Lord, help us respect the amazing gift of the gospel by doing whatever we can to be respectable and honorable in our city. We know you have accepted us fully through Jesus, so teach us now to validate our faith in our everyday actions and lifestyles. In Jesus’ name, amen.
Read 2 Corinthians 6-8
2 Corinthians 6:3–7:1 Paul and Timothy realized their lifestyle choices either reinforced or destroyed the impact of God’s words, so they worked to develop godly character in all circumstances. Because believers are proved by their love, they opened their hearts to the Corinthians and asked them to reciprocate that care and trust. Paul warned believers about the foolishness of attaching their lives to unbelievers because God calls all believers out of their old identities into a new family, calling them “my people.” We have an obligation to honor the family name He’s shared with us by living His way.
Notice the “works” or right lifestyle discussed in 2 Corinthians 6:3–6. God doesn’t judge people based on how well they have lived. That said, believers do bring validity to their professions of faith through the way they approach their work and daily lives.
2 Corinthians 7:2–16 While Paul and Timothy suffered in Macedonia, they were encouraged as they heard about the Corinthians’ faithfulness, loyalty, and obedience. The Corinthians received the previous difficult letter with appropriate sorrow and earnest commitment to change. Their response proved their faith was genuine.
In God’s kingdom, confrontation is valuable when it proves our faith and results in a genuine desire to live God’s way. Paul risked upsetting the believers and knew his words would hurt them (7:8–9), but he valued the outcome more than their comfort.
2 Corinthians 8:1–15 The Macedonian believers, for whom Paul left the Corinthians, were living and growing in faith. They particularly exhibited a gift of giving, which Paul commended to the Corinthian church. Paul gave specific advice about how they could better view their money and learn to surrender it to God so that all the believers were equally provided for. He then encouraged Corinthian believers to give financially both to prove their love for the church and to make sure God’s resources were evenly distributed.
2 Corinthians 8:16–24 Paul and Timothy vouched for the life and character of the teachers they were sending to the Corinthians. These teachers had proven themselves and were eager to spend time with the Corinthian church. Since Paul and Timothy couldn’t visit themselves, they recommended Titus and the other teachers as Paul’s own colleagues. And meanwhile, Paul encouraged the Corinthians to show themselves to be above criticism in all areas of their work and life.
2 Corinthians 6:16-18
16 What agreement has the temple of God with idols? For we are the temple of the living God; as God said, ‘I will make my dwelling among them and walk among them, and I will be their God, and they shall be my people.17 Therefore go out from their midst, and be separate from them, says the Lord, and touch no unclean thing; then I will welcome you,18 and I will be a father to you, and you shall be sons and daughters to me, says the Lord Almighty.’
Paul and Timothy didn’t shy away from the dirty work of discipleship: confronting the Corinthians, pushing them to new levels of faith and obedience, and encouraging them to follow other believers’ examples.
- Are there ways you might need to be more open to instruction in your own discipleship or with your believing family? Are there people with whom you’re not willing to say something difficult, even though you know they need to hear it for their own growth?
- Paul seems concerned that believers be openhanded with their money and willing to give what they can to provide equally for everyone in their circles. Are there ways you or your fellow disciples could better share your resources to meet all needs equally?
- Do you receive great news about other believers’ faith as encouragement or as an attack on your self-esteem, comparing your “success” to others? Think through how this passage could be used to train new believers to learn to rejoice in others’ growth. Is there a way you and fellow disciples could regularly take time to notice, celebrate, and learn from each other’s faith and obedience?
- Read Leviticus 26:12, Jeremiah 32:38, Ezekiel 37:27, and Revelation 21:3. Thinking about your personal history and your city’s culture, what significance is there in calling a group “my people”? Think through how your friends and neighbors group themselves and what’s important for them as they identify with others: family name? place of birth? school? sports team? national loyalty? Then use similar terminology to discuss your identity in God’s kingdom.