October 1, 2012 – Devotion Sharing (2 Corinthians 12)

Submitted by Jackie W., from Gracepoint Austin Church

2 Corinthians 12:14-19

“In 12:14b-15a, Paul supports his affirmation that he is seeking the Corinthians’ welfare, not his own, by returning to imagery of parenthood to describe his relationship with the church. Because he is their spiritual father, Paul is responsible to give to his ‘children,’ not the other way around, even if this means pouring out his life on their behalf.”  [Scott J. Hafemann, 2 Corinthians, The NIV Application Commentary Series CD (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2000).]

  • Why would Apostle Paul’s successful defense of himself before the Corinthians lead to their “upbuilding?”

Apostle Paul’s successful defense of himself before the Corinthians would lead to their
“upbuilding” because we see through this passage how deeply Apostle Paul loved this church and everything he did was out of his love for them. It was intentional that he didn’t want to be a burden to them; he tells them that he would be glad to be spent for their souls; he didn’t take advantage of them. These Corinthians were thinking that Apostle Paul was out to deceive them, that his intentions weren’t genuine, or that perhaps he had ulterior motives. But he makes it clear through this letter that his actions were meant to build up the Corinthians and that he didn’t do anything without thinking of them first. Also, from Chapter 11, Apostle Paul describes all of the suffering that he went through, and what motivated him and gave him the ability to endure through these sufferings and persevere was because of his love for them. So the amount of love he has for this church comes out very clearly in this letter, as Apostle Paul provides them with one evidence after another of how much he has sacrificed for them and how much more he would be willing to sacrifice for them if it will build them up. Reading through 2 Corinthians and seeing the kind of heart that Apostle Paul had for this church is such a challenge to me as I see how small-hearted I still am and how difficult it is for me to be able to love others, especially towards those who don’t understand my heart or who are critical towards me. Regardless of what the Corinthians thought of Apostle Paul and how they treated him, his love for them never wavered and he had so much hope for them that they would grow and mature into one of the most influential churches despite their immoral past. And so everything he wrote in his letter was meant to build up the church in Corinth.

2 Corinthians 13:1-6

  • The Corinthians were seeking “proof that Christ [was] speaking in” Apostle Paul when there was obvious sin in their lives, including “impurity, sexual immorality, and sensuality” (2 Corinthians 12:21).  What aspect of human nature does this show? 

The aspect of human nature that this shows is the ability for us to find fault in others and to zoom in on the inadequacies and flaws of others while not being willing to see the sins that are within us. We don’t like to reflect and it’s much easier for us to push aside our sins and not deal with them or tell ourselves that we’ll deal with them later, yet we so easily point out other people’s faults. I think this also reveals how with human nature, we’re so blind to ourselves and to our sins and we’re self-deluded, thinking ourselves more highly than we ought. The Corinthians were living in “impurity, sexual immorality, and sensuality,” and they didn’t have a sense of problem that they had such obvious sins in their lives, and yet they were being so nitpicky over certain aspects of Apostle Paul that they didn’t like or that didn’t seem to fit into their picture of what an apostle ought to be like. Because human nature tends to respond this way to sin, I have to be careful that I don’t become critical of other people’s flaws or inadequacies while not dealing with my own sins first. Or else there’s potential for me to become deluded about myself and to become critical of those who are speaking truth into my life.

  • The call to “examine yourselves to see whether you are in the faith” seems to indicate that some in the church were probably not Christian at all.  Think of the irony of non-Christians having voice enough to critique Apostle Paul.  Why is this absurd? 

This is absurd because these non-Christians were being so critical towards Apostle Paul when they themselves were not Christian, they were not living in line with the bible and they were living in obvious sin. Apostle Paul was someone who knew the Scripture very well as a former Pharisee and he took what the bible said seriously, and yet these non-Christians thought that they knew better and that they had enough authority to critique him. They hadn’t examined themselves or else they would’ve recognized the different sins they were engaged in and that they were not in any place to criticize him. Apostle Paul’s call to “examine yourselves to see whether you are in the faith” is something that every Christian ought to do on a regular basis – and it’s a challenge for me to examine myself, my motives, my thoughts and desires on a regular basis to see if what I am doing is for God or if I am driven by other motives. I need to examine myself to see if I am in the faith, meaning that I can’t just be dutiful, like the older son, doing what’s expected of me and trying to fulfill all of my responsibilities, or else I will eventually run dry. I know I easily get caught up with viewing ministry as a “to-do” list, and even people like that at times, thus I need to examine myself regularly and honestly reflect so that when I find I’m being driven by the wrong things, I can purify my motives before God.

Submitted By Tim F., from Gracepoint Austin Church
2 Corinthians 12:14-19

  • Why would Apostle Paul’s successful defense of himself before the Corinthians lead to their “upbuilding?”

The reason that the Corinthians would be built up lies in what apostle Paul is saying through his defense. We know through reading 2 Cor 11 that this is a church that has just gone through some false apostles coming and doing some damage there. Here we are in the very next chapter and we see that the way in which Paul defends himself is through asking them to consider all the ways in which they have received greatly from Paul and yet Paul has never asked for anything in return. Just like a parent, Paul is the one that pours out on the church in Corinth, doing it all out of love, all along never even thinking of gaining through them anything. As I think about my own life and the leaders that God has put into it, indeed I had spiritual parents that were much like Paul. And what effect did that have on me? How was I built up through them? When I get the sense that I am loved unconditionally, where nothing is expected back from me, then I am able to lay down my performance-driven nature, able to let go of image-maintenance and be real. And when I am able to be truthful about myself with my spiritual leaders, that is where my building-up begins. That is when God can speak into my life, when he can teach me through them and when I lay down my guard. When it is clear that my leaders only care about my welfare and have nothing else to gain, then I can take their words of warning, their corrections, their leading with an open heart and change. And once God has that kind of heart, he can really build his people up. Similar to the way a child who is convinced of his parents love for him can submit to their leading and grow, in the same way, the church in Corinth, after seeing Paul’s earnest and sincere heart for them, they can submit to his authority and be quickly built up into the vision that God has for them. And this has been my testimony as well. There were of course times when I was a stubborn mule, but as the earnestness of my leader’s love and best wishes for me were made clear, I was drawn to taking their words to heart and found myself changing.
2 Corinthians 13:1-6
The Corinthians were seeking “proof that Christ [was] speaking in” Apostle Paul when there was obvious sin in their lives, including “impurity, sexual immorality, and sensuality” (2 Corinthians 12:21).  What aspect of human nature does this show?

This shows how averse we are to even consider looking at our own lives and what is inside of us. Whenever something is shown that paints an unflattering picture of who we are, we quickly start to look around for different ways that we can divert ours and other people’s gaze onto something else. It is like children who when threatened turn to the other person and say “oh yeah, well blah blah blah.” The  attack. It leaves people wondering “where did that come from?” But as I look into myself, I find it so natural that whenever something uncomfortable about me is brought up, I start to question authority, start to look at other people’s faults, try to find ANYTHING that I can point to so that I take the pressure off my own shortcoming. This is one of the fundamental reactions of human nature, and I know that I still, even after my many years of struggling with myself, find myself having the knee-jerk reaction just like the Corinthians did. My pride is so strong still, that to accept something about myself as being wrong, I want to fight against that in whatever way possible. The truth can be staring me in the face, and were I to take an honest moment then I would see it, but instead I will look to start to undermined the credibility of the person saying it.  But the bible tells me that truth is truth, doesn’t matter who says it (even if it is a donkey as in Numbers 22!!).

  • The call to “examine yourselves to see whether you are in the faith” seems to indicate that some in the church were probably not Christian at all.  Think of the irony of non-Christians having voice enough to critique Apostle Paul.  Why is this absurd?

This is absurd because they are questioning Paul to prove himself when they cannot even judge what evidence Paul would bring to his defense.  These are people of questionable morals, who have been disregarding the precepts of God and doing whatever they want. Yet, somehow they thought they would be able to understand and judge Paul’s life? It’s so absurd, like if a freshmen taking Introduction To Physics raises his hand during the first lecture and says to the professor, “I don’t think you know what you are talking about! Prove it to me that you know physics!” How can the professor even begin to answer such a person especially since they don’t even have the beginnings of an understanding of physics. To any person who knows how Paul lived, the way in which he ministered to the Corinthians, how he totally gave of himself, to someone who has known even a fraction of that, it would be clear to them that Paul is the real deal, that his love is genuine. The standard of what it means to love has been set out before us by Jesus Christ, and if you see someone living similarly to how Jesus was living, sacrificing it all even to the point of death so that other people might be able to have eternal life, then that person is one who has spiritual authority. And so for anyone in the Corinthian church to critique Paul, knowing the life he lived can only be described as absurd.

Personal Prayer

Heavenly father, thank you for the many times that you have shaken me out of my own deluded thoughts about who I am. Lord, if there ever was a person who had intense pride, who thought that they were always right, it is me. I think back to all the times when, just like the Corinthians, I had thoughts that were far from reality, when I was bitter towards those who challenged me or upset when things didn’t go my way and started to blame you, when I think about those times, those dark days, and how somehow you were able to bring me back to reality, I am just amazed. I was fueled with utterly absurd and baseless feelings, and yet somehow you were able to break through that and remind me of my testimony, the way in which you have walked with me, the way in which the people around me have loved me and wanted only the best for me. Lord, indeed you have been faithful, and you have given me many people who are like Paul to me, who have shown themselves to have nothing but self-sacrificing love, and my history with those people has served to break me out of my pride-filled, emotional craziness so many times. Thank you for bringing such people into my life, and thank you for always reminding me to recount the ways in which I have been saved from many dangers and snares, the ways in which I have been guided in love and led to a deeply meaningful life. I pray that I might not only continue to place my faith in you but that I would also be used as your vehicle to love others in the same way, to bring the truth of your gospel to them and that somehow I would have a testimony similar to Paul’s, one where love can cut through all the misguided thoughts that Satan devises.

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