"If you’ve raced with men on foot and they have worn you out, how can you compete with horses? If you stumble in safe country, how will you manage in thickets by the Jordan?" (Jeremiah 12:5). Our journey is intended to be more than simply "stumbling" through the days while the world "wears us out.” We are made to experience the thrill of "running with horses” and to navigate life amongst the "thickets." The RWH blog focuses on both the spiritual race of which Jeremiah speaks, and the physical act of running that I absolutely love. In short, it's where "the miles meet the Message" to provide insight, perspective & encouragement that might enable you & I to successfully run either of the races set before us. May our course be purposeful and may we be passionate in our pursuit of the abundant life He desires for us.

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Standing Alongside - GP/OW Unit 1

God's Power in Our Weakness: A nine week sermon series and small group study which kicked off at River Oaks on September 20. And for the next few months we will look closely at the Apostle Paul's 2nd letter (at least what we refer to as the 2nd letter) to the Church at Corinth. Considered to be the most personal of his epistles, 2 Corinthians reveals a transparent Paul opening up his heart and defending his convictions to a church body that he dearly loved. There is much application and many points of reflection for us to discover in this great letter. We would love to have you join us.

As with past studies, I thought I would post an introduction week commentary to get you started. The entire guide is provided via a link below, and I encourage everyone to read through this great letter.

INTRODUCTION & Chapter 1 of 2 Corinthians
Running Theme: I've thought about this passage of coming alongside through suffering, as that moment that you connect with someone around mile 20 and make that often non-verbal, but yet very real, pact to stay together and help each other to the finish!

Read Chapter 1 Here / Find Sermon Guide Here

In Acts 9:15, the Lord pronounces Paul to be “a chosen vessel of Mine to bear My name before the Gentiles.” And that is exactly what Paul became. In fact, check out Acts 13:42-48 for an example of the early work of Paul among the Gentiles, and consider what a great privilege it was to hear God’s Word preached (can you imagine if we were as excited about being exposed to God’s Word as these early Gentiles?

Fast-forward to the writing of 2 Corinthians in what is believed to be circa AD 56. A lot has occurred between the Corinthian Church and Paul since these early conversions some four years prior—much of it not very good at all. There are accusations and slander against Paul, there were outsiders misrepresenting the ‘Good News’, there was disunity in the church, and there were ungodly cultural influences everywhere the Corinthians looked. Paul had addressed much of this in 1 Corinthians, but now he was preparing to visit Corinth himself and decided to spill out his heart in letter form before he arrived on the scene.

Speaking of visits and letters; one additional point of historical context is something that many of us are not that familiar with, but it gives us insight into Paul’s concern for the Corinthians and his determination to disciple these young Christians. That is, the letter we refer to 2 Corinthians is most likely Paul’s fourth letter to the Corinthian Church, not his second. Why do most biblical scholars come to this conclusion, and how do they know that? Good questions. So, when in doubt, go to Scripture (actually, when not in doubt, go to Scripture!)

The following is a taken from Burges’ book The New Testament in Antiquity. It highlights Paul's trips and letters to Corinth, according to Scriptural references.
  • 1st Visit: AD 50 – 52 (as discussed above) / Acts 18:18
  • 1st Letter: ca. AD 52 (lost to history) / 1 Cor. 5:9; also 1 Cor. 7:1, the Corinthians write back
  • 2nd Letter: AD 54 (known as 1st Corinthians) written from Ephesus / 1 Cor. 16:8
  • 2nd Visit: AD 54 / “a painful visit” 2 Cor. 2:1
  • 3rd Letter: AD 55 (lost to history) / “a letter of tears” 2 Cor. 2:3-4
  • 4th Letter: AD 56 (known as 2nd Corinthians) written from Macedonia / 2 Cor. 7:5-7
  • 3rd Visit: AD 56 or 57/ 2 Cor. 13 (Note: Paul warns them that although he is weak, he is coming in God’s power; uh-oh!)
In chapter one, a key theme is that of suffering and comfort; notice how many times Paul refers to his comfort AND suffering in Christ. Paul sees both of these as going hand-in-hand. This will actually be a major theme of the entire letter. One important note is to realize the type of “comfort” that Paul speaks of when describing his comfort from trials and tribulations. It’s not simply a passing relief or the sympathy of others. Rather, Paul uses the word (paraklesis) to give his readers the understanding that comfort is about “one who stands beside us in the midst of struggle to encourage and support.” It’s the same root as used of the Holy Spirit (Paraclete). In other words, Paul views the comfort of God as being present and alongside. He also views the comfort of genuine believers as those who stand alongside one another.

Question: When we give comfort to someone, is it a passing relief, a sympathetic word, or is it the standing alongside to weather the storm as one?

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