Thursday, September 12, 2019

Come Follow Me - 2 Corinthians 1-7

Come Follow Me - 2 Corinthians 1-7

Second Corinthians

Second Corinthians is accepted by almost all scholars as being authentically written by Paul. There is a twist, however. There is evidence that suggests that 2 Corinthians isn’t one letter, but actually two letters that were later combined. Chapters 1-9 focus on harmony and reconciliation. The last four chapters focus on divisions occurring in Corinth. In fact, 2 Cor 2:4 mentions a “sorrowful letter” or “letter of tears” that Paul had written them. Several scholars believe that the chapters 10-13 of Second Corinthians are that sorrowful letter.

In chapters 2-6, Paul attempts to establish himself with the Corinthian Christians, explaining his authority compared to that of others who had arrived in Corinth with claims of authority from elsewhere. He has had a painful visit with them, and wants to show that his love for them is greater than the pain caused during the visit. Chapters 1 and 7 show Paul’s effort to reconcile with the saints in Corinth and to reestablish the gospel in its proper form.

In the “sorrowful letter” found in chapters 10-13, Paul discussed his sadness from a visit he made to Corinth, where he was humiliated by others who had obtained power in the church there. In fact, it becomes a polemic defense of his apostleship against those who attacked his authority.

Problems Corinth has with Paul

The Corinthians had three major complaints with Paul.  Paul's companion, Titus had visited Corinth in his place, and they shared with him these complaints.

First, they couldn't understand his letters (2 Cor 1:12-14). Anyone today who has attempted to study Paul will come out asking, "WHAT????"  His letters bounce all around. His thoughts are often incoherent (just reread Romans as an example). The Corinthians wanted a gospel they could easily understand, but were not getting it from Paul. '

Paul deals with this complaint by discussing his good conduct, as an example of what a Christian should be. Some have thought that Paul was being arrogant in discussing all the things he accomplished. Yet, this is to contrast his efforts from the opposing preachers, a list of things he and his companions had done (we, not I) as servants of Christ.

Second,  on at least one occasion, Paul promised to visit Corinth, but then changed his mind without even letting them know. They felt slighted by the apostle (vv 15-23). He mentioned visiting with them twice, with a trip to Macedonia in between. During his first visit to Corinth, Paul had many struggles with them, and being frustrated, chose to go to Ephesus instead. This complaint has substance, but also shows that Paul had to choose between important and less important visits and works all the time. As Stephen Covey noted in 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, we must choose between what is important and what is urgent. That said, not discussing the change with Corinth would have left them feeling unimportant and left out: a letter apologizing for the change would have gone a long way to maintain his relationship with them.

Finally, they felt Paul was very domineering and demanding of them. They wanted to make sure he knew they were in control of their own Christian church in Corinth (1:24-2:4). They were likely being encouraged by visiting preachers, who wanted to replace Paul as their leader.

In these verses, Paul feels he's on trial. He uses legal terms to discuss what occurred, swearing to the truthfulness of his account ("as God is my witness"). Paul knew that if he had returned to Corinth, he would have had to discipline them for not repenting and following him. His visit would have made them sad, and there would be no gladness for them.

Spirit of the Law

In 2 Corinthians 2, Paul then urges forgiveness. He understands that his relationship with them is marred, and so focusing on forgiveness of all those who offend, is a path that can repair their relationship.

In chapter 3, he explains the difference between the Letter of the Law and the Spirit. The Mosaic Law does not bring eternal life. A person following the Mosaic Law will die and cannot return to Heaven. Only in following the Law of Christ, born of the Spirit, can a person be reborn and live. Without Christ, there would be no resurrection, not atonement, no mercy, no forgiveness. So, the Letter (Mosaic) Law was dead, as it was useful for this life, but could not save anyone. Only through Christ could anyone hope to be saved.

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