“But thanks be to God, who always leads us in triumphal procession in Christ and through us spreads everywhere the fragrance of the knowledge of him. For we are to God the aroma of Christ among those who are being saved and those who are perishing. To the one we are the smell of death; to the other, the fragrance of life. And who is equal to such a task?” 2 Corinthians 2:14-16
Paul had chosen not to return to Corinth. He could not make another painful visit. [2 Corinthians 1:23; 2:1] But he still longed to know how the people, who made up this fledgling church, were doing. Paul’s love for them had not ended. In Day 1 of this week’s lessons, we read that Paul traveled to Troas and had hoped to see Titus there. He wanted to receive news about the Corinthian church. However, Titus wasn’t there and Paul made the decision to journey onward to Macedonia.[2 Corinthians 2:12,13] We responded to questions in our lesson about how to continue when disappoint, hardships, and uncertainties come into our life. We also looked at the redeeming of broken relationships. The bulk of this lesson focused on how Christ leads us. To those who are perishing, his words, message, and followers are the smell of death but to others the fragrance of his life is salvation. Paul wore the fragrance of Christ with sincerity of heart and he chose to walk wafting the sweet aroma of Christ by enduring through the difficulties he faced for his Lord.
“You yourselves are our letter, written on our hearts, known and read by everybody. You show that you are a letter from Christ, the result of our ministry, written not with ink but with the Spirit of the living God, not on tablets of stone but on tablets of human hearts.” 2 Corinthians 3:2,3
On Day 2, we learned that Paul was refuting claims made by false teachers that had infiltrated the church in Corinth. We considered those in our own lives that are our letter of recommendation and to whom our lives represent their letters of recommendation. We also answered questions about what scripture means regarding tablets of stone and a heart of flesh. We closed the day pondering the descriptive words that Paul chose to describe his calling to others. His words suggest that believers are called to a more connectional, intimate ministry with others.
“Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom. And we, who with unveiled faces all reflect the Lord’s glory, are being transformed into his likeness with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit.” 2 Corinthians 3:17,18
Our lesson on Day 3 of this week issued a call to a new ministry. We considered the ministry of death and reconciliation in addition to the ministry of the Spirit and righteousness. We also learned about the Old Covenant and what the Law’s intent was according to scripture. Then, we considered the New Covenant and what Jesus accomplished by establishing the New Covenant. We also pursued a detailed look at the word, glory in scripture.
“Therefore, since through God’s mercy we have this ministry, we do not lose heart. Rather, we have renounced secret and shameful ways; we do not use deception, nor do we distort the word of God. On the contrary, by setting forth the truth plainly we commend ourselves to every man’s conscience in the sight of God.” 2 Corinthians 4:1,2
On Day 4, our lesson focused on truth. We answered questions pertaining to things we harbor secretly along with deceptions and distortions of truth that we have done. Kelly Minter also had us consider how people have used a distortion of God’s word to condone wrong behavior or even condemn right belief. Paul called for the telling of truth to others as well as living with a clear conscience before others and in the sight of God. Kelly Minter reminded us at the end of this lesson that wherever we have been, the things we have covered up, or the issues with which we have struggled that we have access to the glory of God. Because of Jesus, we can draw near to God with a sincere heart in full assurance of faith to be restored. [ Hebrews 10:22]
“But we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us.” 2 Corinthians 4:7
“For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.” 2 Corinthians 4:17,18
Our last lesson for the week taught that God takes our fragile lives to display His mighty power when we are yielded to Him. Our questions dealt with how God has used weakness, hardship, pain, and difficulty in our lives to display His power and strength. We were also encouraged to view our struggles through the lens of eternity and not focus on their temporal nature.
Begin the Session 4 lessons this week starting on page 69.
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“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.
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