"Just Like Paul"; 2 Corinthians 1-3
July 1, 2011

C. R. Oliver

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July 1, 2011

"Just Like Paul"
2 Corinthians 1-3

          Many years ago, at a missionary emphasis meeting, a missionary brother rose to a point of order and said, "I perceive this group is willing to do mission thrusts into hostile areas-- as long as they can be the 'return missionaries.' You are willing that I sacrifice myself and give my blood for the cause of Christ, as long as it does not require one drop of your own." When he sat down there was silence. This missionary was willing to put his life on the line. He was willing to make the commitment that rendered his testimony as 'one to the death.' God alone knows how many have given their lives to honor this kind of commitment. There is then a question which is still cogent, "What kind is your commitment?"
          To have the experiences of Paul and the revelation of Paul, one must have the "kind of commitment" Paul had. Years ago, inscribed in a volume, Epochs in the life of Paul, someone very dear to me wrote:
"May this book inspire you to better preaching and a greater urge to tell the old, old, story…
'And they went forth and preached everywhere, the Lord working with them'
Just go there and preach the kingdom of God. Preach the word; be instant in season and out of season (And then was written: 'to the one preacher I know who 'preaches like Paul.' Feb. 18, 1956)."
          I have never forgotten those words.
          In many foreign environs, with life threatening surrounding…the invective, "Preach like Paul," always was there. In domestic mine fields, called local churches-when mounting the pulpit area, there would come the mandate, "Preach like Paul."
          Little did I realize what it would cost to do that!

2 Corinthians 1:3-4
Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our tribulation, that we may be able to comfort those who are in any trouble, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God.
There will be tribulation!

In a few weeks, I will address a large group of youth in a conference. I have a message from God for them.
"It is time to unleash a thousand Paul's on the scene of history, those who are willing to 'go through hell for a heavenly cause (Cervantes).'"
"It is time to forget searching for your 'gift' and just 'go.' It is time to drop the assessment of whether one is properly trained or 'anointed' or any of those myriad excuses used by the former generation. Simply do the work of an evangelist."

I will tell them to step into the flay, for it gives one a different perception of "church" and what it is meant to be. (If Jesus is truly to be "made the head of the body by which He fills all in all," then let Him fill us and then let us "spill the filling" across this world. Sing it, teach it and preach it everywhere. )

It is time to enter the words of the Corinthian second letter. The first chapter of Second Corinthians is filled with facts about the cost of being like Paul. Read it and put your name in place of Paul's. Literally become him, like some resurrected man of God coming forth to tell a new generation of heathen there has risen up an Ambassador for Christ who will not be silent! Death to Paul meant nothing; blood meant nothing in carrying out what "he signed on for."

It is time to, Sign On! Stop "milling at the mall" and begin punching the public. Pierce this world's gamey skin and tattoo them with the Word. Leave indelible marks, revealing the power of God and the mercy of God. Have the simplistic gospel Paul espoused ready to push like a "capsule of faith" into dying lips.

Examine now the Scriptural base for this study and see if it exceeds your base of experience. Then broaden your base! Do not do God the disservice of reading this newsletter and staying the same-hear what the Spirit is saying.

Paul clearly stated that the "camaraderie of commitment" has a different clientele than the modern church. Those who have known the "Fellowship of the Flame" have a unique language, understood by those who "have been there." Imagine the round table of Paul, Peter, Phillip or Stephen. Who of you could enter into the conversation of these saints? Believe me when I say, "I could!" and will, because of the great mercy of the Lord. Their conversation would never reach the domain of church budgets and programs. Their concerns far exceed the myopic procrastinations of this society. It is time to live in their fellowship.

Paul knew there would be tribulation confronting his comrades' witness, He said that only God comforted him, but now, having passed through it, he could comfort others using the same comfort that came through the Spirit.

My Lord, that's different than I have heard from any modern preacher! Get ready folks, we are moving to the time of tribulation like the world has never encountered and we will need some comfort from God's tried and true ones. The Lord, however, has called many of them home and now it rests squarely on this generation to rise up and express the comfort of Paul.

Paul knew his constituents would need to know his source of comfort.
2 Corinthians 1:5
The sufferings of Christ abound in us.

2 Corinthians 1:7
Because we know that as you are partakers of the sufferings, so also you will partake of the consolation.
There it is. In these two verses, linked by Paul, is the prophetic future for those who are true to Him! The sufferings of Christ were both physical and mental. The whole spectrum of pain and deprivation came upon Him, and upon Paul, and will come upon this generation of saints. Paul, at one point, declared that he finished out what was remaining of the suffering of the cross. Suffering is for saints---Park picnics are for Laodicean sloth.

Review the following:
2 Corinthians 1:8-11
For we do not want you to be ignorant, brethren, of our trouble which came to us in Asia: that we were burdened beyond measure, above strength, so that we despaired even of life. Yes, we had the sentence of death in ourselves, that we should not trust in ourselves but in God who raises the dead, who delivered us from so great a death, and does deliver us; in whom we trust that He will still deliver us, you also helping together in prayer for us, that thanks may be given by many persons on our behalf for the gift granted to us through many.
By and large, the population of church-goers is ignorant of what lies ahead. Knowing what he knew, Paul wanted the Corinthian church to enter into his kind of commitment. He knew the conditions related to his cause.

Read these verses like a spiritual grid:
l. "Burdened beyond measure"----there had not been found devices or indices that could contain the parameters of Paul's burden. Things got out of hand and went beyond any idea he or his companions had expected.
There was no time to cry out, "I DIDN'T SIGN ON FOR THIS," or "This was not in my job description."

Paul said it was above his strength-to the point of death. He had the "sentence of death" in his person.

He declared his hope was, if he died--God would raise him up. And to what did he attribute his escape? It was through the prayers of many. What manner of praying did they do?
(How do you pray? What are the intercessions the Spirit has laid before you? Who, in this world, can testify that through your prayers they were delivered? )
2. We conducted ourselves in the world in simplicity and godly sincerity, not with fleshly wisdom but by the grace of God.
Dear Reader, let me ask how you conduct yourself? Fleshly wisdom is the hall mark of most; complexity and duplicity fills their atmosphere with a mist so thick that God cannot be seen due to the condensed mélange. Where is the clear word? Where is there to be found the saint who depends upon His grace along with a simple trust in His Spirit--whose steps are ordered by the Lord?           Yes, Paul was including the Corinthians ( in his assessment) via their intercession, but he was also including them futuristically into the bond of his fellowship because of what was ahead for them. Thousands shrink from those prospects, but they did not, for to know Paul is to be drawn into his vision of a personal baptism into Jesus' death.
3. Planning by the Spirit:
2 Corinthians 1:17
The things I plan, do I plan according to the flesh?
Have you any idea how many congregations and congregants plan by the flesh? The work of the Spirit is to guide us into all truth, to direct our steps and to have the final say in every venue of our lives. Paul declared he came to the Corinthians by the Spirit and with him came the same inner witness that was in Christ. He leaned upon the "YES" Jesus. Every promise of the Bible was His through the YES Jesus. How could this be? Because when one is led by the Spirit, one is able to "Amen (meaning: "So be it, even as you have spoken it")!"

According to Paul, the Corinthians were Divinely linked to him and his work. Spirit connectivity demands a different kind of relationship. Second Corinthians was not a casual accounting of his mission endeavors; it is recognition of the blending of his spirit with those of his fellow laborers. This is Paul entering into them and them into him. This is the "brother of blood" bond, which is superior to the hugs of conventioneers.
4. Fellowship through the Spirit
2 Corinthians 1:21
He who establishes us with you in Christ and has anointed us is God
The Lord brings us into relationships with His "people," and those relationships are to be cherished, nourished and honored. Even those who err or fall into sin are to be dealt with by compassion and love. Paul points to such a case. Paul took the lead and forgave "that one."
2 Corinthians 2:7-11
To forgive and comfort him, lest perhaps such a one be swallowed up with too much sorrow. 8 Therefore I urge you to reaffirm your love to him. 9 For to this end I also wrote, that I might put you to the test, whether you are obedient in all things. 10 Now whom you forgive anything, I also forgive. For if indeed I have forgiven anything, I have forgiven that one for your sakes in the presence of Christ, 11 lest Satan should take advantage of us; or we are not ignorant of his devices.
Note the last statement, "Lest satan should take advantage of us." When the Lord places one in our midst, we are not to abandon that one. Satan uses broken relationships to bring about his way. Be cautioned, I am not talking about Jude's admonitions against those having crept in or Peter's references to those who "destroy the love feasts." I am not referring to Ananias and Sapphira, who found death as a sentence for their sin. Paul is focusing on a brother in the fellowship of tribulation. Perhaps he broke down and denied the Lord under pressure.

Next, come many insights into the thinking of Paul. To be like him, one must adopt the same doctrine and thought processes of him.
5. Flowing in the Fragrance Real saints smell different!
Yes, there is a special "aire" about those the Lord knows as His People. They know each other by their scent. The priests that offered incense smelled different from those who smoked the sacrifices!
2 Corinthians 2:14-17
Now thanks be to God who always leads us in triumph in Christ, and through us diffuses the fragrance of His knowledge in every place. 15 For we are to God the fragrance of Christ among those who are being saved and among those who are perishing.
16 To the one we are the aroma of death leading to death, and to the other the aroma of life leading to life. And who is sufficient for these things?
17 For we are not, as so many, peddling the word of God; but as of sincerity, but as from God, we speak in the sight of God in Christ.
In these verses, two matters reach the forefront: Who we are in Christ and who we are to the world. One thing is for sure: We are the fragrance of Christ to God the Father. Just as those in the courtyard perceived the disciples "had been with Jesus," there is a sweet smelling savor coming from us. To the world bent on perishing, that smell is reason for persecution. To those seeking salvation, hope, and eternal life, the fragrance of God's true people is like "the lilies among the thorns (Song of Solomon)." The world knows there is a difference in us.

Early on, Paul made a separation between those of the "aroma" and those who "stink."
"We are not, as so many, peddling the word of God."
So Many? Had the corruption of Simon and Jude's warning already manifested in the early church? So Many? Was he talking in futuristic terms, prophetically calling what is happening in modern "end of ages" society?

There is a separation ahead! Gratefully, some of those who are media spotlights are beginning to see that truth. They see the difference between themselves and those "peddling the gospel." They are seeing how foreign each is to the other. "Peddlers" are being exposed and those with a true message are as disquieted as Paul to see their presence on stages, in pulpits and places of authority.

No "peddler of the gospel" can say what Paul says next:
2 Corinthians 3:2-3
You are our epistle written in our hearts, known and read by all men; clearly you are an epistle of Christ, ministered by us, written not with ink but by the Spirit of the living God, not on tablets of stone but on tablets of flesh, that is, of the heart.
Heart-ministry is difficult to find today. Paul bore in his very inner man the names and situations of those to whom he ministered. They were not tallies, charts and numbers. Like Robert McCheyne, who wept over Glasgow more than a century ago, those who follow Paul's kind of commitment identify with those in their charge. They say like Paul, "these are written in my heart." Men and women have not seen, in modern times, this kind of ministry. It must re-appear. There must again be a multitude of those like Finney, who walked deeply with God and caused a stir in the nations.

The Spirit longs to write again! Whose heart is open enough for His pen and His touch?
6. Ministry through the Spirit alone
2 Corinthians 3:4-6
And we have such trust through Christ toward God. 5 Not that we are sufficient of ourselves to think of anything as being from ourselves, but our sufficiency is from God, 6 who also made us sufficient as ministers of the new covenant, not of the letter but of the Spirit; for the letter kills, but the Spirit gives life.
The first underlined statement in this passage would be sufficient to define the "kind of commitment" by which Paul lived. Coupled quickly by the second passage, one finds oneself standing by the two pillars of Paul's faith.

Alas, who, today, ministers under such a covering? Our covering is not of man! It is through the truth of these two pillars (1) "such trust through Christ toward God" (2) "God has made us sufficient as ministers of the new covenant." Paul knew God would sustain him and it was God who called him and those two facts alone were enough to go through anything!

What is the evidence of such ministry? Is it not the veil-less multitude?

The Spirit ministry takes the veil off!

There it is!

There is the difference between the "ipso Schazam" trickery of the apologists and the clear --side by side with Jesus-- ministry at the altar. The veil is taken away! Pouring into the heart of the hearer is the clear message heard with new ears. Clearly before him is the truth, undeniable, since he sees with new eyes. His ears have been restored and his eyes have been healed…O' bless the Lord; we need someone who will be like Paul, NOW! Here's one!

Until Next month,

Dr. Cosby R. Oliver, PhD.


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