Series: Second Corinthians
In this letter Paul is talking plainly about trials and suffering for Christ’s sake. He says that all who have their lives formed by Christ and the gospel will experience these things. Yet he does not want his readers to be overly focused on these things. The apostle leads us live in hope, because glory must also be in the believer’s perspective.
Connection: Paul has said that he speaks before God with sincerity (2:17). Now he says that he speaks with faith, through all the trials and sufferings that God willed for him. The key is the reality of faith. We have way too much of living by sight in our day. Everything has to be figured out, accounted for, and exactly calculated. I know about that from my days as an estimator and cost account for a construction company. But Christians must live by faith in God.
I. Every learner of Christ has a spirit or disposition of faith.
A. Faith is the basic grace, so much so, that we often refer to those who have it as “believers,” a people distinct and different from “unbelievers”.
1. Faith is what joins us to Jesus Christ (Jn 3:15-16).
2. Faith is the foundation of a living Christianity. Without faith, there is the stench of death (cf. Js 2:17).
3. Faith is the spring of godly action (Gal 5:16; cf. Heb 11 – “by faith…”).
B. Faith is the hardest act for a human.
1. “It is harder to believe than to fulfill the law” (Sibbes). Many religious, disciplined, yet unbelieving people have attained a surprising degree of outward conformity to God’s law. Think of Paul, Luther, Whitefield and the Wesley brothers. The last three named were part of a “Holy Club” before they knew the Lord in a saving manner. Outward conformity to God’s law is possible due to conscience and the operations of God’s common grace.
2. To believe God requires the revelation of divine truth and supernatural matters that are above nature and contrary to fleshly, human reasoning. There are two parts of reality: the natural and the spiritual. The natural, unregenerate person cannot comprehend the spiritual (1 Cor 2:14). They are not alive toward it; their mind is blinded to the glory of God in Jesus Christ (2 Cor 4:4). Not only is that so, they are also opposed to it. They prefer the material and the sensual.
Comment: Material, sensual religions never lack for followers. Natural, unsaved people like the displays of the flesh.
C. Faith requires actions that do not make sense to natural people. Every unsaved person has great confidence in their ability to make sense out of reality, but they have no confidence to rely on God and to follow his interpretations of life.
1. The very concept of eternal life makes natural reason stumble, because people continually observe the beginning and ending of life.
2. To believe in God’s free grace in Christ, which forgives a guilty sinner for Jesus’ sake, is unacceptable to a proud person. For example, they cannot accept that God’s grace will forgive great acts of wickedness.
3. To overcome the world through faith (1 Jn 5:4) with the world’s temptations to pleasure and profit on the one hand and to fear and danger on the other is above natural reason. Only the gift of faith (Eph 2:8; Ph 1:29) by the Spirit can change this outlook.
1. Since faith is a gift above nature, we must know where to go for it (Lk 17:5; Js 1:17).
2. Since faith is a gift above nature, we should thank God for it.
3. Since faith is a gift above nature, we should not hesitate to ask for help in believing (Mk 9:23-24).
II. We have the same disposition of faith as believers of old.
A. All believers, whether before Christ’s first coming or after his first coming, share the same spirit or disposition of faith.
1. We all have the same basic content of faith. Christ is always the only hope of the believer. They lived in the age of promise, while we live in the age of fulfillment. Abraham rejoiced in looking forward to Christ (Jn 8:56). David was justified by faith as we are (Rm 4:5-8). In the OTS we hear, “Christ is coming!” In the NTS it is, “Christ has come and will come again!” They saw Christ displayed through types and shadows; we see him having been clearly seen by eyewitnesses.
2. We have the same exercises of faith. Everyone who believes has had to overcome obstacles by trusting in the living God. As they lived by faith, so we must live by faith today (Heb 12:1-2; 1 Pt 1:3-7).
B. We should strive to preserve the unity of faith.
1. This requires in each of us a thorough submission to the authority of the Holy Scriptures (cf. 2 Tm 3:15-4:4). I realize that I said a few culturally unacceptable words in that sentence (those italicized), but we must realize that we are not part of this world’s way of life. This standpoint also provides stability. Paul sees what David experienced and the help that David found in God is applicable to his sufferings, too. Psalm 116 was relevant to Paul (over one thousand years later), and it is still relevant today, because it is the eternal God’s help. Paul could read the Bible, find encouragement in God’s word, and boldly trust the Lord. We must live the same way.
- Read the Bible carefully.
- Think about the historical setting and God’s message in it.
- Meditate on how the same God is able to help you in your situation.
- Serve God accordingly in your generation.
2. This should make us zealous to accept all who love and trust the Lord Jesus Christ and his teachings. What we agree about is more important than what we might disagree about. “Were it not an excellent thing if all Christians in the world had the spirits to agree in the same things, and love the same things that shall be our life in heaven?” (Sibbes)
Apply: Let us apply ourselves to having the same mindset as Christ Jesus (Jn 17:11, 20-23; Ph 2:1-11).
Pastor Dave Frampton
When push comes to shove there is usually nothing more satisfying than for a saint of God to have at his or her disposal a source of biblically sound instruction in the Gospel of Jesus Christ. The faithful and spiritually profitable labors of Dave Frampton are here at CMC to be a blessing. Bible teacher and student alike will profit much from his labor in the God’s Word. Visit First Baptist Church