Lesson 44: "Thanks Be Unto God, Which Always Causeth Us to Triumph in Christ" (II Corinthians 2:14
II Corinthians 2:5-17
Paul's Missionary Journey Epistles. This is lesson #44. Welcome again. Alright, did you re-read the last lesson? Have you got it in the bag, so-to-speak? In the last verse of our last lesson, (2:4), Paul said he wrote in "much affliction and anguish of heart...[and] with many tears..." Then he quickly added, "not that ye should be grieved,," i.e., it was not Paul's intention to distress them or cause them sorrow. But, (i.e., on the contrary) Paul wanted them to know how much he loved them. (Thaf s the rest of v.4.) Paul said in other words, to have to say some of the things Paul was forced to write when he wrote to the Corinthians before was personally sickening and even heart breaking to Paul. Now, what did Paul have to say that gave him such anguish of heart? It is generally thought that Paul's reference that follows here in v.5-11 (ch.2) has reference back to First Corinthians ch. 5 and I believe that is correct. Do you remember the fornicator at Corinth that had his father's wife? Paul had told them, "Put away from among yourselves that wicked person." (I Cor. 5:13). Paul said, "it is reported commonly that there is fornication among you..." (I Cor. 5:1). So, the implication is that sin was more prevalent and widespread than the single case cited as an example. Here in v.5, Paul said essentially this: He was not even going to complain or make any attempt to explain the pain it brought him; for obviously the sorrow and distress it inflicted upon all the Corinthian brethren, spiritually concerned Corinthian brethren locally, must have been tremendously greater than Paul himself suffered, mentally that is.
Now, before we read v.5-11 of ch. 1; lefs take a minute to re-read and re-familiarize ourselves with Paul's message back in I Cor. ch. 5. The chapter has only 13 verses; so take a minute, turn off the tape player and re-read I Cor. ch.5, all 13 verses. Are you ready? Here we go! Hit the pause button! Let's read.
O.K., are you back? Did you notice in v.2 of I Cor. ch. 5, Paul said, "ye are puffed up..." Now, what did Paul mean? Well, Paul had written to them about this fornication bit even before he wrote the book we call First Corinthians (v.9 in ch. 5 verifies that). Some were puffed up, i.e., they did not cotton to what Paul had written about fornication within their ranks. Some were condoning and ignoring Paul's instruction. They were "glorying" in this terrible sexual mess (v.6). Do you get the picture? That puffed up bit comes from Paul's illustration from baking bread in v.8. They had within their ranks the leaven of wickedness, i.e., some were following Satan, just that simple. What Paul said was from God; because, Paul being an apostle spoke for God and the Lord Jesus Christ. Thus, some were ignoring the instruction of God. But, here in Second Corinthians, we discover that after Paul wrote to them the second time, i.e., after Paul's message in the book we call First Corinthians; they finally took Paul seriously and excommunicated the sex offender we just read about in I Cor. ch. 5 (before Paul wrote what we call Second Corinthians). However, Paul had decided, after writing to the Corinthians the second time about this; he was not going to visit Corinth again until they repented and carried out the apostle's instruction to excommunicate the incestuous man. You see, this connects back to the first verse of ch. 1. Don't miss that! However, part of that good news that Titus brought Paul in Macedonia was that the Corinthian brethren had finally obeyed Paul's instruction. They excommunicated and disfellowshipped the incestuous man. Thus, they took the disciplinary action against this person(s) that Paul recommended. How did they do this and what did they do? Well, we don't have an outline (step #1, step #2, step #3, etc.) in this text. You have to go back and put the puzzle together piece by piece. Do you remember what Paul said to the Thessalonians? In II Thess. 3:14, Paul said: "if any man obey not our word by this epistle, note that man, and have no company with him, that he may be ashamed." In the Roman letter (16:17), Paul said: "I beseech you, brethren, mark them which cause divisions and offenses contrary to the doctrine which ye have learned; and avoid them." In I Cor. 5:11, Paul had told the Corinthians not to even eat with the fornicator, i.e., isolate him from their fellowship. Paul, in that verse, mentioned not only fornicators; he included the covetous, idolaters, railers, drunkards and extortioners as well. "Put away from yourselves that wicked person" (the last verse). You must keep in mind now, this was disciplinary action. This was not revenge. This was not retaliation. In the verse we just read to the Thessalonians; Paul followed that thought in the next verse, "Yet count him not as an enemy, but admonish him as a brother." Discipline must carry with it "agape." The sole purpose must be for the ultimate benefit of saving the soul of that member. Yes, but Bro. Horsley, what about the honor and integrity of the church? Well, forget it! When you have acted for the sole purpose of correcting a member to save their soul; you have done all the honor saving and integrity saving of the church you can do. The church is the members. You got it? Now, I want you to notice something else right here. Was Paul writing to the elders? Well, elders are members, shepherds of the flock So, elders must be actively involved, of course. But, please get this straight. Paul was writing to all members; Paul was not writing to the elders. The members must do this! The obligation is to members. Elders, of course, being leaders, will naturally be up front. They are exemplary members. Paul did not say this to the elders exclusively; Paul said this to the members. Then the question comes: yes but what if the discipline doesn't work? Well, it's just this simple: Satan, got the upper hand. You see, Satan lured that member away to start with. If the members can't discipline and bring that wayward member back by brotherly love and "agape" love; then, Satan got the upper hand. Lefs face the facts and say it like it is! Seldom ever does discipline fail when every Christian is in there as they should be. In other words, scriptural discipline really works. It worked at Corinth! It will work today. That fornicator at Corinth repented, changed his mind, forsook his adulterous sexual practices and tried to make amends. Then what? Everyone should just keep on harassing him right? WRONG! That's the way it happens quite often. But, thafs not the way it should be. When it happens that way, Satan got the upper hand. Notice as you read this, it was Paul who took the initiative and leadership to discipline and admonish the sex offender at Corinth initially. But, notice also, that when that person repented; Paul was the first to take the initiative and leadership to forgive the man and restore this lost sheep back to the fold. Do not discipline with revenge and retaliation. Discipline with love. When the person repents, be the first to accept him back, forgive totally and receive him back as if nothing ever happened. "Admonish him as a brother" (II Thess. 3:15). Thafs what the Bible teaches.
Alright, ifs about time we get some reading done here. II Cor. 1:5 - are you ready? We're going to read v.5-11. Here we go! Don't miss the connection! "But if any have caused grief, he hath not grieved me, but in part: that I may not over charge you all. Sufficient to such a man is this punishment, which was inflicted of many. So that contrariwise ye ought rather to forgive him, and comfort him, lest perhaps such a one should be swallowed up with overmuch sorrow. Wherefore I beseech you that ye would confirm your love toward him. For to (his end also did I write, that I might know the proof of you, whether ye be obedient in all things. To whom ye forgive any thing, I forgive also: for if I forgave any thing, to whom I forgave it, for your sakes forgave I it in the person of Christ; lest Satan should get an advantage of us: for we are not ignorant of his devices."
O.K., I trust we have already set the stage pretty good for this one. If you get the connection to I Cor. ch. 5, every verse here should come through very meaningfully. Paul said back in I Cor. 5:3, "I verily, as absent in body, but present in spirit, have judged already, as though I were present, concerning him that hath so done this deed..." I read into that; Paul was prompting: do your job! Don't fiddle-diddle around. Carry out the Lord's instruction. There is a great, great lesson in that for us today. In the next verse, where we read, Paul said, "In the name of our Lord Jesus Christ...deliver such a one unto Satan for the destruction of the flesh..." For those people who go around saying: "God is love...God is love...God is love" and try to drag in everything from homosexuality to murder under: "God is love," I think they may have a little trouble with that verse. God is love; but, you better put it in the context of Heb. 10:26ff. I can't think of much more that needs to be said about v.5-11. Oh yes! In v.9 here you might notice that Paul said he was holding out on the Corinthians to see if they were really loyal to the scriptures. What about you? Are you "obedient in all things?" Look at the end of v.9. Paul had held out and didn't come to them until they got their mess corrected. Paul is saying, I had to test you. Then, notice how Paul said this. When the Corinthians finally got this letter and read this sentence in II Cor. 1:9; how did it strike them? Hey! We passed the test! Get it? Paul was a master at admonishing and encouraging. Then v.10 simply means when the sinner repents; forgive and forget. Don't hold grudges and don't put him on probation. Give him a real second chance. Treat him as a brother, II Thess. 3:15. And finally, v.ll is a sermon within itself. How many times have you seen a congregation torn up, split and splintered ah1 over the place, over some sin like that fornicator at Corinth? What about the proverbial preacher who left town with a deacon's wife? As someone used to say, if you stir that stuff it's going to stink. How many times do these things turn out to be a stinking stirred up mess and Satan gets the glory? Paul said, we are not ignorant of Satan's devices. Are we? I wonder sometimes.
Let's read v.12-13. Got an eyeball on it? We read this once before. This connects back into Paul's anguish of heart and many tears back up in v.4, i.e., the grief Paul had suffered over this infamous case and the Corinthian attitude. Let's read! V.12 beginning, "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." Paul here confides that he lost a lot of sleep over this. "I had no rest in my spirit." What would the test results be? Benign or malignant? Were the Corinthians going to follow God and the Holy Spirit or would Satan win this hand? Paul admits he couldn't rest just thinking about it. He got so upset over it that he simply picked up and went on into Macedonia ahead of schedule; although, he had a great opportunity to do a good work at Troas.
Now, let's read v.14-17, four more verses. Let's close out ch. 2 - are you ready? "Now thanks be unto God, which always causeth us to triumph in Christ, and maketh manifest the savor of his knowledge by us in every place. For we are unto God a sweet savor of Christ, in them that are saved, and in them that perish: to the one we are the savor of death unto death; and to the other the savor 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." Alright, now what is Paul saying? About the time everything looks the darkest and hopelessness seemed to stare Paul in the face, there came a great victory in Christ. That was when Titus showed up telling how the Corinthians had obeyed with fear and trembling. The fornicator had been disciplined and it worked; the rascal had repented and they had saved a brother. The word "savor", S-A-V-O-R here in V. 14-15-16 means an odor or a sweet smelling fragrance or perfume; something like bread baking in your momma's kitchen. I love to smell yeast rolls baking. Paul said the victory the Corinthians got over Satan made him and his co-workers smell good every place they went. Paul could even imagine the victory over Satan at Corinth was like a sweet smelling fragrance in the nostril of God. It promoted and made known a knowledge of God through Paul and his co-workers every where they went. Results were not always positive. Their preaching was the same every place. Their preaching carried the same message, the same knowledge of God every place they went, and it was like a sweet fragrance in the nostrils of the heavenly Father. Ironically, some obeyed that knowledge of God, the gospel of Christ and were saved while others rejected the same message to be lost and to serve Satan. So, realizing the victory and the great ramifications of these things; Paul asked a thought provoking question at the end of v. 16: "who is sufficient for these things," or hi other words: who is adequate to dispense such a life or death radiating gospel message? In that question, we can almost read Paul's humble thoughts that seem to be saying: we do the best we can. That in turn, seemed to bring up the thought that: unfortunately many are not doing the best they can. False doctrines were being spread. Doctrines that dealt death to those who breathed such deadly vapors of false doctrine. Then the apostle moved on to point out the great contrast in v.17, Paul said, "we are not as many, which corrupt the word of God: but as of sincerity, but as of God, hi the sight of God speak we in Christ." With that thought; Paul came to the summit of the proverbial hill overlooking a dark valley which personified error in the mind of those Corinthians who had resolved to obey Paul's message from the living God. As they read this book (we call Second Corinthians) undoubtedly they could begin to see death and sin lurking in the shadows cast by the enemies of Paul across that great destructive valley. As they began to mentally observe and concentrate on this dark valley stretching out from where they stood; Paul began to prompt a deeper mental analysis. Now, that's chapter three.
So, let's see! They had vented the sex scandal, they obeyed the apostle and passed the test. In doing so, they gained a great victory. Paul and his co-workers were encouraged. Paul was now ready to visit Corinth. So, he sent this letter on ahead to pave the way. There was still some leaven of malice and wickedness among the Corinthians that needed to be purged from their ranks. Especially that leaven of Judiazing teachers and other false prophets. Take another look at v. 17. Paul had set the stage for battle: "we are not as many, which corrupt the word of God..." What does that imply? Paul was not one to sweep it under the rug. So, in chapter three Paul began to gentry soak and scrub away that undesirable leaven among them. But, we'll save that for lesson #45. Until then, it's time to say, "Have a good day."