The Apostle Paul: The Epistle of 2 Corinthians. Part 2.

Grieved by the Corinthians’ lack of loyalty to defend him, seeking to spare them further reproof (cf. 1:23), and perhaps hoping time would bring them to their senses, Paul returned to Ephesus. From Ephesus, Paul wrote what is known as the “severe letter” (2:4) and sent it with Titus to Corinth (7:5–16).

Leaving Ephesus after the riot sparked by Demetrius (Acts 19:23–20:1), Paul went to Troas to meet Titus (2 Cor. 2:12–13). But Paul was so anxious for news of how the Corinthians had responded to the “severe letter” that he could not minister there though the Lord had opened the door (2:12; cf. 7:5). So he left for Macedonia to look for Titus (2:13). To Paul’s immense relief and joy, Titus met him with the news that the majority of the Corinthians had repented of their rebellion against Paul (7:7).

Paul was wise enough to know that some rebellious attitudes still smoldered under the surface, and could surface again, Paul wrote (possibly from Philippi, cf. 11:9 with Phil. 4:15; also, some early manuscripts list Philippi as the place of writing) 2 Corinthians. In this letter, though the apostle expressed his relief and joy at their repentance (2 Cor. 7:8–16), his main concern was to defend his apostleship (chs. 1–7), exhort the Corinthians to resume preparations for the collection for the poor at Jerusalem (chs. 8–9), and confront the false apostles head on (chs. 10–13). He then went to Corinth, as he had written (12:14; 13:1–2). The Corinthians’ participation in the Jerusalem offering (Rom. 15:26) implies that Paul’s third visit to that church was successful.

2 Corinthians contains several important theological themes. One of those themes is Paul’s teaching regarding the Trinity.

2 Corinthians portrays God the Father as a merciful comforter (1:3; 7:6), the Creator (4:6), the One who raised Jesus from the dead (4:14; cf. 13:4) and who will also raise believers (1:9).

The epistle also describes Jesus Christ as the One who suffered (1:5), who fulfilled God’s promises (1:20), who was the proclaimed Lord (4:5), who manifested God’s glory (4:6), and the One who in his incarnation became poor for believers (8:9; cf. Phil. 2:5–8).

The letter also depicts the Holy Spirit as God (2 Cor. 3:17–18) and the guarantee of believers’ salvation (1:22; 5:5).

2 Corinthians teaches that Satan is the “god of this world” (4:4; cf. 1 John 5:19), a deceiver (2 Cor. 11:14), and the leader of human and angelic deceivers (11:15).

The theme of the end times includes both the believer’s glorification (4:16–5:8) and his judgment (5:10).

The glorious truth of God’s sovereignty in salvation is the theme of 5:14–21, while 7:9–10 sets forth man’s response to God’s offer of salvation—genuine repentance. 

2 Corinthians also pre­sents the clearest, most concise summary of the substitutionary atonement of Christ to be found anywhere in Scripture (5:21; cf. Isa. 53) and defines the mission of the church to proclaim reconciliation (2 Cor. 5:18–20). Additionally, the nature of the New Covenant receives its fullest exposition along with the book of Hebrews (3:6–16).

The main challenge confronting the interpreter is the relationship of chs. 10–13 to chs. 1–9. The identity of Paul’s opponents at Corinth has produced various interpretations, as has the identity of the brother who accompanied Titus to Corinth (8:18, 22). Whether the offender mentioned in 2:5–8 is the incestuous man of 1 Cor. 5 is also uncertain. It is difficult to explain Paul’s vision (2 Cor. 12:1–5) and to identify specifically his “thorn in the flesh,” the “messenger of Satan [sent] to harass [him]” (12:7).

Take the opportunity to read 2 Corinthians in light of our brief survey.

Soli deo Gloria!

The Westminster Confession of Faith: The Holy Scriptures. Part 4.

We will devote each Lord’s Day in 2021 at hiswordtoday.org to present a portion of the Westminster Confession of Faith (WCF). For those unfamiliar with the WCF, a brief explanation is appropriate. 

The Westminster Confession of Faith is a Reformed confession of faith. Drawn up by the 1646 Westminster Assembly as part of the Westminster Standards to be a confession of the Church of England, it became and remains the “subordinate standard” of doctrine (to Scripture) in the Church of Scotland and has been influential within Presbyterian churches worldwide.

It is to that “most precise and accurate summary of the content of biblical Christianity” that we will give our time and attention to each Lord’s Day in the year of our Lord, 2021. I trust you will be edified and encouraged each week by The Westminster Confession of Faith.

Chapter One: The Holy Scriptures. Part 4.

6. The whole counsel of God, concerning all things necessary for his own glory, man’s salvation, faith, and life, is either expressly set down in Scripture, or by good and necessary consequence may be deduced from Scripture: unto which nothing at any time is to be added, whether by new revelations of the Spirit, or traditions of men.a Nevertheless we acknowledge the inward illumination of the Spirit of God to be necessary for the saving understanding of such things as are revealed in the Word;b and that there are some circumstances concerning the worship of God, and government of the Church, common to human actions and societies, which are to be ordered by the light of nature and Christian prudence, according to the general rules of the Word, which are always to be observed.c

a. Gal 1:8-92 Thes 2:22 Tim 3:15-17. • b. John 6:451 Cor 2:9-12. • c. 1 Cor 11:13-1414:2640.

7. All things in Scripture are not alike plain in themselves, nor alike clear unto all;a yet those things which are necessary to be known, believed, and observed, for salvation, are so clearly propounded and opened in some place of Scripture or other, that not only the learned, but the unlearned, in a due use of the ordinary means, may attain unto a sufficient understanding of them.b

a. 2 Pet 3:16. • b. Psa 119:105130.

Soli deo Gloria!

The Apostle Paul: The Epistle of 2 Corinthians. Part 1.

The authorship of 2 Corinthians by the Apostle Paul is without question Extra-biblical sources indicate that July, A.D. 51 is the most likely date for the beginning of Gallio’s proconsulship (cf. Acts 18:12). Paul’s trial before him at Corinth (Acts 18:12–17) probably took place shortly after Gallio assumed office.

Leaving Corinth (probably in A.D. 52), Paul sailed for Syria (Acts 18:18), thus concluding his second missionary journey. Returning to Ephesus on his third missionary journey (probably in A.D. 52), Paul ministered there for about two and one-half years (Acts 19:8, 10). The apostle wrote 1 Corinthians from Ephesus toward the close of that period (1 Cor. 16:8), most likely in A.D. 55. Since Paul planned to stay in Ephesus until the following spring (cf. the reference to Pentecost in 1 Cor. 16:8), and 2 Corinthians was written after he left Ephesus. Therefore, the most likely date for 2 Corinthians is late A.D. 55 or very early A.D. 56.

As we previously noted in our survey of I Corinthians, Paul’s relationship with the city of Corinth began on his second missionary journey (Acts 18:1–18), when he spent 18 months (Acts 18:11) ministering there. After leaving Corinth, Paul heard of immorality in the Corinthian church and wrote a letter (since lost) to confront that sin, referred to in 1 Cor. 5:9. During his ministry in Ephesus, he received further reports of trouble in the Corinthian church in the form of divisions among them (1 Cor. 1:11). In addition, the Corinthians wrote Paul a letter (1 Cor. 7:1) asking for clarification of some issues. Paul responded by writing the letter known as 1 Corinthians. Planning to remain at Ephesus a little longer (1 Cor. 16:8–9), Paul sent Timothy to Corinth (1 Cor. 4:17; 16:10–11). Disturbing news reached the apostle (possibly from Timothy) of further difficulties at Corinth, including the arrival of self-styled false apostles (2 Cor. 11:13).

To create the platform to teach their false gospel, the false apostles began assaulting Paul’s character. They had to convince the people to turn from Paul to them if they were to succeed in preaching demon doctrine. Temporarily abandoning the work at Ephesus, Paul went immediately to Corinth. The visit (known as the “painful visit,” 2:1) was not a successful one from Paul’s perspective; someone in the Corinthian church (possibly one of the false apostles) even openly insulted him (2:5–8, 10; 7:12).

More to follow in our brief survey of 2 Corinthians.

Soli deo Gloria!

The Apostle Paul: The Ministry after the Riotous Storm.

“After the uproar ceased, Paul sent for the disciples, and after encouraging them, he said farewell and departed for Macedonia. When he had gone through those regions and had given them much encouragement, he came to Greece. There he spent three months, and when a plot was made against him by the Jews as he was about to set sail for Syria, he decided to return through Macedonia. Sopater the Berean, son of Pyrrhus, accompanied him; and of the Thessalonians, Aristarchus and Secundus; and Gaius of Derbe, and Timothy; and the Asians, Tychicus and Trophimus. These went on ahead and were waiting for us at Troas, but we sailed away from Philippi after the days of Unleavened Bread, and in five days we came to them at Troas, where we stayed for seven days.” (Acts 20:1–6)

After the riot in Ephesus was quelled, Paul spoke some encouraging words to the believers in Ephesus, said his farewells and departed once again for Macedonia. Today’s text begins to cover more than a year in the life and ministry of the Apostle Paul.

After the apostle traveled through Macedonia and encouraged the believers, Paul then arrived in Greece. Staying three months, he was all set to set sail for Syria but a plot by the unbelieving Jews against him compelled him to return to Syria, and ultimately Jerusalem (2 Corinthians 8:1-3) by land through Macedonia.

It was at this point in his historical chronicle, that Luke mentions several of Paul’s traveling companions and fellows missionaries. These included Sopater the Berean, son of Pyrrhus, Aristarchus and Secundus who belonged to the Thessalonian church, Gaius of Derbe, and Timothy, along with the Asians, Tychicus and Trophimus.

It is when Luke recorded Paul’s arrival at Troas, that he reinserted himself into the historical narrative. We know this by the change in the personal pronouns to “us” and “we.” He wrote, “These (referring to the previously mentioned companions of Paul) went on ahead and were waiting for us at Troas, but we sailed away from Philippi after the days of Unleavened Bread, and in five days we came to them at Troas, where we stayed for seven days.”

Luke’s mention of the Feast of the Unleavened Bread indicated that the Passover Celebration was completed. It also means that the events Luke recorded occurred during the spring of the year. Probably A.D. 55.

It is at this time that Paul wrote his second canonical epistle to the church in Corinth. When next we meet, we will begin a survey examination of 2 Corinthians.

As Paul ministered with his beloved companions, take encouragement that so do you. None of us is an island but is in need of others to assist us and we to assist them in serving the Lord.

Soli deo Gloria!

The Apostle Paul: The Riotous Crowd is Quelled.

35 “And when the town clerk had quieted the crowd, he said, “Men of Ephesus, who is there who does not know that the city of the Ephesians is temple keeper of the great Artemis, and of the sacred stone that fell from the sky? 36 Seeing then that these things cannot be denied, you ought to be quiet and do nothing rash. 37 For you have brought these men here who are neither sacrilegious nor blasphemers of our goddess. 38 If therefore Demetrius and the craftsmen with him have a complaint against anyone, the courts are open, and there are proconsuls. Let them bring charges against one another. 39 But if you seek anything further, it shall be settled in the regular assembly. 40 For we really are in danger of being charged with rioting today, since there is no cause that we can give to justify this commotion.” 41 And when he had said these things, he dismissed the assembly.” (Acts 19:35–41)

The Ephesian town clerk was a non-Roman city official. He would be most likened to a city manager or mayor. This unnamed individual possessed real authority. The crowd recognized him and became quiet.

The clerk said, “Men of Ephesus, who is there who does not know that the city of the Ephesians is temple keeper of the great Artemis, and of the sacred stone that fell from the sky?” Like most politicians, the official sought to ingratiate himself to the crowd by affirming what he knew they wanted to hear.

He then said, “Seeing then that these things cannot be denied, you ought to be quiet and do nothing rash.” The clerk says that the so-called un-deniability of the legend of Artemis should cause no alarm among the citizens of the city. They have nothing to worry about and therefore should not act hastily.

While the facts concerning Artemis are disputable as fact, the seizing of Paul’s two companions, Gaius and Aristarchus, are not. The clerk states, “For you have brought these men here who are neither sacrilegious nor blasphemers of our goddess.” With well-chosen rhetoric, the city official warned the crowd that they have wronged two innocent men. The crowd, in fact, are the real lawbreakers.

The official then said, “If therefore Demetrius and the craftsmen with him have a complaint against anyone, the courts are open, and there are proconsuls. Let them bring charges against one another. 39 But if you seek anything further, it shall be settled in the regular assembly.” He stressed to the citizens the importance of following the rule of law. There is a correct way of handling legal disputes and rioting is not the correct way.

Finally, the clerk warned them when he said, “For we really are in danger of being charged with rioting today, since there is no cause that we can give to justify this commotion.” And when he had said these things, he dismissed the assembly.” Demetrius said that the Apostle Paul would cost the city its prestige among the ancient world. Ironically, it would be the behavior of the Ephesian citizens which would bring about that result. The official dismissed the crowd and apparently they complied.

Is it ever appropriate for Christians to riotously protest against society’s ills and injustice? 1 Timothy 2:1–2 (ESV) says, “First of all, then, I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for all people, for kings and all who are in high positions, that we may lead a peaceful and quiet life, godly and dignified in every way.”  

Believers are to pray, intercede, and gives thanks on behalf of all kinds of people including those who serve in government. The purpose of this is so that believers in Christ may conduct their lives in a tranquil and well-ordered life which is devoted to God and respectful.

May each believer in Christ take this truth from I Timothy to heart, regardless of who serves in government positions on the federal, state, or local level.

Soli deo Gloria!  

The Apostle Paul: There’s a Riot Goin’ On.

28 “When they heard this they were enraged and were crying out, “Great is Artemis of the Ephesians!” 29 So the city was filled with the confusion, and they rushed together into the theater, dragging with them Gaius and Aristarchus, Macedonians who were Paul’s companions in travel. 30 But when Paul wished to go in among the crowd, the disciples would not let him. 31 And even some of the Asiarchs, who were friends of his, sent to him and were urging him not to venture into the theater. 32 Now some cried out one thing, some another, for the assembly was in confusion, and most of them did not know why they had come together. 33 Some of the crowd prompted Alexander, whom the Jews had put forward. And Alexander, motioning with his hand, wanted to make a defense to the crowd. 34 But when they recognized that he was a Jew, for about two hours they all cried out with one voice, “Great is Artemis of the Ephesians!” (Acts 19:28–34)

Upon hearing the inflammatory statements against the Apostle Paul and the Gospel by Demetrius the Ephesian silversmith, his fellow tradesmen and craftsmen became totally furious with wrathful indignation and began to continually shout and scream ““Great is Artemis of the Ephesians!”

Consequently, the city became filled with an emotional and uproarious tumult. Crowds of people converged upon the city’s open-air theater. In the process, the mob seized Gaius and Aristarchus, who Luke described as Paul’s traveling companions.

Paul, perhaps wishing to prevent any harm to his two companions and also to address the crowd, is prevented in doing so by the disciples of Jesus living in Ephesus. There were other Asians who were Paul friends who also earnestly and continually implored and begged him not to go into the theater.

The atmosphere within the theater was total chaos. Luke records that, “Now some cried out one thing, some another, for the assembly was in confusion, and most of them did not know why they had come together.”

Some of the crowd prompted a Jew named Alexander to address the people. In his commentary on Acts, Dr. Simon Kistemaker writes, “The Jews wanted to clear themselves of any charge of opposing the worship of Artemis. At the same time they want to place Paul and his followers in a bad light.” Whatever the reason to have Alexander speak, upon hearing that he was a Jew, the mob began to shout and scream all the more “Great is Artemis of the Ephesians!” They di this for two solid hours.

As we have seen in our own day, riotous people do not conduct themselves with any rhyme or reason. Their intention is to destroy, to be heard and to shout down any opposition. Rational thought is seldom seen in such instances.

How was this situation resolved? We will see when next we meet.

Soli deo Gloria!

The Apostle Paul: No Little Disturbance.

23 “About that time there arose no little disturbance concerning the Way. 24 For a man named Demetrius, a silversmith, who made silver shrines of Artemis, brought no little business to the craftsmen. 25 These he gathered together, with the workmen in similar trades, and said, “Men, you know that from this business we have our wealth. 26 And you see and hear that not only in Ephesus but in almost all of Asia this Paul has persuaded and turned away a great many people, saying that gods made with hands are not gods. 27 And there is danger not only that this trade of ours may come into disrepute but also that the temple of the great goddess Artemis may be counted as nothing, and that she may even be deposed from her magnificence, she whom all Asia and the world worship.” (Acts 19:23–27)

As we have previously seen throughout the Apostle Paul’s ministry, the preaching of the Gospel promotes not only repentance of sins and a reception of Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord, but it also produces rejection and reviling. Such was the case in Ephesus spearheaded by a silversmith named Demetrius.

Demetrius made silver shrines of the Greek goddess Artemis. He had a thriving business and made a lucrative living in idolatry.

However, he became concerned that his business and profit bottom line would take a hit. This was because of the many people turning to the Lord Jesus Christ for salvation through the preaching of the Gospel by Paul.

Demetrius gathered his fellow craftsmen and said, “Men, you know that from this business we have our wealth. 26 And you see and hear that not only in Ephesus but in almost all of Asia this Paul has persuaded and turned away a great many people, saying that gods made with hands are not gods.” It is apparent that Demetrius is not a worshipper of Artemis but rather a worshipper of his wealth. Money is what he holds in high esteem.

Demetrius continued by saying, “And there is danger not only that this trade of ours may come into disrepute but also that the temple of the great goddess Artemis may be counted as nothing, and that she may even be deposed from her magnificence, she whom all Asia and the world worship.”

I think Demetrius actually believed what he said. He certainly wanted to convince his fellow tradesmen. How noble of him to want to guard and protect the reputation of Artemis when in reality he was mainly concerned about losing his income.

Today’s text illustrates that when individuals receive Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior their lives begin to change. When once people bought the shrines Demetrius made and sold, they no longer did so because they were now worshippers of the One, True God.

How has your life and lifestyle changed since becoming a follower of Jesus Christ? What changes still need to occur? Let us all praise the Lord for the work He has done in our lives, the work He is currently doing, and the work He will do in the future.

Have a blessed day in the Lord.

Soli deo Gloria!

The Apostle Paul: Paul’s Mind is Made Up.

21 Now after these events Paul resolved in the Spirit to pass through Macedonia and Achaia and go to Jerusalem, saying, “After I have been there, I must also see Rome.” 22 And having sent into Macedonia two of his helpers, Timothy and Erastus, he himself stayed in Asia for a while.” (Acts 19:21–22)

Have you ever made up your mind? What does this idiom or phrase mean? To make up one’s mind means to decide to do something, or not, and/or to make a decision.

The Apostle Paul personally resolved to once again journey through the region of Macedonia and Achaia and then eventually to Jerusalem. He resolved to do this Luke says, “In the Spirit.” The text does not say “my spirit” or “his spirit” but rather “the Spirit.” This is a clear reference to the prompting by the Holy Spirit God.

This sovereign resolution from the LORD is supported by Paul’s own words when he said, ““After I have been there, I must also see Rome.” The word “must” is a present active imperative verb. It means that the goal or plan is absolutely necessary, inevitable, and in the sovereign plan of God (Acts 19:36; John 12:34; Luke 24:26). There can be no deviation or turning back from God’s direction.

Paul’s intention is to revisit the churches which the LORD established during the apostle’s second missionary journey. Following this, he intended to circle back to Jerusalem and then visit the existing church in the city of Rome. To prepare for this journey, Paul sent Timothy and Erastus ahead to Macedonia while he remained in Asia.

Dr. John Walvoord writes that, “This verse (Acts 9:21) sets the tone for the remainder of the book (Acts). Paul’s sights were now set on Rome (via Jerusalem) with the ultimate goal of reaching Spain (Rom. 1:15; 15:22–24). Luke made no reference to Spain because one of his purposes in writing Acts was to trace the spread of the gospel up to Paul’s being in Rome, center of the Roman world. Several have observed how Luke’s Gospel focuses in on Jerusalem, whereas Acts emphasizes the message going out from Jerusalem to Rome. These two cities seem to be the focal points of Luke-Acts.”

Today’s text illustrates how the LORD’s leading within our soul leads to outward changes of behavior and practice. What is the LORD prompting you to do, or to refrain from doing? Is your mind made up?

Soli deo Gloria!

The Westminster Confession of Faith: The Holy Scriptures. Part 3.

We will devote each Lord’s Day in 2021 at hiswordtoday.org to present a portion of the Westminster Confession of Faith (WCF). For those unfamiliar with the WCF, a brief explanation is appropriate. 

The Westminster Confession of Faith is a Reformed confession of faith. Drawn up by the 1646 Westminster Assembly as part of the Westminster Standards to be a confession of the Church of England, it became and remains the “subordinate standard” of doctrine (to Scripture) in the Church of Scotland and has been influential within Presbyterian churches worldwide.

It is to that “most precise and accurate summary of the content of biblical Christianity” that we will give our time and attention to each Lord’s Day in the year of our Lord, 2021. I trust you will be edified and encouraged each week by The Westminster Confession of Faith.

Chapter One: The Holy Scriptures. Part 3.

4. The authority of the holy Scripture, for which it ought to be believed and obeyed, dependeth not upon the testimony of any man or church, but wholly upon God (who is truth itself), the Author thereof; and therefore it is to be received, because it is the Word of God.a

a. 1 Thes 2:132 Tim 3:162 Pet 1:19211 John 5:9.

5. We may be moved and induced by the testimony of the Church to an high and reverent esteem of the holy Scripture;a and the heavenliness of the matter, the efficacy of the doctrine, the majesty of the style, the consent of all the parts, the scope of the whole (which is to give all glory to God), the full discovery it makes of the only way of man’s salvation, the many other incomparable excellencies, and the entire perfection thereof, are arguments whereby it doth abundantly evidence itself to be the Word of God; yet, notwithstanding, our full persuasion and assurance of the infallible truth, and divine authority thereof, is from the inward work of the Holy Spirit, bearing witness by and with the Word in our hearts.b

a. 1 Tim 3:15. • b. Isa 59:21John 16:13-141 Cor 2:10-121 John 2:2027.

Soli deo Gloria!

The Apostle Paul: I Corinthians. Part 3.

The main thrust of I Corinthians is corrective rather than doctrinal, However, Paul gave seminal teaching on many doctrines that directly relate to the matters of sin and righteousness. In one way or another, wrong living always stems from wrong belief.

Sexual sins for example, including divorce, are inevitably related to disobeying God’s plan for marriage and the family (7:1–40). Proper worship is determined by such things as recognition of God’s holy character (3:17), the spiritual identity of the church (12:12–27), and the holy partaking of the Lord’s Supper (11:17–34).

Concurrently, it is not possible for the church to be edified faithfully and effectively unless believers understand and exercise their spiritual gifts (12:1–14:40). The importance of the doctrine of the resurrection is also emphasized (I Corinthians 15:13–14).

In addition to those themes, Paul briefly dealt with God’s judgment of believers, the right understanding of which will produce right motives for godly living (see 3:13–15). The right understanding of idols and of false gods, in general, was to help the immature Corinthians think about such things as eating meat that had been sacrificed to idols (8:1–11:1). The right understanding and expression of genuine, godly love was mandatory to right use of spiritual gifts and even to right knowledge about all the things of God (13:1–13).

Paul dealt with the cross, divine wisdom and human wisdom, the work of the Spirit in illumination, carnality, eternal rewards, the transformation of salvation, sanctification, the nature of Christ, union with him, the divine role for women, marriage and divorce, Spirit baptism, indwelling and gifting, the unity of the church in one body, the theology of love, and the doctrine of resurrection. All these establish foundational truth for godly behavior.

More to come.

Soli deo Gloria!