New Testament Lesson 39 (2 Corinthians 8–13)
September 18–24

TAKING CARE OF THE NEEDY AMONG THEM

● Paul speaks of the Macedonian Saints as examples of generous giving (2 Cor. 8:1–5).

● Since the Corinthian Saints “abound in every thing” (2 Cor. 8:7), he suggests (“not by commandment”) that the Corinthian Saints do likewise (2 Cor. 8:8).

● He acknowledges that they have already been “ministering to the Saints” (2 Cor. 9:1) and has sent others before him to “make up beforehand your bounty” (2 Cor. 9:5).

● When it comes to taking care of the poor, “He which soweth sparingly shall reap also sparingly; and he which soweth bountifully shall reap also bountifully” (2 Cor. 9:6).

● The principle of taking care of the poor is “every man according as he purposeth in his heart, so let him give; not grudgingly, or of necessity: for God loveth a cheerful giver” (2 Cor. 9:7).

● Such giving not only “supplieth the want of the Saints” but also shows forth our “thanksgivings to God” (2 Cor. 9:12)

● Lest they should think he is seeking for their money for himself, Paul later says that they would not have to (temporally) support him (2 Cor. 12:14–15).

PAUL DEFENDS HIS MINISTRY

Paul Acknowledges His Weaknesses

● Paul described himself as “base,” which meant “lowly, humble” (2 Cor. 10:1).

● Paul “boasts” of his authority (2 Cor. 10:8, 17–18). “Boast” means “to glory,” as defined in verses 17 and 18. By this he means he will give glory to the Lord, not himself.

● Paul’s antagonists in Corinth were ridiculing him. Though they conceded that his letters are “weighty and powerful,” they mock his physical weaknesses and his “contemptible” voice (2 Cor. 10:10–12).

False Prophets Arise

● Paul warns against those who might come among them and preach “another Jesus, whom we have not preached, or . . . receive another spirit, which ye have not received, or another gospel, which ye have not accepted” (2 Cor. 11:4).

● Paul is characterized by his enemies as “rude in speech” (2 Cor. 11:6). Paul confesses this may be true, but says he is “not a whit behind the very chiefest apostles” (v. 5).

● Paul calls these accusers “false apostles, deceitful workers, transforming themselves into the apostles of Christ. And no marvel; for Satan himself is transformed into an angel of light” (2 Cor. 11:13–14).

● Paul ridiculed false teachers (“fools”) by matching ridicule with ridicule, speaking as foolishly as some had been doing (2 Cor. 11:22–23).

Paul’s Sacrifices

● Paul had credentials as impressive as those of any others, and therefore, what he had to say to them was important (2 Cor. 11:21–33; 12:1–10).

● A summary of the sacrifices he has made in testifying of Christ (2 Cor. 11:23–33).

— The forty stripes were administered with a scourge, just as with Christ (v. 24).
— Beating with rods was a Roman punishment (v. 25).
— Paul could have claimed Roman citizenship and escaped the scourging and beatings, but that would have meant excommunication and being cut off from the synagogues. Since going into the synagogues to teach was his primary missionary approach, he willingly submitted to these shameful punishments in order to continue teaching his own people.

Paul’s Visions

● Paul’s described his vision of the three heavens (2 Cor. 12:1–4), which was probably the source of his earlier teaching on three degrees of glory after the resurrection (1 Cor.15:35, 40–42).

— The Prophet Joseph Smith said: “Paul ascended into the third heavens, and he could understand the three principal rounds of Jacob’s ladder—the telestial, the terrestrial, and the celestial glories or kingdoms, where Paul saw and heard things which were not lawful for him to utter.”1

The Savior’s Grace Is Sufficient To Help Us in Weakness

● Paul mentioned a “thorn in the flesh,” which kept him humble. On three separate occasions he pleaded with the Lord to take it away, but the Lord declined, saying that “my strength is made perfect in weakness” (2 Cor. 12:7–9).

● Christ’s grace will cover (make up for) all of our weaknesses, if we are humble (Ether 12:27).

● Paul said, “Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me” (2 Cor. 12:7–9).

● “I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in necessities, in persecutions, in distresses for Christ’s sake: for when I am weak, then am I strong” (2 Cor. 12:10)

Words of Encouragement to Be Righteous

● Paul said, “All that we say, we say in love, for your good; Be what I know you can be, and each one of you repent” (2 Cor. 12:19–21).

● God will give them the power to be righteous if they really want to be (2 Cor. 13:1–19).

DOCTRINAL INSIGHTS

The severity of Paul’s “thorn in the flesh” (2 Cor. 12:7–10). Paul walked most of the way during his three missions, with two of them encompassing more than 2,000 miles. When we consider that he did so with severe pain in his hip, we stand in awe of his willingness to serve despite personal pain.

— The word Paul used here literally means “a pale” (as in impaled) or “a stake.” It was used to refer to sharpened stakes, to surgical instruments, or to fish hooks. The term suggests something that was extremely painful and troublesome to Paul. There have been endless debates on what his infirmity was, and the suggestions have included a bitter and shrewish wife, epilepsy, a serious eye affliction, malaria, and a painful hip condition that caused pain with every step.

— President Harold B. Lee said: “The Lord has told us in the scriptures that Satan is an enemy of all righteousness; because of that fact, those who are standing in high places in our Father’s kingdom will become the objects of his attacks. You may well expect, as the Apostle Paul understood, that you who preside in the various places in our Father’s kingdom will be subject to the devil’s onslaughts. . . . Sometimes there is given infirmity, difficulty, hardship upon you to try your souls; and the powers of Satan seem to be enrolled against you, watching and trying to break down your powers of resistance; but your weakness, through those infirmities, will give you the power of God that shall rest upon you even as the Apostle Paul was reconciled and comforted by the thought that through his trials the power of God might rest upon him.”2

The simplicity of living the gospel. President Dieter F. Uchtdorf taught:

“Brothers and sisters, living the gospel doesn’t need to be complicated. It is really straightforward. I could be described like this:

“Hearing the word of God with earnest intent leads us to believe in God and to trust His promises.

“The more we trust God, the more our hearts are filled with love for Him and for each other.

“Because of our love for God, we desire to follow Him and bring our actions in alignment with His word.

“Because we love God, we want to serve Him, we want to bless the lives of others and help the poor and needy.

“The more we walk in this path of discipleship, the more we desire to learn the word of God.

“And so it goes, each step leading to the next and filling us with ever-increasing faith, hope, and charity.

“It is beautifully simple, and it works beautifully.

“Brothers and sisters, if you ever think that the gospel isn’t working so well for you, I invite you to step back, look at your life from a higher plane, and simplify your approach to discipleship. Focus on the basic doctrines, principles, and applications of the gospel. I promise that God will guide and bless you on your path to a fulfilling life, and the gospel will definitely work better for you.”3

Notes:

1.  Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, sel. Elder Joseph Fielding Smith [1976], 304–305.
2.  In Conference Report, Oct. 1949, 57.
3.  “It Works Wonderfully!” Ensign or Liahona, Nov. 2015, 22.

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