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The Ministry of Grace

Notes & Transcripts

The Ministry of Grace

2Corinthians 1:12-2:11                   August 31, 2003

 

Scripture Reading:

Introduction:

What must we do in order to experience God’s ministry of comfort to us? (2Cor. 1:1-11)

I.          We must look to God as the channel of comfort. (vv. 3-4)

II.        We must receive Christ as the catalyst of comfort. (v. 5)

III.       We must respond in ministry to others as the communion of comfort. (vv. 6-7)

IV.       We must embrace faith for the completion of comfort. (vv. 8-10)

V.        We must practice prayer for the communication of comfort. (v. 11)

Paul’s Corinthian Itinerary (4 letters, 3 visits)

 

50-52      Paul’s first visit in Corinth during his second missionary journey

52-53   Paul travels from Corinth to Ephesus, Caesarea, Jerusalem, Antioch in Syria, and                           Galatia/Phrygia, and finally arrives at Ephesus

53-55   Paul in Ephesus

            News from Corinth; Paul writes “Previous Letter” to Corinth (1Cor. 5:9)

            Titus in Corinth to establish the collection

News from Chloe’s people and from Stephanus bringing the letter from Corinth;    Paul writes 1Corinthians (borne by Timothy, Stephanus et al.?)

55        Timothy returns to Ephesus;

            Paul’s second (“painful” 2Cor. 2:1, 12:21-13:2) visit to Corinth (earlier than he                   had planned in 1Cor. 16:5-7 where he anticipated on one extended stay after                      going through Macedonia)

                        Due to the deteriorated condition of the church at that time he disclosed a                                     change of plans different from 1Cor. 16:5-7 where now he would return to                        Corinth directly before traveling to Macedonia, as well as seeing them                                   again on the way back (2Cor. 1:15-16)

            Back in Ephesus Paul sends Timothy and Erastus ahead to Macedonia

                        Upon his return to Ephesus Paul decides to abandon the new plan to                                   return to Corinth on the way to Macedonia because of the grief it would                               cause (2Cor. 1:23, 2:1) and reverts to the old plan of a single visit after                           Macedonia and decides to send a letter instead (2Cor. 2:3-4, 7:8-12)

            Paul, forced to leave Ephesus, dispatches Titus with the “Severe Letter” to                                     Corinth; he himself travels to Troas

            Paul in Macedonia is reunited with Timothy; ministry in churches

            Arrival of Titus; Paul writes 2Corinthians

            Evangelism in northwest Macedonia

56        Paul’s third visit in Corinth on third missionary journey; writes Romans

            Paul with the collection delegates departs for Jerusalem back through Macedonia

Big Question:

What must we understand about God’s ministry of grace?

God’s ministry of grace provides our only justifiable means and motive for any word and deed. (vv. 1:12-14)

God’s ministry of grace gives us a valid means of holy flexibility without loss of consistency. (vv. 1:15-22)

God’s ministry of grace has as its foundation an abiding sense of community. (vv. 1:23-2:4)

God’s ministry of grace to us becomes imperative toward his ministry of grace through us. (vv. 2:5-10)

God’s ministry of grace is diametrically opposed to Satan’s program.

(v. 2:11)

I.       Cycle One

          A.      Narrative (vv. 1:12-14)

          B.      Implication

God’s ministry of grace provides our only justifiable means and motive for any word and deed.

          C.      Illustration

Topic:  Honesty

   A son, who had gone to military service, wrote to his father: "I am sending you all my keys except the front-door key; some day when I get leave, I may walk in unexpectedly and give you a surprise." When the parents read the letter, they thought, "This is a good son. He has no secrets from us, nothing to hide, no bluebeard chamber that must not be entered, no forgotten corner where old shameful things lie. He knows himself and he trusts us. He gives us the run of all his affairs. He sends us all his keys. He knows us, too . He knows he will always be welcome; that he can always walk in without waiting; that he has full right of entry into his father's house. Our house is open to him, and his heart is open to us."

   Give God all your keys, and He will always give you access to Himself and all blessing.

   -- Donald Grey Barnhouse, Let Me Illustrate (Revell, 1967), p. 16.

          D.      Application

II.      Cycle Two

          A.      Narrative (vv. 1:15-22)

          B.      Implication

God’s ministry of grace gives us a valid means of holy flexibility without loss of consistency.

          C.      Illustration

We get inconsistent messages:

Should we publicly display the Ten Commandments or not?

Should I use the newspaper to preach illustrations or not?

Is the Bible really consistent when it gives messages like these?

         

“Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.” (Philippians 4:6 NIVUS)

“Besides everything else, I face daily the pressure of my concern for all the churches.” (2 Corinthians 11:28 NIVUS)

 

 “Be joyful always;” (1 Thessalonians 5:16 NIVUS)

 “Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn.” (Romans 12:15 NIVUS)

 

“always giving thanks to God the Father for everything, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.” (Ephesians 5:20 NIVUS)

 “I have great sorrow and unceasing anguish in my heart.” (Romans 9:2 NIVUS)

 

“But I tell you, Do not resist an evil person. If someone strikes you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also.” (Matthew 5:39 NIVUS)

“When you are persecuted in one place, flee to another. I tell you the truth, you will not finish going through the cities of Israel before the Son of Man comes.” (Matthew 10:23 NIVUS)

 

“And he passed in front of Moses, proclaiming, "The LORD, the LORD, the compassionate and gracious God, slow to anger, abounding in love and faithfulness,” (Exodus 34:6 NIVUS)

“Kiss the Son, lest he be angry and you be destroyed in your way, for his wrath can flare up in a moment. Blessed are all who take refuge in him.” (Psalms 2:12 NIVUS)

          Is God changeable or is he not?

“Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows.” (James 1:17 NIVUS)

 

“Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever.” (Hebrews 13:8 NIVUS)

 

“You will roll them up like a robe; like a garment they will be changed. But you remain the same, and your years will never end."” (Hebrews 1:12 NIVUS)

 

“25  In the beginning you laid the foundations of the earth, and the heavens are the work of your hands. 26  They will perish, but you remain; they will all wear out like a garment. Like clothing you will change them and they will be discarded. 27  But you remain the same, and your years will never end.” (Psalms 102:25-27 NIVUS)

 

“"I the LORD do not change. So you, O descendants of Jacob, are not destroyed.” (Malachi 3:6 NIVUS)

 

“God is not a man, that he should lie, nor a son of man, that he should change his mind. Does he speak and then not act? Does he promise and not fulfill?” (Numbers 23:19 NIVUS)

          Does God relent (repent AV) or does he not?

“Now reform your ways and your actions and obey the LORD your God. Then the LORD will relent and not bring the disaster he has pronounced against you.” (Jeremiah 26:13 NIVUS)

 

“"‘I the LORD have spoken. The time has come for me to act. I will not hold back; I will not have pity, nor will I relent. You will be judged according to your conduct and your actions, declares the Sovereign LORD.’"” (Ezekiel 24:14 NIVUS)

 

“Who knows? He may turn and have pity and leave behind a blessing— grain offerings and drink offerings for the LORD your God.” (Joel 2:14 NIVUS)

 

“Who knows? God may yet relent and with compassion turn from his fierce anger so that we will not perish."” (Jonah 3:9 NIVUS)

          Perhaps God is sovereignly free to “change plans” in order to carry          out grace ---

“1 ¶ As for you, you were dead in your transgressions and sins, 2  in which you used to live when you followed the ways of this world and of the ruler of the kingdom of the air, the spirit who is now at work in those who are disobedient. 3  All of us also lived among them at one time, gratifying the cravings of our sinful nature and following its desires and thoughts. Like the rest, we were by nature objects of wrath. 4 ¶ But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, 5  made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions— it is by grace you have been saved. 6  And God raised us up with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus, 7  in order that in the coming ages he might show the incomparable riches of his grace, expressed in his kindness to us in Christ Jesus.” (Ephesians 2:1-7 NIVUS)

          D.      Application

God is not inconsistent with his nature to give grace.

Topic:  Promises

   The wife of an undistinguished writer once approached French poet and dramatist Francois Coppee, a member of the French Academy, asking him to support her husband's candidacy for a place in the Academy.  "I beg you, vote for my husband," she pleaded.  "He'll die if he's not elected."  Coppee agreed, but the writer failed in his bid.  When another Academy seat became vacant a few months later the woman returned, hoping Coppee would be gracious and vote for her husband again.

   "Ah, no," he replied.  "I kept my promise but he did not keep his. I consider myself free of any obligation."

   We have to smile at the witty way Coppee avoided being forced into making a promise he didn't want to keep.  Thankfully, God did not need to be forced into making His great promise to save sinners who had no claim on His grace.

III.    Cycle Three

          A.      Narrative (vv. 1:23-2:4)

          B.      Implication

God’s ministry of grace has as its foundation an abiding sense of community.

          C.      Illustration

Topic:  Example

   "Nothing great," said Emerson, "was ever achieved without enthusiasm." In the delivery of a speech there is no quality more important than earnestness.

   As Phillips Brooks, one of the Yale lecturers on preaching, said, "Nothing but the fire kindles fire."

   Along this line William Jennings Bryan said, "Eloquence may be defined as the speech of one who knows what he is asking about, and means what he says -- it is thought on fire."

   Knowledge is of little use to the speaker without earnestness. Persuasiveness is from heart to heart, not from mind to mind. Nearly two thousand years ago, one of the Latin poets expressed this thought when he said, "If you would draw tears from others' eyes, yourself the signs of grief must show."

   -- Batsell Baxter, Speaking for the Master, Baker, 1954, p. 62.

          D.      Application

IV.    Cycle Four

 

          A.      Narrative (vv. 2:5-10)

          B.      Implication

God’s ministry of grace to us becomes imperative toward his ministry of grace through us.

          C.      Illustration

Title:  Being the Comforter

   One of our missionary kids was at boarding school, far away from her parents. She was a fifth grader, Heidi by name. And she wrote home to her parents:

   "My two first-grade roommates are fine. They gave me the biggest bear hug tonight. But I will explain one of my very hard nights. I'm homesick, Mom. I was woken up by loud laughing. Julie was laughing really hard; she'd flooded the bed. Aunt Janice changed the sheets. I'd just gone to sleep when Esther woke me up.

   "She was homesick. I got her to sleep finally. Then Julie woke me up, homesick, and I got her to sleep. And drifting off, I heard Julie crying again. She'd thrown up, and Aunt Janice was asleep, so I woke her up, and she had to turn on the light and change the sheets. I finally got to sleep.

   "Last night somebody woke me up so homesick that I crept into bed, and we held each other. Even though it's a pain sometimes, I like to be known as the comforter."

   Little Heidi, fifth grader, sang that little girl to sleep. She sang her a song because she knows what it is in fifth grade to wait on the Lord. The great music maker, who can give us a song to sing and the power and the will and the joy to sing it.

   -- Jill Briscoe, "Hanging Up Our Faith," Preaching Today, Tape No. 148.

          D.      Application

V.      Cycle Five

          A.      Narrative (v. 2:11)

          B.      Implication

God’s ministry of grace is diametrically opposed to Satan’s program.

          C.      Illustration

Forgiveness

A letter written to a man on death row by the Father of the man whom the man
on death row had killed:

You are probably surprised that I, of all people, am writing a letter to you, but I ask you to read it in its entirety and consider its request seriously. As the Father of the man whom you took part in murdering, I have something very important to say to you.

I forgive you. With all my heart, I forgive you. I realize it may be hard for you to believe, but I really do. At your trial, when you confessed to your part in the events that cost my Son his life and asked for my forgiveness, I immediately granted you that forgiving love from my heart. I can only hope you believe me and will accept my forgiveness.

But this is not all I have to say to you. I want to make you an offer -- I want you to become my adopted child. You see, my Son who died was my only child, and I now want to share my life with you and leave my riches to you. This may not make sense to you or anyone else, but I believe you are worth the offer. I have arranged matters so that if you will receive my offer of forgiveness, not only will you be pardoned for your crime, but you also will be set free from your imprisonment, and your sentence of death will be dismissed. At that point, you will become my adopted child and heir to all my riches.

I realize this is a risky offer for me to make to you -- you might be tempted to reject my offer completely -- but I make it to you without reservation.

Also, I realize it may seem foolish to make such an offer to one who cost my Son his life, but I now have a great love and an unchangeable forgiveness in my heart for you.

Finally, you may be concerned that once you accept my offer you may do something to cause you to be denied your rights as an heir to my wealth. Nothing could be further from the truth. If I can forgive you for your part in my Son's death, I can forgive you for anything. I know you never will be perfect, but you do not have to be perfect to receive my offer. Besides, I believe that once you have accepted my offer and begin to experience the riches that will come to you from me, that your primary (though not always) response will be gratitude and loyalty.

Some would call me foolish for my offer to you, but I wish for you to call me
your Father.

Sincerely, The Father of Jesus

Title:  Grace Greater than We Know

   Why do we call grace amazing? Grace is amazing because it works against the grain of common sense. Hard-nosed common sense will tell you that you are too wrong to meet the standards of a holy God; pardoning grace tells you that it's all right in spite of so much in you that is wrong.

   Realistic common sense tells you that you are too weak, too harassed, too human to change for the better; grace gives you power to send you on the way to being a better person.  Plain common sense may tell you that you are caught in a rut of fate or futility; grace promises that you can trust God to have a better tomorrow for you than the day you have made for yourself.

   -- Lewis Smedes in How Can It Be All Right When Everything Is All Wrong?  Christianity Today, Vol. 39, no. 13.

          D.      Application

Conclusion:

Big Answer:

What must we understand about God’s ministry of grace?

God’s ministry of grace provides our only justifiable means and motive for any word and deed. (vv. 1:12-14)

God’s ministry of grace gives us a valid means of holy flexibility without loss of consistency. (vv. 1:15-22)

God’s ministry of grace has as its foundation an abiding sense of community. (vv. 1:23-2:4)

God’s ministry of grace to us becomes imperative toward his ministry of grace through us. (vv. 2:5-10)

God’s ministry of grace is diametrically opposed to Satan’s program. (v. 2:11)

Timeless Truth:

God’s grace changes everything.

Have you been changed by grace? Is it your defining motive, your deliverance to freedom, your contract of connectedness, your validation of life purpose, your line of division?

Grace is the good will ministry of God that defies human reason and empowers the faith that brings salvation.

“8  For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith— and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— 9  not by works, so that no one can boast.” (Ephesians 2:8-9 NIVUS)

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