2 Corinthians 8–13 | Sep 11 – Sep 17 | Come Follow Me Insights
And I’m Tyler.
This is Scripture Central’s, Come Follow Me Insights.
This week, second Corinthians 8-13.
Last week, when we covered the first set of chapters in second Corinthians, we introduced this concept of the great exchange, how the savior was sent by God to become the embodiment, so to speak, of sin for us, even though he knew no sin, so that we could come to know his righteousness. We who without him knew no righteousness. It’s this beautiful exchange epistle. Now, today, we continue this idea of exchanging places, not just with the savior, but now with other people and with other situations. We’ll pick that up starting in chapter 8. Look at verse 9. For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sakes, he became poor, that ye through his poverty, might be rich. In this great exchange portion, he who was the richest of all, made himself poor through the condescension to descend below all of us so that we who were poor could be made rich. Are you noticing that Paul… He just keeps hitting this theme with them from multiple angles to make sure they understand this is at the heart and core of everything that he’s trying to teach as an apostle.
Is that the savior has an abundance of ability, of love, of power, of grace, and of mercy to give to us so that we can experience the things that without him would be impossible. Now, it doesn’t stop there because that was the great exchange between us and the Lord. So notice how he extends this idea to us. Verse 12, For if there be first a willing mind, it is accepted according that a man hath and not according to that he hath not. He’s saying, If you have a willing mind, then it doesn’t matter what you have. It matters that you’re willing to do this great exchange with others as well according to whatever you have. And look at verse 13, For I mean not that other men be eased and ye burdened, but by an equality that now at this time your abundance may be a supply for their want. That their abundance also may be a supply for your want, that there may be equality. Now, some of you might be really confused by that King James language. It’s complex. It’s difficult. The idea being you, who are rich, even if you’re not infinitely rich like the savior was, so there was the ultimate great exchange, but now we bring it down to a lower level and we say, Okay, I take whatever abundance I do have and I give to those who are in need.
And by me giving to those in need, I become a little bit poorer and they become a little bit richer so that there can be inequality, he says. But then that part in verse 14 that said that your abundance may be a supply for their want. That’s easy to understand, but this next phrase, that their abundance also may be a supply for your want. That, I believe, is the core of this particular exchange. The poor have an abundance of a lack, and that becomes a beautiful resource for our need. And what is our need? It’s not for those possessions. Our need is an opportunity to practice to become more like Jesus Christ, to turn outward and to give them of our abundance so that there can be this equality.
You see this dichotomy or maybe you could say opposites throughout scriptures. Jesus often said things like, The great shall be the least and the least shall become the greatest. You will see this theme throughout the teachings of Jesus, and particularly Paul, where you have an inversion of what’s expected. Part of the context that’s going on here is that the Christians in Jerusalem, there had been a famine. There was now quite a bit of poverty and challenge that challenge going on in Jerusalem. Paul had been collecting resources from the Christian saints who were mostly Gentiles throughout the area of what is now modern day Turkey and Greece and other areas. The point was to bring those resources to the Jewish Christians who were living in Jerusalem. And it appears that the Corinthians had not been as forthcoming and as eager to be supportive of those in need as had been others, for example, in Galatia. Paul is trying to give them a doctrineal encouragement for why they should be willing to act like Jesus. If you have an abundance, please provide for those who often in situations where it’s not always of their own choosing, don’t have.
God has created a situation where the one great whole that we all together can uplift one another through the grace of God who’s given all these resources that all can be uplifted like all.
Next time you have an opportunity to participate in a fast and you contemplate a fast offering, don’t see it as just a checklist thing to do to say, Okay, a good member of the church should calculate how much I would have spent on my meals while I was fasting, and I’ll put that in an envelope or I’ll do it electronically online. Boom, I checked that box and I’m done. What a difference it would make if we look at that opportunity as a chance for me to practice becoming a little bit more like the savior himself who gave completely of his abundance to us in our need. It shifts away from this sense of duty and this sense of… Or even a sense of wanting to receive some reward, like giving the fast offering and then thinking, Okay, God’s going to give me some huge blessing now. I don’t think that was what motivated Jesus Christ, and it’s probably not the best motivator for us. I think the best motivator is love. That we love God and we love our neighbor as ourself, and we recognize that there are people who are in a lesser position than we are, and so we give of our abundance out of our love for the Lord and for them.
Which brings us to Chapter 9, where he actually describes this process because there are different motivations for doing charitable deeds or giving alms. Let’s jump down to verse 7. Every man, according as he purposeeth in his heart, so let him give, not grudgingly or of necessity, for God loveth a cheerful giver.
This is back to your point about duty. Now, by the way, acting in duty is a good thing. Remember, Elder Oaks, some years ago taught good, better, best. Doing your duty is a good thing. It might even be a better thing. What Paul is focusing on is the best is doing it cheerfully out of your full, true volition of wanting to do good in the world because you love. You love others, you love God, and you don’t simply do it because it’s commanded.
Then he jumps to verse 8, And God is able to make all grace abound toward you, that ye always having all sufficiency and all things may abound in every good work. It’s fascinating that this is one of those means that the Lord has given us where we can practice again and again and again. If you’re having a hard time back to the good, better, best, if you’re giving fast offering or paying tithing or keeping any commandment for that matter grudgingly, it’s better that you do that than not keep the commandment. It’s better to do it grudgingly. But then you can keep practicing over time and you can recognize, This is an area that I’m needing some grace from God to help me actually do this more aligned with how the savior gave His riches to us. You can practice again and again and again and thank heaven that the Lord is very long suffering and very patient with us. Salvation, keep in mind, is not a sprint. It’s a very long game. It’s much longer than a marathon.
Endurance run. It is. You just keep at it. You keep chipping away at it. The covenant path is a long process.
We should reiterate, again, the importance of this word grace that many of us have a basic sense of what it means. In English it often means a free gift. Yet, even though God has given us things freely, grace is a covenantal word that implies and signals that God is wanting to be in a covenantal relationship. He offers us something freely in an exchange. If we receive the gift, we are choosing to be covenantly connected to God and to give him something in return. There’s a mutual reciprocity. And as we return something to him, perhaps in the way of serving those around us.
By his grace and by the covenantal nature of that grace relationship, is covenantly obligated to upgrade and give us more. When you see here in verse 8, it says God always having all sufficiency in all things. Every time we do more acts like God, it’s almost as if the pie of God’s love expands and His grace for us increases, which he has an infinity of grace. So technically you can’t really increase God’s grace. Yet there seems to be this leveling up. Every time you act in grace because of God’s grace, he gives you more grace and more capacity to act in grace. The core idea here is the mutuality of a grace-filled relationship. When you see grace, it means I am mutually obligated with God. He’s obligated to me. I’m obligated to him. And we share grace with everybody. It’s a very powerful concept.
He takes exactly what you’re describing right there, and he puts it in an object-lesson form. In this parental statement that covers verse 9 and 10. You’ll notice the parentheses opens up at the beginning. As it is written, he hath dispersed abroad, he hath given to the poor. As Taylor was saying, There’s a serious need abroad over in Jerusalem. And so you’ve dispersed abroad. Now, he that ministereth seed to the sower. If you give seed to the sower, the seeds to be planted, what happens? Both minister bread for your food and multiply your seed sown and increase the fruits of your righteousness. You give one grain, let’s say, of wheat to a sower, you think, Man, but I could have eaten that. I could have crushed that up and it would have made a little teeny, tiny amount of flour for me, but I could have eaten it. But instead, what do I do? I give it to the sower, who in this context, in my mind, is the savior, the greatest sower of all. What he does is he then sows that seed. It goes into the ground, and if it falls into good soil, it’s going to bring forth…
If you look at the parable of the sower and the soils back in Matthew 13, it’s going to bring forth in good ground either 30 or 60 or 100 fold. I took one grain of wheat, and because it was given to the sower, it can actually turn into 100 grains of wheat, providing not only bread for me, but bread for many. And it only happens when it’s given to the Lord. He’s the one who multiplies the harvest. We’re talking about the harvest of souls here. Brothers and sisters, sometimes we limit this to just fast offerings. This is any kind word, any kind deed, anything good that we do for other people, if it’s given to the Lord and given to them in this great exchange idea, the Lord will multiply that harvest and miracles can be performed with those offerings.
Let’s build on this just briefly. To be honest, most of us engage in what we might call rather mundane things on a regular basis. That’s just part of life, and most of us cannot avoid that. The interesting thing is if we take these principles that Paul is teaching, we can realize that every act, any act of goodness that you do, even if it’s something you have to do every day, making meals for somebody, opening a door, washing a window, getting dressed, every act that you do can be dedicated to God and be for good. It may not completely change the world. Getting your shoes on in the morning may not change the world, but you can choose to see that every act that you choose can be dedicated and love to God and meant to be a blessing to other people. In that perspective, every day we can find a bit more joy. We don’t have to go out and do grand things. I don’t have to get called to a foreign country and open the gospel to countries that have never had the gospel before. As thrilling as that might be, the day to day living acts of goodness is where we find the reality of the gospel.
We invite you just to look at your life and realize that right now you are doing things that you can dedicate to God that are very mundane and it can upgrade your feeling about what that is. You can realize I am actually in the service of other people as I’m living my day-to-day life.
Taylor, what you’re talking about here, it reminds me of sister Sharon Eubank has shared this concept that often when we think of giving alms to the poor or doing service projects, we think of these big, huge projects making big quilts to go and send off to some shelter, which is great. That’s not a bad thing. That’s a good thing. But her point is, what about the people that we’ve been asked to minister to? What about our families? Sometimes we think so big, so far away that that’s where our alms and our service should go, and we overlook the people. These mundane situations around us, our spouses, our children, our parents, our siblings, our ward members, our neighbors, our colleagues at work, these little interactions that happen all the time. Her point is, Let’s start focusing on our ministering and on these relationships closer to home, while not discounting all of the bigger service projects that we can do, but let’s not assume that because we’ve done the huge service project, check, now I don’t need to do this with my neighbors anymore.
I’ve come to believe that any act of goodness, anything that I or anyone else does that makes the world just a little bit better is building the kingdom of God. And as I’ve come to discover that, I’m like, oh, my gosh, I can be building the kingdom of God almost with every single breath that I take. And that is exhilarating, liberating, joy-filled that I feel encouraged now on a daily basis. I don’t have to be doing grand things. I just need to be living in grace, showing love and choosing that every breath, every act is intended to make the world just a little bit better, just even a small ounce, and that is building the kingdom of God.
Let’s jump into chapter 10 now. Paul changes gears a little bit here, and he speaks autobiographically for a moment. Look at verse 1. Now, I, Paul, myself, beseech you by the meekness and gentleness of Christ. You’ll notice he’s portraying this whole epistle, this great exchange epistle of 2 Corinthians. It’s this soft, gentle, warm, kind, loving letter. And he says, I’m beseaching you in meekness and gentleness. I’m not using my authority as an apostle to stiffarm you and to come in with a sledgehammer to force conformance to behavior. I’m speaking very meekly and very gently. But then he says, Who in presence am base among you, but being absent am bold toward you. He’s saying, When I’m with you, I try to be this meek and gentle person. Then he says, verse 2, But I beseech you that I may not be bold when I am present with that confidence, wherewith I think to be bold against some which think of us as if we walked according to the flesh. He’s like, I don’t want to get into a battle of wits with you. I don’t want to have any arm wrestles with you. I don’t want to try to prove I’m stronger than anybody.
This is not my role. I don’t want to try to push my weight around. By the way, according to Joseph Smith, Paul is not very tall. He’s quite short, and he wouldn’t fare well in a wrestling match or in a battle of the flesh. And so he addresses this. Look at verse 3, For though we walk in the flesh, we do not war after the flesh. For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal, but mighty through God to the pulling down of strongholds. He’s going to pick this up later on in his epistle to the Ephesians, when he talks about the whole armor of God, We wrestle not against flesh and blood. There are wars, no question. There are definitely these battles of the flesh. But what Paul is saying is, I’m not involved in those. I don’t have a dog in that fight. I’m in a different a war. I’m in the spiritual war, and we’re fighting against the powers of darkness. We’re fighting against false ideas, false philosophies, and false religious practices of your city here in Corinth.
Again, to provide some context, we talked about this in the past episode that in early Christianity, it wasn’t like they had satellite receivers and general conference every six months and a print distribution of the scriptures and church manuals and stake presidents and bishops and religious vice presidents who could align people around what was true. You had these brand new religious movement and people like Paul who had been called by God to go help. He lives in Ephesis for a while, lives in Corinthians for a while. When he moves away, other Christian preachers, or Christian preachers so-called, would come in. Perhaps they were well-meaning. We don’t know a lot about them. It seems that some of them came in and undermined the truths that Paul was teaching and did it in part by boasting. Think about the Great Exchange. They try to show up and say, look how rich we are with our rhetoric, our words, our knowledge. We have letters of recommendation. You should listen to us and not Paul. Paul had no letters of recommendation. What did Paul say last week? Well, Jesus is my letter of recommendation, and the people who converted from my preaching are my letter of recommendation.
These same people who in some translations, we call them super apostles or people who believe that they’re above or better than the apostles. They sometimes were trying to argue that their accolades and their training, their education demonstrated that they were the ones who should be teaching and not Paul. When Paul is talking about this, he is, in so many words, trying to argue against these individuals who’ve been boasting, lifting themselves up and claiming that their academic accolades or their life experience meant that they were more qualified to be leading the church than the people that God himself had put in charge, which at this time was Paul. As you read these chapters, you want to be thinking about that and even asking our own lives. Training and education is extremely valuable. We’ve been taught in the church. Get all the education you can. But a degree in education, that alone does not indicate that you’re the most supposed to be the person who takes over and takes charge. You might be qualified, but there’s being called and chosen. Sometimes some people are chosen who may not have certain academic or experiential training. Guess what? That is part of the kingdom of God.
We all take our turn to serve and we all support one another. Paul is trying to get at this. Let’s stop using the world’s way of proving authority and let God prevail. The world’s way of authority is not bad. It’s just insufficient for how God runs his kingdom.
Let’s analyze this next set of verses here in the context of what apostles and prophets today are called to do. Look at verse 7. Do you look on things after the outward appearance? If any man trusts to himself that he is Christ, let him of himself think this again, that as he is Christ, even so are we Christ. It’s getting exactly what you’re talking about here, Taylor, with these other people coming in, claiming authority. For though I should boast somewhat more of our authority, which the Lord hath given us for edification and not for your destruction, I should not be ashamed that I may not seem as if I would terrify you by letters. Then he goes on to say, verse 12, For we dare not make ourselves of the number or compare ourselves with some that commend themselves, but they measuring themselves by themselves and comparing themselves among themselves are not wise.
But they think they’re wise. They show up saying, look how wise we are. Paul saying, If you are creating your own standards and you’re winning according to the standards you created for yourself, that’s a pretty foolish thing to do.
Which if you look at this from a Book of Mormon context, one of the things that we see repeatedly in the Book of Mormon is when false prophets come among the people, what do they do? They tell the people what the people want to hear. Whereas when God gives authority to prophets, Sears, and Revelators, it’s not usually with the message, Okay, I’ve now called and authorized you. I want you to go into that city or I want you to go and preach to this people or I want you to be a prophet for the whole world. I want you to just pat everybody on the back and tell them, keep up the good work. Don’t change anything, which is what we want to hear.
Or, Hey, Prophet, your job is to go out there, be really popular, collect a lot of money, dress better than everybody, sit on a throne and never work. It’s interesting when God calls leaders, it’s to put them in a position where they have to often work harder and longer and more to serve people than those who are not in the same leadership positions. You ask anybody who is in any calling in the church, are they working more or when they didn’t have a calling? I don’t know anybody who aspires to callings like, I would love to take that calling so I can just sit around and get all the accolades. Usually, callings in the church at any level are an invitation for more work because you’re serving more people.
It’s fascinating to look now at first and second Corinthians together with Paul, the apostle, who’s written both of these letters. You see this range of the calling of a prophet. It connects back to Enos in the Book of Mormon, when he says that his father had taught him in the nurture and admonition of the Lord. You get this two sides, the admonition, the correcting, the disciplining, the helping one to understand what needs to be done better, and the nurture, being able to show that love and that comfort, that kind, gentle, merciful side. And Enos talks about both sides. A prophet isn’t called to just usually to just go and nurture and say, Oh, you’re loved. Everything’s wonderful. Prophets are often given very difficult messages to deliver to the people, and they’re the messenger. They’re not the message. They’re the messenger from God, sent by him to give this admonition of the Lord to the people. You can see how Paul did that in 1 Corinthians and how other outsiders come in and say, Yeah, he’s mean and he’s a hick. He doesn’t know as much as we do. He doesn’t have as much experience as we do, so listen to us.
We’re going to give you what you really need and what, quite frankly, you deserve. It’s this interesting balancing act, if you will, a pendulum swing that when prophets speak from a pulpit or when they come and minister to people, they have to find this way to teach the doctrine, teach the truth as given to them by God to help prevent people from falling into sin or into error or into wrongdoing. But then they have to also show an increase of love for those who have fallen into sin, who have struggled to give them hope to repent, to move forward. You can see that if all they ever taught was the admonition and the commandment and the correcting side, it would get pretty discouraging. People would probably say, Well, I don’t want to listen to general conference anymore, but if all they ever did was told us how much God loves us and how we should keep moving forward to the best of our ability with no mention of how to move forward and what we need to change, you can see that it would be out of balance. Don’t be frustrated in this process of engaging with scripture and with words of living prophets when occasionally you’ve struggled with something and you hear a prophet telling people not to do the very thing you’ve struggled with or a loved one of yours has struggled with, and just recognize that they’re trying to help others who might be tempted to move in that direction to not go in that direction, and they may not be speaking directly to you if you’ve struggled with that.
Just wait. Look for other opportunities where they’re going to teach that hope and give that invitation to have faith in the savior and in his ability to make right all the wrongs that we have committed and to replace them with his righteousness. We could do a better job of sustaining our prophet, Sears and Revellators by doing more than just raising our hand in general conference or state conference or ward conference, but rather praying for them and their families and that incredible burden that has been placed on their shoulders to do both of these things in the world and never have an opportunity to retire and just relax and enjoy a life of vacations in retirement.
This is really helpful. In fact, it reminds me, Tyler, of a phrase you’ve probably heard before. Make the uncomfortable comfortable and make the comfortable uncomfortable, which fits into this dichotomous phraseology we see throughout Paul and even Jesus. If you find yourself quite comfortable, you might hear words of uncomfortableness. If you find yourself uncomfortable, you should be looking for and expect to find words of comfort. God does not want us just stuck. He wants us growing. It takes ongoing effort.
It’s powerful. Coming full circle back to verse 12, he’s making this beautiful commentary on you live in a world, Corinthians saints, and quite frankly, latter-day saints, we live in a world that is constantly comparing, constantly seeing how you measure up to everybody else. Social media turns that into cosmic proportions of comparing, but it’s usually a comparison of people’s facade, usually of putting the best foot forward. Look how good everything’s going here with very little reality of the full breadth and depth of their life. Then we sit and watch and make a comparison with a full understanding of our messy, muddiness of life, and we end up losing every single time in that comparison, either because we’re looking up in pride at them or because others might be looking down in pride, thinking, I’m so much better than this person or than these people. It’s a beautiful reminder to not measure yourself by others or to compare yourself among each other. The only comparison that is going to lead to the right sorrow, which is godly sorrow, which leads to faith and motivation to repent and actually become better rather than be discouraged and depressed and anxious and become worse that the world’s sorrow does, is if you’re comparing you with the ideal, which is Jesus Christ.
That’s the only comparison that we should be making. And if you look horizontally, it’s not to compare. It’s with an eye of, Who needs me? It’s that invitation that President Henry B. Eyring has repeated multiple times. Heavenly Father, who needs me? Who can I help today? If you look horizontally with that in mind, there’s no comparison. It’s simply now multiple opportunities that the Lord will bring into your life to become more like Jesus Christ by turning outward and helping these people as you notice their need. Now, if we go to chapter 11, verse 4 says, For if he that cometh preacheth another Jesus whom we have not preached, or if you receive another spirit which you have not received or another gospel which you have not accepted, you might well bear with him. For I suppose I was not a wit behind the very chiefest apostle. He’s saying, Look, you’ve had, and Taylor has talked about this, you’ve got these super apostles, these self-proclaimed authority figures who have come in with all of this learning and power and and physical might to try to convince you to listen and follow them. He’s simply saying, If they’re preaching another Jesus or if they’re teaching a different Gospel than what we’ve taught you, there’s your test.
That’s your litmus test. You don’t need to be persuaded by their claims to authority. Quite frankly, we live in a world today that is filled with people who are claiming all kinds of authority. They’re persuasive, they’re articulate, they are rich, they’re smart in their techniques and in what they’re doing. And yet when we listen to God’s prophets, Sears and Revellators, and his appointed leaders of the different organizations, it’s beautiful to see how powerfully the gospel is taught by them because if you pill back all the layers, they’re not preaching these things for them to get game. They’re preaching these things as a sacrifice. They’re giving their time and their whole life to help us. This is a Christ-like connection to the Great Exchange. They’re being Christ-like in that they’re giving us of their life. Whereas the people that Paul is referring to here, they clearly have an agenda. There’s something that they’re wanting to get from these people in Corinth rather than what Paul is doing, which is trying to give something to these people in Corinth. It’s a good reminder for us living in this digital age where there’s never been a generation before of different people living on the Earth who have many in their pocket the window to the world of information past and present like we have today, which means there are an awful lot of voices clamoring for our time and our attention.
They’re selling a lot of things. The question is, are we buying? Versus what the prophets are saying, are we listening?
He goes on in verse 13 and 14, a bit more clearly calling out these false teachers who are misleading people. For such are false apostles, deceitful workers, transforming themselves into the apostles of Christ, and no marvel for Satan himself is transformed into an angel of light. Therefore, it is no great thing if his ministers also be transformed as the ministers of righteousness, whose end shall be according to their works. It’s a little bit complex in some cases what he’s saying, but fundamentally, he’s teaching us we need to be aligned with true teachers sent from God, not simply those who claim on their own authority to be so. Now the world is full of leaders. There’s a great leadership writer and speaker, man named John C. Maxwell, and his definition of leadership is influence, a very simple but powerful definition. If you go create influence in anybody’s life, positive or negative, you are exerting leadership. These so-called Super Apostles were exerting negative leadership. They were trying to attract people to themselves for their own personal gain. True leadership, Christ-like leadership does the opposite. Instead of exalting itself, abases itself in order that other people might have that experience.
I actually saw this very powerfully just a few days ago with somebody I admire greatly and a friend. They’re one of the classes that I teach at the university. I every week need to bring in a different speaker to encourage and inspire the students. These are speakers who often have very busy lives. They’re very successful in doing a lot of things, but they take their time to come visit. I happen to invite two different people with the same name. I wasn’t totally paying attention. Two minutes before the class starts, the first man who was there, ready to go, he had flown in. Actually, there had been three canceled flights. He ended up driving to a different airport and booking a different flight to get to the university to be with the students. Two minutes before class starts, he and I and my teaching assistants realized there was actually another man that he also knew with the same name who was actually also assigned. It was very interesting. This man, this brother said, It’s okay. Let’s let the other person speak and I will just go into the audience and be a student. It was so impressive to me.
Now, the class that I teach is a class on leadership and innovation. I later wrote to this friend and said, In all the years I’ve been involved in this class, your gracious act of humility taught me more about leadership than the totality of all these lectures I’ve been participating in for years, which all have been incredible. By the way, the speaker that day was incredible. I saw my other friend, who was also supposed to be speaking, sitting down taking notes. To even add to this, it turns out that my friend happens to be the boss of the other person who was speaking. That’s how bad I messed things up. It was a very powerful lesson that we all have daily choices to say, Will Is to puff myself up in order to put other people down? Or am I willing to uplift other people and in the same time also be uplifted? I’m actually pretty confident if we talk to my friend and say, My other friend gave such a great talk and I learned so many important things. I took all these notes. That, again, is the essence of real leadership. I wonder if these so-called Super Apostles had learned from actually these two friends, maybe these Super Apostles also would have taken turns, teaching, listening to one another, maybe sitting down and taking notes instead of saying, Hey, don’t listen to Paul.
The guy’s a loser. Again, in our own lives, let’s listen to the real leaders, Jesus Christ and his chosen servants.
That is a profound example of leadership and of a great exchange.
And also not embarrassing me, which I totally deserve to be embarrassed for making a funny mistake.
Now let’s watch as Paul… He jumps into the ring a little bit, playing their game, which is let’s have a comparison. Even though he just got through telling you, Stop comparing. He’s like, Okay, I’m going to jump into the ring, but I’m going to do it differently. I’m not going to come in swinging. I’m going to jump into this ring and I’m going to speak in this reversed approach that’s going to catch many of them off guard.
Yeah, essentially, real leaders serve and suffer on behalf of the people that they serve.
He sets this up in verse 18 by saying, Seeing that many glory after the flesh, I will glory also between verse 19 and 22. He’s describing some of the ways that we can be smitten and suffer. Look at verse 23. Are they ministerial ministers of Christ? I speak as a fool. I am more. Now here’s a comparison. These people who are speaking to you, are they really ministers of Christ? And how are you going to know? Now, Paul gives his resume as an apostle of what he’s been through in the flesh, not for his gain, but for the people’s gain, for their gain, for their benefit. Look at verse 23, halfway down. In labor’s more abundant, in stripes above measure, in prisons more frequent, in deaths often. Of the Jews, five times received I 40 stripes, save one. Thrice was I beaten with rods. Once was I stoned. Thrice, I suffered shipwreck. A night and a day, I have been in the deep. In journeyings often, in perils of water, in perils of robbers, in perils by my own countrymen, in perils by the heathen, in perils in the city, in perils in the wilderness, in perils in the sea, in perils among false brother, in weariness and painfulness, in watchings often, in hunger and thirst, in fasting often, in cold and nakedness beside those things that are without that which cometh upon me daily, the care of all the churches.
23 through 28, that is quite the list. He’s saying, You want to start comparing resumes of what people have done, these false apostles who have come to you talking about all these amazing feats they’ve accomplished. Well, this is what I’ve been through, and this is what the Lord has allowed me to pass through. Brothers and sisters, often you and I, for whatever reason, the natural man, natural woman tendency in each of us wants to jump to a conclusion that if a bad thing happens, if any of these kinds of tribulations or death in the family or accident or disease or loss of job or loss of a relationship, that somehow that’s a sign of divine disfavor or that I’m not good enough or I should have been better or if only I had done this differently, that wouldn’t have happened and we beat ourselves up and think God doesn’t love me. God isn’t blessing me. I think if Paul were standing here today, he wouldn’t say, Yeah, I gave you verse 23 to 28 to show you how much God was punishing me. I don’t think he would say that. I think he would say, I gave you verse 23-28 to show you how much God loved me.
Blessed are all those who are persecuted for my name’s sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. I think he wouldn’t take that natural man response of, Man, God’s being cruel to me. He would say, I wish I had 10,000 lives to give with all the perils that mortality could throw at me because of the love that he has for the Lord. It’s oozing off of this page how much he is focused on the right thing and not saying, Look at all of these terrible things that have happened to me, and I’ve been trying to devote my life to God. I’ve been doing good things. I’ve been keeping the commandments and look at all these bad things that happened, which is what we often fall into saying instead of, as Paul saying here, Yeah, I’ll show you what I’ve been through for you. Then he finishes with verse 29, Who is weak? And I am not weak. Who is offended? And I burn not? If I must need glory, I will glory of the things which concern mine infirmities. He’s going to glory in his infirmities. Why? The God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, which is blessed forevermore, knoweth that I lie not.
He’s describing how God has provided a way for him to escape all of these perils, all of these things that from a world’s perspective are seen as tragedies or potential tragedies. And he’s saying basically, Give God the glory, which is a very Christ-like thing to do.
What’s powerful is after going through this summary of all these challenges, he says, That itself is insufficient to prove that I am the Lord’s Minister, even though it’s powerful, powerful evidence. In the next chapter, he then flips it and says, Here’s what God has done to redeem me, inviting me into his heavenly courts with revelatory experiences. Wouldn’t you want to follow somebody who has been in God’s presence and learn directly from Him would be valuable for your life. So it’s just not enough to suffer. Good servants suffer. But true servants also have been in the presence of God. And that’s what Paul Mel talks about.
Which is a beautiful reminder that the Lord Jesus Christ doesn’t just teach us how to live His Gospel. He teaches us how to endure suffering and endure it in a way that can lead to growth and progress and development and increased faith and devotion to him rather than decreased faith so that our sufferings can help us become better, not bitter. It was Elder Maxwell who said, Christ partook of history’s bitterest cup without becoming bitter. Yet you and I are given a little bitter cup through experiences, and oftentimes it ends up embedding us if we’re not careful. As Taylor introduced in chapter 12, he says in verse 2, I knew a man in Christ above 14 years ago, whether in the body I cannot tell or whether out of the body I cannot tell, God knoweth. Such and one caught up to the third heaven. And I knew that there was a man that had been trained to be a man of such a man, how that he was caught up into paradise and heard unspeakable words, which it is not lawful for a man to utter. It’s this idea that it’s being called to be on the Lord’s errand.
It doesn’t just mean get ready, you’re going to have a miserable life. You put all of those terrible misfortunes that happen to you into their proper perspective, and you get revelation. You get deeper connection with heaven.
Notice how Paul, again, there’s a bit of debate going on between different preachers, and he’s not showing up and saying, Hey, everybody, I, Paul, have seen God. Now, there are other places where he says this, but in this context, he’s not trying to be overly bold and misuse the revelatory experience. He speaks in the third person. Yeah, I knew somebody who experienced Jesus Christ up in the heavens. That’s incredible. When he could have been like these super apostles or these false preachers saying, I went to heaven. Instead, he humbles himself so people can understand what it was like to be up in heaven.
What an amazing connection now back to Isaiah picks up that theme multiple times that the he that humbleth himself shall be exalted and he that exalteth himself shall be abased. And the Isaiah principle of the mountains shall be brought low and the valleys shall be brought up. He’s using geography to represent people. That’s exactly what’s taking place here. Paul, who is coming meek and lowly, the Lord is going to raise up. And these people who are coming in all puffed up and prideful and haughty are going to be brought low. And then he says, verse 6, For though I would desire to glory, I shall not be a fool, for I will say the truth. But now I forbear lest any man should think of me above that which he seeeth me to be, or that he heareth of me. He says, I’m not going to try to glory. I’m not going to try to puff myself up bigger than… I’m not going to make a social media post that makes my life look perfect for you. And then he opens up in verse 7, And lest I should be exalted above measure through the abundance of the revelations, there was given to me a thorn in the flesh, the messenger of Satan, to buffet me lest I should be exalted above measure.
There’s something, and there’s been a lot of ink spilled over what this thorn in Paul’s flesh was. Some people thinking it was some physical ailment or poor eyesight or some thinking it was perhaps an emotional or a psychological struggle that he had to wrestle with and face. We have no idea because he doesn’t tell us. We just know something is keeping him humble.
Well, we learned in the Book of Mormon, God gives humans weakness called a thorn in the flesh. It invites us to be humble. We all, first of all, have that weakness of fall nature, and we all have individual challenges. Fundamentally, what we all individually suffer with ultimately in the long run doesn’t matter. It’s whether we allow those things to work in us to become humble and more like Jesus Christ. I see Paul doing that here. He’s not trying to be self-focused on whatever his particular suffering.
You get a second witness of what is taught very beautifully in the Book of Mormon. This idea of my grace is sufficient for all who humble themselves and come unto me. Then will I make weak things become strong unto them. That beautiful passage in Ether 12, notice what the Lord tells Paul here in verse 9, And he said unto me, ‘My grace is sufficient for thee, for my strength is made perfect in weakness. Most gladly, therefore, will I rather glory in my infirmities that the power of Christ may rest upon me. ‘ Are you seeing the great exchange yet again? In my weakness, his grace… It’s not my weakness that I’m gloring in. I’m not saying, Oh, I want to sin to show my weakness. It’s, I’m doing the best I can, but I have a thorn in the flesh. We all have a thorn in the flesh. It’s called mortality. It’s called fallen nature, and it keeps us humble. Here we are in this fallen condition, and the savior’s grace is sufficient for all of us that we can be made perfect… That His grace can be made perfect in our weakness. He says, Most gladly, therefore, will I rather glory in my infirmities that the power of Christ may rest upon me.
What an amazing concept, this idea that when you wake up in the morning, you don’t say, Oh, I’m glad to be alive. I’ve got everything under control today. Heavenly Father, I don’t need help. I’ll check in with you tomorrow. I got today figured out. There’s not a single day of my life that I’ve woken up and thought, No, I don’t need the Lord, because every single day I wake up and I say, ‘Oh, Lord, my God. When I in awesome wonder consider all the worlds thy hands have made, please, how great thou art. I need help. I need thy grace.
‘ It also means we shouldn’t wake up in despair that we lack so much. Imagine two puzzle pieces that fit perfectly together, God’s totality and our nature. We should wake up every morning realizing this is the puzzle piece we have right now, and we shouldn’t despair about it. We should be thrilled that it fits so perfectly with what God’s puzzle piece is, his total enduring love and grace. We should all just find more joy in our lives and choose to see the joy instead of despair.
Let’s finish with a couple of these really what I would love to refer to here as power phrases, power verses. Wow, these are beautiful. Verse 10, Therefore, I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in necessities, in persecution, in distresses, for Christ’s sake. Those three words are the qualifier. If we don’t go through these things for Christ’s sake, then they are just miserable. Then God really must not care about us, is the conclusion we could more easily convince ourselves as being reality, which it isn’t. But it’s all of these bad things that he’s listed over there in verse 23 through 29 of chapter 11. He’s saying, Look, I take pleasure in all of these things because of these two puzzle pieces that Taylor is talking about this, that my infirmities fit so perfectly with Christ’s mercy. And then this concluding phrase, which for me I have it marked in bright yellow, For when I am weak, then am I strong. If you felt inadequate, if you felt imperfect, if you felt like you keep falling short, you’re in a perfect place to look up and say, Dear God on high, I need thee. Oh, how I need thee.
I need help. Please help me through thy strength to overcome my weakness. And then give yourself time to work through this process with the Lord. Keep in mind, salvation is a long game. It’s not done in an afternoon. This is a long marathon. And then you jump down to verse 14. Behold, the third time I am ready to come to you, and I will not be burdensome to you, for I seek not yours, but you. For the children not to lay up for the parents, but the parents for the children. He’s been to Corinne twice, spent a year and a half on his second missionary journey and visit again. Now he’s saying, I’m going to come a third time, but I’m not coming to get things from you. I’m not going to take anything away from you because a parent doesn’t take from the child. A parent gives to the child, and a true apostle isn’t going to try to get anything from you. I’m going to come and give things to you. Verse 15, And I will very gladly spend and be spent for you. Look at the life of our prophets, Sears and Revelation.
They spend their entire life consecrated and devoted to the Lord and to us.
For example, President has spent more years since the age of American retirement, serving since age 65, than most people often ever spend in their totality of their careers up to age 65.
That’s amazing. That’s amazing. Verse 15 finishes by saying, Though the more abundantly I love you, the less I be loved. Those are sobering words. The more I’ve loved you, fulfilling my role as an apostle, the less I’ve been loved by you. It’s a lonely job that they have, them and their families. And quite frankly, they could use probably more of our true sustaining vote and confidence and trust and listening and harkening to them as watchmen on the towers. Now we finish with chapter 13. He says, verse 1, This is the third time I am coming to you in the mouth of two or three witnesses shall every word be established. That’s a verse that comes up in a couple of other settings regarding to scripture, regarding to the law of witnesses for the Book of Morman, and for why we send our missionaries out two by two and sometimes in groups of three, that he establishes his word always in the mouth of two or three witnesses. Look at verse 4, he says, For though Christ was crucified through weakness… You’re not seeing a great exchange? He gave up, he condescended his godly power and became capable of dying, of giving up the ghost by coming to earth.
Yet he liveth by the power of God, for we also are weak in him, but we shall live with him by the power of God toward you.
Or for you. I learned this from a really capable writer and speaker, a man named Benjamin Hardee, and he shared this concept that we can choose to look at how things happen to us or for us. It’s things are happening, but you interpret them as happening to you or for you. This word toward here actually means for. God does not do things to you. He does things for you.
That’s profound, especially if you connect that now down to verse 5. Examine yourselves, whether you be in the faith. Prove your own selves. Know ye not your own selves, how that Jesus Christ is in you, except you be reprobates. If you’re reprobates, then Christ isn’t in you. But it’s that idea of the more we have the savior’s spirit, his influence, the perfect model of what we’re trying to become, if that’s in us, then when all these things happen to us, we can translate it through that filter and see that benefit of them being for us to strengthen us. That’s a profound concept. Now, he concludes by saying, verse 8, For we can do nothing against the truth, but for the truth. You might remember President Nelson has used this phrase a couple of times, Truth is truth. And God’s prophets and apostles aren’t authorized to teach whatever they want. As much as they want to teach certain things, they can’t until they’re authorized by heaven to speak whatever it is that the Lord has asked them to teach. It’s that truth is truth concept. We can’t do anything against the truth. Verse 9, For we are glad when we are weak and ye are strong, and this also we wish even your perfection.
Isn’t that fascinating? I wonder how much time God’s prophets, Sears, and revelators spend praying for us compared to how much time we spend praying for them and for other people that we are called to minister to. Verse 11, he finishes by saying, Finally, brethren, farewell. Be perfect. Be of good comfort. Did you catch what just happened there? Be perfect. There’s this invitation, this admonition to try a little harder to be a little better, as President Hinkley used to remind us. Keep going, keep going. But then be of good comfort. It’s that nurture and admonition coming into check. And if you get offended or frustrated by what the prophets are teaching, then instead of trying to change them, ask the Lord to help change our mind and our heart to better align with what was that message really intended for and how could benefit me? And then he finishes by saying, Be of one mind, live in peace, and the God of love and peace shall be with you. The more we cast out those good seeds, the more those seeds are going to produce good bread for us as well as for other people in our lives.
No kind deed or word or thought or effort will ever, ever go wasted. We don’t have to wait for tomorrow to start scattering those good seeds. We can start today. In fact, we can start right now. He says, verse 14, The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ and the love of God and the communion of the Holy Ghost be with you all. Amen. In my opinion, 2 Corinthians was one of Paul’s finest epistles, one of the finest writings of all time. And may the Lord bless each of us to take advantage of not just the savior’s willingness to engage with us in a great exchange, but to strive to become more like him by turning outward, not in comparison, not in competition, but in cooperation and consecration. Because we love the Lord and we love them and we want to experience all aspects that we can of this great exchange process. May the Lord bless all of us in this effort is our prayer in the name of Jesus Christ, Amen. Know that you’re loved.
And spread light and goodness.