Tag Archives: 2 Corinthians

All Things Die

Each week as we prepared to move we set aside bags and boxes of things to be donated or trashed. Things that we no longer needed or had fully served their useful life.

English: While my shed gently rusts. Cooler ou...
Decaying shed. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Electronic equipment stops working. Clothes fray at their edges. Paint peels. Glass breaks or chips. Wood warps. Metal rusts.

Given enough time even mountains will wash away to the sea.

Nothing is permanent. All things wear out or break down. Nothing is exempt.

But what about people? Each day from the day we are conceived cells die and are absorbed by other cells. For most people, until our early twenties, the growth of new cells out paces older cells. But as we age beyond thirty increasingly we lose agility, strength, reflexes, creativity and the ability to recall information. Great gymnasts are seldom more than teenagers. Great athletes seldom older than thirty. Inventors typically achieve success in their forties. We fall victim to presbyopiapresbycusis, and dementia as our eyesight, hearing and cognition fade with age.

Yet there is more to life than meets the eye, more than science can measure. As we age we become increasingly aware of our connections with all people, with all things, and with God. Our past sufferings become lessons learned for future losses including the loss of life. We begin to recognize God in all things: in the good and beautiful as well as in the ugly and painful.

So we do not lose heart. Even though our outer nature is wasting away, our inner nature is being renewed day by day. For this slight momentary affliction is preparing us for an eternal weight of glory beyond all measure, because we look not at what can be seen but at what cannot be seen; for what can be seen is temporary, but what cannot be seen is eternal. For we know that if the earthly tent we live in is destroyed, we have a building from God, a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens.
— 2 Corrinthians 4:16 – 5:1

Everything Has Become New

I love that the New Year begins in winter.Snow covered lawn and shrubs

This morning a fresh layer of snow covers the bare branches and dried plants from last year. Only a hope for a new beginning remains visible. A hope that this year our maple tree will push forth healthier leaves. A hope for ripe tomatoes, crisp spinach, and pungent basil.

Nature demonstrates for me my hopes for the coming year, that my experiences from the previous year will be put behind and fresh opportunities and relationships will blossom. The changing of the calendar reminds me to take inventory of that I wish to hold onto and things I might avoid should they arise again.

Shedding of what has been with renewed hope for what might be warrants celebration with cheering and song and good food so we might joyously thank friends and family and especially God our creator for renewal in the coming year.

So if anyone is in Christ, there is a new creation:
everything old has passed away;
see, everything has become new!
– 2 Corinthians 5:17

June 17th: “New Love”

The Christ event has permanently changed how believers see the world and with grace, we show our love to thank God. —

This Week’s Passage: 2 Corinthians 5:6-10 (11-13) 14-17

I. Establish the text

D. Brainstorm: What questions/thoughts come to mind?

6 “So we are always confident,” begs an introduction. Like much of Paul’s writings, a reading short enough to consider on a Sunday morning necessitates jumping into the middle of a longer argument. This picks up after an exhortation of confidence in an eternal building, despite groaning over an earthly tent.

8 Was Paul struggling with suicide over a chronic physical ailment?

9-10 This could easily lead to works righteousness.

11-13 An aside for those in Corinth.

14-15 Substitutionary atonement, becomes grace when combined with striving to please God (v 10).

16 What does Paul mean by regarding someone “according to the flesh”?

17 Forgiveness of sins = new creation!

E. Reconsider where the text begins and ends: What got chopped out?

  • The chapter has a chiastic structure with v. 17 as its kernel. Using the verses after 17 as a guide, there is a shift in topic in verse 9 from bodily to spiritual renewal. Thus starting at verse 10 and including 11-13 allows for a succinct argument that culminates at verse 17.

III. Question the text.

C. What is the center of gravity of the text? Where was the author heading? What question did the author intend to answer? What is the emotional center of the text? What music would it call for?

  • Center of Gravity: Christ urges us to act justly, as we can ignore our former selves and sins.
  • Emotional Center: Everything old has passed away, everything has become new!
  • Music: “Hear the Good New of Salvation!”

D. Look for conflict: stated or implied.

  • We receive our punishment for sins, death, in Christ.

F. How will this text be heard by individuals in the congregation, including the preacher?

  • A sermon on this passage could help clarify verse 17 as used for assurance of pardon.

IV. What do the commentaries have to say about the text?

Ralph Martin (Word Biblical Commentary: 2 Corinthians. Word, 1986.) divides the chapter into three sections: 1-10 – The Heavenly Dwelling, 11-15 – Motives for Paul’s Preaching and Living, and 16-21 – Living in the New Age. Martin perceives that Paul was motivated by “fear of the Lord” and is compelled to live dedicated wholly to God. [/fobon/ can also be translated as terror, fear, awe or amazement or deference.]

J. Paul Sampley (The New Interpreter’s Bible, “Second Letter to the Corinthians”. Abingdon, 2000.) considers the text in two large blocks: 4:7-5:10 – Paul’s Ministry Sustained Through Affliction and Mortality, and 5:11-6:10 – Paul’s Ministry of Reconciliation. He interprets “fear of the Lord,” citing OT passages, as “faithfulness.” He concurs with Martin that “out of our mind” as an ecstatic experience, possibly glossolalia. He explains “according to the flesh,” as assuming the resurrection had not occurred and that the standards of judgment had not been radically altered. Thus believers can no longer consider anyone according to the flesh for they themselves have been radically altered as well. He reflects: “From the moment of Christ’s death, everyone, everyone, has value [to God]. The problem rests with us.” To illustrate our response to the transformative event he writes: “Consider the first time you thought you were in love with someone. Odds are you could not contain yourself – or better yet, you could not contain the love you felt. Christ’s love for us is not different in its effect. Christ’s love not only claims us for God, but also pushes us out toward others.”

V. With respect to the hearers (including the preacher), What does this text want to say and do?

Those times when my sermons were best received,
when parishioners came up and said: “I felt you were preaching directly to me,”
were those times when I was preaching to myself. — Rabbi Chet Diamond

A. What is the theological meaning of the verses?

The Christ event has permanently changed how believers see the world and with grace, we show our love to thank God.

B. Focus Statement: Central, controlling, unifying theme.

God loves you! How do you show love to others?

June 10th: “Seeing Tomorrow from Today”

Although our outward appearances are flimsy, we rejoice in our assurance of restoration through Christ, to perfect communion with God.

This Week’s Passage: 2 Corinthians 4:13 – 5:1

I. Establish the text

D. Brainstorm: What questions/thoughts come to mind?

4:13 What is Paul quoting? [Psalm 115:1 LXX] How does the context of this quote affect its meaning?

14 Is Paul merely speaking eschatologically, or does resurrection to newness of life have implications in this life as well?

15 If we are raised to new life and gathered into God’s presence in this life, we will demonstrate it in how we live each day, drawing others to also experience God’s mercy and grace.

16-18 Consider the testimonies of those who are most feeble. Strengthening of their spirits and souls out shines their illnesses and infirmities.

5:1 What if we lived each day, acknowledging our flimsy physical existence and confident of an eternal abode in heaven? How do we exhibit the reverse: placing confidence in physical health and deriding as ephemeral life in heaven?

E. Reconsider where the text begins and ends: What got chopped out?

  • Paul’s body-tent illustration echoes a clay jar illustration that began at 4:7 and continues through 5:10.
  • Exhibiting newness of life is a major theme that ties the whole letter together.

F. Are there any significant variants in the manuscripts? Why?

14 A few newer manuscripts replace /sun Iasou/ [with Jesus] with /dia Iasou/ [through Jesus] potentially spiritualizing Jesus risen presence.

II. Literary Study.

A. What is the history of the text? Who wrote it? When? In what social context? What Historical/Religious/Sociological factors influenced its writing?

  • The epistle was written by Paul to the congregation at Corinth. At least chapters 1-7 were written in response to a report from Titus of their response to an earlier severe letter, possibly 2 Corinthians 10-13. Chapters 8-9 might be part of another letter (or letters) on stewardship. Verse 6:14 – 7:1 appear to be an inclusion from an earlier letter.
  • This passage occurs in the middle of a larger section in which Paul asserted his authority and credibility to minister.

B. What parallel passages exist? How do they differ? How does this author’s intent differ from other authors? Is the text used elsewhere?

  • Psalm 116:10 “I was faithful to you when I was suffering,”

C. Review syntax/meanings of critical words, phrases, idioms

/Egeirw/ – to excite, to arouse, to awaken, to restore to health, and to raise (from the dead). Resurrection would further diminish other meanings, and hence implications for being aroused in this life for the sake of the gospel. In verse 14, Paul used the aorist, rather than simple past or past perfect, emphasizing the continuing implications of Jesus’ resurrection.

17 – REB, TEV, CEV and NIV interpret God’s glory as outweighing present troubles. NAB and NJB interpret our present troubles as earning an eternal weight of glory. RSV and NRSV translate present afflictions as preparing for the eternal weight of glory.

D. What is the literary style of the text? And how does it affect the reading? What does a poetic form do to the meaning? Lament/Praise/Petition? Any subtle variations in the repetitions? What is emphasized/minimized by the repetition?

Lawyerly Rhetoric! Several commentaries consider this passage the center or kernel of chapters 1 – 7 which exhibit a chiastic structure.

III. Question the text.

C. What is the center of gravity of the text? Where was the author heading? What question did the author intend to answer? What is the emotional center of the text? What music would it call for?

  • Center of Gravity: Do not be consumed with the afflictions of this life, but look for permanence in what cannot be seen yet is permanent.
  • Emotional Center: Everything is for your sakes.
  • Music: “My Hope Is Built on Nothing Less”

D. Look for conflict: stated or implied.

  • We are to rely on that which cannot be seen and touched, for the physical is transitory. But heaven, which cannot be verified by physical means, is eternal.

F. How will this text be heard by individuals in the congregation, including the preacher?

  • Death can easily be perceived as the cure for the afflictions of this life, thus newness would happen in the life to come. But the verbs Paul selected have present implications.

IV. What do the commentaries have to say about the text?

Floyd V. Filson (The Interpreter’s Bible, Exegesis of 2 Corinthians 4:13-16. Abingdon, Nashville, 1953.) discerns four factors that upheld and sustained Paul in his ministry: belief in one Spirit (v. 13); that God will raise him up (v. 14); concern for the people (v. 15); and that grace may increase (v. 15). He also interprets Paul’s understanding of the inward and outward person dualistically (body and spirit) (v. 16).

Ernest Best (Interpretation: Second Corinthians. John Knox Press, Louisville, 1987.) argues that Paul is not speaking dualistically, but that the outer nature is the way people live among others and the inner nature is new life in Christ. Thus Paul is not looking forward to being with Christ after his death, but looking forward to Christ coming in his own lifetime.

William Baird (Knox Preaching Guides: 1 Corinthians / 2 Corinthians. John Knox Press, Atlanta, 1980.) dispenses with attempting to discern if Paul was speaking of rising eschatologically or in this life and recommends focusing on assurance that God will take care of us both now and in the eschaton, for people of faith do not need secure and visible rules for guides, but can hope for the unseen.

V. With respect to the hearers (including the preacher), What does this text want to say and do?

Those times when my sermons were best received,
when parishioners came up and said: “I felt you were preaching directly to me,”
were those times when I was preaching to myself. — Rabbi Chet Diamond

A. What is the theological meaning of the verses?

Paul directed the reader’s attention away from the trials and tribulations of earthly existence to the building of the spirit through these trials.

B. Focus Statement: Central, controlling, unifying theme.

Although our outward appearances are flimsy, we rejoice in our assurance of restoration through Christ, to perfect communion with God.

C. Function Statement: What change in the hearer?

Shift in focus from flimsy physical structures to firm heavenly structures.

March 18th: “Forgive Yourself”

This Week’s Passage: 2 Corinthians 5:16-21

Highlights: No longer look at people as merely human beings, but use Christ’s divine perspective to see what they are in Christ, so they might also be reconciled to Christ.

I. Establish the text

C. Other texts for Year B for 4thSunday in Lent

D. Brainstorm: What questions/thoughts come to mind?

16 Accepting Christ results in a transformation, a metamorphosis of believers from mere creatures, to divine beings who can truly know Christ.

17 The use of this verse as an assurance of pardon obscures other meanings.

18-20 Not only are we made new, but we are given the opportunity to bring reconciliation to others. Believers are promoted directly from outcast to ambassador!

21 We are not justified by what we nor, what we do but what God has done in Christ.

II. Literary Study.

E. What is the context of the passage, and the book?

  • Previous paragraph discusses Paul’s motivation for saving others.
  • In the following paragraph Paul argues for not waiting until later.

III. Question the text.

C. What is the center of gravity of the text? Where was the author heading? What question did the author intend to answer? What is the emotional center of the text? What music would it call for?

  • Center of Gravity: No longer look at people as merely human beings, but use Christ’s divine perspective to see what they are in Christ, so they might also be reconciled to Christ.
  • Music: “Hear the Good News of Salvation”

F. How will this text be heard by individuals in the congregation, including the preacher?

  • Becoming a new creation in Christ is a transformational event. Everything prior to this event is insignificant. After this event, we can perceive and participate in God reconciling all of creation, including ourselves.

IV. What do the commentaries have to say about the text?

Ralph Martin (Word Biblical Commentary: 2 Corinthians. Word Incorporated, 1986.) translates verse 16 as “Therefore from now we judge no one from an outward point of view. Though we may have judged Christ from such a viewpoint, now we do so no longer.” Martin perceives Paul as offering reasons for his apostolic conduct: (1) inhabiting a new world in Christ, and (2) God’s reconciliation. He notes a structural parallel between verses 18 and 19, which verses 20 & 21 reverse, that Paul used to stress that God reconciled us/the world for administering God’s message of reconciliation. He cautions against reducing verse 17 to becoming a new creature.

J. Paul Sampley (The New Interpreter’s Bible, “Second Letter to the Corinthians”. Abingdon, 2000.) considers the lectionary passage within 5:11- 6:10, which he titles: “Paul’s Ministry of Reconciliation.” Commenting on 5:16 he writes: “Christ’s death is the transformative event for all of life. Nothing is the same after that.” People should “no longer live for themselves but for the one who died and was raised for them.” … “To consider anyone simply from the flesh (kata sarka) is to view that person as if the fundamentally transformative resurrection of Christ had not taken place – and as if the norms or standards of judgment had not therein been radically altered.” He note several instances when this passage picks up themes from Romans 8. He reflects: “Reconciliation is at the heart of life’s business.”

William Baird (Knox Preaching Guides:1 Corinthians, 2 Corinthians. John Knox Press, 1980.) suggests as a sermon theme: “the new perspective of faith.” He notes that in 2 Maccabees people engaged in religious practices in order to reconcile themselves to God. “Paul turns this understanding inside out: Instead of people reconciling God to themselves, God reconciles people to himself.”

V. With respect to the hearers (including the preacher), What does this text want to say and do?

Those times when my sermons were best received,
when parishioners came up and said: “I felt you were preaching directly to me,”
were those times when I was preaching to myself. — Rabbi Chet Diamond

C. Function Statement: What change in the hearer?

No longer look at people as merely human beings, but use Christ’s divine perspective to see what they are in Christ, so they might also be reconciled to Christ. And include oneself among those whom God is reconciling to himself.

February 19th: “Open the Jar”

This Week’s Passage: 2 Corinthians 4:3-7

Highlights: How we live and preach illustrates not our lives, but the glory of Christ who shines through us. Hearers are inspired to let the light of the gospel shine through them.

I. Establish the text

C. Other texts for Year B for Sunday, February 19thin Ordinary Time

D. Brainstorm: What questions/thoughts come to mind?

2 What “shameful things” did Paul hide? How did his opponents distort God’s word? When has/does the Church distort God word? Do we skew our presentation of the gospel to build up the visible church?

3-4 Vociferous anti-religious comments on news articles even tangentially related to faith testify to the failure of the church to clearly present God’s grace to those who are perishing and the veiling of God’s word by the god of this world.

5 Building up Christ reflects well on those unconcerned about personal or organizational success.

6 What is Paul quoting? Is this an allusion to a hymn also cited in John 1:5?

7 Did Paul want us associate a light in clay jars with Gideon’s hiding torches in clay jars when the LORD defeated the Midianites? Judges 7 clearly portrays the glory of God as delivering victory and not the power of Israel.

E. Reconsider where the text begins and ends: What got chopped out?

  • Preceding paragraph compares the veiling of the glory of God in the old law with freedom in Christ as illustrated by the veil that Moses wore to ally the fear of the Israelites.
  • Paul’s rhetoric is complicated! Limiting the pericope to verses 3-7 helps to focus and clarify the material. The preacher will need to provide background to the themes Paul has introduced.
  • Following this passage, Paul unpacks what he means by a treasure in clay jars, underscoring human frailty and the glory of Gods’ word.

F. Are there any significant variants in the manuscripts? Why?

  • Does verse 6 end: “in the face of Christ” or “in the face of Jesus Christ” or “in the face of Christ Jesus”? If Paul had omitted the word “Jesus”, scribes may have added it either before or after the word “Christ” to emphasize the incarnation, which would be consistent with the rest of the paragraph.

II. Literary Study.

A. What is the history of the text? Who wrote it? When? In what social context? What Historical/Religious/Sociological factors influenced its writing?

  • This letter follows a harsh letter that the Corinthians had received from Paul. It explains why Paul canceled a visit he had planned. It alludes to Paul’s fear that his presence would sadden the Corinthians and someone who was punished, but now should be forgiven.

C. Review syntax/meanings of critical words, phrases, idioms

  • The veiling of the gospel alludes to Moses veiling his face (see Exodus 34:29-35). After speaking with God, Moses’ face shone brightly, creating fear among the people. Paul may have been accused of veiling the gospel. Paul does not deny the presence of a veil, but attributes it to the blindness of unbelievers.

III. Question the text.

C. What is the center of gravity of the text? Where was the author heading? What question did the author intend to answer? What is the emotional center of the text? What music would it call for?

  • Center of Gravity: Any opacity of the preaching the gospel comes from the blindness of unbelievers.
  • Emotional Center: The brilliance of God’s word transcends the frailty of those entrusted to carry it.
  • Music: “Arise Your Light Has Come”, “Lift High the Cross”, “Holy Spirit, Truth Divine”

D. Look for conflict: stated or implied.

  • Foolishness of entrusting treasure to clay jars rather than a safe.

F. How will this text be heard by individuals in the congregation, including the preacher?

  • The rhetoric of verses 1-6 is too convoluted for modern ears, but it is essential to unpacking verse 7.

IV. What do the commentaries have to say about the text?

J. Paul Sampley (The New Interpreter’s Bible, “The Second Letter to the Corinthians”. Abingdon, 2000.) treats all of chapter 3 and the first 6 verses of chapter 4 as one pericope. He comments that Paul freely interlaces from the story of Moses and the law chiseled onto stone tablets (Exodus 34:29-35) and Jeremiah’s prophecy of God writing a new covenant upon human hearts (Jeremiah 31:31-34). Similarly, Sampley sees in 4:1-6 Paul contrasting his use of the gospel with the preaching of his opponents.

Ralph Martin (Word Biblical Commentary: 2 Corinthians. Word, 1986.) dismisses the idea that the treasure in clay jars has any dependencies on Judges 7:16-20 and favors relating the fragility of clay vessels, especially clay lamps, to human fragility. He offers an illustration that wine cannot “be stored in golden or sliver vessels, but only in the least among vessels, an earthenware one, so also the Torah can be kept only with one who is humble in his own eyes.”

William Baird (Knox Preaching Guides: 1 Corinthians | 2 Corinthians. JKP, 1980.) sees Paul paraphrasing Genesis 1:3-4 when he says “It is God who said, ‘Let light shine out of darkness.’”

V. With respect to the hearers (including the preacher), What does this text want to say and do?

Those times when my sermons were best received,
when parishioners came up and said: “I felt you were preaching directly to me,”
were those times when I was preaching to myself. — Rabbi Chet Diamond

A. What is the theological meaning of the verses?

How we live and preach illustrates not our lives, but the glory of Christ who shines through us.

C. Function Statement: What change in the hearer?

Hearers are inspired to let the light of the gospel shine through them.