We have only one week remaining in our fall bible study. The time has flown by! This week, our lessons covered all of 2 Corinthians 11 through the first ten verses of 2 Corinthians 12.
“I am jealous for you with a godly jealousy. I promised you to one husband, to Christ, so that I might present you as a pure virgin to him. But I am afraid that just as Eve was deceived by the serpent’s cunning, your minds may somehow be led astray from your sincere and pure devotion to Christ. For if someone comes to you and preaches a Jesus other than the Jesus we preached, or if you receive a different spirit from the one you received, or a different gospel from the one you accepted, you put up with it easily enough.” 2 Corinthians 11:2-4
For our lesson on Day 1, we answered questions, read cross-references, and explored the idea of what Paul meant by the words, godly jealousy. The basic premise is what does it mean to be jealous of or jealous for someone. Continuing on in 2 Corinthians 11:4, Paul states that the Corinthians had heard distortions from others of the message about Jesus, the gospel, and the Holy Spirit that Paul had brought and preached to them. The heart of the problem was that the Corinthian church had placed themselves in a position that allowed their thinking to become in opposition to God’s word and they were in danger of being deceived. The remainder of the questions on this day dealt with the examining of our own hearts, minds, and lives to discover if we believe truth or distortion, have contrary thoughts or beliefs, and whether we love God with an undivided heart.
“But I do not think I am in the least inferior to those “super-apostles.” I may not be a trained speaker, but I do have knowledge. We have made this perfectly clear to you in every way.” 2 Corinthians 11:5,6
Our lesson on Day 2 centered on how Paul defended himself and how he ministered to the Corinthian church. They had placed value on others who outwardly were more appealing. These false apostles had charisma, influence, and persuasion that drew others to themselves and their ideals. Aren’t we likewise drawn to similar people? We answered questions about how Paul differed from them in how he preached the message of Christ. In one of our cross-references, we learned that his style was characterized by wisdom (1 Corinthians 2:5-7,10). He had knowledge that the churches needed about what truly mattered.
“Since many are boasting in the way the world does, I too will boast. You gladly put up with fools since you are so wise! In fact, you even put up with anyone who enslaves you or exploits you or takes advantage of you or pushes himself forward or slaps you in the face. To my shame I admit that we were too weak for that! What anyone else dares to boast about – I am speaking as a fool – I also dare to boast about.” 2 Corinthians 11:18-21
We learned on Day 3 from our reading that the Corinthian church was putting up with mistreatment as well from the hands of these false teachers. These teachers, Paul had stated, were masquerading as apostles of Christ (2 Corinthians 11:13). They looked right but their actions were entirely wrong. In our questions, we compared and contrasted their characteristics and ministry with the characteristics and ministry of Paul’s.
“Are they servants of Christ? … I am more. I have worked much harder, been in prison more frequently, been flogged more severely, and been exposed to death again and again. Five times I received from the Jews the forty lashes minus one. Three times I was beaten with rods, once I was stoned, three times I was shipwrecked, I spent a night and a day in the open sea, I have been constantly on the move. I have been in danger from rivers, in danger from bandits, in danger from my own countrymen, in danger from Gentiles; in danger in the city, in danger in the country, in danger at sea; and in danger from false brothers. I have labored and toiled and have often gone without sleep; I have known hunger and thirst and have often gone without food; I have been cold and naked.” 2 Corinthians 11:23-27
In defense of himself and the gospel, Paul boasts of all he has endured for the sake of others to know Jesus Christ. His ministry was characterized by humility and love. The remainder of our questions for this lesson reflected on the things we have endured for the sake of the gospel and spending time to journal about a specific action that we can take on the behalf of Jesus.
“If I must boast, I will boast of the things that show my weakness.” 2 Corinthians 11:30
The questions from our lesson on Day 4 dealt with Paul’s boasting about his weakness as well as the extraordinary vision he was given when he was caught up to heaven (2 Corinthians 12:1,2). We considered our own vulnerability as well as what we hope to be remembered for. In our reading, we learned that Paul wanted to be noted for what he did and what he said (2 Corinthians 12:6). We also considered why he waited fourteen years before sharing his vision.
“To keep me from becoming conceited because of these surpassingly great revelations, there was given me a thorn in my flesh, a messenger of Satan, to torment me. Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from me. But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.” 2 Corinthians 12:7-10
Our last lesson for the week considered Paul’s thorn. Kelly Minter shared with us her thoughts on the difficulties and implications of verse 7. We were given space to respond and reflect about our own concerns about this verse. Who gave the thorn? Did God or did Satan give it while God allowed it? These questions were the ones we mulled over. We also considered questions about our own thorns or trials. How have we responded to difficulty? Have we allowed the thorn in our life to become an opportunity to share faith? Has our weakness been used for God’s glory? Has the thorn of your life become something that you wouldn’t trade?
I shared a little of my story last week in a post. This particular lesson was very personal for me because these verses are the ones that God led me to during my initial diagnosis for my disease. Over the years as I have struggled with my illness, I’ve considered whether I would prefer the thorn and the relationship I have with God over being healed and not having the journey with God. Discovering the answer to that question is not easy but important. God’s grace is sufficient.
Start Session 8 this week! You can do it! Only one week left!