Bible Readers

With Pastor Dave Roussel

Paul’s Thorn

August 19 – Today’s Readings – 2Corinthians 12-13 and Psalms 49

What do you make of Paul’s “thorn in the flesh”? I personally have heard many differing thoughts concerning this unusual wording – but what are the facts? We do know that God initially got Paul’s attention by knocking him off his horse and blinding him with a bright light:

Acts 9:1-3 – “Meanwhile, Saul was still breathing out murderous threats against the Lord’s disciples. He went to the high priest and asked him for letters to the synagogues in Damascus, so that if he found any there who belonged to the Way, whether men or women, he might take them as prisoners to Jerusalem. As he neared Damascus on his journey, suddenly a light from heaven flashed around him.”

Acts 9:8 – “Saul got up from the ground, but when he opened his eyes he could see nothing. So they led him by the hand into Damascus.”

Acts 9:17-18 – “Then Ananias went to the house and entered it. Placing his hands on Saul, he said, ‘Brother Saul, the Lord – Jesus, who appeared to you on the road as you were coming here – has sent me so that you may see again and be filled with the Holy Spirit.’ Immediately, something like scales fell from Saul’s eyes, and he could see again. He got up and was baptized.”

When the Lord sent the disciple Ananias to Paul to restore his sight and help him receive the Holy Spirit, Paul seemed to have a complete healing in his eyes. Later however, we see that Paul, who was very educated and well able to write, used others to write his letters for him – see Romans 16:22 – “I, Tertius, who wrote down this letter, greet you in the Lord.” Later still, we find Paul doing a bit of writing at the end of his letters just to authenticate that it was him who was writing – see 1Corinthians 16:21, Colossians 4:18 & 2Thessalonians 3:17 – “I, Paul, write this greeting in my own hand, which is the distinguishing mark in all my letters. This is how I write.” Then, in Galatians 6:11 – we find Paul telling his readers –“See what large letters I use as I write to you with my own hand!”

Could it be that God used the same infirmity that led Paul to submission and repentance to later teach him other lessons about humility and grace? I have long thought so but others would of course disagree.

The real issue is that God is sovereign and if He wants to allow a “thorn in the flesh” to teach us something or to keep us humble, He can and will do it.

Questions:

1. Name another individual in Scripture who was taught a spiritual lesson because of a “thorn in the flesh”.
2. Tell of a time when God got your attention by means of some physical thing that was happening to you or around you.

False Apostles?

August 18 – Today’s Readings – 2Corinthians 10-11 and Psalms 48

“I am jealous for you with a godly jealousy. I promised you to one husband, to Christ, so that I might present you as a pure virgin to him. But I am afraid that just as Eve was deceived by the serpent’s cunning, your minds may somehow be led astray from your sincere and pure devotion to Christ. For if someone comes to you and preaches a Jesus other than the Jesus we preached, or if you receive a different spirit from the one you received, or a different gospel from the one you accepted, you put up with it easily enough. But I do not think I am in the least inferior to those “super-apostles.” (2Corinthians 11:2-5)

I kind of feel sorry for the Apostle Paul. Here is the founder and a recognized Apostle in the Church at Corinth, having to defend his own ministry to the Church because they have had other preachers in, calling themselves Super-Apostles, who were “having their way” with the Church. Paul goes so far as to call them “false Apostles, deceitful workmen, masquerading as Apostles of Christ”. Then he even labels them servants of Satan!

So, in Paul’s mind, an Apostle was far more than a preacher who called himself and Apostle – “Are they servants of Christ? (I am out of my mind to talk like this.) I am more. I have worked much harder, been in prison more frequently, been flogged more severely, and been exposed to death again and again. Five times I received from the Jews the forty lashes minus one. Three times I was beaten with rods, once I was stoned, three times I was shipwrecked, I spent a night and a day in the open sea, I have been constantly on the move. I have been in danger from rivers, in danger from bandits, in danger from my own countrymen, in danger from Gentiles; in danger in the city, in danger in the country, in danger at sea; and in danger from false brothers. I have labored and toiled and have often gone without sleep; I have known hunger and thirst and have often gone without food; I have been cold and naked. Besides everything else, I face daily the pressure of my concern for all the churches.” (2Corinthians 11:23-28)

Maybe we too should have a second look at the labels we throw at people – unless of course the label really does “stick” to the person.

Corinth was a Church that had so much going for it and yet had so much to learn. On the one hand our desire is to be just as zealous as this Church with all the miracles that took place and all the spiritual gifts operating. However, this place was also a nightmare of problems and needed some serious, consistent and strong spiritual leadership. Because of the very nature of people and the Church, we are susceptible to all kinds of difficulties. We need to be in the Word, in the Spirit, and in “community” if we are to avoid some of the pitfalls the Corinthian Church faced.

Questions:

1. Give another Biblical example of “false ministry” and how God felt about it.
2. Can you give a reason why “Godly”, proven ministers are sometimes mistreated by the Churches they serve or have birthed?

Repentance

August 17 – Today’s Readings – 2Corinthians 7-9 and Psalms 47

Chapters 8 & 9 of 2 Corinthians outline the most thorough offering appeal of the entire Bible. This passage covers financial stewardship in terms of attitude, zeal, purpose, amounts that should be given, what is meaningless giving, etc. Whenever you have any doubts about Churches and offerings, re-read this passage and you will be encouraged to do what is right.

What I really want to focus on today however is the fruit of true repentance found in Chapter 7:8-11. As you no doubt recall, the Church at Corinth had to confront and expel a man who was being immoral and unrepentant in his behavior.The Church had allowed this man’s sin to go on and on without challenging it and cleaning up the situation. When the Church and the individual repented, Paul reflected on their behavior. Here, the Apostle outlines the fruit and actions stemming from that repentance – “Even if I caused you sorrow by my letter, I do not regret it. Though I did regret it—I see that my letter hurt you, but only for a little while— yet now I am happy, not because you were made sorry, but because your sorrow led you to repentance. For you became sorrowful as God intended and so were not harmed in any way by us. Godly sorrow brings repentance that leads to salvation and leaves no regret, but worldly sorrow brings death. See what this godly sorrow has produced in you: what earnestness, what eagerness to clear yourselves, what indignation, what alarm, what longing, what concern, what readiness to see justice done. At every point you have proved yourselves to be innocent in this matter.” (2Corinthians 7:8-11)

True repentance then, starts with sorrow for having done wrong – then leads to an eagerness to change our ways. As the process continues there is an anger that comes – anger at the Devil and at the sin. This is followed by an alarming realization of how we have hurt the heart of God and perhaps affected those around us – or affected their testimony. Also mentioned is a longing for righteousness to be established, deep concern about the how things can be permanently dealt with and a readiness to do whatever it takes for God’s justice and grace to reign. Paul says; “At every point you have proved yourselves to be innocent in this matter”. There is definitely a “proving” that finishes the process of repentance in our lives. The whole concept of continuing on and on in sin should be a very serious concern for a professing believer. Ask yourself the question; “What things must I do to be rid of this sinful pattern for good?” You are then on the right track, and victory will be yours.

Questions:

1. I certainly do not want you to respond to this question on line, but I do want to ask you this – do you have a sinful pattern in your life that you still haven’t gotten complete victory over?
2. What thoughtful, serious CHANGES do you have to make in your life to be rid of this sin for good? Remember – God has already given us the grace to be rid of this sinful pattern – the rest is left to our obedience to His Holy Spirit.

Glorious Bodies

August 16 – Today’s Readings – 2Corinthians 3-4 and Psalms 46

Paul had a tremendous ability to pack a lot instruction into a short passage and today I would like to focus on Paul’s teaching concerning the death of the saints – (by “saints”, I mean you and me). Paul makes it very clear that we have an earthly body and we also will have a heavenly body. These two are not alike. When Jesus was resurrected from the dead, the only way the disciples could recognize Him was by His words, actions and physical wounds which remained as a sign for them. After the resurrection, Jesus had the following encounter with two of his disciples; “Now that same day two of them were going to a village called Emmaus, about seven miles from Jerusalem. They were talking with each other about everything that had happened. As they talked and discussed these things with each other, Jesus himself came up and walked along with them; but they were kept from recognizing him. – And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he explained to them what was said in all the Scriptures concerning himself. – When he was at the table with them, he took bread, gave thanks, broke it and began to give it to them. Then their eyes were opened and they recognized him, and he disappeared from their sight.” (Luke 24:13-16, 27, 30-31)

The teachings of Jesus make it clear that our heavenly bodies will be similar to the angels’. Here is an interchange He had with the teachers of the law; “Finally, the woman died. Now then, at the resurrection, whose wife will she be of the seven, since all of them were married to her?’ Jesus replied, ‘You are in error because you do not know the Scriptures or the power of God. At the resurrection people will neither marry nor be given in marriage; they will be like the angels in heaven.” (Matthew 22:27-30) Note that Jesus did not say that they would be angels, but similar to the angels in that sexuality and marriage are not part of the “scene” in heaven. Jesus’ resurrected body could materialize, disappear, rise vertically, walk through walls, eat fish with the boys and go for walks with Peter, John or the disciples on the way to Emmaus. “We shall all be changed” declares Paul, the old “tent” will be thrown away and we will have a new dwelling. This is why it is so important to nourish the Soul and Spirit – not just look after the body. This is why, without an eternal perspective, we are without hope in this world – but we, of all people have great hope. When we “fall asleep”, it’s just the beginning of a whole new, and awesome existence. There’s only one thing though – Chapter 5:10; “We must ALL appear before the judgment seat of Christ, that each one may receive what is due him, for the things done while in the body, whether good or bad.”

Therefore be quick to repent as the Holy Spirit prompts you. Let no sin cling to you and control you!

Questions:

1. Give another example of a “glorified” body mentioned in Scripture.
2. When does Scripture teach you will receive your glorified body? (Hint – 1Corinthians 15:52).

An Odour

August 15 – Today’s Readings – 2Corinthians 1-3 and Psalms 45

“We do not want you to be uninformed, brothers, about the hardships we suffered in the province of Asia. We were under great pressure, far beyond our ability to endure, so that we despaired even of life. Indeed, in our hearts we felt the sentence of death. But this happened that we might not rely on ourselves but on God, who raises the dead. He has delivered us from such a deadly peril, and He will deliver us. On him we have set our hope that he will continue to deliver us” (2Corinthians 1:8-10)

Even though Paul and his friends were obviously facing a lot of very serious difficulties – even death – there is a great, victorious tone to these words. These men felt as though they were all going to die – they had no confidence that their time on earth would continue but God made sure they lived to carry on the mission He had for them. What a rest and confidence they must have felt, knowing that absolutely nothing would take their lives until it was in God’s time. “Therefore, since we have such a hope, we are very bold.” (2Corinthians 3:12) Not only where they bold in their witness, but their faith was secure as well. The gospel they preached was simple and pure – believe in the Lord Jesus – commit your lives to his service – and follow the lead of the Holy Spirit.

“But as surely as God is faithful, our message to you is not ‘Yes’ and ‘No.’ For the Son of God, Jesus Christ, who was preached among you by me and Silas and Timothy, was not ‘Yes’ and ‘No,’ but in him it has always been ‘Yes.’ For no matter how many promises God has made, they are ‘Yes’ in Christ. And so through Him the ‘Amen’ is spoken by us to the glory of God. Now it is God who makes both us and you stand firm in Christ. He anointed us, set his seal of ownership on us, and put His Spirit in our hearts as a deposit, guaranteeing what is to come.” (2Corinthians 1:18-22)

Here was a group of men who were faithfully preaching the gospel with no wages, being persecuted in almost every town and having to be “tough” with the Churches that needed correction. Yet, they possessed a tremendous confidence in Christ – “You + God equals a majority” !

It is also fascinating how Paul describes the olfactory senses when speaking about the believer’s relationship to the world. To the world and its spiritual powers, “we stink” but to those who are hungry for God and are being called by God “we smell like roses”. There is a “fragrance” in our lives when we belong to Christ and it is VERY offensive to the Devil – but it sure “smells” good when you encounter another true believer or one who is hungry for God. “For we are to God the aroma of Christ among those who are being saved and those who are perishing.” (2Corinthians 2:15)

Questions:

1. Give another Biblical example of a person who should have died, but God kept him alive till his mission was accomplished.
2. Tell of a modern day person who has had the same life preserving grace upon their lives.

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