June 28-July 4
READ FOR THIS WEEK'S STUDY: 2 Cor. 1:1-2:4. Also read all of 2 Corinthians through in one sitting. As you do, look for its major themes.
MEMORY TEXT: "Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our tribulation, that we may be able to comfort those who are in any trouble, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God" (2 Corinthians 1:3, 4, NKJV).
KEY THOUGHT: God does not give us His Spirit for selfish use. We are not to enjoy this blessing privately. We are to pass it along to others.
GOD WANTS TO EQUIP US TO MINISTER TO OTHERS. Are the things that happen to usgood and badmeaningless? In this week's lesson, Paul describes a crisis and how God made use of it in his experience. We learn from Paul's experience that each of us is gifted and anointed for ministry. Through the wonders of God's grace, the trials that come our way may become part of our training for service. Pain and hardship may be worked into the school of God's grace. Crises that Satan designs for our undoing become part of our retooling so we may become better equipped to minister to others. As you study this week's lesson, ask yourself how the difficulties you are dealing with can help you lead others to Jesus.
Who joins Paul in writing 2 Corinthians? To whom do they address the letter? 2 Cor. 1:1.
Just as Paul had someone join with him in sending 1 Corinthians (1 Cor. 1:1), so he has someone join with him in sending the letter of 2 Corinthians. While the letter is addressed to the church in Corinth, Paul has a wider audience in view-"all the saints throughout Achaia," NIV. Achaia was a province of the Roman Empire. Corinth was its capital. Much of the letter focuses on the relationship between Paul and the Corinthian believers. But including this wider audience invites us to think about its significance for our own time.
Describe the relationship between suffering and consolation in the Christian's life. 2 Cor. 1:3-7.
Paul gives us one of the best pictures of God in all Scripture when he calls Him "the Father of mercies and the God of all consolation" (2 Cor. 1:3, NRSV). This picture is of a God who carefully tends the lives of His saints, making sure their affliction is met with consolation. Such attention on God's part is for a purpose-to help us share God's consolation with others who suffer (verse 4).
"Not only does Christ know every soul, and the peculiar needs and trials of that soul, but He knows all the circumstances that chafe and perplex the spirit. His hand is outstretched in pitying tenderness to every suffering child. "Ministry of Healing, p. 249.
What hope does the passage offer when we feel we are experiencing more affliction than consolation? 2 Cor. 1:7.
Paul gives an example of unshaken hope in those times when affliction seems greater than consolation. We also may learn something from the attitude of this introduction. Rather than presenting a mournful request, Paul praises God for a generous supply of comfort. How would it affect our Christian experience if we adopted Paul's attitude of praise?
|Think of someone you know who needs to experience the comfort of God. Today or tomorrow, share with that person a time when God was for you "the Father of mercies and the God of all consolation."|
That divine purpose did Paul come to understand in the crisis he describes in 2 Corinthians 1:8-11?
Paul refers to events that occurred in the Roman province of Asia. Because Paul spent three years of his third missionary journey in Ephesus, the capital and most important city of the province, the events most likely happened there. It is difficult to say exactly what happened. But we can be sure his readers knew. Some Bible scholars think the crisis my, have been a grave illness, an unrecorded imprisonment, or the persecution caused by the silversmiths (Acts 19:23-41).
List three elements Paul mentions about this crisis.
2 Cor. 1:8, 9 __________________________________________________
verse 10, first half _____________________________________________
verse 10, second half ___________________________________________
Now list some of the emotions Paul must have felt during this crisis.
Reviewing the major events in the relationship between Paul and the Corinthian
Christians helps to show how 2 Corinthians contributes to that
1. Paul establishes the church in Corinth during his second missionary journey (Acts18:1-17).
2. Paul sends a "previous" letter to Corinth from Ephesus (1 Cor. 5:9-11).
3. The Corinthians reply with more questions for Paul to help them with practical issues confronting them (7:1).
4. Paul writes 1 Corinthians from Ephesus telling them about the opportunities and obstacles before him (16:8).
This list is completed in Tuesday's lesson.
|Remember a time you sensed your dependence upon God. Did you feel any of the emotions Paul must have felt? Take a moment now to thank God for His guidance and to recommit your life to Him.|
How and why had Paul's travel plans changed? 2 Cor. 1:12-2:4.
In Monday's lesson, we began to list major events in the relationship between
Paul and the Corinthians. The next events help us put Paul's changed plans
in their context:
5. Paul pays the Corinthians a brief and "painful" visit (2 Cor. 2:1) during which someone attacks him (2:5; 7:12) and he fails to receive support from the believers in Corinth (2:3). In reporting his changed travel plans, Paul refers to this uncomfortable encounter (1:12-2:4).
6. In view of the events of the "painful" visit, Paul writes a "severe" letter of reprimand to the Corinthians from Ephesus (2:3, 4, 9; 7:8).
7. After receiving word from Titus of the positive response of the Corinthians to his "severe' letter, Paul writes 2 Corinthians, a letter of reconciliation that shows his untiring love to them and great hope for them (2:13; 7:5-16).
8. Paul pays a third and final visit to Corinth, where he winters before going on to Jerusalem via Macedonia with the collection for the church there (Acts 20:2, 3).
Meditate on 2 Corinthians 1:12-14. How may we apply these verses to our lives today? Think of specific things that bring rejoicing to your heart. How can things which uplift you become a source of inspiration to draw others to Christ?
Among the ways we may apply these verses are the following:
1. They help to develop a hunger in our lives for spiritual "simplicity" (or "holiness") and "godly sincerity."
2. They invite self-examination. Paul's "boast" consisted of the Corinthian believers in whose lives he had invested. What is your "boast"? What achievements of the past year do you include in your Christmas letters, for instance? Business success? Advanced degrees? Vacations in exotic places? What percent of your life really focuses on some sort of ministry to people? Is their spiritual advancement of utmost importance to you?
|Paul was motived by the desire to see Jesus return and by a longing to prepare as many as possible to meet Him. In what ways do you share Paul's motivations?|
What charges seem to have been made against Paul because of his changed travel plans? Why do you think Paul felt the need to give such a detailed explanation? 2 Cor. 1:12-2:4.
Paul's adjusted schedule caused someone to accuse him of wavering. On the surface, it did appear that he was speaking inconsistently (verse 17). Paul argues strongly, though, that instead of human indecision, his experience had been marked by God's anointing (verses 21, 22). He also includes the Corinthian believers as "anointed ones" when he says, "It is God who establishes us with you in Christ and has anointed us [that is, all believers]. (verse 21, NRSV, italics supplied).
Compare the description of the Spirit's role in the Christian life in 2 Corinthians 1:21, 22, with the descriptions in 2 Corinthians 5:5 and Ephesians 1:13, 14; 4:30. Is "the sealing" in these verses something past, present, or future? Be able to explain your answer.
Paul repeatedly describes the Holy Spirit as God's "down payment" and "seal" of acknowledgment that we are His children. The Greek term for "earnest" (KJV), "first installment" (NRSV), or "deposit" (NIV) is a commercial term describing the first installment of a payment or gift put down as a way of guaranteeing that the rest will follow. Imagine that someone offers you $5,000 for a car you are selling. You request $500.00 down to hold the car while the buyer arranges to borrow the rest. How would the buyer feel if, on his or her return, you demanded the full price. You see, the "earnest money" is part of the purchase price. "As the Holy Spirit imparts grace and power to overcome sin, the Christian experiences an 'earnest' of the complete triumph and victory that will be his upon admission to heaven."SDA Bible Commentary, vol. 6, p. 834.
Paul wants us to understand that the Spirit is God's guarantee of more to come. We can gauge the glories of the age to come by the Spirit's present work with us.
|"We are 'the Lord's anointed'! United with Christ by the Spirit, we are saved by him to be his instruments of salvation."G. R. Beasley-Murray, "2 Corinthians," in The Broadman Bible Commentary (Nashville, Tenn.: Broadman, 1971), vol. 11, p. 13. As an instrument of God's salvation, how will you relate to others differently than you are relating to them now?|
What is true of the early part of 2 Corinthians is true of the entire letter-it focuses on Paul's relationship to the Corinthian believers and his role as apostle. As founding pastor of the Corinthian church, Paul had a special function to fulfill in nurturing the church there.
Considering that the letter focuses so much attention on Paul's relationship as missionary pastor to the church in Corinth, how can it apply to us?
"Paul's pastoral position was probably unique, but all Christians are in some kind of a pastoral situation in relation to others, as parents, teachers, administrators, executives, supervisors, as working alongside others and in constant contact with them. All are the keepers of their brothers and sisters. How then should they care for them? All Christians are also subject to some kind of pastoral responsibility exercised over them by others. What should their attitude be to those who exercise that responsibility?"Ernest Best, Second Corinthians (Atlanta, Ga.: John Knox Press, 1987), p. 4.
We can view 2 Corinthians as a ministry manual. Each of us is a minister of the gospel to those whom God has placed within our care.
Refer back to your reading assignment of 2 Corinthians given at the beginning of this lesson. In the space provided, jot down ideas that you consider helpful in your service to others.
How does Paul remind the Corinthians that God has given each believer a ministry? 1 Cor. 12:4-11; 2 Cor. 5:15.
"What an admirable Epistle is the second to the Corinthians! How full of affections! He [Paul] joys, and he is sorry, he grieves, and he glories, never was there such care of a flock expressed, save in the great Shepherd of the fold, who first shed tears over Jerusalem, and afterwards blood."George Herbert, The Country Parson (New York: Paulist Press, 1981), p. 63.
|What are you doing to fulfill the ministry has given to you?|
FURTHER STUDY: "Consolation" or "comfort" (Greek, parakale [verb]; parakl sis [noun]) is an important word group in 2 Corinthians. Check the uses in: 2 Cor. 2:8; 5:20; 6:1; 7:4; 8:4, 6, 17; 9:5; 10:1; 12:8, 18. In 2 Corinthians, "consolation" points to "God's fruitful presence and support in situations of human crisis."J. Thomas, "parakale," in Exegetical Dictionary of the New Testament, vol. 3, (Grand Rapids, Mich.: Eerdmans, 1993), p. 26.
"It was through suffering that Jesus obtained the ministry of consolation. In all the affliction of humanity He is afflicted; and 'in that He Himself hath suffered being tempted, He is able to succor them that are tempted.' Isaiah 63:9; Hebrews 2:18. In this ministry every soul that has entered into the fellowship of His sufferings is privileged to share. 'As the sufferings of Christ abound in us, so our consolation also aboundeth by Christ.' 2 Corinthians 1:5. The Lord has special grace for the mourner, and its power is to melt hearts, to win souls. His love opens a channel into the wounded and bruised soul, and becomes a healing balsam to those who sorrow. 'The Father of mercies, and the God of all comfort ... comforteth us in all our tribulation, that we may be able to comfort them which are in any trouble, by the comfort wherewith we ourselves are comforted of God.' 2 Corinthians 1:3, 4."Thoughts From the Mount of Blessing, p. 13.
SUMMARY: In times of difficulty, God brings into our lives the blessings of His grace. The Spirit comes with divine consolation to minister hope in the midst of distress and to anoint us for ministry. Since we have ourselves experienced God's presence in crisis, we are better able to console others.
J. H. Zachary
When Viktor Bechterev lost his wife in 1992, he was devastated. His atheistic upbringing offered no comfort. In his grief he reached out for God. He started reading the Bible and, after a difficult beginning, he found comfort from his reading. As he continued reading the Bible, he felt a strong need to know God better.
He saw a notice for a Revelation Seminar and decided to attend. During the seminar he accepted Jesus as his Saviour. Elevantina Kazak, a widow, also attended the seminar in search of God. The two decided to begin their new lives in Christ together.
The couple wanted to share their new faith with others. They attended a lay training seminar for Global Mission Pioneers, conducted by The Quiet Hour. During the training sessions, they committed one year of their lives to establish a church in an unentered city in the Russian Federation. Their assignment was Neftekamsk, a city in the oil-rich region of the Ural Mountains. The city's residents were mostly Muslims.
Viktor and Elevantina arrived in Neftekamsk, eager to work for God. They met strong resistance; few wanted Bible studies; and five times they were asked to move from their living quarters. But they kept praying and visiting. Viktor visited factories, schools, nursing homes, and kindergartens, offering to present lectures on health and family life. They continued visitation, and contacted more than 900 persons. Slowly friendships developed, and God opened the way for Bible studies. What joy was theirs when they saw eight new friends become brothers and sisters in Jesus Christ!
A factory where Viktor had lectured offered to let them use an auditorium for church services. Eight months after Viktor and Idevantia arrived, a Quiet Hour/Global Mission evangelistic team conducted a harvest meeting, and 30 persons were baptized.
Viktor and Elevantina have stayed beyond their one-year commitment to study with 140 interested persons and to nurture the new believers. When the new believers are sufficiently grounded in their faith, these two pioneers plan to move to another unentered city.
Viktor and Elevantina rejoice as they share the hope they found in Jesus Christ with other lonely, discouraged wanderers. Pray for them, and for other Global Mission Pioneers working around the world.
J. H. Zachary is director of evangelism for The Quiet Hour in Redlands, California.
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