Read the Bible in 2011 ◊ Week 17: Sunday
“You are our letter, written in our hearts, known and read by all men; being manifested that you are a letter of Christ, cared for by us, 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
Sunday’s Bible reading of 2 Corinthians 1–3, introduces this wonderful letter in which we find Paul’s love for the Lord Jesus and his love for other Christians reflected in sentence after sentence; Paul teaches by word and by example. In many ways this letter shows us what it means to live in obedience and understanding of the Christian life according to Jesus as He taught in the Upper Room Discourse of John 13–16. Jesus gave commands to obey, told us what to expect in our lives as Christians, and He gave assurance of His comfort and care. Paul lives out those words of Christ.
The first chapter of 2 Corinthians introduces one of the major themes of the letter: suffering. In John 13–16, Jesus taught that tribulation and suffering is to be expected because we are His and the world hated Him. But He did not leave us as orphans to endure this alone, because in John 13–16, He also taught on prayer, abiding in His Word, loving one another and His sending of the Holy Spirit—and He tells them why He said these things t0 them when He finishes with these words of encouragement:
“These things I have spoken to you, so that in Me you may have peace. In the world you have tribulation, but take courage; I have overcome the world.”
In 2 Corinthians 1, notice Paul’s authenticity as Paul describes the intense suffering he and Timothy underwent in Asia and how difficult their affliction was, “…we were burdened excessively, beyond our strength, so that we despaired even of life…” He is not attempting to cover up the fact that their suffering was overwhelming, nor is he trying to puff himself up about his incredible faith. Instead, throughout the chapter, Paul points you to God over and over again, as he writes of the great comfort and deliverance given to them by God, and in doing this, he gives to us real encouragement to trust God.
In 2 Corinthians, we see Paul’s humility and great love for believers. The following sentence is an incredible thing to write to a church that was as raucous as the church at Corinth:
“Not that we lord it over your faith, but are workers with you for your joy; for in your faith you are standing firm.”
2 Corinthians 1:24
He doesn’t lord it over them! He considers himself as a worker with them for their joy! This is the apostle Paul writing this—should we not heed his example and repent of our pride, our love of power and being first, and of any authoritarianism over fellow believers?
Look at what he was thinking and feeling when he wrote to them previously about the sin they had tolerated in their midst:
“For out of much affliction and anguish of heart I wrote to you with many tears; not so that you would be made sorrowful, but that you might know the love which I have especially for you.”
2 Corinthians 2:4
His love and humility are evident again in chapter 3, as he tells the Corinthians they are his letter of commendation written on his heart, and again, rather than puffing up himself in his ministry, he gives honor and glory to God:
“Not that we are adequate in ourselves to consider anything as coming from ourselves, but our adequacy is from God, who also made us adequate as servants of a new covenant, not of the letter but of the Spirit; for the letter kills, but the Spirit gives life.”
2 Corinthians 3:5–6
He continues to contrast the old covenant of the Law with the new covenant of the Spirit. He closes with this wonderful truth about the transformation of our lives, another theme of this letter, through knowing the Lord Jesus.
May God strengthen, comfort and transform you through this letter—for the purpose of God’s Word is to change your life.
Isaiah 42 Photograph: ChristianPhotos.net – Free High Resolution Photos for Christian Publications
Folio from Papyrus 46, containing 2 Corinthians 11:33-12:9: Public Domain, Wikipedia.
Romano-Celtic mirror (Desborough): Public Domain, Wikimedia Commons.
Original content: Copyright ©2011 Iwana Carpenter