Lesson Three – Maintaining Relationships

Maintaining Relationships

Lesson Text:  II Cor. 1:12-7:16


The drama in this text, as we understood in the previous lesson, is about the Apostle Paul maintaining a good character standing with the churches in Achaia.  The emphasis in the previous lesson was on integrity.  Quote; “Integrity is one trait of good character; however, relationships and a positive attitude about God and His creation are also attributes.”  The emphasis in this lesson will about the divine principle of relationships in regard to Christian character.  These principles can be understood in the text for both lessons. This lesson is a continuation of Lesson Two.


Now this is our boast: Our conscience testifies that we have conducted ourselves in the world, especially in our relations with you, in the holiness and sincerity that are of God.  We have done so not according to worldly wisdom but according to God’s grace.  II Cor. 1:12

Christians are conscious of our relationship with our neighbors in the world realm.  Our conscience should testify that our conduct has been “in the holiness and sincerity that are in God.”  Relationships are a reflection of the quality of our character.  A fact of life is often demonstrated as James said; “With the tongue we praise our Lord and Father, and with it we curse men, who have been made in God’s likeness.” Then he said, “Out of the same mouth come praise and cursing.  My brothers, this should not be.”  He followed this with a rhetorical question to explain why it should not be; “Can both fresh water and salt water flow from the same spring?”  James 3:9-11.  It should not be, because our mouth reveals the condition of our character.  We cannot control our tongue but we can change the quality of our character (James 3:5-8).  We can work on our relationships with people.  The problem is not out there it is in here (Matt. 7:1; Rom. 2:1).

James appears to contradict himself when he asked, “You adulterous people, don’t you know that friendship with the world is hatred toward God?”  James 4:4.  In the literary context of James’ document, he does not contradict himself, as we might suspect; however, he has presented the paradox of Christians’ relationships.  Our relationships with our eternal family of God “in Christ” is of a different nature than they are with the world (Heb. 2:11-13).

Paul was speaking of both primary and secondary relationships in II Cor. 1:12.  Healthy physical families have primary relationships.  We rejoice together and we weep with one another (I Cor. 12:26).  Primary relationships have their roots in both brotherly love (philadelphia) and love (agape).  See II Pet. 1:7.  Brotherly love is not exercised in secondary relationships; that is, people do not share common goals or commune with one another in their joys and sorrows.  Please read the first chapter of Philippians to understand why Paul and the church at Philippi had a healthy primary relationship.  Note: Partnership, v. 5; share, v. 7; affection, v. 8; prayers, v. 19; necessary for you, v. 24 and same struggle v. 30.

Although Paul was concerned with maintaining a guilt free conscience in regard to his relationship with people in the world realm, his paradoxical instruction for the church was, “Do not be yoked together with unbelievers.”  II Cor. 6:14.  Please review Part III, Lessons Four and Five.  Our interest is in the word, “yoked.”  Christians live in the world but not according to worldly wisdom.  “For though we live in the world, we do not wage war as the world does.”  II Cor. 10:3.  We live with immoral and greedy people.  The people living next door may be swindlers and idolaters.  We associate with them “without raising questions of conscience.”  I Cor. 10:27.  We may “become all things to all men so that by all possible means l (we) might save some,” but we do not commune with them (I Cor. 9:22; 10:21).

Communion is the unique relationship Christians have in our fellowship.  The following is an excerpt from Part IV, Lesson Five.

Koinonia is the word that has been translated communion (KJV) and participation (NIV) in I Cor. 10:16.  What can we understand from the foregoing contexts in which the word “communion” is used?

  1. Saints have a common concern in our hearts for one another’s physical welfare (II Cor. 8:8, 9, 13).
  2. We share common minds and thoughts with Jesus (I Cor. 1:10; 2:16).
  3. Because we have a common faith, as members of God’s church, we enjoy the present identity and fellowship of being “sons and daughters” of God in the kingdom of God (I Cor. 4:20; II Cor. 5:7, 16, 17; 6:18).
  4. We understand how the fellowship of sharing in the suffering of Christ leads to comfort from God (II Cor. 1:5-8).
  5. Christian’s fellowship with Deity and fellow members of the body of Christ is the “one loaf, one body” theology in 10:17.                End of excerpt

We see why Paul said, “Not according to worldly wisdom but according to grace.”  II Cor. 1:12.  Jesus’ suffering flows into Christians’ lives in conjunction with God’s comforting presence by the Holy Spirit (II Cor. 1:3-7).  Our relationship with God is based on grace (I Pet. 1:17-21; I John 4:7-13).

Now that you have purified yourselves by obeying the truth so that you have sincere love for your brothers, love one another deeply, from the heart.  For you have been born again, not of a perishable seed, but of imperishable, through the living and enduring word of God.  ‘All men are like grass, and all their glory is like the flowers of the field; the grass withers and the flowers fall, but the word of the Lord stands forever.’  And this is the word that was preached to you.  I Pet. 1:22-25

Relationships between people in the world are limited to time and material things.  The grace factor is missing.  The mature man in the world is who he is – a sinner.  As long as he rejects Christ he is in a perishing state, both body and soul (I Cor. 1:18).  All mature people are sinners (Rom. 3:22, 23).  Christians are sinners who live by faith; therefore, we receive mercy in grace (Eph. 2:8; Rom. 11:32).

For Christ’s love compels us, because we are convinced that one died for all, and therefore all died.  And He died for all, that those who live should no longer live for themselves but for Him who died for them and was raised again.  So from now on we regard no one from a worldly point of view.  Though we once regarded Christ in this way, we do so no longer.  Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come!  All this is from God, who reconciled us to Himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation.  II Cor. 5:14-18

Christians have been reconciled to God.  We were with God when we were children but we were separated at the time we matured (all died), but now, by grace, we are back with God as His children (Matt. 18:2-6; John 5:24).  The Greek word, katallasso, has been translated reconciliation.  It means Christians’ relationship with God has completely changed because we are no longer slaves to our sins.  “So you are no longer a slave, but a son; and since you are a son, God has made you an heir.”  Gal. 4:7.

Our relationships are based on grace and they are eternal.  Because of God’s love for us, our relationships are formed on the suffering and comforting concept.  See Part V. Lesson One.   This is a function of love (I Cor. 13:4-9).  What then are the principles upon which primary relationships can be built?

  1. II Cor. 1:13, 14.  Christians’ lives are transparent in the fellowship of the church.  We understand one another.  We speak what can be understood.  We know we are in a growth program.  Students develop strong relationships with one another because they have common goals.  They often wear the same uniform even though some are wealthy and others poor.  They help one another because they all have “the poor in spirit attitude.”  They accept weaknesses in their colleagues because all have deficiencies in relation to their goals.  They are prone to boast about one another’s achievements.  Puffed up individuals have weak character because of their inability to form primary relationships (I Cor. 8:1).
  2. II Cor. 1:15-17.  Paul thought his relationship with the church was healthy based on the foregoing principles.  He had made many emotional deposits with the church members.  He had suffered for them and worked hard to comfort them; therefore, he believed they would accept his “change of plan” in the spirit of doing what was best for them.
    The principle for strong relationships is that Christians suffer and comfort one another when and if the need arises.  We rejoice with one another when there is a cause.  These acts of love build up emotional deposits with fellow members.  Sometimes we fall short of others’ expectations but they will forgive us if we are transparent about the cause of our failure.  In some cases, we may need to confess our failure happened because of our sin.  We ask for their forgiveness and our relationships are maintained.  If we will enjoy a guilt free testimony from our consciences, we need to strive to openly and frankly present our case – as Paul did.
  3. Relationships depend on the condition of the hearts of those who are in the fellowship.  Paul’s claim was, “I call God as my witness that it was in order to spare you that I did not return to Corinth.”  II Cor. 1:23.  His conscience was free of guilt but this did not settle the matter.  The church needed to be convinced of the quality of his character to maintain, or attain a good relationship.  Paul demonstrated a principle for us.  He accepted the responsibility to prove himself to the Corinthians that he not only had integrity, but he also affectionately desired their fellowship.  He assured them, “we work with you for your joy.”  II Cor. 1:24.
  4. II Cor. 2:5-11.  A situation had developed in the church in Achaia.  A member had repented of doing a wrong but the church was not ready to forgive this person.  See Part II, Lesson Five.  Forgiveness stimulates love (Luke 7:40-48).  Without forgiveness there will be no primary relationships.  Primary relationships depend on love (agape).  When our friend becomes our enemy “friendship love” (philadelphia) will not be strong enough to maintain a healthy relationship (Rom. 5:6-8).  Even though “the whole world is under the control of the evil one,” still Satan is not happy
    (I John 5:19).  Satan wants to outwit the church and he does it when a church will not settle their disputes.  Forgiveness is a key factor.  See Part III, Lesson Five.
  5. II Cor. 5:11-13.  How far does a Christian need to go in order to maintain a church fellowship that is defined by the word, communion?  Paul asked the church to approach their present “relationship challenge” by appealing for a verdict from their conscience.  Please read II Cor. 6:3-13; 7:2-4.  This kind of an appeal depends on transparency on the part of the person who is trying to prove he or she is a person with good character.  If the matter of fellowship of the body of Christ is resolved, the other parties must be willing to search their consciences to make sure they are making their judgments based on their hearts.  They need to examine themselves to make sure they have not been influenced by what is seen – the wisdom of the world.   In the Corinthian case it is possible that some may have been deceived by Satan and his gang of false apostles (II Cor. 11:13-15).

The foregoing principles for maintaining relationships have been embedded in this great drama played out for us between Paul and the churches in Achaia.  We are happy to know Titus did arrive with good news (II Cor. 7:6, 7).

Questions for Discussion

  1. If Christians practice righteousness, why are they concerned about their relationships with people who are not Christians?
  2. In what way did both Paul and James present a paradox about relationships?
  3. How does the word “yoked” define Christians’ fellowship “in Christ?”
  4. Do Christians commune with mature people who are not Christians?
  5. What is one difference in brotherly love and love (agape)?
  6. Define a primary relationship.
  7. How does the fact that Christians not only enjoy, but need a continuum of God’s grace to help us maintain primary relationships in the church?
  8. Jesus Christ died for all people.  What did this establish about all mature people on earth?
  9. How does a Christian’s reconciliation help their “self image?”
  10. Explain the value of transparency for maintaining or recovering a healthy relationship.
  11. Why did Paul think the church would accept his explanation for not fulfilling his promise to visit them as he had promised?
  12. What is the value of making emotional deposits with people?
  13. When a situation develops between members of the church requiring forgiveness, why might brotherly love not be strong enough to maintain the fellowship of the church?
  14. If forgiveness is not forth coming who will be waiting to outwit the members involved?
  15. Paul finally appealed to the consciences of the church to accept or reject his fellowship as an apostle of Jesus Christ.  When members of the church make this kind of appeal what would be required of each party in order to have a happy outcome?

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