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2nd Corinthians 1:1-14


“Paul, an apostle of Jesus Christ by the will of God, and Timothy our brother, unto the church of God which is at Corinth, with all the saints which are in all Achaia: grace be to you and peace from God our Father, and from the Lord Jesus Christ.  Blessed be God, even the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies, and the God of all comfort; who comforteth us in all our tribulation, that we may be able to comfort them which are in any trouble, by the comfort wherewith we ourselves are comforted of God.  For as the sufferings of Christ abound in us, so our consolation also aboundeth by Christ.  And whether we be afflicted, it is for your consolation and salvation, which is effectual in the enduring of the same sufferings which we also suffer: or whether we be comforted, it is for your consolation and salvation.  And our hope of you is stedfast, knowing, that as ye are partakers of the sufferings, so shall ye be also of the consolation.  For we would not, brethren, have you ignorant of our trouble which came to us in Asia, that we were pressed out of measure, above strength, insomuch that we despaired even of life:  but we had the sentence of death in ourselves, that we should not trust in ourselves, but in God which raiseth the dead:  who delivered us from so great a death, and doth deliver:  in whom we trust that he will yet deliver us; ye also helping together by prayer for us, that for the gifts bestowed upon us by the means of many persons thanks may be given by many on our behalf.  For our rejoicing is this, the testimony of our conscience, that in simplicity and godly sincerity, not with fleshly wisdom, but by the grace of God, we have had our conversation [“behavior, conduct”] in the world, and more abundantly to you-ward.  For we write none other things unto you, than that ye read or acknowledge; and I trust ye shall acknowledge even to the end; as also ye have acknowledged us in part, that we are your rejoicing, even as ye also are ours in the day of the Lord Jesus.”


‘Welcome To The Ministry, For All Those Who Want My Job’


“2nd Corinthians, written about a year after 1st Corinthians, that we studied.  The first letter more corrective, this one certainly talking more about ministry then that should go on after these corrective things are put in place.  And much of Paul’s own heart is shared here.  Paul had gotten a response, many feel from Titus, gotten word that many in the church [at Corinth] had received his letter, and that some of the things he wrote about had been straightened out.  But there were also those who became his critics over a number of things.  He hadn’t come as soon as he said he would come, that he was not an imposing figure, that he was not a good speaker, one thing or another.  So Paul is still writing a letter that in some ways defends his ministry as an apostle.  And yet there’s great pathos in this, there’s great heart that he shares.  He’ll give us a little briefing, you don’t have to turn there, on his life at the end of the letter.  He said ‘You suffer fools gladly,’ you listen to fools, ‘seeing you yourselves are so wise,’ a little bit of divine satire there, ‘For you suffer if a man bring you into bondage, if a man devour you, if a man take of you, if a man exalt himself, if a man smite you on the face.  I speak as concerning reproach as though we had been weak.  Howbeit, whereinsoever any is bold, I speak foolishly, I am bold also.  Are they Hebrews? so am I.  Are they Israelites?  so am I, are they of the seed of Abraham?  so am I.  Are they ministers of Christ?  I speak as a fool, I am more.  In labours, more abundant, in stripes, above measure (being whipped), in prisons, more frequent, in deaths, often.  Of the Jews five times received I forty stripes save one.  Thrice I was beaten with rods, once I was stoned.  Thrice I suffered shipwreck, a night and a day I’ve spent in the deep,’  that sounds like a nightmare to me, ‘In journeyings often, in perils of water, in perils of robbers, in perils of my own countrymen, in perils by the heathen, in perils in the city, in perils of the wilderness, in perils at sea, in perils among false brethren, in weariness, in painfulness, in watchings often, in hunger and in thirst, in fastings often.  In cold and in nakedness, besides those things that are without, that which cometh upon me daily, the care of all the churches.’  So Paul basically saying ‘Welcome to the ministry, for all of you who want my job.’ [i.e. this is what real ministry is all about.]  He’s going to deal with these others who have come into the church that want to usurp his position.  And it’s so often the case in God’s work or in the Church [Body of Christ], where people want authority, they want to be a hot shot, they want to be the center of focus.  [Do you know any people like that?  I do.  They travel around with their invisible soapboxes, looking for a willing ear to preach their heresies to.]  And Paul says ‘Well, this is what the ministry’s all about, you know, this, getting stoned, floating in the deep, being beaten.’  He’s saying, ‘If you’re going to listen to fools, listen to me, let me speak foolishly in the name of Christ, these are the things that I’ve been through.’  He said, ‘Besides that, what weighs on my heart is the care of all the churches.’ 


Grace & Peace, Charis & Shalom


So, as he begins this letter, and says “Paul, an apostle of Jesus Christ by the will of God,” and I’m sure he’s convinced of that by this time, just by the fact that he’s still alive.  “Paul an apostle of Jesus Christ by the will of God, and Timothy our brother, unto the church of God which is at Corinth, with all the saints which are in all Achaia:”---northern Achaia, Macedonia, where they feel this letter is written from.  [Comment:  “unto the church of God which is at Corinth”, this was the standard name given to the early apostolic Church throughout the book of Acts and Epistles, “the church of God.”]  ‘Paul, an apostle by the will of God.’  Interesting, because he takes us through those lists of difficult things and suffering.  But there is never any bitterness.  And he’s going to use that, his sufferings and these difficulties, to move into this beginning of 2nd Corinthians to describe ministry, and try to be an encouragement to those that are going through difficult times.  Verse 2, he says “Grace be to you and peace from God our Father, and from the Lord Jesus Christ.”  And usually his greeting, “grace”, the Greek word charis.  “Peace”, the Hebrew greeting shalom.  In the culture of course, it was the Gospel went to the Jew first, then to the Greek, but the greetings have to be inverted.  You can never have peace then grace, you never have peace until you have grace first.  You can spend years in the Church [greater Body of Christ, as well as within your own congregation, applies to both], and yet until you understand the grace of God…and sometimes isn’t it amazing how stubborn and self-righteous and lawful and thick we are?  And sometimes we take long journeys simply to come back to the cross of Christ, and to remember his love and his grace, and to grow there, and where our hearts can be established, as it says in Hebrews.  Grace first, and then peace. 


‘You’re Receiving From the Vertical, So That You Can Give On The Horizontal’


He says, “from God our Father,” notice that, “our Father, and from the Lord Jesus Christ.  Blessed be God, even the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies, and the God of all comfort…”  “Blessed be, now we get the English word “eulogize” from that word “blessed.”  You know when you go to a funeral and they do a “eulogy”, that’s usually the last things that are being spoken about a person publicly.  Funerals are difficult, in the sense that I don’t think we ever, you never get used to them.  I’ve done so many of them I can’t remember them all, but it’s not like you ever get used to them, each one’s like the first one.  It’s just strange, I don’t think God wired Adam, when he put him in the Garden, to deal with death.  It says in the eternal state there is no death, there’s no sorrow, there’s no suffering, no tears, no pain, no curse.  So, in the face of death, emotionally, mentally, we can grasp the truth of God’s Word.  It gives us hope at that time.  But emotionally and mentally, to grasp ahold of death is a very strange thing.  But when you’re there, you want to say ‘OK, these are the things that we remember about this person.’  And it’s interesting when we do a eulogy, if a funeral is for a Christian it’s a whole lot easier, because you can quickly get to the truth of the fact that waiting, they’re in heaven, and we’re going to see them again, and they’re gonna look better when we get there.  [Comment:  within the greater Body of Christ there are various beliefs about heaven and hell.  To read about some of these, see:]  I always think at a funeral people always say ‘They look so good,’ and I think, ‘Man, that’s a terrible thing to say.’  [loud laughter]  Where he is he’s going to look great.  But when you do “eulogize” the person, you know, it’s interesting, those are the times that somebody says, they normally speak of the person’s character.  Oh, they remember some funny things, but usually it comes down to remembering the person’s character, character traits.  ‘Faithful husband, loving father, thoughtful, humourous,’  They don’t usually talk about at that time what he did, they talk about who he was.  It’s not a what he does time, it’s a who he is time.  They’re not saying ‘Man, you should have seen this guy drive an 18-wheeler,’ or ‘You should have seen this guy handle a skill saw, this guy could really lay tile.’  You don’t say those things at a funeral, you talk about the person.  And that here, remarkably, is what Paul does so much when he talks about, when he’s talking about the attributes of God the Father, in a remarkable way.  And he’s going to talk about the fact that God the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ is the Father of all mercies and God of all comfort, and he’s going to read the list of stuff he went through.  And to go through that list of stuff he went through and still be able to speak well of, to eulogize, to bless the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ is quite something for Paul to do---because we see with so many people, and I’ve done that---you know, Paul ’s been beaten and shipwrecked, whipped and stoned.  I’m a whimp.  I get a flat tire and I go “God, how could you do this to me?  I’m your pastor, it’s not good PR for you, what are people going to think if they drive by and see your pastor with a flat tire?”  You’re laughing because you’re a whimp too.  [loud laughter]  He’s going to talk to us about the fact that he’s an apostle by the will of God.  He’s going to talk to us about the fact that it’s through the Father of all mercy, the God of all comfort, that when something bad, painful is allowed to happen in our lives, that there is an equipping that takes place through those things.  That rather than thinking ‘he’s punishing me for something I’ve done,’ and we are so prone to do that.  We get in a jam or something painful or difficult, and what we do is we take inventory, back up a day, back up a week, back up a month, ‘It’s because I yelled at Aunt Jane, I know now, 1994 I said a curse word to Aunt Jane, and this is what I get,’ you know.  And Paul’s saying, ‘No, no, no, no, he punished Christ for what you did, nobody serves that sentence twice.’  He’s not punishing you for something you’ve done, Paul says, in difficulty.  Rather he’s equipping you for something you still have to do.  He’s doing in you, through his Spirit, what no human can do.  He’s saying, ‘You’re receiving from the vertical, so that you can give on the horizontal.’  And it’s so important for us to realize that we have no capacity to touch the Kingdom of God or to minister to God’s people except through the power of the Holy Spirit.  And there’s all kinds of seminars out there, ‘This is how you handle people, this is how you do this, this is how you lead groups, this is how you speak, ‘Annunciate!’ you know, and all of these…’  You can’t get equipped on the horizontal, to minister to people that are suffering,  people that need to make a connection with the vertical.  Education is a wonderful thing.  God leads many of us on that pathway.  But all of that has to be “united” by the Holy Spirit of God, or it amounts to nothing.  Even Jesus himself, remember, saying to his disciples, ‘Wait here in Jerusalem until you’re endued with power.’  But wait a minute, he taught them for three years.  Imagine, three years of seminary with Jesus Christ, not just class work, lab work!  He gave them power to raise the dead, heal the sick, and taught them.  Even then, at that point, he had breathed on them [John 20] when he rose from the dead [well before Pentecost, Acts 2] and said ‘Receive the Spirit’ as he opened their understanding.  He opened the Scripture to them, he explained to them for forty days specifically things in regards to the Kingdom of God.  And with all of that, he said, ‘you are not ready to go, because all that’s been invested in you, of knowledge, and of understanding, all of that needs to be ignited by something divine.  Because what this is all about, the truth of all of this is, it is not about being in the ministry---and we build edifices to that end---it is not about being in the ministry, it is about the ministry being in you.’  And if it doesn’t fall from heaven, it ain’t there, and you’re a detriment to the Kingdom of God.  Our connection has to be vertical, so that we can touch the horizontal, in his name.  And of course it’s wonderful when people, there are many people very learned, very orthodox, great professors at seminaries that are filled with the Spirit, where all of that is ignited to a proper end.  But Paul here is going to say this.  “Blessed be the God, even the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies, (and the Jew would understand that) and the God of all comfort…”  The Father of mercies, that would be in the mind of the Jew ‘the source of.’  And what Paul was saying is, ‘There is no source other than God, God gives birth to mercies.’  There are no mercies, and it’s really ‘pities’ here in the plural, or ‘compassions’, it’s an emotional word, except through “the Father of all mercies”, ‘the origin, all of the mercies that matter when people are hurting, come from him.’  [And we often have to learn that first-hand before we can successfully minister those mercies to others, both within our congregations and to those in this hurting world.  See:]  Again, a number of years ago I heard J. Vernon McGee, before he went home to be with the Lord, speaking to a class of graduating students from a Presbyterian seminary, and he said, [in his Southern accent] “You might as well take all you’ve learned and throw it out the window, ‘cause you’re going out into a real world, where people have broken marriages and broken hearts and broken lives, and it don’t matter to them what you know.  It only matters to them who you know.”   And he chose this verse from Song of Solomon, “What is your beloved more than these?”, and he kept coming back to that, “What is your beloved?”   They want to know that the Christ here that you’re talking to them about is someone you really know.  Well we will know then that he is the Father of all mercies, and that any mercy that matters in time and eternity, find their origins in him.  And he is the God of 83 percent of comfort.  [laughter]  Naa, he is “the God of all comfort.”  Now you know what that means in the Greek, “all”, very good, 100 percent, “the God of all comfort…”  Now, he doesn’t outline specifically for us several things here.  Comfort, paracleo, paraclesis, it’s used ten times from verses 3 to 7.  So certainly that’s central here.  Remember when Jesus said “I will not leave you comfortless, but I will send the Comforter.”  ‘I will not leave you orphanos, I won’t leave you orphans.’  He’s leaving, but he said ‘When I leave I’m not going to leave you as orphans, I will send the Paraclete, the One who comes alongside, the Holy Spirit, the Comforter.’  That’s our word here, paraclesis, paracleo, the one who comes alongside.  It doesn’t specifically say the Spirit, but obviously that’s implied.  But the idea is, the Father of mercy, that gives birth to mercy, and all mercies and compassions, the God of 100 percent of comfort, the God of that which comes alongside of us, to sustain us in difficulty.  You can define that a thousand different ways, but it is all from him.  God may send a Christian to say the right thing at the right time [or do that right thing at the right time ‘good works’ projects through somebody, just like Samaritan’s Purse does], he may use the radio broadcast.  Somebody may be sitting in the park, and just worrying and getting ulcers, and a little sparrow’s going to fly by, and you hear a little voice say ‘Remember the sparrows.’  It doesn’t say it’s dependent on our feelings, it doesn’t say it’s dependent on our IQ, it says ‘he is the God of 100 percent of that which comes alongside of us, to sustain us, to hold us up.’ 


Tribulation, Thlipsis, Removes the Chaff, Reprioritizes Us


Notice this, ‘Who comforteth us in 90 percent of all tribulation,’---no, “who comforteth us in all our tribulation,”.  I don’t know what your tribulation is, I know what my tribulation is.  He comforts us in all our tribulation, thlipsis in the Greek, which speaks of pressure’.  It is tribulum in the Latin, which is interesting, that’s when you went to the threshing floor and they drug a big wooden threshing sled over the grain to crush it and separate the wheat from the chaff.  That was the tribulum.  It was the pressure that came to separate wheat from chaff.  And isn’t it interesting how often when pressure comes in our lives, God allows, ‘How could a God who loves me allow this to happen to me?’  Wait a minute, he’s the Father of mercy and he’s the God of all comfort.  And he puts us in situations, tribulation, thlipsis, so that he can come alongside of us, and we find ourselves reprioritized.  I know everybody in America has been reprioritized since September 11th.  Everybody who was planning on retiring and playing golf twenty years from now has thought, ‘Are we gonna make it 20 years?’  Everybody has shortened up their priority list to ‘What’s important today.’  And when 5,000 people can disappear like that, snap! I’d better think today about what’s important, I’d better reprioritize.  Isn’t is interesting how God has come alongside of all of us in such a remarkable way in those things.  [Comment:  That event reprioritized the average American for about four months, they all started attending churches everywhere.  And then they went right back to their old ways.  But it reprioritized Holy Spirit indwelt Christians big-time.  It was a warning-shot across our bows.] 


Why Christians Suffer, Why Tribulations---To Deepen and Perfect Our Ministry


He comforts us in all of our tribulation, and here’s the reason why all of this is going on, “that we may be able to comfort them which are in any trouble, by the comfort wherewith we ourselves are comforted of God.” (verse 4)  It doesn’t have to be the same kind of trouble, it says “any trouble”.  When somebody says ‘You know, when you tell somebody else that God is faithful, that God will be there,’ and you know, it’s just theory, or you just say to somebody “Yea, all things work together for the good for those who love Christ…blaa, blaa, blaa, blaa’ and the person wants to slug you.  It’s much different when somebody comes alongside whose felt the thlipsis, felt the tribulations, felt the pain, and can really say, “You know what?  I know it hurts, I know it’s hard to understand, but God is so faithful, and he comes alongside, and he comforts us in all of our tribulation, no matter what it is.”  And I don’t understand how it all works, but I do know he’s faithful, and it speaks life, and he comes to us in our difficult times to strengthen us, to encourage us, to uphold us, so that we may then take the reality of that and speak it to others who themselves are hurting.  It provides a deepening and perfecting of our ministry.  Oh, there’s a cost, I don’t like to think about it.  I want to take, you know, the correspondence course.  Tomorrow I’m going to go through something, God’s gonna say ‘Don’t you remember what you taught everybody else last night?’  ‘Oh Lord, can’t I take this in a correspondence course?’  But the truth of it is here.  And, important in the days we live in, I think, in a wonderful way.  So, that’s why, so that you may be able to comfort others with the same comfort you were comforted with of God.  “For as the sufferings of Christ abound in us, so our consolation also aboundeth by Christ.” (verse 5)  Now, in the grammar there’s a contrast here, “for as” contrast with “so also”.  Grammatically corrected, it should read, “For as the sufferings of Christ abound in us, so also our consolation aboundeth by Christ.”  So wherever there is suffering, what he’s saying is, ‘Stand back and take a deep breath, because there’s also consolation abounding there somewhere.’   Your sufferings are abounding?  Somewhere around you, if you settle down long enough, and you take a deep breath, and you say ‘OK Lord, my eyes and my ears are open’ that there also is consolation abounding around you through Christ.  The fellowship of his sufferings, we have a high priest who can be touched with our infirmities, because in every way he was tempted, he suffered, yet without sin.  


‘I, Paul, and Titus, go through sufferings, no exemptions for us, for your sakes, so that we might better minister to you.’


And he’s made way for us to come boldly to the throne of grace in time of need.  “And whether we be afflicted, it is for your consolation and salvation,”  Paul has an interesting perspective on life.  “And whether we [Paul and Titus]  be afflicted, it is for your consolation and salvation, which is effectual in the enduring of the same sufferings which we also suffer:”  Paul says, ‘If we’re afflicted, we’re going through a difficult time, it’s for you, that God is whittling us down so that we might be more effective in your life.’  “or whether we be comforted, it is for your consolation and salvation.” (verse 6)  “And our hope of you is stedfast, knowing, that as ye are partakers of the sufferings, so shall ye be also of the consolation.” (verse 7)  “Our hope of you is stedfast…” that’s an interesting thing for Paul to say to this Corinthian church.  “Our hope of you is stedfast, knowing, that as you are partakers of the sufferings, so shall ye be also of the consolation.”  Paul says we all have this ministry.  “For we would not, brethren, have you ignorant of our trouble which came to us in Asia, that we were pressed out of measure, above strength, insomuch that we despaired even of life:” (verse 8)  Maybe he’s talking about what they endured at Ephesus, when they’re beaten and driven out of town, we’re not sure.  Now here’s the great apostle, he says, ‘We don’t want you to be ignorant of the fact that we were pressed out of measure,’ means to be disjointed.  If anybody ever had a dislocated arm, dislocated hip, you get the idea.  There was a disjointedness to what happened, we were, he said of Ephesus there was a great effectual open door.  Now he’s saying there’s something disjointed, he says about it, which is painful, he says ‘we were pressed beyond strength to a place we had never been before.’  Paul’s saying, ‘All of a sudden God had taken us beyond our means, he had taken us beyond our resources, he had taken us to a place we had never been before.  That we had no resource, we had no strength left.  We were in deeper water than we had ever been in, so to speak,’ “insomuch that we despaired even of life:”  What is he saying?  He’s saying what you and I say so often, ‘Oh Lord, blow the Trumpet today!  Get me outa here!  I’m tired of it, Lord.  Just get me outa here!’  He’s not saying ‘Things were so tough, and we were so bummed out, and we were in such trouble and such pain, that we thought about suicide.’   That’s not what he’s saying.  Despairing of life, and contemplating suicide, are two distinct and different things.  He’s saying ‘We despaired of life.’   He’s not saying ‘We sat around and thought about ways to take our own lives.’  That’s not what he’s saying.  He knew his life was not his own, it was bought with a price, it belonged to Christ, he told us that in 1st Corinthians.  What he’s saying here is, ‘We despaired of life itself, life at that point things were so difficult, and we were pressing on, it was like having a dislocated arm or hip, it was so painful, and we hadn’t the strength to go on.’  And they must have been having the conversation, ‘Wouldn’t it be great just to go to heaven right now.  Next time they stone me, tell them to keep throwing stones till the job is done.’  That’s very different than any of us sitting around thinking about some way that we might take our own life.  We don’t understand the dynamics of all of that.  We know Satan is involved in it, much of the time in the New Testament when there’s destruction.  Or a boy, demon possessed, casting himself into the water, casting himself into the fire, or the demons going into a herd of swine and driving them down the bank into the Sea of Galilee and drowning them.  Or Satan saying to Jesus, ‘Cast yourself down off the pinnacle of the Temple.’  And he knows the truth with unsaved people, how many of them commit suicide, that the pain they’re trying to kill then gets pushed out into eternity.  Killing the body doesn’t take care of the thing that people are trying to kill.  That’s something inside that hurts, that’s filled with despair and depression.  Anyone who came here this evening, and this is just where we are, that’s contemplating suicide, don’t do it.  Because killing your body ain’t going to solve your problem.  It got dressed, it got here, most of them don’t look too bad, I’m looking around the room.  Put on a little deoderant, and brush the top of it a little bit, it works.  What you want to kill is something inside.  And there’s a way to do that.  Take up your cross.  Paul says “I am crucified with Christ, nevertheless I live.  Yet not I, but Christ liveth in me.  And the life that I now live in the flesh I live for the Son of God who loved me and gave himself for me.”  Paul says there’s a right way to commit suicide, it’s to give up, it’s to loose your life for Christ’s sake.  Because he says if you seek to save it, you’ll lose it.  And you hear people saying that, “I feel like I’m losing it.”  You are.  Let go of it.  Then you can’t lose it, if it’s gone.  You can only lose it if you hold onto it.  Let go of it, you got nothing to lose.  Lose your life for Christ’s sake. 


When Things Get Bad Enough, Crazy Enough in Your Life---You Stop Trusting In Yourself and Put Your Trust In God


And he fills us with hope, and he fills us with life, and he fills us with comfort and with mercy, and with an eternal perspective that goes beyond the pains of this world.  Paul’s going to say that right here.  He said “we were pressed out of measure, above strength, insomuch that we despaired even of life:  but we had the sentence of death in ourselves, that we should not trust in ourselves, but in God which raiseth dead:” (verses 8-9)  That’s where the rubber meets the road.  That is the final analysis.  Now I don’t know about you.  Cathy and I sit around watching the news.  ‘Anthrax in Florida, hmmm, was a letter.’  Then my wife starts, “That’s why they were in Portland, that’s why they were in Maine, they mailed letters, letters going everywhere.”  “I don’t want to think about all that, [grumble, grumble]”  “Trenton today, Virginia, what are we going to do?”  I don’t know, I ain’t gonna sit around getting an ulcer.  I’d probably die of a bleeding ulcer when there isn’t any anthrax in the neighborhood.  [laughter]  [Good pastor, he doesn’t rattle the sheep, he calms them.]  Because you sit back and take a deep breath and say “Lord, this out of control.  You bought me, I’m expensive Father, you paid the highest price in the universe for me.  Are you going to let anthrax into my living room?  Let anthrax in my living room.  If we have to watch our 12 and 14-year-old go, we watch them go into your arms, Lord.”  There is nothing we can do about this, we’re not gonna live in fear, because we believe in the God who raises the dead.  “But we have the sentence of death in ourselves, that we should not trust in ourselves, but in God which raiseth the dead.”   What, did we think all along that we weren’t going to die, before all this happened?  We were going to die anyway.  For every 100 people born 100 people die.  It was C.S. Lewis that said “War does not increase death, death is total in every generation.”  [I have figured out what war, famine, and disease epidemics do, though, they decrease the birth-rate among the youth, the young at child-bearing age, holding down world and national populations.]  It seems unfair when it’s somebody young, it seems unfair when it’s snatched away in a terrorist act, but the truth is, we’re all mortal.  That’s what freaked us all about it [9/11 must have just happened when he was preaching this].  ‘That could be me.  Could happen here!  Anthrax!  Is there any dust on that envelope?  Don’t open the mail!’  No, let’s take a deep breath, let’s look “to the Father of all mercies, to the God of all comfort”, and let’s say “Lord, this is a great effectual open door for the cause of Jesus Christ, fill me with your Holy Ghost, and Lord when you come, whether you send for me or come for me, let me be busy about your business when you come.”  And that’s the way we need to live right now.  Because I think there is a tremendous open door right now for the cause of Christ.  [Calvary Chapel pastors and members alike, volunteers, went down into NYC ministering to frazzled New Yorkers following the Twin Trade Towers at 9/11, from the time of the event to well after a year from the event.  Also two very great plagues, some think small-pox, struck the eastern region of the Roman Empire, Asia Minor, the first one around 155AD, the second 255AD.  Everybody “despaired of life,” believers in Jesus and non-believers, pagan Roman citizens alike.  But the believers rolled up their sleeves, and waded right in, helping to relieve the mass of suffering at risk to their own lives, many of them dying in the process, treating the sick, bringing mercy and comfort to others.  This was a great open door for the Gospel.  See to see why God brings us through suffering, and comforts us in our suffering, so that we might go out and comfort anyone else we find suffering.  The number of pagan Gentiles added to the Body of Christ was considerable due to these two events which caused everyone to “despair of life.”]  I encourage you to come out on Sunday morning the 21st, K.P. Yohannan is going to be here, we mentioned this Sunday, who is going to get to share the Gospel with 300,000,000 Dallits in India, the lowest cast.  One of the government officials in India decided “Here are 300,000,000 people who live in abject poverty, most of them they’re illiterate, their lifestyle never improves, they’ve been this way for 700 years, let’s give them the chance to become Buddhists or Christians, maybe something will change.”  So they called the Dali Llama, they said, “You come, you present Buddhism.”  They asked K.P. and another man that he works with, and said “You present Christianity.”  And the Dali Llama called and said “No thanks, we don’t want to bring that many people into Tibetan Buddhism all at once, it’ll get all watered down and all mixed up.”  So we’ll take them all.  Send them our way!  [applause]  [see to see who K.P. Yohannan is.]  But my point is, you see what’s happening, there’s tremendous open doors.  We’re hearing about it everywhere, everywhere, people’s home fellowships, everywhere we go.  That’s how we have to live now.  “we had the sentence of death in ourselves, that we should not trust in ourselves, but in God which raiseth the dead:  who delivered us from so great a death, and doth deliver:  in whom we trust that he will yet deliver us…” (verses 9-10)  “who delivered us” past tense “from so great a death,” “who doth deliver”, he’s delivering us today, “in whom we trust that he will yet deliver us”,  that’s a complete salvation, that’s eternal.  We are saved, we are being saved, and we will be saved.  We have been delivered from the penalty of sin, we are being delivered today from the power of sin, and we will be delivered from the existence of sin.  Because he’s the God that was, that is, and is to come.  The God that was hath delivered us, the God that is, is delivering us, the God that is to come shall yet deliver us.  That’s why he can say to us today, ‘you are justified, you are sanctified, and you are glorified’ because he looks at us from all three places, because that’s what he’s given to us, deliverance, that is finished, that is being finished, and that shall be finished. 


Live in Simplicity & Sincerity


“Ye also” he says, “helping together by prayer for us, that for the gift bestowed upon us by the means of many persons thanks be given by many on our behalf.”  Talking no doubt about the offering that he still wants to get to Jerusalem.  “For our rejoicing is this, the testimony of our conscience, that in simplicity and godly sincerity, not with fleshly wisdom, but by the grace of God, we have had our conversation [Strongs # 390, anasstrepho, to busy oneself…:- abide, behave oneself…live  ie, behavior, conduct] in the world, and more abundantly to you-ward.” (verses 11-12)  “Conversation”, that’s not something with the mouth, it’s your lifestyle.  Paul says this, ‘Our rejoicing is this, we’re not trusting in ourselves, we’re trusting in the one who raises the dead.  Our rejoicing is this, the testimony of our conscience, we’re not guilty, washed in the blood of the Lamb, and we’ve lived in simplicity and godly sincerity, not with fleshly wisdom, but by the grace of God,’ that’s how we all are saved, and that’s how we all have confidence, ‘we have our lifestyle in the world, and more abundantly to you by the grace of God.’  He says this, “in simplicity”, and this is the way it should be, it’s simple isn’t it?  Notice that we, it’s very interesting to me, I love Corey ten Boom’s video “Jesus Is Victor”.  I don’t know how many times I’ve seen it, because my wife is nuts about it, so I see it all the time.  And I still cry whenever I watch it.  And there’s such simplicity and such depth, “Remember the sparrows…” (she says in her raspy voice.)  I start crying, the minute she says it.  Because there’s just such simplicity and child-like faith, and it’s so genuine and so real and so deep. [Available on, I just bought one.]  Paul says “in simplicity and godly sincerity”, Greek sinceri, without wax.  That’s how we need to live, without wax.  In those days a sculptor sculpting, he went, took an  art class in high school, sculpting was a major part of it.  Of course the problem was, some of the sculptures that have even survived to today, you know, you might work on a masterpiece for years.  And then when it’s all done, it’s beautiful, you’re kind of finishing it up, and putting on the finishing touches.  And if you hit something wrong, you might just knock the end of the nose off, on a masterpiece.  Now you’ve got a masterpiece without a nose.  [laughter]  So what they would do is they would take some of the marble dust and they would mix it with wax.  And then they would put it on, and they would shape it, and wax and marble are both kind of shiny anyway, and presto-change-O, the nose if fixed.  Now the problem was, somebody would come, pay a hefty price for a masterpiece, take it home, put it in the living room, have a big bash, all their posh friends come over and look at their new piece of art in their art collection, everybody would be admiring it.  And then the sun would shine in the window [laughter], hit the nose, ‘You see, that looks a little like Jimmy Durante, doesn’t it? no that’s Carl Malden isn’t it?  You know, that statue’s nose is running, I don’t mean he has a cold, his nose is running.’  Sinceri is without wax, was without a fake patching-up of something to make it look like something it wasn’t.  And I don’t know about you, I’m good at fake patched-up.  I can come to church, and have a argument with my wife right before I come to church.  I realize I’m saying this for your benefit.  And then I’ll walk in and somebody will say “How you doing?”  And I’ll say “Oh praise the Lord!”  You know, don’t you.  [laughter]  Or somebody cuts you off in traffic on the way to church “You BEEP!” you know.  “How you doing this morning, brother?”  “Oh, praise the Lord, doing great.”  Your nose starts to melt off [loud laughter].  [Or like Pinocchio, it starts to grow long.]  Where we at here?  Paul says this, “our rejoicing”, and it should be ours, “is this, the testimony of our conscience, that in simplicity and godly sincerity, not with fleshly wisdom, but by the grace of God,”---nobody’s excluded, has nothing to do with IQ--- “we have had our lifestyle in the world, and more abundantly to you-ward.”  ‘We’ve lived sincerely, without hypocrisy, without anything fake, and more abundantly toward you.’ 


‘I live by the grace of God,’---What Is Grace?


“For we write no other things unto you, than what ye read or acknowledge, and I trust ye shall acknowledge even to the end;”---We mean what we say, we say what we mean, you guys know that, it’s just in simplicity and sincerity, what you see is what you get---“as also ye have acknowledged us in part, that we are your rejoicing, even as ye also are ours in the day of the Lord.”  (verses 13-14)  Isn’t it interesting, Paul keeps his eye on the eternal.  You know, he’s talking about ‘I’ve been floating in the ocean, I’ve been beaten with rods, stripes five times forty minus one, beaten with rods three times, I’ve been stoned, I’ve been naked, just freezing, floating in the ocean watching sharks go by.’  I’d have died of a cardiac.  Just all of these things he says.  And then he talks about God’s goodness, God’s comfort, God’s mercy.  It was real in his life.  And he said, ‘Yea, there are times, I don’t want you to be ignorant, we struggle too.  We’ve been in a place that seems to be disjointed, out of harmony with this Father of mercy and God of all comfort, and it doesn’t seem to align, and it’s painful, and we get in a place where it’s beyond our own strength, where we ourselves actually despair of life.  But we remembered, the sentence of death, it’s written on us, so that we wouldn’t trust in ourselves.  The impossible stands there so that we won’t try to deal with it ourselves, but we’re trusting in Christ who raises the dead.  That’s where we find our lives.  He’s the one who has delivered us, he’s the one who is delivering us, and he’s done that, and he will yet deliver us.  We have that ahead of us.’  ‘Thank you for your prayers,’ Paul says, ‘We appreciate that, we look forward to accomplishing what we want to do with this offering to Jerusalem, and our rejoicing at this point’ he says, ‘is this, our conscience is not condemning us, we’ve lived with simplicity, without wax, not in fleshly wisdom, but by the grace of God we have had our lifestyle in this world.’  Now that doesn’t mean that he lives perfectly, you have to understand that, living by the grace of God.  Very interesting study in the New Testament, “grace” is strictly Paul’s word.  Over 120 times he uses the word “grace” in his writing.  You would think John, you know, John the mystic, John the apostle.  Very interesting, John only uses the word “grace” seven times.  And that’s through his Gospel, his three Epistles and the Book of Revelation.  If you add it all up you only find the word “grace” seven times.  He uses it very sparingly.  “The grace of God has been revealed in the person of Jesus Christ.”  It’s almost like John is the one who says, ‘You want to see grace, see Jesus.’  And he uses the word “Jesus” over 200 times, to describe what grace is.  And that’s John’s description of grace, grace upon grace we receive from him, grace and truth revealed in Jesus Christ.  Peter uses the word just once or twice, several times.  And his description is ‘the manifold grace of God,’ and it means multi-colored.  And Peter needed that.  Sometimes he needed yellow grace, sometimes he needed red grace, sometimes he needed purple grace.  Peter needed multi-colored grace because sometimes he was chopping somebody’s ear off, sometimes he was denying Christ.  Peter had so many facets in him and emotional swings, Peter had so much cooking inside, well God used all that and sanctified all that, but Peter, that’s the way he met God’s grace, it was there at every turn, every color, every hue, every emotional strain that resonated in himself, there was a color and shade of God’s grace to meet him, and that’s how he talks to us about God’s grace.  But Paul is the one who defines grace when he says ‘The grace of God appeared leading us to salvation, teaching us in this present world, denying ungodly lusts, and looking forward to the coming of our God and Saviour the Lord Jesus Christ.’  Paul is the one that says ‘It is grace from beginning to end.  It is grace that has brought us to Christ, it is grace that’s teaching us today in this present world to deny ungodly lusts, and it is grace that teaches us to look forward to the coming of Christ.’  Because we look at what’s going on in the world, and we say “Oh Jesus is coming!  Yea, he seems closer to that than he ever has, doesn’t he?  You look on your way home tonight and see if he’s up there?  Well what can cause people like you and I to look forward to his coming?  We’re talking about the King of kings and the Lord of lords.  Well, what can teach us to do that is grace.  Do we deserve to be caught up in the air [at the first resurrection to immortality, 1st Corinthians 15:49-54  See:]?  No.  Are we being caught up because we have learned how to levitate?  No.  Is it an anti-gravitational thing.  No.  Is it because we’re lighter than sinners?  No.  It’s grace, this mortal putting on immortality, this corruption putting on incorruption, it is because of what Christ has accomplished on our behalf by shedding his blood, and he who knew no sin becoming sin that you and I might be the very righteousness of God.  And we were as ready to get Raptured the very second we got saved as we will ever be.  [Comment:  Some believe the Rapture, or 1st resurrection to immortality takes place immediately before the seven year period of the tribulation, just before the Beast person and False Prophet make their appearance.  Some believe the 1st resurrection to immortality takes place at the blowing of the 7th Trumpet in Revelation 11:15-18.  Essentially, we will find out by whether it occurs as some teach it will, before the Beast makes his appearance, or doesn’t, but instead at the blowing of the 7th Trumpet.  See for further explanation in this secondary area of salvation.]  Because it’s by his grace and his love and his power.  Paul wasn’t living a perfect life, he said it’s by the grace of God.  Imagine his conscience, he said ‘my conscience isn’t condemning me.’  ‘What do you mean, Paul, you drove the Jewish believers out of Jerusalem, you slaughtered them, you hauled them off to prison, you caused them to blaspheme the name of Jesus at the point of the sword.’  He says his conscience isn’t condemning him, living in sincerity, simplicity, in the grace of God.  [Now we are meant to grow in the knowledge of the Lord, overcoming sin, as taught throughout the New Testament.  Paul in Galatians 5:19-21 said in verse 21, ‘that they which do such things (which he listed in verses 19-21, sinning lifestyles),’ “shall not inherit the kingdom of God.”  Law & Grace is a huge subject.  For more on it, see:  It is the very grace which God extends to all of us that gives us the opportunity to grow in the grace and knowledge of the Lord Jesus Christ.  It’s a lifetime process.]  And if he can do that, we can do that.  And Paul looks finally down to the end, and he says “as also ye have acknowledged us in part, that we are your rejoicing, even as ye also are ours in the day of the Lord Jesus.” (verse 14)  Paul says, ‘Man, what a day that’s going to be,’ writing to these Corinthians, what a day, ‘caught up to meet him in the air, so shall we ever be with the Lord.’  He was expecting it, you know.  ‘Then we,’ personal pronoun, ‘which are alive and remain, shall be caught up to meet the Lord in the air.’ (cf. 1st Corinthians 15:49-54; 1st Thessalonians 4:17)  Paul taught, lived in, believed in the imminent return of Jesus Christ, ‘then we which are alive.’  He thought it was coming so soon he told the single men, in 1st Corinthians, not to get married because the Lord was coming.  He almost killed the Church off in the first century.  Imagine if all the single Christian men said ‘I ain’t getting married, Paul said so.’  That would have been the end of it all.  What a day.  Just think of what it will be like for you, for folks that you’ve led to Christ in your life, for your own children at home you’ve evangelized.  What a wonderful thing to stand in the Lord’s presence, stand in glory, and to know that you’re there because someone led you to Christ, and to look at them and say ‘Man, thank you for putting up with me.  I enjoyed arguing with you, I was trying to drive you out of your mind, and you loved me anyway.  You only punched me once.  I appreciate it.’  [laughter]  And then someone’s going to say that to you.  What a remarkable process, God infecting, one generation after another, with the Good News of Jesus Christ…[transcript of a connective expository sermon on 2nd Corinthians 1:1-14, given by Pastor Joe Focht, Calvary Chapel of Philadelphia, 13500 Philmont Avenue, Philadelphia, PA 19116]


Related links:


Why do we as believers suffer?  So that we might receive God’s comfort---so that we might be able to pass that comfort on, to others who are suffering, both within and without the Body of Christ.  See: and


The apostle Paul addressed this Epistle, letter to “the church of God which is at Corinth.”  Who, what was the early Church of God?  See:


What is the grace of God?  For more on the subject of Law & Grace, see:


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