2 Corinthians: Whose Ministry is It, Anyway? Whose Ministry? Lesson Scripture: 2 Corinthians 4 HCSB

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1 March 22, Corinthians: Whose Ministry is It, Anyway? Whose Ministry? Lesson Scripture: 2 Corinthians 4 HCSB Key Passage 2 Corinthians 4:1-18 Dig Deeper? You can do additional reading and research on 2 Corinthians 4 using the commentary at: Step by Step through the Week Monday: Begin your week of study by praying that the Holy Spirit would reveal God s truth to you and provide the wisdom you will need to obey God s word. Read 2 Corinthians 4 Read the following chapter summary: Paul refers back to God s gift to him of the ministry of the Spirit (the glorious message of Jesus Christ) as his primary qualification for leadership, despite the criticism of some. He compares his motives to those who are in the ministry for the wrong reasons. Those who do not understand his message are still blinded to the truth about the glory of Christ, the true light. Paul considers his ministry to be like a treasure; he compares himself to a container of the treasure or the jar of clay. So, even if he encounters opposition, hatred, or violence, he is confident his sufferings will identify him even more closely with Jesus. One day, Paul will receive his true reward on his day of resurrection with Christ. The apostle s greatest desire is to share this treasure with the Corinthians and any other who might come to faith in Christ as a result of this ministry. Because of this ministry, Paul marches on; and despite temporary setbacks, the end justifies the means. He focuses on the eternal glory coming his way and discounts the daily pressures and physical struggles that come in his temporary, earthbound existence. Identify key words or major ideas in the chapter.

2 Reread the passage. What has the Spirit of God taught you after reading through this chapter? Tuesday: Read 2 Corinthians 4. If possible, read the passage in two or three different versions of the Bible. Multiple versions are available at Observe: 2 Corinthians 4:1-6 What does Paul say in this passage that he understands he and his ministry belong to the Lord and not to him? How does Paul compare himself to others who are in ministry? Locate the occurrences of Jesus in verses 5 and 6. How does Paul describe Jesus in three different ways in these verses? Examine: 2 Corinthians 4:1-6 GOD OF THIS WORLD: The phrase god of this world (or god of this age ) indicates that Satan is the major influence on the ideals, opinions, goals, hopes and views of the majority of people. His influence also encompasses the world s philosophies, education, and commerce. The thoughts, ideas, speculations and false religions of the world are under his control and have sprung from his lies and deceptions. Satan is also called the "prince of the power of the air" in Ephesians 2:2. He is the "ruler of this world" in John 12:31. To say, for example, that Satan is the "prince of the power of the air" is to signify that in some way he rules over the world and the people in it. This is not to say that he rules the world completely; God is still sovereign. But it does mean that God, in His infinite wisdom, has allowed Satan to operate in this world within the boundaries God has set for him. When the Bible says Satan has power over the world, we must remember that God has given him domain

3 over unbelievers only. Believers are no longer under the rule of Satan (Col 1:13). Satan's scheme includes promoting false philosophies in the world philosophies that blind the unbeliever to the truth of the Gospel. Satan s philosophies are the fortresses in which people are imprisoned, and they must be set free by Christ. (adapted from gotquestion.org) What are some strategies Satan uses to blind the eyes of people to the truth about Jesus Christ? What are some scriptural examples of these strategies? Apply: 2 Corinthians 4:1-6 When have you felt like giving up in your ministry? How did you respond to your feeling? How could you make yourself a slave to Jesus in your ministry? Wednesday: Read 2 Corinthians 4. If possible, read the passage in two or three different versions of the Bible. Multiple versions are available at Observe: 2 Corinthians 4: What are the treasure and the clay jar ( earthen vessels )? Reread verses 1-6 to clarify these ideas. What words or phrases indicate that Paul struggled in his ministry?

4 Locate the instances of the word death in the passage. What does Paul teach about Jesus death? What does Paul say about his death? Examine: 2 Corinthians 4: RESURRECTION: The resurrection of Jesus is important for several reasons. First, it witnesses to the immense power of God Himself. To believe in the resurrection is to believe in God. If God exists, and if He created the universe and has power over it, He has power to raise the dead. Only He who created life can resurrect it after death, only He can reverse the hideousness that is death itself, and only He can remove the sting that is death and the victory that is the grave s (1 Cor 15:54-55). Second, the resurrection of Jesus is a testimony to the resurrection of human beings, which is a basic tenet of the Christian faith. Unlike all other religions, Christianity alone possesses a founder who transcends death and who promises that His followers will do the same. All other religions were founded by men and prophets whose end was the grave. As Christians, we take comfort in the fact that our God became man, died for our sins, was resurrected the third day, and sits today at the right hand of God the Father in heaven. The inspired Word of God guarantees the believer's resurrection at the coming of Jesus Christ for His Body (the Church). Such hope and assurance results in a great song of triumph as Paul writes, Where, O death, is your victory? Where, O death, is your sting? (1 Cor 15:55). (adapted from gotquestions.org) Read 1 Corinthians 15. In 2 Corinthians, Paul defends his ministry in light of his ultimate destiny: resurrection in Christ. Based on his writings in the two Corinthian letters, why is confidence in Jesus resurrection and our future resurrection essential to the success of our ministry? Apply: 2 Corinthians 4: How have you seen God s power work through your own weakness in ministry?

5 How does your ministry benefit the members of this church, in particular, and God s kingdom, in general? Thursday: Read 2 Corinthians 4. If possible, read the passage from a different version of the Bible. Observe: 2 Corinthians 4:16-18 Note the way in which Paul returns to the opening idea in the chapter: we do not give up (vv 1 and 16). What is his motivation for not walking away from his ministry? (see 3:18 and 4:15) What are the four opposing ideas Paul focuses on in this passage? In one sentence, summarize Paul s message in verses Examine: 2 Corinthians 4:16-18 ETERNAL PRIORITIES: Life in this world is temporal, not eternal, and therefore, the only part of life that has eternal value is that which lasts through eternity. Clearly, the most important thing in this world that has true eternal value is having a saving relationship with Jesus Christ (John 3:16). Regarding the abundant material things this world offers, which many tenaciously seek after, Jesus taught us not to store up for ourselves earthly treasures that can be destroyed or stolen (Matt 6:19 20). Moses addressed this issue 3,500 years ago as his people were about to enter the Promised Land. He warned them not to forget about God, for he knew once they built fine houses and settled down their hearts would become proud and they would forget about Him (Deut 8:12 14). Yet there can be significant eternal value in what we do with our lives during the exceedingly short time we are here on earth. There are many ways our service to the Lord will bring us rewards. First, we need to recognize that every true believer has been set apart by God and for God. When we received

6 God s gift of salvation, we were given certain spiritual gifts (1 Cor 12:7, 11). If you are exercising your spiritual gifts, you are playing a significant role in the body of Christ and doing that which has eternal value. Every member of Christ s body can make meaningful contributions when we humbly seek to edify the body and to glorify God. Indeed, every little thing can add to the beautiful mosaic of what God can do when we each do our part to build our ministry with the gold, silver, and costly stones that have true eternal value (1 Cor 3:12). (adapted from gotquestions.org) Read 2 Corinthians 5:10. This verse speaks of a judgment time for Christians when we are repaid for what is done in the body. Our eternal rewards (both large and small) are based on our earthly behavior. How can you build a ministry on earth that will result in eternal success? Use Paul s ideas in 2 Corinthians 4 in your response. Apply: 2 Corinthians 4:16-18 Based on the truths in this chapter, how would you define success in ministry? What are some temporal or momentary obstacles that keep you from being more successful in ministry? How could you avoid or destroy these obstacles? Friday: Read 2 Corinthians 4 and the following devotional from Octavius Winslow: CHRISTIAN sufferer! You marvel why the Lord keeps you so long upon the couch of solitariness and upon the bed of languishing why the earthly house of this tabernacle should be taken down by continued and pining sickness, the corrodings of disease, and the gradual decay of strength. Hush every reasoning, anxious, doubtful thought. Your heavenly Father has so ordained it. He who built the house, and whose the house is, has a right to remove it by what process He sees fit. The mystery of His present conduct will, before long, be all explained. Yes, faith and love can even explain it now Even so, Father, for so it seems good in Your sight! Yours is an honorable and a responsible post. God has still a work for you to do. You have been waiting year by year, in the quietness of holy submission, the summons to

7 depart. But God has lengthened out your period of weariness and of suffering, for the work is not done in you and by you, to effect which this sickness was sent. Oh, what a witness for God may you now be! What a testimony for Christ may you now bear! What sermons converting the careless, confirming the wavering, restoring the wandering, comforting the timid may your conversation and your example now preach from that sick bed! And oh, for what higher degrees of glory may God, through this protracted illness, be preparing you! That there are degrees of glory in heaven, as there are degrees of suffering in hell, and degrees of grace on earth, admits of not a doubt. As one star differs from another star in glory, so does one glorified saint differ from another. Will there be the absence in heaven of that wondrous variety of proportion which throws such a charm and beauty around the beings and the scenery of earth? Doubtless not. Superior grace below is preparing for superior glory above. And the higher our attainments in holiness here, the loftier our summit of blessedness hereafter. For these high degrees of heavenly happiness your present lengthened sickness may, by God s grace, be preparing you. Sanctified by the Spirit of holiness, the slow fire is but the more perfectly refining; and the more complete the refinement on earth, the more perfectly will the sanctified soul mirror forth the Divine Sun in heaven. Be, then, your beautiful patience of spirit, meek and patient sufferer, increasingly that of the Psalmist, I have behaved and quieted myself as a child that is weaned of his mother: my soul is even as a weaned child.

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