These Earthly Thorns -- Part Four

These Earthly Thorns
2 Corinthians 12:1-10
Theme: Common Suffering.
This week’s lessons teach us that God’s grace is all we need to get through life’s hardships.
 
 
Lesson

Now we come to the second section, which concerns Paul’s thorn. The actual translation of the Greek word is "stake." Something was given to Paul that was so painful that it was like being impaled upon a stake. It made him weak. I think he was referring to his weakness in a literal sense. Paul explained, "Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from me" (2 Cor. 12:8). Maybe there were three particular outcroppings of this disorder, but whatever it may have been, God’s word to Paul was simply, "My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness" (2 Cor. 12:9).

The Path of Greatness

Mark 10:43-45 must have been very dear to Mark, the servant and gospel writer. It summarizes all of Jesus’ person and mission. He wanted His disciples to understand that the ransom death He was about to die would be the climax of all He had said and done. Associating with the despised and rejected, enduring the contempt of the authorities, washing the disciples’ feet, going to the cross, dying in humiliation - this was Jesus’ path to greatness. It was for a life thus lived and a death thus died that “God highly exalted Him” (Phil.2:9).

Image previewThe Path of Greatness

“And whoever would be first among you must be slave of all.” (Mark 10:44)

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These Earthly Thorns -- Part Three

These Earthly Thorns
2 Corinthians 12:1-10
Theme: Common Suffering.
This week’s lessons teach us that God’s grace is all we need to get through life’s hardships.
 
 
Lesson

In the study of Paul’s two letters to the Corinthians, it is necessary to mention that he was dealing with the problem of gnosticism. Gnosticism was a particular Greek heresy based upon a number of Greek philosophical presuppositions. It paralleled the mystery religions that were also current in the Greek world at that time. The mystery religions had certain kinds of hidden knowledge that were communicated to those within the group. Many of these mystery religions expressed salvation in terms of acquiring this particular knowledge that was secret or special to the religion itself.

These Earthly Thorns -- Part Two

These Earthly Thorns
2 Corinthians 12:1-10
Theme: Common Suffering.
This week’s lessons teach us that God’s grace is all we need to get through life’s hardships.
 
Lesson

This is a portion of Second Corinthians that puzzles commentators. The first portion comes in two parts, the first dealing with a special vision, a revelation that Paul received. That is puzzling for all sorts of reasons. One cause of puzzlement is that he apparently refers to himself abstractly, in the third person. He wrote, "I know a man in Christ who fourteen years ago was caught up to the third heaven" (2 Cor. 12:2).

The Call to Follow Him to Jerusalem

We may ask ourselves what it means to follow Christ, to set our faces towards Jerusalem. Just as our Lord was bound to do the Father’s will by dying on the cross for us, so we have to have that same attitude of heart and mind: we must be just as determined to live for Him. Things may be disappointing, and experiences may be frustrating, but we are to do all things without grumbling or questioning (Phil.2: 14). Some things which we are called upon to do may not seem reasonable, but we are called to walk by faith, we are to be shining lights in a dark place. Our Jerusalem is the place of our testimony, where we live surrendered to the will of God.

Image previewThe Call to Follow Him to Jerusalem

“See, we are going up to Jerusalem, and the Son of Man will be delivered over to the chief priests and the scribes, and they will condemn him to death and deliver him over to the Gentiles.” (M

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These Earthly Thorns -- Part One

These Earthly Thorns
2 Corinthians 12:1-10
Theme: Common Suffering.
This week’s lessons teach us that God’s grace is all we need to get through life’s hardships.
 
 
Lesson

Last week we studied the second half of 2 Corinthians 11, in which the Apostle Paul boasts of his sufferings. He did so reluctantly but comprehensively in order to defend his apostleship with the Corinthians, which was, at the same time, a defense of the Gospel. It was because of his concern for them and his concern for the Gospel that he did what was obviously distasteful to him.

The King Revealed

The transfiguration was nothing more or less than the Lord God Almighty reaching out and lifting the curtain, saying, “Though the road just ahead will be hard, this is the way things are going to be at the Second Coming.” When God first sent Jesus here, He sent Him little, mean, despised, rejected. He did this on purpose. Jesus was called the stumbling stone (Isa. 8:14, 15); the stone which the builders rejected (1 Peter 2:7). God took Peter, James, and John and lifted the curtain and said, “Now you see what the stone really is.” There He was, and His face was glistening, and He was transfigured. His clothing was lightening white, and Moses and Elijah appeared and were talking with Jesus.

Image previewThe King Revealed

“And after six days Jesus took with him Peter and James and John, and led them up a high mountain by themselves. And he was transfigured before them” (Mark 9:2)

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Crown of Thorns -- Part Five

Crown of Thorns
2 Corinthians 11:16-33
Theme: Boasting in weakness.
This week’s lessons teach us that our weakness reveals God’s strength.
 
Lesson

If Paul was boasting of his apostleship, he could have said quite rightly, "Look at all the churches I have founded. Look at all the people who have come to Christ through my ministry. Look at all the difficulties I went through to plant the banner of Christ in foreign soil." But he did not say that. Instead he pointed out that he was in prison more frequently and flogged more severely. He was exposed to death again and again. He was beaten. He was misused. He was stoned. He was shipwrecked. These are all things we would think of negatively. And yet, these are things Paul endured for the sake of the glory of proclaiming Jesus Christ, his Lord.

The Cross for His Followers

There is only one cross. We must never use the word to refer to the ordinary difficulties of life. When we take up the cross, we take the way that Christ walked, not, of course, as an atonement, but as a method of life that puts the Father’s will first. Alexander Maclearen puts it this was, “To slay the life of self is always pain, and there is no discipleship without crucifying “the old man.” Taking up my cross does not merely mean accepting meekly God-sent or men-inflicted sorrows, but persistently carrying on the special form of self-denial which my special type of character requires.

Image previewThe Cross for His Followers

“And calling the crowd to him with his disciples, he said to them, ‘If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me.’”(Mark 8:34)

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The Humanity and Power of Jesus

Jesus had been preaching and healing only to face the blasphemous accusations of angry religious leaders and attempts of His own family to remove Him because they thought Him insane. He left them, going on to teach the crowd in a series of parables (4:1-33), though His heart was full of loneliness and sorrow at the falling away of weak friends. Jesus is just the Savior needed by tired bodies and weary minds; we have a high priest who can be touched with the feelings of our infirmities (cf. Heb. 4:15). Every day He is with us, so that we may secure the comfort and refreshment we need from Him.

Image previewThe Humanity and Power of Jesus

“And they were filled with great fear and said to one another, ‘Who then is this, that even the wind and the sea obey him?’” (Mark 4:41)

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