2 Corinthians 3:1-6

Posted by Worldview Warriors On Monday, April 29, 2024 0 comments

by Katie Erickson

Are we beginning to commend ourselves again? Or do we need, like some people, letters of recommendation to you or from you? You yourselves are our letter, written on our hearts, known and read by everyone. 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.
Such confidence we have through Christ before God. Not that we are competent in ourselves to claim anything for ourselves, but our competence comes from God. He has made us competent as ministers of a new covenant—not of the letter but of the Spirit; for the letter kills, but the Spirit gives life.
- 2 Corinthians 3:1-6

In the previous section, the apostle Paul began talking about his role as an apostle and what that means for the Church. Here, he discusses the significance of the Corinthian church and how our confidence and competence come from God.

Paul begins this passage with two rhetorical questions in verse 1, probing the Corinthians' understanding of the nature of his ministry. Before this, Paul defended his authority as an apostle against detractors who sought to undermine his credibility. Here, he questions the necessity of relying on external commendations or credentials to validate his ministry. Paul's emphasis is not on human accolades or endorsements but on the authenticity and fruitfulness of the Gospel message itself.

This verse should prompt us to reflect on our motivations for ministry, whether full-time vocational ministry or occasional volunteer ministry. Do we seek validation from human sources or rely on God's affirmation of our calling? While letters of recommendation may have their place in certain contexts, Paul challenges us to prioritize the sincerity of our hearts and the transformative power of the Gospel over getting our affirmation and validation from other people.

In verse 2, Paul takes that metaphor of a letter one step further to illustrate the Corinthians' significance in his ministry. He likens them to a letter that was written on the very fabric of his heart. The Corinthians' transformed lives, their faithfulness, and their growth in Christ serve as a testament to the authenticity and effectiveness of Paul's ministry. This church has clearly made a great impact on Paul personally.

This imagery emphasizes the relational aspect of Christian discipleship. Ministry is not merely about sharing information or performing rituals; it is about investing in people's lives, nurturing their faith, and witnessing the transformative work of the Holy Spirit. We are called to imitate Paul's example by investing deeply in the lives of those we disciple.

Paul continues his metaphorical exploration in verse 3, attributing the Corinthians' transformation not to his own efforts alone but to the work of Jesus Christ through the power of the Holy Spirit. The contrast between ink and the Spirit of the living God highlights God’s work in the process of spiritual transformation. Ink fades and even writings on stone tablets are static, but the Spirit's imprint on human hearts lasts forever.

Paul's declaration of confidence through Christ in verse 4 emphasizes the foundation of his ministry and the source of his assurance. Despite the challenges and opposition he faces, Paul derives his confidence not from his own abilities or achievements but from his identity in Christ. This confidence is rooted in the assurance of God's faithfulness and the sufficiency of Christ's grace to sustain him in all circumstances. We are challenged by Paul to do the same in our lives; we should root our confidence in Christ and the power of the Holy Spirit in our lives.

Paul stresses this point more in verse 5 where he humbly acknowledges his own inadequacy and insufficiency apart from God's power. The word "competent" here carries the connotation of sufficiency or adequacy. Paul recognizes that apart from God, he cannot fulfill the demands of his calling or bear fruit in his ministry. It is only through God's grace that he is able to effectively fulfill his mission.

The old covenant that God had with the Jews before Jesus was based on the letter of the law, but the new covenant is based on the work of Jesus and the Holy Spirit dwelling in us. This new covenant is what gives us life and makes us competent to fulfill the mission that God has for each of us. Verse 6 gives us the fundamental difference between legalistic religion and authentic faith. We always fail and deserve death when we must follow God’s laws perfectly, but the Spirit brings freedom, transformation, and abundant life.

As ministers of the new covenant, our calling is not to enforce legalistic rules or impose religious rituals but to proclaim the liberating message of God's grace through Jesus Christ. The Gospel is not a set of rules to be obeyed but it is a relationship to be embraced, a transformational encounter with the living God. As we embrace the ministry of the Spirit, may we experience the life-giving power of the Gospel in our own lives and share it boldly with others.

In this passage, we are challenged to reexamine our motivations and understanding of ministry and to focus on our identity in Christ. True success in ministry is not measured by numerical growth in a church or personal accolades but by how lives are transformed by the power of the Gospel. Our role is to faithfully proclaim the message of the gospel and allow the Spirit to inscribe it on the hearts of those who hear it. We should be fully dependent on God in all aspects of our lives and ministry; He is where we should receive our identity and our confidence to live out the plan that He has for us.

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The Gospel 6: New Life

Posted by Worldview Warriors On Friday, April 26, 2024 0 comments

by Charlie Wolcott

The role of Jesus at the cross did not end with His death. It ended with the resurrection. We do not celebrate a dead Savior who gave His life for us, and we simply remember what He did. We celebrate a risen Savior who did die for us but now lives and is reigning, ruling, and interceding for us. When Jesus died, the disciples fled in fear and terror. When Jesus rose and then imbued them with power, they became the boldest and most fearless men who ever lived. They make all our modern heroes in our movies, books, and games look like pansies, and that is no knock on those heroes. The disciples became that and much more. They were given the “elixir,” the new life in Christ by the indwelling of the Holy Spirit.

This part of the Gospel is frequently neglected due to simply tying it to the cross. The ascension of Christ is another neglected doctrine that should be preached once again. They both relate to this part of the Gospel. Jesus did not merely rise from the dead, but He has ascended and is reigning and ruling now as the King. Jesus is the only person ever to hold the three primary offices of prophet, priest, and king all at the same time. Jesus did not merely die to cover for our sins. He rose again so that we might have new life that He lives in and through us.

Many preachers, books, and presentations miss this so vital part of the Gospel. They may state that Jesus rose, but they don’t go into what that means. Most people treat it as Jesus “completing” a gap in our lives or “Jesus fills a God-shaped hole in your heart.” There is truth to that, but the Christian life is not an add-on to an already established life. Because we treat the character of God lightly and the severity of our sin lightly, most modern evangelism has garnered rightful critiques that you can live whatever life you want, confess your sin before you die, and you can get away with it all. That’s not the Gospel. While Jesus will wipe the slate clean on a legal basis, there are some sins we commit that no amount of faith in Christ is going to remove the stain on our earthly lives with the consequences thereof. David and Paul are prime case studies. David lived with his sin of adultery and murder for the rest of his life, and he was permanently marked for it. Paul persecuted and murdered Christians before becoming one himself, and he would be haunted by this fact for the rest of his life.

But with Paul in particular, we get to see what the Gospel is and what the Gospel does. It literally changes your life. Christianity and the substitutional atonement are much more than Jesus being our literal substitute for the judgment of God where Jesus takes our sin as though it was His own and then gives us His righteousness as though it was our own. It is much more than that. Jesus takes the sinful life upon Himself, the sinful desires, wishes, and dreams, and the desire to rule one’s own life without God. He gives us His life, a life that longs after God, seeks the things of God, and seeks to be with God forever. But to get this new life, we have to give up the old life. I’ll unpack this a few more weeks, but Jesus said that to be His disciple, we have to deny ourselves and take up our cross daily. We no longer want the sinful life. It grieves us when we sin; it disgusts us, and we no longer want to associate with it. We may be stuck in it for a season, but we don’t want to be, and we will start seeing more and more victory over it the holier we become.

The resurrected life means that sin and death have no more grip on us. When the disciples learned and grasped the resurrection of Christ, they no longer feared death, which means absolutely nothing could faze them. Most of Western Christendom only understands the resurrection in theory as an event from 2000 years ago, but not Jesus as the living Savior today. How can I say that? Because of how easily people cower and are willing to change the message at the mere question of a slave girl or a college professor. The fear of man still grips us, and it has a strong grip. That is why we are so weak today. We don’t know the power of the resurrected life.

Yet, there is still hope to get it. I’m noticing a trend brewing among those who are genuinely born again. There is a call to return to resurrection life and away from pure intellectual Christianity. My pastor has been preaching on this for the last year, and I am writing this series because I see a need for this in my own life, let alone needing it in others. And I am seeing others still starting to push more and more for a Biblical-centered thinking and Christ-focused life. There is a call to return to sound preaching and then for true revival that is not pure emotionalism but genuine repentance and holiness. It is time we get the resurrected Jesus back in our view. Personally, I still have too much of an intellectual, fact-driving faith. It is absolutely necessary to have the intellectual understanding and the facts correct, but that is not good enough. We need the true, practical faith that calls for denial of self and self’s understanding of things and true reliance upon Christ and what He did for us once again.

The resurrection life is also much more than no longer wanting the sinful lifestyle and replacing it with a God-centered life. It is also eternity focused. The Gospel deals with much more than just our sin here and now and the judgment that will come; it also deals with eternity and when God will come to bring all things to an end once and for all.

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2 Corinthians 2:12-17

Posted by Worldview Warriors On Monday, April 22, 2024 0 comments

by Katie Erickson

Now when I went to Troas to preach the gospel of Christ and found that the Lord had opened a door for me, I still had no peace of mind, because I did not find my brother Titus there. So I said goodbye to them and went on to Macedonia.
But thanks be to God, who always leads us as captives in Christ’s triumphal procession and uses us to spread the aroma of the knowledge of him everywhere. For we are to God the pleasing aroma of Christ among those who are being saved and those who are perishing. To the one we are an aroma that brings death; to the other, an aroma that brings life. And who is equal to such a task? Unlike so many, we do not peddle the word of God for profit. On the contrary, in Christ we speak before God with sincerity, as those sent from God.
- 2 Corinthians 2:12-17

This passage starts with a few verses where Paul continues to explain his recent conduct to the Corinthians (which he started previously), but then Paul switches to discussing his service as an apostle.

Based on what we know from Acts 19-20, Paul sent Titus to Corinth with the “severe letter” he wrote to them while Paul continued his ministry in Ephesus. Paul eventually went to Troas, where he had planned to meet up with Titus. In verse 12, Paul says that he went to Troas to preach the gospel, but he doesn’t report any further on the success of his ministry and evangelism in Troas. God “opened a door” for him there, which likely implies opportunities to preach the gospel. Paul lived his life trusting in God to make a way for His mission to be completed, wherever he sent Paul to share the gospel.

But in spite of that open door, Paul did not have peace about the situation because of Titus’ absence (verse 13), showing the importance of this companionship in ministry. Paul also likely had concerns regarding the riot that had happened in Ephesus before he left (Acts 19:23-41) and worries for the church in Corinth. Even if Paul wasn’t physically present with a congregation, he still cared about their well-being and their spreading of the gospel message.

Paul's decision to move on to Macedonia demonstrates his resilience and flexibility in the face of adversity. Even though things did not go according to his plans, he did not allow setbacks to deter him from his mission. Paul continued to press on and continue his journey to the next location where God called him – Macedonia.

Now that Paul has finished the travel update content, he moves on to discuss his role as an apostle. In verse 14, he transitions with thanking God for always leading him, and he does that with great imagery. He likens believers to captives in Christ's triumphal procession, portraying the image of a victorious general leading captives in a parade. Here, Paul emphasizes the sovereignty of God in leading and guiding his people. He also highlights the privilege and responsibility of believers to spread the aroma of the knowledge of Christ wherever they go. Just as incense permeates the air in a triumphal procession, so too should the fragrance of Christ permeate the lives of believers, influencing and impacting those around them.

Paul elaborates on the metaphor of the aroma in verse 15, emphasizing its dual effect on those who encounter it. Believers are a pleasing aroma of Christ to those around them, drawing them closer to God and illuminating the path to salvation. However, to those who are perishing, the aroma of Christ may be offensive, serving as a reminder of their rebellion against God. This highlights the polarizing nature of the gospel message, which elicits different responses from different people.

In verse 16, Paul highlights the contrast of those two points of view: the aroma of Christ can bring either life or death to a person, depending on whether or not they have faith or are open to faith in Christ. Because of this contrast, this verse concludes with a sobering reflection on the weightiness of the task of proclaiming the gospel. The message of Christ can bring both life and death, depending on how it is received. This underscores the immense responsibility that believers carry as ambassadors of Christ. Despite the challenges and opposition we may face, we are called to faithfully proclaim the gospel, knowing that the ultimate outcome rests in God's hands.

But it’s not just the message that is important but our motivation with it. In verse 17, Paul distinguishes his ministry from others who may exploit the gospel for personal gain. He emphasizes the sincerity and authenticity with which he and his fellow workers proclaim the word of God. Their motivation is not financial gain or personal glory but a genuine desire to serve God and fulfill the mission entrusted to them. This serves as a timeless reminder of the importance of integrity and purity in Christian ministry.

We can glean several lessons from this passage. We are encouraged to persevere in our mission to spread the gospel as Paul did, even when we face obstacles and challenges. We should acknowledge and thank God for his guidance and provision in our ministry endeavors, whatever they may be. This applies to anyone who is obedient to God’s calling on their lives, not just those in vocational ministry.

We should be aware that not everyone will respond positively to the gospel message or the “aroma of Christ” that we as believers have in our lives. But that should not deter us from sharing the gospel with everyone anyway. When we do proclaim the gospel, we are to do so with sincerity and authenticity, avoiding any motivation of personal gain or self-interest.

Overall, this passage encourages us as followers of Jesus Christ to remain steadfast in our commitment to sharing the gospel, being mindful of the diverse responses it may elicit, and maintaining integrity and sincerity in our ministry efforts. As we journey through life, may we embrace our role as ambassadors of Christ, spreading the fragrance of his love and grace to a world in desperate need of redemption.

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The Gospel 5: Christ

Posted by Worldview Warriors On Friday, April 19, 2024 0 comments

by Charlie Wolcott

The center part of the Gospel is Jesus Christ. While God the Father is the author of this epic story called the Gospel, Jesus is the hero, the lead actor, the one who comes to save the day. Last week, I wrote about the fall of man and what sin did. The rest of the Old Testament is two-fold: it showcases the history of Israel along with their continual depravity in sin, but it is filled with images and snapshots of the Messiah, both what He would do and be like and also what He would overcome. One key reason the Jews missed Jesus when He came was that all of their previous deliverers were physical deliverers against physical enemies. They missed Jesus because He would not deliver Israel from Rome…but from a far greater enemy and oppressor, sin itself.

There are 300+ prophecies that describe the Messiah, and Jesus fulfilled every single one of them. I do not have the time or space to go through them here other than to just hit a couple of major passages. Isaiah 53 and Psalm 22 are among the most famous passages that detail the death of Jesus.

Isaiah 53 is more about Jesus not being a superstar, a model, or a glorious figure. He was not a good-looking guy. And that’s a severe problem missed by all attempts to put Jesus on film. They focus on His glory and His deity, but when they focus on His humanity, they give Him this “shampoo model” form who never learned hardships or difficulties or ever worked a day in His life. That is one thing that The Chosen series does better than others, however, even there, they still give the character some of that “shampoo model” look. So it’s never going to be perfect, and we simply need to understand that Jesus wasn’t good-looking.

Psalm 22 was written 1000 years before Jesus came about and describes crucifixion – a Roman invention that didn’t exist until 50 years before Jesus’ time on earth. When comparing Psalm 22 to the crucifixion, we see almost a literal word-for-word description of what took place when Jesus was hung on the cross, including the very statements that were made by both Jesus and His enemies in mocking Him.

Everything in Scripture points to Jesus, from the opening creation statements to the closing of all time in Revelation. Jesus is at the center, through His role as the hero of the story, the true knight in shining armor, whose armor has indeed seen battle. Central to the story are His birth, life, death, and resurrection. Jesus could not be any ordinary person. He had to be fully human and fully God at the same time, which is called the hypostatic union.

In being fully human, Jesus went through life as a normal human being. He went through the normal birthing process, though His miraculous conception was definitely not normal. He grew up with human parents and human siblings, and He had your standard human needs including food, sleep, water, family connections, emotions, air, etc. He ate the same sin-cursed food, breathed the same sin-cursed air, and dealt with sin-cursed people. It is no wonder He longed to have alone time with His Father.

But Jesus was also fully divine – fully God. He did not lay down His identity when He became a human. He was without sin. While He lived in a human capacity, He also had that connection to God through the Holy Spirit that gave Him knowledge no one else could or would ever get. He could read people’s hearts and minds. He could outthink them all. He knew the future, who would betray Him, and how everything would play out. He performed miracles upon will and even refrained from doing some just to win a few converts. Every time He had the window to make Himself popular, He would give a message that would squelch it. And the biggest thing of all, Jesus raised from the dead.

Jesus came to deal with sin. By being fully human, Jesus was able to perfectly represent man before God, therefore being the true and ultimate High Priest. Being the perfect man who had no sin to atone for Himself, Jesus could do what no other man or high priest could do: offer Himself as the necessary substitution that had been taught all along throughout Scripture. But Jesus had to be fully divine, fully God, to be able to do that because God is infinite with omnipresence, omniscience, and omnipotence. As a mere perfect man, Jesus would only be able to cover for one person. Adam was able to do that with Eve, and that is what he should have done. But for Jesus to cover for the sins of the whole world, of all who would believe, He had to be fully God and be the true prophet of God, representing God to man. By being fully God, Jesus was able to take the infinite wrath of God upon Himself. It wasn’t the Roman crucifixion that dealt with our sin; the crucifixion itself was merely the instrument of death to be used to help identify Jesus as the Messiah. The real dealing with sin was God pouring out His judgment upon Jesus, and Jesus, who wore a crown of thorns, the physical symbol of sin, died on that cross. With His final breath, He declared: “It is finished!”

When Jesus died, the great and final sacrifice was made. The righteous justice upon sin was met. The forgiveness for sin that all the Old Testament saints had been longing for had been accomplished. The salvation they were faithfully waiting for but did not see with their own eyes had arrived. And while Jesus did say “It is finished!” there was one final thing to do for salvation to be realized: the resurrection. The death on the cross paid the penalty of sin, but it only settled the debt. It does not restore, fix, or bring new life. The resurrection would do that, and it is because we worship a RISEN Savior that we can know and understand the fullness of Christ, which we’ll look at more next week.

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2 Corinthians 2:5-11

Posted by Worldview Warriors On Monday, April 15, 2024 0 comments

by Katie Erickson

If anyone has caused grief, he has not so much grieved me as he has grieved all of you to some extent—not to put it too severely. The punishment inflicted on him by the majority is sufficient. Now instead, you ought to forgive and comfort him, so that he will not be overwhelmed by excessive sorrow. I urge you, therefore, to reaffirm your love for him. Another reason I wrote you was to see if you would stand the test and be obedient in everything. Anyone you forgive, I also forgive. And what I have forgiven—if there was anything to forgive—I have forgiven in the sight of Christ for your sake, in order that Satan might not outwit us. For we are not unaware of his schemes.
- 2 Corinthians 2:5-11

In the section of his letter right before this passage, Paul wrote about feeling pain, causing pain, and avoiding more pain in the future. He also ended verse 4 with a statement about not wanting to grieve the Corinthians but instead desiring that they know his love for them. This passage echoes those same themes.

Scholars debate whether Paul is writing about a certain individual in this section or whether it’s general commentary. Paul does not name names, but some think that this refers back to the person guilty of incest in 1 Corinthians 5. However, others disagree with that as this letter is too far removed from that situation. Paul does not name any particular person he may or may not have had in mind.

In verse 5, Paul shares that for anyone who has grieved (or caused pain to) the Corinthian church, the result is not that Paul is caused pain but that everyone in their congregation is caused pain. One person’s sin against the congregation will be felt by the entire congregation, and Paul too as he feels responsible for them, though to a lesser extent.

Verse 6 gives us insight into discipline within the church at Corinth. Whatever Paul is writing about that was disciplined was clearly a public matter within the congregation. We don’t know what methods they used for discipline then, whether it was some kind of formal gathering, whether the punishment had been decided upon by a few people or a general vote, etc. But Paul indicates that the punishment was inflicted “by the majority,” and that punishment should be sufficient. We often like to keep reminding people of their wrongs, even after they have been appropriately disciplined, and Paul is cautioning against that here.

Discipline should serve not just as a punishment for a wrong that was committed but also to change the person. Paul emphasizes this in verse 7, instructing the people to forgive and comfort the individual. The point is not for that person to continue feeling sorrowful for what he did but rather to learn from it and be able to move on with life. Forgiveness involves healing from whatever wrong was done rather than continuing to remember and bring up the incident to continually punish the offender.

Another part of forgiveness is affirming love for the offender, as Paul writes in verse 8. If there has been a public discussion of the sin and a public punishment handed down, then there should also be a public reaffirmation of love to reinstate that individual back into the community, after he has been appropriately disciplined. This would also affirm God’s forgiveness in that person’s life. The community of the church would show God’s forgiveness in a tangible way to that individual by showing him their forgiveness.

In verse 9, Paul reveals that he was testing their faith and commitment. If the Corinthian church responded properly in carrying out discipline, then Paul would know that they were following his teachings and therefore working toward becoming better disciples of Jesus Christ. They would both need to start and end the disciplinary act appropriately in order to pass this test and prove that they view Paul as an authority over them to give them instruction on how to carry out such matters. It appears that the Corinthian church had passed Paul’s test.

Since they acknowledged that they do see Paul as an authority to teach them, Paul also needs to express forgiveness to the individual who requires this discipline (verse 10). But he also notes “if there was anything to forgive,” which implies that this may or may not have been an actual situation; it may have been general teaching rather than addressing a specific issue with a specific individual. Paul brings up Christ when discussing forgiveness, as it was Jesus who taught multiple times that forgiving one another is essential to living out the Christian faith. Forgiveness must be granted to keep unity in the church and for the sake of their relationships with one another.

Another purpose for this forgiveness is so that they do not give in to Satan’s evil schemes (verse 11). Withholding forgiveness from an individual who has repented and received appropriate discipline would bring disunity and grudges into the church, which are of Satan and not of God. Satan already had a hold on the individual when he committed the sin, and a lack of forgiveness would only increase that. There must be punishment for sin, but it must be administered in love and for the sake of correction, not just for punishment’s sake. The goal is reconciliation and repentance through forgiveness.

This is a powerful section of Paul’s second letter to the Corinthians because it has great practical implications for our lives today. Paul urged the Corinthians to forgive and comfort the person who had caused grief with this sin. We, too, are called to heal broken relationships by extending forgiveness to those who have wronged us.

We are to reaffirm our love for them, even when it’s difficult because of how others have treated us. This reaffirmation of love is essential to build a community that is known for its love and unity. As Christ has loved us, so are we to love those in our Christian community.

Spiritual warfare is still a real thing in our world, as Satan seeks to lure us into sinful actions, which could then drag down an entire community if we’re not careful. Paul warns the Corinthians not to be ignorant of Satan's schemes. Unforgiveness and division within the community can create an opportunity for the enemy to hinder God’s work through us. Forgiveness is a spiritual weapon against the forces of evil, and we need to remember to use it.

This forum is meant to foster discussion and allow for differing viewpoints to be explored with equal and respectful consideration.  All comments are moderated and any foul language or threatening/abusive comments will not be approved.  Users who engage in threatening or abusive comments which are physically harmful in nature will be reported to the authorities.


The Gospel 4: Sin

Posted by Worldview Warriors On Friday, April 12, 2024 0 comments

by Charlie Wolcott

No story works well without a villain or without a dark trial to overcome. The Gospel is the greatest story ever told, and the reason why so many of these great epic stories resonate with us so well is because they actually encompass the Gospel and reflect the true epic of the Gospel. I have discussed the author of this epic (God) and the setting of this epic (creation which includes mankind), and now I’ll deal with the villain (sin).

Many debate who the original sin was done by, Adam or Lucifer, but this misses the Gospel. The Gospel is for man. Only man can be redeemed; the angels cannot. God gave no provision for the salvation of the angels because the angels were not made in God’s image. So even though Lucifer fell before Adam sinned, his sin does not count when considering the Gospel. Lucifer’s sin makes him the primary villain of the whole Gospel account for being the instigator, and his final judgment will be executed as prophesied in Revelation 20. However, Lucifer (Satan) is just an instigator. He has no real power or authority. He has no legal right to rule anything. He is called “the god of this world” or “the prince of the power of the air,” but he actually has no official position. He is a lowly worm, and when God fully exposes him for who he truly is, we will all gape in awe as to how this little worm could wreck the whole world so well with his craftiness and deceptions. And yet it was this craftiness and deception that tricked Adam and Eve to rebel against God and thus bring all of mankind into sin and rebellion against God.

I am not going to go into the whole account of Genesis 3 here, but I want to emphasize what their sin did. Adam and Eve’s original sin was more than just a personal choice. That is why we are not held responsible for their actual, physical decision to eat from the tree of knowledge of good and evil. We are instead held under a “federal headship” law that is passed down to us. We understand this notion in government where decisions not made by us are imposed upon us by our government. Adam acted as our federal head, our “governor” in this regard, and when he sinned, he submitted all his progeny to the law of sin of death. We each have this propensity towards sin that we inherit from Adam. This propensity towards sin is actually not full-blown immorality as many tend to think. It can more accurately be described as the desire and longing to do things your own way and to replace God as the ruler of your life. And because sin is the desire to go against what God says, all immoral ideas and actions are full game.

Because our nature is to sin, God will deal with that one way. However, we are directly responsible for our own transgressions. We know full well what God’s standards and His commands are, and we intentionally defy them anyway. That is why Adam’s sin was so treasonous. It was not a mere eating of a fruit; it was a direct defiance of God. As we discussed a couple of weeks ago, God is holy, righteous, and just. He will not and cannot let that go without dealing with sin. And deal with it, God did. That very day. He confronted Adam and Eve, cursed them for their sin, and yet did not slay them on the spot. He instead gave a promise for a Savior and then demonstrated how that Savior would do His work by slaying an animal and using its skins for clothing, giving the first picture of the substitutional atonement.

God did not leave Adam and Eve to their own devices. However, sin had entered the world, and it would be permanently cursed. God will destroy the whole universe and rebuild it when all things are said and done. Sin escalated quickly with Cain and Abel, the first prototypes of the reprobate sinner and humble believer. Cain sought to do things his own way, and when that did not go his way and Abel was doing things right, it burned him and he murdered Abel over it. The world would get excessively worse to the point where only Noah and his family would be spared when God chose to wipe out all life except for those on an ark that Noah built.

As we continue through the Old Testament and world history, we see continual depravity growing and a departure from God’s ways. But we always see a group, a remnant, some who submit to God and His ways. It started with Abraham and continued through Isaac, Jacob, and Joseph. Moses continued the line of faith but as we get into the Judges and Kings, again, only a few of God’s people would remain walking with Him. Everyone still sought their own things, their own ways, doing what was right in their own eyes, and rarely giving God a second thought. As a whole, it has only gotten worse with each generation, however, with each generation there has been a group loyal to God. God has brought nations to judge other nations, used natural disasters to destroy armies, and made generals commit horrible blunders they would never make otherwise to steer the course of history and to protect His people. And the day will come when God will return in His glory and put an end to the rebellion once and for all.

Man is desperately wicked. I know personally what my own propensities are, and I am at the mercy of God to restrain them because I cannot. I know if God were to turn my sin loose and let it run its full desire, I’d easily have people seeking my head for the things I’d do. I am not the hero of my story. I may be a “protagonist,” but I am no hero. I can hardly call myself a damsel who needs to be rescued. I am a villain. I am an anti-hero. My story on my own will only bring death and destruction. And no one is different. Our hearts are so wicked and deceitful and beyond saving that it is simply a miracle of how the patience of God and His longsuffering to save us. But didn’t I say we cannot be saved? Yes, I did, and that is the Gospel. That sinful heart has to be put to death, removed entirely, and replaced. This is why Jesus said we have to deny ourselves to follow Him. The sinful self is judged and will be judged, and yet, God still seeks mercy and restoration. How does he do that? Though Jesus Christ. That is for next week.

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2 Corinthians 1:23-2:4

Posted by Worldview Warriors On Monday, April 8, 2024 0 comments

by Katie Erickson

I call God as my witness —and I stake my life on it—that it was in order to spare you that I did not return to Corinth. Not that we lord it over your faith, but we work with you for your joy, because it is by faith you stand firm. So I made up my mind that I would not make another painful visit to you. For if I grieve you, who is left to make me glad but you whom I have grieved? I wrote as I did, so that when I came I would not be distressed by those who should have made me rejoice. I had confidence in all of you, that you would all share my joy. 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 1:23-2:4

In the previous passage, we saw that Paul had changed his travel plans, which affected his visiting Corinth. He defended his actions by appealing to God’s faithfulness. In this passage, he shares how it is in the Corinthians’ best interest that he did not make that extra visit to them as he had originally planned.

He starts out here by saying that it was to “spare” them that he did not return to Corinth (verse 23). This implies that he would have been harsh to them during his visit, most likely for everything he called out and rebuked them for in his previous letter to them. He is very emphatic on this point, saying that God is his witness and he stakes his life on it. He really wants the Corinthian church to understand that his lack of a visit was in their best interest and that things went as God intended.

Some believe that verse 24 is to counteract the Corinthians’ claims that Paul was trying to act like a tyrant or a dictator over them in his instructions. But that is not the case with Paul; he desires to serve them and work with them to help them grow in their faith and fulfill their mission of living out and spreading the gospel message. Everything that he does is for their joy and so that they will stand firm in their faith, which will honor and glorify God while spreading the gospel. Paul wrote similar words to the Philippians: “Convinced of this, I know that I will remain, and I will continue with all of you for your progress and joy in the faith” (Philippians 1:25). This is Paul’s mission, not to tyrannically guide every aspect of their lives.

This is one of those passages where the chapter break doesn’t really make sense because it is at this point where chapter 2 begins. Paul is in the middle of his thought here, so since he continued on, we will too.

We see in verse 1 that Paul made up his mind not to make “another painful visit” to the Corinthians. This implies that it was Paul’s decision, not something that was out of his control based on various circumstances. It is believed that Paul made this decision while in Ephesus after hearing about how the Corinthian people were insulting him. We’ll learn a bit more about this in next week’s passage of 2 Corinthians 2:5-11. Paul wanted his time with the Corinthians to be joyful, not painful, so he changed his plans and did not make that extra visit to them.

Paul admits in verse 2 that his decision not to make the visit was also due to his own emotions. The Corinthians were a congregation that brought him joy, so if he had a negative visit with them, then he would lose that source of joy. If he caused them pain, then he would feel that pain also.

Verses 3-4 reference a letter by Paul to the Corinthians, which is often known as the “sorrowful letter” or the “severe letter.” We do not have manuscripts of this letter today, but we can make inferences about its contents based on Paul’s other writings to this congregation. If Paul needs to express condemnation toward the Corinthians, perhaps it would be better received via letter rather than in person so as not to affect their relationship as much. We can often convey our thoughts and feelings better in writing as it gives us the opportunity to choose our words more carefully than when we’re having a discussion in the heat of the moment.

Paul’s “severe letter” to the Corinthians took the place of a harsh in-person visit from him, which is why a few verses prior in 1:23 he said that his lack of a visit was to spare them. That way, they could get all the negativity out of the way and have a good visit in person when he was able to come back to Corinth. He was confident that the Corinthians would receive his letter well, and while it may take them some time to process it, they would once again become joyful with Paul and see that he is doing all of this for their benefit.

Whatever Paul wrote in this “severe letter” greatly distressed him. He emphasizes in verse 4 that his point in writing that letter was not to make them mad but to show them his love for them. Paul is showing them discipline – not correcting them out of anger or condemnation but out of love and a desire for them to live the lives that God has called them to. Paul was genuinely concerned for the Corinthians, and he was trying to make sure they knew that.

It is often hard to receive correction or discipline from someone else, and we can often mistake someone’s motives in correcting us. We can easily misunderstand others’ intentions, and that is why good communication is so important. In Paul’s day, communicating across distances was significantly more difficult than today, and it took much longer. While there are benefits to slower communication, such as giving people time to cool off and think with a clear head before responding, it could also give them more time to dwell on what Paul said and possibly misinterpret it.

But regardless of the speed of our communications, we need to make sure that we have the same attitude that Paul had – providing discipline and correction to others when needed, but only out of deep love for them. We also need to accept discipline and correction when it is provided to us by those who love us. We need to make sure to listen to those who are correcting us and not make assumptions that are not true. While we are all fallible humans who make mistakes, often things that may not feel great to us are really for our own good, just as Paul was showing his love for the Corinthians by changing his plans.

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The Gospel 3: Creation

Posted by Worldview Warriors On Friday, April 5, 2024 0 comments

by Charlie Wolcott

God is the Creator. He made everything and He set the stage for the grand theater we call “life.” He wrote the script and made each and every one of us characters in this big play. I am an author of both fiction and nonfiction books, and in my fiction writing, I create characters through which I tell my story. Some characters are good, some are bad; some are redeemable, some are not. When I develop my characters properly, they begin to get their own voices and are able to tell me, the author, what they would do in certain situations. That directs how I move the story. Many authors have this saying, “If your characters don’t talk back to you, you haven’t developed them well enough.” God has fully developed each of us, knowing the number of every hair on our bodies and knowing our every thought. And that is what He uses to carry out this grand epic called “history.”

In order for God to showcase His glory, His might, His love, His grace, and His justice, He needed a stage on which to carry it all out. This is “Creation,” the physical universe that we all live in. God is the creator. There is no other option. All the proposed deities never created anything; they only manipulated what was there. Only the God of the Bible created “ex nihilo,” out of nothing. There was no physical anything – no time, no space, no matter, nothing. Then God who is outside this physical universe, just like I, an author, am outside the world I create for a story, spoke and it came into being.

I know it is not a popular notion among Christians, but I have a friend who plays Dungeons and Dragons. While I do not play myself, I have enough “gaming” background to actually understand the principles behind the game and how it works. I can say much of the backlash comes from a lack of understanding of what it is. I can see some legitimate concerns, but few have demonstrated an understanding of the game/system to correctly express them. The game is simple: players in a group choose a character to be, and they can pick and choose a variety of skills and traits that the character would have. They use that character to role-play through many different situations and scenarios set up by a Dungeon Master who is the master storyteller. The point in bringing this up is that the Dungeon Master can “speak” things into existence such as (to use my friend’s example), “It rained pink flamingoes,” and then it rains pink flamingoes in the game’s world. This is about as good of an analogy as I can give to explain how God creates by speaking things into existence.

God did not use natural means to create. He spoke it into existence. He also did it in six days, six normal days as understood by mankind. This is vital because it reveals the character of God as being holy, as being “other than” us. He created in a way that man would never consider if he were making up a story. He did not create over many long years of natural processes. Not only does science not support those models, but God is not going to share His glory with another. He is not going to allow man to figure out how He created lest we try to steal His blueprints and proclaim ourselves to be God in His stead. God also did not create instantaneously. While He absolutely could have done it any of these ways, He purposefully did not want to be deemed a super “magician” who just waved a magic wand. He was not going to let Himself be relegated to mythology easily. So He created in six days; everything in the natural universe was done and made in those six days. Nothing was done before and nothing was done after.

God also did something that none of the other models did with creation: He completed it as “very good.” The curse of sin was not present. Weeds and thorns did not grow. There was no hint or record of death of any kind upon the completion of creation. Everything served its purpose, demonstrating God’s creative power and mind, while also keeping track of so many intricate details that it completely surpasses man’s capability. Only a true God with all possible knowledge could create what we see in this universe.

Then to top it all off, God created mankind. Man is unique among all other creatures. Not only is man’s physical design so spectacular that he can do more things holistically than any other animal. True, man cannot fly, swim as deep as fish, or run as fast as cats or dogs, but we can climb, swim, run, use tools, fight, and do things that many animals who have their specialties cannot do. Above all that, man is made in the image of God. Unlike any other animal, man alone has the capacity to be a reflection and a picture of God on this physical earth. Man is the only being that has an understanding of “ought,” of morality, of “should or should not.”

The Creation gives us the backdrop for the greatest story ever told – the Gospel. Man is at the center of the story. The Gospel is about God’s dealings with man. But it goes deeper than that. God is a Trinity – Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. It has been said that the Father so loved the Son that He created mankind who would rebel against Him, and yet out of that rebellious population, a remnant would be chosen to be a bride for the Son whom He would get to enjoy for eternity. The Gospel is about how God comes to rescue man from his sin and displays the most creative and counter-intuitive manner to bring in salvation that only God could come up with. It makes no sense to those who think in the flesh, but to those who have been saved and look at eternity, it is the most glorious thing.

This week and last week have all been about the setup for the Gospel. Next week, we’ll introduce the villains of this great epic story: the devil and mankind.

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2 Corinthians 1:12-22

Posted by Worldview Warriors On Monday, April 1, 2024 0 comments

by Katie Erickson

Now this is our boast: Our conscience testifies that we have conducted ourselves in the world, and especially in our relations with you, with integrity and godly sincerity. We have done so, relying not on worldly wisdom but on God’s grace. For we do not write you anything you cannot read or understand. And I hope that, as you have understood us in part, you will come to understand fully that you can boast of us just as we will boast of you in the day of the Lord Jesus.
Because I was confident of this, I wanted to visit you first so that you might benefit twice. I wanted to visit you on my way to Macedonia and to come back to you from Macedonia, and then to have you send me on my way to Judea. Was I fickle when I intended to do this? Or do I make my plans in a worldly manner so that in the same breath I say both “Yes, yes” and “No, no”?
But as surely as God is faithful, our message to you is not “Yes” and “No.” For the Son of God, Jesus Christ, who was preached among you by us—by me and Silas and Timothy —was not “Yes” and “No,” but in him it has always been “Yes.” 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. Now it is God who makes both us and you stand firm in Christ. He anointed us, set his seal of ownership on us, and put his Spirit in our hearts as a deposit, guaranteeing what is to come.
- 2 Corinthians 1:12-22

As Paul begins this section of his letter, he first defends his previous conduct. Paul is likely making these statements because some in Corinth have brought these charges against him, so he is providing his response here. We do not have any documentation of the actual allegations against Paul, other than his replies we see here.

In verse 12, he appeals to the testimony of his conscience and his relationship with the people of Corinth. Paul believes that he has acted with integrity and sincerity, though of course, he would never claim to be perfect in his actions (see 1 Timothy 1:15). The Corinthians know Paul and his fellow workers for the gospel, and that relationship would also validate Paul’s character and what he says here. It is not through worldly wisdom that Paul could act with integrity but only through the grace of God.

Paul has not written anything to them that they were not able to understand (verse 13); he has spoken in plain language to explain God’s truth to them as best as he can. Even if they have not fully understood everything that Paul wrote to them, they will come to understand it better as they continue to grow in their faith and live out the Christian life (verse 14).

In verses 15-16, we see some of Paul’s travel plans, and this itinerary seems to contradict what he wrote in 1 Corinthians 16:2-8. His plans from 1 Corinthians seem to be Ephesus, Macedonia, Corinth, then possibly Jerusalem. In this letter, his route appears to be Ephesus, Corinth, Macedonia, back to Corinth, then Judea. It appears that his plans changed between the two letters, now indicating the need for a second stop at Corinth.

These changing plans may make Paul seem fickle to the Corinthians, giving those who opposed him reason to accuse him of not sticking to what he said (verse 17). They accused Paul of operating on impulse and feelings rather than keeping his word – saying yes one day but saying no the next.

Paul was distressed enough by that claim that he invoked God’s faithfulness as a means to defend himself in verse 18. It is as if Paul claims that God Himself is confirming to the Corinthians that Paul is trustworthy, though not as trustworthy as God Himself, of course. His message to them is not both yes and no at the same time, meaning that his message is not unclear to them. He is preaching the gospel to them, which they have already understood and would continue to comprehend.

Paul, Silas, and Timothy have all preached the gospel of Jesus Christ to the Corinthians, and that message is always, “Yes” (verse 19). There is no inconsistency or indecision in Jesus nor in the gospel message. While the people delivering that message are flawed humans, the God they proclaim has no flaws in Him.

All of God’s promises found fulfillment in Jesus Christ, thus the message was always “yes” to any promise that God made (verse 20). God’s message is always consistent, whether delivered to the Corinthians or to anyone else throughout history. Paul’s saying “Amen” confirms that he agrees with the gospel message of Jesus Christ that he has been preaching. As Paul confirms how he is preaching the gospel truth consistent with God’s faithful character, do the Corinthians really think he would act in such a non-Godly manner in trivial worldly things like his travel plans? Of course not.

Paul has defended himself by acting by the Holy Spirit, reiterating God’s faithfulness, proclaiming the unambiguous gospel message of Jesus Christ, and then by using the response of “Amen” as confirmation. Now, Paul points to how their faith is firmly grounded in Jesus Christ (verses 21-22). The four verbs in this passage all have God as their subject. The first (making them stand firm) is a legal term that a seller would use to guarantee that a purchase is valid. Here, is used in a form that implies how God is continuously strengthening them and validating their faith.

The next three verbs are one-time past tense actions – anointed, put His seal on them, and put His Spirit in their hearts (verse 22). These actions all happened when they became believers in Jesus Christ. They have been marked as God’s own people and commissioned for service in God’s Kingdom when they believed the gospel message. Paul is confirming their status as believers in God’s Kingdom, both here on earth and into eternity.

What does all of this mean to us? Just as Paul claims, we are all called to live with integrity and Godly sincerity. All of our actions and decisions in our lives should reflect this because of our commitment to following Jesus with our entire lives. Like Paul, we can appeal to God’s faithfulness in all aspects of our lives, no matter what challenges or accusations we are facing. God is unchanging, and He will always be faithful to His followers. God’s promises are always trustworthy, which He has proven throughout the Scriptures. Finally, like Paul, Silas, and Timothy, we are called to proclaim the gospel message to others, sharing with them how God has fulfilled all of His promises and gives us hope, redemption, and eternal life.

This forum is meant to foster discussion and allow for differing viewpoints to be explored with equal and respectful consideration.  All comments are moderated and any foul language or threatening/abusive comments will not be approved.  Users who engage in threatening or abusive comments which are physically harmful in nature will be reported to the authorities.