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2 Corinthians 4:5-7

Treasure in Jars of Clay

5 For we preach not ourselves, but Christ Jesus the Lord; and ourselves your servants for Jesus' sake. 6 For God, who commanded the light to shine out of darkness, hath shined in our hearts, to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ. 7 But we have this treasure in earthen vessels, that the excellency of the power may be of God, and not of us.

Paul said that, if the gospel was hidden from them who were lost, it was because the god of this world had blinded them. This was said in defense of his ministry, and the passage that follows is the continuation of that defense.

"For we preach not ourselves..." Oh, that so many of the preachers today would understand this! How many of them are better known than the Savior in whom they claim to believe? How many have used the precious words of God to enrich themselves, while many of their followers and supporters have perished? The false teachers of Paul's day were no different. Paul, however was different.

He preached only, "Jesus Christ the Lord; and ourselves your servants for Jesus' sake." Christ is Lord, and Paul was nothing more than a servant. Christ was the only subject of his preaching. On many occasions Paul had claimed to be the servant of Jesus Christ, but here he lowers himself even further. He and the others who ministered with him were only servants of the people for "Jesus' sake." But, the Greek text does not say, "for Jesus' sake." There is nothing that anyone can do that will benefit Christ. Instead, it says, "through Jesus," or, "because of Jesus." This is explained in the next verse.

"For God, who commanded the light to shine out of darkness, hath shined in our hearts,.." This same God who said, "Let there be light," (Genesis 1:3) sent His Son, in whom was life and the life was the light of men, into the darkness of this world. That light shined in the hearts of Paul and of every other Christian who has ever experienced the new birth. All have sinned; all have lived in darkness, but the light of Christ has penetrated that darkness.

The purpose for this miraculous work of God is, "to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ." It illuminated the hearts and minds of those who received it so that they could understand and have the knowledge of the glory of God. Jesus was the very image of God. His glory was reflected in the face of our Savior, though many had failed to recognize it.

Albert Barnes wrote, "There is undoubted allusion here to what is said of Moses 2Co 3:13 when the divine glory was reflected on his face." There is a far greater glory reflected on the face of Jesus right now as He sits at the right hand of His Father in heaven. It was His sacrificial work on the cross that demonstrated the grace, mercy, infinite love and glory of God. Without His death, burial, and resurrection, man could not see the truth, could not have full knowledge of the glory of God.

"But we have this treasure in earthen vessels, that the excellency of the power may be of God, and not of us." The knowledge of the glory of God is a treasure. It is not just the understanding of some words written down in a book. It is the illuminated jewel of a previously unattainable relationship with Him, which we now have been freely given. Paul said that he and all Christians held this precious treasure in earthen vessels, in a body made of clay, so that there is a dramatic contrast. No one could mistake the fact that the power of the gospel comes from God and not from the jar of clay, which holds it. As John the Baptist said, "He must increase, but I must decrease," so was the intention of Paul and so should be the goal of every minister of the gospel.

Before The Throne:

Pray that God would continue to increase your knowledge of His glory. Ask Him to help you be a better servant who lets His light shine wherever you go. Confess that you are nothing but a Jar of Clay with the precious treasure of the gospel. Pray that He would increase and that you would decrease when you minister to others.

For Further Study:

** we. Matt 3:11; John 1:21-23; John 3:27-31; John 7:18; Acts 3:12-13; Acts 8:9-10; Acts 10:25-26; Acts 14:11-15; Rom 15:17-18; 1Cor 1:13-15; 1Cor 1:23; 1Cor 3:5-:6; 1Cor 10:33; Phil 1:15; 1Thess 2:5-6; Titus 1:11; 1Pet 5:2-5; 2Pet 2:3; ** Christ. 2Cor 1:19; Matt 23:8; Acts 2:36; Acts 5:31; Acts 10:36; Rom 14:8-9; 1Cor 1:23; 1Cor 2:2; 1Cor 8:6; 1Cor 12:3; 1Cor 15:47; Phil 2:11; ** and. 2Cor 1:24; 2Cor 5:14-15; Matt 20:25-27; Luke 22:25-26; John 13:14-15; Rom 15:1-2; 1Cor 9:19-23; Gal 5:13; 2Tim 2:10;

(v.6) ** who. Gen 1:3, 14-15; Ps 74:16; Ps 136:7-9; Isa 45:7; ** hath. Eph 1:17; Eph 5:8; 2Pet 1:19; ** the light. 2Cor 4:4; 2Cor 3:18; Exod 33:18-23; Exod 34:5-7; Ps 63:2; Ps 90:16; Isa 6:1-3; Isa 35:2; Isa 40:5; Isa 60:2; John 11:40; Acts 7:55-56; 1Pet 2:9; ** in the. Luke 10:22; John 1:14; John 12:41; John 14:9-10; Phil 2:6; Col 1:15; Heb 1:3; 1Pe 1:12;

(v.7) ** this. 2Cor 4:1; 2Cor 6:10; Matt 13:44, 52; Eph 3:8; Col 1:27; Col 2:3; ** in. 2Cor 5:1; 2Cor 10:10; Judg 7:13-14, 16-20; Lam 4:2; 1Cor 1:28; 1Cor 4:9-13; Gal 4:13-14; 2Ti 2:20; * that. 2Cor 3:5-6; 2Cor 12:7-9; 2Cor 13:4; 1Cor 2:3-5; Eph 1:19-20; Eph 2:5, 8-9; Col 2:12; 1Th 1:5;

2 Corinthians 4:3-4

The Hidden Gospel

3 But if our gospel be hid, it is hid to them that are lost: 4 In whom the god of this world hath blinded the minds of them which believe not, lest the light of the glorious gospel of Christ, who is the image of God, should shine unto them.

Paul's ministry was built upon the truth of the gospel, which was revealed in the hearts of men by the Spirit of God. Even though he had not used any of the suspicious devices that can be used to manipulate listeners and are typical of false teachers, even today, he acknowledges in this passage that the truth of the gospel could still be hidden from some. But it is not the gospel's fault. The flaw is not in the gospel, but in the hearts of men.

The concept of forgiveness and grace are not easily accepted by sinful men. The popular saying, "There is no such thing as a free lunch," reflects a natural skepticism that affects our spiritual ability to understand the gospel. When a crime is committed against us, we want immediate justice, not forgiveness and grace for the offender. In our minds, the law must be enforced, the offender must do something or pay some price to earn his freedom from the law's condemnation. Therefore, the idea that God could forgive anyone of their sins, that He could even sacrifice His only Son for those who have rebelled against Him without asking for anything in return, is beyond our understanding.

This is the veil that has been placed over the eyes of those who are lost. The god of this world has blinded their minds to the truth. He has corrupted them with skepticism, self-righteousness, anger and hatred. And the veil is very heavy and very dark.

The key to the good news is the identity of Jesus Christ, the very image of God, and His mission to become the passover lamb who would take away the sins of the world. "In him was life; and the life was the light of men. And the light shineth in darkness; and the darkness comprehended it not." (John 1:4-5) He is Life and the Word of truth that shines a glorious light on the infinite love that God has for His creation, but the light does not penetrate the veil, which Satan, the god of this world, has place over their minds.

It is the Holy Spirit who lifts that veil and allows the light to shine. Without Him, men remain blinded to the good news that there is mercy and grace for everyone who receives the Son as Lord and Savior. "He that hath the Son hath life; and he that hath not the Son of God hath not life." (1 John 5:12)

Thousands of people, blinded by the god of this world, are perishing, even as you read this message. Even though they hear the gospel, it does not penetrate the darkness. It is not the work of the preacher to make the gospel efficacious. Only God in the person of the Holy Spirit can do that, and we must preach it with the faith and knowledge that the word of God never returns to Him void. It always accomplishes His purpose.

Before The Throne:

The gospel is just a bunch of foolish words to men. Pray that the Holy Spirit will lift the veil from the minds of those with whom you are sharing the good news. Ask God to allow them to see the glorious light of salvation. Praise Him for the work He has done in you and pray that He will continue.

For Further Study:

** our. Rom 2:16; 1Thess 1:5; 1Tim 1:11; ** it is. 2Cor 4:4; 2Cor 2:15; 2Cor 2:16; 2Cor 3:14; Matt 11:25; 1Cor 1:18; 2Thess 2:9-11;

(v.4) ** the god. Matt 4:8; Matt 4:9; John 12:31; John 12:40; John 14:30; John 16:11; 1Cor 10:20; Eph 2:2; Eph 6:12; 1Jo 5:19; ** Gr: Rev 20:2; Rev 20:3; ** blinded. 2Cor 3:14; 1Kgs 22:22; Isa 6:10; John 12:40; ** test. 2Cor 4:6; 2Cor 3:8; 2Cor 3:9; 2Cor 3:11; 2Cor 3:18; John 8:12; John 12:35; Acts 26:18; Col 1:27; 1Tim 1:11; Tit 2:13; ** the image. John 1:14; John 1:18; John 12:45; John 14:9; John 14:10; John 15:24; Phil 2:6; Col 1:15; Heb 1:3; ** shine. 2Cor 4:6; Ps 50:2; Isa 60:1; Isa 60:2; 2Pet 1:19; 1John 2:8;

2 Corinthians 4:1-2

The Gift of Ministry

1 Therefore seeing we have this ministry, as we have received mercy, we faint not; 2 But have renounced the hidden things of dishonesty, not walking in craftiness, nor handling the word of God deceitfully; but by manifestation of the truth commending ourselves to every man's conscience in the sight of God.

Paul now returns to the discussion that he had begun in 3:12, i.e. the open and bold way in which he preached. He is still concerned about the charges of insincerity that had been leveled at him. In 3:6, he had said that he was a minister of the gospel, not of the letter of the Law but of the Spirit. This ministry under the new covenant was much more glorious than that of the old.

"Therefore having this ministry, even as we received mercy,.." The ministry was not his own, but was given to him in the same way that he had received the mercy of God's forgiveness. It was an unearned and undeserved gift. The ministry of the gospel was glorious in what it was able to accomplish in the hearts of men. "For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ: for it is the power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth; to the Jew first, and also to the Greek." (Romans 1:16)

"Therefore... we faint not." The recognition by Paul of the importance and power of the ministry that had been granted to him served as his motivation to keep going. It seems that he wanted others to see that he did not continue in the work for his own sake, but because of the significance of the gospel itself.

"But have renounced the hidden things..." The pagan religions had many hidden secrets, because they were based on trickery and deceit. Charles Hodge, however, believed that Paul was implying that the devices in the list that follows were the devices of the false teachers within the church. These were devices that Paul had sworn off and would have nothing to do with them.

"of dishonesty..." The Greek word, αἰσχύνη aischune (ai-skhoo'-nay), meaning shame, disgrace, dishonor or dishonesty, and comes from a root that means, "ugly," or, "filthy." So it was something that was abhorrent to Paul and was renounced by him, but apparently practiced by his opposition.

"...not walking in craftiness,.." Paul did not employ any subtleties in his work. The serpent in the Garden of Eden was the most subtle of God's creatures. Such were those men who used their own devices to impress others and gain their allegiance. Craftiness is not a skill that a minister of the new covenant would want to have, nor is it one that he needs.

"...nor handling the word of God deceitfully;" This refers to the adulteration, corruption, or falsifying of the word of God. It is certain that the false teachers did that back in Paul's day, because they still are doing it today much more frequently, and there are many more of them. Paul had warned the Ephesian elders of this very thing. "For I know this, that after my departing shall grievous wolves enter in among you, not sparing the flock. Also of your own selves shall men arise, speaking perverse things, to draw away disciples after them." (Acts 20:29-30)

In contrast to these cunning and deceitful devices of the false teachers, Paul says that he performed his ministry "by manifestation of the truth commending ourselves to every man's conscience in the sight of God." Charles Hodge wrote that the truth mentioned here "is not moral truth or integrity, nor truth in general, but revealed truth, i.e. the word of God." The word of God works on the hearts of men as He reveals Himself through it to them. When this happens the minister of God is commended and needs no other commendation. Men know that he speaks the truth.

Before The Throne:

Give God the praise and thanks that He deserves for providing us with the word of truth. Thank Him for those who have ministered to you relying only on the manifestation of the truth and not on cunning and deceit. Ask Him to help you grow in grace and knowledge so that you will be better equipped to minister in the same godly manner to others.

For Further Study:

** seeing. 2Cor 3:6, 12; 2Cor 5:18; Eph 3:7-8; as. 1Cor 7:25; 1Tim 1:13; 1Pet 2:10; ** we faint not. 2Cor 4:16; Isa 40:30; Gal 6:9; Eph 3:13; Phil 4:13; 2Thess 3:13; Heb 12:3; Rev 2:3;

(v.2) ** renounced. 1Co 4:5;
dishonesty. or, shame. Rom 1:16; Rom 6:21; Eph 5:12; ** not. 2Cor 1:12; 2Cor 2:17; 2Cor 11:3-6, 13-15; Eph 4:14; 1Thess 2:3-5; ** by. 2Cor 5:11; 2Cor 6:4-7; 2Cor 7:14;

2 Corinthians 3:17-18

In The Looking Glass

17 Now the Lord is that Spirit: and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty. 18 But we all, with open face beholding as in a glass the glory of the Lord, are changed into the same image from glory to glory, even as by the Spirit of the Lord.

By "Lord," Paul is referring to Jesus Christ. In the previous verse he had said that when the heart turns to the Lord (Jesus), the vail that is hiding the mysteries of the gospel from men would be taken away. "Now, Jesus is that Spirit." He is the Spirit who gives life, the Spirit who gives all Christians their freedom from the letter of the Law. He is the Spirit who gave Paul the ability to minister and the freedom to speak out plainly, clearly, boldly and without fear of reprisals.

"...and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty." C.H. Spurgeon began a sermon on this passage by speaking about how it was by the Spirit of the Lord that religious leaders had gained freedom for the people of Great Britain. But then he spoke the following powerful words: "But the liberty of the text is no such freedom as this—it is an infinitely greater and better one! Great as civil or religious liberty may be, the liberty of my text transcendently exceeds. There is a liberty, dear Friends, which Christian men and women, alone, enjoy. For even in Great Britain there are men who taste not the sweet air of liberty. There are some who are afraid to speak as men, who have to cringe and fawn, bow and stoop. They have no will of their own, no principles, no voice, no courage and who cannot stand erect in conscious independence! He is the free man, whom the Truth makes free. He who has Divine Grace in his heart is free, he cares for no one. He has right upon his side. He has God within him—the indwelling Spirit of the Holy Spirit. He is a prince of the blood royal of Heaven. He is a noble, having the true patent of nobility. He is one of God's elect, distinguished, chosen children. He is not the man to bend, or meanly cringe. No! Sooner would he walk the burning furnace with Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego—sooner would he be cast into the lion's den with Daniel, than yield a point in principle. He is a free man. "Where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty" in its fullest, highest and widest sense! " (C.H. Spurgeon Sermons - 2Cor 3,17 #9 - Spiritual Liberty; theWord Bible Study Software)

Such liberty can neither be understood nor appreciated until the heart of a man turns to Jesus Christ and the vail that blinds him is removed. The Truth that shall make you free is none other than Jesus Christ our Lord.

"But we all, with open face..." This liberty is not limited to the ministers of the gospel nor only to the apostles. It is available to all who, "with unveiled face," see the truth. It applies to every man, woman and child whole heart is turned to the Lord Jesus. "...beholding as in a glass the glory of the Lord," We see the glory of Christ in His gospel by which He performs a miraculous transformation of our very souls. We "are changed into the same image from glory to glory." As though we were looking in a mirror, the image of God is reflected back upon us.

There are some who might believe that this contradicts Paul's earlier statement in 1Corinthians 13:12 "For now we see through a glass, darkly; but then face to face: now I know in part; but then shall I know even as also I am known." This is what Paul meant by the idea of beng changed "from glory to glory." The image of God is reflected back more and more clearly as we grow and mature in His grace. The full and complete knowledge of the Lord will only be known when we meet Him and are changed to be like Him.

Before The Throne:

Pray for the veil to be removed from the eyes of your friends and family who do not believe. Pray for the Spirit of the Lord to return to our nation so that liberty for all can be maintained. Ask the Lord to deal with those who are using the power of their political offices to suppress our freedom of religion. Pray for your own spiritual growth.

For Further Study:

** the Lord. 2Cor 3:6; John 6:63; 1Cor 15:45; ** where. Ps 51:12; Isa 61:1; Rom 8:2, 15-16; Gal 4:6; 2Tim 1:7;

(v.18) ** as in. 1Cor 13:12; Jas 1:23; ** the glory. 2Cor 4:4, 6; John 1:14; John 12:41; 1Tim 1:11; ** are. 2Cor 5:17; Rom 8:29; Rom 12:2; Rom 13:14; 1Cor 15:49; Gal 6:15; Eph 4:22-24; Col 3:10; Titus 3:5; 2Pet 1:5-9; ** from. Rom 8:4, 7:

2 Corinthians 3:13-16

The Veil Is Gone

13 And not as Moses, which put a vail over his face, that the children of Israel could not stedfastly look to the end of that which is abolished: 14 But their minds were blinded: for until this day remaineth the same vail untaken away in the reading of the old testament; which vail is done away in Christ. 15 But even unto this day, when Moses is read, the vail is upon their heart. 16 Nevertheless when it shall turn to the Lord, the vail shall be taken away.

When Moses came down from Sinai with the Law, his face had a radiance that the people could not look at. "And when Aaron and all the children of Israel saw Moses, behold, the skin of his face shone; and they were afraid to come nigh him... And till Moses had done speaking with them, he put a vail on his face." (Exodus 34:30, 33) Reading this passage naturally makes one think that the purpose of the veil was to shield the people of Israel from the bright glow of Moses face, and that is true. However, Paul now reveals a second and more significant reason for the veil.

He said that the purpose of the veil was, "that the children of Israel could not stedfastly look to the end of that which is abolished." There are several ways that this can be understood. While there can be only one true meaning, commentators have not agreed on it, but several interpretations seen to lead to basically the same conclusion. Some say that since Jesus is the end of the Law, the veil represented the fact that the people could not see Him as the end. Even in Paul's generation, when the Jews read Moses the veil was still there preventing them from seeing the whole truth. But, in Luke 24:27, we read, "And beginning at Moses and all the prophets, he (Jesus) expounded unto them in all the scriptures the things concerning himself." They had been blinded to the complete truth of those scriptures.

Others have interpreted this to mean that the veil concealed the glory of Moses' face, which represented the glory of the old covenant. That glory was fading, and the veil kept the people from seeing it fade. The old covenant was being replaced by the new. When Jesus died on the cross, the veil in the temple was completely torn and the holiest place was revealed. It was now possible to look behind the veil and see the end of that which was being abolished.

Now, when Paul wrote in verse 13, "And not as Moses," he was referring to his own claim in verse 12 to have spoken boldly. He did not cover up the fact that the former glory of the Law was abolished and replaced with the glory of the New Testament. There was no more veil. Christ had taken it away.

"But even unto this day, when Moses is read, the vail is upon their heart." The truth was still obscured. They could read Moses, but all they saw were the restrictions of the law, the burdens that it laid upon them and the condemnation for violating it. They cherished its glory, because it came from God. Yet, it could not save them.

"Nevertheless when it shall turn to the Lord, the vail shall be taken away." When the heart turns to the Lord Jesus Christ the veil that covers the truth is taken away. You shall know the truth and the truth shall set you free.

The veil is not only present in the hearts of the Jews; it is also obscuring the truth for the Gentiles. Every religion in existence requires that works be done according to some set of religious laws. They are not the same as the Mosaic Law, but they nevertheless keep the people from seeing the end of that which was abolished. When their hearts turn to Christ, the veil will be lifted, but how shall this happen, unless someone tells them about Him?

Before The Throne:

Pray for the removal of the veil from the hearts of the people whom God places in your life. Ask the Lord to let them see beyond to the freedom that is in Christ Jesus. Thank Him for removing the veil from your eyes and ask Him to use you to let people see the truth of His gospel.

For Further Study:

** which. Ex 34:33-35; ** could not. 18; ** to the. Rom 10:4; Gal 3:23-24; Eph 2:14-15; Col 2:17; Heb 10:1-9;

(v.14) ** their. 2Cor 4:3-4; Ps 69:23; Isa 6:10; Isa 26:10-12; Isa 42:18-20; Isa 44:18; Isa 56:10; Isa 59:10; Jer 5:21; Ezek 12:2; Matt 6:23; Matt 13:11, 13-15; John 9:39-41; John 12:40; Acts 28:26-27; Rom 11:7-10; 25; ** which vail. 2Cor 4:6; Isa 25:7; Matt 16:17; Luke 18:31-34; Luke 24:25-27, 44-46; John 8:12; John 12:46; Acts 16:14; Acts 26:18; Eph 1:17-20;

(v.15) ** the vail. Ac 13:27-29;

(v.16) ** when. Exod 34:34; Deut 4:30; Deut 30:10; Lam 3:40; Hos 3:4-5; Rom 11:25-27; ** the vail. Isa 25:7; Isa 29:18; Isa 54:13; Jer 31:34; John 6:45-46;

2 Corinthians 3:12

Spoken Out of Hope

12 Seeing then that we have such hope, we use great plainness of speech:

In the fourth verse of this chapter, Paul had declared that he had such trust, or confidence both in the gospel that he preached and in his sufficiency to minister it, because Christ had given him both the word and the ability to preach it. Then, he went on to compare the ministry of the Old Testament, the Law of Moses, which he called the ministration of death, to his ministry of the New Testament gospel, which he called the ministration of the Spirit and said that it leads to life.

"Seeing then that we have such hope..." Albert Barnes took the time in his comments on this verse to explain the difference between hope and expectation. He explained that hope consists of both a desire for a thing and the expectation that you will receive it. On the other hand, a person might expect something, such as an approaching storm, but not desire it. Paul had hope.

What was this hope of which he spoke? It was the hope that is found in the gospel itself, the hope that God's grace has granted us the forgiveness of sins, a reconciliation with Him and eternal life. It was the ministration not of men, not of law, but of the Holy Spirit. (2 Corinthians 3:8) Paul's hope was founded in the fact that the gospel he preached was one that assured the believer of his justification and acceptance before God as one who is righteous. (2 Corinthians 3:9). Finally, it was the hope that this new covenant was an everlasting one. It would not be done away as was the old covenant. (2 Corinthians 3:11)

"...we use great plainness of speech." The Greek word παρῥησία parrhesia (par-rhay-see'-ah) means, "1. all outspokenness, i.e. frankness, bluntness, publicity; 2. (by implication) assurance." Confidence in his calling and the source of his ability combined with the hope that is the gospel of Christ gave Paul the boldness to speak out both in preaching or in reproving the Corinthian Christians.

It was true that he spoke plainly, "And my speech and my preaching was not with enticing words of man's wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power:" (1 Corinthians 2:4) He did not use words that would appeal to their logic or that were designed to excite their emotions. He spoke plainly and, in doing so, the power of the Holy Spirit was demonstrated as his words impacted the audience.

However, Paul was also bold and blunt in his speech. The word of God is powerful. It is the power of God unto salvation, and we should never be timid when we have the opportunity to proclaim it. "Great is my boldness of speech toward you, great is my glorying of you: I am filled with comfort, I am exceeding joyful in all our tribulation." (2 Corinthians 7:4)

Before The Throne:

Pray for God to give you confidence in your ministry. Ask Him to help you stand on the hope that is contained in the gospel to be bold in its proclamation. Pray for Him to go before you and to open the hearts and understanding of those with whom you share the message of His love. Ask Him to make you an example for others to see what Christ can do.

For Further Study:

we use. 2Cor 4:2-3, 13; John 10:24; John 16:25, 29; 1Cor 14:19; Col 4:4; plainness. or, boldness. 2Cor 7:4; 2Cor 10:1; Acts 4:13, 29-31; Acts 9:27, 29; Acts 14:3; Eph 6:19-20; Phil 1:20; 1Thess 2:2; 1Tim 3:13;

2 Corinthians 3:9-11

The Glory of Righteousness

9 For if the ministration of condemnation be glory, much more doth the ministration of righteousness exceed in glory. 10 For even that which was made glorious had no glory in this respect, by reason of the glory that excelleth. 11 For if that which is done away was glorious, much more that which remaineth is glorious.

"The ministration of condemnation" is not a phrase that we hear used very often, even within Christian circles. It refers to the Law of Moses. The ministration of the law had never been seen as a ministry of condemnation, but one of glory. John Gill wrote, "So the Jews call the law, for they say, 'there is no glory but the law.'" Perhaps there was no more glorious event in history before the advent of Christ than the giving of the law and the confirmation of the covenant with Israel at Mount Sinai. There was no more glorious office in Israel's history than to be someone who ministered under the law.

However, the law condemned all men. The law makes no provision for pardon or mercy. "Whosoever committeth sin transgresseth also the law: for sin is the transgression of the law." (1 John 3:4) All have sinned and the penalty for sin is death. There are no exceptions written into the law... no escape clauses. All men are equal under the law and all are guilty under it and condemned by it. The ministration of the law, as glorious as it may be, is therefore the ministration of condemnation.

And, says Paul, the ministration of righteousness must, by definition, exceed in glory. This is not about the righteousness of men, for they have none. It is the righteousness of Christ that is ministered under this new covenant. Through His suffering and death, justice has been satisfied. He was without sin but suffered the condemnation of the law in order to satisfy its demand for justice. The debt is paid for each of us who have faith in what He did. He has removed our guilt. He has covered us in His righteousness and has saved us from the condemnation of the law. Righteousness is much more glorious than condemnation.

"For even that which was made glorious had no glory in this respect, by reason of the glory that excelleth." The Law was glorious. It had a divine origin, having been written by the very finger of the Almighty. It declared His will and presented the precepts by which He expected all men to live. Its perfection was beyond debate.

However, the gospel also proceeded from God. It provided justice plus everything that the law lacked... i.e. mercy and grace. It was not written on stone tablets, but on the hearts of men with the precious blood of God's only begotten Son. How much more glorious it is to be under the gospel of grace rather than under the law of condemnation! There is no comparison.

"For if that which is done away was glorious, much more that which remaineth is glorious." Part of the law, particularly the ten commandments, had a moral basis, while the greater portion of it was ceremonial. Jesus was the fulfillment of all the ceremonial laws. These are explained in Hebrews 10:1, "For the law having a shadow of good things to come, and not the very image of the things, can never with those sacrifices which they offered year by year continually make the comers thereunto perfect." The ceremonial laws were all centered around types, or shadows, of Christ, but never the very image of Him. The moral laws. on the other hand, continue to reign in the heart of the Christian.

But the law no longer has a grip on the Christian who is under the gospel of grace. Since it can no longer condemn, is has been done away, and the Christian is free. Only the ministration of righteousness remains and, therefore, Paul declares that it must be the more glorious of the two.

Before The Throne:

This week we will celebrate Thanksgiving. Can there be anything more worthy of our thanks than Christ's sacrifice to obtain our freedom from the condemnation of the law? Thank Him for allowing you to have a role in the ministration of righteousness. Pray for the opportunity to share what you have learned about the gospel and what you have experienced by your conversion.

For Further Study:

** the ministration of condemnation. Exod 19:12-19; Exod 20:18-19; Rom 1:18; Rom 8:3-4; Gal 3:10; Heb 12:18-21; ** the ministration of righteousness. 2Cor 5:21; Isa 46:13; Jer 23:6; Rom 1:17; Rom 3:21-22; Rom 4:11; Rom 5:15-21; Rom 10:3-10; 1Cor 1:30; Gal 5:4-5; Phil 3:9; 2Pet 1:1; ** exceed. 1Cor 15:41; Heb 3:5; Heb 3:6;

(v.10) ** had. Job 25:5; Isa 24:23; Hag 2:3, 7-9; Acts 26:13; Phil 3:7-8; 2Pet 1:17; Rev 21:23-24; Rev 22:5;

(v.11) ** if. Rom 5:20-21; Heb 7:21-25; Heb 8:13; Heb 12:25-29; ** much. 2Cor 4:1;

2 Corinthians 3:7-8

A Better Covenant

7 But if the ministration of death, written and engraven in stones, was glorious, so that the children of Israel could not stedfastly behold the face of Moses for the glory of his countenance; which glory was to be done away: 8 How shall not the ministration of the spirit be rather glorious?

In the previous verse, Paul had referred to the Mosaic Law as "the letter," saying that the letter kills, and to the new covenant as being of the Spirit, saying that the Spirit gives life.

"But if the ministration of death..." By "death," he means the Mosaic Law, the letter of that law. And, "ministration" comes from the Greek διακονία diakonia (dee-ak-on-ee'-ah), the word from which we get the English word "deacon." It often means, "service, minister, attendance to a duty, or office." In this case, it seems to represent all of the ministerial offices under the old covenant.

"...written and engraven in stones, was glorious,.." The Law was written on stone tablets by God and delivered to Israel by Moses. The offices of the priests and Levites who attended to the Law were glorious positions, which placed those ministers in a close relationship to God whose shekinah glory dwelt in the very tabernacle where they served. They were ordained and anointed to serve in their positions by performing a ritual cleansing, by donning special garments and with a great deal of ceremonial grandeur.

" that the children of Israel could not stedfastly behold the face of Moses for the glory of his countenance;" After God had written the Ten Commandments on the tablets of stone, Moses returned from the top of Sinai, "And when Aaron and all the children of Israel saw Moses, behold, the skin of his face shone; and they were afraid to come nigh him... And till Moses had done speaking with them, he put a vail on his face." (Exodus 34:30, 33) So important, so glorious was the service of Moses and the other servants of Jehovah, that Moses' face shined so brightly after being in the presence of God and receiving the law, that no one could look at him.

"...which glory was to be done away:" As wonderful as the law was and as wonderful as it was to be one of those who administered it, it could not save God's people. The law could not bring men into a right relationship with God. Instead, it condemned them. Eventually it would have to be done away, and replaced with a new covenant, one that could save.

"How shall not the ministration of the spirit be rather glorious?" How much more glorious is it to serve in ministering the new covenant, which is written on the hearts of men by the Spirit of God? If the ministration of the law only led to death and was temporary, how much more glorious is it to be enabled by God to offer life to all men?

The Law of Moses is not the only religious system that leads to death. It was not an evil law, but a holy one given by God for mankind's benefit. It is man who is evil. However, there are literally hundreds of false religions and philosophies that are intended for evil and that will result in certain judgment and condemnation. Do not be deceived. Jesus is the only way, the only truth and the only source of eternal life.

Before The Throne:

Praise God today for making life available to you through Jesus Christ. Thank Him for setting you free from the condemnation of sin. Ask Him to make you a part of the glorious administration of the gospel.

For Further Study:

** the ministration. Rom 7:10; ** written. Exod 24:12; Exod 31:18; Exod 32:15-16, 19; Exod 34:1, 28; Deut 4:13; Deut 5:22; Deut 9:9-11, 15; Deut 10:1-4; Heb 9:4; ** was. Deut 4:8; Neh 9:13; Ps 19:7-8; Ps 119:97, 127-128, 174; Rom 7:12-14; Rom 7:22; Ge 3:21; ** that. Exod 34:29-35; Luke 9:29-31; Acts 6:15; ** which. 2Cor 3:10-11, 14; Rom 10:4; 1Cor 13:10;

(v.8 ) ** the ministration. 2Cor 3:17; 2Cor 11:4; Isa 11:2; Isa 44:3; Isa 59:21; Joel 2:28-29; John 1:17; John 7:39; Acts 2:17-18, 32, 33; Rom 8:9-16; 1Cor 3:16; 1Cor 12:4-11; Gal 3:2-5; Gal 3:14; Gal 5:5, 22-23; Eph 2:18; 2Thess 2:13; 1Pet 1:2; Jude 1:19-20;

2 Corinthians 3:6

Ministry of Life

6 Who also hath made us able ministers of the new testament; not of the letter, but of the spirit: for the letter killeth, but the spirit giveth life.

Paul is very careful to explain that it was God who hade him an effective minister of the New Testament. He does not want anyone to believe that he is boasting of his own abilities. The same Greek word that was translated as "sufficient: and "sufficiency" is here translated as "made us able." The emphasis is on the sufficiency of their ministry having been received from God.

"The New Testament" is the new covenant, which was based on the shed blood of Jesus (Luke 27:20), in contrast to the old covenant founded in the Law of Moses and based on the shed blood of animals. It was the new covenant by which God provided a way for our salvation and is now mankind's only hope.

"...not of the letter, but of the spirit:" The letter refers to the letter of the law. It was an external principle by which men were to live. Those who tried to live by it mostly only made an outward show of righteousness. The Spirit, on the other hand, represents the new covenant which is written on the hearts of men. Those who live by it have an inner righteousness born of the blood of Christ's sacrifice.

"...for the letter killeth," When writing to the Romans, Paul said, "...the law worketh wrath: for where no law is, there is no transgression... For I was alive without the law once: but when the commandment came, sin revived, and I died. And the commandment, which was ordained to life, I found to be unto death." (Romans 4:15; 7:9-10 ) The written law of God was perfect and would be the pathway to life, if the people obeyed... but they could not. They lived, therefore, with the expectation of a future condemnation. "Cursed be he that confirmeth not all the words of this law to do them. And all the people shall say, Amen." (Deuteronomy 27:26)

"...but the spirit giveth life." The gift of the Spirit is God's perfect grace. All those who are born of the Spirit have the new covenant written upon their hearts. "For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life."

Paul, therefore, was made an able minister of the new covenant by God. His ministry was one that offered life to those who were dying in their sins.

As a born again Christian, God has given you the same sufficiency for ministry as Paul had. "Ye also, as lively stones, are built up a spiritual house, an holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices, acceptable to God by Jesus Christ." (1Peter 2:5) How will you use that opportunity to serve Him?

Before The Throne:

Ask God to affirm in you that you have the ability to minister to others. You probably will not be used in the same way that Paul was used, but you nevertheless have the ability to present the gospel and to offer life to the dying world around you. Pray that God will show you where and how you are to do that.

For Further Study:

** hath. 2Cor 5:18-20; Matt 13:52; Rom 1:5; 1Cor 3:5, 10; 1Cor 12:28; Eph 3:7; Eph 4:11-12; Col 1:25-29; 1Tim 1:11-12; 1Tim 4:6; 2Tim 1:11; ** the new. 2Cor 3:14; Jer 31:31; Matt 26:28; Mark 14:24; Luke 22:20; 1Cor 11:25; Heb 7:22; Heb 8:6-10; Heb 9:15-20; Heb 12:24; Heb 13:20; ** not. Rom 2:27-29; Rom 7:6; ** for. 2Cor 3:7, 9; Deut 27:26; Rom 3:20; Rom 4:15; Rom 7:9-11; Gal 3:10-12, 3:21; ** but the. John 6:63; Rom 8:2; 1John 1:1; ** giveth life. John 5:21; Rom 4:17; 1Cor 15:45; Eph 2:1, 5; 1Pet 3:18;

2 Corinthians 3:3-5

Written on Hearts

3 Forasmuch as ye are manifestly declared to be the epistle of Christ ministered by us, written not with ink, but with the Spirit of the living God; not in tables of stone, but in fleshy tables of the heart. 4 And such trust have we through Christ to God-ward: 5 Not that we are sufficient of ourselves to think any thing as of ourselves; but our sufficiency is of God;

The third verse is part of the sentence begun in the previous verse. It should read, "Ye are our epistle written in our hearts, known and read of all men: being manifestly declared that ye are Christ's epistle, having been ministered by us, etc."

As the world around them became aware of the good work that God had done among them, it would be continuously revealed that they were Christ's letter to the rest of the world. Their conversion could only be attributed to the work of Christ.

"...ministered by us." Paul and his companions were only servants of Christ who served Him by bringing the gospel to Corinth. The resulting conversions were the evidence that Paul was the real thing, a servant of Christ and not a false teacher like his accusers. Paul claimed no credit for what happened in Corinth, only that Christ used him to do a great work there.

"...written not with ink, but with the Spirit of the living God;" Ink will fade with time or be smudged and made illegible by handling or by exposure to the elements. Words written in ink are just the meaningless words of men. "...yea, let God be true, but every man a liar;" The false teachers may have come to Corinth with letters written in ink, but what good did those commendations serve? Paul's commendation came in the form of an epistle written by the Holy Spirit whose work does not fade with time or suffer damage by men. This epistle is an eternal one.

"...not in tables of stone, but in fleshy tables of the heart." Perhaps some of Paul's detractors were Jews who were insisting on the legalisms of the Mosaic law and the traditions. The law of Moses was, of course, inscribed on stone tablets by the hand of God. This was their proof of divine commendation for their teachings. Paul seems to have been comparing that to the prophecy of Jeremiah 31:33 "But this shall be the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel; After those days, saith the LORD, I will put my law in their inward parts, and write it in their hearts; and will be their God, and they shall be my people." Stone tablets can be broken or lost, but that which is written on the heart lasts forever.

It was in these facts that Paul had placed such confidence, or trust, through Christ, in God. It was through Christ that he was able to do anything at all. So he concludes the paragraph with, "Not that we are sufficient of ourselves to think any thing as of ourselves; but our sufficiency is of God." In other words, they had no ability of their own except what God would grant to them, and they did not claim to have any.

Before The Throne:

Is God working through you in a way similar to Paul? Paul was a tentmaker by trade. You might be a mechanic, a cashier, an accountant, a manager or of any other vocation. God can use you. Ask Him to write His epistle on your heart and to help you be the letter that others can read. Pray for Him to guide you as you begin a new life of service to Him.

For Further Study:

** the epistle. Exod 31:18; Rev 2:1, 8, 12; Rev 2:18; Rev 3:1, 7, 14, 22; ** ministered. 1Co 8:5-10; ** the living. 2Cor 6:16; Josh 3:10; 1Sam 17:26; Ps 42:2; Ps 84:2; Jer 10:10; Dan 6:26; Matt 16:16; 1Thess 1:9; Heb 9:14; ** not. Exod 24:12; Exod 34:1; ** but. Ps 40:8; Jer 31:33; Ezek 11:19; Ezek 36:25-27; Heb 8:10; Heb 10:16;

(v.4) ** such. 2Cor 2:14; Phil 1:6; ** God-ward. Exod 18:19; 1Thess 1:8

(v.5) ** that. 2Cor 2:16; 2Cor 4:7, 10; John 15:5; ** but. 2Cor 12:9; Exod 4:11-16; Jer 1:6-10; Matt 10:19-20; Luke 21:15; Luke 24:49; 1Cor 3:6, 10; 1Cor 15:10; Phil 2:13; Phil 4:13; Jas 1:17;

2 Corinthians 3:1-2

Letters of Commendation

1 Do we begin again to commend ourselves? or need we, as some others, epistles of commendation to you, or letters of commendation from you? 2 Ye are our epistle written in our hearts, known and read of all men:

Paul's thoughts were conflicted as he wrote this epistle. He was excited about what God was doing in Corinth and loved the people there, while, at the same time, he knew that there were some false teachers who had gained access to the church and who would twist everything he said to his disadvantage. Thus, he was forced to assume that his comments in 2:14-17 would sound like he was bragging about himself.

It is also evident that those false teachers had gained access to the church by presenting some sort of letters of recommendation. That seems to be the basis for the two questions with which he begins this chapter.

"Do we begin again to commend ourselves?" He had been accused of boasting previously, so he asks, "Are we doing it again?" The question seems to have a bit of sarcasm in it.

"...or need we, as some others, epistles of commendation to you, or letters of commendation from you?" This refers to the fact that the false teachers among them had used letters of recommendation to gain access. What benefit did those letters have, if the ones who bore them were not as had been represented? Paul wanted to know whether he needed to present the same worthless sort of recommendations in order to be believed.

"Ye are our epistle written in our hearts," Paul was probably speaking in the first person plural, because he believed Timothy and the others who were with him would agree, but he was definitely expressing what was in his own heart. He was the one who had been accused by the false teachers. It was the power of the gospel, working through the efforts of Paul, that had converted the people and founded the church in Corinth. This was the only recommendation that Paul needed to be certain that Christ was working through him. It was a letter of commendation that he carried in his heart.

"...known and read of all men:" The planting of the church in Corinth, a city that was so absorbed in pagan worship and materialism, was something that would become widely known. It was a letter that would be read by all, even today. It was the more than a letter of commendation; it was the evidence of God's work through Paul; and it was the good fruit of which Jesus spoke.

Jesus warned about false prophets and said, "Ye shall know them by their fruits. Do men gather grapes of thorns, or figs of thistles? Even so every good tree bringeth forth good fruit; but a corrupt tree bringeth forth evil fruit. A good tree cannot bring forth evil fruit, neither can a corrupt tree bring forth good fruit." (Matthew 7:16-18)

Before The Throne:

What kind of fruit have you been producing? Have you been trying to bring people to Christ? Ask God if He is happy with what you have been doing. Repent of your sin of negligence. Ask Him to write a letter of commendation for you on the hearts of others. Be prepared to do your share of the work when God prepares others to hear your testimony.

For Further Study:

** begin. 2Cor 2:17; 2Cor 5:12; 2Cor 10:8, 12; 2Cor 12:11, 19; 1Cor 3:10; 1Cor 4:15; 1Cor 10:33; ** epistles. Acts 18:27; 1Cor 16:3;

(v.2) ** are. 1Cor 3:10; 1Cor 9:1-2; ** in. 2Cor 7:3; 2Cor 11:11; 2Cor 12:15; Phil 1:7; ** known. Rom 1:8; 1Cor 9:2; 1Thess 1:8;

Colossians 4:15-18

Churches Serving Together

15 Salute the brethren which are in Laodicea, and Nymphas, and the church which is in his house. 16 And when this epistle is read among you, cause that it be read also in the church of the Laodiceans; and that ye likewise read the [epistle] from Laodicea. 17 And say to Archippus, Take heed to the ministry which thou hast received in the Lord, that thou fulfil it. 18 The salutation by the hand of me Paul. Remember my bonds. Grace [be] with you. Amen.

As we close our study on the epistle to the Colossians, we get a small view into the Christian culture of the late first century. Here Paul sends his greetings to his fellow saints at Laodicea, which was only about twelve miles from Colosse. The two churches seem to have had a close relationship.

Nymphas is not mentioned anywhere else in the scriptures and nothing else is known about him. Evidently there was a church that met in his home. Perhaps this was the only church in Laodicea. In those days the wealthier families had a large great room, which could be used for church meetings. There were no free standing church buildings until at least the latter part of the third century.

John Calvin wrote, "When he speaks of the Church which was in the house of Nymphas, let us bear in mind, that, in the instance of one household, a rule is laid down as to what it becomes all Christian households to be — that they be so many little Churches. Let every one, therefore, know that this charge is laid upon him — that he is to train up his house in the fear of the Lord, to keep it under a holy discipline, and, in fine, to form in it the likeness of a Church."

Paul also instructed the Colossians to share this letter with the church of the Laodiceans and to also read the one that he had sent to Laodicea. This letter to Laodicea has been lost. Some scholars believe that it was the letter to Ephesus that was passed along to be read to all of the churches and ended up in Laodicea. Others believed that it was a letter sent from Laodicea to Paul and was now being delivered to Colosse by Aristarchus. The most probable, however, is that it was sent by Paul to the Laodicean church and was meant to also be read aloud in the church at Colosse. Since the two churches were so close, they experienced many of the same difficulties and dangers.

Paul also sends an encouraging word to one Archippus who was probably a preacher. He is only mentioned here and in Philemon 1:21 where he is called a fellow soldier. Every Christian has some kind of ministry, having been "created in Christ Jesus unto good works" (Ephesians 2:10). It is therefore our duty to fulfill that ministry to which the Lord has called us.

Finally, Paul states that this ending salutation was penned by him personally. The rest of the letter was probably written by a secretary who took Paul's dictation. His final request is that they remember his imprisonment in their prayers.

The end of this letter demonstrates how closely churches should work together, sharing in fellowship, in prayer and the work of the Lord. The churches of that day met in someone's home and were very small compared to some of our modern mega-churches. It was necessary for them to cooperate with each other and to draw upon one another's strengths. Because of their small size, they did not have the expense of maintaining buildings and grounds and could devote more of their resources to the work of the gospel.

Before The Throne:

Pray for your local church associations. Ask the Lord to instill a greater sense of the need for inter-church fellowship and cooperation. Ask Him to show you how you could help or encourage new church plants that may be meeting in someone's home or other share facilities. Pray that His churches should remain focused on their primary mission of making disciples and teaching them all things that Jesus has taught us.

For Further Study:

** Laodicea. 13; ** the church. Rom 16:5; 1Cor 16:9; Phlm 1:2;

(v.16) ** 1Th 5:27;

(v.17) ** Archippus. Phm 1:2; ** Take. Lev 10:3; Num 18:5; 2Chr 29:11; Ezek 44:23-24; Acts 20:28; 1Tim 4:16; 1Tim 6:11-14, 20; 2Tim 4:1-5; ** the ministry. Acts 1:17; Acts 14:23; 1Cor 4:1-2; Eph 4:11; 1Tim 4:6; 1Tim 4:14; 2Tim 1:6; 2Tim 2:2; ** fulfil. 2Ti 4:5;

(v.18) ** by. 1Cor 16:21; 2Thess 3:17; ** Remember. 2Tim 1:8; Heb 13:3; ** Grace. Rom 16:20, 24; 2Cor 13:14; 1Tim 6:21; 2Tim 4:22; Heb 13:25;

Colossians 4:12-14

Fervent Prayer

12 Epaphras, who is [one] of you, a servant of Christ, saluteth you, always labouring fervently for you in prayers, that ye may stand perfect and complete in all the will of God. 13 For I bear him record, that he hath a great zeal for you, and them [that are] in Laodicea, and them in Hierapolis. 14 Luke, the beloved physician, and Demas, greet you.

As Paul brings his epistle to a close, he sends to the church the salutations of others who are with him at Rome. One of those was Epaphras who is believed to be the founder of the Colossian church and who had evidently visited Paul to report on the church's progress (See my notes at 1:7).

While we do not know much about Epaphras, this passage reveals perhaps all that is necessary. Epaphras was a bond slave of Jesus Christ and a true prayer warrior who cared deeply for the people of his church. He was "always labouring fervently" for his church in prayer. In the original Greek, there seems to be an emphasis on the word "always;" it was a continuous ongoing work.

Furthermore, his prayers were not simple routine requests that were repeated each time he bowed his knees. The Greek word is ἀγωνίζομαι agonizomai (ag-o-nid'-zom-ai), to struggle, to agonize over something, to strive, or to labor fervently. This man had a real passion for his people.

Epaphras prayed that his people would be "perfect" or complete, that they would be mature in their daily decisions and strong in their faith, as they faced the troubles of the world around them. And he prayed that they would be "complete" or "filled" in the full will of God for their lives. His prayers for them did not concern worldly things that would fulfill their lusts of the flesh. He wanted his church to be the city that is set on a hill (Matthew 5:14), a light that could not be ignored, a great beacon that would lead the lost to Jesus Christ.

Paul, standing on his own reputation and credibility, commended Epaphras for his zeal for the Colossians, for the Laodiceans, and for those Christians in Hierapolis. He also sent greetings from Luke, the author of the gospel by his name and of the book of Acts. "He is mentioned as the traveling companion of Paul in Act 17:10, and appears to have accompanied him afterward until his imprisonment at Rome see 2Ti 4:11. From Col 4:11, it is evident that he was not by birth a Jew, but was probably a proselyte." (Albert Barnes)

Paul also mentions that Demas sent his greetings to the church. Later, we see that Demas deserted Paul n the time of troubles. "For Demas hath forsaken me, having loved this present world, and is departed unto Thessalonica; Crescens to Galatia, Titus unto Dalmatia." (2 Timothy 4:10)

The mention of Epaphras' prayers remind us of what is important to God. While we know little about the man and his many good works, we do know about his prayer life. Zealous and fervent prayer for the people in our church is the most important work that we can do. Such prayer is not easy. It must come from a passionate heart. It must be presented to the Lord as being authentic and not as being read from a laundry list. Zealous prayer takes time, energy and much thought and can be exhausting.

Before The Throne:

Pray for your church today. Think about the individual spiritual needs of the various members. Pray from a loving heart not from a sense of obligation. Ask the Lord to reveal His will for your church and to fill the hearts of the people with the desire to fulfill His will. Thank Him for every church member, for their faithfulness, for their fellowship and for their support.

For Further Study:

** Epaphras. Col 1:7; Phlm 1:23; ** a servant. John 12:26; Gal 1:10; Jas 1:1; 2Pet 1:1; ** always. Col 4:2; Luke 22:44; Gal 4:19; Heb 5:7; Jas 5:16; ** labouring. 2:1-23; ** that. Col 4:1; Rom 15:30; Col 1:9, 22, 28; Matt 5:48; 1Cor 2:6; 1Cor 14:20; 2Cor 13:11; Phil 3:12-15; 1Thess 5:23; Heb 5:14; Heb 6:1; Jude 1:24; ** complete. Ro 15:14;

(v.13) ** I bear. Rom 10:2; 2Cor 8:3; ** Laodicea and Hierapolis Col 4:15-16; Col 2:1; Rev 1:11; Rev 3:14-18;

** Luke. 2Tim 4:11; Phlm 1:24; ** Demas. 2Tim 4:10; Phlm 1:24;

Colossians 4:10-11

A Bonded Fellowship

10 Aristarchus my fellowprisoner saluteth you, and Marcus, sister's son to Barnabas, (touching whom ye received commandments: if he come unto you, receive him;) 11 And Jesus, which is called Justus, who are of the circumcision. These only [are my] fellowworkers unto the kingdom of God, which have been a comfort unto me.

Ask any soldier who has had combat experience and he will tell you that the bond between him and his fellow soldiers could not have been any stronger than it was during those critical moments when their lives were in grave danger. The same bond exists between Christians who have served and suffered persecution together in spiritual warfare.

Aristarchus had that kind of a relationship with Paul. Although we do not know much about him, Aristarchus was a native of Thessalonica (Act 20:4), and is also mentioned in Acts 19:29 as Paul’s companion in his travels. In Acts 27:2, he accompanied Paul in his voyage to Rome and was evidently imprisoned with him there. Thus, he conveys the message that Aristarchus, Paul's fellow prisoner, also sends his greetings.

"...and Marcus, sister's son to Barnabas," This is the Mark who wrote the epistle. The Greek text has the word ἀνέψιος anepsios (an-eps'-ee-os) and "cousin" of Barnabas seems to be more correct. Mark had previously deserted Paul on his and Barnabas' first missionary journey. Three years later, Barnabas wanted to take him along again. "But Paul thought not good to take him with them, who departed from them from Pamphylia, and went not with them to the work."

Later, Paul forgave Mark, sending for him when he sent Tychicus to Ephesus (2Ti 4:11). Forgiveness was one of Paul's most outstanding character traits. "Brethren, if a man be overtaken in a fault, ye which are spiritual, restore such an one in the spirit of meekness; considering thyself, lest thou also be tempted." (Galatians 6:1) It appears that Paul had already sent instructions for the Colossian church to make Mark welcome and to work with him.

Justus was a Roman name, but this man was known as Jesus among the Jews. He was probably a Jewish convert who helped Paul and encouraged him in spite of the hostility that most of the Jews had toward him.

Aristarchus, Marcus and Jesus were Paul's only fellow workers in the gospel of the kingdom of God, and had also been a great comfort to him. This was a relationship that was built on a common passion... the love of Christ and the spread of His gospel. It was a loving and sacrificial bond that is commonly found among fellow combatants in wa. It is vital for all Christians to experience such a relationship with their fellow workers, because the time may come when this mutual love and support will be needed.

Before The Throne:

Are you doing spiritual warfare? Who are your fellow workers? Pray for them, for their protection from persecution and for them to have a loving bond like that of Paul and his friends. Pray for the work that you do together. Ask God to guide you in making important decisions for your ministry. Thank Him for strengthening you to accomplish the things He has called you to do.

For Further Study:

** Aristarchus. Acts 19:29; Acts 20:4; Acts 27:2; Phlm 1:24; ** saluteth. Ro 16:21-23; ** and Marcus. Acts 12:12; Acts 13:5, 13; Acts 15:37-39; 2Tim 4:11; 1Pet 5:13; ** receive. Rom 16:2; 2John 1:8; 2John 1:9

(v.11) ** who. Acts 10:45; Acts 11:2; Rom 4:12; Gal 2:7-8; Eph 2:11; Titus 1:10; ** fellow-workers. Col 4:7; 1Cor 3:5-9; 2Cor 6:1; Phil 4:3; 1Thess 3:2; Phlm 1:1; Phlm 1:24; ** a comfort. 2Cor 7:6-7; 1Thess 3:7;

Colossians 4:7-9

Encourage One Another

7 All my state shall Tychicus declare unto you, [who is] a beloved brother, and a faithful minister and fellowservant in the Lord: 8 Whom I have sent unto you for the same purpose, that he might know your estate, and comfort your hearts; 9 With Onesimus, a faithful and beloved brother, who is [one] of you. They shall make known unto you all things which [are done] here.

Paul's commitment to the ministry of the gospel and his love for the saints in the churches over which the Lord had given hin charge, is no more evident than it is here. While he is a prisoner at Rome and in grave danger for the gospel's sake, he sends two close fellowservants to Colosse to report on himself and the ministry and to inquire about the welfare of the church.

"All my state..." Is better rendered as, "all my things." Paul wanted them to know everything about himself and his ministry. Tychicus would bear this report to Colosse. Tychicus was "a beloved brother," one who was very close to Paul and whose services would be missed while he traveled to Colosse. However, Paul had placed the Colossians' interests ahead of his own convenience or needs. Tychicus was certified by Paul, whose word was golden, to be "a faithful minister and fellowservant in the Lord." He was much more to Paul than a mere letter carrier.

"Whom I have sent unto you for the same purpose,.." The same purpose that Paul had just mentioned. Tychicus' purpose was to relay all of the news about Paul's work and ministry, but he also had two other purposes.

The first was to discover how the church was doing. Were they being steadfast in preaching the gospel? Was church discipline being exercised? Were any false teachers affecting the fellowship and harmony of the church? How many new converts had joined them? Paul had a genuine interest in their spiritual welfare and wanted them to know it.

The third purpose that Tychicus had was to "comfort" their hearts. He literally wanted to encourage their hearts to continue working for the spread of the gospel and to live by it.

With Tychicus, Paul was also sending Onesimus. He was a runaway slave who came to Paul and was sent back to his master Philemon. Onesimus was probably won to Christ by Paul. Now, he was also serving in the ministry with Paul who called him a "faithful and beloved brother." Evidently Onesimus was at that time either a member of the Colossian church or a native of that area. He would help Tychicus report the news of Paul's ministry.

Before The Throne:

Ask the Lord to multiply your love for His work as He had done for Paul. Pray that, when the time comes, you will be able to put Christ, His gospel, and His church ahead of your own interests. Ask for the opportunity and the right words to encourage others in their walk with Christ. Give the Lord thanks for making you a part of this wonderful work of reconciling all men to Christ.

For Further Study:

** my. Eph 6:21-23; ** Tychicus. Acts 20:4; 2Tim 4:12; Titus 3:12; ** a beloved. Col 4:9, 12; Eph 6:21; Phil 2:25; ** a faithful. 1Co 4:1-4;

(v.8 ) ** I have. 1Cor 4:17; 2Cor 12:18; Eph 6:22; Phil 2:28; 1Thess 3:5; ** and comfort. Col 2:2; Isa 40:1; Isa 61:2-3; 2Cor 1:4; 2Cor 2:7; 1Thess 2:11; 1Thess 3:2; 1Thess 4:18; 1Thess 5:11, 14; 2Th 2:17;

(v.9) ** Onesimus. Col 4:7; Phlm 1:10-19;