International Sunday School lesson
For Sunday August 24, 2014
Purpose: To know that God’s ministry of reconciliation through us within the faith community requires honest speech, personal integrity, and open hearts
Bible Lesson: 2 Corinthians 6:1-13
Background Scripture: 2 Corinthians 7:2-4
2 Corinthians 6:1-13 (CEB)
(1)Since we work together with him, we are also begging you not to receive the grace of God in vain. (2) He says, I listened to you at the right time, and I helped you on the day of salvation. Look, now is the right time! Look, now is the day of salvation! (3) We don’t give anyone any reason to be offended about anything so that our ministry won’t be criticized. (4) Instead, we commend ourselves as ministers of God in every way. We did this with our great endurance through problems, disasters, and stressful situations. (5) We went through beatings, imprisonments, and riots. We experienced hard work, sleepless nights, and hunger. (6) We displayed purity, knowledge, patience, and generosity. We served with the Holy Spirit, genuine love, (7) telling the truth, and God’s power. We carried the weapons of righteousness in our right hand and our left hand. (8) We were treated with honor and dishonor and with verbal abuse and good evaluation. We were seen as both fake and real, (9) as unknown and well known, as dying—and look, we are alive! We were seen as punished but not killed, (10) as going through pain but always happy, as poor but making many rich, and as having nothing but owning everything. (11) Corinthians, we have spoken openly to you, and our hearts are wide open. (12) There are no limits to the affection that we feel for you. You are the ones who placed boundaries on your affection for us. (13) But as a fair trade—I’m talking to you like you are children—open your hearts wide too.
2 Corinthians 7:2-4 (CEB)
(2) Make room in your hearts for us. We didn’t do anything wrong to anyone. We didn’t ruin anyone. We didn’t take advantage of anyone. (3) I’m not saying this to make you feel guilty. I’ve already said that you are in our hearts so that we die and live together with you. (4) I have every confidence in you. I’m terribly proud of you. I’m filled with encouragement. I’m overwhelmed with happiness while in the middle of our problems.
My Thoughts by Burgess Walter
Earlier in this lesson series I mentioned that parts of 2 Corinthians could have been parts of 2 or 3 other letters written by Paul to the church at Corinth. In 1 Corinthians 5:9 (I wrote to you in my earlier letter not to associate with sexually immoral people.) It is possible that a portion of our background text (Corinthians 6:14-7:1) was part of that original letter that Paul refers to in 1 Corinthians 5:9.) If you read the background text as presented I think you will find that portion out of place with today’s text. So we will concentrate our thoughts on the text as printed.
Our printed text is part of Paul’s letter of reconciliation. Paul felt the need to expand on his thoughts, and to clarify a more severe and critical letter he had previously written. Paul begins this portion with a reconciliatory statement. [“Since we are all working together, either with God or for God and we are all benefactors of God’s grace we should not waste another day bickering” (That is my interpretation)]
Paul takes the offensive position and lists his reasons why he feels the way he does. Paul lists all of the things that he and his fellow workers had overcome: beatings, imprisonment, riots, hard work, sleepless nights, and hunger. Then he list all of his and his coworker’s virtues: purity, knowledge, patience, generosity, love, truthfulness, and always with the Holy Spirit in our hearts.
Paul admits to being treated with both honor and dishonor, good reports and bad reports. He had been seen as both real and fake, as unknown and known, both dead and alive. While he was seen as poor he made many rich, as having nothing but owning everything.
Paul was laying it all on the line, in order to reconcile with the Corinthian church. He manages to get in one last plea in verses 2-4 of chapter 7. Paul basically tells the church at Corinth he loves them unconditionally. Then as every good salesman would, he closes with a very complimentary statement. “I have every confidence in you. I am terribly proud of you and I am encouraged and overwhelmed with happiness.” (Even though we still may have some problems)
This portion of 2 Corinthians, along with the Book of Philemon, gives us an example of how reconciliation should work, according to Paul. If possible I would encourage you to read the letter to Philemon. In that letter Paul is acting as a mediator between a slave and his master, but the pattern for reconciliation is the same. Honesty in speech, personal integrity, and open hearts are all required if we want to obtain reconciliation.
Reconciliation requires honesty, integrity and open hearts for all parties, if reconciliation is to happen. And remember today is the best day to make this happen, today is the day of salvation.