Main theme: Paul’s defense of his apostleship and refuting of false teachers.
Date written: A.D. 56 (between 55 and 57).
Place: Philippi (on the way to Corinth) or Macedonia.
1. Paul had sent Titus and Timothy ahead to Corinth to determine what effect his previous letter had, had on the Corinthians.
2. As Paul now travels to Corinth, he meets up with Titus.
3. Titus brings him good news that the Corinthians heeded his words and repented but that there is still some rebellion against him.
4. This news therefore brings him both joy and concern, causing him to write and dispatch this present letter.
5. There is a possibility that Paul had also written one or two other letters to the Corinthians which somehow were not preserved for us.
B. PAUL GREETS THE CONGREGATION
1. When writing a letter, we normally write our names at the end of it; Pauls states right at the beginning from whom the letter is coming. This makes sense.
2. The grace he pronounces over them is like a hug of love which a father gives to the members of his family when he arrives home and before he sits down and enters into discussion of other matters.
C. SUFFERING AND COMFORT
1. Paul and his fellow-workers went through a spell of intensive suffering for the sake of the Gospel.
2. They were not crushed by the suffering because they were comforted by God.
3. This comfort could have come by:
a. Making them intensely aware of his presence.
b. Bringing to mind how He had brought them through suffering in the past.
c. Fixing their eyes on the reward they would receive both in this life and in life hereafter.
d. Imparting extraordinary strength by his Spirit to endure it.
e. Stirring up their faith and hope that they would soon be delivered.
4. So deep was this encouragement that Paul calls God, the Father of mercies and the God of all comfort.
5. The benefit of suffering is that:
a. It compels a Christian to draw nearer to Christ.
b. It builds his faith.
c. It gives him an experiential understanding of suffering which enables him to know how to comfort others, for suffering is part and parcel of this life and we will always be surrounded by those that are suffering.
d. It results in overflowing praise to God, both by the sufferer and by those that prayed for him.
(Have you ever stood beside someone going through intense suffering, not knowing how to comfort him? The reason may well be that you yourself had not yet gone through similar suffering.)
D. PAUL’S REASONS FOR CHANGING HIS PLANS
1. It is very important for Paul that they would trust him for, in doing so, they would be open to accept his teaching.
2. He wanted them, not only to accept him and his co-workers, but even to be proud of them as exemplary Christians, just as he wanted to be proud of them.
3. For this reason it is important for them to understand why he did not keep his promise to visit them on his way to Macedonia:
a. It definitely was not because he makes insincere, easy promises, with no intention of keeping them.
b. The real reason was that he was putting their interest first: he wanted to give them more time to put right the matters he had mentioned in his previous letter, so that his visit would bring joy, both to them, and to him instead of embarrassment.
4. He was always trying to be completely transparent with all to whom he ministered and especially so to them.
5. In so doing he is trying to follow the example of Christ Who is the complete fulfillment (making true) of God’s Word.
6. God the Father anointed us with his Holy Spirit as further proof that in Christ, we will experience the fullness of salvation. The Holy Spirit is like a seal which a king puts on a letter to affirm that it can be trusted and like a deposit a person pays to guarantee that the full payment is forthcoming. (V21, 22)
7. The way he dealt with this matter also proves that he has no intention of lording it over them, but has confidence that they are well grounded in the faith and well able to deal with inconsistencies once these have been pointed out to them.
8. The letter he wrote was not the result of a hard and critical spirit; he was weeping while he wrote it.
9. He wrote it because of his overflowing love for them.
10. He knew that they would only experience fullness of joy once sin has been removed from their midst.
11. Why would he cause them unnecessary sadness? In so doing he would rob himself of joy for he could only rejoice if they were rejoicing.
E. DEALING WITH THE CULPRIT
1. Paul wanted the sinner to be corrected, not because it hurt him personally for he can well imagine that just about everyone in the congregation were pained because of his wayward action.
2. The reasons for applying discipline in the church:
a. Is to keep it pure.
b. Is to restore the sinner and not to destroy him.
c. Never is to revenge the wrong that was done.
3. If the punishment is too severe it may:
a. Cause the sinner to lose heart and turn away from Christ.
b. Cause the devil to gain a victory for he is always planning evil against us.
c. Cause those that do the disciplining to become proud.
4. For that reason, they should now forgive him for what he has done and show love to him.
5. In this Paul would, in his heart, be one with them.
F. PAUL’S LOVING HEART
1. On reaching Troas, a door of opportunity had opened up for Paul to preach the Gospel but he had no peace to avail himself of it because he could not find his co-worker Titus there as had been agreed and this caused him:
a. To be concerned for his safety for he was very dear to him.
b. To continue to be concerned for the Corinthians for Titus would have brought him news of them.
2. For this reason he pushed on to Macedonia where he had the joy both of finding Titus, receiving the letter with good news of the change and Corinth and also being able to send Titus back to Corinth with this present letter.
G. NATURE AND FRUIT OF PAUL’S MINISTRY
2:14 – 3:18
1. In all that Paul is writing to the Corinthians, there always is the undercurrent of his concern for them to accept him as God’s special messenger to them.
2. The root of this desire is not personal pride or a desire for glory, but that they will, by accepting him, accept his teaching which is of God so that it will lead them to experience the fullness of his salvation.
3. In this pericope he therefore gives glory to God for using him wherever he goes and in so doing, he focuses the reader’s attention on his ministry.
4. Regarding his (and all effective Christian) ministry:
a. It is like an overwhelming aroma that surrounds the minister wherever he moves.
b. (This is a picture derived from a Roman general returning home with the trophies gained in war. All the way incense is burned to his gods. This aroma is a smell of death to the captives, but a smell of victorious, abundant life to the conquerors).
c. His ministry and words are so powerful that they penetrate the ears, eyes, hearts and minds of everyone wherever he moves: to those that accept the message, it brings life, but to those that reject it, it spells eternal death; no-one can escape it.
d. And who is equal to such a ministry: is it not God himself that empowers us and overcomes our weakness?
e. This ministry is not for sale nor may the minister offer it for personal gain.
f. It is to be spoken in absolute integrity (honesty) as words flowing directly from God, as if God is physically present while it is spoken, hearing and weighing every word.
g. It is spoken in Christ which means that He, and not the one that is speaking, is always to be seen in the ministry.
4. In stating this so boldly, it may seem as if Paul is promoting himself but:
a. This is not the case, for he does not need letters of recommendation from some higher human source in order that the Corinthians may accept him.
b. They themselves are his letters, proof that his ministry is of God.
c. Their transformed lives show that the words of God he spoke to them have been written in their hearts.
d. Their names have also been written in his heart; he loves them dearly and has taken complete responsibility for them.
e. They are servants of this new will (testament) by which Christ bequeathed all spiritual treasures to them when He died.
5. The New Testament treasures compared to that of the Old Testament.
a. In the Old Testament dispensation, God wrote his words on tablets of stone and gave them to his people to live by, but it did not bring them the joy of life but rather the sorrow of death for they were unable to live according to those words.
b. This New Testament dispensation is exceedingly, abundantly better, for now it is the Spirit of God writing his words into the hearts (innermost being) of man, which enables him to walk by it for it is not forced on them from outside, but flows from within. (God’s will is now not on the outside on a table of stone trying to get into man, but on the inside of every Christian, trying to flow out in righteous thoughts, words and deeds.)
c. This work is done by the Holy Spirit.
d. The ministry through Moses, though it was meant to be temporary and brought death instead of life, was so glorious that it caused his face to shine so that God’s people could not look at him unless he covered himself; yet in comparison to the present ministry it does not seem glorious at all anymore.
e. The present ministry of the Spirit that is eternal and brings life, sheds so much more glory on those that are ministering it, causing them to shine so much brighter by the fruit of the Spirit they are bearing and the power they are demonstrating.
f. They however do not hide this glory but let it shine forth for all the world to see.
g. Not only did Moses hide God’s glory behind a veil, but there was, and still is, a veil covering the spiritual eyes of those that try to find peace with God by trying to keep his entire Law; however this veil of misunderstanding is removed when they are enlightened by the Spirit to be saved by grace, putting their trust in Christ Jesus.
h. God is spirit and ministers by his Holy Spirit and where his Spirit takes over, bondage is broken and freedom is experienced.
i. Therefore we do not look at the do’s and don’ts but, by the working of the Spirit, we look at Christ in his splendour of holiness, and as we gaze upon him, and desire to be like him, the Spirit changes our inner beings more and more to look and shine just like him.
j. This looking at him is like looking at someone else by means of a mirror; you can see him clearly, but you cannot touch him with your hand, for what you see is not his person but his image.
k. (The Bible is the mirror by which the Spirit displays the glory of Christ to us.)
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