what shall the end be of them that obey not the gospel of God? And if the righteous scarcely be saved, where shall the ungodly and the sinner appear? Wherefore let them that suffer according to the will of God commit the keeping of their souls to him in well doing, as unto a faithful Creator” (1 Peter 4:12-19).
“The elders which are among you I exhort, who am also an elder, and a witness of the sufferings of Christ, and also a partaker of the glory that shall be revealed: Feed the flock of God which is among you, taking the oversight thereof, not by constraint, but willingly; not for filthy lucre, but of a ready mind; Neither as being lords over God’s heritage, but being ensamples to the flock. And when the chief Shepherd shall appear, ye shall receive a crown of glory that fadeth not away. Likewise, ye younger, submit yourselves unto the elder. Yea, all of you be subject one to another, and be clothed with humility: for God resisteth the proud, and giveth grace to the humble. Humble yourselves therefore under the mighty hand of God, that he may exalt you in due time: casting all your care upon him; for he careth for you. Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil, as a roaring lion, walketh about, seeking whom he may devour: whom resist stedfast in the faith, knowing that the same afflictions are accomplish in your brethren that are in the world. But the God of all grace, who hath called us into his eternal glory by Christ Jesus, after that ye have suffered a while, make you perfect, stablish, strengthen, settle you. To him be glory and dominion for ever and ever. Amen” (1 Peter 5:1-11).
It is quite clear from the words which are found in this passage of Scripture that suffering has never and does never take place in a vacuum. In the twelfth chapter of the first epistle written by the apostle Paul we find him speaking of one member of the body suffering and all the members of the body suffering while in the fifth chapter of the first epistle written by the apostle Peter we find him writing of the saints knowing that the same afflictions are being accomplish in their brethren which were in the world. Pause for a moment and consider just how incredible this reality truly is for we tend to think that suffering is an isolated incident and event within our lives as individuals. There is a part of us that tends to think and consider the fact that we walk through whatever trial(s), trouble(s) and tribulation(s) we face and that it is somehow exclusive to us ourselves. The truth of the matter, however, is that this simply is not the case. There is a great need within our hearts and minds to recognize and understand that suffering does indeed take place within the body as a whole and that the body is fitly joined together with each of its individuals members. Oh how absolutely incredible it is to think about the fact that the spiritual body of the Lord Jesus Christ is one made up of many members. As such each member is intrinsically linked and connected to each other and their lives are intertwined with each other. We have great need to recognize and understand this for the question we must needs ask ourselves is whether or not we are truly connected to the body of Christ. Not only this but we must needs ask ourselves what we are doing to connect ourselves to the body of Christ. Oh it is true we might in fact know we are part of the body of Christ, however, it is also true that we must needs diligently strive to join ourselves to the various members of the body of Christ.
When the apostle Paul wrote unto the Ephesian saints he wrote unto them concerning the mystery of the body of Christ and how the body of Christ is that which is made up of many members which are united together under one head. What’s more is that not only is the spiritual body of the Lord Jesus united together under one head but it is also fitly joined together as one body united together under and in the person of the Lord Jesus. If we wish to truly understand the words which are found in the seventh and eighth chapters of the second epistle written unto the Corinthian saints there is a great need for us to recognize the words which are found in the fourth chapter of the epistle written by the apostle Paul unto the Ephesian saints. In the seventh and eighth chapters of the second epistle—not only do we find the apostle Paul speaking of the suffering and affliction of the spiritual body of the Lord Jesus but we also find him speaking of the ministry of the body. Perhaps one of the greatest truths surrounding the church as being one body made up of many members is that the body can in fact minister and give unto the individual needs of others. The body of Christ is such that has been carefully knit and woven together that it might not only be joined together as one but might also minister unto itself in all meekness, in all love, in all compassion and in all affection. With this in mind I invite you to consider the following words which are found in the fourth chapter of the New Testament epistle written by the apostle Paul unto the Ephesian saints:
“I therefore, the prisoner of the Lord, beseech you that ye walk worthy of the vocation wherewith ye are called, with all lowliness and meekness, with longsuffering, forbearing one another in love; endeavoruring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. There is one body, and one Spirit, even as ye are called in one hope of your calling; one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all, who is above all, and through all, and in you all. But unto every one of us is given grace according to the measure of the gift of Christ. Wherefore he saith, When he ascended up on high, he led captivity captive, and gave gifts unto men. (Now that he ascended, what is it but that ye also descended first into the lower parts of the earth? He that descended is the same also that ascended up far above all heavens, that he might fill all things.) And he gave some, apostles; and some, prophets; and some, evangelists; and some, 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 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 supplierth, according to the effectual working in the measure of every part, maketh increase of the body unto the edifying of itself in love” (Ephesians 4:1-16).
It is absolutely necessary we recognize and understand this language of the body—and not only this language of the body, but also the tremendous truth that the body is one made up of many members. There is a great need for us to recognize that the spiritual body of the Lord Jesus is one body made up of many members. Not only this but each member of the body is fitly joined together and placed within the body that the body might not lack anything. Much like a puzzle might have thousands of pieces which each fit together to form one master picture so also is the body of Christ made up of thousands—if not millions—of different members with each piece and each member fitly and being joined together perfectly to each other. Oh that we would truly recognize and understand this particular truth for it helps serve as the background and foundation for what we find in the seventh and eighth chapters of the second epistle written by the apostle Paul unto the Corinthian saints. What we find in the seventh and eighth chapters of the second epistle written by the apostle Paul unto the Corinthian saints not only speaks to the suffering of the body but it also speaks to the giving of the body. In fact I would dare say that these two realities are intrinsically linked together for the body has been tempered together that the members thereof might supply unto each member which might be lacking or which might need ministry from the body. Having said this I invite you to consider the following words which are found in the second and fourth chapters of the New Testament book of Acts concerning this ministry of the body of Christ:
“Then they that gladly received his word were baptized: and the same day there were added unto them about three thousand souls. And they continued stedfastly in the apostles’ doctrine and fellowship, and in breaking of bread, and in prayers. And fear came upon every soul: and many wonders and signs were done by the apostles. And all that believed were together, and had all things common; and sold their possessions and goods, and parted them to all men, as every man had need. And they, continuing daily with one accord in the temple, and breaking bread from house to house, did eat their meat with gladness and singleness of heart, praising God, and having favour with all the people. And the Lord added to the church daily such as should be saved” (Acts 2:41-47).
“And the multitude of them that believed were of one heart and of one soul: neither said any of them that ought of the things which he possessed was his own; but they had all things common. And with great power gave the apostles witness of the resurrection of the Lord Jesus: and great grace was upon them all. Neither was there any among them that lacked: for as many as were possessors of lands or houses sold them, and brought the prices of the things that were sold, and laid them down at the apostles’ feet: and distribution was made unto every man according as he had need. And Joses, who by the apostles was surnamed Barnabas, (which is, being interpreted, The Son of consolation) a Levite, and of the country of Cyprus, having land, sold it, and brought the money, and laid it at the apostles’ feet” (Acts 4:32-37).
If there is one thing we must realize and recognize when reading the words found in these passages of Scripture it’s how on the day of Pentecost the Holy Spirit did more than simply add three thousand souls unto those one-hundred and twenty who were already present in the midst of the upper room. On the day of Pentecost the Holy Spirit did more than give utterance unto those in the upper room to speak with other tongues as they were each filled with the person and presence of the Holy Spirit. I continue to believe that one of the greatest—if not the greatest works the Holy Spirit accomplished and fulfilled on the day of Pentecost was not enabling men and women to speak with other tongues but enabling men and women to live in community and fellowship with each other. You cannot read the New Testament book of Acts—specifically the two passages previously referenced—and not consider the incredible truth that on the day of Pentecost the Holy Spirit added three thousand souls unto what would be the church. What’s more is that not only did the Holy Spirit add three thousand unto that number on the day of Pentecost but the Holy Spirit also made them of one heart, one mind, one purpose and one spirit. It is absolutely necessary for us to pay close and careful attention to this for when we think about and consider the spiritual body of the Lord Jesus Christ we must needs recognize that it is one singular body made up of many members. I continue to believe that the single greatest manifestation of the presence and person of the Holy Spirit on the day of Pentecost is indeed His uniting the hearts, the minds, the souls and the spirits of all those which were present in the midst of it.
The more I sit here and think about this the more I am brought face to face with the fact that never is the unity and diversity of the body more evident than it is in giving and suffering. If you want to truly understand where the unity and diversity of the body is the most evident and manifested within the earth you must needs look no further than its giving and its suffering. The apostle Paul was very clear in the twelfth chapter of the first epistle written unto the Corinthian saints that when one member of the body suffers each member of the body suffers. The apostle Peter wrote unto the saints which were scattered that the same afflictions which are at work within us are also at work within our brethren which are upon the earth. As much as we would like to think that our suffering is experienced in a vacuum in our lives alone the truth of the matter is that this simply is not the case. The truth is that suffering does indeed take place in an environment of unity, community and fellowship and that no member of the body was meant to suffer alone without and apart from the body. Would it shock and surprise you to think and consider—even for a moment—that your suffering was never meant to be experienced and walked through alone? Would it shock and surprise you to consider that the suffering you are presently enduring was not meant to impact you alone and that you weren’t meant to endure it alone? In the eleventh chapter of the second epistle the apostle Paul wrote concerning his own troubles, his own trials and his own tribulations and even spoke of his unity together with the body of the Lord Jesus. It was the apostle Paul who asked if when one member was offended he did not burn within himself in direct response to that offense. Oh perhaps one of the greatest things we must needs learn how within our daily lives is how to not only live in community with our brothers and sisters but also how to walk with them through their suffering and to give of ourselves, our time, our treasures, our talents, and in all reality everything we have to offer.
If you read the seventh and eighth chapters of this second epistle written by the apostle Paul unto the Corinthian saints you will find two distinct elements presented within it—suffering and giving. There is not a doubt in my mind that we must needs pay close attention to the words found in these two passages of Scripture for never do we and never will we see the ministry of the body more evident and more manifested in the earth than in suffering and giving. What’s more is that you will truly see the nature and character of an individual body of believers when one or more member suffers in the midst thereof. Not only this but you will truly see the characters of a body of believers when it comes to matters of giving. The words and language found in these two chapters bring us face to face with the incredible truth surrounding both giving and suffering. Beginning to read with and from the second verse you will find the apostle Paul asking and entreating the Corinthians to receive them for they have wronged no man, have corrupted no man and defrauded no man. What’s more is the apostle Paul would go on to speak unto them how they were in their hearts to die and live with them. Not only this but the apostle Paul would also speak of his boldness of speech being great toward them as well as his glorying of them. This would immediately be followed by the apostle Paul declaring unto them how he was filled with comfort and was exceeding joyful in all their tribulation. Please don’t miss the incredible significance of what the apostle Paul is writing here in this passage for he actually declared unto the Corinthian congregation that he was exceeding joyful in all their tribulation.
There is something truly unique and powerful when you read the words found in this passage of Scripture for within it we find the apostle Paul speaking of his own afflictions which he endured for the sake of the gospel. If there is one thing we must needs understand concerning the apostle Paul it’s that he was no stranger to suffering, nor was he a stranger to affliction, trials, troubles and tribulation. In fact if you read the entire second epistle written by the apostle Paul unto the Corinthian saints you will find an incredible amount of language contained therein regarding suffering, affliction, trials, trouble, tribulation and the like. In the seventh chapter of this epistle we find the apostle Paul declaring how he was exceeding joyful in all their tribulation for when they were come into Macedonia their flesh had no rest but they were troubled on every side. Moreover without were fightings and within were fears. Please don’t miss and lose sight of the awesome language that is found in this passage of Scripture for it calls and draws our attention to the incredibly wonderful truth concerning the suffering and affliction the apostle Paul faced and endured as he sought to labor for the gospel of the Lord Jesus. What we must needs recognize and understand concerning the apostle Paul is that he was willing to endure any hardship, any affliction, any trial, any trouble and any suffering for the sake of the gospel and for the sake of men and women coming to the knowledge of the Lord Jesus. With this being said I have to admit there is something about those who receive the word of God in and with much affliction—particularly and especially when they first hear the word of Jesus preached among them in their midst. There is something absolutely astonishing concerning those who hear and receive the word of the Lord Jesus in and with much affliction for those individuals aren’t given a false sense of security concerning their lives and the absence of suffering, trials, troubles, tribulation and affliction.
While when we read the seventeenth and eighteenth chapters of the New Testament book of Acts and discover the apostle Paul experiencing the resistance and opposition of the unbelieving Jews in Thessalonica and in Corinth we must needs view this through the lens of the Corinthians and Thessalonians themselves. Pause for a moment and think about what it would have been like for the Corinthian and Thessalonian saints to hear the word and gospel of the Lord Jesus and hear it in the midst of much affliction, much opposition, much suffering, much trial, much trouble and much affliction. Oh there is something about hearing and receiving the word and gospel of the Lord Jesus in affliction and in suffering for it was Jesus who emphatically declared that in this world we would have many trials and troubles but to not fear because He had overcome the world. It was Jesus Himself who prepared His disciples and followers for offenses to come in the earth—and not only for offenses but also for suffering and affliction. It was Jesus who prepared and made ready His disciples to be hated of all men and all nations for His name’s sake as well as prepared them to walk through tremendous suffering as they continued to walk with and follow Him. Jesus prepared His disciples to enter into cities, towns, villages and homes and to not be received by everyone they came in contact with. Jesus prepared His disciples for tremendous suffering, affliction and persecution which would arise in the earth for the sake of His name and on account of His gospel. In fact you cannot read the four gospel narratives and not encounter the persecution which Jesus Himself endured and His preparing the disciples and followers to walk through and experience persecution themselves.
As I sit here today thinking about and considering this absolutely awesome and incredible truth I can’t help but think about just how vital and necessary the body of Christ truly is in the world in which we live. Stop for a moment and think about the fact that the Lord Jesus did in fact give us a spiritual body which we could be joined to in this world and in this life that we might experience community and fellowship. When Jesus called the twelve disciples He didn’t call them to walk with and follow Him alone for He called Peter and Andrew together, as well as calling James and John together. If you take the time to read the four gospel narratives—especially the words and language concerning the calling and choosing of the twelve—you must needs recognize and understand that Jesus didn’t call His disciples to walk with and follow Him alone but to walk with and follow Him together. It would have been one thing for the Lord Jesus to begin His public ministry and to do so alone without twelve disciples and apostles who would walk with and follow Him. Moreover it would be something else altogether for the Lord Jesus to perhaps call Simon, or his brother Andrew, or Matthew, or John to walk with and follow Him alone as He engaged in the work which the Father had ordained and appointed Him to. When we think about and consider the calling and choosing of the twelve apostles we must needs recognize and understand that just as much as the Lord Jesus invited them to walk with and follow Him He also invited them to walk with and fellowship with each other. WALKING WITH AND FOLLOWING JESUS, WALKING WITH AND FELLOWSHIPING WITH OTHERS! Oh there is not a doubt in my mind that when we make the conscious decision to be a disciple of the Lord Jesus—not only are we making the decision to walk with and follow Jesus but we are also making the decision to walk with and fellowship together with the members of the body.
When we read the words found in the seventh and eighth chapters of the second epistle written unto the Corinthian saints we are brought face to face with two of the greatest manifestations of the unity and diversity of the body as presented in Scripture—namely, suffering and giving. If you want to truly see the body of Christ in operation as it was designed and intended to be or else seeing how far short it comes and has come you need look no further than how it operates in the midst of suffering and how it treats giving. I am absolutely and completely convinced there are perhaps no greater means or methods of seeing how the body of believers functions within themselves in the earth than in matters of suffering and giving. What’s more is I would dare say that if you want to truly see what a body of believers is made up of and how closely they are walking with and following the Lord Jesus you need to look at how they handle and walk through suffering and how whether or not they are willing to give of themselves and give unto others that the needs of others might be met. Oh we must needs recognize and understand this for it directly confronts whether or not we as a collective body of believers are truly operating the way the Holy Spirit and the Lord Jesus intended us to or whether or not we are choosing and charting our own path. There is not a doubt in my mind that when we think about and consider the body of Christ we can and will see what it is made of when it comes to matters of suffering and giving. I am absolutely and completely convinced that there is perhaps no greater place to see the manifestation of the body of Christ in the earth as well as witness its true nature and character than when you behold how it operates in suffering and in giving. This second epistle written by the apostle Paul is absolutely and utterly captivating when you think about it for what he is essentially seeking to do is instruct this congregation how to operate as the body in the midst of the earth after having received correction in his previous epistle.
The words and language found in the seventh and eighth chapters of this second epistle written by the apostle Paul unto the Corinthian saints are incredibly challenging when you take the time to think about them. As you ponder the significance and value of what is contained here in this passage of Scripture you will find the apostle Paul continuing to use language of suffering, affliction, trials, troubles, and tribulation. In all reality I would dare say that you cannot read this second epistle written by the apostle Paul without and apart from encountering this motif of suffering and affliction—and not only of suffering but almost as if suffering were a normal and ordinary part of Christian living. Pause for a moment and consider whether or not you believe that suffering is a normal part of Christian living. Do you firmly believe that suffering and affliction—perhaps to some degree and measure—is a normal part of Christian living and of our lives as the disciples of Christ and saints of God? Do you believe that suffering and giving go hand in hand within the life of a believer and one who names the name of the Lord Jesus? I sit here today thinking about and considering the words which are found in these chapters and I find myself coming face to face with the tremendous truth that suffering and giving are indeed integral and intrinsic parts of the Christian walk in this life upon the earth. There can and there must be absolutely no mistaking this particular truth for it must needs be recognized and understood if we are to truly live our lives as the saints of God and disciples in this generation. There is a great need for us to recognize that suffering and giving are not only intrinsically linked but are in many cases true marks of being a disciple and follower of the Lord Jesus.
With all of this being said I find it absolutely necessary to entreat you to show me one who is willing to suffer with and for the Lord Jesus Christ and someone who is willing to give unto others and I will show you someone who is not only a disciple of the Lord Jesus but one who is able to walk in harmony and unity with the body of Christ. I would dare say that two of the greatest marks of being a true disciple and follower of the Lord Jesus Christ is our willingness to suffer with Him and our willingness to give. Perhaps the question we must needs ask ourselves is whether or not we are willing to give out of our poverty and give even when and until it hurts that we might be found faithful in the sight of the living God. Are we such who are willing to give out of our poverty and out of our lack that others might be cared for in this life? This was the very present reality and nature of the early church and something I am absolutely convinced the Holy Spirit worked to produce within the hearts and souls of all those who were added unto the number. Pause for a moment and think about what it would take for three thousand men and women who were each diverse and different from each other to live their lives in complete unity and harmony with each other. Stop for a moment and think about what it would take from the Holy Spirit to produce within the hearts of apostles and brethren alike to be able to surrender their lives to any amount of suffering, affliction, trials, trouble and tribulation for the sake of the gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ. The more I think about and consider the words which are found in the New Testament book of Acts the more I am brought face to face with the truly wonderful and powerful truth surrounding the early church being governed by the Holy Spirit.
As I prepare to bring this writing to a close I find it absolutely necessary to highlight the words which are presented here in this passage of Scripture for it brings us face to face with two of the greatest manifestations of the body of Christ in the world. I am fully convinced that two of the greatest demonstrations and manifestations of the body is not only their willingness to give unto the individual members of the body as well as those outside but also their willingness to endure hardship as good soldiers. It was in the third chapter of the epistle written by the apostle Paul unto the Philippians he strongly and emphatically declared his desire to be made a partaker in the fellowship of the sufferings of Christ that he might be made conformable unto His death that he might know the power of His resurrection. Moreover it would be when writing unto his spiritual son in the faith—Timothy—the apostle Paul instructed him to endure hardship as a good and faithful soldier in Christ. With this being said there is a part of me that can’t help but wonder if our love for the LORD our God who is one as well as our love for our neighbors is not best demonstrated and manifested in our willingness to give of ourselves and give unto others. It was James who wrote in the second chapter of his epistle unto the saints which were scattered concerning faith without works being dead. If there is one thing we must needs recognize and understand it’s that faith without works is dead and demands manifestation and demonstration. It is very easy to profess we have faith, however, it is something else entirely to actually live and flesh our faith out. There is something truly compelling about the words which James wrote unto the saints which were scattered for within this epistle he called the saints of God to examine themselves and ensure that not only were they not partial within themselves concerning their treatment of others but also that they were aware that faith demands response, demonstration and manifestation for it to truly be effective.
I sit here today thinking about the reality of faith and how faith desperately needs an outlet and manifestation. Part of the reason the Dead Sea is dead is because it continually receives and yet has no outlet. The Dead Sea is dead because despite the fact that waters from the Jordan River flow into it and yet once waters flow into the Dead Sea anything and everything dies. The Dead Sea cannot sustain life because it has no outlet and in a similar manner faith which has no outlet and no means of demonstrating and manifesting itself cannot survive. I am absolutely convinced that the demonstration and manifestation of faith is intrinsically and directly linked to loving our neighbor as ourselves—and not only loving our neighbor as ourselves but also loving our enemies. If I am being honest with you who are reading the words found in this writing I feel compelled to declare unto you that there must needs be an expression of love and a demonstration of faith. It was Jesus Himself who declared that men would know that we are His disciples by our love one for another and we must needs realize that directly attached to that is the demonstration and manifestation of our faith. The words presented in the second chapter of the epistle written unto James are absolutely and incredibly and astounding when you take the time to think about them for they not only confront partiality within our hearts but also the demonstration and manifestation of faith within our hearts and lives. There is something to be said about the words which James wrote in the second chapter of this epistle for it is directly linked and connected to what we find in the seventh and eighth chapters of the second epistle written unto the Corinthian saints. With this in mind consider the following words which are found in the second chapter of the epistle written by James:
“My brethren, have not the faith of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Lord of glory, with respect of persons. For if there come unto your assembly a. man with a gold ring, in a goodly apparel, and there come in also a poor man in vile raiment; and ye have respect to him that weareth the gay clothing, and say unto him, Sit thou here in a good place; and say to the poor, Stand thou there, or sit here under my footstool: Are ye not then partial in yourselves, and are become judges of evil thoughts? Hearken, my beloved brethren, Hath not God chosen the poor of this world rich in faith, and heirs of the kingdom which he hath promised to them that love him But ye have despised the poor. Do not rich men oppress you, and draw you before the judgment seats? Do not they blaspheme that worthy name by the which ye are called? If ye fulfil the royal law according to the Scripture, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself, ye do well: But if ye have respect to persons, ye commit sin, and are convinced of the law as transgressors. For whosoever shall keep the whole law, and yet offend in one point, he is guilty of all. For he that said, Do not commit adultery, said also, Do not kill. Now if thou commit no adultery, yet if thou kill, thou art become a transgressor of the law. So speak ye, and so do, as they that shall be judged by the law of liberty. For he shall have judgment without mercy, that hath shewed no mercy; and mercy rejoiceth against judgment” (James 2:1-13).
“What doth it profit, my brethren, though a man say he hath faith, and have not works? Can faith save him? If a brother or sister be naked, and destitute of daily food, and one of you say unto them, Depart in peace, be ye warmed and filled; notwithstanding ye give them not those things which are needful to the body; what doth it profit? Even so faith, if it hath not works, is dead, being alone. Yea, a man may say, Thou hast faith, and I have works: shew me thy faith without thy works, and I will shew thee my faith by my works. Thou believest that there is one God; thou doest well: the devils also believe, and tremble. But wilt thou know, O vain man, that faith without works is dead? Was not Abraham our father justified by works, when he had offered Isaac his son upon the altar? Seest thou how faith wrought with his works, and by works was faith made perfect? And the scripture was fulfilled which saith, Abraham believed God, and it was imputed unto him for righteousness: and he was called the Friend of God. Ye see then how that by works a man is justified, and not by faith only. Likewise also was not Rahab the harlot justified by works, when she had received the messengers, and had sent them out another way? For as the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without works is dead also” (James 2:14-26).
In bringing this writing to a close it is absolutely necessary that we recognize two of the greatest hallmarks of genuine and authentic Christianity is not only generosity within our hearts and spirits but also a willingness to walk through Christ in suffering, in affliction, in trials, in troubles and in tribulation. There are perhaps no two greater elements which marked the early church than their generosity which was cultivated by and through the person of the Holy Spirit and a boldness and willingness to endure suffering and hardship. You cannot read the New Testament book of Acts and not encounter the awesome and wonderful reality that the person and presence of the Holy Spirit in the midst of the early church thoroughly equipped and enabled them to be able to endure affliction and suffering as faithful stewards and good soldiers of Christ. What’s more is you can’t read the New Testament book of Acts without encountering and coming face to face with the awesome and powerful truth that the person and presence of the Holy Spirit perfectly enabled those who would otherwise be fearful to be those who were courageous in the fact of adversity and affliction and those who were otherwise selfish and self-absorbed to being selfless and generous with their time, their talents, their treasure and themselves. If there is one thing we must needs recognize concerning these chapters in the New Testament book of Second Corinthians it’s that only the Holy Spirit can produce within us the courage and boldness to endure persecution and suffering as well as the strength, the grace and the fortitude to endure affliction, trials and tribulations. Perhaps the greatest question we must needs ask ourselves is whether or not the Holy Spirit is indeed cultivating this generosity of giving and this endurance and patience in affliction and suffering that so wonderfully and powerfully demonstrates that we are indeed disciples of the Lord Jesus.