Having vividly expressed the theme of the letter in 12:1-10, Paul now applies that theme to the normal, everyday Christian life. What are the characteristics of a life upon which the power of Christ rests (12:9)? Here are some of the most beautiful (and attractive) expressions of humility and self-denial in all of Scripture. C.S. Lewis wrote that humility is not thinking less of yourself, but thinking of yourself less. What does that practically look like, and why can only grace produce it?
Here is where Paul gives the clearest expression to the theme of the letter: strength in weakness. This text is not only the climax of 2 Corinthians, it is arguably the climax of 1 and 2 Corinthians. It reminds us of the very heart of Christianity. When Jesus said to Paul, "my grace is sufficient for you," how was he reminding him not only of the gospel, but of the core principle of the entire Christian life?
Who would put a catalog of weakness and frailty on a resume? This is exactly what Paul does as he is forced to defend himself against false teachers who were distorting the gospel and misleading the Corinthians. What can we learn from this surprising description of a servant of Christ? What can we learn about humility?
How important is it to defend the gospel against distortions and redefinitions? Is it too far fetched to think that servants of Satan could disguise themselves as Christian leaders? Why are warnings against false teachers fairly common in the New Testament? What is the best way to prepare ourselves to be discerning as we can be exposed to so many voices claiming to speak truth? Out of love for Christ and his Bride, Paul here takes aim at those who would preach "another Jesus" (11:4).
What do you think about when you have nothing in particular to think about? When your thoughts wander, where do they wander? In this text Paul famously says we are to "take every thought captive to obey Christ." What does that mean? Christians often use the word "worldview." What is that, and why is this text often used to support the idea? Grace changes not only our status and future destiny, but also our thinking. What does that look like in daily life?
The ESV heading over this text is "The Cheerful Giver," a phrase that can easily be misused to guilt people into giving. But the much more important question is why? This text is about our motivation for all the Christian life, not just stewardship. Why should Christians be the most cheerful people on the earth? Why are we so often not?
This section continues Paul's discussion of generosity as one of the fruits of grace. The backstory is the collection of a financial gift for impoverished Jewish Christians in Jerusalem. Will the Corinthians participate? Why should they? What are the right and the wrong motivations for generosity?