Reflections on 2 Corinthians

I’m reading through the Bible in a year, and every month I post about what I’ve read. Other posts this month are on 1 Samuel , 2 Samuel, 1 Corinthians and Galatians.

A few chapters into this book I was frustrated at not being able to make much sense of it. Then I learned from my paper pastors it is indeed hard to understand, owing to the apostle’s emotional state as he wrote it. 2 Corinthians is a highly personal letter in which Paul opens himself up as he defends himself against the “super-apostles” who had worked their way into the Corinthian church and were discrediting him and his ministry.

A rough outline is this: chapters 1-7: Paul defends himself; chapter 8-9: Paul urges generosity; chapter 10-13: Paul defends himself.

1:1-11

Paul addresses his letter to “the church of God in Corinth”. They may be messed up, but that doesn’t change whose they are.

In 1:3-11, he explains how he lives with suffering, yet experiencing God’s comfort. Having received this comfort, he is then able to comfort others.

1:12-2:4

Paul had promised to visit them and did not. In this passage he explains that he did not want to grieve them, and reassures them of his love for them. Continue reading

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Reflections on 1 Corinthians 12-16

I’m reading through the Bible in a year, and every month I post about what I’ve read. Other posts this month are on 1 Samuel , 2 Samuel, 2 Corinthians and Galatians. This post is continued from Corinthians 1-11.

12:1-31, 14:1-40

Chapters 12, 13 and 14 form a unit on spiritual gifts and how to exercise them. I’ll deal with chapter 13 separately.

Paul reiterates the unity we have in the body of Christ in 12:4-6 and 12:12-13. The faction-ridden Corinthians couldn’t miss his emphasis.

In 12:12-31, he pulls up those with an inferiority complex (“I don’t belong”) while simultaneously pulling down those with a superiority complex (“You don’t belong”). Not everyone can perform the others’ tasks, and that is exactly how God arranged it.

Paul’s main point in chapter 14 is that we should seek those gifts that will most build up believers and at the same time reach unbelievers. Christians should prioritise love over spiritual gifts, a point Paul explains very well in chapter 13. Continue reading

Reflections on 1 Corinthians 1-11

I’m reading through the Bible in a year, and every month I post about what I’ve read. Other posts this month are on 1 Samuel , 2 Samuel, 2 Corinthians and Galatians.

We read of the founding of the church at Corinth in Acts 18. The apostle Paul was there for one and a half years. 1 Corinthians is one of at least 4 letters he wrote to this church, and in it he seeks to correct a number of notions that the Corinthians had taken to. This post covers chapters 1-11.

1:1-17

Verses 4-9 are most curious considering what the Corinthian church was really like. Paul wasn’t being insincere; these things are true of all Christians. Paul writes of Christ’s past provision, His present provision and His future provision for all who are in fellowship with Him.

But the Corinthians are divided (1:10-17). Paul bases his appeal for unity on the name of Jesus Christ (1:10). Continue reading

Reflections on 1 Samuel 16-31

I’m reading through the Bible in a year, and every month I (try to) post about what I’ve read. Other posts this month are on 1 Corinthians, 2 Corinthians, 2 Samuel and Galatians. This post is continued from 1 Samuel 1-15.

16:1-23: Samuel anoints David

Two things about Samuel in this chapter. First, wasn’t it kind of God not to belittle or ignore Samuel’s fears? Second, even the best human leaders are fallible. Had the choice been left entirely to Samuel, he’d have chosen Eliab as the next king.

[Samuel was one prayerful man. He cried out to the Lord and mourned for Saul so much that God had to tell him to stop. Totally unrelated to that: I wonder what Jesse of Bethlehem made of all the interest in his youngest son. First Samuel came by, then Saul.]

17:1-58: David and Goliath

Why is the story of David defeating Goliath in the Bible? Is it so that we can learn how to overcome the giants in our lives? Yes and no.

‘Yes’ because we as God’s covenant people defeat our enemies the same way David did: by faith in the God of the Bible. ‘No’ because we’re not David. David is a Christ-figure, God’s anointed servant who rescues God’s people from the enemy.

The story in 1 Samuel 17 is more about God’s glory than anything else. The Hebrew word for ‘defy’ appears in verses 10, 25, 26 (twice), 36 and 45. Goliath was defying Israel, and by extension, Israel’s God. David was the only one who saw this, and his first words recorded in Scripture can be paraphrased, “What difference does it make that we have a living God?” Continue reading

Reflections on 1 Samuel 1-15

I’m reading through the Bible in a year, and every month I (try to) post about what I’ve read. Other posts this month are on 1 Corinthians, 2 Corinthians, 2 Samuel and Galatians.

Did you know that 1 & 2 Samuel were originally one book, whose midpoint fell in what is 1 Samuel 28:24 in our English Bibles?

The author of 1 & 2 Samuel divided his book  into 4 sections and an appendix. There are summary statements at 1 Samuel 7:15-17 (Samuel); 1 Samuel 14:49-52 (Saul); 2 Samuel 8:15-18 (David); 2 Samuel 20:23-26 (David). 2 Samuel 21-24 form the appendix, a sort of review of some aspects of David’s life.

1 & 2 Samuel mark an important point in salvation history. God makes His move, establishing David as king and a type of Jesus Christ, the ultimate Son of David. This post covers the first 15 chapters of 1 Samuel.

1:1-2:11: Hannah

The book starts out with an obscure woman who sought God. Hannah is one of two special groups of women in the Bible: the formerly barren and the singers. Sarah, Rebecca, Rachel, Samson’s mother and Elizabeth belong to the former group; Miriam, Deborah and later Mary belong to the latter. I especially like how Hannah’s song isn’t so much about her and what the Lord has done for her, as about His deliverance for His people.

Who would have thought that the solution to Israel’s problems, both internal (corrupt leadership) and external (Philistines), would come through the prayers of a distressed woman? Continue reading

From generation to generation

As a teen, Jared Mellinger would sit on the front row at church—and sleep. Now in his late twenties, he’s a pastor and in this sermon has the following to say about reaching young people who were like him:

    • Be concerned beyond your generation (Psalm 78:5-6).
    • Dazzle the next generation with God (Psalm 78:4).
      • Don’t stress behaviour modification, but the message of God’s word.
      • Don’t tell them to do stuff, tell them what God has done.
      • Set their hope in God (Psalm 78:7), teaching them not to forget what He’s done and to keep His commands.
      • Admit that you won’t always be a perfect example.
    • Make faithfulness your passion (Psalm 78:8)

    Listen to the entire sermon (length–47:44).

    Offensive kindness

    Julian the Apostate was a 4th century Roman emperor and a convert from Christianity to paganism (hence the epithet ‘apostate’). To put it  nicely, he didn’t like Christians, and made many efforts to undermine the Christian faith. For example, he  “always calls the Christians Galilaeans because he wishes to emphasise that this was a local creed, ‘the creed of fishermen,’ and perhaps to remind his readers that ‘out of Galilee ariseth no prophet.’”  [Source]

    What he couldn’t get around, though, was the love Jesus’ followers had for each other and for those outside the Christian community. In a letter aimed at reviving paganism, he writes:

    The religion of the Greeks does not yet prosper as I would wish, on account of those who profess it. […] Why then do we … not observe how the kindness of Christians to strangers, their care for the burial of their dead, and the sobriety of their lifestyle has done the most to advance their cause?

    Each of these things, I think, ought really to be practiced by us. It is not sufficient for you alone to practice them, but so must all the priests in Galatia without exception. […]

    Erect many hostels, one in each city, in order that strangers may enjoy my kindness, not only those of our own faith but also of others whosoever is in want of money. […] For it is disgraceful when no Jew is a beggar and the impious Galileans support our poor in addition to their own; everyone is able to see that our coreligionists are in want of aid from us. Teach also those who profess the Greek religion to contribute to such services, and the villages of the Greek religion to offer the first-fruits to the gods. Accustom those of the Greek religion to such benevolence, teaching them that this has been our work from ancient times. […] Do not therefore let others outdo us in good deeds while we ourselves are disgraced by laziness; rather, let us not quite abandon our piety toward the gods…

    [Source]

    Looks like the believers in Julian’s day took seriously the apostle Peter’s exhortation to “live such good lives among the pagans that, though they accuse you of doing wrong, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day he visits us” (1 Peter 2:12). Their love and kindness were undeniable, even to their critics.

    What about us today?

    HT: One of Tim Keller’s sermons.