Christ in the Bible: 1 & 2 Corinthians

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Luke — What would our workplaces look like if we tried to bring others joy through the way we treat them? Dennis W. Another means to healthy interactions at work is simply taking the time and effort to develop and invest in relationships. While Paul was there he went about his missionary work with his usual vigor, and God blessed his efforts. So he left for Macedonia in the hope of finding Titus there.

Two things are striking about this passage. He cannot remain aloof and unburdened when these relationships are in disrepair. Paul is eager to see things patched up, and he invests a great deal of energy and prayer in pursuing that end. Second, Paul places a high priority on bringing about reconciliation, even if it causes significant delay in his work schedule. Repairing the rupture in his relationship with them takes precedence. The lesson for us is obvious. Relationships matter.

But no matter what our task, relationships are our business. Tasks are important. Relationships are important. So, in the spirit of Matthew —24, when we learn—or even suspect—that a relationship has been strained or broken in the course of our work, we do well to ask ourselves which is more pressing at the moment, the completion of the task or the restoration of a relationship.

The answer may vary, depending on circumstances. If the task is big enough, or the strain in relationship serious enough, we do well not only to ask which is more pressing but also to seek counsel from a respected brother or sister. As in 2 Corinthians , Paul again addresses lingering questions about his delay in visiting Corinth. His response is that supporting himself was a matter of sincerity. It appears he did not want to be lumped together with the philosophers and rhetoricians of his day who charged hefty fees for their speeches.

II Corinthians Bible Study

The way we handle money shines like a laser pointer on the question of our sincerity as Christians. Are we lax with our expense accounts? Do we hide income under the table? Do we push for raises, commissions, and bonuses at the expense of others? Do we take financial advantage of people in difficult circumstances? If not, we bring dishonor to ourselves and to the name of Christ.

See Murray J. Surely we do not need, as some do, letters of recommendation to you or from you, do we? Such letters were common in the ancient world, and generally it was necessary to take them with a grain of salt. The Roman statesman Cicero wrote scores of them, for instance, making lavish use of the stereotypical language of praise the genre demanded.


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Recipients became so jaded, however, that sometimes he felt it necessary to write a second letter so that the recipients would know whether to take the first letter seriously. Paul had no need of them in any case. The Corinthian believers knew him intimately. The only letter of recommendation he required was already written on their hearts 2 Cor. Further, Paul insists, he is not claiming competence in his own strength.

How do we build our reputations today? Paul chose his activities based on how he could best serve the people he loved. Following his lead, we should work so as to leave solid evidence of jobs well done, of lasting results, and of people whose lives have been impacted for the better. Murray J. Because we are seeing Paul at work in a real-life situation, the themes are entangled as Paul tells the story. But we will try to discuss the themes one at a time in order to explore each one as clearly as possible.

In chapter 4 Paul returns to the theme of transparency, as we noted in our discussion of 2 Corinthians — This time he emphasizes the importance of humility for maintaining transparency. Naturally, it would be much easier to be transparent with people if we had nothing to hide. For the truth is, we are all susceptible to errors of intention and execution. Anyone who visits the remains of the Ancient Near East can testify to the shards of these vessels lying scattered everywhere. This may be because, if we depend on ourselves as the source of our confidence, to apologize would be to risk our ability to carry on.

If we too acknowledged that the good things we accomplish are not a reflection on us but on our Lord, then maybe we could have the courage to admit our mistakes and look to God to put us back on track again. At the very least, we could stop feeling that we have to maintain our image at all costs, including the cost of deceiving others.

Our weakness, however, is not just a challenge to our transparency. It is actually the source of our true abilities. Enduring suffering is not an unfortunate side effect experienced in some circumstances; it is the actual means of bringing about genuine accomplishment. We try to convince people that we are stronger, smarter, and more competent than we really are. When you receive a compliment, do you allow it to add to your aura of brilliance?

Or do you recount the ways God—perhaps working through other people—made it possible for you to exceed your native potential? We usually want people to perceive us as ultra-competent. Humility and weakness would be unbearable if our purpose in life were to make something great of ourselves. As leaders, Jesus and his followers served others. A slave, as Jesus pointed out, works all day in the fields, then comes in and serves dinner to the household, and only afterwards may eat and drink Luke — Leading others by serving will inevitably lead to suffering.

The world is too broken for us to imagine there is a chance we may escape suffering while serving. Paul suffered affliction, perplexity, and persecution nearly to the point of death 2 Cor. As Christians, we should not accept leadership positions unless we intend to sacrifice the privilege of taking care of ourselves before taking care of others.

It is, however, important that we allow our picture of Paul to be formed by what he actually says, rather than by some caricature. For all of them, faith that does not express itself in good works is no faith at all. Indeed, faith and obedience are so closely intertwined that even Paul can, as he does here, refer to the latter rather than the former when he actually has both in mind.

In workplace terms, our performance matters. Moreover, we will have to give an account to the Lord Jesus for all that we have done and left undone. In workplace terms, this is accountability.

Book of Second Corinthians Overview - Insight for Living Ministries

Performance and accountability are profoundly important to the Christian life, and we cannot dismiss them as secular concerns of no importance to God. God cares whether we are slacking off, neglecting our duties, not showing up for work, or going through the motions without genuine attention to our work. God holds us to a high standard of conduct. This does not negate the doctrine of grace, but instead shows us how God intends his grace to transform our lives. If it sounds as if Paul is calling us to grit our teeth and try harder to be good, then we are missing the point of 2 Corinthians.

Paul intends for us to see the world in a completely new way, so that our actions stem from this new understanding, not from trying harder. If anyone is in Christ, there is a new creation: everything old has passed away; see, everything has become new! From the beginning God intended that men and women work together Gen. When humans disobeyed God and marred the creation, work became cursed Gen.


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  5. Wayne Alderson was vice president of Pittron Steel near Pittsburgh in the early s. But part way into the strike, Alderson began taking an approach of reconciliation with the union. Each year the state of Pennsylvania selects a man of the year for labor; today, forty years later, it remains true that Alderson is the only person from management to receive this honor. We are agents to bring reconciliation to all spheres of the world. There are three essential elements of the work of reconciliation.

    First, we must understand accurately what has gone wrong among people, God, and the creation. Second, we must love other people and work to benefit them rather than to judge them. If we condemn the people in our workplaces or withdraw from the daily places of life and work, we are regarding people and work from a human point of view. As we noted earlier in 2 Cor. We might say that his life was an open book before them. Though he adds nothing new to what he has said previously, it becomes more and more apparent how important the topic of transparency is for him.

    When questions arise about his ministry, he can appeal to his earlier dealings with the Corinthians with absolute certainty that he has always been honest with them about himself. Can we say the same of ourselves? This has implications for both marriage which is outside our scope here and working relationships. Up to this point, Paul has vividly portrayed the importance of good relationships with the people with whom we live and work.

    Paul says in 1 Cor. Here, Paul cautions us about working arrangements with non-believers, invoking a reference to Deuteronomy which warns against plowing with an ox and a donkey yoked together. What does it mean to be unequally yoked? Jesus, like the lead ox in a team, determines our bearing, pace, and path, and we submit to his leadership. Through his yoke, we feel his pull, his guidance, his direction.

    2 Corinthians 1:3-4

    By his yoke, he trains us to work effectively in his team. His yoke is what leads us, sensitizes us, and binds us to him. No other yoke that would pull us away from the yoke of Jesus could ever be equal to that! Yet the work we are doing with him is no less than the transformation of the entire cosmos. This has a strong ethical element. We probably would—and should—do all we can to avoid working with those who would force us to act against our beliefs. But short of that, many of the motivations, values, and working methods of our supervisors and colleagues in most workplaces may not be compatible with our beliefs as Christians.

    And the environment and beliefs of those you work with may have a negative influence on your faith and experience of the Christian life. Nonetheless, most of us work among unbelievers, which as we have noted, Paul assumes is the normal situation for Christians. Then how are we to apply his prohibition against unequal yoking? Employment is an agreement in which you do the agreed upon work in return for the agreed upon remuneration. To the extent that you are able to voluntarily and justly terminate this contract in the event it becomes damaging to you or others, you are free to un-yoke.

    How do you know whether it is necessary to un-yoke or end an employment arrangement? We will look at two very different situations. First, imagine you are employed by an organization that is generally ethical, but you are surrounded by people who do not believe as you do and whose influence is damaging your own faith life. This discernment may be different for different believers. Some are able to maintain their faith in the midst of temptations and unbelief all around them, and others are not. On the other hand, others are able to work in the midst of those temptations as a witness to the truth and love and hope of the gospel.

    Usually they need someone outside the temptations of their workplace to help them maintain their faith. Esther is an interesting example of this kind of situation. God called her into the harem of King Ahasuerus so that she would be able to serve as protector of her Jewish people Esther Esther had considerable influence with the king but was also extremely vulnerable to his displeasure. If you take on expenses and debts up to, or even above, your level of income, any job can quickly become a kind of unequal yoking.

    Adopting a more modest standard of living and building up ample savings—if possible—may make it much easier to remain yoked with Christ if things go bad at work. It would be a much more equal partnership in terms of power, but equally risky in terms of ethics. When one partner signs a contract, spends money, buys or sells property—or violates the law—the other partner is bound by that action or decision.

    This kind of partnership could be more like the ox and the donkey — two partners pulling in opposite directions. Moreover, we know from experience that even partnerships between two believers also include some risk, given that Christians continue to be sinners too. All business partnerships, then, require wisdom and discernment and both the ability and the willingness to terminate the partnership if necessary, even if doing so would be very costly.

    There are many other kinds of working relationships, of course, including buying and selling, investing, contracting and subcontracting, and trade associations. In all these relationships, the danger increases when we become more dependent on them than on Christ. We cannot judge or condemn nonbelievers as inherently unethical because Paul himself refused to do so. Is it not those who are inside that you are to judge?

    We are called not to judge, but to discern whether our work is fulfilling the purposes and ways of Christ. Immediately after admonishing the Corinthians, Paul praises them. It may come as a surprise for some to find Paul boasting so unapologetically about the church in Corinth. This was a congregation beset with many difficulties, and there are some stinging rebukes in his letters to them.

    He wears no rose-colored glasses when it comes to the Corinthians. But Paul is entirely unabashed by such concerns. He does not shy away from giving praise where praise is due, and it seems that he is genuinely proud of the progress the believers in Corinth have made in spite of his tense relations with them. He notes his pride in them is well deserved, not a cheap trick of flattery 2 Cor. This reminds us of the importance of specific, accurate, and timely praise for co-workers, employees, and others with whom we interact at work.

    Inflated or generalized praise is hollow and may seem insincere or manipulative. And unrelenting criticism destroys rather than builds up. But words of genuine appreciation and gratitude for work well done are always appropriate. They are evidence of mutual respect, the foundation of true community, and they motivate everyone to continue their good work. Paul begins this section by pointing to the exemplary generosity of the churches in Macedonia and implying that he expects no less from the Corinthians. In the workplace, a generous spirit is the oil that makes things run smoothly on a number of levels.

    Workers who are generous with their co-workers will create a ready source of help for themselves and a more joyful and satisfying experience for everyone. Generosity is not always a matter of money. Paul reminds the believers in Corinth that they had already signaled their intentions to participate in the collection for the churches in Judea during the previous year. The letter is riddled with personal comments as Paul revealed details about the persecution he had suffered for the sake of Christ as well as about a mysterious thorn in the flesh that kept him reliant on God.

    After sending Timothy off from Ephesus to deliver the letter of 1 Corinthians, Paul, in his concern for the church, made a quick visit of his own to Corinth. Afterward, Paul returned to his work in Ephesus, where he wrote a sorrowful letter to the Corinthians that has not been preserved see 2 Corinthians —11; Paul then departed for Macedonia. The apostle composed this letter near the end of AD 56, possibly in the city of Philippi.

    Paul first focused on the generous example of the Macedonian churches, largely Gentile, who gave to their Jewish Christian brothers and sisters in Jerusalem. Then he exhorted the Corinthian believers to make donations of their own to the work in Jerusalem.

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    Several realities about Christian giving become clear in these two chapters: Christians give generously according to, and at times beyond, their financial abilities; Christians give their money across racial and national lines; Christians who make commitments to give should follow through with those promises; and Christians should give cheerfully, rather than under compulsion. The church at Corinth had recently been struggling with divisions and quarrels.

    But for a majority of the believers, the problem had been solved by the time Paul wrote 2 Corinthians. Many had repented of their sinful ways and had come back into unity with one another and with the leadership of Paul. However, Paul still felt the need to articulate a defense of his apostleship and his message. Some in the church had apparently taken his meekness among them to be a sign of moral weakness or lack of authority 2 Corinthians —2. These accusations led Paul to defend himself by arguing that he was on the same level of importance as the other apostles, that he had deep knowledge of the Christian faith, that he had suffered profound physical punishment in the name of Christ, and that he had received visions and revelations from God — Just as Paul wrote to the Corinthians in the wake of their repentance from divisions and quarrels, the message for today is clear: living in unity requires us to humbly forgive one another and to follow our leaders.

    Second Corinthians reminds us that even as Christians, we hurt each other and need to forgive those who wrong us 2 Corinthians

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