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 ninth and tenth chapters of this New Testament book. “For as touching the ministering to the saints, it is superfluous for me to write to you: For I know the frowardness of your mind, for which I boast of you to them of Macedonia, that Achaia was ready a year. Ago; and your zeal hath provoked very man. Yet have I sent the brethren, lest our boasting of you should be in vain in this behalf; that, as I said, ye may be ready: lest haply if they of Macedonia come with me, and find you unprepared, we (that we say not, yet) should be ashamed in this same confident boasting. Therefore I thought I necessary to exhort the brethren, that they would go before unto you, and make up beforehand your bounty, whereof ye had notice before, that the same might be ready, as a matter of bounty, and not as of covetoueness. But this I say, He which Soweto sparingly shall reap also sparingly; and he which Soweto bountifully shall reap also bountifully. Every man according as he purposeth in his heart, so let him give; not grudgingly, or of necessity: for God loveth a cheerful giver. And God is able to make all grace abound toward you; that ye, always having all sufficiency in all things, may abound to every good work: (As it is written, He hath dispersed abroad; he hath given to the poor: his righteousness reimaineth for ever. Now he that ministereth seed to the sower both minister bread for your food, and multiply your seed sown, and increase the firstfruits of your righteousness;) being enriched in every thing to all bountiful ness, which causeth through us thanksgiving to God. For the administration of this service not only supplieth the want of the saints, but is abundant also by many thanksgivings unto God; whiles by the experiment of this ministration they glorify God for your professed subjection unto the gospel of Christ, and for your liberal distribution unto them, and unto all men; and by their prayer for you, which long after you for the exceeding grace of God in you. Thanks be unto God for his unspeakable gift” (2 Corinthians 9:1-15).
“Now I Paul myself beseech you by the meekness and gentleness of Christ, who in presence am base among you, but being absent am bold toward you: but I beseech you, that I may not be bold when I am present with that confidence, wherewith I think to be bold against some, which think of us as if we walked according to the flesh. For though we walk in the flesh, we do not war after the flesh: (For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal, but mighty through God to the pulling down of strongholds;) casting down imaginations, and every high thing that exalteth itself against the knowledge of God, and bringing into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ; and having in a readiness to revenge all disobedience, when your obedience is fulfilled” (2 Corinthians 10:1-6).
“Do ye look on things after the outward appearance? If any man trust to himself that he is Christ’s, let him of himself think this gain, that, as he is Christ’s, even so we are Christ’s. For though I should boast somewhat more of our authority, which the Lord hath given us for edification, and not for you destruction, I should not be ashamed: that I may not seem as if I would terrify you by letters. For his letters, say they, are weighty and powerful; but his bodily presence is weak, and his speech contemptible. Let such an one think this, that, such as we are in word by letters when we are absent, such will we be also in deed when we are present” (2 Corinthians 10:7-11).
“For we dare not make ourselves of the number, or compare ourselves with some that commend themselves: but they measuring themselves by themselves, and comparing themselves among themselves, are not wise. But we will not boast of things without our measure, but according to the measure of the rule which God hath distributed to us, a measure to reach even un to you. For we stretch not ourselves beyond our measure, as though we reached not unto you: for we are come as far as to you also in preaching the gospel of Christ: not boasting of things without our measure, that is, of other men’s labours; but having hope, when your faith is increased, that we shall be enlarged by you according to our rule abundantly, to preach the gospel in the regions beyond you, and not to boast in another man’s line of things made ready to our hand. But he that glorieth, let him glory in the Lord. For not he that commendeth himself is approved, but whom the Lord commendeth” (2 Corinthians 10:12-18).
When you come to this particular portion of Scripture you will find the apostle Paul shifting gears within this second epistle written unto the Corinthians. In all reality when you read this epistle written by the apostle Paul unto the Corinthian saints you will find that in almost every chapter he writes and speaks of the suffering, the affliction and the persecution he experienced for the sake of the word, the gospel and the name of the Lord Jesus. The more you read the words which are found in this epistle the more you will be brought face to face with the incredible reality of those things which the apostle Paul suffered in this life for the sake of the word and name of the Lord Jesus. The apostle Paul wasn’t shy nor was he reserved about those things which he suffered in this life for the sake of the word and name of the Lord Jesus. What’s more is the more you read the words contained within this epistle the more you will be brought face to face with the tremendous truth surrounding the apostle Paul being brutally honest concerning those things which he faced and endured in this life. This is truly astonishing when you take the time to consider the apostle Paul seemed to wear his suffering and affliction as a badge of honor in this life. The apostle Paul did not complain, murmur nor did he grumble about those things which he suffered in this life for he was of such a nature that he expected and anticipated suffering in this life. You cannot read the account of the apostle Paul and not encounter the tremendous truth surrounding his understanding of those things which he must needs suffer for the sake of the word and name of the Lord Jesus. Even before the apostle Paul would be baptized in water calling upon the name of the Lord and received the Holy Spirit it was revealed and shown unto Ananias that the apostle Paul suffer a great many things for the sake of the name of the Lord Jesus. When the apostle Paul made the decision to walk with and follow the Lord Jesus he did so knowing full well that it would be characterized by intense suffering, persecution and affliction.
If you take the time to read the words which are found within this particular epistle you will find the apostle Paul takes a considerable amount of time to talk about those things which he suffered in the flesh. This particular epistle is characterized by the apostle Paul writing and speaking freely about those things which he suffered in the flesh as the apostle Paul would write unto a church and congregation which was perhaps aware of those things which he suffered while preaching the gospel unto them. In the eighteenth chapter of the New Testament book of Acts you will find the account of the apostle Paul coming unto Corinth after departing from Macedonia where he would preach the word and gospel of the Lord Jesus and the resurrection from the dead. Upon coming unto Corinth the apostle Paul would enter into the synagogue on the sabbath as was his custom and would preach the gospel unto the Jews who worshipped and gathered together in the midst of that place. When, however, Silas and Timothy arrived from Thessalonica Luke writes how the apostle Paul was pressed within his spirit. As a direct result of his being pressed within his spirit the apostle Paul would argue and contend that Jesus was indeed the Christ. As you continue reading the words which are found in the eighteenth chapter of the New Testament book of Acts you will find that many of the unbelieving Jews who were hard of heart despised and rejected the truth surrounding Jesus being the Christ and would blaspheme and oppose themselves. It is absolutely impossible to understand the apostle Paul in Corinth without recognizing that there in the midst of the Corinth he would experience tremendous suffering and persecution for the sake of the gospel.
As you take the time to read the words which are found in the eighteenth chapter of the New Testament book of Acts you will be brought face to face with the incredible truth surrounding the blasphemy and opposition of the Jews. The apostle Paul would preach the gospel in the synagogue on the sabbath as was his custom, however, it wouldn’t be until Silas and Timothy would show up from Thessalonica the apostle Paul would be pressed in the spirit. Perhaps it was upon their coming when he would not only be pressed in the spirit but would wax bold within his spirit and would argue and contend that Jesus was indeed the Christ and the Lord. Scripture doesn’t explain nor does it reveal how and why the apostle Paul was pressed within his spirit, however, we know that there was something that rose up within him upon the arrival of his traveling companions. There in Corinth the apostle Paul would join himself together with Aquila and his wife Priscilla who had recently come from Rome after the emperor had called the expulsion of all Jews from that region. It would be there in Corinth the apostle Paul would align himself together with these two disciples of the Lord and would faithfully preach the word and gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ in the midst of the synagogue. This is something we must needs recognize for in Corinth—just as in the other cities, towns and villages the apostle Paul came unto—there would be those Jews who would believe within their hearts the word and gospel he preached and would not only be baptized but also call upon the name of the Lord. Of course we know from the first epistle written by the apostle Paul unto these saints that he baptized perhaps a handful of people or slightly more which indicates that Silas and Timothy might have been those who baptized those who believed and called upon the name of the Lord there in Corinth.
I sit here today thinking about and considering the words which are found within the eighteenth chapter of the New Testament book of Acts and I can’t help but be brought face to face with the fact that when the apostle Paul preached the word and gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ unto the Corinthians there in the midst of their city there were both Jews and Greeks who believed the word he preached. What’s more is when the Lord Jesus appeared unto the apostle Paul He would instruct him to continue speaking and to not be silent but to preach without fear in his heart. Moreover the Lord Jesus would also declare unto the apostle Paul that He had much people in that city and no man would set upon him to hurt or harm him. This is something we must needs recognize and understand when seeking to understand the epistles written by the apostle Paul unto the Corinthian saints for the Lord Jesus would indeed appear unto the apostle Paul and instruct him to remain faithful in his preaching of the word, the gospel and the name of the Lord Jesus. This is something we dare not and must not miss and lose sight of when reading the words presented in this passage of Scripture. There in the midst of Corinth the apostle Paul would determine that he would not preach the gospel unto the Jews anymore but would deliver it unto the Gentiles alone. With this being said we must also recognize and understand when reading this epistle that the apostle Paul would faithfully labor among the Corinthians for eighteen months. Whereas the disciples and brethren might have sought to send the apostle Paul away from Corinth as had been done in Damascus, as had been done in Jerusalem, as had been done in Thessalonica, as had been done in Berea and perhaps in other places the Lord Jesus would not permit the apostle Paul to depart from Corinth as he had other cities and places whereunto he came.
It is with this in mind I invite you to consider the following words which are found in the eighteenth chapter of the New Testament book of Acts. Within this particular chapter of the New Testament book of Acts we encounter and come face to face with the tremendous reality of the time the apostle Paul spent in the midst of the city of Corinth. There in the midst of Corinth the Lord Jesus would personally appear unto the apostle Paul in a vision by night and would encourage him to faithfully preach the word and gospel unto the Corinthians. There was not only a great work which needed to be accomplished within that city but there was also much people for the name of the Lord Jesus who were present in the midst of the city. How absolutely wonderful and incredible this truly is when you take the time to think about it for when you read the eighteenth chapter of the New Testament book of Acts you will encounter and come face to face with the absolutely wonderful truth surrounding the great work—and not only the great work but also the great harvest that was present in the midst of the city. I am absolutely gripped and captivated with the incredible reality of the work which was before the apostle Paul there in the midst of Corinth and how the Lord Jesus had much people within that city. Despite the fact the apostle Paul experienced the resistance and opposition of the Jews in the midst of that place the Lord Jesus had much people in that city. With much people in that city would come much labor and a great work which the apostle Paul, Silas, Timothy and those who were companions of Paul would accomplish there in the midst of the city. With this in mind I invite you to consider the following words which are found in the eighteenth chapter of the New Testament book of Acts beginning to read with and from the first and opening verse:
“After these things Paul departed from Athens, and came to Corinth; and found a certain Jew named Aquila, born in Pontus, lately come from Italy, with his wife Priscilla; (because that Claudius had commanded all jews to depart from Rome) and came unto them. And because he was of the same craft, he abode with them, and wrought: for by their occupation they were tentmakers. And he reasoned in the synagogue every sabbath, and persuaded the Jews and the Greeks. And when Silas and Timotheus were come from Macedonia, Paul was pressed in the spirit, and testified to the Jews that Jesus was Christ. And when they opposed themselves, and blasphemed, he shook his raiment, and said unto them, You blood be upon your own heads; I am clean: from henceforth I will go unto the Gentiles. And he departed thence, and entered into a certain man’s house, named Justus, one that worshipped God, whose house joined hard to the synagogue. And Crispus, the chief ruler of the synagogue, believed on the Lord with all his house; and many of the Corinthians hearing believed, and were baptized. Then spake the Lord to Paul in the night by a vision, Be not afraid, but speak, and hold not thy peace: For I am with thee, and no man shall set on thee to hurt thee: for I have much people in this city. And he continued there a year and six months, teaching the word of God among them” (Acts 18:1-11).
“And when Gallio was the deputy of Achaia, the Jews made insurrection with one accord against Paul,a nd brought him to the judgment seat, saying, This fellow persuadeth men to worship God contrary to the law. And when Paul was now about to open his mouth, Gallio said unto the Jews, If it were a matter of wrong or wicked lewdness, O ye Jews, reason would that I should bear with you: but if it be a question of words and names, and of your law, look ye to it; for I will be no judge of such matters. And he drove them from the judgment seat. Then all the Greeks took Sosthenes, the chief ruler of the synagogue, and beat him before the judgment seat. And Gallio cared for none of those things” (Acts 18:12-17).
Please don’t miss the incredible significance and importance of what we find within these two passages of Scripture for within them we find the apostle Paul in Corinth where he would faithfully preach the word and gospel of the Lord Jesus. What’s more is it would be there in Corinth the apostle Paul would faithfully and fervently argue and contend that Jesus was the Christ. What Luke writes and records within this passage of Scripture as that the Jews opposed themselves and blasphemed in the presence of the apostle Paul, Silas, Timothy, Aquila and Priscilla—to which the apostle Paul would shake his raiment and declare unto them that their blood be upon their own heads for he was clean. The apostle Paul would purpose and determining from that time forward he would go unto the Gentiles. What we find within this passage of Scripture is the Jews making an insurrection in the midst of the city of Corinth as they would bring the apostle unto the judgment seat before Gallio. There before Gallio at the judgment the apostle Paul would be accused by the unbelieving Jews of seeking to persuade men to worship God contrary to the law—the law they spoke about must be understood as the law which instituted and implemented by Rome. This would indeed be something which would be continually manifested in many of the cities whereunto the apostle Paul would come for in those cities the Jews would indeed blaspheme and oppose themselves in the presence of the apostle Paul and his companions. IN many of the cities and places whereunto the apostle Paul came the unbelieving and hardened Jews would blaspheme and oppose themselves against the apostle Paul and against the word and gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ.
Having said all of this I find it absolutely necessary to call and draw your attention to the words which are found in this epistle written by the apostle Paul unto the Corinthian saints concerning those great and many things he suffered for the sake of the word and gospel of the Lord Jesus. We dare not and must not miss and lose sight of this for in order to truly understand the words which are found in this epistle you must recognize the tremendous suffering and persecution the apostle Paul would experience in the midst preaching the word and gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ. I am absolutely convinced that if you want to truly understand the words which are found in this second epistle written by the apostle Paul unto the Corinthian saints you must needs recognize the incredible amount of suffering, affliction and persecution he experienced for the sake of the word, the gospel and the name of the Lord Jesus Christ. With this in mind I invite you to consider the following words found within this epistle beginning with the first and opening chapter. Consider now the following words which are found in this epistle concerning the suffering, affliction and persecution the apostle Paul experienced in this life for the sake of the word and name of the Lord Jesus:
“Blessed be God, even the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies, and the God of all comfort; who comforteth us in all our tribulation, that we may be able to comfort them which are in any trouble, b y the comfort wherewith we ourselves are comforted of God. For as the sufferings of Christ abound in us, so our consolation also aboundeth by Christ. And whether we be afflicted, it is for your consolation and salvation, which is effectual in the enduring of the same sufferings which we also suffer: or whether we be comforted, it is for your consolation and salvation. And our hope of you is stedfast, knowing, that as ye are partakers of the sufferings, so shall ye be also of the consolation. For we would not, b retired, have you ignorant of our trouble which came to us in Asia, that we were pressed out of measure, above strength, insomuch that we despaired even of life: but we had the sentence of death in ourselves, that we should not trust in ourselves, but in God which raiseth the dead: who delivered us from so great a death, and doth deliver: in whom we trust that he will yet deliver us; ye also helping together by prayer for us, that for the gift bestowed upon us by the means of many persons thanks may be given by many on our behalf” (2 Corinthians 1:3-11).
“Furthermore, when I came to Troas to preach Christ’s gospel, and a door was opened unto me of the Lord, I had no rest in my spirit, because I found not Titus my brother: but taking my leave of them, I went from thence into Macedonia. Now thanks be unto God, which always causeth us to triumph in Christ, and maketh the savour of his knowledge by us in every place. For we are unto God a sweet savour of Christ, in them that are saved, and in them that perish: to the one we are the savour of death unto death; and to the other the savour of life unto life. And who is sufficient for these things? For we are not as many, which corrupt the word of God: but as of sincerity, but as of God, in the sight of God speak we in Christ” (2 Corinthians 2:12-17).
“But we have this treasure in earthen vessels, that the excellency of the power may be of God, and not of us. We are troubled on every side, yet not distressed; we are perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; cast down but not destroyed; always bearing about in the body the dying of the Lord Jesus, that the life also of Jesus might be made manifest in our body. For which we live are always delivered unto death for Jesus’ sake, that the life also of Jesus might be made manifest in our mortal flesh. So then death worketh in us, but life in your We having the same spirit of faith, according as it is written, I believed, and therefore have I spoken; we also believe, and therefore speak; knowing that he which raised up the Lord Jesus shall raise up us also by Jesus, and shall present us with you. For all things are for yogurt sakes, that the abundant grace might through the thanksgiving of many redound to the glory of God. For which cause we faint not; but though our outward man perish, yet the inward man is renewed day by day. For our light affliction, which is but for a moment, worketh for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory; while we look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen: for the things which are seen are temporal; but the things which are not seen are eternal” (2 Corinthians 4:7-18).
“For we know that if our earthly house of this tabernacle were dissolved, we have a building of God, an house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens. For in this we groan, earnestly desiring to be clothed upon with our house which is from heaven: if so be that being clothed we shall not be found naked. For we that are in this tabernacle do groan, being burdened: not for that we would be unclothed, but clothed upon, that mortality might be swallowed up of life. Now he that hath wrought us for the selfsame thing is God, who also hath given unto us the earnest of the Spirit. Therefore we are always confident, knowing that, whilst we are at home in the body, we are absent from the Lord: (For we walk by faith, not by sight) We are confident, I say, and willing rather to be absent from the body, and to be present with the Lord” (2 Corinthians 5:1-8).
“We then, as workers together with him, beseech you also that ye receive not the grace of God in vain. (For he saith, I have heard thee in a time accepted, and in the day of salvation have I succoured thee: behold, now is the accepted time; behold now is the day of salvation.) Giving no offense in any thing, that the ministry be not blamed: but in all things approving ourselves as the ministers of God, in much patience, in afflictions, in necessities, in distresses, in stripes, in imprisonments, in tumults, in labours, in watchings, in fastings; by pure ness, by knowledge, by longsuffering, by kindness, by the Holy Ghost, by love unfeigned, by the word of truth, by the power of God, by the armour of righteousness on the right hand and on the left, by honour and dishonour, by evil report and good report: as deceivers, and yet true; as unknown, and yet well known; as dying, and, behold, we live; as chastened, and not killed; as sorrowful, yet always rejoicing; as poor, yet making many rich; as having nothing, and yet possessing all things” (2 Corinthians 6:1-10).
“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. For, when we were come into Macedonia, our flesh had no rest, but we were troubled on every side; without were fightings, within were fears. Neverhtless 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 though I made you sorry with a letter, I do not repent, though I did repent: for I perceive that the same epistle hath made you sorry, though it were but for a season. 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 carefulness it wrought in you, yea, what clearing of yourselves, yea, what indignation, yea, what fear, yea , what vehement desire, yea, what zeal, yea what revenge! In all things ye have approved yourselves to be clear in this matter. Wherefore, though I wrote unto you, I did it not for his cause that had done the wrong, nor for his caused that suffered wrong, but that our care for you in the sight of God might appear unto you. Therfore 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 received him. I rejoice therefore that I have confidence in you in all things” (2 Corinthians 7:2-16).
“Now I Paul. Myself, beseech you by the meekness and gentleness of Christ, who in presence am base among oyu, but being absent am bold toward you: but I beseech you, that I may not be bold when I am present with that confidence, wherewith I think to be bold against some, which think of us as if we walked according to the flesh. For though we walk in the flesh, we do not war after the flesh: (For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal, but mighty through God to the pulling down of strong holds;) casting down imaginations, and every high things that exalteth itself against the knowledge of God, and bringing into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ; and having in a readiness to revenge all disobedience, when you obedience is fulfilled” (2 Corinthians 10:1-6).
“Are they ministers of Christ? (I speak as a fool) I am more; in labours more abundant, in stripes above measure, in prisons more frequent, in deaths oft. Of the Jews five times received I forty stripes save one. Thrice was I beaten with rods, once was I stoned, thrice I suffered shipwreck, a night and a day I have been in the deep; in journeying often, in perils of waters, in perils of robbers, in perils by mine own counter by, in perils by the heathen, in perils in the city, in perils in the wilderness, in perils in the sea, in perils among false brethren; in weariness and painfulness, in watchings often, in hunger and thirst, in fastings often, in cold and nakedness. Beside those things that are without, that which cometh upon me daily, the care of all the churches. Who is weak, and I am not weak? Who is offended, and I burn not? If I must needs glory, I will glory of the things which concern mine infirmities. The God and Father rod our Lord Jesus Christ, which is blessed for evermore, knoweth that I lie not. In Damascus the governor under Aretas the king kept the city of the Damascenes with a garrison, desirous to apprehend me: and through a window in a basket was I let down by the wall, and escaped his hands” (2 Corinthians 11:23-33).
“For though I would desire to glory, I shall not be a fool; for I will say the truth: but now I forbear, lest any man should think of me above that which he seeth me to be, or that he heareth of. Me. And lest I should be exalted above measure through the abundance of the revelations, there was given to me a thorn in the flesh, the messenger of Satan to buffet me, lest I should be exalted above measure. For this thing I besought the Lord thrice, that it might depart from me. And he said unto me, My grace is sufficient for thee: for my strength is made perfect in weakness. Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in my. Infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me. Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in necessities, in persecutions, in distresses for Christ’s sake: for when I am weak, then am I strong” (2 Corinthians 12:6-10).
It is absolutely necessary and imperative we recognize and understand the words which are found within these passages of Scripture for within them the apostle Paul highlights, underscores and recounts those things which he suffered in the flesh for the sake of the word, the gospel and the name of the Lord Jesus. What we must needs recognize when reading the words found in these passages is the purpose for the sufferings, the purpose for the afflictions and the purpose for the persecutions. The apostle Paul made it perfectly clear that although the persecution, although the suffering and although the affliction might have been intense and severe at certain times and in certain places the grace, the comfort, the consolation, the mercies and the strength of the Lord Jesus Christ was sufficient enough in the midst of such trials, troubles, and tribulations. In fact there was one point when the apostle Paul spoke of fightings without and fears within and would go on to thank God who always causes us to triumph in all things. This is something which we must needs recognize and understand when reading the words found in this second epistle written by the apostle Paul for it calls and draws our attention to the tremendous truth that there was indeed a purpose for the suffering, a purpose for the affliction and a purpose for the persecution.
The more you read the words which are found in this epistle the more you will be brought face to face with the absolutely wonderful truth surrounding the purpose for the suffering, the affliction and the persecution the apostle Paul experienced in the midst of the city of Corinth. The apostle Paul made it very clear that the suffering, the affliction and the persecution he experienced within this life was for the express purpose of those to whom he had been called and sent. The apostle Paul wrote unto the Corinthian saints that the purpose for the suffering, the purpose for the affliction and the purpose for the persecution was for the sake of the gospel that it might bring forth an abundant harvest and fruit in the midst of the earth. We dare not and must not miss and lose sight of this and how absolutely incredible it truly is for it brings us face to face with the absolutely wonderful truth of the suffering, the affliction and persecution being for the edification and encouragement of the saints. Stop and consider what it would indeed accomplish when the gospel was preached in the midst of and even in spite of persecution, affliction and suffering. I continue to be absolutely captivated with the fact that there are countless men and women among us in this generation and in our western civilization who have heard the word and gospel in times of peace, rest, comfort and convenience. There are and there have been very few who have heard the gospel preached unto them in the midst of much suffering, affliction and persecution. For the most part the word and gospel of the Lord Jesus is and has been preached in our generation with little to any resistance from outside forces. Whereas the apostle Paul spoke of fightings without and fears within there are and there have been very few among us who have preached the word and gospel in the midst of suffering, in the midst of affliction and in the midst of persecution.
The words and language we find in this second epistle written by the apostle Paul unto the Corinthian saints calls and draws our attention to the fact that when the apostle Paul wrote this epistle he sought to convey something unto these dear saints. That which the apostle Paul wrote in this particular epistle written unto the Corinthian saints not only touched suffering, affliction and persecution but it also touched the heart, the spirit and the mind of giving. You cannot read the words which are found in this epistle and not encounter and come face to face with two distinct realities and truths—namely that of suffering affliction and persecution in this life as well as that of being called to be in a place of giving unto the necessities of the saints. What we find within this epistle is an incredibly strong and powerful picture of selfless and sacrificial living on behalf of the saints of God. Not only this but we read of selfless and sacrificial giving on the part of the saints of God. I cannot help but read the words which are found in this passage of Scripture and be brought face to face with two distinct realities which are more often than not that which is not common among many of the saints of God in this life. Within this particular epistle the apostle Paul not only writes concerning suffering, affliction and persecution but he also writes concerning trials, troubles and tribulations. In addition to this the apostle Paul also writes concerning the heart, the mind and the spirit of giving within the lives of the saints of God. You cannot read the words which are found within this epistle—particularly the eighth and ninth chapters—and not encounter and come face to face with the truly wonderful truth surrounding the call to be selfless with one’s resources for the sake of the needs of the body of Christ as a whole.
I sit here today reading the words presented in this epistle and I am brought face to face with the incredible truth that we as the saints of God must not only be prepared to suffer in this life but we must also be ready to give of ourselves. What’s more is not only must we be willing to give of ourselves but we must also be willing to give of our resources, give of our possessions and give of that which we have been blessed by the living God. If there is one thing we must needs recognize and understand it’s that we as the saints of God have indeed and have in fact been called to give unto others according to the measure unto which was given unto us. Moreover we must needs acknowledge that we have been blessed—not to be hoarders of the blessing we have received of the living God but that we might be a blessing unto others. I am absolutely convinced that we have been blessed in this life with resources, with finances and even with possessions that we might be able to be a blessing unto others in this life that we might succor, strengthen and support others. Oh there are countless men and women among us within our churches who think and feel that they have been blessed by the living God that they might store up for themselves the blessings which the living God has given them. There are men and women among us who look upon the much possessions, resources and wealth they have and rather than be selfless and sacrificial with that which has been given unto them and entrusted into their care they seek to hoard it entirely and altogether unto themselves. This is something we must needs recognize and understand for when you come to the New Testament gospel you will find the teaching of Jesus unto those who would walk with and follow Him to be such who live their lives selflessly and sacrificially. You cannot read the four gospel narrative accounts of the life and ministry of the Lord Jesus and not encounter the incredible responsibility to give unto those who are in need—to give unto the poor, to give unto those who are in need and to give without expecting anything in return.
IN order to help us understand this point all the more I am convinced we must needs consider the following words which are found in the sixth chapter of the New Testament gospel narrative written by the apostle Matthew. Consider if you will the following words presented in this chapter as the apostle Matthew describes and recounts for us the words which our Lord spoke in the Sermon on the Mount unto the multitude which gathered itself unto Him at the mount of Beatitudes:
“Take heed that ye do not your alms before men, to be seen of them: otherwise ye have no reward of your Father which is in heaven. Therefore when thou doest thine alms. Do not sound a trumpet before thee, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, that they may have glory of men. V eerily I say unto you, They have their reward. But when thou doest alms, let not thy left hand know what thy right hand doeth: that thine alms may be in secret: and thy Father which seeth in secret himself shall reward thee openly” (Matthew 6:1-4).
“Lay not up for yourselves treasures upon earth, where moth and rust doth corrupt, and where thieves break through and steal: but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust doth corrupt, and where thieves do not break through nor steal: for where your treasure is, there will your heart be also. The light of the body is the eye, if therefore thine eye be single, thy whole body shall be full of light. But if thine eye be evil, thy whole body shall be full of darkness. If therefore the light that is in thee be darkness, how great is that darkness” (Matthew 6:19-23).
“NO man can serve two masters: for either he will hate the one, and love the other; or else he will hold to the one, and despise the other. Ye cannot serve God and mammon. Therefore I say unto you, Take no thought for your life, what ye shall eat, or what ye shall drink; nor yet for your body, what ye shall put on. Is not the life more than meat, and the body than raiment: behold the fowls of the air: for they sow not, neither do they reap, nor gather into barns; yet your Heavenly Father feedeth them. Are ye not much better than they? Which of you by taking thought can add one cubit unto his stature? And why take ye thought for raiment? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow; they toil not, neither do they spin: and yet I say unto you, That even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. Wherefore, if God so clothe the grass of the field, which to day is, and to morrow is cast into the oven, shall he not much more clothe you, O ye of little faith?: Therefore take no thought, saying, What shall we eat? Or, What shall we drink? Or, Wherewithal shall be clothed? (For after all these things do the Gentiles seek) for your Heavenly Father knoweth that ye have need of all these things. But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you. Take therefore no thought for the morrow: for the morrow shall take thought for the things of itself. Sufficient unto the day is the evil thereof” (Matthew 6:24-34).
Consider also the words which are found in the sixth chapter of the New Testament gospel narrative written by the beloved physician Luke as well as the words which are found in the twelfth chapter of the same gospel:
“But I say unto you which hear, Love your enemies, do good to them which hate you. Bless them that course you, and pray for them which despitefully use you. And unto him that smiteth thee on the one cheek offer also the other; and him that taketh away thy cloke forbid not to take thy coat also. Give to every man that asketh of thee; and of him that taketh away thy goods ask them not again. And as ye would that men should do to you, do ye also to them likewise. For if ye love them which love you, what thank have ye? For sinners also love those that love them. And if ye do good to them which do good to you, what thank have ye? For sinners also do even the same. And if ye lend to them of whom ye hope to receive, what thank have ye? For sinners also lend to sinners, to receive as much again. But love ye your enemies, and do good, and lend, hoping for nothing again; and your reward shall be great, and ye shall be the children of the Highest: for he is kind unto the unthankful and to the evil. Be ye therefore merciful, as your Father also is merciful. Judge not, and. Ye shall not be judged: condemn not, and ye shall not be condemned: forgive, and ye shall be forgiven: Give, and it shall be given unto you; good measure, pressed down, and shaken together, and running over, shall men give into your bosom. For with the same measure that ye mete withal it shall be measured to you again” (Luke 6:27-38).
“And one of the company said unto him,Master, speak to my brother, that he derived the inheritance with me. And he said unto him, Man, who made me a judge or a divider over you? And he said unto them, Take heed, and beware of covetousness: for a man’s life consisteth not in the abundance of the things which he possesseth. And he spake a parable unto them, saying, The ground of a certain rich man brought forth plentifully: and he thought within himself, saying, What shall I do, because I have no room where to bestow my fruits? And he said, This will I do: I will pull down my barns, and build greater; and there will I bestow all my fruits and my goods. And I will say to my soul, Soul, thou hast much goods laid up for many years; take thine ease, eat, drink, and be merry. But God said unto him, Thou fool, this night thy soul shall be required of thee: then whose shall those things be, which thou hast provided? So is he that layeth up treasure for himself and is not rich toward God” (Luke 12:13-21).
Oh there is a great need for us to recognize the words which are found within these passages of Scripture for within them we are brought face to face with the absolutely wonderful truth that we as the saints of God have indeed been called to be such who live selfless and sacrificial lives. At the very heart of the gospel is the call and the command to give unto others according to the measure we have been given by the living God. If we are truly honest with ourselves we must needs admit that we have indeed been blessed by the living God and perhaps have even been blessed beyond measure by Him. We in the western hemisphere of this globe have received much from the hand of the Lord and there are countless men and women who have been made to be prosperous before and in the sight of the living God. What we must needs recognize and understand, however, is that we have not been blessed and we have not been made to prosper that we might hoard the blessing(s) of the living God unto ourselves. Despite how much we might have been blessed by the living God within our lives we must needs recognize that we were indeed and were in fact blessed to be a blessing unto others. Has it ever occurred to you that part of the reason—if not the main reason—you have been blessed in such a manner is that you might be a blessing unto others? Has it ever occurred to you that you have been blessed in this life with abundance, with resources, with possessions, with wealth and the like—not so you could hoard such blessing unto yourself but that you might be used of God to be a blessing unto others?
The more I think about and consider this the more I am brought face to face with the absolutely wonderful truth that we as the saints of God have indeed been called to be such who are willing to live our lives sacrificially and selflessly. It was the apostle Paul who besought the saints which were at Rome to present their bodies a living sacrifice holy and acceptable unto the Lord which was their reasonable service or spiritual act of worship. This is something we dare not and must not miss and lose sight of for it calls and draws our attention to the absolutely wonderful and powerful reality surrounding our need to be those who freely give unto others. What’s more is we must be such who give unto others—not out of compulsion or even grudgingly but willingly, selflessly and sacrificially. There are those who might very well give unto others and yet they do so out of a sense of obligation and compulsion rather than out of compassion, out of grace, out of mercy and out of a heart that is filled with love. OH with this in mind I can’t help but be reminded of the narratives found within the New Testament gospels concerning the rich young ruler. The rich young ruler came unto the person of the Lord Jesus and asked Him what good thing he needed to do to inherit eternal life. Jesus—upon hearing this rich young ruler’s question—would speak to him concerning the commandments. Jesus would speak unto him concerning those commandments which dealt specifically with his relationship to others. Jesus would speak to him of the commandments not to steal, not to covet, not to bear false witness, not to murder and to honor one’s father and mother. This rich young ruler would profess unto Jesus that he had kept all these commandments from his youth up and would then ask Jesus what he still lacked. Undoubtedly this rich young ruler felt there was still something missing within his life and he knew that Jesus would be able to tell him what that was. Oh pause for a moment and consider this in regards to your own life and whether there is something missing from it. Are you like this rich young ruler who recognize and understand there is something missing from your life and are you desperately seeking and searching to understand what that missing piece truly is?
I sit here thinking about the narrative of the rich young ruler and how he came unto Jesus recognizing there was something missing from within his life. This rich young ruler realized and recognized that there was something missing from his life—even after he confirmed to Jesus that he had kept all the commandments he listed from his youth up. Despite his keeping the commandments and despite the much wealth, goods and possessions he had in this life he undoubtedly felt there was something still missing. Undoubtedly this man felt that everlasting and eternal life was missing within his experience in this world and knew that Jesus was the only one who could explain to him what he needed to do to experience that. This rich young ruler would come unto Jesus falling down upon his face as he would ask Jesus what good thing he needed to do to inherit eternal life. Jesus would hear the words which the rich young ruler spoke unto Him—especially the question concerning what he still lacked—and Scripture reveals how Jesus looked upon this man and loved Him. Jesus would proceed to reveal unto this rich young ruler that which he needed to do to inherit eternal life—and not only that which he needed to do to inherit eternal life but also that which he needed to do to deliver himself from that which captivated, ensnared and kept him in bondage. Jesus knew that which kept this rich young ruler back and knew that which kept him in bondage in this life and He wasted absolutely no time revealing it unto him. What we must needs recognize and understand is the stark contrast which existed between the rich young ruler and the invitation Jesus gave him and the declaration Zacchaeus would make when Jesus entered into his house there in the midst of Jericho. Consider if you will the following accounts of the rich young ruler as well as Zacchaeus who was a chief tax collector and publican in the city of Jericho:
“And, behold, one came and said unto him, Good master, what good thing shall I do, that I may have eternal life? And he said unto him, Why callest thou me good? There is none good but one, that is, God: but if thou wilt enter into life, keep the commandments. He saith unto him, Which? Jesus said, Thou shalt do no murder, Thou shalt not commit adultery, Thou shalt not steal, Thou shalt not bear false witness, Honour thy father and thy mother: and, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. The young man saith unto him, All these things have I kept from my youth up: what lack I yet? Jesus said unto him, If thou wilt be perfect, go and sell that thou hast, and give to the poor, and thou shalt have treasure in heaven: and come and follow me. But when the young man heard that saying, he went away sorrowful: for he had great possessions” (Matthew 19:16-22).
“And when he was gone forth into the way, there came one running, and kneeled to him, and asked him, Good Master, what shall I do that I may inherit eternal life? And Jesus said unto him, Why callest thou me good? There is none good but one, that is, God. Thou knowest the commandments, Do not commit adultery, Do not kill, Do not steal, Do not bear false witness, Defraud not, Honour thy father and mother. And he answered and said unto him, Master, all these have I observed from my youth. Then Jesus beholding him loved him, and said unto him, One thing thou lackest: go thy way, sell whatsoever thou hast, and give to the poor, and thou shalt have treasure in heaven: and come, take up the cross, and follow me. And he was sat at that saying, and went away grieved: for he had great possessions” (Mark 10:17-22).
“And a certain ruler asked him, saying, Good Master, what shall I do to inherit eternal life? And Jesus said unto him, Why callest thou me good? None is good, save one, that is, God. Thou knowest the commandments, Do not commit adultery, Do not kill, Do not steal, Do not bear false witness, Honour thy father and thy mother. And he said, All these have I kept from my youth up. Now when Jesus heard these things, he said unto him, Yet lackest thou one thing: sell all that thou hast, and distribute unto the poor, and thou shalt have treasure in heaven: and come, follow me. And when he heard this, he was very sorrowful: for he was very rich. And when Jesus saw that he was very sorrowful, he said, How hardly shall they that have riches enter into the kingdom of God! For it is easier for a camel to go through a needle’s eye, than for a rich man to enter into the kingdom of God. And they that heard it said, Who then can be saved? And he said, The things which are impossible with men are possible with God” (Luke 18:18-27).
“And Jesus entered and passed through Jericho. And, behold, there was a man named Zaccheaus, which was the chief among the publicans, and he was rich. And he sought to see Jesus who he was; and could not for the press, because he was little of stature. And he ran before, and climbed up into a sycomore tree to see him: for he was to pass that way. And when Jesus came to the place, he looked up, an d saw him, and said unto him, Zaccheaus, make haste, and come down; for to day I must abide at thy house. And he made haste, and came down, and received him joyfully. And when they saw it, they all murmured, saying, That he was gone to be guest with a man that is a sinner. And Zaccheaus stood, and said unto the Lord: behold, Lord, the half of my goods I give to the poor; and if I have taken any thing from any man by false accusation, I restore him fourfold. And Jesus said unto him, This day is salvation come to this house, forsomuch as he also is a son of Abraham. For the Son of man is come to seek and to save that which was lost” (Luke 19:1-10).
Notice the difference between the rich young ruler and Zacchaeus—both of whom were undoubtedly wealthy and had much possessions. The rich young ruler entered into the presence of Jesus asking what good thing he needed to do to inherit eternal life—something which Jesus responded by speaking to him of the commandments dealing with one’s relationship with others. When this man heard Jesus speak of the commandments he proceeded to acknowledge that he kept all those commandments from his youth up but proceeded to ask Jesus what thing he still lacked. It was in response to this Jesus declared unto him that if he wanted to inherit eternal life he needed to sell all he had, give to the poor, take up his cross and follow after Him. This is something worth noting and paying attention to when reading these passages of Scripture for the apostle Matthew, John Mark and Luke all record how this man departed from the presence of Jesus sorrowful because he had much possessions. This is something we must needs recognize and understand for it calls and draws our attention to that which was truly the root issue within this man’s heart—the fact that he was a man of much possessions and much wealth and was not willing to part with any of it. This rich young ruler might have been sincere in his coming to Jesus, however, when he realized what Jesus would ask of him that he might have eternal life he would depart from His presence sorrowful. FROM SINCERITY TO SORROW! Stop and consider how absolutely incredible this truly is for it reveals and demonstrates that it’s possible to enter into the presence of Jesus sincerely seeking eternal life and desiring to know what is needed to inherit it and yet depart from the presence of Jesus sorrowful when you realize what is asked and required of you. What’s more is the rich young ruler departed from the presence of Jesus sorrowful because he had much possessions and many of the disciples in Capernaum when they heard the words of Jesus would depart from His presence and walk no more with Him when they realized what He asked and required of him.
We must needs compare and contrast this with Zacchaeus who was not only a publican and one who was considered a sinner but he was also one who was a chief publican. What’s more is Zaccahaeus was undoubtedly one who defrauded and cheated many for when he spoke unto Jesus he declared that if he took any thing from any man by false accusation he restored unto him fourfold. That which made Zacchaeus different was he was not only willing to give the half of his goods to the poor but he was also willing to restore and give restitution and reparations unto those whom he defrauded by false accusation. This is something worth noting and pointing out for Jesus made no request of Zacchaeus and did not ask him to give half of his goods. Jesus didn’t ask this man to restore four-fold unto any man whom he defrauded and took any thing by false accusation. Jesus didn’t even ask this man concerning those whom he defrauded and those whom he took advantage of through false accusation. Undoubtedly Zacchaeus felt that this was the proper response to being in the presence of the Lord Jesus and felt that he needed to pursue righteousness, holiness, faithfulness and truth in the presence of Jesus. Scripture reveals how Zacchaeus simply desired to see Jesus and mentioned nothing about his intentions or willingness to give unto the poor and restore that which he defrauded men of by false accusation. Once in the presence of Jesus, however—and not only in the presence of Jesus but also having Jesus present in his own home—would radically alter and change this man. Here in the city of great victory and triumph as the walls of Jericho had collapsed before the children of Israel allowing them to march up straight into the city conquering and defeating it with nothing more than faithful obedience to the LORD and lifting their voices up in a mighty shout this chief publican would find salvation. How absolutely wonderful and powerful it is to read of the contrast between the rich young ruler and Zacchaeus for Zacchaeus was not only willing to give half of his goods to the poor but was also willing to restore four fold unto any whom he had defrauded through false accusation.
As I bring this writing to a close I find it absolutely necessary to call and draw your attention to how the early church conducted themselves from the day of Pentecost on. If you take the time to read the New Testament book of Acts you will find that on the day of Pentecost three thousand souls were added to the number of those who were already present in the upper room. What’s more is that upon reading the New Testament book of Acts you will find that they were brought into a place of true community and fellowship one with another. In the second and fourth chapters of the New Testament book of Acts you will read how the members of the newly formed body of Christ looked not on their own individual interests but gave themselves to the needs of others. The more you read the New Testament book of Acts the more you will encounter and come face to face with the absolutely astonishing truth surrounding their willingness to live in community and fellowship one with another and their willingness to give that the whole body might be edified, strengthened and supported. This is something we must needs acknowledge and recognize when reading the words the apostle Paul wrote in the eighth and ninth chapters of the second New Testament epistle written unto the Corinthian saints. The apostle Paul wrote of the Corinthian congregation of the needs of the body and of their willingness to give of themselves and their resources for the sake of the body of Christ. In all reality that which the spiritual body of Christ in Corinth was asked to give themselves to was that of building up the spiritual body of Christ beyond themselves. Perhaps one of the greatest truths that is found in the eighth and ninth chapters of this second epistle is that just as an individual member of the body of Christ doesn’t exist unto themselves and live on a spiritual island neither do individual churches exist unto themselves and live on their own spiritual island in the midst of our cities, towns and communities.
I write these words and I am confronted with the fact that the words which the apostle Paul wrote in this passage of Scripture demonstrates the tremendous truth that the spiritual body of Christ consists of many members and each of those members have been given a place within the body by the living and eternal God. With this being said we must also recognize and understand that each church—regardless of where that church was located and what city it was present in—did not exist unto itself. There is a great danger that faces and surrounds many churches today who exist unto themselves and are so focused on their own members and their own needs without any consideration or compassion for the needs of others. What these chapters in the second epistle written unto the Corinthian saints reveals is that the churches which make up the spiritual body of Christ exist as members one to another and just as individual members have been ordained a place in the body of Christ by the living God so also do the churches have a place ordained among themselves within the spiritual body of Christ. That church and that congregation of believers do themselves, their community and the other churches a great disservice when they are focused on their own individual needs and care nothing for the needs of others. Just as each individual member of the body of Christ is to look not unto their own interests but unto the interests and needs of others so also must each church which is part of the spiritual body of Christ operate in the same manner and function. We dare not and must not miss and lose sight of this for it calls and draws our attention to the absolutely wonderful truth surrounding churches and their need to give of themselves—not only to their own congregants and constituents but also to the churches round about them. What’s more is this is not and must not be denomination specific and those churches part of the spiritual body of Christ must not withhold good from other churches in their city and community based on denominational affiliation.
The churches which make up the spiritual body of Christ must needs recognize that they have a responsibility to the members of the body of Christ throughout the cities in which they are located as well as to the churches which are a part of and make up the spiritual body of Christ. That which this epistle written by the apostle Paul unto the Corinthian saints reveals is an absolutely wonderful and powerful reality surrounding the churches and their need to exist for something beyond and something more than themselves. The apostle Paul would encourage the Corinthian saints to recognize their need to the spiritual body of Christ as a whole and to prepare and make themselves available to the needs of others. The apostle Paul was inviting the Corinthian congregation to be a part of something that was much bigger and much greater than themselves and to live beyond themselves that the whole body might be strengthened and built up. The question we must needs ask ourselves is whether or not we as the spiritual body of Christ and we as the members of that body are able to live beyond ourselves and recognize that we have been called to live for something so much greater and so much bigger than ourselves as the saints of God and those who walk with and follow Jesus Christ.