“Gladly Spent For Your Souls” ( 2 Corinthians 12: 15, ESV ) by Carley Evans


To the church at Corinth, Paul rhetorically asks, “Have you been thinking all along that we have been defending ourselves to you? It is in the sight of God that we have been speaking in Christ, and all for your upbuilding, beloved.” Paul reminds the church body that he is “content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities.” (2 Corinthians 12:10) He is content in these and “boasts all the more gladly” of them, for “when [he] is weak, then [he is] strong.” (2 Corinthians 12:9,10) Paul boasts of his weaknesses because Christ’s “grace is sufficient for [him], for [Christ’s] power is made perfect in weakness.” (2 Corinthians 12:9)

Paul tells the Corinthian church, “I will most gladly spend and be spent for your souls.” (2 Corinthians 12:15) He fears “God may humble [him] before [them]” as he “may have to mourn over many of those who sinned earlier” without repentance. (2 Corinthians 12:21) He knows what he will tell them when he comes in person. He “warns them now while absent, as [he] did when present on [his] second visit.” He tells them that the third time he “will not spare them.” (2 Corinthians 13:2) He can not spare them for “Christ is speaking in [him].” (2 Corinthians 13:3) Paul writes, “[Christ] is not weak in dealing with you, but is powerful among you. For He was crucified in weakness, but lives by the power of God. For we also are weak in Him, but in dealing with you we will live with Him by the power of God.” (2 Corinthians 13:3-4)

“Live with Him by the power of God,” Paul tells the church body. “Boast in your weaknesses for Christ’s grace is sufficient for you, and is made perfect in weakness.” Yet Paul warns, “Repent, for Christ is not weak in dealing with you.” And, Paul encourages them. He writes, “I will most gladly spend and be spent for your souls.”

“Being The Very Last” ( 1 Corinthians 11: 19, NIV ) by Carley Evans


Perhaps Paul is not being facetious when he tells the church at Corinth, “No doubt there have to be differences among you to show which of you have God’s approval.” But in his letter, he writes, “In the following directives I have no praise for you.” (1 Corinthians 11:17) Therefore, it is conceivable Paul is pointing out that these men are divisive when they “come together as a church” in order to show themselves as better than one another. The awful, sometimes gut-wrenching and always anxiety producing desire to be recognized as the best of many or at least the better of two is often destructive of all — of the whole body of Christ.

I think of the two disciples, James and John, the sons of Zebedee, who ask Jesus for the privilege of sitting at places of honor when He comes into His kingdom. Rather than being satisfied with their current walk with Him and the promise of being with Him in eternity, they each struggle for more — for that which they are not qualified. For Jesus tells them they know not what they are asking.

The disciples — not only James and John — argue on the road to Capernaum “about who is the greatest.” (Mark 9:34) And Jesus says, “If anyone wants to be first, he must be the very last, and the servant of all.” (Mark 9:35)

Seeking recognition from others rather than serving others is self-defeating and ultimately destructive. Be at peace with who you are, what God has given to you, and what He asks of you and where He has placed you. Start there at “the very last.”

“Pitfalls” ( 1 Corinthians 8: 3, NEB ) by Carley Evans


“This ‘knowledge’ of yours is utter disaster to the weak, the brother for whom Christ died. In thus sinning against your brothers and wounding their conscience, you sin against Christ,” writes Paul to those in Corinth who ‘have knowledge’ that they have ‘liberty’ to eat foods consecrated to idols. (1 Corinthians 8:11-12) Paul writes, “Be careful that this liberty of yours does not become a pitfall for the weak.” (1 Corinthians 8:10)

Why is it fine for one person to ‘eat foods consecrated to idols’ while being sinful for another? The answer is the level of knowledge. The ‘stronger’ Christian knows that there is no false god; the false god does not exist except in the minds of its worshipers. Therefore the food being consecrated remains food; there is no change in its composition. There is no power in its sacrifice.  The ‘weaker’ Christian has faith, but his knowledge is less. He does not fully understand that the food has no value to the idol; that the idol has no power. Perhaps he has grown up sacrificing to idols. His conscience is pricked when he is “emboldened to eat food consecrated to a heathen deity;” therefore, when he eats, he sins. Paul therefore says, “If food be the downfall of my brother, I will never eat meat any more, for I will not be the cause of my brother’s downfall.” (1 Corinthians 8:13)

To the Romans, Paul writes: “If a man is weak in his faith you must accept him without attempting to settle doubtful matters. For instance, one man will have faith enough to eat all kinds of food, while the weaker man eats only vegetables. The man who eats must not hold in contempt the man who does not, and he who does not eat must not pass judgment on the one who does; for God has accepted him. Who are you to pass judgment on someone else’s servant? Whether he stands or falls is his own Master’s business; and stand he will, because His Master has power to enable him to stand.” (Romans 14:1-4)

And, he says: “As a Christian, nothing is impure in itself; only, if a man considers a particular thing impure, then to him it is impure. If your brother is outraged by what you eat, then your conduct is no longer guided by love. Do not by your eating bring disaster to a man for whom Christ died! What for you is a good thing must not become an occasion for slanderous talk.” (Romans 14:14-16)

Paul tells the stronger and weaker brothers not to argue with one another over “doubtful matters,” not to condemn one another. But, he particularly tells the stronger brother to avoid offending the weaker brother’s conscience, which may lead him to an action which he considers ‘impure’ and perhaps thrust him into sin. “If you have a clear conviction, apply it to yourself in the sight of God. Happy is the man who can make his decision with a clear conscience! But a man who has doubts is guilty if he eats, because his action does not arise from his conviction, and anything which does not arise from conviction [faith] is sin.” (Romans 14:22-23)

“If a man loves, he is acknowledged by God.” (1 Corinthians 8:3)

“Love Without Limit” ( 1 Corinthians 13: 6-7, NEB ) by Carley Evans


“Love keeps no score of wrongs,” writes Paul to the church at Corinth. Love “does not gloat over other men’s sins, but delights in the truth. There is nothing love cannot face; there is no limit to its faith, its hope, and its endurance.”

How do we love without limit? The father of the prodigal son is a great example of loving without limit. His son demands his inheritance early, then when his father lovingly complies with this request, the son squanders the entire amount of his father’s hard-earned money. Later, during a famine which comes across the entire land, he finds himself wallowing in the mud along with pigs; alone and desperately hungry. No one is willing to help him. He thinks, I’ll go back to my father, the man I’ve disrespected and essentially cheated. Perhaps he’ll let me be as “one of [his] paid servants.” (Luke 15:20) When he returns, his father sees him coming from far off. This man goes out to his son. He takes the first step towards forgiveness, keeping “no score of wrongs.” This father’s love has “no limit to its faith, its hope, [or] its endurance.”

Jesus is, of course, the ultimate example of loving without limit. On the cross, as He is suffering, He looks out at His enemies, at those who have put Him there, and says, “Father, forgive them; they know not what they do.” This is love that has “no limit to its faith, its hope, [or] its endurance.”

Let’s love without limit. How do we accomplish this kind of love? Loving without limit requires the indwelling Holy Spirit of God. He loves through us. Only He is capable of not keeping “a score of wrongs,” of not losing hope, of enduring betrayal, lies, pain, wrongdoings of all sorts from those around us. Only God is capable of loving without limit.

“Finally, Brothers, Rejoice” ( 2 Corinthians 13: 11, HCSB ) by Carley Evans


“Finally, brothers,” writes Paul to the church at Corinth, “rejoice. Become mature, be encouraged, be of the same mind, be at peace, and the God of love and peace will be with you.” “Give no opportunity for stumbling to anyone.” (2 Corinthians 6:3) “Speak openly; [your] heart opened wide.” (2 Corinthians 6:11 [13]) Remember that “[you] are the sanctuary of the living God;” (2 Corinthians 6:16) and, as such, “complete [your] sanctification in the fear of God.” (2 Corinthians 7:1) “Wrong no one, corrupt no one, defraud no one.” (2 Corinthians 7:2) “Excel in everything — faith, speech, knowledge, and in all diligence, and in your love — excel also in this grace.” (2 Corinthians 8:7)

 

As you remember that the living God dwells within you, you walk in awe and joy simultaneously. In this grace is your maturity, your ability to be at peace and to be encouraged. God is love and peace; and He is with you.

 

“Finally, brothers, rejoice” in the unity of the Holy Spirit.

“The Cheerful Giver” ( 2 Corinthians 9: 7, NEB ) by Carley Evans”


“Each person should give as he has decided for himself; there should be no reluctance, no sense of compulsion; God loves a cheerful giver.”

I’m certain you’ve sat in a church on a Sunday morning and listened to a pastor tell you to “bring the tithes into the treasury, all of them.” (Malachi 3:10) And to quickly assure you that there’s a great reward if you do so. Some people refer to this as the ‘prosperity’ gospel.

I prefer Paul’s exhortation here in his letter to the church at Corinth, in which he encourages each person to “decide for himself” without “compulsion” and without “reluctance” not only the amount to give but the time to give. Paul also tells the church “it is in God’s power to provide you richly with every good gift; thus you will have ample means in yourselves to meet each and every situation, with enough and to spare for every good cause.” (2 Corinthians 9:8-9) “You will always be rich enough to be generous.” (2 Corinthians 9:11)

Jesus warns that it is an error to honor the ‘traditions of men’ at the expense of taking care of your parents; to set aside the good you should do for your family in order to please a church. Instead, we should look to the needs of those who are our dependents. If our child is unclothed and hungry and we give our money as a tithe to God, He is not pleased. If our mother is in the least expensive nursing facility we can locate and we give our money as a tithe to God, He is not pleased. If our neighbor is losing her house to foreclosure, and we give our money [under compulsion, that is] as a tithe to God, He is not pleased. (Mark 7:9-13)

God repeatedly states that He wearies of our offerings. What He desires is a contrite heart, humble and cheerful in giving to others in need. Look first to our families, meeting the needs of those we love. Then look to our friends and neighbors, then look to the poor and disenfranchised.

Decide for yourself, without compulsion, with no reluctance. For God loves a cheerful giver.

“My Love Be With All Of You” ( 1 Corinthians 1: 4 – 5, NEB ) by Carley Evans


Paul tells the believers of the church at Corinth, “I am always thanking God for you. I thank Him for His grace given to you in Christ Jesus. I thank Him for all the enrichment that has come to you in Christ. You possess full knowledge and you can given full expression to it.” Paul sincerely thanks God for these believers. He is grateful to God for His grace and for the knowledge imparted to these believers by Christ Himself. He’s even happy these believers are able to fully express their faith.

 

Yet, Paul has many concerns about their Christian walk — they are divided. (1 Corinthians 1:11, HCSB) They are immature. (1 Corinthians 3:2) They think they are “wise in this age” (1 Corinthians 3:18). They are judgmental. (1 Corinthians 4:5) They are proud. (1 Corinthians 4:6-7) They are immoral. (1 Corinthians 5:1) They take one another to court “before the unrighteous.” (1 Corinthians 6:1) They fight over things that don’t matter in the long run. (1 Corinthians 8: 8) They put their rights above the “weak consciences” of their brothers and sisters in Christ. (1 Corinthians 8:12-13) They refuse to support their spiritual leaders. (1 Corinthians 9:7) They fail to conduct worship in an orderly fashion. (1 Corinthians 11:2; 14:22) They fail to recognize the Lord in the bread and wine of their communion feasts. (1 Corinthians 11:20-21) They forget the resurrection of the body. (1 Corinthians 15:36-37) They are reluctant to take up a collection for the saints. (1 Corinthians 16: 1-2)

 

At the end of his letter, Paul encourages these very same believers. He reminds them that “the churches of Asia greet” them. He tells them that “Priscilla and Aquila greet [them] warmly in the Lord, along with the church that meets in their home. All the brothers greet [them.]” (1 Corinthians 16:19-20)

 

Finally Paul writes, “My love be with all of you in Christ Jesus.” (1 Corinthians 16:24)