Home Bible Study

"Yes, I am coming quickly." Amen.
Revelation 22:20

This is a Home Bible study. It exists to promote the Word of God as it's written, which means nothing added or taken away, and minus opinions.

The Bible is the only source of Divine Truth in the world today. Although it is helpful and informative in many ways, the Bible might not tell us everything we want to know but the Bible does tell us everything we need to know.

My role is to guide you through the Scriptures; to explain what this book says and in some cases what it does not say because this is just as important.

Ultimately, you have a decision to make concerning your salvation - no one can make it for you. The Lord Jesus Christ, the Creator God, has given everyone the ability to make choices - this is is called "Free Will." I pray you consider your choice wisely.

II Timothy 2:15

Be diligent to present yourself approved to God as a workman who does not need to be ashamed, accurately handling the word of truth.

Search HBS Bible Lessons

Friday, June 30, 2017

Galatians (1-10) (Lesson 01)

Home Bible Study©
Rightly Dividing the Word of Truth (2 Timothy 2:15)

Established November 2008                                                       Published Weekly on Friday

This is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Savior, who desires all men (and women) to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth.  (1Timothy 2:3-4)

Galatians (1:1-10)                                                      (Lesson 01)

Welcome to HBS.

Introduction to Galatians

This week we begin our study of the book of Galatians, verse-by-verse, and I thought we’d commence by taking a look into the history of these people to have some idea who they were.  Then we’ll see what motivated Paul to write this letter to the churches in Galatia.  I work from the premise the more information we can gather going in the better our understanding will be coming out.

  If we were in the classroom, I would have my map of the Mediterranean Sea coast, as it appeared in Paul’s day, up on the white board for you all to see.  Maps are not only useful in Bible study, in my opinion they are essential because they help Bible students understand geographical locations and historical backgrounds of the places mentioned in the Bible.  These people and places really existed at one time.

The country Galatia (Ga-lay-sha) was a Roman province which included Lycaonia, Isauria, and parts of Phrygia, and Pisidia.  The name Galatia is derived from the name Gaul, and it was given to it because it had been conquered by the Gauls who, having subdued the country, settled there.  The Greek geographer and historian Strabo, (64 BC – 23 AD) who witnessed the collapse of the Roman Republic and the birth of the Roman Empire believed the Galatians were descended from the Gauls who sacked Rome in the 4th century BC (See the Battle of the Allia) and in the 3rd century BC invaded Asia Minor and northern Greece.  A group of them opted to settle in Galatia.  This resulted in a mixed population of Greek, Roman, and Jewish people.  These folks were quick-tempered, impulsive, hospitable, and fickle.  They were quick to “size visitors up” or receive first impressions and equally quick to give up on people.  Case in point:  they received our Apostle Paul and his gospel enthusiastically and then suddenly turned from him and his gospel (Galatians 4:13-16).

We don’t know when this letter was written.  Bible scholars date it between the years 40-60 A.D.   We also don’t know the number of the inhabitants of Galatia at the time the gospel was preached to them.  We know Paul traveled throughout Phrygia and the region of Galatia on his 2nd missionary journey (Acts 16:5-6).  He had taken ill while passing through, but since he was unable to travel, he preached to them while recovering (Galatians 4:14-15).  They gladly received his teaching, and house churches sprung up because of it.  Paul also visited them on his 3rd missionary journey “strengthening all the disciples” (Acts 18:23).  He instructed and established them in the faith.  When Paul left them everything appeared to be running smoothly. But then Judaizers came preaching a different gospel and because of the Galatians’ fickle nature these men easily corrupted the simplicity of Paul’s gospel (Romans 2:16).

Please open your Bible at Galatians 1:1.

Galatians 1

1: Paul, an apostle (not sent from men nor through the agency of man, but through Jesus Christ and God the Father, who raised Him from the dead) – here Paul says what he means, and means what he says, and he’s not boasting; he’s simply stating the facts.  Unlike the Judaizers who declared falsely they had been instructed and sent by the twelve in Jerusalem.  

Paul – I find it interesting that Paul never refers to himself as Saul, in any of his letters.  Up until Acts 13:9 the Bible knows him as Saul of Tarsus, thereafter; scripture refers to him only as Paul.  Let’s all turn to Acts 13:9-12 in our Bibles.  But Saul who was also known as Paul, filled with the Holy Spirit, fixed his gaze on him (Barjesus), and said, “You who are full of all deceit and fraud, you son of the devil (Satan had taken control of this Jew), you enemy of all righteousness, will you not cease to make crooked the straight ways of the Lord?  Now, behold, the hand of Lord is upon you, and you will be (what) blind and not see the sun (how long) for a time.”  And immediately a mist and a darkness fell upon him, and he went about seeking those who would lead him by the hand.  Then the proconsul believed when he saw what had happened, being amazed at the teaching of the Lord. 

This was Paul’s first missionary journey.  God is using him to reach the pagan, gentile world with His message of grace.  As Paul and Barnabas are going through the isle to Paphos, they encounter a false prophet, a Jew, named Barjesus or Elymas who is under the control of Satan.  A gentile ruler of that area, Sergius Paulus, desires to hear God’s message from Paul and Barnabas.  However, Barjesus attempts to prevent Barnabas and Paul from reaching this gentile with the gospel; God’s “new” message of grace.  This is where the Holy Spirit “steps in,” fills Saul/Paul, and speaks to Barjesus through him (v10-11).  Then Paul performs his very first recorded, miracle and it’s not merely a historical church event in that sense, its God the Father communicating Church Age Doctrine through a visual sign; for Jews always required “a sign” before they would believe… proving this point, Sergius Paul saw and believed v12). 

What was the doctrine God portrayed through Paul’s first recorded miracle?  As Jews are hindering and forbidding Paul (a Jew mind you) from preaching God’s Word to the gentiles (1 Thessalonians 2:14-16), similarly this unbelieving Jew is preventing Paul from preaching salvation to this gentile ruler so that he might have eternal life.  So, Barjesus is physically blinded for a time (v11) while Paul attends to Sergius Paulus’ salvation, thus revealing God’s doctrine:  For I do not want you, brethren, to be uninformed of this mystery – so that you will not be wise in your own estimation – that a partial hardening has happened to Israel until (this is a time future word in scripture and this one points to this event) the fullness of the Gentiles has come in, and so all Israel will be saved; just as it is written, “THE DELIVERER WILL COME FROM ZION, HE WILL REMOVE UNGODLINESS FROM JACOB.”  “THIS IS MY COVENANT WITH THEM, WHEN I TAKE AWAY THEIR SINS” (Romans 11:25-27).

Now, the Doctrine of the Partial Hardening of Israel or their Spiritual Blindness goes much “deeper” than what I’ve shown you here.  But to save time we’re not going to get into the, who, what, when, why, and where of all that right here, right now.  We covered this material during our study of the book of Romans and that information is available to you on this website.  We’re going to get back to our original thought, investigating the transition from the name Saul to Paul.

Saul of Tarsus first appears in scripture in Acts 7:58.  He is a young man, an influential man, while the Jewish religious leaders are busy stoning Stephen to death, he is standing on the sidelines holding their cloaks.  He then volunteers to lead Israel’s rebellion against Jesus’ small flock of Believers in early Acts (Acts 8:1-4, 22:1-5, 26:9-11; 1 Corinthians 15:9; Galatians 1:13-14; 1 Timothy 1:13).  Elsewhere in scripture we learn Saul was a Jew by blood and tradition, i.e. religion (Acts 22:3; Romans 9:3-4; 2 Corinthians 11:22; Galatians 1:14-15; Philippians 3:5).  He is also a Roman by birth and citizenship (Acts 16:37-38; 22:25-29).  Saul was born in Tarsus, Cilicia, about 300 miles north of Jerusalem, but he grew up in Jerusalem under the tutelage of the well-known rabbi Gamaliel (Acts 22:3).  He was a scholar in the Mosaic Law, a religious leader of Israel, a Pharisee (Galatians 1:13-15; Philippians 3:5-6).  He was known as “Rabbi Shaul.” 

The name Saul is Hebrew whereas Paul is a Roman name.  In Hebrew, Saul (Shaul) means:  asked, desired, or wished.  In Greek, Paul (Paulos) means:  little.  Because Paul means little, and the 2nd century church described Paul as short, fat, bald, bow-legged, bushy-eye-browed, with protruding eyes, some say his awkward appearance is one possible source of his name.  I’m not on board that train  Then we have Bible passages where Paul refers to himself as “the least of the saints.” The reason for this comment is before his conversion he persecuted the Church of God (Acts 9:1-2; 1 Corinthians 15:9; Ephesians 3:8; 1 Timothy 1:15) so others say this is the where he gets his name; they surmise least = little.  Paul did say he was the least of all the saints and he’s already explained why he said this; it has nothing to do with his Roman name. 

In all of his letters we know him as our Apostle Paul, by his Gentile name.  This is because God no longer saw him as a Jew, as Rabbi Shaul, but rather as the 1st Gentile, saved by grace.  After his conversion (Acts 9), his ministry is “the apostleship to the gentiles” (Romans 11:13).   This was mainly due to Israel’s final act of unbelief toward the Holy Spirit in Acts 7.  Theoretically speaking, from Acts 7 onward God considered any lost Jew to be in the same “sinking boat” as the gentiles, for now there was no difference (Romans 10:12; Galatians 3:28).  Since God was using Paul to preach His message of Grace to Gentiles primarily, it was fitting he use and be known by his  Gentile name in pagan cities and towns, beyond the boundaries of Judea. 

Paul is the perfect illustration of the Body of Christ, which is composed of believing Jews and Gentiles, saved by grace (alone), saved apart from Israel’s Prophetic Program.  Bear in mind always Law and Grace do not mix; God wants them kept separate in the Age of Grace.

An apostle (not sent from men nor through the agency of man, but through Jesus Christ and God the Father, who raised Him from the dead) – the word apostle comes from the Greek word to send (Apostello).  Most people are familiar with the twelve chosen by Jesus Christ during His earthly ministry; the ones He named apostles (Mark 6:30; Luke 6:13).  Paul asserted his apostleship in all his letters except for Philippians, 1 & 2 Thessalonians, and Philemon.  This opening paragraph is one of the strongest affirmations of his apostolic authority, no doubt due to the situations in the Galatian churches where false teachers were attempting to dilute or disprove his gospel by attacking him personally. 

Verses 2-5:

…and all the brethren who are with me, To the churches of Galatia:  Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ, who gave Himself for our sins so that He might rescue us from this present evil age, according to the will of our God and Father, to whom be the glory forevermore.  Amen.

We don’t know who all the brethren who are with Paul are.  We know Paul passed through the Galatian region on his second missionary journey (Acts 16:6) around 50 or 51 AD because the Apostle Luke recorded the account.  He also recorded Paul’s third missionary journey through the Galatian region and Phrygia (for the purpose of) strengthening the churches in 53 AD (Acts 18:23).  But the names of the brethren are not mentioned.  If God wanted us to know who these individuals were, their names would have appeared here so it’s not important.    

To the churches of Galatia – when Paul said, “I am amazed that you are so quickly deserting Him who called you by the grace of Christ, for a different gospel (1:6), it’s clear Paul is referring to himself as the one who preached to them first.  He laid the foundation as God’s master builder preaching Jesus Christ crucified (1 Corinthians 3:9-11).  However, scripture doesn’t say how many churches there were in Galatia.  We know there were several cities in Galatia, Ancyria, Pessinus, Tavia, etc. so it’s possible house churches sprung up in these and other cities. 

Grace to you – this is Paul’s usual apostolic greeting.  Compare it to Romans 1:7.

Who gave Himself for our sins – Paul introduces this important Church Doctrine at the beginning of this letter because the Galatians were beginning to pay attention to the false doctrine of the Judaizers.  They had lost sight of this very important Grace Age Truth (Galatians 1:6-7, 5:4).   

So that He might rescue us from this present evil age – before Paul, these Galatians didn’t know they needed to be rescued from anything, let alone this evil age.  The word rescue in the Greek language is Exaireo (Ex-ahee-reh’-o), a Verb, Strong’s Greek #1807, and it means:  to pluck out, to take out from a number, to select, then to rescue or deliver.  This is the sense in which Paul uses the word here.  Jesus Christ came, He gave Himself that He might “rescue or deliver” those who choose to Believe His gospel from this evil age. 

This evil age or this world is best described as a place under enemy control; a place where self-absorbed, self-centered, self-indulgent people thrive and reproduce (Genesis 6:5).  In short, people who choose to live for themselves and deny God’s authority and existence.  Probably with the Corinthians in mind, Paul had this to say:  do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect (Romans 12:2).  Until Paul, the Galatians’ world was one without God, thus it was a world filled with corrupt desires and worldly opinions.  It was a world where people lived for themselves primarily and everything else was less important.  Clearly, this runs contrary to the kingdom of God for this evil age is filled with sin and people who think nothing of committing sin (Romans 1:18-32; Galatians 5:19-21).  This was the world Jesus Christ willingly entered and voluntarily died for all, in hope of saving a few (Matthew 7:13-14; 2 Corinthians 5:14-15).

Verse 6:

Perversion of the Gospel

6: I am amazed that you are so quickly deserting Him who called you by the grace of Christ, for a different gospel;

I am amazed – Paul doesn’t rebuke the Galatians or use sarcasm, as he was known to do with the Corinthians.  Instead, he chose to use a kind word to express his surprise that this event should have occurred, after all he had said and done for them. 

That you are so quickly deserting Him - note the verb deserting is in the present tense, which means they were in the process of turning away from Him.  They had warmly embraced Paul and his gospel and in so doing had given themselves to God.  But shortly thereafter they had been led astray from the simple, gospel of Jesus Christ for a different gospel.  The Bible passages at Galatians 3:1 and 5:7 call attention to the fact that although the Judaizers instigated the desertion, the Galatians didn’t resist; they willingly participated in it. 

A different gospel –  is any message other than the Grace of God, which proclaims salvation on other terms than merely faith in the gospel of Jesus Christ (1 Corinthians 15:1-4), plus nothing else.  In this instance, the gospel they introduced enforced the belief that the Jewish rites and ceremonies are absolutely essential in order to be saved.

Verse 7:

7: which is really not another; only there are some who are disturbing you and want to distort the gospel of Christ.

Which is really not another - here’s the thing; there are not two gospels, however the one, true gospel is often distorted or altered.  I mention this because the KJV translation of Galatians 2:7 has often been interpreted as referring to two gospels, one for the Greeks, and one for the Jews.  This is an unfortunate and untrue presumption of God’s Word, although truth be told the false teachers probably made this statement.

There are some who are disturbing you – this refers to a deliberate, purposeful action similar to a military revolt.  I say this because this passage has several military terms in it.  These false teachers came in pretending to have come direct from Jerusalem; direct from the twelve apostles with instructions they had received from them.  This could have been the same group of “agitators” (Galatians 5:12) Paul mentioned in 2 Corinthians 11:26 or another group altogether.    

Distort the gospel of Christdistort is another possible military term meaning “to reverse.”  Although morality is a significant element of the gospel, it always follows the salvation experience it doesn’t precede it.  The Judaizers asserted it did.  Paul’s gospel was Christ, then Christlikeness; their gospel was “works righteousness or performance based righteousness (the Mosaic Law) and then God’s righteousness in Christ.  They didn’t deny the central place of Jesus Christ in salvation, but they insisted and required a person to follow the Mosaic Law, which confused grace with human performance in order to be saved.  They were teaching the Galatians:

The necessity of circumcision (Galatians 2:3-4, 5:1, 6:12-15)
The keeping of special days (Galatians 4:10)
A possible inclusion of keeping the food laws which is implied in Paul’s confrontation with Peter (Galatians 2:11-14).

Verses 8-9:

8: But even if we, or an angel from heaven, should preach to you a gospel contrary to what we have preached to you, he is to be accursed!  As we have said before, so I say again now, if any man is preaching to you a gospel contrary to what you received, he is to be accursed!

But even if we, or an angel from heaven, should preach to you a gospel contrary to what we have preached to you, he is to be accursed!  Paul states this expression twice in succession, so he means what he says and he intends for these folks in Galatia (and us) to understand the seriousness of the matter.  He has just cosigned these false teachers to God’s wrath.  Put another way, they are to be judged by God and if found guilty they are to be separated from God’s presence forever.  That, my friends, is serious business!  What’s the big deal?  They are treating the shed blood of Jesus Christ as if it were a common thing, and that God will not put up with (Hebrews 10:29)!

When you place your trust (faith) in the shed blood of Jesus Christ, you're salvation is secure.  If you are not under the blood, then there is no salvation.

Now there are some people in the church today who prefer not to talk about the blood of Jesus Christ because it upsets some of the people sitting in the pews.  Therefore some church leaders have opted to omit it from their Sunday sermons.  In some cases, they’ve gone so far as to remove songs which contain the word blood from their hymnals.  I’m not exaggerating; I couldn’t be more serious.  But it is your belief in the shed blood of Jesus Christ that seals your salvation; and not the fact that He died on the cross and by that act of faith, plus nothing else, you are then declared righteous (in right standing) with God.  How do we know this?  This book says:  And according to the Law, one may almost say, all things are cleansed with blood, and without shedding of blood there can be no forgiveness (of sin) - Hebrews 9:22.

But let's use the Bible to teach.  It's not about what I say, but what does the Bible say.  Please turn to Romans 3:25:  (Here Paul is speaking of the Lord Jesus Christ) whom God displayed publicly as propitiation in His (what’s the next word) blood through faith.  This was to demonstrate His righteousness, because in the forbearance of God He passed over the sins previously committed.

Don't let that word "propitiation" throw you. This word means that Jesus Christ willingly became the blood sacrifice God demanded for the sins of mankind, past, present, and future.  By Jesus' substitutionary sacrifice on the cross, God's wrath was appeased and mankind's sins were atoned for.

I enjoy teaching this material.  You see, it is all about the righteousness of God from first to last.  There is only one absolute and eternal standard of righteousness that is of the nature and character of God. This is called the "righteousness of God." We say that whatever God does is right because righteousness is summed up in Him.  Put another way, whatever God does is right and He does it because it is right.

Psalm 71

19: "For Your righteousness, O God, reaches to the heavens...

Isaiah 55:8-9

"For My thoughts are not your thoughts, nor are your ways My ways, declared the LORD.  For as the heavens are higher than the earth, So are My ways higher than your ways And My thoughts than your thoughts."

Getting back to Galatians, 1:10, the Greek word for accursed is Anathema (Romans 9:3; 1 Corinthians 12:3, 16:22) or devoted to destruction.  There are far too many people distorting the gospel today (See the prosperity gospel and the social gospel) and they will answer to God.  Our responsibility as Believers is to know what God has said so that we can recognize counterfeit teaching (false teaching) when we hear it and withdraw from it.   

A gospel contrary to what you received – here Paul is saying to become a true Believer you must truly receive the gospel (1 Corinthians 15:1-4), by faith, plus nothing else.  Jesus Christ, is God’s gift of love to us and a gift is something we receive humbly, knowing, in this instance, that we couldn’t possibly pay enough or work hard enough to purchase our way into God’s presence, i.e. to buy eternal life.  Accepting salvation through His Word (alone) is a work of God’s Grace, “For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God…” (Ephesians 2:8).  The minute you try to do anything to earn a gift, it is no longer a gift!  The Judaizers were telling the Galatians they needed to earn the right to be saved.

Verse 10:

10: For am I now seeking the favor of men, or of God?  Or am I striving to please men?  If I were still trying to please men, I would not be a bond-servant of Christ.

For am I now seeking the favor of men, or of God?  Prior to Paul’s conversion on the road to Damascus, he freely admits to seeking the favor from those whom he derived his authority to seek out and persecute the followers of the way (Acts 9:1-2).  He wasn’t trying to please God at that time, he was pleasing men.  But now, he has a much higher aim in life.  His sole purpose in life was to please God continually. 

Or am I striving to please men?  It was not Paul’s aim to please men, or people in general.  Here he’s referring to the false teachers primarily.  This statement reminds me of another passage from 1 Thessalonians, so let’s take a look at it:  but just as we have been approved by God to be entrusted with the gospel, so we speak not as pleasing men, but God who examines our hearts (1 Thessalonians 2:4).  The reason why Paul isn’t trying to please people is because people are prone to be fickle that is to say inconsistent in adhering to their given word and they’re prone to change.  But God and His Word do not change; Jesus Christ is Rock steady, Faithful and True (Numbers 23:19; Psalm 18:2, 46 19:14; Isaiah 26:4; Mark 12:10; John 14:6; Hebrews 13:8). 

I would not be a bond-servant of Christ – the Greek word bond-servant is Doulos (doo’-los), Noun, Strong’s Greek #1401, meaning:  a slave, metaphor, one who gives himself up to another’s will those whose service is used by Christ in extending and advancing His cause among men.  During the Roman era, the term bond-servant could refer to someone who voluntarily served others.  But it usually referred to one who was held in permanent position of servitude.  Under Roman law, a bond-servant was considered the owner’s property.  Slaves essentially had no rights and could even be killed for little or no reason by their owners.  The Hebrew word for bond-servant Ebed had a similar connotation.  But the Mosaic Law allowed an indentured servant to become a bond-servant voluntarily (Exodus 21:5-6).

Throughout the New Testament, the term bond-servant, slave, or servant is applied metaphorically to someone absolutely devoted to Jesus Christ.  Paul, Timothy, James, Peter, and Jude all describe themselves as bond-servants of Christ (Romans 1:1; Philippians 1:1; James 1:1; 2 Peter 1:1; Jude 1:1). 

(To be continued)

© Copyright 2011
GJ Heitzman’s Ministry
All Rights Reserved

Friday, June 23, 2017

2 Corinthians (13:1-14) (Lesson 28)

Home Bible Study©
Rightly Dividing the Word of Truth (2 Timothy 2:15)

Established November 2008                                                       Published Weekly on Friday

This is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Savior, who desires all men (and women) to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth.  (1Timothy 2:3-4)

2 Corinthians (13:1-14)                                                      (Lesson 28)

Welcome to HBS. 

Introduction to Chapter 13

Paul’s final comments to the Corinthians are meant to reassure them he intends to visit them.  But the purpose of this third visit is to judge those who had boasted that he wrote intimidating letters when away but was weak when he was with them (2 Corinthians 10:1-2, 10-11).  It’s likely his antagonists had become even bolder, since he had promised to visit Corinth twice before but had been twice-shy according to them.  Scripture doesn’t mention this third visit to Corinth.  All we have are a couple of Bible verses from Paul speaking of his intent to travel there (Romans 15:22-29).  However, in response to his opponent’s boldness he solemnly assures them he is coming and in every case where an offence was CONFIRMED BY THE TESTIMONY OF TWO OR THREE WITNESSES, punishment would be inflicted (13:1-2).  Since they argued and sought proof that the risen Lord had sent him, they should witness that proof in the punishment he would inflict upon the guilty (13:3).

But it’s not all bad news, after all, this is our Apostle Paul, the encourager; the man who wasn’t willing to give up on these Corinthians (13:10-14).  He loved this church, as he loved all the churches (2 Corinthians 11:28), and he wanted to see it purged of the wicked behavior that weakened it and kept it from experiencing true spiritual growth (1 Corinthians 3:1-5; 10:12; 2 Corinthians 12:20).  But change had to come!

Any loving parent will tell you to raise a child properly requires you give them a good swat on the seat of their pants now and again to encourage change, i.e. proper behavior.  With that thought in mind, Paul is promising to wield the rod of discipline upon his arrival in Corinth, if there is no proof of change, i.e. repentance in the group who heard his message, twice, but still continued to rebel against his leadership, and to all the rest as well (1 Corinthians 4:15, 21; Proverbs 13:24; Hebrews 12:4-12).  But he closes this letter with a positive, uplifting message meant for their edification.  He prays for them and bids them an affectionate farewell in the usual Pauline manner.

Please open your Bible at 2 Corinthians 13:1.

Examine Yourselves

2 Corinthians 13


EVERY FACT - This quote comes from the beginning of Deuteronomy 19:15, which deals with legal proceedings under the Mosaic Law (Deuteronomy 17:6; Numbers 35:30; Matthew 18:16; 1 Timothy 5:19).   Why is Paul using it here?  I’m glad you asked.

Based on our study of this letter there are two possibilities:

It could refer to the Corinthian’s evaluation of Paul.  He’s already made two trips there and they were not rest stops; he ministered to them.  Consequently, they would be held accountable as hearers of the truth (Romans 15:1-7; 1 Corinthians 3:12-15, 15:1-4).

It could refer to church discipline related to a certain group within the church.

The factious group (1 Corinthians 1-4; 2 Corinthians 12:20)
An immoral group (2 Corinthians 12:21)
The super apostles who had connections to Jerusalem (Chapters 10-13)

TO BE CONFIRMED BY THE TESTIMONY OF TWO OR THREE WITNESSES – what Paul means to say by this comment isn’t quite clear.  Some people think he’s referring to the letters he had sent to this church these would serve as his TWO OR THREE WITNESSES.  Others think he’s referring to the testimony of his coworkers, namely Titus and Timothy and one the two unnamed brothers who may be with him on this visit.  But Instead of working with opinions, let’s move forward with what we know.  We understand TWO OR THREE WITNESSES is what the Law of Moses required to settle a legal dispute.  Therefore Paul’s point in quoting scripture is to inform the Corinthians, and the false apostles, he’s coming this third time to judge them.  This isn’t conjecture because we have the following statement in verse 2 to support it.

Verse 2:

2: I have previously said when present the second time, and though now absent I say in advance to those who have sinned in the past and to all the rest as well, that if I come again I will not spare anyone (the proverbial rod of discipline),
Paul is obviously speaking to two groups.  The first, “those who have sinned in the past” must refer to the Believers who heard Paul twice but remained in rebellion against his apostolic authority.  Whether this was the factious group of 1 Corinthians 1-4 or the immoral group of 2 Corinthians 12:20-21 this book does not come right out and say.  The second, “and all the rest” could relate to those who were not present during these two visits, which would include the false apostles from Jerusalem and those who supported them, which are the focus of chapters 10-13.  Whatever the case, Paul puts these two groups on notice.  He wants them to deal with their sinful behavior and repent.  But if they do not he will attend to it.

If I come again I will not spare anyone – Paul used this phrase before in a positive sense:  But I call God as witness to my soul, that to spare you I did not come again to Corinth (2 Corinthians 1:23).  But here, he uses it in a noticeable judicial sense.

Let’s go to verses 3-4.

3: since you are seeking for proof of the Christ who speaks in me, and who is not weak toward you, but mighty in you.  For indeed He was crucified because of weakness, yet He lives because of the power of God.  For we also are weak in Him, yet we will live with Him because of the power of God directed toward you.

Since you are seeking for proof of the Christ who speaks in me – Paul’s antagonists, specifically the false apostles (2 Corinthians 11:5, 12:11), said they wanted to see more “power” from Paul.  He appeared to be too weak and humble in their estimation (by the way, the Jews said the same thing about Jesus Christ).  So Paul responds to their personal evaluation here, in effect saying, “You want to see proof of the Christ who speaks in me?  Very well, when I come the third time, you will see the power of God in my rebuke as I make things right in this church.  I advise you to clean house now before I arrive.” 

In case some of you think that’s a bit too harsh, are you not aware Jesus Christ cleaned His Father’s house because of the sinful activity taking place within it?  He entered the temple of God (before Passover), and cast out all them that sold and bought in the temple, and overthrew the tables of moneychangers, and the seats of them that sold doves, And He said to them, “It is written, MY HOUSE SHALL BE CALLED A HOUSE OF PRAYER; but you are making it a ROBBERS’ DEN.”  (Matthew 21:12-13) 

You have to read all four gospel accounts to obtain the entire record of Jesus’ righteous display of anger toward all those men who were more interested in making money than they were in maintaining the holiness of God’s house.  If you flip on over to John 2:15 in your Bible you’ll discover Jesus took the time to make Himself a whip out of cords and drove all from the temple courts, both sheep and cattle with it (John 2:15). 

And who is not weak toward you, but mighty in you (v3b) - the Jewish intruders failed to recognize weakness is God’s path to spiritual victory, as clearly illustrated in the life of His Son, Jesus Christ.  They refused to see it in the life and ministry of our Apostle Paul (2 Corinthians 10:1, 11, 12:9, 13:9) as well.  Here’s the thing:  there is no record of any human being receiving glory for spiritual accomplishments that are in actuality a direct result of God’s will being accomplished through them.  That’s because it is God’s resources that accomplish spiritual results! 

How many times must Paul say this?  Well, he’s writing to Corinth so once is never enough, so here he goes again.  Paul wants them to know Believers must allow God’s power to flow through their weaknesses.  The same suffering that reveals our weaknesses will also reveal God’s strength, if we permit it:  for (His) power is perfected in our weakness (2 Corinthians 12:9; Philippians 4:13). 

For indeed He was crucified because of weakness (v4a) – Let’s be clear, the Son of God was not weak; Jesus Christ chose not to exert His power thus He appeared to be weak to His enemies:  although He existed in the form of God, did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied Himself, taking the form of (what) a bond-servant, and being made in the likeness of men.  Being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross (Philippians 2:6-8).  Does anyone believe for a second God the Father is powerless?  Do you believe God was unable to prevent the crucifixion?  Do you honestly believe Jesus Christ, the Creator of all that is seen and unseen could not have put an end to His torment at any given time?  We know they could have, but then where would we all be?  The answer is:  still dead in our sins (Romans 5:6-11). 

Yet He lives – Jesus Christ is alive, though He was crucified, He lives (1 Corinthians 15:20-23)!  Furthermore, He is capable of exerting supernatural power as proof that He is alive.  Paul reminds us miracles, signs, and wonders are being performed in His name and by His power?  One other sign that Christ lives is the gospel of Jesus Christ is being preached in every town and city despite fierce opposition, beatings, often in danger of death, dangers in the cities, dangers in the wilderness, dangers on the sea, dangers among false brethren (11:23, 26).  Why would men risk their lives daily to propagate a lie? 

Because of the power of God – here Paul states the Father raised Christ Jesus from the dead and placed Him at His right hand (Psalm 110:1; Ephesians 1:19-21).  However, there is a Bible verse that says in some way the Holy Spirit is involved in Jesus’ resurrection:  But if the Spirit of Him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in You, He who raised Christ Jesus from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through His Spirit who dwells in you (Romans 8:11, 1:11).

Then we these Bible passages that say Jesus Himself has the power to overcome death:  “Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up” (John 2:19-22).

“For this reason the Father loves Me, because I lay down My life so that I may take it again.  No one has taken it away from Me, but I lay it down on My own initiative.  I have (what) authority to lay it down, and I have authority to take it up again.  This commandment I received from My Father” (John 10:17-18). 

Please note there are other Bible verses that say the same thing.  I selected the two above because they say it so clearly.  However, did you know scripture also says the Son can do nothing by Himself:  “Truly, truly, I say to you the Son can do nothing of Himself, unless it is something He sees the Father doing (John 5:19a).  It would appear the Holy Trinity is involved in the Resurrection of Jesus Christ and perhaps the Father sanctioned it (v4).

For we also are weak in Him, yet we will live with Him because of the power of God directed toward you – Paul had a unique understanding of the Believer’s life in Christ Jesus, speaking specifically of our identification with Christ’s life, His death and His resurrection.  We’ve learned from this study that Paul mimicked Christ, meaning he lived a humble, gentle life, which also meant he lived a challenging, misunderstood life, and so will the Corinthians, if they’re truly following Jesus Christ.  This identification theology is found in Romans 6.  Paul wrote the letter to the church at Rome while he was dealing with the problems in Corinth.  Read it again with that understanding. 

There was a musical group in the 60’s called The Monkees.  They had a hit single called, “I’m a Believer.”  Of course Mickey Dolenz’s song was about the certainty of “young love.” Here is verse 5 Paul asks his antagonists a question requiring serious thought, with eternal implications, and I’m paraphrasing, “Are you a Believer, in the gospel?” 

2 Corinthians 13

5: Test yourselves to see if you are in the faith; examine yourselves!  Or do you not recognize this about yourselves, that Jesus Christ is in you – unless indeed you fail the test?

Paul isn’t asking every Believer who belong to this church to examine themselves.  They weren’t all rebelling against his apostolic authority.  The painful/stern letter he sent sandwiched in between 1 and 2 Corinthians had a positive effect on some of them.  It had brought about change (repentance) in some of their lives.  However, there were two other groups and Paul identified them in verse 2 saying, “those who had sinned in the past, and all the rest as well;” who continued to oppose Paul. 

The reason why Paul asks these folks to examine themselves is they had tested Paul.  There had been too many church related issues and irregularities.  These two groups had shown themselves to be completely out of step and out of character with the true nature of a person following Christ Jesus.  Paul felt the need to ask them to give careful consideration to the time of their conversion; perhaps they were deceived.  Paul has tried to solve their problems by using the resources available to him without success.  Now it’s time to go back to the very beginning, their conversion, to ensure they are in the faith to begin with!  In effect Paul’s saying, “Check your heart; did you truly believe the gospel? (1 Corinthians 15:1-4; Ephesians 2:8-9) 

Examine yourselves – examine in the Greek language is Dokimazo (dok-im-ad’-zo), Verb, Strong’s Greek # 1381, meaning:  to test, prove, scrutinize (to see whether a thing is genuine or not) as metals.  This is a stronger word than test it refers to trying metals by the powerful action of heat.  Paul is saying they should examine their beliefs, to see whether it would stand the test:  each man’s work will become evident; for the day will show it because it is to be revealed with fire, and the fire itself will test the quality of each man’s work (1 Corinthians 3:13; Revelation 19:12). 

The obvious question should be, “How do they examine/test their faithfulness to God?  As I said earlier, it begins with an examination of their hearts but it also extends to their lives.  What are their views and feelings toward the gospel, and the Word of God, and what position do these truths hold in their daily lives (Psalm 119:105; Matthew 15:8).  The only way to properly examine themselves is by putting their faithfulness to the test, i.e. while faithfully following Jesus Christ 24/7/365, and enduring the trials of life as a Believer should:  for when I am weak, then I am strong (2 Corinthians 12:9-11). 

The way an individual proves the car they want to purchase is going to be faithful is by subjecting it to an actual trial.  It’s not possible to do this by watching it from a chair in the showroom or by reading the car manuals.  They put the key in the ignition and take it for a test drive.  This is where the rubber meets the road, literally.  If it performs well, then they know they’re on the right track.   Likewise, if an individual wants to know what their faith is worth let them take it into the world; for this is where the rubber meets the road, spiritually speaking.  Take the gospel, i.e. the Person of Jesus Christ, any place where He may do some good.  Don’t wink at sin, as the world-at-large does.  Admonish sinners in a loving manner, don’t join them; inform them of their wrongdoing and why change is necessary. Tell them Jesus died for them; His blood was shed for them and others.  Then when they encounter opposition, and they will, they ought to endure it in a proper manner.  Do this faithfully, day-in and day-out, and they will soon see what their faith is worth. 

Or do you not recognize this about yourselves – Said differently, “This isn’t rocket science; do you not know yourselves?  Paul means to say why wouldn’t a true Believer know their true character?  The adage Never Judge a Book by its Cover applies here as outward appearances can’t reveal the whole story.  It’s possible for a person to pretend to be one thing when in truth they are the complete opposite.  Let’s use the Pharisees as an example.  They appeared to be righteous, however their faith and their righteous were false (Matthew 23:28); it was insufficient (Matthew 5:20).  The same is possible today.  People can pray with others in church, but do they pray in private?  They can contribute on Sunday along with others, and others see that envelope go into the basket, but what are they doing the other six days of the week to demonstrate their faithfulness in contributing to Christ’s kingdom?  What are they doing to better themselves, what are they putting away to ensure they are truly walking with Christ, when the only One watching is God? 

Recognizing one’s sin is seldom a problem.  Most people are able to acknowledge moral flaws such as adultery, cheating, lying, stealing, etc.  Even new Believers recognize these sins, however, doctrinal errors can be more difficult to discern.  This is why Believers need to be diligent in studying this book (2 Timothy 2:15) and knowing God’s will (Philippians 1:9-10; 1 Thessalonians 5:21-22; Hebrews 5:13-14).

That Jesus Christ is in you – I note Paul did not say they were Christians.  I note this word appears only 3 times in the Bible and because it is often misused and misapplied in society today I hardly ever use the term.  I prefer to use the word Believer or Bible Believing Saint instead.  Many cults call themselves Christians today and to be Christ-like means you are following Jesus.  You can’t be following Jesus unless you’re adhering to scripture, Church-Age Doctrine, etc; cults simply do not believe in the authenticity of God’s Word and many cults do not believe in Jesus.  Do not be deceived.

Verse 13:4 focused on the corporate aspect, but this phrase focuses on the individual’s aspect.  We are aware, or should be, the Holy Spirit baptizes us in the Body of Christ the moment we believe the gospel (1 Corinthians 12:12-14).  Each Believer is then sealed with the Holy Spirit as a guarantee of our inheritance (Ephesians 1:13-14, 4:30).  But the ministries of the Holy Spirit and Jesus Christ are so closely linked that often the Spirit is called the Spirit of Christ (See Romans 8:9; 1 Peter 1:11).  This book also says Jesus Christ indwells Believers (John 14:23; Romans 8:10; Colossians 1:27). 

Unless indeed you fail the test – this phrase runs parallel to “if you are in the faith.  Paul has asserted in this letter in several ways he believes the folks attending this church are Believers, but not all of them.  There is a group labeled the false apostles, from Jerusalem who obviously do not know Jesus Christ (1 Corinthians 6:9-11).  This short phrase refers to them and not the members of the Corinthian church (1 Corinthians 1-8).  Paul referred to sinful Believers most recently in 2 Corinthians 12:20-21.  They needed to repent.  The false apostles needed to know Jesus Christ!

Verse 6:

 6: But I trust that you will realize that we ourselves do not fail the test – here Paul anticipates a counter-question from the false apostles, Why don’t you examine yourself?  Perhaps, you’re the one who is not a Christian.”  So, he answers it before it is voiced.  But in truth, Paul has made it clear he performs routine “check-ups” to keep himself under God’s control.  He does this because he doesn’t want to be disqualified or rejected. …but I discipline my body and make it my slave, so that, after I have preached to others, I myself will not be disqualified (1 Corinthians 9:27).  

In his letter to the church at Philippi, Paul encouraged the Believers there to “check-up” on themselves:  So then, my beloved, just as you have always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence, work out your salvation with fear and trembling (Philippians 2:12).  So, Paul is saying he and his coworkers have passed the test; they are not counterfeits, as are the false apostles.    

Let’s go to verse 7.

7: Now we pray to God that you do no wrong; not that we ourselves may appear approved, but that you may do what is right, even though we may appear unapproved – Paul’s prayer that the Corinthians do no wrong could have been motivated by the desire that he might appear approved, because when they rebelled against God it did bring reproach upon his name.  This can be compared to an underage son or daughter going out into the community and messing up badly, being caught, and being brought home in a squad car.  Their rebellion reflects badly on the parent’s name and the ripple effect will be noticed throughout their neighborhood, their church, and certainly amongst the family members themselves.  But this wasn’t the case.  He would rather have them to what is right, be honest, even though he may appear unapproved.  Paul understood, honesty is the best policy, and speaking the truth would always prevail to the very end. 

Verse 8:

8: For we can do nothing against the truth, but only for the truth – the truth in this context refers to the gospel as a Person, i.e. the Lord Jesus Christ, the Messenger who left heaven, and His lifestyle.   This verse also qualifies Paul’s sentiment in the previous verse, that Paul meant to do only what is right; that he wished everybody else would do the same; and that whatever might be the effect on his own reputation, or whatever people thought of him, he could not go against the great system of the gospel truth which he preached to both Jew and Gentile.  Doing what was right was a fixed principle in his life.

Verse 9:

9: For we rejoice when we ourselves are weak but you are strong; this we also pray for  Paul has taught the Corinthians (and us) that God’s spiritual power is released through human weakness (2 Corinthians 12:9-10, 13:4).  Therefore, this is Paul’s paradox.  He wants to remain weak, however, for the Corinthian church to be spiritually strong; she too, must become weak.  Think on this.  Isn’t this the direct opposite of the way people act and think, i.e. evaluate their lives?  The false apostles came preaching another gospel, another Jesus; they came asserting strength through education, lineage, and experiences.  What was Paul preaching in comparison?  Paul taught the Believer’s strength came through Christ’s example (2 Corinthians 13:4). 

That you be made complete – here Paul is calling for the church to become one unit as the risen Lord intended; to end its factious divisions (1 Corinthians 12:11-14).  This is certainly a dysfunctional group, presently (2 Corinthians 12:20-21), but Paul expects them to become a functioning, loving, unified church (13:11). 

Verse 10:

10: For this reason I am writing these things while absent, so that when present I need not use severity, in accordance with the authority which the Lord gave me for building up and not for tearing down.

Paul didn’t want to repeat the painful visit to Corinth (2 Corinthians 2:3-4).  He didn’t want to arrive on scene wielding the rod of discipline, as the apostolic avenger (1 Corinthians 4:21).  He preferred to enter their assembly in love and gentleness; however, he would gauge his response by their response in accordance with the authority which the Lord gave me. 

Verse 11:

11: Finally, brethren, rejoice, be made complete, live in peace; and the God of love and peace will be with you – Paul urges these Believers to do those things which pleases God because a) it’s God’s will.  b) they bring about this result:  the God of love and peace will be with you.

Verse 12:

12: Greet one another with a holy kiss – this custom between family members and friends within the church was halted due to pagan ignorance in later years.  In the early church years the men would greet the men and the women would greet the women with a holy kiss on the cheek, following the custom of the Jewish synagogue (Romans 16:16; 1 Corinthians 16:20; 1 Thessalonians 5:26).  I’ve seen some people in the church continue to greet people in such a manner, but it’s very rare today because most folks are acutely aware of communicable diseases and the existence of “rumor mongers” within the walls of their church.   

13: All the saints greet you – this phrase refers to not only Paul and his missionary team but to all the Believing saints in all the churches.  There was a certain amount of unhealthy tension between the churches and the Corinthian church and Paul addressed this by mentioning several time the standards he taught in all the churches (1 Corinthians 4:17, 7:17, 16:34).  Corinth needed to “get its act together, become a part of God’s one, church family, and not see itself as a privileged, elite member, standing off by its lonesome, all alone.

Verse 14:

14: The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit, be with you all – Paul always ends his letters with a blessing and a prayer or two, but this one is unique.  This one combines three aspects of God’s character with the three Person’s of the Trinity.  It’s also unusual in that Jesus is mentioned first.  The three aspects of God:  grace, love, and fellowship are for every Believer at Corinth signified by the phrase “be with you all.”  This is a crucial part of Paul’s prayer because he wants to restore unity amongst these Believers and he wants them to recognize and reject the false believers.

Paul used a scribe to write his letters.  For example the Romans 16:16 verse informs us Tertius wrote the body of Romans and not Paul.  However, it’s likely Paul took up the reed pen (calamus) to write this last prayer himself (See 2 Thessalonians 3:17). 

When we meet next week, we’ll begin our study of the book of Galatians.

© Copyright 2011
GJ Heitzman’s Ministry
All Rights Reserved