2 Corinthians 10-13

2 Corinthians 10-13

Second Corinthians 11:14–15 contains perhaps the most important bit of information all believers need to remember concerning the nature of Satan and his work. Paul tells us in today’s passage that the Devil “disguises himself as an angel of light” (v. 14). Of course, Satan and his minions are often the direct source of much of the outright perversity and evil that we see on this planet. However, since he is the “father of lies” (John 8:44), the Evil One would much rather approach us in the guise of something good and not something wicked. If he came at us blatantly, Satan would be easy to resist. We are more likely to embrace his lies if he approaches us under the guise of the good.

With respect to his influence on believers, the Adversary comes at us to accuse us and tempt us. The Devil can often appear to us as an angel of light when he works to accuse us. The story of Job gives a good example of the accusatory nature of Satan. Appearing before God on His throne, Satan once accused Job of being upright only because the Lord had blessed him (Job 1:6–11). In like manner, the Devil likes to remind us of our sin, to tell us the Father cannot possibly love us because we always serve Him with mixed motives. This work is very hard to distinguish from the work of the Holy Spirit, who convicts us of our wickedness and makes us feel the pain of offending God as well as the terrible sense that we are absent from His presence. Yet the Holy Spirit always wounds us so that He may bring healing and restoration with the Father (Ps. 147:1–3). Satan’s work of accusation only keeps us away from God and paralyzes us with the horror of sin, preventing us from serving the Lord and others. This is why we must remember God’s grace in the Gospel. True, every sin is deeply offensive to the Lord, but in light of our justification (Rom. 8:31–39) no charge can be laid against us. When we repent, God really does forgive us.

Our Creator is sovereign, not the Devil. As the story of Job also illustrates, anything that Satan does is done only because the Father has permitted it (Job 1:12). Sometimes God lets the Evil One tempt us and assault us, but even in these cases our Lord’s purpose is our ultimate good and His final glory (Rom. 8:28).

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2 Corinthians 6-9

2 Corinthians 6-9

Any study of the Mosaic law and its role in the new covenant cannot help but note that some elements of it are no longer binding on the Christian. Sacrifices that were made for atonement, for example, do not continue to be offered in the church because Jesus accomplished the purpose of the burnt offering in His death (Heb. 10:1–18). On the other hand, the New Testament is clear that new covenant believers will continue to live in a manner consistent with the other laws revealed to Moses. Stealing, for instance, did not suddenly become permissible once Jesus came to redeem His people (Ex. 20:15; Eph. 4:28).

The principles behind the grain offering (Lev. 2) are still in operation under the new covenant. God’s promise of restoration to Israel upon their repentance included the restoration of their fruitfulness that they might offer the grain offering once more (Joel 2:12–27). We live in the period of restoration, when God by His Spirit is restoring the fortunes of Israel, adding representatives of all nations to His covenant people (Isa. 55; Matt. 28:18–20). As such, Christians are expected to bring the fruit of their labors to God, just as believers brought their grain offerings during the old covenant period. In this way, the principles of the grain offering are fulfilled today.

The grain offering was originally given to support the work and ministry of worship and education at the tabernacle/temple (Lev. 2:3, 10). Giving in the new covenant serves a similar purpose, which is one of the points of today’s passage. Paul is encouraging the church in Corinth to contribute to a collection he is taking up to benefit the poor people who are members of the Jerusalem church (2 Cor. 8:1–9:5). In 9:6–15, the apostle reaches the high point of his appeal, calling on the Corinthians to give generously and so experience God’s blessing.

Our Lord wants our hearts, so it does little good to give to His work with a clenched fist holding onto every last coin. Instead, we must give joyfully, understanding that giving is not mere obedience to a command but a chance to further the work of the kingdom. Nothing could be more joyful, and what is more, the Lord Himself adds to this joy.

2 Corinthians 1-5

2 Corinthians 1-5

Christian Service

Christian service is about how our redemption in Christ comes into bloom in this world. It is what puts hands and feet and lips to God’s holy-love. Once we had as our life’s goal only ourselves. Our self-interest defined our worldview. Now this has changed. Now we are living a new kind of existence (2 Cor. 5:17). It is not one that is self-focused but one that is God-centered, not one that is self-pleasing but one that is open to others. And it is God’s holy-love that motivates this new direction even as it is Christ’s death that makes it possible.

We take the gospel to others because, Paul says, “the love of Christ controls us” (2 Cor. 5:14). But that is not our sole motivation. A little earlier he had said, “knowing the fear of the Lord, we persuade others” (2 Cor. 5:11). In other words, it is God’s holy-love that motivates us. It is love that feels the painful breakdown in life that sin has brought. It is holiness that understands how wrong this is. It is love that draws us to the side of another. It is holiness that yearns for the day when the world will be cleansed of all that is dark. And the gospel connects with both of these things. It is a message about deliverance from God’s coming judgment, and it is a message about His redemptive love in human life now. This love touches our sin as grace. Love and holiness thus walk hand-in-hand.

There are a thousand ways in which we can serve Christ. Some serve in places of high visibility and others in places of obscurity. It matters not. What matters is that in our service to Christ, another world is seen to be breaking into our everyday life. From this other world come shafts of light, of love in its union with what is holy, love as an expression of what is holy. In this sense, everyone who belongs to Christ is an outpost of eternity in this world. God calls His people so to live, so to serve, that they are themselves the evidence that the age to come is already dawning. That evidence is the presence of holy-love.