Week 49 Devotion
This week we are reading Paul’s second letter to the church at Corinth and if we thought the first one was tough, this second one is at least two times as awkward. In the first letter, Paul was writing to help the church understand their lives as Christians through the lens of the gospel. The church had come to know Christ and had embraced the gospel in their minds but they compartmentalized how that gospel affected their day to day lives. So, for 16 chapters we read along as Paul defined the problem that the church was dealing with and he showed them how the gospel helped them to address those problems.
But here in the second letter, we come to understand that some people didn’t care for what Paul had to say in the first. It’s almost as if a number of people in the church at Corinth read Paul’s letter and decided that he just didn’t know what he was talking about and these folks made the situation in the church even worse than it was before. So, Paul decided to come and visit them in person and it wasn’t pretty. In 2 Corinthians 2:1, Paul refers to this as “The Painful Visit” because apparently, he had to address the sins in the church again.
Now, you would think that the first letter coupled with the face to face visit would be enough to get things on track, but it wasn’t. Paul wrote a second letter to the church that was painful for him to write but he wrote it to make clear to the church that Paul truly loved them as brothers and sister in Christ, but we do not have a copy of this second letter.
The only additional letter that we have is what we call 2 Corinthians which is actually Paul’s third letter to the church and in this letter, Paul is still trying to help the church sort through their lack of understanding the gospel. They still don’t understand the role of the gospel in the world and in their lives. They are still struggling with what amounts to a popularity contest among their church leaders and they have allowed all of their problems keep them from engaging in the mission of the church. We will talk about this in a minute.
The other book we will be reading in this week is the book of Romans and this is perhaps the most important letter in the entire world. Ray Ortlund writes,
What is the most important book in the universe? The Bible. Which is the most important part of the Bible? The New Testament. Which is the most important document within that New Testament? Paul’s letter to the Romans. Therefore, Paul’s letter to the Romans is the most important document in the universe. And we have it here in our hands, and in good English translation too! Amazing.
I don’t think this is an overstatement. Paul’s letter to the Romans is the clearest and most thorough explanation of the gospel of Jesus Christ in the New Testament, in the world and this week we are going to read chapters 1-10.
Something to meditate on…
Here are the opening lines of this incredible book…
Romans 1:1 Paul, a servant of Christ Jesus, called to be an apostle, set apart for the gospel of God, 2 which he promised beforehand through his prophets in the holy Scriptures, 3 concerning his Son
There are three things in these verses that I want us to meditate on this week and the first is that the central message of this letter and of the Christian faith is the Gospel of God. The word gospel simply means good news. It is good in that it communicates to us what God has done to forgive us of sin and to reconcile us to Him. And it is news in that it is not something that everyone intrinsically knows; it must be revealed, proclaimed, preached and shared with one person to another. So, Paul refers to the good news of the Christian faith as the Gospel of God.
Now this phrase, Gospel of God, is in the genitive case, it is a noun of possession, which means that this gospel belongs to God. This is not man’s gospel, this is not Paul’s gospel; it is God’s gospel. He planned it, He promised that it would take place, He carried it out, He accomplishes His purpose in it, and He has preserved it to this day; the gospel belongs to God. For years men have tampered with it, tried to change it, tried to dress it up and improve on it, they have even tried to stamp it out completely; but God has preserved the gospel because it is His, it has a divine author.
The second thing I want us to meditate on this week is that the central message of the Christian faith is the Gospel of God which He promised in the Scriptures.
The gospel message, though a mystery to earlier generations, has not been a secret. God has been pointing to it all along the way. When Adam and Eve sinned in the Garden, God pointed to one who would come in the future and crush the head of the serpent to bring an end to the rebellion and usher in an age of peace between God and man. When the sin of mankind covered the earth bringing about God’s judgment at the time of the flood; God used a boat to point us to the one who would come and carry us safely through judgment and deposit us into a new land of peace.
When God’s people were in captivity in Egypt; God pointed to Christ by showing them that they would be saved and delivered from captivity by the blood of a lamb. Through the prophets, God promised time and again that one would come to suffer in our place so that by his stripes we would be healed of sin. Every prophet throughout all of scripture has been pointing us to the good news of God’s rescue mission. This gospel was promised in the Scriptures.
The third thing I want us to meditate on is that the central message of the Christian faith is the Gospel of God which He promised in the Scriptures concerning His Son.
Ultimately the OT Prophets were not pointing us to a plan; they were pointing us to a person. They weren’t pointing us to a military strategy; they were pointing us to a divine hero. And when the time came the Son of God, Jesus Christ, was born in human flesh. The hero the world had been waiting for came to us through the line of God’s anointed King David.
Galatians 4:4-5 But when the fullness of time had come, God sent forth his Son, born of woman, born under the law, 5 to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons.
This is the essence of the Gospel message. This is the central truth of the Christian faith that our salvation does not rest in our performance before God but in the person and work of Jesus Christ. The good news is not that through the law you can free yourself from sin, nor is it that through grace you are free to sin. The good news is that by trusting in Christ you are free from the power of sin and from the guilt of the law. Jesus is the centerpiece of the Christian message, not our goodness. Jesus is the centerpiece because the only way that we can have peace with God through a perfect sacrifice and Jesus is that perfect sacrifice. Our only hope is Him.
Something to discuss…
In 2 Corinthians, Paul is still working to help the church understand some things about the Christian life and one of them is how Christ calls his people to engage in the mission of making disciples. Our Lord has commissioned us to bear the word/the message of our salvation to all the world.
2 Corinthians 5:17 Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come. 18 All this is from God, who through Christ reconciled us to himself and gave us the ministry of reconciliation; 19 that is, in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting to us the message of reconciliation. 20 Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, God making his appeal to us. We implore you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God.
Paul calls us ambassadors for Christ and this means that we are to live our lives in this world as representatives of Christ, armed with the message of Christ, and imploring/pleading with others through that message to be reconciled to God.
Our mission as the church is to preach Christ crucified. Our mission is not to build giant buildings becoming the biggest church in the city. Our purpose is not to entertain our culture in the hopes that they will like us and join our team. Our mission is not to ensure that we cater to our members by treating them like consumers that we have to please. Our mission is to represent Jesus, the one who gave his life to save us from God’s wrath, by proclaiming the gospel here and wherever we may go in this world.
Like Paul says in 1 Corinthians 1:22-24,
22 For Jews demand signs and Greeks seek wisdom, 23 but we preach Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews and folly to Gentiles, 24 but to those who are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God.
Our mission as a church in this stage of redemptive history is, “We preach Christ crucified!” We preach the gospel, we share the gospel, we teach the gospel, we talk about the gospel, we sing the gospel as the only means by which men can be reconciled to God.
The church at Corinth was a church that had lost its grip on this mission. Corinth was a church that tried to make a whole host of secondary issues into the primary mission of the church. They had begun to make it their mission to have the best and most dynamic leader, but in the end, they were making idols out of mere men and the church suffered for it. They wanted to be accepted by the Roman culture so they began to celebrate deviant sexual behavior as though it was praiseworthy, and the result was that Paul rebuked them for celebrating something that even the Roman’s considered immoral.
The Corinthians elevated one issue after another to a position of primacy, saying this is our mission and this is our purpose; but in the end, they were immoral, idolatrous, immature and Paul rebuked them over and over. Why did this happen? Because they had lost sight of their mission? And Paul had to remind them, “We preach Christ crucified!” Don’t spend your energy fighting to look like the world. Don’t waste your time pursuing things that will not last. Spend yourselves in the ministry to which you have been called, “Preach the gospel.”
How many times have we seen this happen in the church? It starts out as a small thing but over time something other than the gospel takes center stage. It may be a new book, or a new teaching, or a ministry opportunity that has grown to the point that the church is defined by it and in the end, you have a church that has lost sight of the mission of making disciples.
Something to pray about…
Is there anything more important for us to pray about as a church than that we are engaged in the mission that God has given to us? Let’s take time this week and do just that. Let’s pray that God would burden us for the lost people in our lives. Let’s pray that God would help us to be bold to speak the truth about man’s sin and Christ’s love to those around us. Let’s pray for God to help us stay focused on our primary mission of making disciples rather than allowing us to spend all of our time on secondary pursuits.