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2 Corinthians

15 April, 2018

There are three questions I’d like to ask you this morning.

  1. What is your greatest treasure?
  2. Aside from the Kingdom of God, what is your greatest association?
  3. If you could experience anything at all, what would be the greatest thing you could possibly experience?

We’re going to look at these questions as we continue our journey through the Bible. We began with Genesis in 2013 [image] , and are aiming to finish at Revelation by the end of this year. We have been covering every book in order, and today we arrive at 2 Corinthians.

2 Corinthians was written by Paul in 55AD. This was the same year that he wrote 1 Corinthians. The book carries a lot of spiritual teachings. It also includes a lot of personal matters, and reveals a lot of Paul’s personality.

The letter addresses the issue of false teachers, and the false accusations made against him. He appeals to the integrity of his personal life as proof that the life-transforming message of the gospel is true. This becomes a great challenge for us to do the same.

I’d like to look three passages from the book which address the three questions I asked at the beginning.

  1. The first passage is:

The god of this age has blinded the minds of unbelievers, so that they cannot see the light of the gospel that displays the glory of Christ, who is the image of God. For what we preach is not ourselves, but Jesus Christ as Lord, and ourselves as your servants for Jesus’ sake. For God, who said, “Let light shine out of darkness,” made his light shine in our hearts to give us the light of the knowledge of God’s glory displayed in the face of Christ. But we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us.
2 Corinthians 4:4-7

彼らの場合、この世の神が不信の者たちの思いをくらませて、神のかたちであるキリストの栄光の福音の輝きを、見えなくしているのである。 しかし、わたしたちは自分自身を宣べ伝えるのではなく、主なるキリスト・イエスを宣べ伝える。わたしたち自身は、ただイエスのために働くあなたがたの僕にすぎない。 「やみの中から光が照りいでよ」と仰せになった神は、キリストの顔に輝く神の栄光の知識を明らかにするために、わたしたちの心を照して下さったのである。 しかしわたしたちは、この宝を土の器の中に持っている。その測り知れない力は神のものであって、わたしたちから出たものでないことが、あらわれるためである。 コリントの信徒への手紙二4:4-7
第二コリント人 4章:4-7

Does anyone know who this is? [image] This is Israel Folau.[image]
みなさん、これが誰だか知っていますか? [image]これはイスラエル・フォローです。[image]

He plays fullback for the Wallabies, the Australian rugby team. He is one of the greatest players to ever play the game, and holds the distinction of being the only person to ever play professionally at the top level in three football codes (rugby union, rugby league and the AFL), and in two of those (rugby union, rugby league) he played for his country.

He is a once-in-a-lifetime athlete. He is also in a lot of hot water at the moment.

He is in hot water because he is an outspoken Christian and he is not afraid to speak the gospel to a world that hostile towards it. Last week on social media, in response to a question, he tweeted that gay people were destined for hell “unless they repent of their sins and turn to God”.
彼は熱心なクリスチャンであり、彼は、キリスト教に関して敵対的な世界に福音を話すことを恐れないので、論議の渦中にいるということです。先週のソーシャルメディアでは、ある質問に次のように答えました。「同性愛者は、彼らの罪を悔い改めて神に目を向けない限り、地獄にいく運命になってしまう。」とツイートしたのでした。 同性愛者は“その罪を悔い改めて、神に立ち返らないかぎり”地獄に行く運命にある

Firstly, let me say, this sort of tweet is problematic in a number of ways, and highlights the dangers of using social media where there is little room for error, context or teaching. It makes no distinction between gay people and homosexual activity, it doesn’t mention that God loves all people – gay and straight alike, that all those who are unrepentant – gay and straight alike – are destined for hell, and that all those who are repentant – gay and straight alike – are destined for eternity with God in heaven.

But the tweet went out and the fat was in the fire, so to speak. Social media and the news media went nuts, asking questions like, How dare he say such a thing?, Should such intolerant opinions be allowed in the public forum?, Should he be banned from representing his country? and so on.

In all the firestorm, the one question that was never asked, and the only question that really matters is, ‘Is it true that the unrepentant are destined for hell?

Why isn’t this question even considered? Paul tells us why in the passage we just read.

The god of this age has blinded the minds of unbelievers, so that they cannot see the light of the gospel that displays the glory of Christ, who is the image of God.

Whilst I would encourage you to be very careful using social media, and to be gentle and loving in your sharing of the whole gospel, know this: if you’re going to live as a Christian in this world, prepare to be opposed, because:

The god of this age has blinded the minds of unbelievers, so that they cannot see the light of the gospel that displays the glory of Christ, who is the image of God.

This, in another way, is a powerful verse. It reveals to us how holy God is, how completely and utterly above us God is. Look at this verse and tell me exactly what it is that unbelievers cannot see? Is it the light of the gospel or the glory of Christ or the image of God?

God is so holy and this world has become so sinful that sinners cannot see God. In fact, they can’t even see the image of God. In fact, they can’t even see the glory of Christ who is in the image of God. In fact, they can’t even see the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ who is the image of God. They have become so far removed from God by their sin, that they have been blinded to the truth.

Ezekiel had a similar experience, by the way. When God appeared to him, it says that

Like the appearance of a rainbow in the clouds on a rainy day, so was the radiance around him [God]. This was the appearance of the likeness of the glory of the Lord.
Ezekiel 1:28


Aside from Christ, who gives us access to the Father, there is a blinding distance between people and God. And so with our words and with our gentle lives, this is what we preach, says Paul: Jesus Christ, and not ourselves.

We are like clay jars: common, simple, fragile vessels, nothing remarkable in or of ourselves. But we have within us this treasure – the gospel of Jesus – and that is what thrills us, that is what we work to reveal through our lives, and that is our glory.

I asked at the start, what is your greatest treasure?

Our greatest treasure is the gospel of Christ.

  1. The second passage is:

If the gospel of Christ is our greatest treasure, what then, is to be our greatest earthly association? Paul writes in 2 Corinthians 6:14-18:
もし、キリストの福音が私たちにとって最も偉大な宝物なら、その福音とは一体どういうものなのでしょうか。パウロは、コリント第二6:14-18 で次のように言っています。

Don’t be teamed with those who do not love the Lord, for what do the people of God have in common with the people of sin? How can light live with darkness? And what harmony can there be between Christ and the devil? How can a Christian be a partner with one who doesn’t believe? And what union can there be between God’s temple and idols? For you are God’s temple, the home of the living God, and God has said of you, “I will live in them and walk among them, and I will be their God and they shall be my people.” That is why the Lord has said, “Leave them; separate yourselves from them; don’t touch their filthy things, and I will welcome you and be a Father to you, and you will be my sons and daughters.”
2 Corinthians 6:14-18


Paul doesn’t pull any punches. This is a vital and urgent teaching for Christians.

It does not mean that we don’t associate with non-believers. On the contrary, it’s good and important that we do, if for no other reason than who will shine the light of Christ into people’s lives if not for us?

But it does mean we don’t enter into partnerships with those who don’t share our faith. This would most aptly apply to marriage and to business partnerships.

This teaching goes to the heart of our decision-making. On what basis do we make our primary decisions and our associations? To please ourselves or to please God? To make money or to make disciples?

Our life decisions need to be made with the ultimate goal being our holiness and God’s glory.

Our holiness and God’s glory are automatically compromised when we are yoked together with unbelievers in pairings like marriage and business partnerships. And if we think we can be the exception and survive in them, then we’re being very foolish.

Go out into the world and love God, make disciples, bless all; but do not pair up with those who do not love the Lord because it will only lead to compromise.

What is your greatest association? Marriage? Church? Business? Friendship? Whatever it is, make sure it is with those who share your love of God.

  1. The third passage is 2 Corinthians 12:2-4:

If your greatest treasure is the gospel, and your greatest association is with those who love God, then what would you want your greatest experience to be?

Paul shares with us in 2 Corinthians 12:2-4 an experience that he had:

Fourteen years ago I was taken up to heaven for a visit. Don’t ask me whether my body was there or just my spirit, for I don’t know; only God can answer that. But anyway, there I was in paradise, and heard things so astounding that they are beyond a man’s power to describe or put in words (and anyway I am not allowed to tell them to others).< 2 Corinthians 12:2-4


I’m just curious, who would like to experience something like this? I would!

But there is something that I have learned time and time again as I walk this earth, and strive and fall and pray and hope, and it’s this: God knows me better than I know myself.

I strive and I hope and I pray for great things. Sometimes I receive or achieve them, often I don’t. But I’m at peace with that because I know that God knows me better than I know myself.

God knows that if I received some of the things I hope for, that they would lead me to ruin, no matter how wonderful or godly I might happen to think they are. Praise God that He knows better.

We see this here with Paul. He is given this surpassingly great revelation. Despite all his sufferings – and he lays them all out in 2 Cor 11:23-28 (you can read them all for yourself) – God was still concerned that this inexpressibly wonderful experience could lead to conceit.
私たちはここで、パウロと同じことを感じとることができます。パウロはこの驚くほどの大きな啓示を受けています。パウロはたくさんの苦悩を受けたにもかかわらず、第二コリント人11:23-28で自身の経験したことを、すべて言い尽くしているのです。(あとで、自分で読んでみてください。) 神は、この言い表せない素晴らしい経験がパウロのうぬぼれに繋がるのではないかと、まだ懸念していました。

So to keep him from conceit, Paul was given a “thorn in his flesh”. We don’t know what the thorn was, and I don’t think there’s any value in speculating. But three times Paul asked God to take it away, and each time God gave him the same answer:

“No. But I am with you; that is all you need. My power shows up best in weak people.”
2 Corinthians 12:9


“My power shows up best in weak people.” God can’t/won’t use conceited people. He can’t use His power in people who have their treasure elsewhere. He can’t use His power in people who are partnered with those who don’t believe in Him.

God uses the weak, the meek, the humble, the hurting and the broken – those who are dependent on Him.

What would be the greatest thing you could possibly experience? The greatest thing you can experience is not that which showcases your excellence. The greatest thing you can experience is that which best showcases the excellence (the glory) of Jesus in your life.

By all means, I encourage you to seek great things for your life, have dreams, set high goals, work for them and pray that God will grant them. But seek first the Kingdom of God and its righteousness, and delight in the knowledge that God knows you better than you know yourself.

His plans for you are greater than any plans you could come up with on your own. Rejoice in this.