Day Three Hundred Thirty-Eight, II Corinthians 1-9
I have, for several years now, maintained that the book of Hebrews is my absolute favorite book in the Bible. II Corinthians is becoming a close second. In this letter, as Paul speaks to the Corinthians, he starts off talking about his letter-writing and his travel plans, bu tthen he seems to get sidetracked. he goes off on a tangent, talking about his ministry, and it is, in my opinion, some of his most beautiful writing.
He describes the Lord as leading them in this ministry, as their lives are a type of offering: "But thanks be to God, who always leads us in triumphal procession in Christ and through us spreads everywhere the fragrance of the knowledge of him. For we are to God the aroma of Christ among those who are being saved and those who are perishing. To the one we are the smell of death; to the other, the fragrance of life. And who is equal to such a task? Unlike so many, we do not peddle the word of God for profit. On the contrary, in Christ we speak before God with sincerity, like men sent from God."
As he said, "Who is equal to such a task?" Paul knows that it is God who is his strength and power. "Such confidence as this is ours through Christ before God. Not that we are competent in ourselves to claim anything for ourselves, but our competence comes from God. He has made us competent as ministers of a new covenant--not of the letter but of the Spirit; for the letter kills, but the Spirit gives life."
Paul then compares the glory of the old covenant, using Moses as an example, to the glory of the new covenant, of which he is a minister. The glory of the old covenant was such that Moses' face would be shining, and he would put a veil over his face to keep the Israelites from staring at it. Paul says, "If the ministry that condemns men is glorious, how much more glorious the ministry that brings righteousness...and we, who with unveiled facces all reflect the Lord's glory are being transformed into his likeness with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit."
Finally, Paul talks about all that he has faced, without forgetting the reason that he is able to persevere: "But we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us. We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed. We always carry around in our body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be revealed in our body. For we who are alive are always being given over to death for Jesus' sake, so taht his life may be revealed in our mortal body. So then, death is at work in us, but life is at work in you. It is written: 'I believed, therefore I have spoken.' With that same spirit of faith we also believe adn therefore speak, because we know that the one who raised the Lord Jesus from the dead will also raise us with Jesus and present us with you in his presence. All this is for your benefit,k so that the grace that is reaching more and more people may cause thanksgiving to overflow tot he glory of God. Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal."
Paul also mentions his ministry as being one of reconciliation. "Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come! All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation...we are therefore Christ's ambassadors, as though God were making his appeal through us. We implore you on Christ's behalf: be reconciled to God. God made hi who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God."
Finally, as Paul gets back on track, he talks about the collection for the church in Judea, and he gives some good instuctions on giving: "Remember this: whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows generously will also reap generously. Each man should give what he has decided in his heart to give, not reluctantly, or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver. And God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that in all things at all times, having all that you need, you will abound in every good work."