April 26, 2015.
Daily Reading: II Corinthians 7-9.
Background: II Corinthians 4-6.
Concepts and Connections.
Godly sorrow: In this chapter, Paul really reveals the love he has for the church at Corinth, as he even says that they were his joy when he was going through various trials and persecutions. Though he loved this church, there were times that they did not readily receive his words (because his words were not easy to hear), and on different occasions he had to defend his apostleship and standing with them and with the Lord to the people in Corinth. He does a little of that in this chapter before he goes on to express his deep love and concern for the people there. Fortunately, this is the easy letter. The difficult times where he had to write a very difficult letter (instead of coming to them and correcting the problems in person, which might have been even more difficult) which caused the people there grief. Knowing his letter was going to hurt, there was a part of Paul that didn’t even want to send the letter, because he didn’t want those he cared so much about to be grieved. He knew that there was a chance that this letter would drive a wedge in his relationship with the Corinthians, and that they might not receive it well and not want to associate with Paul anymore. However, he sent the letter because it was necessary, and he was glad he did, for it produced godly grief that lead to repentance. Paul makes a distinction here between godly sorrow and worldly sorrow, one of which leads to repentance and salvation, and the other to death. Paul rejoiced in the outcome of his letter, not because they were grieved, but because their grief turned into this repentance that lead to their salvation. Notice that Paul does not take sides here, saying that he didn’t write the letter for the sake of the one who did wrong, or the ones who were wronged, but rather for the overall good that would come from it. And because the best outcome indeed came to pass, Paul and his companions took great comfort in the Lord. The good report of the Corinthians had been brought to Paul by Titus, and he rejoiced in the news. Sometimes we may have to have hard conversations with our brothers and sisters in Christ, conversations that could strain the relationship. However, in certain cases, these conversations are very necessary, and if they are received well, they could save a soul from death and hide a multitude of sins (see James 5:19-20). Let us every pray for wisdom to know when and how to deal with those situations.
1. Excelling in grace: Continuing on in his letter, Paul then turns to address the gift that the Corinthians had chosen to gather and send to the saints in Jerusalem, to help relieve them of the economic burden that they were experiencing at the time. Paul encourages them to excel in grace, but to give of a willing heart, not by compulsion or out of an obligatory measure. He wanted the gift that they were giving to come from their heart, not because there was a command or law about it. Paul also was conscious of the givers economic status, as he makes it clear that he didn’t want them to give away money that they didn’t have, so that other people would have to in turn give to them to help them out, but rather he wanted them to give because they were in a time of abundance in financial blessings, as God had given them the means to help those who were less fortunate at the time. There was a sense of fairness that was Paul’s goal, so that there would be no lack amongst the saints, just as there was no lack amongst the children of Israel when God gave them manna from heaven (see Exodus 16:18). He will go on to talk more about this special collection in the next chapter.
2. Interactions between churches and brethren: Paul then takes a short interlude to talk about some of the things that were going on with him and his party, and the interactions/plans that were set in place for the next few months or so. Titus, who has come to Paul bringing the good news of the repentance and love of the Corinthian church, was going to be sent back to the Corinthians to gather the gift that they were arranging (actually, he was going on his own accord) along with a certain unnamed preacher who had become famous throughout the churches because of his preaching of the gospel. It seems that he has been very successful at what he does, and he was appointed by the churches to travel with Paul and his company to help with their ministry (it is interesting to note here that there seems to be a joint cooperation between multiple churches found here). Paul’s entourage seems to have been well known throughout the churches (for obvious reasons), and he was delegating work as he thought it would best benefit the kingdom. There indeed seems to have been a tight interaction between the churches in the first century.
The cheerful giver: Paul continues here talking about the collection for the saints in Jerusalem that the Corinthians have agreed to send through Paul to relieve their burdens. He commends them for their grace and willingness to give, as he tells them that God loves the cheerful giver. He does not want anyone to feel obligated to give or have any reluctance with their gift, but rather he tells each to give as they have purposed in their own heart, not according to other’s standards or a certain law or command. He does, however, explain that it is God who has given us everything that we have, and that He will bless those who give liberally, though to the one who does not give liberally, he will reap sparingly. Ultimately what we must remember is that everything is God’s and we are but stewards of the gifts that He gives us. He gives us these gifts for a reason, and that reason could well be so that we can distribute these gifts to those who are in need in the household of faith. Being a family, we should never want to see our brother or sister struggle for the necessities of life, and if we have the means, why would we not help them? If we have been given the grace of God, we should also want to spread this grace to our fellow Christian. Notice at the end Paul does not ultimately give thanks to the Corinthian church for their gift, but rather to God for His inexpressible gift. With this concept in mind, it is easier for us to remember the bigger picture.
Tomorrow’s Reading: Exodus 13-16.
May God’s grace abound in your life.