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LESSON 5 - MINISTRY IN FOCUS (2 CORINTHIANS 4:16--5:21)

Copr. 1998, Bruce N. Cameron, J.D.  All Scripture references are to
the New International Version (NIV), copr. 1973, 1978, 1984
International Bible Society,  unless otherwise noted. Quotations
from the NIV are used by permission of Zondervan Bible Publishers.
Suggested answers are found within parentheses. The lesson assumes
the teacher uses a blackboard.

INTRODUCTION: I love to go camping. Imagine my joy when I found
that Paul is talking about camping (among other things) this week!
Let's find out what camping has to do with Christian living!

I. TENTING

     A. Read 2 Corinthians 5:1-4. Do you like to go camping in a
     tent?

          1. Acts 18:3 tells us that Paul was a professional
          tentmaker.  What do you think they used tents for back
          then? Do you think they did any camping? (Whatever the
          use, it would obviously be a temporary dwelling.)

          2. A professional tentmaker would be aware of the
          disadvantages of living in a tent. Those of you who have
          been camping in a tent, tell me what are some of the
          disadvantages of tent camping?

               a. Are there any advantages?

          3. If you had your choice, how would you camp? (When we
          were camping this summer we saw an unusual sight at one
          campground: an elderly couple in a tent!  Normally,
          campers tell me about how they started in a tent when
          they were young, graduated to a tent-trailer ("pop-up"),
          moved up to a trailer and finally ended up with a
          motorhome (or fifth-wheeler).  Sleeping on the ground and
          being too subject to nature is apparently the problem!)

          4. In our text, does Paul advocate tent camping? (No. He
          says (5:2,4) we groan in our tent! He says we are too
          exposed (5:3-4) in our tent.  He does not sound like a
          "happy-camper.")

          5. What does Paul mean when he writes about living in a
          tent?  Is he talking about a real tent? (No. He is
          talking about our human body.)

          6. Just like the campers I have spoken with, Paul tells
          us that we can "graduate" to a more substantial dwelling.
          What is that dwelling?

               a. Does he mean a mansion in heaven? (2 Cor. 5:1
               certainly sounds that way.)

                    (1) If Paul is talking about a mansion, an
                    actual structure, how does verse 4 fit in?
                    There he says our heavenly dwelling "swallows"
                    "what is mortal" and gives us "life."  How can
                    a building swallow mortality or give life?

                    (2) Let's go back to chapter 4 and look at 2
                    Corinthians 4:18. Read. What is "temporary"
                    and what is "eternal" here? (Paul is comparing
                    our life here and temporary concerns to our
                    life in heaven and spiritual concerns.)

                         (a) Are the first four verses of chapter
                         5 just a continuation of this idea in
                         4:18? (Yes. I do not think Paul is
                         talking about heavenly mansions.  I think
                         he is saying that our body here is
                         temporary, but God gives us something
                         quite superior: eternal life!)

II. NO DEPOSIT, NO RETURN

     A. Read 2 Corinthians 5:5-7.  Paul says (v.5) that God has
     made us for a purpose.  In light of what we have just read,
     what purpose is that?  To be a tent? (We are made for an
     eternal purpose, eternal life!)

     B. How many of you, when faced with tough problems, have asked
     yourself if God is real?  Does God exist? Does He care about
     me? Or, am I just kidding myself about God and this eternal
     life idea?

     C. When Paul says in v.7 "we live by faith and not sight,"
     does he mean that we have no proof for what we believe?  No
     current evidence?

          1. Notice v.5. What is Paul talking about when he writes
          about a "deposit" and a "guarantee?" Right after he talks
          about our "purpose" he mentions the "deposit." They look
          like they are related in Paul's mind. What do you think?

               a. What do deposits and guarantees have in common?
               (They insure performance.  Some states have laws
               which require you to pay a deposit when you buy any
               beverage in a glass or metal container.  You get
               the deposit back when you return the container. The
               idea is that the deposit guarantees the return.)

               b. In our state, many beverage containers say, "no
               deposit, no return."  Do you return those
               containers?

     D. Paul seems to say that we do not have to live by blind
     faith, God has given us "performance insurance."  What,
     specifically, is the deposit, the performance insurance, the
     guarantee, mentioned in verse 5? (The Holy Spirit.)

          1. How is He a performance guarantee?

          2. What performance does He guarantee? (Verse 5 says that
          the Spirit guarantees "what is to come." The Holy Spirit
          gives us proof and meaning for our "purpose" to keep our
          eye on the eternal and not the temporary.)

          3. Is the Spirit working in your life and your church?
          Do you have this deposit insuring performance, or are you
          more like the "no deposit, no return" beverage
          containers? Is your focus and work temporary?

III. THE JUDGMENT

     A. Let's read on. Read 2 Corinthians 5:8-10.

     B. Is Paul saying in v.8 that he would rather be dead? (I
     think he is saying that he has a preference for eternal
     things.)

          1. Is Paul telling us that we must be one place or the
          other: with our body or with the Lord?

          2. If Paul is talking about timing, and telling us that
          we must be one place or the other, is he suggesting
          (v.10) that we immediately have a personal judgment when
          we die?

               a. If so, how do you explain that Peter (2 Peter
               3:7), John (1 John 4:17) and Jesus (Matthew 12:36)
               refer to a "day of judgment?" Revelation 14:7
               narrows it even more and refers to "the hour of His
               judgment?"

               b. If Paul is not talking about going to heaven when
               we die, what could he possibly be talking about?

     C. Imagine that your Uncle Harry wrote you a letter saying
     that he was coming December 5 and gave a great deal of detail
     about why he had chosen to come then.  In his next letter he
     writes he is coming on May 10, and gives no reasons for the
     change.  He does not even mention the change in the date.
     Would you think something was wrong? (Of course. You would
     expect him to be consistent in what he writes. You would
     suspect an error.)

          1. Remember that 2 Corinthians is Paul's second letter to
          the church in Corinth.  His first letter speaks
          specifically about death, our body and timing. Let's turn
          to it for just a minute and review. Turn back to 1
          Corinthians 15:35. Read.

               a. What does Paul say he is about to explain? (The
               kind of body the righteous have when they are
               "raised" and just exactly how this is going to
               happen.)

          2. You should read this whole chapter (1 Corinthians 15)
          this afternoon to get a better idea of Paul's message.
          Right now we are going to focus on the highlights. Skip
          down with me now to vv. 50-53.  When does this say that
          the dead will be "clothed?" (v. 52 "in a flash ... at the
          last trumpet."  Paul's language about being "clothed" in
          1 Cor.15:53 fits perfectly with his discussion in 2
          Corinthians 5:2-4.

               a. Is Paul like the Uncle Harry in my story? He just
               changes the date with no explanation? (While there
               seems on the surface to be a conflict, there is no
               conflict when we look more deeply.  In 2
               Corinthians 5 Paul seems to simply be comparing our
               present life (our tent body) with eternal life (our
               heavenly dwelling).  He is not speaking of timing
               so much as faith and hope for the future.)

               b. One commentator I read indicated that Paul's
               comments in 2 Corinthians 5 are the subject of much
               controversy among Christians!

IV. OUR NEW VIEW

     A. So far we have learned that we have a temporary dwelling
     here and we have proof of our eternal destiny. Paul suggests
     that this should shape not only how we think about our own
     lives, but also shape how we think about others. Let's skip
     down and read 2 Cor. 5:14-17. Read.

          1. We know the phrase, "one died for all," is a common
          reference to Jesus' death.  What does v.14 mean when Paul
          continues and says "therefore all die?"  Should the text
          not say instead, "therefore all live?" (This refers to an
          attitude that we need.  Since Jesus died for us, we need
          to be willing to sacrifice for the benefit of others.)

               a. "All died" is a pretty extreme term. Does the
               fact that Paul uses death as his point of
               reference, instead of saying, "all were slightly
               bothered" teach us that radical self-sacrifice is
               the goal?

          2. Verse 16 says that we will no longer "regard" someone
          from a worldly point of view.  First, how would you
          regard someone from the "worldly point of view?" (Money,
          power, education, position, and beauty would all raise
          your opinion of someone.)

               a. How should we view people?  What "view" does Paul
               recommend? (The view of self-sacrifice.  That would
               mean that our heroes would be missionaries and
               gospel workers who earn little while giving their
               lives to the gospel.  Our heroes would not be movie
               stars, sports stars and corporate leaders.)

               b. Verse 16 tells us that we once regarded Christ
               "from a worldly point of view."  How could we do
               that?  What does this mean? (If we are looking to
               Christ for what we can get, as His disciples did at
               first, we look at Him "from a worldly point of
               view.")

                    (1) Have we regarded Christ from a worldly
                    point of view?

                    (2) Are we looking at Him like that today?

               c. Verse 17 says we are a "new creation."  Will a
               new creature have a "new view?"

V. NEXT WEEK: THE MINISTRY OF RECONCILIATION. Study 2 Corinthians
5:18-6:13. 2) Are we looking at Him like that today?

               c. Verse 17 says we are a "new creation."  Will a
               new creature have a "new view?"

V. NEXT WEEK: THE MINISTRY OF RECONCILIATION. Study 2 Corinthians
5:18-6:13.