Today’s devotion comes from 2 Corinthians 13:11-14.

“Finally, brethren, rejoice, be made complete, be comforted, be like-minded, live in peace;  and the God of love and peace will be with you.  Greet one another with a holy kiss.  All the saints greet you.

The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit, be with you all.”  2 Corinthians 13:11-14.

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How could Paul change his tone so much and so quickly?

We remember what Paul said in the immediately preceding verse.  “For this reason I am writing these things while absent, so that when present I need not use severity, in accordance with the authority which the Lord gave me for building up and not for tearing down.”  2 Corinthians 13:10.

Paul had faith in the work of God in the Corinthians.  

For all of the elect and only the elect, those who did receive the grace of God and the love of God and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit, they would rejoice, they would be made complete, they would be comforted, they would be like-minded, and they would live in peace.

Paul concluded the letters to the Corinthians with this final encouraging point which is in sharp contrast with the final point heard in many  sermons that draw the focus back to man and what man should do.

Other doctrine does not trust the work of God because they believe that man has free-will to resist the grace of God.

But, Reformed Doctrine believes the Scriptures and the sovereignty of God.  They trust the work of God because they believe in the “Irresistible Grace” of God, the “I” of “TULIP” the Reformed Doctrine of Salvation as more fully taught in the Canons of Dordt.

Article 11.  But when God accomplishes his good pleasure in the elect, or works in them true conversion, he not only causes the gospel to be externally preached to them, and powerfully illumines their minds by his Holy Spirit, that they may rightly understand and discern the things of the Spirit of God;  but by the efficacy of the same regenerating Spirit, pervades the inmost recesses of the man;  he opens the closed, and softens the hardened heart, and circumcises that which was uncircumcised, infuses new qualities into the will, which though heretofore dead, he quickens;  from being evil, disobedient and refractory, he renders it good, obedient, and pliable;  actuates and strengthens it, that like a good tree, it may bring forth the fruits of good actions.  Canons of Dordt in the section titled THIRD AND FOURTH HEADS OF DOCTRINE Of the Corruption of Man, His Conversion to God, and the Manner Thereof.

“for it is God who is at work in you, both to will and to work for His good pleasure.”  Philippians 2:13.

“For I am confident of this very thing, that He who began a good work in you will perfect it until the day of Christ Jesus.”  Philippians 1:6.

“I thank my God always concerning you for the grace of God which was given you in Christ Jesus, that in everything you were enriched in Him, in all speech and all knowledge, even as the testimony concerning Christ was confirmed in you, so that you are not lacking in any gift, awaiting eagerly the revelation of our Lord Jesus Christ, who will also confirm you to the end, blameless in the day of our Lord Jesus Christ.  God is faithful, through whom you were called into fellowship with His Son, Jesus Christ our Lord.”  1 Corinthians 1:4-9.

“Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ, just as He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we would be holy and blameless before Him.  In love He predestined us to adoption as sons through Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the kind intention of His will, to the praise of the glory of His grace, which He freely bestowed on us in the Beloved.”  Ephesians 1:3-6.

Today’s devotion comes from 2 Corinthians 13:5-10.

“Test yourselves to see if you are in the faith;  examine yourselves!  Or do you not recognize this about yourselves, that Jesus Christ is in you—unless indeed you fail the test?  But I trust that you will realize that we ourselves do not fail the test.  Now we pray to God that you do no wrong;  not that we ourselves may appear approved, but that you may do what is right, even though we may appear unapproved.  For we can do nothing against the truth, but only for the truth.  For we rejoice when we ourselves are weak but you are strong;  this we also pray for, that you be made complete.  For this reason I am writing these things while absent, so that when present I need not use severity, in accordance with the authority which the Lord gave me for building up and not for tearing down.”  2 Corinthians 13:5-10.

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Paul’s life was so invested and so intertwined in the lives of the Corinthians that he seemed to have difficulty talking about them without talking about himself.  He flipped back and forth from talking about them to talking about himself.

Paul starts out asking the Corinthians to examine themselves, but he immediately follows it up with:  “But I trust that you will realize that we ourselves do not fail the test.”

Paul prays that the Corinthians do no wrong, but he immediately follows it up with:  “not that we ourselves may appear approved”, and he then flips back to them:  “but that you may do what is right”, and then he flips back to himself:  “even though we may appear unapproved.”

This flipping back and forth seems awkward, but it is a demonstration of the love and the unity that Paul had with the Corinthians.  It is a lesson for us to follow.

“Beyond all these things put on love, which is the perfect bond of unity.”  Colossians 3:14.

“And He gave some as apostles, and some as prophets, and some as evangelists, and some as pastors and teachers, for the equipping of the saints for the work of service, to the building up of the body of Christ;  …  from whom the whole body, being fitted and held together by what every joint supplies, according to the proper working of each individual part, causes the growth of the body for the building up of itself in love.”  Ephesians 4:11-12 and 16.

“So, as those who have been chosen of God, holy and beloved, put on a heart of compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience;  bearing with one another, and forgiving each other, whoever has a complaint against anyone;  just as the Lord forgave you, so also should you.  Beyond all these things put on love, which is the perfect bond of unity.  Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body;  and be thankful.”  Colossians 3:12-15.

Today’s devotion comes from 2 Corinthians 13:1-4.

“This is the third time I am coming to you.  EVERY FACT IS TO BE CONFIRMED BY THE TESTIMONY OF TWO OR THREE WITNESSES.  I have previously said when present the second time, and though now absent I say in advance to those who have sinned in the past and to all the rest as well, that if I come again I will not spare anyone, since you are seeking for proof of the Christ who speaks in me, and who is not weak toward you, but mighty in you.  For indeed He was crucified because of weakness, yet He lives because of the power of God.  For we also are weak in Him, yet we will live with Him because of the power of God directed toward you.”  2 Corinthians 13:1-4.

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In our prior devotion, we covered the point that restoration should be done with gentleness.  But, that does not mean that there is no or little power in the gentle restoration.  The gentle restoration is “divinely powerful” and effective to accomplish its purpose.

“For though we walk in the flesh, we do not war according to the flesh, for the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh, but divinely powerful for the destruction of fortresses.  We are destroying speculations and every lofty thing raised up against the knowledge of God, and we are taking every thought captive to the obedience of Christ, and we are ready to punish all disobedience, whenever your obedience is complete.”  2 Corinthians 10:3-11.

This is “Irresistible Grace”, the “I” of “TULIP”, the Reformed Doctrine of Salvation as taught in the Canons of Dordt.  “Irresistible Grace” is “evidently a supernatural work, most powerful, and at the same time most delightful, astonishing, mysterious, and ineffable”.

Article 11.  But when God accomplishes his good pleasure in the elect, or works in them true conversion, he not only causes the gospel to be externally preached to them, and powerfully illumines their minds by his Holy Spirit, that they may rightly understand and discern the things of the Spirit of God;  but by the efficacy of the same regenerating Spirit, pervades the inmost recesses of the man;  he opens the closed, and softens the hardened heart, and circumcises that which was uncircumcised, infuses new qualities into the will, which though heretofore dead, he quickens;  from being evil, disobedient and refractory, he renders it good, obedient, and pliable;  actuates and strengthens it, that like a good tree, it may bring forth the fruits of good actions.

Article 12.  And this is the regeneration so highly celebrated in Scripture, and denominated a new creation:  a resurrection from the dead, a making alive, which God works in us without our aid.  But this is in no wise effected merely by the external preaching of the gospel, by moral suasion, or such a mode of operation, that after God has performed his part, it still remains in the power of man to be regenerated or not, to be converted, or to continue unconverted;  but it is evidently a supernatural work, most powerful, and at the same time most delightful, astonishing, mysterious, and ineffable;  not inferior in efficacy to creation, or the resurrection from the dead, as the Scripture inspired by the author of this work declares;  so that all in whose heart God works in this marvelous manner, are certainly, infallibly, and effectually regenerated, and do actually believe. – Whereupon the will thus renewed, is not only actuated and influenced by God, but in consequence of this influence, becomes itself active.  Wherefore also, man is himself rightly said to believe and repent, by virtue of that grace received.  Canons of Dordt in the section titled THIRD AND FOURTH HEADS OF DOCTRINE Of the Corruption of Man, His Conversion to God, and the Manner Thereof.

“For You are not a God who takes pleasure in wickedness;
No evil dwells with You.”  Psalm 5:4.

“Therefore you are to be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect.”  Matthew 5:48.

But, there is hope!

“How blessed is the one whom You choose and bring near to You
To dwell in Your courts.
We will be satisfied with the goodness of Your house,
Your holy temple.”  Psalm 65:4.

“for it is God who is at work in you, both to will and to work for His good pleasure.”  Philippians 2:13.

“For I am confident of this very thing, that He who began a good work in you will perfect it until the day of Christ Jesus.”  Philippians 1:6.

“Now may the God of peace Himself sanctify you entirely;  and may your spirit and soul and body be preserved complete, without blame at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.  Faithful is He who calls you, and He also will bring it to pass.”  1 Thessalonians 5:23-24.

“I thank my God always concerning you for the grace of God which was given you in Christ Jesus, that in everything you were enriched in Him, in all speech and all knowledge, even as the testimony concerning Christ was confirmed in you, so that you are not lacking in any gift, awaiting eagerly the revelation of our Lord Jesus Christ, who will also confirm you to the end, blameless in the day of our Lord Jesus Christ.  God is faithful, through whom you were called into fellowship with His Son, Jesus Christ our Lord.”  1 Corinthians 1:4-9.

Today’s devotion comes from 2 Corinthians 12:19-21.

“All this time you have been thinking that we are defending ourselves to you.  Actually, it is in the sight of God that we have been speaking in Christ;  and all for your upbuilding, beloved.  For I am afraid that perhaps when I come I may find you to be not what I wish and may be found by you to be not what you wish;  that perhaps there will be strife, jealousy, angry tempers, disputes, slanders, gossip, arrogance, disturbances;  I am afraid that when I come again my God may humiliate me before you, and I may mourn over many of those who have sinned in the past and not repented of the impurity, immorality and sensuality which they have practiced.”  2 Corinthians 12:19-21.

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It does appear that Paul was defending his apostleship to the Corinthians in the last two chapters, but the length, twists, sarcasm, and other strangeness of it begged the question that Paul answers in today’s Scripture.

What was Paul trying to accomplish?

Paul was trying to be gentle in restoring the Corinthians.

Think of how common it is for us to stumble and “beat around the bush” when we have some difficult criticism to say to a loved one!   

“Brethren, even if anyone is caught in any trespass, you who are spiritual, restore such a one in a spirit of gentleness;  each one looking to yourself, so that you too will not be tempted.”   Galatians 6:1.

“What do you desire?  Shall I come to you with a rod, or with love and a spirit of gentleness?”  1 Corinthians 4:21.

“For we never came with flattering speech, as you know, nor with a pretext for greed—God is witness— nor did we seek glory from men, either from you or from others, even though as apostles of Christ we might have asserted our authority.  But we proved to be gentle among you, as a nursing mother tenderly cares for her own children.”  1 Thessalonians 2:5-7.

“Therefore I, the prisoner of the Lord, implore you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling with which you have been called, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, showing tolerance for one another in love, being diligent to preserve the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.”  Ephesians 4:1-3.

“Let your gentle spirit be known to all men.  The Lord is near.”  Philippians 4:5.

“So, as those who have been chosen of God, holy and beloved, put on a heart of compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience;  bearing with one another, and forgiving each other, whoever has a complaint against anyone;  just as the Lord forgave you, so also should you.  Beyond all these things put on love, which is the perfect bond of unity.”  Colossians 3:12-14.

“So then we pursue the things which make for peace and the building up of one another.”  Romans 14:19.

Today’s devotion comes from 2 Corinthians 12:11-18.

“I have become foolish;  you yourselves compelled me.  Actually I should have been commended by you, for in no respect was I inferior to the most eminent apostles, even though I am a nobody.  The signs of a true apostle were performed among you with all perseverance, by signs and wonders and miracles.  For in what respect were you treated as inferior to the rest of the churches, except that I myself did not become a burden to you?  Forgive me this wrong!

Here for this third time I am ready to come to you, and I will not be a burden to you;  for I do not seek what is yours, but you;  for children are not responsible to save up for their parents, but parents for their children.  I will most gladly spend and be expended for your souls.  If I love you more, am I to be loved less?  But be that as it may, I did not burden you myself;  nevertheless, crafty fellow that I am, I took you in by deceit.  Certainly I have not taken advantage of you through any of those whom I have sent to you, have I?  I urged Titus to go, and I sent the brother with him.  Titus did not take any advantage of you, did he?  Did we not conduct ourselves in the same spirit and walk in the same steps?”  2 Corinthians 12:11-18.

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Paul could have exercised his right.

“So also the Lord directed those who proclaim the gospel to get their living from the gospel.”  1 Corinthians 9:14.

“The elders who rule well are to be considered worthy of double honor, especially those who work hard at preaching and teaching.  For the Scripture says, “YOU SHALL NOT MUZZLE THE OX WHILE HE IS THRESHING,” and “The laborer is worthy of his wages.”  1 Timothy 5:17.

But, Paul did not want to be a financial burden to the church in Corinth.  How often does he make that point in today’s Scripture and elsewhere!

We should not ignore that point, particularly because Scripture repeatedly warns us that there are many false prophets in the world.

We should also not ignore that point, particularly because Scripture warns us about the character of some men in the last days who do try to take advantage of their position in different ways as a minister.

“But realize this, that in the last days difficult times will come.  For men will be lovers of selflovers of money, boastful, arrogant, revilers, disobedient to parents, ungrateful, unholy,  unloving, irreconcilable, malicious gossips, without self-control, brutal, haters of good, treacherous, reckless, conceited, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, holding to a form of godliness, although they have denied its power;  Avoid such men as these.  For among them are those who enter into households and captivate weak women weighed down with sins, led on by various impulses, always learning and never able to come to the knowledge of the truth.”  2 Timothy 3:1-7.

There are some ministers who try to captivate their congregations into only paying attention to the minister’s own charm and teaching, rather than also encouraging their congregation to study Scriptures on their own.  They never seem to take delight in what the congregation knows.  They never seem to delight in the congregation coming to the knowledge of the truth.  They only want their congregation to be in awe of them, to sit silently in the pews, and to fill the collection plate.

“But evil men and impostors will proceed from bad to worse, deceiving and being deceived.”  2 Timothy 3:13.

But, there is hope!

“Just as Jannes and Jambres opposed Moses, so these men also oppose the truth, men of depraved mind, rejected in regard to the faith.  But they will not make further progress;  for their folly will be obvious to all, just as Jannes’s and Jambres’s folly was also.”  2 Timothy 3:8-9.

If we do not know the Scriptures, and if we only trust our minister, then we will be more susceptible of being taken advantage.

“You, however, continue in the things you have learned and become convinced of, knowing from whom you have learned them, and that from childhood you have known the sacred writings which are able to give you the wisdom that leads to salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus.  All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness;  so that the man of God may be adequate, equipped for every good work.”  2 Timothy 3:14-17.

“But his delight is in the law of the LORD,
And in His law he meditates day and night.”  Psalm 1:2.

“104 From Your precepts I get understanding;
Therefore I hate every false way.

105 Your word is a lamp to my feet
And a light to my path.”  Psalm 119:104-105.

Today’s devotion comes from 2 Corinthians 12:7-10.

“Because of the surpassing greatness of the revelations, for this reason, to keep me from exalting myself, there was given me a thorn in the flesh, a messenger of Satan to torment me—to keep me from exalting myself!  Concerning this I implored the Lord three times that it might leave me.  And He has said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for power is perfected in weakness.”  Most gladly, therefore, I will rather boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may dwell in me.  Therefore I am well content with weaknesses, with insults, with distresses, with persecutions, with difficulties, for Christ’s sake;  for when I am weak, then I am strong.”  2 Corinthians 12:7-10.

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We may experience what may be apparently considered bad such as insults, distresses, persecutions, and difficulties, but God will give us grace sufficient for us to deal with them.

Or, we may experience what may be apparently considered good such as flattery, prosperity, pleasant visions, and ease, but we need and receive God’s grace to deal with them.  Paul recognized:  “Because of the surpassing greatness of the revelations (of Paradise – see 2 Corinthians 12:1-6), for this reason, to keep me from exalting myself, there was given me a thorn in the flesh …”  Verse 7.

God will give us sufficient grace to deal with whatever we face, the apparent bad or the apparent good.

God’s sufficient grace includes the comfort of God the Father, the God of all comfort, and all the fruit of God the Spirit to help us endure the experience. 

“Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our affliction so that we will be able to comfort those who are in any affliction with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God.”  2 Corinthians 1:3-4.

“But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control;  against such things there is no law.”  Galatians 5:22-23.

God’s sufficient grace does more than just help us endure the experience;  God causes all things to work together for our good.

“And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose.”  Romans 8:28.

Specifically, as taught in today’s Scripture, God’s sufficient grace causes us to experience more of the power of Christ within us.

“And He has said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for power is perfected in weakness.”  Most gladly, therefore, I will rather boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may dwell in me.”  Verse 9.

“Therefore in Christ Jesus I have found reason for boasting in things pertaining to God.  For I will not presume to speak of anything except what Christ has accomplished through me, resulting in the obedience of the Gentiles by word and deed, in the power of signs and wonders, in the power of the Spirit;  so that from Jerusalem and round about as far as Illyricum I have fully preached the gospel of Christ.”  Romans 15:17-19.

“And when I came to you, brethren, I did not come with superiority of speech or of wisdom, proclaiming to you the testimony of God.  For I determined to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ, and Him crucified.  I was with you in weakness and in fear and in much trembling, and my message and my preaching were not in persuasive words of wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power, so that your faith would not rest on the wisdom of men, but on the power of God.”  1 Corinthians 2:1-5.

But we have this treasure in earthen vessels, so that the surpassing greatness of the power will be of God and not from ourselves;  we are afflicted in every way, but not crushed;  perplexed, but not despairing;  persecuted, but not forsaken;  struck down, but not destroyed;  always carrying about in the body the dying of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our body.”  2 Corinthians 4:7-10.

Posted by: Bill Hornbeck | July 20, 2020

“Let all things be done for edification.”

Today’s devotion comes from 2 Corinthians 12:1-6.

“Boasting is necessary, though it is not profitable;  but I will go on to visions and revelations of the Lord.  I know a man in Christ who fourteen years ago—whether in the body I do not know, or out of the body I do not know, God knows—such a man was caught up to the third heaven.  And I know how such a man—whether in the body or apart from the body I do not know, God knows— was caught up into Paradise and heard inexpressible words, which a man is not permitted to speak.  On behalf of such a man I will boast;  but on my own behalf I will not boast, except in regard to my weaknesses.  For if I do wish to boast I will not be foolish, for I will be speaking the truth;  but I refrain from this, so that no one will credit me with more than he sees in me or hears from me.”  2 Corinthians 12:1-6.

——————-

Paul refrained from trying to express his vision.  Paul wanted to be credited for what the church understood through his teaching and the way that he lived his life.  “… I refrain from this, so that no one will credit me with more than he sees in me or hears from me.”  Verse 6.

We may enjoy relaying a vision, because we enjoy remembering it or because it causes others to respect us more.  But, it is not profitable.  It may even hurt us if it just inflates our ego.

“Let no one keep defrauding you of your prize by delighting in self-abasement and the worship of the angels, taking his stand on visions he has seen, inflated without cause by his fleshly mind, and not holding fast to the head, from whom the entire body, being supplied and held together by the joints and ligaments, grows with a growth which is from God.”  Colossians 2:18-19.

We may even be truly blessed by the vision.  It may even edify us.  But, it may not edify the church unless it is interpreted and properly revealed and explained through Scripture.

Although the following Scriptures apply specifically to speaking in tongues, these Scriptures generally also apply to visions and teach us the importance of relaying visions to others only if we can edify others though proper interpretation, revelation, and teaching through Scripture.

“Pursue love, yet desire earnestly spiritual gifts, but especially that you may prophesy.  For one who speaks in a tongue does not speak to men but to God;  for no one understands, but in his spirit he speaks mysteries.  But one who prophesies speaks to men for edification and exhortation and consolation.  One who speaks in a tongue edifies himself;  but one who prophesies edifies the church.  Now I wish that you all spoke in tongues, but even more that you would prophesy;  and greater is one who prophesies than one who speaks in tongues, unless he interprets, so that the church may receive edifying.

But now, brethren, if I come to you speaking in tongues, what will I profit you unless I speak to you either by way of revelation or of knowledge or of prophecy or of teaching?”  1 Corinthians 14:1-6.

“What is the outcome then, brethren?  When you assemble, each one has a psalm, has a teaching, has a revelation, has a tongue, has an interpretation.  Let all things be done for edification.”  1 Corinthians 14:26.

Today’s devotion comes from 2 Corinthians 11:30-33.

“If I have to boast, I will boast of what pertains to my weakness.  The God and Father of the Lord Jesus, He who is blessed forever, knows that I am not lying.  In Damascus the ethnarch under Aretas the king was guarding the city of the Damascenes in order to seize me, and I was let down in a basket through a window in the wall, and so escaped his hands.”  2 Corinthians 11:30-33.

—————–

Why did Paul use this example of what pertains to his weakness to make his concluding point of the chapter?  

In the prior Scripture, Paul detailed seemingly better examples of his weakness such as “I have been on frequent journeys, in dangers from rivers, dangers from robbers, dangers from my countrymen, dangers from the Gentiles, dangers in the city, dangers in the wilderness, dangers on the sea, dangers among false brethren;  I have been in labor and hardship, through many sleepless nights, in hunger and thirst, often without food, in cold and exposure.”  2 Corinthians 11:26-27.

If Paul did use one of those examples, the reader may be focused on his strength, his endurance, and his perseverance.

Paul’s example of being let down in a basket does lead us to meditate on Jesus’ words describing salvation.  “No one can come to Me unless the Father who sent Me draws him;  and I will raise him up on the last day.”  John 6:44.  Just as a fish deserves no credit being captured by a net and drawn up and into a boat, we deserve no credit and reason to boast being drawn into salvation.  Likewise, Paul deserved no credit and reason to boast of being let down in the basket to save his life, so to speak, drawn down (instead of drawn up) into salvation.

Other doctrine boasts about its own wisdom, its own alleged free-will, its own works, and its own perseverance.

But, Reformed Doctrine boasts about God’s wisdom, God’s will, and God’s preservation of the saints.

Simply, other doctrine boasts about its alleged free-will choices.

But, Reformed Doctrine boasts about God’s choices.

“… God has chosen the weak things of the world to shame the things which are strong, and the base things of the world and the despised God has chosen, the things that are not, so that He may nullify the things that are, so that no man may boast before God.  But by His doing you are in Christ Jesus, who became to us wisdom from God, and righteousness and sanctification, and redemption, so that, just as it is written, “LET HIM WHO BOASTS, BOAST IN THE LORD.”  1 Corinthians 1:27-31.

“And when I came to you, brethren, I did not come with superiority of speech or of wisdom, proclaiming to you the testimony of God.  For I determined to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ, and Him crucified.  I was with you in weakness and in fear and in much trembling, and my message and my preaching were not in persuasive words of wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power, so that your faith would not rest on the wisdom of men, but on the power of God.”  1 Corinthians 2:1-5.

“But we have this treasure in earthen vessels, so that the surpassing greatness of the power will be of God and not from ourselves;  we are afflicted in every way, but not crushed;  perplexed, but not despairing;  persecuted, but not forsaken;  struck down, but not destroyed;  always carrying about in the body the dying of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our body.”  2 Corinthians 4:7-10.

“And He has said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for power is perfected in weakness.”  Most gladly, therefore, I will rather boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may dwell in me.  Therefore I am well content with weaknesses, with insults, with distresses, with persecutions, with difficulties, for Christ’s sake;  for when I am weak, then I am strong.”  2 Corinthians 12:9-10.

“Who will separate us from the love of Christ?  Will tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword?  Just as it is written,

“FOR YOUR SAKE WE ARE BEING PUT TO DEATH ALL DAY LONG;
WE WERE CONSIDERED AS SHEEP TO BE SLAUGHTERED.”

But in all these things we overwhelmingly conquer through Him who loved us.  For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor any other created thing, will be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.”  Romans 8:37-39.

Today’s devotion comes from 2 Corinthians 11:21-29.

“…  But in whatever respect anyone else is bold—I speak in foolishness—I am just as bold myself.  Are they Hebrews?  So am I.  Are they Israelites?  So am I.  Are they descendants of Abraham?  So am I.  Are they servants of Christ?—I speak as if insane—I more so;  in far more labors, in far more imprisonments, beaten times without number, often in danger of death.  Five times I received from the Jews thirty-nine lashes.  Three times I was beaten with rods, once I was stoned, three times I was shipwrecked, a night and a day I have spent in the deep.  I have been on frequent journeys, in dangers from rivers, dangers from robbers, dangers from my countrymen, dangers from the Gentiles, dangers in the city, dangers in the wilderness, dangers on the sea, dangers among false brethren;  I have been in labor and hardship, through many sleepless nights, in hunger and thirst, often without food, in cold and exposure.  Apart from such external things, there is the daily pressure on me of concern for all the churches.  Who is weak without my being weak?  Who is led into sin without my intense concern?”  2 Corinthians 11:21-29.

——————–

Paul continues his defense of his apostleship compared to the false apostles to the point that he and we realize that there is no comparison such that he does not need to mention them anymore.

Our attention focuses in awe on the incredible labor, hardships, and dangers that Paul endured for the church.

“For I am already being poured out as a drink offering, and the time of my departure has come.  I have fought the good fight, I have finished the course, I have kept the faith;”  2 Timothy 4:6-7.

Paul exemplified Christ, and he calls us to imitate Christ and himself as our father through the gospel.

“Have this attitude in yourselves which was also in Christ Jesus, who, although He existed in the form of God, did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied Himself, taking the form of a bond-servant, and being made in the likeness of men.  Being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.”  Philippians 2:5-8.

“For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though He was rich, yet for your sake He became poor, so that you through His poverty might become rich.”  2 Corinthians 8:9.

“You are already filled, you have already become rich, you have become kings without us;  and indeed, I wish that you had become kings so that we also might reign with you.  For, I think, God has exhibited us apostles last of all, as men condemned to death;  because we have become a spectacle to the world, both to angels and to men.  We are fools for Christ’s sake, but you are prudent in Christ;  we are weak, but you are strong;  you are distinguished, but we are without honor.  To this present hour we are both hungry and thirsty, and are poorly clothed, and are roughly treated, and are homeless;  and we toil, working with our own hands;  when we are reviled, we bless;  when we are persecuted, we endure;  when we are slandered, we try to conciliate;  we have become as the scum of the world, the dregs of all things, even until now.

I do not write these things to shame you, but to admonish you as my beloved children.  For if you were to have countless tutors in Christ, yet you would not have many fathers, for in Christ Jesus I became your father through the gospel.  Therefore I exhort you, be imitators of me.”  1 Corinthians 4:8-16.

In awe with all that Paul and Christ have endured and done, we wonder:  “How can we imitate them?!”

But, there is hope!

“I know how to get along with humble means, and I also know how to live in prosperity;  in any and every circumstance I have learned the secret of being filled and going hungry, both of having abundance and suffering need.  I can do all things through Him who strengthens me.”  Philippians 4:12-13.

“And He has said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for power is perfected in weakness.”  Most gladly, therefore, I will rather boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may dwell in me.  Therefore I am well content with weaknesses, with insults, with distresses, with persecutions, with difficulties, for Christ’s sake;  for when I am weak, then I am strong.”  2 Corinthians 12:9-10.

“For to you it has been granted for Christ’s sake, not only to believe in Him, but also to suffer for His sake, experiencing the same conflict which you saw in me, and now hear to be in me.”  Philippians 1:29-30.

“Therefore humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God, that He may exalt you at the proper time, casting all your anxiety on Him, because He cares for you.  Be of sober spirit, be on the alert.  Your adversary, the devil, prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour.  But resist him, firm in your faith, knowing that the same experiences of suffering are being accomplished by your brethren who are in the world.  After you have suffered for a little while, the God of all grace, who called you to His eternal glory in Christ, will Himself perfect, confirm, strengthen and establish you.  To Him be dominion forever and ever.  Amen.”  1 Peter 5:6-11.

“For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand so that we would walk in them.”  Ephesians 2:10.

“for it is God who is at work in you, both to will and to work for His good pleasure.”  Philippians 2:13.

“For I am confident of this very thing, that He who began a good work in you will perfect it until the day of Christ Jesus.”  Philippians 1:6.

Today’s devotion comes from 2 Corinthians 11:16-21.

“Again I say, let no one think me foolish;  but if you do, receive me even as foolish, so that I also may boast a little.  What I am saying, I am not saying as the Lord would, but as in foolishness, in this confidence of boasting.  Since many boast according to the flesh, I will boast also.  For you, being so wise, tolerate the foolish gladly.  For you tolerate it if anyone enslaves you, anyone devours you, anyone takes advantage of you, anyone exalts himself, anyone hits you in the face.  To my shame I must say that we have been weak by comparison.  …”  2 Corinthians 11:16-21.

—————–

Paul is being sarcastic in most of today’s Scripture to the Corinthians to make the following serious point.  “For you tolerate it if anyone enslaves you, anyone devours you, anyone takes advantage of you, anyone exalts himself, anyone hits you in the face.”  Verse 20.

By making this statement, Paul continues to warn against false prophets who, although they disguised themselves as apostles of Christ, they enslaved the Corinthians, devoured them, and took advantage of them.  These false prophets exalted themselves and, so to speak, hit the Corinthians in the face.

“For such men are false apostles, deceitful workers, disguising themselves as apostles of Christ.”  2 Corinthians 11:13.

The Corinthians may have thought, and we today may think:  “They are gentle and harmless as sheep.”

But, we all are reminded of the words of Jesus:  “Beware of the false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly are ravenous wolves.”  Matthew 7:15.

Regarding false prophets being “deceitful workers” who try to “enslave” members of the church to the Law, Paul also warned the Philippians and Galatians, and Paul warns us today.

“Beware of the dogs, beware of the evil workers, beware of the false circumcision;  for we are the true circumcision, who worship in the Spirit of God and glory in Christ Jesus and put no confidence in the flesh,”  Philippians 3:2-3.

“Are you so foolish?  Having begun by the Spirit, are you now being perfected by the flesh?  Did you suffer so many things in vain—if indeed it was in vain?  So then, does He who provides you with the Spirit and works miracles among you, do it by the works of the Law, or by hearing with faith?”  Galatians 3:3-5.

“But when the fullness of the time came, God sent forth His Son, born of a woman, born under the Law, so that He might redeem those who were under the Law, that we might receive the adoption as sons.  Because you are sons, God has sent forth the Spirit of His Son into our hearts, crying, “Abba!  Father!”  Therefore you are no longer a slave, but a son;  and if a son, then an heir through God.”  Galatians 4:4-7.

“It was for freedom that Christ set us free;  therefore keep standing firm and do not be subject again to a yoke of slavery.

Behold I, Paul, say to you that if you receive circumcision, Christ will be of no benefit to you.  And I testify again to every man who receives circumcision, that he is under obligation to keep the whole Law.  You have been severed from Christ, you who are seeking to be justified by law;  you have fallen from grace.  For we through the Spirit, by faith, are waiting for the hope of righteousness.”  Galatians 5:1-5.

“You were running well;  who hindered you from obeying the truth?  This persuasion did not come from Him who calls you.  A little leaven leavens the whole lump of dough.  I have confidence in you in the Lord that you will adopt no other view;  but the one who is disturbing you will bear his judgment, whoever he is.  But I, brethren, if I still preach circumcision, why am I still persecuted?  Then the stumbling block of the cross has been abolished.  I wish that those who are troubling you would even mutilate themselves.”  Galatians 5:7-12.

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