Monday, August 4, Chapter 5
At the end of chapter 4, Paul wrote, The things we see now are here today, gone tomorrow. But the things we can’t see now will last forever. Message Once we have that glimpse of Heaven we want to live there. As he opens this chapter: For instance, we know that when these bodies of ours are taken down like tents and folded away, they will be replaced by resurrection bodies in heaven—God-made, not handmade—and we’ll never have to relocate our “tents” again. Message
In this world, in this tent, we struggle with sin. It surrounds us like air. It corrupts us in ways we do not recognize. We hide it under the rocks of our lives, but it will be exposed and judged in the end. One of the Grimms’ fairy tales describes a long ago murder that comes to light. They wrote this proverb for it: The Bright Sun Brings It to Light.
We deceive ourselves into thinking that what happened long ago no longer matters and we deceive ourselves into thinking we can hide what we do not want others to see or know. That may work with our fellow humans, but not with God. God is Light. He sees all and knows all. He does not have to wait until we die to know what we have tried to hide. He watches as we hide it.
If we give ourselves to follow Jesus, we do not need to worry about judgment because the Son of Man will be our Judge. God, who hates sin, has given the job of handing out punishment and rewards to his Son. So, if I am a part of the True Body of Christ, if I am doing what Christ did, if I am his slave, the fix is in.
Matthew 25:31-46 explains how that Judgment will work. ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’ NIV
Dietrich Bonhoeffer concluded his sermon of November 19, 1933 in London with: The good is nothing other than our asking for and receiving his grace. The evil is only fear and wanting to stand before God on our own and justify ourselves.
For if a man is in Christ he becomes a new person altogether—the past is finished and gone, everything has become fresh and new. What a promise! I cannot put on my new Heavenly body yet, but I can get a sense of what it will be like. I get a fresh start, a new lease on life. I get to live my life for others and for God.
Become friends with God; he’s already a friend with you. Message
Tuesday, August 5, Chapter 6
The word of God through Isaiah:
Here is what Adonai says:
“At the time when I choose, I will answer you;
on the day of salvation, I will help you.
I have preserved you, and I have appointed you
to be the covenant for a people,
to restore the land and distribute again
its ruined inheritances to their owners. Phillips
What Isaiah promised is now fulfilled, God has answered with the gift of his Son. Paul wants us to know what he has been through to give us the news about this great gift. Just looking at what Paul, Timothy, and the others have gone through shows us how seriously they take the message. We need to be just as serious.
Paul does not suggest that we never have anything to do with unbelievers; that would make it impossible to share the Good News of the Gospel. Paul does warn us against marriage with non-Christians. That was a big problem in Corinth. It is still a fair warning for us.
Wednesday, August 6, Chapter 7
Paul now explains how thrilled he is with the news from Titus about the Corinthians and their love for Paul. It is a great relief to hear that. And the report came at a troublesome time, so gave him some comfort.
Paul almost apologies for the first harsh letter, but is glad that it brought a change in the people’s attitudes. In this section, it seems that Paul’s first letter was intended for a very few who were causing troubles. Those people were infecting the whole congregation so Paul had to write. Now it seems either the people have changed their ways or gone away. Paul is happy.
The comments about Titus give us a picture of a happy and healed church. Now Paul can talk about more worthy matters.
Thursday, August 7, Chapter 8
The Corinthian church started a collection to help the Christians in Jerusalem, but the troublemakers interrupted it. Now Paul is pleased to tell them that the churches in Macedonia insisted on giving what they could to add to the mission gift. Paul assures the Corinthians that it is not more than they had already collected and that the Macedonians made their pledges first for their own church’s functions. Paul hopes Corinth will be spurred to increase their collections. They have more wealth than most churches and they need to finish what they started.
I like the way Phillips translated verse 12: After all, the important thing is to be willing to give as much as we can—that is what God accepts, and no one is asked to give what he has not got.
Verses 13-15 describe how the early churches dealt with money. Sharing was the common practice, even to the point of real communism as described in Acts 4:32-37.
In verse 18 Paul says he is sending Titus back with another man, unnamed, but Luke seems likely. Paul makes clear that the money will be in good hands and none will be stolen. Just to make sure, Paul is sending several men from other churches to keep watch. It was always safer to travel in large groups anyway.
Friday, August 8, Chapter 9
Paul continues with the pep talk about the offering for Jerusalem. He is using some of the cultural attitudes to promote the offering by first telling the northern Greeks in Macedonia what the Corinthians of Achaia were doing, and then telling the Corinthians what the Macedonians accomplished. He set up a contest without saying so.
Paul also repeats the need for the gift to be freely given, not as a duty, but as a powerful desire to help people in need. We must remember that the offering for Jerusalem was an “extra” gift, over and above regular giving. We do not know how the early churches went about paying for their various activities, but we know they had expenses. Even when they met in people’s homes, there were small expenses for items used in worship, the cost of writing letters (hiring a scribe), sending people to other towns as missionaries, etc. It would be interesting to see an annual report of such expenses.
Paul reminds his readers of the presence of God in the giving. It is easy for us to focus on the need to pave the parking lot or buy a new computer for the church office and forget that it is really about God. Does God need the parking lot paved? Does He want us to pave it? Staying in touch with God as a congregation can be a difficult thing.
Paul quotes Psalm 112:
How happy is anyone who fears Adonai,
who greatly delights in his mitzvot.
His heart is set firm, he will not be afraid,
till finally he looks in triumph at his enemies….
He distributes freely, he gives to the poor;
his righteousness stands forever.
His power will be increased honorably.Orthodox Jewish Bible
Paul then reminds us that God will take care of us. Some people take such statements as guarantees. When Jesus said that God takes care of the birds of the air, he did not mention that those birds are eaten by other animals, including my cats. We live in a world where such things happen not only to birds but to people, Christians included. God will help us through those difficult times, even to the point of death. He does not leave us just because we are unemployed, dying of cancer, or crying for a teenager who hates his parents. The more we trust God, the easier it is to make do with what we have.
Paul ends this chapter with: Thanks be to God for his indescribable gift! We receive gifts from God that we do not recognize. We fail to receive gifts that we think God should give us. Which is the greater gift?
Be righteous and do good.