CHAPTER FOUR OF 11 CORINTHIANS
Verse 1: How come we don't have more people in the church today like the Apostle Paul who corrected the church when it needed correcting? What's amazing is it's the same problem today that existed back then. There is still not an understanding of the ministry that we are under today. People always throughout the church's history have been so bound over to being performers for God. Their Christianity turns into it being about themselves instead of it being about God. There is no thorough understanding of what mercy means. The Apostle here is talking about the ministry of the New Covenant given to us because of the mercy of God. And because this ministry is based on mercy we do not lose heart. In stark contrast to that, the ministry that is not based on mercy, but on how we perform, does nothing but cause us to lose heart. We lose heart because we can't pull it off. God never intended for us to pull it off because he knows we can't. We can't be what is required...100% perfection (Gal. 3:10-13); (Gal. 5:3); (James 2:10).
The Apostle says this ministry of the New Covenant that we have now is what we are to engage in. We are not under the Old Covenant anymore. Paul spends most of the entirety of the previous chapter explaining this in detail. One is a ministry of death and the other a ministry of life. One ministry is more glorious than the other (11 Cor. 3:6-11). In Hebrews 10:17 the New Covenant is exactly defined for us: 'Their sins and lawless acts I will remember no more.' That means all sins for all time...past, present and future. I can't understand for the life of me why this is not taught openly from the pulpit. There can only be two reasons why it isn't. It is either ignorance of the Scriptures that refuses to break away from tradition; and therefore traditon has come to hold more authority than God's own words; or it's because the denomination feels it needs to keep its congregation under control by telling them that they are still under the law. So in other words...church leadership's thinking is: 'If we tell people the truth; it will only give them a license to sin.' Folks, God gave you the Bible for you yourself to read. And He gave you the Holy Spirit for you to understand it. Find out the truth for yourself (1 John 2:26-27). The last thing you want is to be under law. Being under law is what keeps sin inflamed (1 Cor. 15:56); (Rom 7:4-6).
Verse 2: So instead of accepting one over the other, the two covenants have been mixed. This is what we have in the church today. What did Jesus say about putting new wine into old wineskins? Both the wine and the wineskins will be ruined (Matt. 9:17). Unlike the church of today that distorts the word of God, and unlike Christian television that deceives the people through secret and shameful ways, the Apostle by setting forth the truth plainly, commends himself in renouncing these kind of activities. Don't you find it amazing how much has not changed in the church since the time of Paul?
Verses 3-4: If God intended for us to know the plain truth, which he did; then it can't be that hard to find. It's only hard for those who are perishing because they have been successfully distracted from knowing the truth by the god of this world. Satan is not about bringing forth evil, he's about distracting from the truth. Notice that it is our minds that are blinded from seeing the truth. Satan's appeal no matter how noble or how righteous it may seem is to get us to believe anything but the truth. His greatest tactic is to cast doubt by mixing a little bit of error with truth. This is what he did with Eve in the garden. Eve tells Satan that she was not to even touch the tree. All the time Satan was talking to her, he was probably leaning up against the tree itself, or as a serpent he was wrapped around the tree (Gen. 3:1-5).
Verses 5-12: The truth of God is Christ himself. This is what is to be preached, not the things of men. In regards to men we only preach ourselves as servants of Christ for the sake of Christ. It is all about Christ and God chooses to occupy our humble bodies with this treasure. He chooses to display his all-surpassing power through our bodies of clay. And he doesn't do this like men would do this in spectacular religious pomp; no God displays his power through us in our trying circumstances we find ourselves in which no one else sees. This is a process that will cause us to lose our life so that we can find more of his life (Matt 16:25). This is a process that teaches us faith. If we are not put into situations or positions to exercise faith, then we are not going to learn faith; we are not going to grow in faith. And growing in faith ultimately results in revealing more of the life of Jesus in our mortal bodies. And this is what the Apostle is after as he mentions this twice within two consecutive verses (10-11).
Verse 13-14: Continuing along in regards to faith, Paul reverts back to about 1100 years in the past from his time to the man of faith...David. Paul has the same faith as David. A faith that is believed in the heart and therefore is spoken from the heart. And for us today 3060 years into the future from David's time, we are to have the same faith as David. It is not very complicated at all to see what God is mostly interested in since the beginning of man. We have a Bible that is made up of two testaments. If you look at your Bible 3/4 of it is Old Testament and yet that Old Testament is all about man failing at not having faith.
Unlike for us today, God over and over again manisfested physical miracles that proved his existence to the Israelites. That is what they have over us. How is it then that they still could not exercise faith in God? It's because human nature says: 'what have you done for me lately God?' This should be the Israelites' theme song. They did not have the details, like we do today, of what would be coming in the future that would be their saving faith. Or I should say the object of their saving faith. This is what we have over them. We can look back and clearly see how things have unfolded. Those of them who were saved, were not saved because they kept the law. They were saved because of Jesus' death reaching back in time to appropriate those few who did have faith.
Verse 15: Today we are under a New Covenant. This covenant is solely based on the grace and the mercy of God. And like mercy which is an aspect of grace...is not understood; so is grace not thoroughly understood. In fact if we don't understand the grace of God, there is no way we can truly be thankful. And certainly not be overflowing with thanfulness as the Apostle is asking for. The Apostles had an understanding of grace that never became the future church's understanding of grace.
Verse 16-18: Paul again mentions not losing heart right after talking about the grace of God. In the beginning of the chapter he talked about not losing heart after mentioning the mercy of God. The only way we cannot lose heart is because God grants us grace and mercy. Our understanding of this is what instills in us profound hope and overflowing thankfulness that produces joy and peace. And all this is brought about by exercising faith (Rom 15:13).
When the Bible speaks of faith through Christ or the Apostles, it is under the assumption that we know it is always referring to faith in Christ. Faith is simple because everbody has faith...even unbelievers have faith. They have faith in a chair they are about to sit in, that it will support them. They have faith in their car starting up every morning. The issue of faith is the object of our faith. The chair and the car have proven to be reliable objects that can be trusted. Jesus has said of us that we have very little faith in Him. In fact if we only had the faith of a mustard seed, we could remove mountains. The fact that we don't see mountains being removed reveals what little faith we have (Matt. 17:20).
God is all about getting us to faith in Christ. And I say getting there because it is hard to get to faith in Christ because of the faith we have in other things; because of our belief systems we still hold onto that are in contradiction to the truth (the word of God). Yes outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly our minds are being renewed daily in order to set us free from erroneous thinking. Growing in faith involves the renewing of our minds. This is the hard part of faith because this is going to take some time. If truth sets us free, then error binds us up. There is a lot of unbinding that God has to do in our lives as we all can attest to. And this includes the unbinding of erroneous teaching within Christendom that we have been subjected to. The end goal of our minds being renewed is to see ourselves and our circumstances as God sees them. Achieving this is accomplished through the light and momentary troubles that God lets happen in our lives. And so because of them, 'we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal'...Jesus...'the author and perfecter of our faith' (Heb. 12:2).