August 9 - 15
Commitment for Ministry
READ FOR THIS WEEK'S STUDY: 2 Cor. 6:14-7:16.
MEMORY TEXT: "Do not be unequally yoked together with unbelievers. For what fellowship has righteousness with lawlessness? And what communion has light with darkness?" (2 Cor. 6:14, KJV).
KEY THOUGHT: The Lordship of Jesus should dominate our lives rather than just be one influence among many.
DOUBLE AGENTS NEED NOT APPLY. Aldrich Ames is the most famous double agent of our times. Ames, who now occupies a cell in a maximum security prison, worked in the United States Central Intelligence Agency for more than thirty years. For at least the last nine years of his career, he worked as a double agent, selling state secrets. In exchange for $2.5 million, he exposed more than one hundred intelligence operations. No one seemed to notice that, on a modest salary, he paid cash for a $500,000 home and the art work it contained. Eventually though, a carelessly discarded document testified to his divided loyalties.
Paul worries that Christians might be recruited as double agents. So he commands, "Do not be mismatched with unbelievers" (2 Cor. 6:14, NRSV). He is concerned that our loyalty to Christ may be at risk. Ministry for Christ will admit no double agents nor will it allow double lives. Ours is not an undercover mission. We are to acknowledge openly our absolute allegiance to the kingdom of Christ.
What command opens 2 Corinthians 6:14-7:1? (Compare Deut. 22:10; Lev. 19:19.)
Five questions follow this command, each expecting in response a definite, "None!" The contrasts of righteousness/lawlessness, light/darkness, Christ/Beliar (or "Belial," a Jewish name for Satan), and believer/unbeliever end in the final contrast, "What agreement has the temple of God with idols?" (2 Cor. 6:16, NRSV). The claim, "We are the temple of the living God," is followed by quotations from the Old Testament. Within these, three strong commands, "Come out!," "be separate!" and "touch nothing unclean"! (verse 17) stand between two "promises" (verse 16; verses 17, 18). Looking back to these promises, the section closes with a call for holiness (2 Cor. 7:1).
How is holiness before God related to separation from the world? What kind of separation is Paul talking about? 2 Cor. 6:14-7:1.
When we read 2 Corinthians 6:14-7:1 in light of his earlier counsel, Paul is not suggesting that we do not have any contact with unbelievers. After all, how could unbelievers ever have access to the gospel? Paul, the great Christian missionary, does not want to dampen the witness of believers. What, then, does he speak against? He speaks against "all alliances that give undue influence to those who do not love God." Any alliance with an unbeliever that risks the believer's exclusive loyalty to God "must be strictly avoided."Manuscript Releases, vol. 8, p. 107. So Paul's call to separation in 2 Corinthians is much the same as his earlier calls to "flee from sexual immorality" (1 Cor. 6:18, NIV) and idolatry (1 Cor. 10:14).
"It is all right for the church to be in the world provided the world is not in the church. The ship does not sink when it is launched in the water; it sinks when the water gets into the ship .... The rescue work of the church declines in direct proportion to how much the world invades the church."Roy J. Fish and J. E. Conant, Every-Member Evangelism, (New York: Harper and Row, 1976), p. 48.
|The word Pharisees means "separated ones." How do we avoid the extreme forms of separation practiced by the Pharisees while preserving our devotion to God? How can we be in the world but not of the world?|
To what situations should we apply the counsel not to be "mismatched with unbelievers"? (2 Cor. 6:14, NRSV).
Christians often have repeated Paul's words to those thinking about marriage with unbelievers. Ellen White agrees: "Men and women professing godliness should tremble at the thought of entering into a marriage covenant with those who do not respect and obey the commandments of God. It was this that opened the flood-gates of sin to the antediluvians. Such a connection with the world is a direct departure from God's express requirementBe ye not unequally yoked together with unbelievers.' "The Signs of the Times, Dec. 30, 1880.
However, Paul does not address his advice only to marriage. "The apostle Paul declares that it is impossible for the children of God to unite with worldlings.... This does not refer to marriage alone; any intimate relation of confidence and copartnership with those who have no love for God or the truth is a snare."Testimonies, vol. 5, p. 13.
Other applications we might consider are:
1. Membership in secret societies (Evangelism, p. 617);
2. Inappropriate business relations (Historical Sketches of the Foreign Missions of the Seventh-day Adventists, p. 215);
3. Inappropriate involvement in politics (Fundamentals of Christian Education, p. 476);
4. Improper education of our children (Testimonies, vol. 6, p. 195);
5. Institutional collaboration with the world. "Let not God's people in any of our institutions sign a truce with the enemy of God and man. The duty of the church to the world is not to come down to their ideas and accept their opinions, their suggestions, but to heed the words of Christ through his servant Paul, 'Be ye not unequally yoked together with unbelievers: for what fellowship hath righteousness with unrighteousness? and what communion hath light with darkness? and what concord hath Christ with Belial? or what part hath he that believeth with an infidel?"Testimonies to Ministers, p. 271.
Compare Paul's advice on marriage in 1 Corinthians 7:12-14 with his advice in 2 Corinthians 6:14-16. Is he contradicting himself? Why or why not?
|Are you in danger of establishing any relationship that could put at risk your allegiance to Christ? If yes, what should you do to correct the situation?|
God has called us to develop an appropriate distance with unbelievers in matters that could threaten our Christian identity (2 Cor. 6:14-16). For Paul, motivation to obey this call is found in God's promises. God can fulfill these promises only if we remain fully loyal to Him.
Reflect on the first promise Paul gives us. What should this promise mean to us today? 2 Cor. 6:16.
God's original plan, reflected in Eden, was for intimate fellowship with His newly created human companions. But when God comes, "walking in the garden at the time of the evening breeze" (Gen. 3:8, NRSV), His search for fellowship is frustrated by sin. Later, the tabernacle pitched amidst the camp of Israel testified to God's desire to dwell with His people. The incarnation of Jesus provides even greater testimony to God's longing for human fellowship. Jesus Christ became "Immanuel, . . . God with us" (Matt. 1:23). In the closing chapters of Revelation, we see the grand, end-time fulfillment of that divine longing. John sees "a new heaven and a new earth" and watches as the new Jerusalem descends. Then he hears "a loud voice from the throne" with its joyous announcement, "'Now the dwelling of God is with men, and he will live with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God"' (Rev. 21:3, NIV).
What comfort and assurance does God's promise in 2 Cor. 6:18 bring to you as you resolve to put Him first and foremost in your life?
Reflecting on this theme of God's desire to be with His people, Paul invites us to claim the promise now. This promise is not to be fulfilled only in the new earth. It may be fulfilled to us in the present. As we separate ourselves, sometimes painfully, from compromising relationships, we have the promise of God's presence with us.
|Between the "promises" is the command, "Come out!" (2 Cor. 6:17). Review other scriptures that repeat this command: Gen. 15:14; Ezra 10:11; Rev. 18:4. Think of areas in your life from which you need to "come out." In what specific ways will you do that?|
At what points in your Christian experience would the promise of 2 Corinthians 6:17, 18 have been most meaningful to you? (Compare Rev. 21:7.) Why?
The second promise Paul provides makes fellowship with God even more personal. then I will welcome you, and I will be your father, and you shall be my sons and daughters, says the Lord Almighty"' (2 Cor. 6:17, 18, NRSV).
In order to follow Paul's advice not to be unequally yoked and to "come out," perhaps some of his converts thought it best to break off relationships with family members (see Matt. 10:37; Ps. 27:10). If so, this promise would be especially meaningful. Whenever we give up something we treasure because it stands in the way of our fellowship with God, He is there to welcome us with open arms. Paul himself knew this type of loss. He could say that, because of his devotion to Christ, he had "lost all things." He came to understand that it was a small price to pay for "the surpassing greatness of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord" (Phil. 3:7-9, NIV).
One inviting feature of this promise is found in Paul's use of the word daughters. The Old Testament passage he bases his thoughts on mentions only a "son" (2 Sam. 7:14). Paul wants women to know they are full partners with God.
In what specific ways does the Holy Spirit impress your heart to apply the promises in 2 Corinthians 7:1 and 2 Peter 1:3, 4? What difference would such application make in your life? What import would this have on your witness for Christ?
"The Lord Almighty" (NIV) Himself gives us these promises. "Almighty" translates the Greek word that means "All-Powerful" or "Omnipotent" and is used only of God in Jewish and Christian literature. Aside from several uses in Revelation (1:8; 4:8; 11:17; 15:3; 16:7; 19:6, 15; 21:22), this is the only other use of the term in the New Testament. Would you expect empty and pointless promises from "the Lord Almighty"?
|Explain how you have found rest in the arms of the One who is almighty. Think of two of your favorite Bible promises. When were they particularly helpful? What troubling areas of your life do you still need to give to the Lord? Can you think of any hindrance that may keep you from doing that?|
What things make you the happiest? Why? Compare the sources of Paul's joy in 2 Corinthians 7:2-16. Why does Paul repeatedly exclaim, "I rejoice"?
On the heels of the "painful visit," Paul had written to the Corinthians a "painful letter" that he worried about (verse 8). Paul had initially planned to meet Titus at Troas (2 Cor. 2:12, 13). Not finding him there, Paul went to Macedonia, where he experienced inner turmoil as a result of worrying over his relationship with the Corinthians (verse 5). The encouraging report Titus brought when he finally arrived in Macedonia did much to calm Paul. The Corinthians had welcomed Titus "with fear and trembling" (verse 15) and true repentance. So thorough was their heart work that Paul wrote, "I rejoice, because I have complete confidence in you."
In applauding the Corinthian believers for displaying "godly grief," Paul mentions "worldly grief." How do the two compare? 2 Cor. 7:5-16, NRSV.
"Repentance always brings a person to the point of saying, 'I have sinned.' The surest sign that God is at work in his life is when he says that and means it. Anything less is simply sorrow for having made foolish mistakesa reflex action caused by self-disgust.
"The entrance into the kingdom of God is through the sharp, sudden pains of repentance colliding with man's respectable 'goodness.' Then the Holy Spirit, who produces these struggles, begins the formation of the Son of God in the person's life (see Galatians 4:19). This new life will reveal itself in conscious repentance followed by unconscious holiness, never the other way around., The foundation of Christianity in repentance. Strictly speaking, a person cannot repent when he chooses-repentance is a gift of God. The old Puritans used to pray for "the gift of tear." If you ever cease to understand the value of repentance, you allow yourself to remain in sin. Examine yourself to see if you have forgotten how to be truly repentant. "Oswald Chambers, My Utmost for His Highest, "Repentance," New York, Dodd, Mead & company 1935December 7th.
|Reflect: "The love and suffering and death of the Son of God all testify to the terrible enormity of sin and declare that there is no escape from its power, no hope of the higher life, but through the submission of the soul to Christ."Steps to Christ, p. 31.|
FURTHER STUDY: To learn more about "godly grief" and true repentance, study Matt. 3:7-10; Luke 5:29-32; Acts 11:15-18 (the conclusion of Peter's report to the Jerusalem Council and the reaction to it); and Rom. 2:4.
Read Steps to Christ, "Repentance," pp. 23-36.
The following statement deals with Paul's counsel on marriage in
Cor. 7:12-14 and
"He who has entered the marriage relation while unconverted is by his conversion placed under stronger obligation to be faithful to his companion, however widely they may differ in regard to religious faith; yet the claims of God should be placed above every earthly relationship, even though trials and persecution may be the result. With the spirit of love and meekness, this fidelity may have an influence to win the unbelieving one. But the marriage of Christians with the ungodly is forbidden in the Bible. The Lord's direction is 'Be ye not unequally yoked together with unbelievers. '"Messages to Young People, p. 464.
SUMMARY: Paul urges Christians to be totally committed to Christ. Supported by the promises of the Almighty, we may free ourselves from compromising relationships and accept God's gift of true repentance Rom sin, just as the Corinthians did.
Come and Meet Jesus
John M. Fowler
Kandy is a predominantly Buddhist city in the central highlands of Sri Lanka. Members of the Adventist church there had not held an evangelistic series in several years. But under the leadership of a dynamic young pastor, they caught a vision of the needs and potential around them, and decided to hold an evangelistic series in their neighborhood. The congregation had little more than their eagerness to share their talents for God. They laid plans to invite their neighbors to "come and meet Jesus."
The Adventist hospital and school worked with church members to publicize the meetings and create a strong witness in the neighborhood where they operate. With minimal advertising other than word of mouth, the meetings drew an average attendance of 400 each day. The messages were presented in three languages: Singhalese, Tamil, and English.
One Buddhist woman attended the meetings against her husband's wishes. One evening as she was about to leave for the meetings, her husband again objected. Instead of arguing with him, she invited him to join her at the meeting and see for himself the joy she had found there. He went, but in the middle of the meeting he began to feel ill. Some volunteers took him to a nearby hospital. Doctors quickly diagnosed his illness as a heart attack, and their quick intervention saved his life.
The next day he told his wife that it must have been God's will that he attend the meetings, for if he had stayed at home alone, there would have been no one to help him. He likely would have died. This faithful Buddhist wife took her stand for Christ-with her husband's permission--and was baptized at the end of the effort.
In all, 17 new believers were baptized, and 50 others are preparing for baptism in the near future. Of the 17 baptized, 8 were Buddhists. They all live within one mile of the church. Neighborhood witnessing that focuses on the invitation to friends and neighbors "to come and see Jesus" still works.
John M. Fowler (left) is associate director of the General Conference Department of Education.
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