John 20:11-18 tells of Mary Magdalene encountering the risen Jesus. In this account, we see Jesus' consoling love that is simple and profound.
Psalm 50 describes a courtroom drama, where the setting includes a judge, defendant, prosecution, witnesses, and defense. This and similar Old Testament passages are called covenant lawsuits. God is bringing charges against the nation of Israel.
The god of this world seeks to eliminate Christ's influence, which causes even more feelings of crisis and pressure for Christians. Believers are citizens of a greater country, and they walk according to its mission. This can cause conflict with the world.
C.H. Spurgeon wrote in Lectures to My Students, "Cautious hesitancy is, in 9 cases out of 10, cowardly betrayal. The best policy is never to be diplomatic but to proclaim every atom of the truth of God's Word so far as God has taught it to you."
Paul continues to protect the Corinthian church with humility and transparency, pouring himself out so they will avoid spiritual relapse. He does not want them to entertain those seeking to pull them away from the sufficiency of Christ.
Remember that this whole section of 2 Corinthians 8-9 is bookended by grace. In 2 Corinthians 9:6-8, God is mentioned repeatedly, and His work is cause for rejoicing. When God is at the controls of our lives, He will care for those who share resources because they care for His cause. If we want to know the full capability of God's grace, we will meditate on Christ's riches generously shared with us. His divine reciprocity was given for a cause.
2 Corinthians 8:7-8 discusses the position of a believer. As they are grown by grace, they will exhibit a series of virtues, of which giving is the last that Paul lists. These virtues work together and are only the result of God's work. Paul compliments the Corinthians and assumes they will keep growing.
The occasion for Paul’s writing this and other letters to the Corinthians was to address a sin issue. His secondary purpose was to restore their relationships. All this was for the ultimate purpose of enabling Gospel progress to continue. There is no Gospel progress unless Christians are right with the Lord and each other in the local church.
1 Corinthians is a letter to a church that found itself in the most influential and cosmopolitan city of its day. Yet this was a troubled church. The church received the gospel, but it was not governed by it. In many practical ways, the church was governed by culturally-derived mottos rather than mature reflection on the gospel and its implications for life.
Paul is writing the young pastor Titus to help his ministry in Crete. The first 2 chapters of his letter are about structure and relationships within the church (Titus 1-2). Chapter 3 begins with addressing a Christian's attitude toward those in authority (verse 1) and how to relate to those who don’t know Christ (verse 2). Titus 3:3-11 instruct us how to function among those who don’t know Christ, both outside the church and inside. Sadly, there will always be those even in the church who profess Christ but do not truly know Him.
God’s nature is unity (Deuteronomy 6:4). When we are baptized into Christ, we are one with Him and with each other spiritually (John 17:11, 20-22). David and Solomon both praised the importance of unity among God’s people (Psalm 133:1, Proverbs 6:17-19). Anyone who dismisses the unity God has created and spreads strife unnecessarily is considered an abomination. The job of believers in the church is to maintain the unity of the Spirit in peace (Ephesians 4:3, Philippians 4:2). God’s people love what God has provided and persevere in unity.
As Paul continues to write according to his theme of ministry integrity, he turns to the quality of Christian relationships. This is one way people can suffer in a local church. When they are persuaded that Jesus is not enough, their relationships inside the church struggle, and they don't know how to develop redemptive relationships in the community. When unsure of the permanence of their relationship with God, then people have no foundation from which to build other relationships and no message of how the Gospel changed them.
2 Corinthians 3:4-6 compares a life lived under the Law with a life lived under grace. Paul knew the Corinthians had begun to lose their Gospel influence when they began embracing the false message of the Judaizers. The Law, even though divinely given, could not transform a person. No standard can change a heart. Its splendor is to convict.
The only way to minister with integrity is to have relationships continually maintained by God's Word. This must include forgiving those who have offended us.
Spiritual togetherness is another way to say "unity." Believers will be spiritually one as we understand who God is and who we are in Christ. We should not want to live life alone.
Love is talked about often during the Christmas season. The love of God in our hearts produces hope (Romans 5:5). The Holy Spirit instructs us about God's love. The gifts given by the Holy Spirit are to be lived out in love (1 Corinthians 13:1-13 and 1 Peter 4:9-11). It is God Himself who teaches us to love (1 Thessalonians 4:9-10).
We have been studying Paul's instructions on weak and strong Christians. (See previous sermons on this chapter.) Romans 14:13-23 gives guidelines for considerate people within a church that is unified, healthy, and growing.This is how we maintain unity among Spirit-filled people.
How do groups of believers who are growing at different rates remain considerate of each other in the body of Christ? This is imperative if we are to display the love of a unified family to a watching world!
Romans 12-16 practically applies the doctrine of chapters 1-11. How do we practically apply doctrine in our culture, in our personal lives, home, vocation, and communities? There is a divine progression from Romans 12:1 through the end of the book. We obey because we love (2 John 6). He saves us by His grace and gives us the ability to live by His grace to influence others by His grace.
Christ is coming back, and as the Head of the Church, He will be looking to see His people bringing the Gospel to others (Romans 1:16). Jesus is building His church in Mentor as He has been since the beginning of the church. He was building His church through the local body of believers in Rome. This was a healthy church made up of all different kinds of people, which we will see in Romans 16. That diversity of people being saved and united in Christ is the result of living out the commission of love that Paul wrote about in Romans 12:17-21.
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