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Lesson 11: Christ Is All We Need for Life (2 Corinthians 13:1-14)

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…since you are demanding proof that Christ is speaking through me. He is not weak in dealing with you, but is powerful among you. For to be sure, he was crucified in weakness, yet he lives by God’s power. Likewise, we are weak in him, yet by God’s power we will live with him in our dealing with you. (2 Corinthians 13:3-4)

As we have studied this letter, 2 Corinthians, we have seen how personal and messy it is. It’s messy because it is full of emotions and experiences. It’s like life—messy—because people are messy, relationships are messy, circumstances are messy, and community within the church is messy.

In the midst of our messy lives, God wants us to learn to rely on Him more than on ourselves. Throughout 2 Corinthians, we have seen examples of Paul making plans and submitting them to God to be changed, demonstrating his authority and submitting that to God, asking for healing and submitting to God’s answer, and preaching the gospel in one city while his heart wants to be in another city but waits for God to say “go.” That’s dependent living.

Through your study of 2 Corinthians, you have learned how the Lord Jesus Christ will transform your life as His child by teaching you to live dependently on Him in weakness and in strength. This “dependent living” will lead to you becoming stronger and more effective in life by relying on God rather than on yourself. You learn how to do this as you act according to the Word of God, depend on Jesus Christ for the power to do so, and trust Him with the results.

He’s all you need to find the best way to live!

Questions To Consider This Week:

  • How do you balance being patient to judge someone’s sin when you don’t know all the facts with deciding to lovingly confront them when you do know the facts?
  • How has Jesus specifically shown His power in dealing with sin or temptation in your life?

Day One Study—Get The Big Picture.

Read 2 Corinthians 12:14-13:14, which includes verses from the last lesson. Ask the Lord Jesus to teach you through His Word.

[To print, follow this link (or for the NIV, this one). Use your own method (colored pencils, lines, shapes) to mark: 1) anything that grabs your attention and 2) words you want to understand. Feel free to develop your own method of marking up a passage. Put a star  next to anything you think relates to dependent living.]

1. What grabbed your attention from these verses?

  • 13:1-4
  • 13:5-10
  • 13:11-14

2. What verses or specific words do you want to understand better?

3. What topics are repeated in this passage or continue an earlier discussion in this letter?

4. What verses illustrate or help you understand what dependent living on God looks like?

Respond To The Lord About What He’s Shown You Today.

Day Two Study

Read 2 Corinthians 13:1-4. Ask the Lord Jesus to teach you through His Word.

What Does The Bible Say?

5. Paul continues his discussion of his planned visit to the Corinthians.

  • In v. 1, Paul quotes Deuteronomy 19:15. What does the Bible say?
  • On his visit to Corinth, what will Paul do (v. 2)?
  • What were they demanding (v. 3)?
  • What does he tell them in response (v. 3)?
  • What is true about Christ (v. 4)? Note: Christ illustrated 2 Corinthians 12:9 for us.
  • What is likewise true about Paul and his leader team (v. 4)?
  • Did anything else grab your attention?

Focus on the Meaning: What did Paul mean by the “two or three witnesses?” He could be referring to himself, Titus and the other brother when they last visited the Corinthians. Or, it could be the people who know the truth about Paul, heard the warning from him before, and will be present when he comes to visit the church.

What Does It Mean?

6. Paul takes his authority and responsibility of servant-leadership in the church very seriously. Summarize what he is saying to the Corinthians.

Scriptural Insight: Rebellion against Paul is rebellion against Christ, who appointed him as His apostle. (NIV Study Bible, note on 13:3, p. 1777)

7. Does God’s power (v. 4) shown through His representatives include the authority to judge sin and correct sinful behavior in Christians? See v. 10. Also, see 2 Corinthians in 2:5-10; 6:14-7:1; 7:8-13; 11:3-4; and 12:20-21 to help you answer this question.

Focus on the Meaning: It appears that Paul and the Corinthians did not understand

“power” in the same way. For them it was on display in an aggressive and a mighty personality. For the apostle, it is seen in weakness [that relies on Christ]. (Dr. Constables Notes on 2 Corinthians 2017 Edition, p. 124)

8. What else did you learn as you studied 2 Corinthians 13:1-4?

Scriptural Insight: Christ’s finished work on the cross is His power perfected for us. See the essay after Lesson 5 for the descriptions of some of what He made complete for us.

What Application Will You Make?

9. Is the proof of Jesus’s hand on our lives found only in big money, big deals, flashes of fame, and our biggest dreams coming true? If not, why not? Use what you have learned in this letter to explain your answer.

Think About It: Dear follower of Christ, make sure you’re not judging the proof of God’s hand on your life merely by outward, materialistic blessings. As we’ve seen throughout 2 Corinthians, oftentimes His greatest display of power in our lives is in our places of loneliness, battles with infirmities, and painful losses. Whether you’re feeling weak or strong, hide yourself as weak in Christ. A child is weak when resting in her father’s arms. This is where we’ll find the true strength to love God and serve others. (Kelly Minter, All Things New, p. 200)

10. In what other ways can you apply this lesson to your life?

Respond To The Lord About What He’s Shown You Today.

Day Three Study

Read 2 Corinthians 13:5-10. Ask the Lord Jesus to teach you through His Word.

What Does The Bible Say?

11. Answer the following questions based on the text.

  • Paul says the Corinthians should examine (or test) themselves to see that they are in the faith. As someone in the faith, what is true about them (v. 5)?
  • What does Paul say about himself (v. 6)?
  • What is his prayer for them (v. 7)?
  • What does he confirm in v. 8?
  • On what is Paul’s focus as he exercises authority over the Corinthians (v. 9)?
  • Why does he write such seemingly harsh words to them (v. 10)?
  • Why did Jesus give him authority (v. 10)?
  • Did anything else grab your attention?

What Does It Mean?

From the Greek: Paul meant v. 5 to be an affirming question, carrying the idea of “proving in the expectation of approving.” The Greek word peirazo means “to try, make trial of, test: for the purpose of ascertaining quality, or one’s thinking, or how one will behave himself.” The end result is to show that what one expected is true. The Corinthians had been examining him. Now he turned the tables and challenged them to examine themselves—not for salvation but for obedience to the Lord.

12. Paul wanted the Corinthians to take a hard look at themselves with the expectation they would discover that Jesus Christ was truly in their lives and working in their midst. What are some of the evidences that would show this to be true? [Note: They would only fail the test if they had never trusted in Christ.]

13. Relate v. 9 to what you learned in 2 Corinthians 12. What could Paul have meant when he said he’s glad when he’s weak and the Corinthians are “fully restored” / “made complete?”

From the Greek: The end of verse 9 reads very differently among the various translations. You will see “become mature” (NLT), “fully qualified” (NET), “made complete” (NAS), and “fully restored” (NIV, ESV). You’ll see the same differences in verse 11. The Greek words used there carry the idea of strengthening, perfecting, training, being completely ready to take on whatever is needed. The goal is to move forward in your transformation to become more like Jesus Christ and serve Him well.

14. What is the proper use of authority in the church (v. 10)? See also 2 Corinthians 1:24 and 10:8.

What Application Will You Make?

15. Notice Paul’s mention of prayer twice in this section. Every daily lesson in this study begins and ends with prayer. Lack of prayer is often a sign of self-sufficiency rather than dependent living and will lead you to doing what is not pleasing in God’s sight. Spend some time responding to the Lord about what Hes shown you today.

Day Four Study

Read 2 Corinthians 13:11-14. Ask the Lord Jesus to teach you through His Word.

What Does The Bible Say?

16. Paul’s closing words in a letter often include simple reminders of how to live as a Christian in community. As he says goodbye, Paul sums up his letter with five “take-away” actions. What are they?

What Does It Mean?

17. What does Paul mean when he tells them to strive or aim for full restoration (NIV, ESV)? To what or whom must they be restored? See also 2 Corinthians 11:3 and 12:20-21.

Historical Insight: Evidently Paul’s anticipated visit to Corinth turned out to be a pleasant one. Paul wrote Romans during the three months he was in Corinth (Acts 20:2-3, A.D. 56-57). In that epistle, he gave no indication that there were problems in Corinth. Moreover, he proceeded with his plans to evangelize unreached areas, which he would not have done if the Corinthian church still needed his attention (cf. 2 Corinthians 10:14-16). Furthermore, Paul wrote that the Corinthians (believers in Macedonia and Achaia) “were pleased” to complete their collection for the Jerusalem saints (Romans 15:26-27). Finally, the Corinthian church’s preservation of 2 Corinthians argues for this church’s acquiescence to Paul’s admonitions and warnings. (Dr. Constables Notes on 2 Corinthians 2017 Edition, p. 127)

18. Focus on the phrases: “be of one mind” and “live in peace.” You can find “cross references” (verses that are similar to the one you are reading) in most study Bibles and in the Blue Letter Bible App. Look at cross references to find other verses that describe how to:

  • be of one mind—
  • live in peace—

Historical Insight: The “holy kiss” was an expression of brotherly love, a sign of being in fellowship with one another. It welcomed newly baptized believers into the family of God. It symbolized the forgiveness, reconciliation, unity, and fellowship that existed between the believers.

19. Write Paul’s benediction (v. 14) in the space below.

20. What do you learn about the three persons of our one God from this verse?

Scriptural Insight: This benediction confirms the Trinity and has ever since been a part of Christian worship tradition. It serves to remind us that the mystery of the Holy Trinity is known to be true not through rational or philosophical explanations but through Christian experience, whereby the believer knows firsthand the grace, the love, and the fellowship that freely flow to him from the three Persons of the one Lord God. (NIV Study Bible, note on v. 14, p. 1778)

What Application Will You Make?

21. Review the passage for this lesson in “Day One Study.” Add reasons why God wants us to depend on Him more than on ourselves to the chart below. I’ve given a few prompts.

Verse(s)

Reasons why God wants us to depend on Him more than on ourselves

13:4

To live by Gods power to deal with people

13:5

To gain assurance that you are in Christ by your faith in Him

13:7

For our disciples to do what is right even though we may fail

13:8

To stand for the truth

Respond To The Lord About What He’s Shown You Today.

Famous Last Words

22. What are your takeaways from this study? What have you learned about being a God-dependent woman? Have you learned to depend on Christ more? In what ways do you understand dependent living better? Are you making the choices daily to live in God-dependency rather than self-sufficiency?

As His child, God transforms your life by teaching you to live dependently on Him in weakness and in strength. See all the reasons why in the chart on the next page.

Related Topics: Christian Life

The Reasons Why We Should Depend on God (more than on ourselves)

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What Paul teaches us in 2 Corinthians

1:4—We receive comfort from God for ourselves and to comfort others

1:9—He’s more powerful than we are

1:10—We set our hope on Him to deliver us

1:11—He graciously answers our prayers

1:20—He’s faithful to His promises

1:22—He owns us and lives in us

1:17—We get distracted and disappointed when things don’t go as we plan

2:1-10—To reconcile relationships rightly when our feelings are hurt

2:5-10—To execute tough love when a Christian is deliberately sinning

2:11—To keep Satan from getting an advantage over us

2:14—He uses us to spread the knowledge of Him

2:17—He sends us to speak for Him

3:3—He writes a letter of recommendation for Himself in our lives

3:4—He gives us confidence to trust Him

3:5—He gives us competence to represent Him

3:16—He takes away the veil over our hearts when we believe

3:18—He transforms us by His Spirit

4:1—To not lose heart

4:6—He makes His light shine in the darkness through us

4:7—He can demonstrate His power through our frailty (jars of clay)

4:8-9—He keeps us from being crushed when we are burdened

4:10—He reveals Jesus’s life in and through us

4:14; 5:1; 5:5—He will give us a new resurrection/heavenly body as a reward

4:16—He can keep us from losing heart

4:16—He renews us inwardly while we outwardly “waste away”

4:18—He gives us an eternal perspective about our “light, momentary troubles”

5:7—Because we must live by faith not by sight

5:8—We will be with Him when this life ends

5:9—To learn how to live to please Him

5:10—He rewards us for our earthly lives

5:15—To live for Him rather than for ourselves

5:17—He’s made us into a new creation

5:19-20—We are His ambassadors and speak for Him

5:21—He exchanges our sin for Christ’s righteousness

6:4—We are His servants

6:4-9—To respond to troubles in a godly manner

6:10—Our lives influence others

6:16-18—We are His children

7:1—To purify ourselves to perfect holiness

7:6—He comforts us when we are downcast

7:9—To rightly respond to sin in our lives

7:12—To see truth in ourselves, in our hearts

8:1—He initiates the grace of giving

8:5—We need Him to direct our giving according to His will

8:9—He makes us spiritually rich so we can give

8:16—He puts into our hearts concerns for us to have

8:23—We are His representatives who honor Christ so can be trusted with money handling

9:8—God blesses us so we can give to others

9:10—God enlarges the harvest of our generosity and good works

9:12—God gives through us to meet the needs of His people

10:1—To treat others with the humility and gentleness of Christ

10:3-4—We need His power to demolish strongholds holding us captive

10:5—We need His power to take captive our thoughts for Him

10:8; 13:10—To use our authority to build others up and not tear them down

10:13—To find our sphere of service He has assigned to us

10:13—To confine our boasting to the Lord and the sphere of service He has assigned to us

10:17—To seek our approval and commendation from Him rather than others

11:3—To keep us from being led astray by false teaching

11:4-5—To help us recognize error in teaching

11:6—To know the truth about God

11:7-9—For financial support that enables us to share Christ and disciple others

11:13-15—To show us those masquerading as His servants and release us from their grip

11:23-27; 32-33—To rescue us from danger

11:30—To teach us the value of boasting about the things that show our weakness and need for Him

11:31—To keep praising God in all our afflictions

11:28—To help us handle the daily pressures of that which concerns us

12:6—To refrain from boasting about personal spiritual experiences

12:7-8—Enduring a thorn in the flesh that God chooses not to heal

12:9—Trusting God’s grace to be sufficient

12:9—Being glad about weaknesses so Christ’s power shines in us

12:10—Trusting Him for strength

12:14—To love others so much you don’t want to “use” them in any way

12:15, 19—To spend ourselves for others to grow spiritually

12:17—To walk by the Spirit consistently with other believers

12:20-21—Facing sin in those we love

13:4—To live by God’s power to deal with people

13:5—To gain assurance that you are in Christ by your faith in Him

13:7—For our disciples to do what is right even though we may fail

13:8—To stand for the truth

13:9—To be fully restored/matured in pure devotion to Christ

13:7, 9—To be concerned for disciples’ growth more than your own personal reputation

13:11—To rejoice, mature, encourage others, be united, and live in peace with other believers

Related Topics: Christian Life, Women's Articles

Ways to Explain the Gospel

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Evantell.Org

Has anyone ever taken a Bible and shown you how you can know you’re going to heaven? May I?

  • The Bible contains both bad news and good news. The bad news is something about you and me, and the good news is something about God. Let’s discuss the bad news first.

Bad News #1 ‑— We are all sinners. Romans 3:23

Bad News #2—The penalty for sin is death. Romans 6:23

  • Since there was no way you could come to God, the Bible says that God decided to come to you.

Good News #1—Christ died for you. Romans 5:8

Good News #2—You can be saved through faith in Christ. Ephesians 2:8-9

  • Is there anything keeping you from trusting Christ right now? Would you like to pray right now and tell God you are trusting His Son as your Savior?

You can watch a free online training video at http://evantell.org.

Bridge To Life (Navigators)

  • The Bible teaches that God loves all humans and wants them to know him. John 10:10; Romans 5:1
  • But humans have sinned against God and are separated from God and his love. Draw a chasm. This separation leads only to death and judgment. Romans 3:23; Isaiah 59:2
  • But there is a solution. Draw bridge. Jesus Christ died on the cross for our sins (the bridge between humanity and God). 1 Peter 3:18; 1 Timothy 2:5; Romans 5:8
  • Only those who personally receive Jesus Christ into their lives, trusting him to forgive their sins, can cross this bridge. Everyone must decide individually whether to receive Christ. John 3:16; John 5:24

Four Spiritual Laws (Cru)

  • God loves you and offers a wonderful plan for your life. John 3:16; 10:10
  • Humans are sinful and separated from God. Thus, they cannot know and experience God’s love and plan for their lives. Romans 3:23; Romans 6:23
  • Jesus Christ is God’s only provision for humanity’s sin. Through Jesus, you can know and experience God’s love and plan for your life. Romans 5:8; John 14:6
  • We must individually receive Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord, and then we can know and experience God’s love and plan for our lives. John 1:12; Ephesians 2:8-9

You can access this online at www.godlife.com.

Using John 3:16

“For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.”

“Has anyone introduced you to Jesus so you could know Him? May I?”

  • God loves — God is real. He loves you with an unconditional, never-ending love. For God loves you ________ (name) so much He created you to have a relationship with Him. But, we can’t experience this loving personal relationship because of sin in our lives. Sin is disobeying God. It puts a barrier between us and a holy God. No matter how hard you try, you cannot be good enough on your own to overcome this sin barrier. The penalty for sin is death. But God’s love had a plan…
  • God gave — God gave His one and only Son” Jesus – to live as a human without sin and then to take the penalty for our sin on himself when he died on the cross. He was buried as a dead man then raised from the dead to be alive again. He did this so that our sins could be forgiven.
  • We believe God’s love — Whoever believes in Him” – Faith is trust. God asks that we trust in His plan, admit our sin and desire for a relationship with Him. Accept what Jesus did on the cross for us out of love.
  • We receive what God gave — “Shall not perish but have eternal life” – Everyone dies and ends up somewhere. To perish means to die separated from God and His love for you. Eternal life means you can enjoy a forever-family relationship with God and promise of living securely with Him now and after your life on earth ends.
  • When offered a gift you want, you take it and say thank you. It’s forever yours. Is there anything keeping you from trusting in Jesus right now?

Related Topics: Evangelism, Women's Articles

Sources

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1. Biblical Hermeneutics Stack Exchange online

2. Dane C. Ortlund, Why Study the Book of 2 Corinthians? posted online August 2, 2016

3. Dr. Sandra Glahn, Biblical Womanhood: What is a Woman?

4. Dr. Tom Constables Notes on 2 Corinthians 2017 Edition

5. Heather Zempel, Community Is Messy

6. Jim Cymbala, Fresh Wind, Fresh Fire

7. John Newton, Advent for Restless Hearts

8. Joni Eareckson Tada, Just Between Us, Fall 2018

9. Kelly Minter, All Things New

10. Major Ian Thomas, The Saving Life of Christ

11. NIV Study Bible 1985 Edition

12. Steve Hixon

13. The Bible Knowledge Commentary (New Testament), Walvoord and Zuck

Psalms Of Kindness

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Kindness has been taken to mean genuine caring or an action of goodwill. It is often employed in association with showing tenderness or caring. Kindness occurs in several scriptural texts. Interestingly, a biblical account dealing with Israel’s departure from Egypt shows that the Jewish people were not very kind as they left behind their experience of being held captive. As the psalmist points out,

When our fathers were in Egypt
they gave no thought to your miracles;

they did not remember your many kindnesses,
and they rebelled by the sea, the Red Sea.

Yet he saved them for his names’ sake,
to make his mighty power known. (Ps. 106:7-8; cf. vv. 9-12)1

As Futato explains, “They forgot God’s many acts of kindness. They forgot all that he had done for them in the past. They forgot, in particular, his saving grace that had brought them out of Egypt. … That the memory of what God had done did not produce within them the response of obedience.”2

It is somewhat difficult for a person to show kindness when he or she has been treated wrongly or maligned. Yet, the Lord Jesus displayed true kindness as his contemporary kinsmen nailed him to the cross: “Jesus said, ‘Father forgive them for they do not know what they are doing’” (Lk 23:34). What a consistent testimony Jesus displayed, even as he suffered crucifixion without cause, for being treated this way: “Jesus … addresses God as Father … and asks him to forgive them (the executioners) … on the grounds of their ignorance.”3 Indeed, even in facing a wrongful sentence of death, Jesus displayed the scriptural standard of being kind, whatever the circumstance.

“Kindness” is mentioned twice in Psalm 109. In this rather unusual Psalm, the psalmist asks the Lord to repay the “wicked and deceitful men” with the same sort of evil which they have employed (vv. 6-20). In this Psalm, the psalmist wishes that no one will show “eternal kindness” to a wicked person (v.12) because such a person “never thought of doing kindness” (v. 16). “He charges them on two counts. First, their words are untrustworthy. … Second, the deceptiveness of the wicked comes out of hearts of “hatred” (v. 3).4 Was David returning evil for evil? Not likely. But he does implore God to give them what they deserve.

Such stands in a distinctive contrast to David’s remarks in Psalm 141:5, where he mentions that if he really has done something needing correction, “Let a righteous man strike me – it is a kindness; let him rebuke me – it is oil on my head.”

How vastly different are David’s words in the closing verse of Psalm 18, where he concludes his psalm with praise to the Lord:

He gives his king great victories;
He shows unfailing kindness to his anointed,
To David, and his descendants forever. (v. 50)

Not only was this true for David, God’s “anointed”, but to David’s descendants. In an interesting comment, Franz Delitzsch adds, “The praise of Jahve, the God of David, His anointed, is, according to his ultimate import, a praising of the Father of Jesus Christ.”5 Such a standard serves as a standard for all believers!

It is of further interest to note the proverbs that speak of kindness. For example, in Proverbs 11:16 (cf. 11:19) we read that “a kindhearted woman gains respect, but ruthless men gain only wealth.” How far better than wealth is that which comes from kindness (cf. Pr. 12:16b). Yet, as the psalmist in Psalm 55:22-23 observes, the cares of life can bring sustenance to the righteous, “

But you, O God, will bring down the wicked
Into the pit of corruption;

Bloodthirsty and deceitful men
Will not live out half their days. (v. 23)

May we as believers today be challenged to show kindness in all that we do so that others can see the loving kindness of our Lord and Savior in our lives as we live for Him daily. The hymn writer reminds us that:

In loving kindness Jesus came
My soul in mercy to reclaim,
And from the depths of sin and shame
Thru grace He lifted me.6


1All scripture reference is from the NIV.

2 Mark D. Futato, “The Book of Psalms”, in The Cornerstone Biblical Commentary, ed. Philip W. Comfort (Carol Stream, Il., Tyndale House, 2009), VII:338.

3 I. Howard Marshall, “Commentary on Luke” in the New International Greek Testament Commentary, eds. I Howard Marshall and W. Ward Gasque (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1978), 867.

4 Willem A. Van Gemeren, “Psalms” in the Expositor’s Bible Commentary, revised edition, eds. Tremper Longman III and David E. Garland (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2008), V:805.

5 Franz Delitzsch, “Biblical Commentary on the Psalms” 3 vols. (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1955), I:269.

6 Charles H. Gabriel, “He Lifted Me”.

Related Topics: Christian Life, Devotionals

Q. What Denomination Does Bible.org Subscribe To?

Answer

This is a fair question. All too often those who do not stand true to the Word of God fail to reveal their association with any denomination or group. This makes it more difficult to discern their presuppositions and goals. One must be on guard when reading content that is not from trusted sources, and Bible.org has always sought to provide Bible teaching that is trustworthy.

The short answer to your question is that Bible.org has sought to avoid the limitations of associating with only one particular denomination, not to mention the fact that our staff and authors are associated with a number of churches and denominations.

In its early days, Bible.org was fairly closely associated with Dallas Theological Seminary. This is because many of the articles were written by authors associated with Dallas Seminary (either by having graduated from DTS, or by being on its faculty). Since the early days, our authors and articles have come to represent a broader portion of the evangelical community. We gladly associate with those churches and individuals who hold to the fundamentals of the faith (see our doctrinal statement: https://bible.org/article/doctrinal-statement), regardless of their denominational affiliation. We know that a denomination may differ strongly with the beliefs of other persuasions. When these differences do not deny any essential elements of the gospel, and are more a matter of conviction, we think it is profitable to present different sides of these theological persuasions, so that our audience can hear both sides of the argument and reach their own decision.

As far as our audience would go though, a fairly large segment of our audience would be those who belong to what is known as “independent Bible churches.” Having said this, we receive letters of thanks from many countries around the world, and from those associated with a great many denominations, protestant and Catholic. We have found that those who highly value the Bible and its teaching are attracted to Bible teaching, even though it may on some occasions differ from what they have previously been taught.

Related Topics: Administrative and Organization

Q. Is it okay to involve an unbeliever in church ministry?

Answer

Dear ********,

Thanks for your question. It is worth considering. I would have to acknowledge that Christians almost certainly differ greatly (and strongly!) in what answer they would give to your question. I know of churches that would encourage unbelievers to sing in the choir, or to play in the orchestra (or play a guitar, or drums).

But here are some of my thoughts on the subject.

First, what biblical precedent, in the Old or the New Testament, do we find for involving unbelievers in God’s work/ministry?

In the Old Testament there were some Egyptians who joined the Israelites at the exodus, but they were also the source of trouble.

The Israelites journeyed from Rameses to Sukkoth. There were about 600,000 men on foot, plus their dependants. 38 A mixed multitude also went up with them, and flocks and herds– a very large number of cattle (Exodus 12:37-38, NET).

When the people complained, it displeased the LORD. When the LORD heard it, his anger burned, and so the fire of the LORD burned among them and consumed some of the outer parts of the camp. 2 When the people cried to Moses, he prayed to the LORD, and the fire died out. 3 So he called the name of that place Taberah because there the fire of the LORD burned among them. 4 Now the mixed multitude who were among them craved more desirable foods, and so the Israelites wept again and said, “If only we had meat to eat! 5 We remember the fish we used to eat freely in Egypt, the cucumbers, the melons, the leeks, the onions, and the garlic. 6 But now we are dried up, and there is nothing at all before us except this manna!” (Numbers 11:1-6)

I should add it is clear that believing Gentiles (like Rahab and Ruth) were rightly embraced into Judaism, but unbelieving Gentiles were not embraced in order to evangelize them. Indeed, the opposite often took place (Numbers 25; 1 Kings 11).

In the New Testament, Jesus did not encourage the uncommitted to follow Him as His disciples; indeed, He put them off:

As they were walking along the road, someone said to him, “I will follow you wherever you go.” 58 Jesus said to him, “Foxes have dens and the birds in the sky have nests, but the Son of Man has no place to lay his head.” 59 Jesus said to another, “Follow me.” But he replied, “Lord, first let me go and bury my father.” 60 But Jesus said to him, “Let the dead bury their own dead, but as for you, go and proclaim the kingdom of God.” 61 Yet another said, “I will follow you, Lord, but first let me say goodbye to my family.” 62 Jesus said to him, “No one who puts his hand to the plow and looks back is fit for the kingdom of God” (Luke. 9:57-62; see also John 2:23-25).

The apostles warned the church about those who would slip in among them (Acts 20:29; Galatians 2:4; Jude 1:4). In light of these warnings, does it seem wise to actually encourage unbelievers to participate in the ministry of the church?

Having said this, I am not suggesting that unbelievers should be unwelcome, and discouraged from attending church. They should be encouraged to attend, but as those who need to hear and respond to the gospel (see 1 Corinthians 5:9-11; 14:20-25), but not as those who participate in carrying out ministry in the church.

Second, the Bible does seem to be clear in its instruction for Christians not to be “unequally yoked” with unbelievers, especially in ministry.

Do not become partners with those who do not believe, for what partnership is there between righteousness and lawlessness, or what fellowship does light have with darkness? 15 And what agreement does Christ have with Beliar? Or what does a believer share in common with an unbeliever? 16 And what mutual agreement does the temple of God have with idols? For we are the temple of the living God, just as God said, “I will live in them and will walk among them, and I will be their God, and they will be my people.” 17 Therefore “come out from their midst, and be separate,” says the Lord, “and touch no unclean thing, and I will welcome you, 18 and I will be a father to you, and you will be my sons and daughters,” says the All-Powerful Lord (2 Corinthians 6:14-18).

Third, is it biblical to assume that involving someone in God’s work may, or will, assist them to believe? I would suggest reading Acts 5:1-16, and the incident of God’s discipline on Ananias and Sapphira. Look particularly at the impact the death of these two had on outsiders. Note, too, that in spite of the fact that unbelievers were fearful about associating with the church, many were being drawn to faith, resulting in them being joined to the church:

Now many miraculous signs and wonders came about among the people through the hands of the apostles. By common consent they were all meeting together in Solomon’s Portico. 13 None of the rest dared to join them, but the people held them in high honor. 14 More and more believers in the Lord were added to their number, crowds of both men and women. 15 Thus they even carried the sick out into the streets, and put them on cots and pallets, so that when Peter came by at least his shadow would fall on some of them. 16 A crowd of people from the towns around Jerusalem also came together, bringing the sick and those troubled by unclean spirits. They were all being healed (Acts 5:12-16).

Fourth, it seems to me that having an unbeliever help with the offering might actually be contrary to the goal of winning them to Christ. For example, it would seem likely that an unbeliever who helped with the offering would be considered a church member. Indeed, that individual might think that being part of a church and participating in its ministry made him (or her) acceptable in God’s sight. Making an unbeliever a participant in the church’s ministry might, in this way, be contrary to evangelism.

When it comes to taking the offering, let us remember that it was Judas who kept the money for the disciples, and that his love for money seems to have been a strong motive for his betrayal of Jesus.

Then, six days before the Passover, Jesus came to Bethany, where Lazarus lived, whom he had raised from the dead. 2 So they prepared a dinner for Jesus there. Martha was serving, and Lazarus was among those present at the table with him. 3 Then Mary took three quarters of a pound of expensive aromatic oil from pure nard and anointed the feet of Jesus. She then wiped his feet dry with her hair. (Now the house was filled with the fragrance of the perfumed oil.) 4 But Judas Iscariot, one of his disciples (the one who was going to betray him) said, 5 Why wasnt this oil sold for three hundred silver coins and the money given to the poor? 6 (Now Judas said this not because he was concerned about the poor, but because he was a thief. As keeper of the money box, he used to steal what was put into it.) (John 12:1-6)

Then Judas Iscariot, one of the twelve, went to the chief priests to betray Jesus into their hands. 11 When they heard this, they were delighted and promised to give him money. So Judas began looking for an opportunity to betray him (Mark 14:10-11).

I hope this helps,

Bob Deffinbaugh

Related Topics: Ecclesiology (The Church), Issues in Church Leadership/Ministry

Q. Questions About the Old Testament Law

First Question: About the Translation of Deuteronomy 6:1

NAU Deuteronomy 6:1 “Now this is the commandment, the statutes and the judgments which the LORD your God has commanded me to teach you, that you might do them in the land where you are going over to possess it (Deuteronomy 6:1, NAU).

In the Hebrew text of Deuteronomy 6:1, the term mitsvâh is singular (“commandment”). The KJV, NIV, NLT, and NET renders the word as a plural (“commandments”), while the ESV, NASB, HCSB, ASV and YLT renders it as a singular (“commandment” or “command”). Why is there a difference in these translations? Logically, it would make more sense to use the plural (commandments) as there are many of them.

Answer: I think it may prove helpful to note all the texts in Deuteronomy where the same singular form for commandment is used (just as it is found in Deuteronomy 6:1):

CSB17 Deuteronomy 5:31 But you stand here with me, and I will tell you every command-- the statutes and ordinances-- you are to teach them, so that they may follow them in the land I am giving them to possess.’

NAU Deuteronomy 6:25 “It will be righteousness for us if we are careful to observe all this commandment before the LORD our God, just as He commanded us.

NRS Deuteronomy 7:11 Therefore, observe diligently the commandment -- the statutes, and the ordinances -- that I am commanding you today.

NRS Deuteronomy 8:1 This entire commandment that I command you today you must diligently observe, so that you may live and increase, and go in and occupy the land that the LORD promised on oath to your ancestors. (Deut. 8:1 NRS)

NRS Deuteronomy 11:8 Keep, then, this entire commandment that I am commanding you today, so that you may have strength to go in and occupy the land that you are crossing over to occupy, (Deut. 11:8 NRS)

NAU Deuteronomy 11:22 “For if you are careful to keep all this commandment which I am commanding you to do, to love the LORD your God, to walk in all His ways and hold fast to Him,

ESV Deuteronomy 15:5 if only you will strictly obey the voice of the LORD your God, being careful to do all this commandment that I command you today. (Deut. 15:5 ESV)

CSB17 Deuteronomy 17:20 Then his heart will not be exalted above his countrymen, he will not turn from this command to the right or the left, and he and his sons will continue reigning many years in Israel.

NAU Deuteronomy 19:9 if you carefully observe all this commandment which I command you today, to love the LORD your God, and to walk in His ways always-- then you shall add three more cities for yourself, besides these three. (Deuteronomy 19:9, NAU)

ESV Deuteronomy 27:1 Now Moses and the elders of Israel commanded the people, saying, “Keep the whole commandment that I command you today (Deuteronomy 27:1, ESV)

NET Deuteronomy 30:11-16 “This commandment I am giving19 you today is not too difficult for you, nor is it too remote. 12 It is not in heaven, as though one must say, “Who will go up to heaven to get it for us and proclaim it to us so we may obey it?” 13 And it is not across the sea, as though one must say, “Who will cross over to the other side of the sea and get it for us and proclaim it to us so we may obey it?” 14 For the thing is very near you – it is in your mouth and in your mind20 so that you can do it. 15 “Look! I have set before you today life and prosperity on the one hand, and death and disaster on the other. 16 What21 I am commanding you today is to love the LORD your God, to walk in his ways, and to obey his commandments, his statutes, and his ordinances. Then you will live and become numerous and the LORD your God will bless you in the land which you are about to possess.22

NET Deuteronomy 31:5 The LORD will deliver them over to you and you will do to them according to the whole commandment I have given you.

I find it interesting that the various translations are not completely consistent in the way they translate mitzvah, which is singular in all these passages.

I am inclined to read Deuteronomy 6:1 and the rest in the light of Deuteronomy 5:31-33:

31 “But you stand here with me, and I will tell you every command --the statutes and ordinances-- you are to teach them, so that they may follow them in the land I am giving them to possess.’ 32 “Be careful to do as the LORD your God has commanded you; you are not to turn aside to the right or the left. 33 Follow the whole instruction the LORD your God has commanded you, so that you may live, prosper, and have a long life in the land you will possess” (Deuteronomy 5:31-33, CSB17)

I believe that the singular mitzvah is used to sum up the whole of the law, as that which God has commanded and which we are to obey. I think that the CSB handles this quite well, showing “statutes” and “ordinances” are a subset of the whole law.

Jesus sums up the whole law in terms of one primary and one secondary command:

35 One of them, a lawyer, asked Him a question, testing Him, 36 “Teacher, which is the great commandment in the Law?” 37 And He said to him, “‘YOU SHALL LOVE THE LORD YOUR GOD WITH ALL YOUR HEART, AND WITH ALL YOUR SOUL, AND WITH ALL YOUR MIND.’ 38 “This is the great and foremost commandment. 39 “The second is like it, ‘YOU SHALL LOVE YOUR NEIGHBOR AS YOURSELF.’ 40 “On these two commandments depend the whole Law and the Prophets.” (Matt. 22:35-40 NAU)

Paul sums the law up in one command as well:

8 Owe nothing to anyone except to love one another; for he who loves his neighbor has fulfilled the law. 9 For this, “YOU SHALL NOT COMMIT ADULTERY, YOU SHALL NOT MURDER, YOU SHALL NOT STEAL, YOU SHALL NOT COVET,” and if there is any other commandment, it is summed up in this saying, YOU SHALL LOVE YOUR NEIGHBOR AS YOURSELF.” 10 Love does no wrong to a neighbor; therefore love is the fulfillment of the law (Romans 13:8-10, NAU).

“The commandment” is thus the whole law, while at the same time it has various components.

Second Question: About the various terms employed in reference to the Law: I am trying to understand the relationship between mitsvâh, chôq & mishpât. These three words are used throughout Deuteronomy (e.g. Deuteronomy 6:1). Could you point me to any online resource or article in Bible.org that would help me understand the relationship between these words.

Answer: Note the different terms employed for God’s “law” found in the first 8 verses of Psalm 119:

  • Law
  • Testimonies
  • God’s “ways”
  • Precepts
  • Statutes
  • Commandments
  • Righteous judgments

I have not done any serious work on this, and at present no particular work on it comes to mind. But “the law” has many facets, just like a parent’s teaching of their child (Proverbs will bear this out). There are some commands that are really illustrations of certain guiding principles. Thus not sowing two kinds of seed, or wearing a garment made up of two kinds of material (Leviticus 19:19) teaches one about separation. To restrict the application to just cattle, seeds to plant, or clothes to wear misses the point, in my opinion.

The command to put a parapet on one’s roof (Deuteronomy 22:8) is not just about roof railings, it is about thinking about the safety of others (seat belts?).

Thus, various terms are needed to capture the thrust of the Old Testament instructions, each with its own shading of meaning.

I hope this helps,

Bob

Related Topics: Law

What’s Next?

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The word “next” has many applications. Most commonly it refers to what is to follow immediately. For example, in sports, next in baseball could refer to the one who is in the on-deck circle waiting for his opportunity to go to bat. In any team sport it can refer to the team your team is to face. Interestingly, some Psalms employ “next” to refer to what is to follow. Thus, in Psalm 48:13 we read

Walk about Zion, go around her,
count her towers,
consider well her ramparts,
view her citadels,
that you may tell of them to the next generation. (Ps. 48:12-13)1

Among the various understandings as to the meaning of this verse, perhaps the most likely was suggested by Willem A. Van Gemeren: “In the light of the tenor of the psalm, it is most likely that the physical defense system of ancient Jerusalem symbolized a far greater strength – the protection of God himself.”2 By application, it may well be that this psalm and especially this verse can find many applications to contemporary Christian living. As such it may well assure believers that “The close connection between material security and dependence on the Lord-Protector go hand in hand.”3 Indeed, may all Christians look to God for their protection and guidance, especially when telling and explaining this to those of the next generation.

This may well entail such activity even into one’s advanced years:

Even when I am old and gray,
do not forsake me, O God,

till I declare your power to the next generation,
your might to all who are to come. (Ps. 71:18)

This stands in conformity to the scriptural mandate of being faithful to the end. As I have written elsewhere, “May each believer be ever faithful to the end, mindful of the resurrected, risen, Christ’s instructions to the church in Smyrna: ‘Remain faithful even to the point of death, and I will give you the crown of life itself’.” (Rev 2:10)4

Encased in this regard is Asaph’s teaching in Psalm 78, where he declares:

I will open my mouth in parables,
I will utter hidden things, things from of old –

what we have heard and known,
what our fathers have told us.

We will not hide them from their children,
we will tell the next generation. (Ps. 78:2-4)

Asaph goes onto say that God,

… Decreed statutes for Jacob
and established the law in Israel,

which he commanded our forefathers
to teach their children

so the next generation would know them,
even the children yet to be born,
and they in turn would tell their children. (Ps. 78:5-6; cf. Deut. 6:4-9)

Indeed, as we live even into old age, we should continue to instruct God’s people as to the basic necessity of passing on to, and stressing the importance of, God’s decrees. As Futato remarks, “This instruction was never intended solely for the original audience but was envisioned as being passed on to each subsequent generation.”5

Instructions concerning the next generation are also found in a later Davidic psalm, Psalm 109. This psalm is one in which David calls for God’s judgment against the evil doers. So severe is David’s condemnation that he says,

May none extend kindness to him
For he never thought of doing a kindness
but hounded to death the poor
and the needy and the brokenhearted. (Ps. 109:12, 16)

In this Psalm David presents a distinct contrast with those psalms which have favorable instructions for the next generation. Although he closes this psalm with a plea to the Lord for deliverance from evil doers, he also suggests that God deal in judgment against David’s evil accusers. Such a request does present a distinct contrast with Jesus’ words in Luke 23:33-34 where on the cross Jesus said, “Father forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing”. As we read in the Faith in Action Study Bible notes on Luke 23:34:

The cross is at the heart of God’s gracious offer of forgiveness to those who embrace it -- to all who are willing to turn from the selfishness of sin. Reconciliation with God not only transforms our relationship with him but also alters the way we relate to others.”6

As Ira B. Wilson wrote:

Tell the sweet story of God and His love,
Tell of His power to forgive;
Others will trust Him if only you prove,
True, every moment you live.7


1 All scripture citations are taken from the NIV.

2 Willem A. Van Gemeren, “Psalms” in The Expositors Bible Commentary, eds. Tremper Longman II and David E. Garland (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2008), V:419.

3 IBID.

4 Richard D. Patterson, “Faithful to the End”, Biblical Studies Press, 2012.

5 Mark Dl Futato, “The Book of Psalms” in Cornerstone Biblical Commentary, ed. Philip W. Comfort (Grand Rapids: Tyndale House, 2009), VII:260.

6 Faith in Action Study Bible, (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2005), 1732.

7 Ira B. Wilson, “Make Me a Blessing”.

Related Topics: Christian Life, Devotionals

Lion Psalms

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In the tenth Psalm the author speaks about the way of the wicked one who plagues society. Being the arrogant person that he is, he bursts with self-confidence and attacks others by lying in wait.

He lies in wait near the villages;
from ambush he murders the innocent
watching in secret for his victims.

He lies in wait like a lion in cover;
he lies in wait to catch the helpless
he catches the helpless and drags them off in his net. (Ps. 10:8-9)1

So great is his attack that he crushes his victims and “they fall under his strength” (v. 10; cf. Ps. 17:11). Nevertheless, the true believer can count on the Lord’s intervention and support (vv. 16-18). As Futato writes: “We may plead with the Lord in times of trouble. In spite of appearances, the Lord does see our trouble and grief. In his own time he will “arise” to help the helpless.”2 Indeed, as Van Gemeren observes with regard to the believer’s foe:

The wicked are “like a lion” …in their pursuit of the one godly person. Their beast, like nature, finds expression in the callous (v.10a), arrogance (v. 10b; cf. 5:9), pursuit to the death (v. 11a), and violence (v. 11b).3

In Psalm 22 David speaks of great difficulties he was facing:

Many bulls surrounded;
strong bulls of Bashan encircle me.

Roaring lions carrying their prey
open their mouths wide against me. (Ps. 22:12-13)

Although he tells of great difficulties he was facing (cf. 14-17), he counts on God’s help in delivering him. So it is that David declares:

I am in the midst of lions;
I lie among ravenous beasts –
men whose teeth are spears and arrows,
And therefore call out to God:
Be exalted, O God,
let your glory be over all the earth. (Ps. 57:4-5)

Although the lions seek and find their food from the Lord, they do so in the course of a day’s activities.

In Psalm 22 we note that David asks the Lord for help, since he is suffering greatly. In so doing he cries to the Lord:

But you, O LORD, be not far off;
O my strength. come quickly to help me.

Deliver my life from the sword
my precious life from the power of the dogs.

Rescue me from the mouth of lions;
save me from the horns of the wild oxen. (vv. 19-21)

Here David turns to the Lord crying for his help and deliverance from danger, including lions.

As I have pointed out elsewhere, the listing of the animals in verses 19-21 reverses those in verses 12-13,16. Indeed, these form an interesting contrast with each other.

The psalmist at times speaks of lions and the need to deal with them. Thus, in Psalm 58 David asks the Lord to deal justly with unbelieving rulers testing them in accordance with their actions. In noting David’s words, one senses the propriety of the Lord’s dealing with rulers who deal harshly with believers. So it is that David pleads:

Break off their fangs, O God!
Smash the jaws of these lions, O Lord! (Ps. 58:6)

In Psalm 21 we note that the true believer is assured of a good and long-lasting life here on earth (Ps. 21:9-12). So great is the Lord’s protection and deliverance that the psalmist can add:

Be exalted, O LORD, in your strength;
we will sing and praise your might. (v.13)

Accordingly, believers should live in full communion with their Lord and Savior

Taste and see that the LORD is good;
Blessed is the man who takes refuge in him.

Fear the Lord, you his saints --
for those who fear him, lack nothing.

The lions may grow weak and hungry
but those seek the LORD lack no good thing. (Ps. 34:8-10)

Yes, indeed, those who place the Lord himself at the center of their lives may be assured that they “will lack no good thing.” (cf. Ps. 7:1-2, 10-11, 17).


1 All scripture citations are from the NIV.

2 Mark D. Futato, “The Book of Psalms”, in Cornerstone Biblical Commentary, ed.  Philip W. Comfort (Grand Rapids:  Tyndale House, 2009), VII:60.

3 Willem A. Van Gemeren, “Psalms”, in The Expositor’s Bible Commentary, rev ed., eds. Tremper Longman III and David E. Garland (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2008), V:198.

Related Topics: Devotionals

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