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Always Yes in Christ 1-3-07

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Always Yes in Christ

2 Corinthians 1:12–2:17

Purpose:  To discover the profoundly positive nature of the gospel and those who communicate it.

Contrary to what some misguided Christian parents think, affirming children does not make them proud and self-centered.  Rather, it meets a fundamental need of the human personality to receive the unqualified affirmation of a significant other.  But often our attempts to affirm each other backfire.

Such was Paul's experience with the Corinthians.  They regarded his change in travel plans and his tough love as a mixed signal, a yes and no.  Paul had already made two visits to Corinth, the first to found the church, and another “painful” visit to deal with a serious discipline problem.  The latter visit, combined with a difficult letter, resulted in an almost complete breakdown in Paul's relationship with the Corinthians.

Paul had promised to visit them again, twice in fact, first as he made his way to Macedonia and then on his way back.  But he changed his plans, delaying his visit and deciding to visit only once.  This led his opponents to claim that he was unreliable or fickle.  In the process of defending his actions, Paul points the Corinthians to the ultimate ground of our affirmation: the eternal “yes” spoken to us by God in Christ.

1.  Remember an experience of being recognized by another, possibly a parent or a good friend.  What made that word or action especially up-lifting for you?

Question 1. Encourage people to be specific about some affirmation they have received: what was said, how and by whom. What feelings and inner responses did they have to being affirmed?

2.  Based on 2 Cor 1:12–22, what do you think Paul's opponents were saying about his motives and ministry style?

2 Cor 1:12  For our boasting is this: the testimony of our conscience that we conducted ourselves in the world in simplicity and godly sincerity, not with fleshly wisdom but by the grace of God, and more abundantly toward you.  13  For we are not writing any other things to you than what you read or understand. Now I trust you will understand, even to the end  14  (as also you have understood us in part), that we are your boast as you also are ours, in the day of the Lord Jesus.  15  And in this confidence I intended to come to you before, that you might have a second benefit--  16  to pass by way of you to Macedonia, to come again from Macedonia to you, and be helped by you on my way to Judea.  17  Therefore, when I was planning this, did I do it lightly? Or the things I plan, do I plan according to the flesh, that with me there should be Yes, Yes, and No, No?  18  But as God is faithful, our word to you was not Yes and No.  19  For the Son of God, Jesus Christ, who was preached among you by us--by me, Silvanus, and Timothy--was not Yes and No, but in Him was Yes.  20  For all the promises of God in Him are Yes, and in Him Amen, to the glory of God through us.  21  Now He who establishes us with you in Christ and has anointed us is God,  22  who also has sealed us and given us the Spirit in our hearts as a guarantee.

Question 2. Almost every positive argument by Paul presumes some negative criticism.  Reading Paul's letters is often like listening to one end of a telephone conversation.  But it is not hard to gather from Paul's arguments what is being said on the other side.

3.  What reasons does Paul give for maintaining that his change of itinerary was not a change of mind about the Corinthians (vv. 12, 17)?

2 Cor 1:12  For our boasting is this: the testimony of our conscience that we conducted ourselves in the world in simplicity and godly sincerity, not with fleshly wisdom but by the grace of God, and more abundantly toward you.

17  Therefore, when I was planning this, did I do it lightly? Or the things I plan, do I plan according to the flesh, that with me there should be Yes, Yes, and No, No?

Matt 5:37  But let your Yes be Yes, and your No, No.  For whatever is more than these is from the evil one.

Question 3. “Yes and no” may refer back to the words of Jesus: “Let your ‘Yes’ be ‘Yes,’ and your ‘No,’ ‘No’ ” (Mt 5:37).  The mark of a worldly man (v. 17), whose decisions are made according to self-interest, is his saying “yes” and “no” with the same breath, promising to revisit Corinth but then calculating an expedient way to avoid it.  Eventually Paul reveals that it was to “spare them” that he delayed his visit, although he never failed in his love for them nor reversed his decision to visit them (2:1).

4.  Why do you think Paul directs their attention away from his travel plans to the unqualified yes or “amen” of the gospel (vv. 18–20)?

2 Cor 1:18  But as God is faithful, our word to you was not Yes and No.  19  For the Son of God, Jesus Christ, who was preached among you by us--by me, Silvanus, and Timothy--was not Yes and No, but in Him was Yes.  20  For all the promises of God in Him are Yes, and in Him Amen, to the glory of God through us.

NOTE:  In Christ all the promises of God find their fulfillment.

Gal 3:8 And the Scripture, foreseeing that God would justify the Gentiles by faith, preached the gospel to Abraham beforehand, saying, In you all the nations shall be blessed.  9  So then those who are of faith are blessed with believing Abraham.

Question 4. Ralph Martin comments “that Paul has more to defend than his reputation.  It was bad enough that his enemies attacked him as weak and shifty…It was worse when they went on to insinuate that his message was just as unreliable and unsure.  The purpose of vv. 18–22 is to defend the apostolic ministry which, for Paul, was intimately bound up with the message God had entrusted to him and his co-workers.

Paul is convinced that Christ is the “Amen” (Rev 3:14), which means “let it be so,” the “true” (Rev 3:7).   Therefore Amen is especially fitting in the context of public worship (1 Cor 14:16) and in pastoral relationships such as the one between Paul and the Corinthians.

5.  What aspects of Christian experience does Paul point to as evidence of God's “yes” in Christ (vv. 21–22)?

2 Cor 1:21  Now He who establishes us with you in Christ and has anointed us is God,  22  who also has sealed us and given us the Spirit in our hearts as a guarantee.

Which part is most meaningful to you now?

1 John 2:20  But you have an anointing from the Holy One, and you know all things.

 

1 John 2:20 (Amplified) But you have been anointed by [you hold a sacred appointment from, you have been given an unction from] the Holy One, and you all know [the Truth] or you know all things.

 

NOTE:  Mature Christians need no teacher.

1 John 2:27  But the anointing which you have received from Him abides in you, and you do not need that anyone teach you; but as the same anointing teaches you concerning all things, and is true, and is not a lie, and just as it has taught you, you will abide in Him.

 

1 John 2:27 (Amplified)  But as for you, the anointing (the sacred appointment, the unction) which you received from Him abides [permanently] in you; [so] then you have no need that anyone should instruct you. But just as His anointing teaches you concerning everything and is true and is no falsehood, so you must abide in (live in, never depart from) Him [being rooted in Him, knit to Him], just as [His anointing] has taught you [to do].

 

Immature Christians need a teacher.

Heb 5:12  For though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you again the first principles of the oracles of God; and you have come to need milk and not solid food.  13  For everyone who partakes only of milk is unskilled in the word of righteousness, for he is a babe.  14  But solid food belongs to those who are of full age, that is, those who by reason of use have their senses exercised to discern both good and evil.

 

Question 5. (1) anointing means receiving an important function in Christ through the Spirit (1 John 2:20, 27); (2) sealing means certifying ownership and pledging protection by the owner; (3) guaranteeing means certifying that we will eventually receive our full inheritance in Christ.  These three practical convictions are reason enough to be confident that Paul, and other servants of Christ who live by such a message, can be trusted.

6.  What further reason does Paul now give for his change of travel plans (1:23–2:4)?

2 Cor 1:23  Moreover I call God as witness against my soul, that to spare you I came no more to Corinth.  24  Not that we have dominion over your faith, but are fellow workers for your joy; for by faith you stand. 

2:1  But I determined this within myself, that I would not come again to you in sorrow.  2  For if I make you sorrowful, then who is he who makes me glad but the one who is made sorrowful by me?  3  And I wrote this very thing to you, lest, when I came, I should have sorrow over those from whom I ought to have joy, having confidence in you all that my joy is the joy of you all.  4  For out of much affliction and anguish of heart I wrote to you, with many tears, not that you should be grieved, but that you might know the love which I have so abundantly for you.

7.  In 2:5–11 Paul refers to the discipline of a member of the church, possibly because of a gross sexual sin (see 1 Cor 5:1).  How does Paul's handling of this problem affirm his love not only for the Corinthians but also for the man who had sinned?

2 Cor 2:5  But if anyone has caused grief, he has not grieved me, but all of you to some extent--not to be too severe.  6  This punishment which was inflicted by the majority is sufficient for such a man,  7  so that, on the contrary, you ought rather to forgive and comfort him, lest perhaps such a one be swallowed up with too much sorrow.  8  Therefore I urge you to reaffirm your love to him.  9  For to this end I also wrote, that I might put you to the test, whether you are obedient in all things.  10  Now whom you forgive anything, I also forgive. For if indeed I have forgiven anything, I have forgiven that one for your sakes in the presence of Christ,  11  lest Satan should take advantage of us; for we are not ignorant of his devices.

1 Cor 5:1  It is actually reported that there is sexual immorality among you, and such sexual immorality as is not even named among the Gentiles--that a man has his father's wife!

Question 7. Many suggest that the offense was some sort of slander perpetrated, whether by word or deed or both, against Paul.  Especially relevant is the contrast of the punishments in view: in 1 Corinthians 5 the offender is to be cut off and left to the destructive powers of Satan, while in 2 Corinthians 2:6–8 the offender is to be forgiven and restored.  A majority of the Corinthian congregation has agreed to some sort of disciplinary action against him, but only after the seriousness and wider meaning of the offense has been brought home by Paul's tearful letter.  Confident now of the church's obedience, he writes again about the matter, this time urging that the offending party be forgiven and brought back into the Christian community. Whichever interpretation is chosen, the important thing is to observe the depth of Paul's love for the Corinthians.  They wept because he first wept.  Their hearts were touched because his heart had first been touched.

8.  Why would Paul's approach to this disciplinary problem likely result in the offender's hearing God's affirmation, his “yes,” in Jesus?

Question 8. Dietrich Bonhoeffer said that church membership without church discipline is cheap grace.  If there is no repentance, no forgiveness will be experienced by the offender.  The easy “yes” of condoning sin is really a “no.”  Therefore, tough love requires confrontation.

What Satanic schemes (v. 11) was Paul aware of?  In this case Satan would have liked nothing better than to have the offender feel so overwhelmed with sorrow that he felt beyond forgiveness.  Therefore, both the apostle's and the community's forgiveness were crucial.

9.  Because Paul had no peace of mind in Troas, he couldn't take full advantage of the “door” the Lord had opened for him.  How was he able to speak of his triumph in Christ (v. 14) in the same breath as confessing his weakness?

2 Cor 2:12  Furthermore, when I came to Troas to preach Christ's gospel, and a door was opened to me by the Lord,  13  I had no rest in my spirit, because I did not find Titus my brother; but taking my leave of them, I departed for Macedonia.  14  Now thanks be to God who always leads us in triumph in Christ, and through us diffuses the fragrance of His knowledge in every place.  15  For we are to God the fragrance of Christ among those who are being saved and among those who are perishing.  16  To the one we are the aroma of death leading to death, and to the other the aroma of life leading to life. And who is sufficient for these things?  17  For we are not, as so many, peddling the word of God; but as of sincerity, but as from God, we speak in the sight of God in Christ.

When has Christ enabled you to triumph in the midst of a personal struggle?

Question 9. Paul was eager to see Titus, not only because he was a personal friend but also because Titus would bring news about the Corinthians, whose spiritual state greatly concerned Paul.  When he could not find Titus in Troas, Paul was so troubled that he could not continue his ministry there.  Yet even when he is too upset to minister, he is part of a triumphal procession (v. 14).

In Paul's mind there is the picture of a Roman Triumph and of Christ as a universal conqueror.  The highest honor which could be given to a victorious Roman general was a Triumph…First; there came the state officials and the senate.  Then there came the trumpeters.  Then there were carried the spoils taken from the conquered land.  Then there came pictures of the conquered land and models of conquered citadels and ships.  There followed the white bull for the sacrifice which would be made.  Then there walked the wretched captives, the enemy princes, leaders and generals in chains, shortly to be flung into prison and in all probability almost immediately to be executed.  Then there came the priests swinging their censers with the sweet-smelling incense burning in them.  And then there came the general himself.  After him there rode his family, and finally there came the army wearing all their decorations and shouting, their cry of triumph.  As the procession moved through the streets, all decorated and garlanded, amid the shouting, cheering crowds, it was a tremendous day, a day which might happen only once in a lifetime.  That is the picture that is in Paul's mind. He sees the conquering Christ marching in triumph throughout the world, and himself in that conquering train.”

Why was Paul able to triumph in the midst of his struggles in Troas?  The obvious yet astonishing answer to this question is the genius of the gospel itself: God's grace is demonstrated in weakness (see 2 Cor 12:7–10).

10.  What do you think Paul means in saying we are “the smell of death” to some and “the fragrance of life” to others (vv. 15–16)?

2 Cor 2:15  For we are to God the fragrance of Christ among those who are being saved and among those who are perishing.  16  To the one we are the aroma of death leading to death, and to the other the aroma of life leading to life.  And who is sufficient for these things?

Question 10. The important thing not to miss is that the same odor, the same Christ-bearers, are both a deadly fume and a fragrant perfume.  William Barclay suggests one plausible interpretation of this: “We have seen how in that [triumphal] procession there were the priests swinging the incense-filled censers.  Now to the general and to the victors the perfume from the censers would be the perfume of joy and triumph and life; but to the wretched captives who walked so short a distance ahead it was the perfume of death, for it stood for the past defeat and their coming execution.  So Paul thinks of himself and his fellow apostles preaching the gospel of the triumphant Christ. To those who will accept it, it is the perfume of life, as it was to the victors; to those who refuse it, it is the perfume of death as it was to the vanquished” (The Letters to the Corinthians, pp. 204–6).

11.  How does the thought that Christianity spreads like a fragrance challenge your church?

12.  What have you learned about the conditions of receiving the affirmation Christ wants to give us?

NEXT LESSON: Competent to Minister (2 Cor 3:1–18)


 

Always Yes in Christ

2 Corinthians 1:12–2:17

Purpose:  To discover the profoundly positive nature of the gospel and those who communicate it.

Contrary to what some misguided Christian parents think, affirming children does not make them proud and self-centered.  Rather, it meets a fundamental need of the human personality to receive the unqualified affirmation of a significant other.  But often our attempts to affirm each other backfire.

Such was Paul's experience with the Corinthians.  They regarded his change in travel plans and his tough love as a mixed signal, a yes and no.  Paul had already made two visits to Corinth, the first to found the church, and another “painful” visit to deal with a serious discipline problem.  The latter visit, combined with a difficult letter, resulted in an almost complete breakdown in Paul's relationship with the Corinthians.

Paul had promised to visit them again, twice in fact, first as he made his way to Macedonia and then on his way back.  But he changed his plans, delaying his visit and deciding to visit only once.  This led his opponents to claim that he was unreliable or fickle.  In the process of defending his actions, Paul points the Corinthians to the ultimate ground of our affirmation: the eternal “yes” spoken to us by God in Christ.

1.  Remember an experience of being recognized by another, possibly a parent or a good friend.  What made that word or action especially up-lifting for you?

2.  Based on 2 Cor 1:12–22, what do you think Paul's opponents were saying about his motives and ministry style?

2 Cor 1:12  For our boasting is this: the testimony of our conscience that we conducted ourselves in the world in simplicity and godly sincerity, not with fleshly wisdom but by the grace of God, and more abundantly toward you.  13  For we are not writing any other things to you than what you read or understand. Now I trust you will understand, even to the end  14  (as also you have understood us in part), that we are your boast as you also are ours, in the day of the Lord Jesus.  15  And in this confidence I intended to come to you before, that you might have a second benefit--  16  to pass by way of you to Macedonia, to come again from Macedonia to you, and be helped by you on my way to Judea.  17  Therefore, when I was planning this, did I do it lightly? Or the things I plan, do I plan according to the flesh, that with me there should be Yes, Yes, and No, No?  18  But as God is faithful, our word to you was not Yes and No.  19  For the Son of God, Jesus Christ, who was preached among you by us--by me, Silvanus, and Timothy--was not Yes and No, but in Him was Yes.  20  For all the promises of God in Him are Yes, and in Him Amen, to the glory of God through us.  21  Now He who establishes us with you in Christ and has anointed us is God,  22  who also has sealed us and given us the Spirit in our hearts as a guarantee.

3.  What reasons does Paul give for maintaining that his change of itinerary was not a change of mind about the Corinthians (vv. 12, 17)?

2 Cor 1:12  For our boasting is this: the testimony of our conscience that we conducted ourselves in the world in simplicity and godly sincerity, not with fleshly wisdom but by the grace of God, and more abundantly toward you.

17  Therefore, when I was planning this, did I do it lightly? Or the things I plan, do I plan according to the flesh, that with me there should be Yes, Yes, and No, No?

Matt 5:37  But let your Yes be Yes, and your No, No.  For whatever is more than these is from the evil one.

4.  Why do you think Paul directs their attention away from his travel plans to the unqualified yes or “amen” of the gospel (vv. 18–20)?

2 Cor 1:18  But as God is faithful, our word to you was not Yes and No.  19  For the Son of God, Jesus Christ, who was preached among you by us--by me, Silvanus, and Timothy--was not Yes and No, but in Him was Yes.  20  For all the promises of God in Him are Yes, and in Him Amen, to the glory of God through us.

NOTE:  In Christ all the promises of God find their fulfillment.

Gal 3:8 And the Scripture, foreseeing that God would justify the Gentiles by faith, preached the gospel to Abraham beforehand, saying, In you all the nations shall be blessed.  9  So then those who are of faith are blessed with believing Abraham.

5.  What aspects of Christian experience does Paul point to as evidence of God's “yes” in Christ (vv. 21–22)?

2 Cor 1:21  Now He who establishes us with you in Christ and has anointed us is God,  22  who also has sealed us and given us the Spirit in our hearts as a guarantee.

Which part is most meaningful to you now?

1 John 2:20  But you have an anointing from the Holy One, and you know all things.

 

1 John 2:20 (Amplified) But you have been anointed by [you hold a sacred appointment from, you have been given an unction from] the Holy One, and you all know [the Truth] or you know all things.

 

NOTE:  Mature Christians need no teacher.

1 John 2:27  But the anointing which you have received from Him abides in you, and you do not need that anyone teach you; but as the same anointing teaches you concerning all things, and is true, and is not a lie, and just as it has taught you, you will abide in Him.

 

1 John 2:27 (Amplified)  But as for you, the anointing (the sacred appointment, the unction) which you received from Him abides [permanently] in you; [so] then you have no need that anyone should instruct you. But just as His anointing teaches you concerning everything and is true and is no falsehood, so you must abide in (live in, never depart from) Him [being rooted in Him, knit to Him], just as [His anointing] has taught you [to do].

 

Immature Christians need a teacher.

Heb 5:12  For though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you again the first principles of the oracles of God; and you have come to need milk and not solid food.  13  For everyone who partakes only of milk is unskilled in the word of righteousness, for he is a babe.  14  But solid food belongs to those who are of full age, that is, those who by reason of use have their senses exercised to discern both good and evil.

 

6.  What further reason does Paul now give for his change of travel plans (1:23–2:4)?

2 Cor 1:23  Moreover I call God as witness against my soul, that to spare you I came no more to Corinth.  24  Not that we have dominion over your faith, but are fellow workers for your joy; for by faith you stand. 

2:1  But I determined this within myself, that I would not come again to you in sorrow.  2  For if I make you sorrowful, then who is he who makes me glad but the one who is made sorrowful by me?  3  And I wrote this very thing to you, lest, when I came, I should have sorrow over those from whom I ought to have joy, having confidence in you all that my joy is the joy of you all.  4  For out of much affliction and anguish of heart I wrote to you, with many tears, not that you should be grieved, but that you might know the love which I have so abundantly for you.

7.  In 2:5–11 Paul refers to the discipline of a member of the church, possibly because of a gross sexual sin (see 1 Cor 5:1).  How does Paul's handling of this problem affirm his love not only for the Corinthians but also for the man who had sinned?

2 Cor 2:5  But if anyone has caused grief, he has not grieved me, but all of you to some extent--not to be too severe.  6  This punishment which was inflicted by the majority is sufficient for such a man,  7  so that, on the contrary, you ought rather to forgive and comfort him, lest perhaps such a one be swallowed up with too much sorrow.  8  Therefore I urge you to reaffirm your love to him.  9  For to this end I also wrote, that I might put you to the test, whether you are obedient in all things.  10  Now whom you forgive anything, I also forgive. For if indeed I have forgiven anything, I have forgiven that one for your sakes in the presence of Christ,  11  lest Satan should take advantage of us; for we are not ignorant of his devices.

1 Cor 5:1  It is actually reported that there is sexual immorality among you, and such sexual immorality as is not even named among the Gentiles--that a man has his father's wife!

8.  Why would Paul's approach to this disciplinary problem likely result in the offender's hearing God's affirmation, his “yes,” in Jesus?

9.  Because Paul had no peace of mind in Troas, he couldn't take full advantage of the “door” the Lord had opened for him.  How was he able to speak of his triumph in Christ (v. 14) in the same breath as confessing his weakness?

2 Cor 2:12  Furthermore, when I came to Troas to preach Christ's gospel, and a door was opened to me by the Lord,  13  I had no rest in my spirit, because I did not find Titus my brother; but taking my leave of them, I departed for Macedonia.  14  Now thanks be to God who always leads us in triumph in Christ, and through us diffuses the fragrance of His knowledge in every place.  15  For we are to God the fragrance of Christ among those who are being saved and among those who are perishing.  16  To the one we are the aroma of death leading to death, and to the other the aroma of life leading to life. And who is sufficient for these things?  17  For we are not, as so many, peddling the word of God; but as of sincerity, but as from God, we speak in the sight of God in Christ.

When has Christ enabled you to triumph in the midst of a personal struggle?

10.  What do you think Paul means in saying we are “the smell of death” to some and “the fragrance of life” to others (vv. 15–16)?

2 Cor 2:15  For we are to God the fragrance of Christ among those who are being saved and among those who are perishing.  16  To the one we are the aroma of death leading to death, and to the other the aroma of life leading to life.  And who is sufficient for these things?

11.  How does the thought that Christianity spreads like a fragrance challenge your church?

12.  What have you learned about the conditions of receiving the affirmation Christ wants to give us?

NEXT LESSON: Competent to Minister (2 Cor 3:1–18)

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