Tag Archives: II Corinthians

Philip Conley's Morning Thoughts

Morning Thoughts (II Corinthians 8:13-15 – “Equality”)

“Equality”

II Corinthians 8:13-15, “For I mean not that other men be eased, and ye burdened: But by an equality, that now at this time your abundance may be a supply for their want, that their abundance also may be a supply for your want: that there may be equality: As it is written, He that had gathered much had nothing over; and he that had gathered little had no lack.”

This morning, many fantastical notions abound about what the Bible says about different things. A simple perusal of contemporary Christian literature shows a litany of fable-like thinking. Christian bookstores carry titles from subjects about how to work your way to heaven to what people think is going to happen between now and the eventual return of our Lord. Perhaps one of the most insidious concepts to creep into Christian circles from a practical point of view is the idea that the Bible teaches a form of socialism as its structure for Godly living and civilization building. While there are different models of government and society that can be implemented to good effect, it should be obvious just from common word usage that the Bible does not support socialism as a mindset for believers to follow in their service as our thinking should be geared into thinking of living in a kingdom serving the King! It is not my intent to go on a political diatribe in this writing, but we do sincerely want to show some of what the Bible says about equality in our lives and how we should approach it and try to accomplish it.

Texts and passages like our study verses above are sometimes employed to bolster a mindset that Christians should be socialistic or “commune” based. The stated goal of a communistic or socialistic society is for everyone to be equal. History has shown repeatedly that these models fail over and over again at the community or civil level. What may look good on paper or sound good to the ear simply does not stand up when people are inserted into the equation with our plentitude of problems stemming from the sinful nature that hampers all of us. Utopia will not be found as long as sin remains, and sin shall remain in the world as long as time stands. But, since these verses talk about our “societal” interactions with other believers and also talk about equality, how should we approach passages like this?

The line of thought that Paul has begun really begins well before this (even chapters before this), but he makes a nice summation point in Verse 9. That verse gives as good an applied definition of “grace” as the Bible has. What is grace? How does it look? Paul says that grace in application is the richest of the rich (Jesus) becoming poor so that the poor would be rich. Surely considering what the Bible says about our King, He owns everything. Glory beyond our imagination is His, yet He laid all that aside to come to this sin cursed earth. While on earth, He still owned the earth and its fullness, but He lived in a way that owned very little. Even as a grown man, He walked with 12 other men, and they shared a common bag for all their needs without even a roof over Him to call “home.” (John 13:29, Matthew 8:20) He lived as a poor man, but His real poverty came when He went to Calvary and was rejected by all to the point of forsakenness by His Father. This lonely time brought all our sin-cursed poverty into complete remission. For that, we have been raised to a place of riches that can only be imagined.

This summation point launches Paul into his thinking about equality in our verses, but also tinged upon something else. Using Christ’s example, Paul encourages believers to help others in dire need as Christ helped those in dire need. How does that start? In Verse 12, Paul says the first requirement is a willing mind. Perhaps this point is where most models of socialistic society fail and flounder. People coerced into something will not perform as they could, and the bare minimum is all that they will expend. Christ was interested in us. He was not coerced into it, and He willingly went to death for the ransom of His people. Paul says that our service to mark the path that His took requires first a willing mind. We should desire to help others not have our arm twisted into it.

So, with Christ as an example and a willing mind in place, how do we view these verses? Paul says the purpose of equality is not for people to get a “free ride.” (Verse 13) The burden of giving should not indulge the lazy. Again, socialistic and communistic models can encourage laziness in those doing nothing to continue doing so. In another place, Paul lays a foundational point that work should be a necessity for eating. (II Thessalonians 3:10) Christ did not redeem us from our sins to indulge laziness. Rather, He commands us to walk worthy of the vocation that He has called us to. Surely, though at rest, we will not “laze about heaven” like a lord on a cloud. Rather, we will be employed in complete, perfect, and total worship of the highest order world without end.

The purpose of giving to equality is really lined out in verse 14. Paul shows that when people help others, those people actually help them too. Read the verse carefully, and both groups end up being “helped” and “helpers.” Any minister can attest that in ministering to the poor, infirmed, widows, or deathbeds of saints that we have been “helped” as much – if not more – than we helped with our presence and ministration. We go to these poor and afflicted saints to help them by cheering their way and end up being cheered ourselves at seeing such faith and steadfastness even in the face of life’s afflictions. One of the highest joys one can experience is gathered round the bed of a saint soon to pass from this shore to the world above and see the great victory that they feel. You can see the way they feel as it is tattooed all over their person. They know “home” is near, and they desire nothing more.

The equality comes in the sense that we are all in need (just in different ways), and while we help others with their needs, they in turn help us with ours as well. Some people may need help monetarily, while others may need help emotionally. No matter the need, we are equals. As poor and needy creatures, we all stand in need, whether we confess it or not. Paul’s point of labour here is not socialistic modality, but rather showing us all in need. He will then further illustrate this point in Verse 15 by pointing them to the children of Israel in the wilderness.

When the Israelites gathered manna in Moses’ day, they were equals. No, they did not gather equal amounts. Paul drives that point home. Some gathered much and some gathered little (needs were different), but whatever the need, they were sufficed. So, they were equal in that God gave them their sufficiency to sustain them those 40 years wandering in the wilderness, but consider that even though the little had no lack, the much had nothing over as well. In other words, they were also equals in the sense that every day they both stood in need all over again. Is that not how we are equal today? We stand in need of Him each day. What if we had much yesterday? We freshly need Him again today. What if we had just a little yesterday? We also freshly need Him today too.

So many times we play the “comparison game” (which is never wise – II Corinthians 10:12), but loudly complain that we want “equality.” Really, discussions today about equality – whether socially or otherwise – are generally just complaining sessions wherein people covet what someone else has that they do not. Brethren, God hates covetousness as it is equivalent to idolatry (Colossians 3:5) and rather requires us to do what we can. (Mark 14:8) As Paul showed in our study verses, we are not to think about what we can or cannot do based on what we do not have but based on what we do. Is it about the talents that I do not have? No! It is about applying the ones He did give me. If we really added up all the time we compare and complain, how much time would that be that could be employed and implemented in a profitable way? Sobering thought indeed.

Thankfully, though we are equals in the sense of having needs and standing daily in need of Him, I love the thought that we will one day be equals in all things. Circling back to Verse 9, the end result of being made rich is that we are as rich as He is. Though He willingly laid it down for us, as a risen and ruling King, He still owns all things. He is God the Father’s only Begotten Son. We are His joint-heirs (Romans 8:17) meaning that each and every member of His family owns the same thing that He does! What a concept! Further, we will all have equal standing in His presence in the heavenly portal with equal perfection offering up the same song of praise and worship throughout eternity. Until that day, may we do what we can, remembering what we are, how much we need Him, and how much He has done for us.

In Hope,

Bro Philip

Morning Thoughts (II Corinthians 13:5)

Philip Conley's Morning ThoughtsII Corinthians 13:5, “Examine yourselves, whether ye be in the faith; prove your own selves. Know ye not your own selves, how that Jesus Christ is in you, except ye be reprobates?”

This morning, the fallibility of man’s thinking shines forth with “changes and improvements” in many fields. Though man – in general – considers these things progress, it really shows how little man truly knows since there is a regular need for revision of thought. For example, remember the old expression, “An apple a day keeps the doctor away”? Then, the medical field decided apples were not that good for you, and then they changed again. They still cannot decide whether to recommend or denigrate eggs as they fluctuate between being good for you and bad for you by “the experts.” These ever changing mindsets and new “discoveries” that perpetually find footholds in public thinking show the reality of how little man truly knows. Even many of the “facts” thrown out by experts in their field are based on at least one or two assumptions.

Paul is reaching the conclusion of his longest discussion with any church body. The two epistles in our Bibles that he wrote to the Corinthian church comprise a hefty amount of information, and they also include some topics that are not that desirable (like church discipline in I Corinthians 5) and touchy (like preacher worship in I Corinthians 1 and 3). This body had many problems, and by the end of Paul’s work with them, they had fixed some of them. Paul had a great love for them in spite of all their problems (II Corinthians 6:11), and Paul was even willing to apologize to them for his own shortcomings (II Corinthians 12:13). Truly, the study of these two epistles will take us many places, and honestly, it will bring us to places that we would rather avoid than confront.

What more could be said to this church after all that Paul has told them by way of doctrine, reproof, correction, and instruction in righteousness? Paul even talked of his own experience in the previous chapter. What is there left to say? We might ask this question today in a different light. As members of the Lord’s church, what more is there for us to say or do? Since the question “men and brethren what must we do” is answered with repentance and baptism (Acts 2:36-38), what happens after that? What if we have been in the church most all of our lives (30, 40, or even 50 years)?

Paul answers the question and cuts right to the heart of everything we feel and know. Let us approach this from the backend of the verse and move to the front. Paul said that Jesus Christ is in us – provided we are not reprobate or unregenerate of course. This means that there is something to our existence that is felt and should be known. When we eat food, that sustenance literally goes “in us” which can be felt through sensations of eating and feeling full. If Christ is literally in us (as He is described as being through regeneration), we find that there are some feelings associated with that. Paul encouraged the band at Mars’ Hill in Acts 17 to “feel after Him.” Why is this so important? If He is in us, should we not always feel Him?

Many things can go on around us that prevent us from knowing what we feel or experiencing the sensation. For example, in my food analogy above, we know that we need food when we feel hunger pangs. These sensations let us know that food is being asked for, and by eating, those sensations quit. However, if we “get busy” doing something, we can forget about or not notice those pangs as we would have otherwise. Likewise, we may be born again by the Holy Ghost and be so “busy” in life that we forget about the knowledge and feeling of Christ being in us. Now, perpetually staying busy like that can end up ruinous in the life of a child of God, but it suffices to make the point that we need to be feeling after Him to prove to our own selves that He is there.

Now, using that to move up in the verse the knowledge that Christ is in us is how do we prove our own selves? How do I know proof positive that God loves me? What assurance is there that I am eternally His? The surest proof that I have is the life of Christ in me. Paul asserts the same point to the Galatian brethren in 2:20. Paul knew that he was living the life, but it was by the faith of the Son of God (not faith in the Son of God), which was ultimately predicated upon Christ loving him and dying for him. How do we prove that the promises of God are ours to have forever? We prove that by understanding and knowing that Christ is in us. Many scoffers in the world will tell the Christian, you cannot know what you assert. While in college, I brushed shoulders with many atheists and agnostics that scoffed at my beliefs in general. One asked me, “How could you know for sure that when you die, you’re nothing more than worm dirt?” My answer was simple (like the songwriter of old), “He lives within my soul.”

Therefore, we prove our standing and position in Christ in God by understanding and knowing that the Spirit of Christ resides within us, but Christ has given us more than just His Spirit to dwell with us. He has given us His word that testifies in complete agreement with the laws and precepts that He wrote on our inward parts. Paul starts the verse by declaring that we need to examine ourselves to see whether we are in the faith or not. Here the term “the faith” references not that fruit of the Spirit per se but the body of truth that was once delivered to the saints. (Jude 3) God’s Holy Bible is oftentimes referred to as “the faith” or body of work that houses pure and unadulterated truth.

Paul says that our examination and proving needs to be more than just internal but also against a known standard. That standard or “measuring stick” is the Bible or “the faith.” Interestingly, we looked at the verse in reverse for the purpose of seeing position and relationship through the internal lens first. But, reading the text as it is written we see that before the internal lens can be properly focused, some calibration must take place first. This is why it is so hard for a child of God to verbalize how they feel about Christ’s Spirit within them without the written word of God. The word testifies to us the truth of our position and shows the life that should be led as a result of that. Without reading Acts 17, I might not know how to feel after Him regularly. Without Romans 8:9 telling me that the feeling of life in the soul is the Spirit of Christ, I would not know how to describe or term it.

In addition to these things, Paul encourages us all through the words to the church here to examine ourselves to see how we stack up to the standard. How far off are we? Corinth, no doubt, had a lot of “measuring up” to do. How about us today? The rule is simple. If the word of God says do it, then do it. If the word of God says refrain, then refrain. Too many sentences for explanation or justification of our decorum start with, “I think…” or “I feel…” No doubt, the church at Corinth did not like to look inward and admit that the fornicator needed to be excluded. Some may have had friends among the group saying that there was no resurrection. Cutting off members or avoiding hereticks is never pleasurable, but the word of God asserts its necessity.

Friends, life is hard and will always be so. However, no matter the season or trial, may we look inward to prove again what is true and what we feel and know. Recently, I had a discussion at work with a man about the origin of the universe and the age of it. In the process of the discussion, he said, “Look I’m a Christian too, but you keep referencing the Bible instead of science.” While I am an engineer by trade, the surest standard we have and will ever have for our thoughts and examination is the Bible itself. Some do not and will never see that, but the only way to examine ourselves about how well we stack up is to have something to stack up against. Let us use the court of His word and not the courts of what man finds pleasing, what our minds prefer, or what would be the easiest. All those other courts change and ebb and flow, but God’s court and abiding presence with us are faithful and never-ending.

In Hope,

Bro Philip