Through the Bible with Les Feldick
LESSON 2 * PART 1 * BOOK 30
PAUL, OUR APOSTLE DEFENDING HIS APOSTLESHIP
In our last lesson we finished I Corinthians 15 and 16. So as we come into II Corinthians I’ll have to give a little bit of background. I think it will help you get a little better understanding of the Scriptures if you understand the circumstances under which it was written, as well as who wrote it, and one of the most important is to whom was it written. Of course most of you understand now that I stress that the Apostle Paul is the apostle of the Gentiles, and that’s what he was called specifically to be. We will look at verses pertaining to that.
“But the Lord said unto him, (Ananias) `Go thy way: for he is a chosen vessel unto me, to bear my name before the Gentiles,…'”
“For I (Paul) speak to you Gentiles, inasmuch as I am the apostle of the Gentiles, I magnify mine office:”
And in that role as the apostle to the Gentiles when he writes he is writing primarily to Gentile believers. Remember most of the Old Testament and the Four Gospel accounts were directed to the Nation of Israel and the Jew. So this makes a vast difference in comprehending the Scriptures, and whenever you read The Bible ask yourself, “To whom is this being addressed? Here Paul is writing the second letter to the congregation at Corinth on the tip of Greece. And as we saw in the first letter to the Corinthians, they were a carnal church. They were one of the congregations that had just not begun to grow and develop the deeper things of Paul’s teachings.
Also remember that there were four distinct divisions. Some said “that they followed Christ and His teachings.” Another group of these believers said, “No, we followed Peter.”And another group said, “Well we follow Apollos, he’s the man that we look up to.” And then there was the fourth part of the congregation that said, “We follow the Apostle Paul, because it was through him we heard the Gospel of Salvation for the first time, it was through him we became believers so it’s Paul that we will follow.” So these four groups caused a lot dissension and a lot of grief to Paul. They just did not grow spiritually. Also remember in the first letter, these believers had sent Paul a long letter of questions of how they were to handle all these various problems, and we dealt with that as we came up through I Corinthians.
One of the problems he dealt with in Chapter 5 was gross immorality. That was a grief to the apostle to think that a believer would stoop to such a low level, and the church wasn’t addressing it. The reason I mention that is here in II Corinthians Paul is going to seemingly give us the idea that a lot of these things are now corrected. So evidently his first letter did not fall on deaf ears. Again you want to remember that the second letter was probably written in a matter of months, probably within a year from the first. So there’s been time enough elapsed that they could clean up their act.
Now in the first six chapters of this letter Paul is more or less dealing with the defense of his apostleship. I’m always referring to that. Every time that you get into Paul’s writing he has to defend his apostleship. Now if you can understand the background you can see why. You want to remember that all during Christ’s earthly ministry, Jesus had dealt only with Peter and the eleven, and after His death, burial, and resurrection and you come into the Book of Acts, it’s still Peter and the eleven. But here is that other Jew, Saul of Tarsus who in the meantime is doing everything that he can to destroy this element of Judaism that had believed that Jesus was the Messiah. So Saul the great persecutor, the one who reaped havoc among the early Jewish believers is now the one that God has commissioned, after saving him by Grace on the road to Damascus. This is the one that is being sent out into the pagan Gentile, Roman empire with the Gospel of Grace.
Now it stands to reason if you all understand religion. I’m running into it even from our television audience where people’s eyes are opened after being steeped in one religion or another. And it’s not easy; I’m the first one to empathize with that situation. When they’ve had something drilled into them ever since they’ve been old enough to listen, then all of a sudden have someone like myself perhaps come along and show from the Scriptures that they’ve been taught totally wrong for so long, then it’s not an easy situation. We’ve had people call and say, “Les this is the toughest thing I’ve ever had to do, but I can see that you’re right on from the Scriptures.”
Well the Apostle Paul was in that same situation. Now as he goes out among the Gentile cities and he’s calling out, by virtue of preaching the Gospel (I Corinthians 15:1-4), a people for the Name of Christ, these Jews, whether they were part of the believing element or whether they were totally still in Judaism, constantly came back to the fact that, “You never walked with Jesus like Peter did. You’re just an upstart, you’re just bringing all this on your own.” Well under those kinds of attacks what does Paul have to do? He has to defend his apostleship, and over and over he has to refer to the fact that he has suffered and suffered some more so that the Gentiles could get this message of Grace that had been revealed to him by the risen Lord. So this is basically the whole theme of these first six chapters, that he is again defending his apostleship, showing to the Corinthians all that he has to go through for the sake of the Gospel.
But this doesn’t shock us because we know – in fact I’m going to take you back to the Book of Acts for a moment to Chapter 9. I’m afraid that there are a lot of people today that are still treating Paul the same way that the early Churches did. They were prompted by the Judaisers, and I hope you all understand what I’m talking about when I say a Judaiser. A Judaiser was a believer that believed for salvation that Jesus was the Christ, he was saved under that Kingdom Gospel. But they still did not comprehend “The Grace Of God” and that the Law had now been satisfied and totally set aside. So the Judaisers were constantly following in Paul’s footsteps telling his converts, “Now wait a minute, you can’t be saved on just Paul’s Gospel alone, you still have to practice Judaism (Ref. Acts 15:1-5) You have to be circumcised, you must keep the Law, and so on. And that just about drove the Apostle Paul up the wall, and so he suffered because of that. But now back here in Acts Chapter 9 let’s start with verse 13. Now here we’re in Damascus, and Ananias, a believing Jew, is being approached supernaturally by The Lord from glory. And The Lord is warning Ananias that Saul of Tarsus is in town and that they would meet.
“Then Ananias answered, `Lord, I have heard by many of this man, how much evil he hath done to thy saints at Jerusalem: And here he hath authority from the chief priests to bind all that call on thy name.’ (that is Jesus of Nazareth The Messiah) But the Lord said unto him, (Ananias) `Go thy way: for he is a chosen vessel unto me, to bear my name before the Gentiles, and kings, and the children of Israel. For I will shew him how great things he must suffer for my name’s sake.'”
As I was again reviewing all this, getting ready for the program, I couldn’t help but think about a book that hit the best seller list several years ago, and I think it was written by a Jewish individual. The title of the book is “Why Do Bad Things Happen To Good People?“ You may remember the book. Well that’s always the question. Even when some of our number is suddenly stricken, and the first thing that hits our mind is, “Why do these bad things happen to believers especially, and many times to unbelievers, but they’re good people?” I’m also sure that the apostle must have had those thoughts many, many times. “Here I am sold out to Christ, I am beating the bushes of the Gentile community for the sake of the Gospel,” and how he suffered. Not just physically at the hands of his enemies, but even in the area of sickness. Evidently as he left Ephesus and was in his second missionary journey under terrible persecution, and pressure because of the silversmiths, he gets deathly sick. We’re going to see this in Acts Chapter 1 where he actually thought that he was not going to live. Yet he had that burden of the millions of unreached in the Roman Empire that he thought he was going to have to minister to. And on top of that, we’ll see here in II Corinthians how was beaten with rods, how many times he was shipwrecked, how many times he was cold, naked, hungry, and in prison. This was all for the sake of the Gospel. I just have to remind folks of this because even today there are so many people that almost ridicule the writings of the Apostle Paul. So actually what it amounts to is, “People today are no different than they were in 60 AD. People don’t change, their attitudes stay the same.”
As another introduction to II Corinthians I can take you back to II Timothy, and just imagine how this must have grieved, and broken the heart of this apostle who had now spent twenty-some years through all of these hardships, through all of these sufferings. Probably, he had very little of the comforts of life, and then had to, under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, make this kind of statement that we’ll see. It has boggled my mind as long as I’ve been teaching this Book. How the apostle must have been brokenhearted to have to write something like this in II Timothy. Paul is writing to a young man who had labored with him in the ministry and who is now a pastor.
II Timothy 1:13,14a
“Hold fast the form of sound words, which thou hast heard of me, in faith and love which is in Christ Jesus. That good thing…”
In the Greek the word `things’ as we see here means the deposit. And the deposit was the volume of truth that we refer to in Paul’s letters as the mysteries. So Paul is telling Timothy to hang onto this doctrine of the mysteries that was revealed to him by the ascended Lord which I have now left these mysteries with you. Now reading on.
II Timothy 1:14
“That good thing which was committed unto thee keep by the Holy Ghost which dwelleth in us.” Now look at verse 15. Imagine that poor man having to write a statement like this, and Paul was not lying.
II Timothy 1:15
“This thou knowest, that all they which are in Asia (in Paul’s terminology Asia was the western half of Turkey in the area where he established so many churches.) be turned away from me; of whom are Phygellus and Hermogenes. (the leaders)
What’s he saying? All these congregations that he had founded in his Gospel of Grace, and in the knowledge of the mysteries had now turned aside. It’s really heart wrenching to think that the poor fellow had gone all those years going though such privation and yet have to come to that conclusion. When I read things like this I’m always amazed but for the Grace of God Christianity would have never gotten off the ground. It was constantly under Satanic attack. You and I have to just thank The Lord that it survived and that we today at least have the Word of God. Even today the truth of the fundamentals of Christianity are under constant attack, from within Christendom and from without. So we get a little taste of what Paul is talking about. Maybe that’s enough introduction. II Corinthians was probably written about 60 AD and I Corinthians was probably written about a year earlier. Also remember II Corinthians was written two years after the letter to the Galatians. I’ll be going back to that to show you that what Paul dealt with in the Galatian letter had already taken place quite some time before he wrote this letter of II Corinthians.
II Corinthians 1:1-4
“Paul, an apostle of Jesus Christ by the will of God, (Paul was set apart by God Himself) and Timothy our brother, unto the church of God which is at Corinth, with all the saints which are in all Achaia: (southern Greece) Grace be to you and peace from the Lord Jesus Christ. Blessed be God, even the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies, and the God of all comfort; Who comforteth (encourages) us in all our tribulation, that we may be able to comfort them which are in any trouble, by the comfort wherewith we ourselves are comforted of God.”
In other words even for us believers today as we go through trying and testing times we have that promise that God is going to be a constant encouragement. And here again this is the answer to the question, “Why do bad things happen to good people?” Well I think it’s so that God can show us that He’s sufficient. You know when someone comes along and promises you a rose petal pathway if you become a Christian, then you just chalk it off as false teaching, because that has never been the theme of Scripture. In fact I’ve made the comment before, “The Christian life is like paddling a canoe up stream.” It’s one of the toughest jobs on earth. A sissy cannot be a Christian, because it’s a constant battle against all the forces of Satan and the world itself. But we have these promises that as we go through these times of testing and discouragement The Lord God Himself is going to encourage us. Now reading on.
II Corinthians 1:5-7
“For as the sufferings of Christ abound in us, (Paul is speaking of his own experience) so our consolation also aboundeth by Christ. (The same Lord that permits persecution and testing to come into the life is the same Lord that will provide the strength we need to go through it.) And whether we be afflicted, it is for your consolation and salvation, which is effectual in the enduring of the same sufferings which we also suffer: or where we be comforted, it is for your consolation and salvation. And our hope of you is stedfast, knowing, that as ye are partakers of the sufferings, so shall ye be also of the consolation.”
Now another thing we have to remember is that all of the early believers under the Roman yoke were immediately under persecution. They couldn’t walk up and down the street and glibly talk about their Christian faith. They were under constant surveillance, and the Roman Empire at one time actually tried to stamp out Christianity. So to become a believer under Paul’s preaching and teaching actually was an invitation to persecution. How many would buy that today? So remember, although these early believer were under constant pressure they also had that promise that The Lord Who was permitting the affliction and pressure was also The Lord Who had the strength to bring them through it. Now verse 8:
II Corinthians 1:8
“For we would not, brethren, have you ignorant of our trouble which came to us in Asia, that we were pressed out of measure, above strength, insomuch that we despaired even of life:”Can you imagine that? What was Paul talking about? He didn’t think that he would live to finish his ministry. Whether it was a physical sickness, or outside pressure from the various forces that I’ve already alluded to, whether it was the Romans, or the Judaisers, he would almost come to the place where he would despair even of life. Now verse 9:
II Corinthians 1:9-10
“But we had the sentence of death in ourselves, that we should not trust in ourselves, but in God which raiseth the dead: Who delivered us from so great a death, and doth deliver: in whom we trust that he will yet deliver us:”
The apostle Paul must have had much the same kind of mental attitude regarding his trials and tribulations as they pertained to the resurrection, as Peter and the other disciple must have had at the time of the crucifixion. Let’s reflect back for a moment. After Jesus’ arrest and as He was placed on the Cross, where were those eleven men? They had pretty much scattered like a flock of quail. They were practically running for their lives because they were seeing what was happening to their Master. But do you remember when their attitude totally changed? After His resurrection! Now they understood that there was nothing that could touch that eternal part of them because if The Lord had been resurrected they would be also. So Paul is going through that same kind of a mindset knowing that the crucified Christ had been raised from the dead. They could take his life, so what, but they can’t end his spirit life. So I think this is what he is constantly referring to that even the resurrection power of Christ would keep him even through the trials and tribulations of his physical life.
II Corinthians 1:11
“Ye also helping together by prayer for us, that for the gift bestowed upon us by the means of many persons thanks may be given by many on our behalf.” In other words Paul then, and like we do today, realized what really sustained him in his ministry. The prayers of the saints! Never fail to pray for one another. Pray for us, and others in the ministry that God is using to reach hearts. Remember prayer changes things. Now verse 12:
II Corinthians 1:12
“For our rejoicing is this, the testimony of our conscience, that in simplicity and godly sincerity, not with fleshly wisdom, but by the grace of God, we have had our conversation (or manner of living) in the world, and more abundantly to you-ward.” (who are in Corinth).
What’s Paul saying? What he has said over and over in his other letters. “He did not come to the city of Corinth with a bunch of flippant statements and silly ideas, or a lot of gimmicky, or fifth avenue advertising, but he came with all the sincerity and desires of his heart that he might see these pagan people come out of their pagan darkness and step into the light of the glorious Gospel.” So Paul is going to refer to that over and over, that he didn’t come selling his cheap wares, but rather he came with all the sincerity of heart that he might see them believe. Now for a moment let’s turn to I Thessalonians Chapter 1. And this is typical of every place that Paul ministered.
I Thessalonians 1:9
“For they themselves shew of us what manner of entering in we had unto you, and how ye turned to God from idols to serve the living and true God:”