It is a common thing among Christians to think less of themselves than they should. By this I mean that many Christians seem to be constantly aware of sin and sinning and a great many live in guilt and self-condemnation.
But here we see an interesting comment from Paul that shows a very different mindset than we see today.
And it is not easy to pick out because even the Bible translators have either missed it, not believed it or chosen to soften the truth of this verse, for they have modified the true meaning of the Greek word into something less than what Paul was talking about: Perfection.
There is a failure in human nature that is highly destructive and divisive. It appears first in young children and remains with most people to some degree throughout their lives. It is the propensity for people to make comparisons between themselves and others.
This failing has led to great destruction and evil over history. It led to the dehumanisation and down-treading of black people in the apartheid regimes of South Africa. It led to the evils committed against the African-Americans who were deemed somehow to be sub-human. And it led to the wholesale slaughter of Jews at the hands of Adolf Hitler.
All of these and many more inhumane actions were as the direct result of making comparisons that deemed one person, group or nationality to be better or more superior than another. All of these actions were evil and were wrong.
But comparisons of an evil nature still occur daily. People still make comparisons saying that one person or group is better than another. They may not have the same devastating impact as the few examples quoted above, but that does not mean they are any less dangerous or evil than those. In fact they may be worse as they can change the way a person thinks or believes about something or someone, and it is this issue that most severely impacts the faith of believers today and what Paul was concerned about in this section of his letter to the Corinthian church.
This is a fascinating piece of scripture in these first few verses of 2 Corinthians 3. It forces us to think about the direction that the church has taken over the millenia since Christ appeared and makes you wonder what has gone wrong.
If you want to preach the gospel in many churches today, and especially if you want to work full time as a pastor, priest or minister, many of the churches require you to go to a university or their bible college to get a degree, diploma or similar qualification to preach the word. And many people in the churches also will not listen to someone unless they have received such a qualification.
But this is not how it was from the beginning. And we see that Paul emphasises this point in these verses. And when we look at other bible examples we see also that this requirement for a degree, diploma or qualification is not from God. In fact it can obscure the truth if we are not careful.
As I mentioned in my last post, there is a commonly held myth in the modern church that tongues were given only to the early church so that they could spread the gospel. Likewise it is held by these same people today that there is now no need for tongues.
Both of these beliefs are false. Tongues are a gift from God and are as much available to believers today as they were in the early church. But they are not and never were given to teach or to proselytise or make disciples in the early church.
And in this section of scripture, Paul absolutely smashes that idea out of the park. It is a false teaching in the modern church and should be discarded and rejected if you seek the truth.
The aim and the focus of the walk we take with and in Jesus Christ is to become mature. It is the will of God that His people are mature and strong in the gospel, fully able to walk in the ways of God in this world.
The end game for this walk is that we are perfect for we MUST be perfect as the Heavenly Father is perfect if we are to stand with Him and inherit the kingdom the He will establish with Jesus Christ as King. As Jesus himself said,
You, therefore, must be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect. (Matthew 5:48)
But it is not an easy walk for we battle against the devil in the spiritual realm and we must battle against the passions and desires of the flesh that can lead us to sinfulness. These were precisely the types of battles that Paul was concerned with in the Corinthian church. And it is also an issue we see prevailing still today.
Who can understand the depths of God? Who even thinks it is possible to do so? Surely to think so would be madness and the height of foolishness!
No man can possibly understand the depths of God. Even in all that has been created, man is still only scratching the surface of what God has done. And that applies only to those things that can be determined through scientific methods, which deal solely with what can be measured by physical means.
But God is not physical. God is spirit and man cannot measure the spiritual realm with the dimensions, tools and measures of man. So to even think a man could ever measure or know the depths of God is utter foolishness. Or is it?
Today we commence looking at the letter of Paul to the Romans and even in the introductory sentences we see some insights that help us to understand what this letter was about and why it was written the way it was.
For some reason I often thought that this letter was written after Paul had visited Rome. This is probably because the letter to the Romans follows on immediately after the book of Acts, which ends with Paul spending two years in Rome teaching and preaching the word.
But that perception is incorrect when you look at the first few paragraphs of the letter to the Romans for Paul did not address the letter to the church in Rome, as he does with a number of his other letters as if he had already so been there. Instead we see in verse 10 he asks The Lord in the hope he may be able to come to Rome, in verse 11 he is longing to go to Rome and in verse 13 he says he has often intended to come to Rome but, “…thus far have been prevented…” And finally in verse 15 Paul writes, “So I am eager to preach the gospel to you also who are in Rome.”
Had Paul already been to Rome he would not have written his introduction in this manner. Thus it is clear he had not yet visited Rome to preach to the people when he wrote this letter. This is important for it explains why the letter was written the way it was, as we shall see.
One of the things we see in the work of Paul and the other apostles, apart from the teachings they taught, is how they spread the word of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. When Paul arrived in Athens in Greece, while waiting for his co-workers to catch up he wandered the streets of the city.
We see in verses 16-17 the following verses that show what Paul thought and did as he waited.
16 Now while Paul was waiting for them at Athens, his spirit was provoked within him as he saw that the city was full of idols. 17 So he reasoned in the synagogue with the Jews and the devout persons, and in the marketplace every day with those who happened to be there.
Paul did NOT like what he saw in Athens for that city was full of idols. His spirit in him was provoked and you can imagine how churned up, frustrated and angry Paul felt as he saw the objects of worship in the city. So he took matters in hand. While waiting for his fellow workers he began to discuss, argue and reason with both the Jews and the Greeks in the synagogues as well as the marketplace. This is the beginning of how Paul approached evangelism in the city and how he followed up is remarkable in its simplicity and brilliance. Something we can learn much from.
Who was Barnabas? We know so little about some of the early disciples and leaders in the early church apart from what has been handed down and is as much myth as it may be truth.
For example, most of the twelve disciples chosen by Jesus himself are never heard of again in the bible after they were first named as members of the twelve who were chosen to carry the gospel to the world. We know a bit about Peter, James, John and a few others, but the rest are a mystery.
Likewise we see Barnabas mentioned here and in a few other places but we know very little about him. Generally speaking we know of him mostly for the partnership he had with Paul. But what is often overlooked is that it was not Paul, the great apostle to the Gentiles and the one who wrote much of the New Testament that was the initiator of that partnership. Instead it was Barnabas and in this section of scripture we see a little of who he was and what kind of man he was.
I can imagine the conversation Paul must have had when he came to Jerusalem after he had been secreted out of Damascus by being let down over the wall at night. Paul had been out of circulation for about three years and this was his first visit back to Jerusalem since his Damascus road experience.
Imagine him coming to the gate at Jerusalem and approaching members of the early church. The conversation might have gone a bit like this.
Paul: Hi brother! My name is Paul
Bro: Hi there. Paul? Paul? Do I know you?
Paul: Well I used to be called Saul but I haven’t been around for a few years.
Bro: Changed your name eh? Not a bad idea with all these Pharisees looking to lock us Christians up. Hold on…did you say your name was Saul?
Paul: Used to be but I’m a changed man now!
Bro (to wife): Hey Martha, wasn’t there a guy named Saul a ways back who was public enemy number one to us Christians? Dragging our friends off to prison and didn’t he even consent to stoning that Stephen fellow? Really lovely guy that Stephen was too!
Wife: Yes, that’s right. Last I heard he went to Damascus…and good riddance I say!
Bro: You can say that again! He was one bad dude! Where are you from Paul?
Bro (suspiciously): You’re that Saul guy aren’t you! Think you can sneak in among us Christians as a spy and change your name to entrap us eh? Why don’t you beat it…or else!
Paul: No, no, no! You don’t understand. I’m a changed man! I’m not that guy anymore!
Bro: Yeah sure you are! Do you reckon I came down in the last shower? Beat it buster!
Paul: No really! I’ve been teaching and preaching the gospel for the last three years in Damascus. The Lord Jesus appeared to me on the Damascus Road in a vision and I was struck blind! Seriously I am the real deal here!
Bro: What a great story you tell pal! you ought to be a used camel salesman! If he struck you blind, how come you can see? Like I said, beat it!
OK so maybe it wasn’t quite like that, but the bible in this section of Acts tells us that when Paul came to Jerusalem he tried to join the disciples but they were all afraid of him cause they didn’t believe he was truly a disciple. Why not? Let’s have a look at the situation some more.