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Diocese of Charleston Bible Study + September 14, 2016

II Corinthians 9:12-10:7
Mark 3:20-27

II Corinthians 9:12-10:7 (NKJV)
For the administration of this service not only supplies the needs of the saints, but also is abounding through many thanksgivings to God, while, through the proof of this ministry, they glorify God for the obedience of your confession to the gospel of Christ, and for your liberal sharing with them and all men, and by their prayer for you, who long for you because of the exceeding grace of God in you. Thanks be to God for His indescribable gift! Now I, Paul, myself am pleading with you by the meekness and gentleness of Christ—who in presence am lowly among you, but being absent am bold toward you. But I beg you that when I am present I may not be bold with that confidence by which I intend to be bold against some, who think of us as if we walked according to the flesh. For though we walk in the flesh, we do not war according to the flesh. For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal but mighty in God for pulling down strongholds, casting down arguments and every high thing that exalts itself against the knowledge of God, bringing every thought into captivity to the obedience of Christ, and being ready to punish all disobedience when your obedience is fulfilled. Do you look at things according to the outward appearance? If anyone is convinced in himself that he is Christ's, let him again consider this in himself, that just as he is Christ's, even so we are Christ's.

Mark 3:20-27 (NKJV)
Then the multitude came together again, so that they could not so much as eat bread. But when His own people heard about this, they went out to lay hold of Him, for they said, "He is out of His mind." And the scribes who came down from Jerusalem said, "He has Beelzebub," and, "By the ruler of the demons He casts out demons." So He called them to Himself and said to them in parables: "How can Satan cast out Satan? If a kingdom is divided against itself, that kingdom cannot stand. And if a house is divided against itself, that house cannot stand. And if Satan has risen up against himself, and is divided, he cannot stand, but has an end. No one can enter a strong man's house and plunder his goods, unless he first binds the strong man. And then he will plunder his house.

Commentary 

One of the most common metaphors used in Scripture to describe life in this world is a battle, or warfare. Many of the Old Testament's images of God are communicated through this imagery, and through using the many battles that took place in the history of Israel and Judah to illustrate by analogy our spiritual life. It is easy for us to confuse, as Israel and Judah did, the imagery of the Lord mighty in battle leading the angelic hosts with God being 'on our side' in our present day disagreements, fights, and battles. However, as Abraham Lincoln once said, 'The question is not whether God is on our side, but whether we are on God's.' Today's Scripture readings help us to focus in on who God's, and our, real enemies are, and what, or in this case who, we are fighting for.

In today's epistle reading, St. Paul points out that even as he knows that soon he will have to return to Corinth, and that when he does he will have to confront certain people regarding their conduct in life and sinfulness, that those people whom he comes to confront are not his enemies, nor is he doing battle with them 'in the flesh'. Meaning, he is not coming to have a fight or a debate with them. He is not coming to try to threaten or bully them on the one hand, nor to try to win an argument through clever rhetoric. Rather St. Paul is on the attack, but he is attacking not erring and sinful members of the church in Corinth, but rather he is attacking what lies behind their error and their sin. He is coming to make war against the passions that have overtaken them, using the metaphors of strongholds, as if the demonic powers have come and set up an outpost in these peoples lives that needs to be laid siege, and the sin driven out, with all of its pride and with all of its clever arguments to justify itself.

Likewise in today's Gospel reading, Christ describes the battle that He Himself engaged in during His ministry. After driving a demon out of a man, He is accused of being able to do so because He is in fact possessed by a more powerful demon. He, of course, points out how ridiculous this is, that Satan would have dissension in his ranks. He goes on, however, to add that in order to seize the goods of a strong man, one must first bind him, essentially that if one is going to rob the home of someone physically powerful, that person has to be tied up before you will be able to take what is his. By way of this analogy, Christ is speaking about not only the fact that He has come to defeat Satan and his kingdom by disarming it; taking away its weapons of sin and death and hell, but about the battleground, the territory over which the battle is being fought. The demon-possessed man is not the enemy, rather he has fallen to the enemy, he is a soldier who has been taken as a prisoner of war by the enemy.

Our Lord Jesus Christ, one of the Holy Trinity, took upon Himself our human nature and came into our fallen world, His Creation which had fallen under the control of the devil through sin, by which he held humanity captive to death, in order to redeem this world and all of her people, in order to take them back. Therefore, Christ is on the side of every human person, seeking to deliver him or her, to set them free and give them Life. The devil is on the side of no one but himself, seeking only to kill and destroy. This means that no human person is an enemy of Christ, because Christ has unilaterally declared peace. All human beings are therefore on the same side, fighting the battle against the same enemy. It is for this reason that Christ did not fight back, according to the flesh, against the Judean authorities or the Romans when they murdered Him, but rather prayed for their forgiveness: they were not His enemy, they were whom He came to save. Likewise for 300 years martyrs followed our Lord to torturous death at the hands of the Romans, until the day of victory came when Rome turned to Christ under Emperor Constantine.

For each of us as Christians, this means that no human person is our enemy. No matter how much a person or group may hate us, no matter what violence they may do to us, no matter what slander they may level against us, they are not the enemy. They are, rather, our fellow soldiers who have fallen in battle to the enemy. They are our fellow soldiers who have become prisoners of war. Our anger and pain from whatever they might do or say to us is not rightly directed at them, but at the sin that has captured them, the evil that has come to reign over their hearts and minds. Victory, for us, comes not when we achieve some sort of revenge, trade evil for evil, or see those who have hurt us suffer themselves. Victory comes when those who formerly hated us and harmed us and spitefully used us are set free and embrace us as brothers and sisters once again. Victory comes for all of us, together, when the world is saved through the rule of Jesus Christ as King.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, when our first parents rebelled against their Creator, they placed themselves under the power of the Enemy, Satan, who rules through sin and death. Each of us have followed their lead and example from our earliest moments, turning against God and each other and selling ourselves into slavery to sin. Yet God did not declare us His enemies and go to war against us, but rather He did us good. He continued to bless His Creation, giving us life and the good things of this world. He sent us the Law to aid us. When we erred, He sent us prophets to bring us back to Him. Finally, He gave His Only Begotten Son for our sakes. Christ suffered all of our evil and hatred and spite, and repaid us with salvation, freedom, and the defeat of our ancient enemy. If we follow Christ, then like Christ, no man or woman is our enemy. We are all on the same side, seeking and struggling toward the same things. May the Lord grant us the vision to see even those who hate us the most not as an enemy to be beaten, but a wounded person in grave need of salvation and healing, and let us work and pray not for their defeat, but for their healing and transformation.

Questions to Ponder

  1. Our Lord points out in St. Mark's Gospel that Satan's house is not divided against itself. You will find no one of his agents attempting to bring anyone to repentance and life. Unfortunately, though Christ prayed that His Church would be one, we are all too often divided from one another and go to war with each other. If our focus and goal is to work out our own salvation and aid those around us in doing the same, how will that change the way in which you see 'problems' in the every day life of your church community? How will that change how you respond to other parishioners, and even other members of your family?
  2. At the beginning of today's epistle reading, St. Paul praises the Christians in Corinth for their generosity and sharing with one another, and does so here because of the fact that their generosity produces thanksgiving, and this giving thanks is not to the Corinthians, but to God. By calling ourselves Christians, we act in the name of Christ. We therefore have the ability through our own conduct, our own love and kindness, to draw people to Christ. Unfortunately, this also means that we have the opposite ability, through bad conduct to cause some to associate our conduct with the name of Jesus Christ. What are some concrete ways in which you can do good for others and give the credit to the Lord? What are some ways of speaking and acting that you need to shed as habits to avoid putting obstacles between people and Christ?
  3. If its true that no human being is our enemy, no matter how far they've fallen into sin or how destructive of themselves or others that they have become, how will this change how we deal with disagreements, arguments, and opposition to ourselves and our Faith from outside? If we truly look at those who disagree with us, oppose us, and even hate us and want to destroy us not as the enemy, but as who we are fighting for, what will our weapons be? How will we choose to fight those battles once we have identified the real enemy?

Questions or Comments? FrStephen@stgeorgecharleston.org

Note from the Author – No rights reserved. If you find anything good, or helpful, or worthwhile in these Bible studies from week to week, feel free to take and use it as you see fit. I do not need credit.


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