“But when the Jews opposed Paul and became abusive, he shook out his clothes in protest and said to them, “Your blood be on your own heads! I am clear of my responsibility. From now on I will go to the Gentiles.” Then Paul left the synagogue and went next door to the house of Titius Justus, a worshiper of God. Crispus, the synagogue ruler, and his entire household believed in the Lord; and many of the Corinthians who heard him believed and were baptized. One night the Lord spoke to Paul in a vision: “Do not be afraid; keep on speaking, do not be silent. For I am with you, and no one is going to attack and harm you, because I have many people in this city.” So Paul stayed for a year and a half, teaching them the word of God.” Acts 18:6-11
Paul established a burgeoning new church in Corinth around A.D. 50-51. The letter, 2 Corinthians, that we began studying this past week in our study All Things New by Kelly Minter, was Paul’s last letter to Corinth. He had written several letters to this church previously following his initial visit to establish the church. As was his custom, Paul first brought the gospel message of Jesus Christ to the Jews at the synagogue. Their acceptance or rejection of the message determined his next course of action. Typically, their action led him to take the message to the Gentiles.
In our first lesson, we considered the benefits and obstacles of being a believer of Jesus in such a diverse place as Corinth. We learned about the culture of Corinth and the struggles these new believers confronted in order to live holy lives. Their cultural environment was quite similar to the one the Western church faces today. This similarity prompted Kelly Minter to turn the question towards ourselves as we gave thought as to how our own culture and its influences impact our own lives of faith.
“Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves have received from God.” 2 Corinthians 1:3,4
I, definitely, identified with Kelly Minter and her introduction to the second day’s lesson. She states that she “once held the idea that if I followed the principles laid out for me in Scripture, if I loved God and made solid, biblical choices, I would be blessed with some version of a really good life, void of heartbreak or catastrophe or sickness…. I somehow felt that if I did my part then God would be obligated to do His: build me the kind of life we covet here in America and protect me from pain.” I once held these same ideas. Maybe you identified with this statement as well. This lesson focused on suffering and the gift of compassion from our Father. We answered questions pertaining to the sufferings of Christ and the action those sufferings take as they overflow onto believers and then flow out as comfort to others. We also focused on how Christ has been with us through suffering and reflected on how we have relied on or not relied on him through it. Our lesson concluded with a message of encouragement to offer others the same comfort that we ourselves have received in Christ.
In our third lesson, we encountered some of the issues that the Corinthians had against Paul. Significant problems had developed in the Corinthian church and Paul was holding them accountable to deal with those issues. He called them to a higher standard of living than the one they were presently living because of his love for them. The Corinthians were questioning Paul’s motives and falsely accusing him. Throughout 2 Corinthians, he defends his position, his ministry, and his motives. We also should consider our own default response when others falsely accuse or misunderstand our motives. We ended our day with filling in a response to two statements: Here are my fill-ins. Because God is faithful, He will do what He promises. Because God is faithful, I will look to Him for help.
“For no matter how many promises God has made, they are “Yes” in Christ. And so through him the “Amen” is spoken by us to the glory of God.” 2 Corinthians 1:20
Sincerity was the focus of our fourth lesson. What does it mean to be sincere? Do we manipulate or shade the truth? Or are we insincere when we care more about keeping the peace and avoiding disagreement? These questions were some of the ones we considered in this lesson. Kelly Minter included a sincerity test for us to take as well. If taken thoughtfully, the test can be eyeopening. The Corinthian church appeared to have been accusing Paul of not holding to what he said. He reasoned that his message to them had always been that in Jesus Christ all of God’s promises are yes.
“For I wrote you out of great distress and anguish of heart and with many tears, not to grieve you but to let you know the depth of my love for you.” 2 Corinthians 2:4
Our week concluded with a lesson on holiness as the foundation on which thriving relationships find their footing. Out of Paul’s deep love for the people of this Corinthian church, he wrote hard truths to them, not to hurt them but to lovingly restore them. Paul encouraged the church to restore the one who had been ostracized. He instructed them to forgive and comfort him back into the community of faith. Paul’s wisdom regarding the treatment of the offender is wise advice. Our questions for this lesson dealt with forgiveness, restoration, and comfort. Forgiveness protects the believer from separation from God. Unforgiveness keeps us separated from the protective loving cover of God.
Start the third session lessons for this week. They begin on page 39.
Videos are available for this study and can be found at Lifeway for purchase.