About Jesus    Steve Sweetman

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My Commentary On 2 Corinthians





This commentary is based on the New International Version of the Bible, 1984 edition.  The Section titles of this commentary correspond to the section titles of the NIV to make for easy comparison.


There's no controversy over who wrote this letter.  It is clearly the apostle Paul.  


1 Corinthians was most likely written around 55 AD.  Therefore 2 Corinthians was written some time after that, within  a couple of years.


Some think that second Corinthians is actually letters number two and three of Paul’s letters that have been combined into one larger letter.  Some believe that there was another letter between first and second Corinthians that we don’t have which would make 2 Corinthians actually 3 Corinthians.  Others suggest that 2 Corinthians is actually 4 Corinthians.  They say that before Paul wrote 1 Corinthians he wrote another letter, as might be suggested in 1 Corinthians 5:9 through 11.  2 Corinthians 7:8 suggests there was a letter between the two letters we have.  So, there is much debate over these two letters.  I think it's clear that Paul wrote more to the Corinthians than what we have.   


The first recorded visit that Paul made to Corinth is found in  Acts 18, where he met Aquila and Pricilla, natives of Italy who were forced to flee Italy because of persecution directed towards Jews.  We see in Acts 18:11 that Paul stayed in Corinth for a year and a half.  During this time the Jews gave Paul great problems, so, Paul decided that he would minister to the Gentiles in Corinth and many of the Gentiles became Christians.     


It appears that Paul visited Corinth a second time that is not recorded in the book of Acts.  In 2 Corinthians 2:1 Paul speaks of a painful visit to Corinth .  It does not appear that his first visit was all that painful.  Thus the thinking that there was another visit.  2 Corinthians 12:14 and 13:1 states that Paul would visit them yet another time, for the third time, thus, there had to have been a second visit. 


One reason why I feel 2 Corinthians is important is because we see the human side of Paul in this letter more than we do in any other letter that he wrote.  We see how he feels, and he didn't always feel great.  You may think of Paul as being the great apostle with all sorts of faith, and power, but here in this letter, we see the frail side of Paul. 


Paul suffered a lot in his ministry.  As a matter of fact, Jesus through the prophetic word of Ananias told Paul that he would suffer in Acts 9:16.  The Lord use the one who  suffers because it knocks all of the pride out of him.  Suffering also brings us closer to Jesus.  The first letter of Peter is a good letter to study to learn how the Lord uses suffering in our lives.  We try to avoid suffering, but sometimes suffering is a tool of the Lord.  


Along with seeing who Paul is, we see some of his teaching, on subjects such as forgiveness, reconciliation, leadership, ministry, giving, and many other things.  These are all very relevant to the modern church.     


Opening Remarks (ch. 1:1 - 2)


In verse 1 we note that Paul introduces himself as "Paul".  "Paul' was the name he went by in Gentile circles.  It is important to know that Saul did not change his name to Paul.  He simply used Paul in the Roman world, and probably Saul in the Hebrew world.  The name Paul in Greek means "little".  Tradition has it that Paul was little, bald, had a large nose and protruding eyes.  The name Saul transliterated into Greek is not very flattering.  It has two possible meanings.  One is "unstable" and the other means "effeminate".  I doubt is Paul would have liked either of those two names.  It is interesting that the name Saul as it relates to Paul does not appear in Acts after Acts 13, other than in Acts 22:13 and Acts 26:14.  In both of these cases the name "Saul" is used because the text refers back to Acts 9 and the conversion of Saul.  It's a misunderstanding in my opinion  that Saul changed his name to Paul.  I believe that when Paul was in Gentile territory he used the name Paul, and "possibly" when he was in Jewish territory he used the name "Saul".  There's simply not enough information concerning this issue to be dogmatic.  We must remember though that Paul had a Gentile father and a Jewish mother.  He might well have had two names throughout his life.   One last thought.  The first time we see the name "Paul" in Acts is in chapter 13, verse 9.  It says, "… Saul, who was also called Paul …" There is no hint of name change here.          


Paul states in verse 1 that he is “an apostle of Jesus Christ , by the will of God”.  In the first chapter of Galatians we see that Paul defends his calling, that it is from God and not from man.  Many of us may like to make the same claim, but does the fruit of our calling prove its authenticity?


Paul also includes Timothy in his introductory statement.  Therefore this letter, although written by Paul, or at least dictated by Paul, was from Timothy as well.


This letter was written “to the church of God at Corinth ”, but not for them alone.  Paul includes all the saints throughout the region of Achaia.  It is clear that Paul was dealing with specific matters relating to a specific church in his letters, yet what he has to say and teach is good for others as well, including us today.  Some people thus say that from this early time, the writings of Paul were seen as inspired, as being canonical.  Achaia was a Roman province in the south of Greece .  Corinth , Athens , and Sparta , were located in Achaia.


Paul claims to be an apostle in verse 1.  The word "apostle" simply means "a sent one".  Paul said that God sent him and this sending was His will.  We know it was God's will.  It certainly wasn't Paul's will.  Paul was going in the opposite direction when God interrupted his life to call him first to Himself and then to ministry.   


In verse 2 he says, “grace and peace to you from God our Father and from our Lord Jesus Christ”.  This phraseology is also common to Paul’s writings.  He differentiates between God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.  This is important in our "generic god world".  Christians believe in a specific God.  He is the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.  He is not Allah, or any other god. 


Paul includes the two titles given to Jesus, and that is Lord and Christ.  He is Lord of all things and He is Christ or Saviour for all who believe and trust in Him.


Note the word "church" in verse 2.  It is translated from the Greek word "ekklesia", which is made up of two Greek words, "out of' and "to call".  "Ekklesia" simply means "a called out group of people".  God, through Jesus, calls people out of the world to be His own special people.  So, when Paul addresses this letter to the church in Corinth , or any other letter to any other city, he is saying, "greetings to those people whom God has called out to serve him".   


I have personally come to not like the word "church' because its modern meaning does not reflect New Testament teaching.  What 21st century church has evolved into, is not what Paul had in mind when he used the word "ekklesia" back in his day.  Church was a group of people  who were related to one another through their association with Jesus.  They had fellowship with one another and this fellowship was meant to help them to function in the Body of Christ.  I call this "functional relationships".  Paul's idea of church was not some place where one went to sit and listen to a preacher.  His idea of church was a group of people who worked together in furthering the kingdom of God throughout the world.  


Note also the word "saints" in verse 2.  The word "saints' is translated from the Greek word "hagios", which finds its roots in the Greek word meaning "holy".  Thus, saints are "God's holy ones".  They are not holy in their own right, but holy in the eyes of Jesus because the Father sees the saints through the blood of Jesus.   Catholicism has destroyed what the Biblical meaning of saints is all about.  Saints aren't super Christians.  Saints are all those who are covered by the blood of Jesus.           



The God Of All Comfort (ch. 1:3 - 11)

In verse 3 Paul says, “praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ”.  This is important to the core of the gospel, and Paul never forgets this truth.  The truth is that the God we serve is the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.  This is the God of Christians, and we cannot forget this in our day when this truth is being challenged with all sorts of generic and false gods.  The trend in today's world is to say that all religions lead to the same god, but this is not Biblical and must be denounced in no uncertain terms. 


Paul continues by saying that this God “is the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all of our troubles”.  This verse alone should tell us that Christians do experience trouble. We are not alienated from trouble and hardship just because we are Christians.  Paul’s life is certainly an example of this.  He experienced more trouble than most and the trouble he went through was due to the fact that he was a Christian.


There is a reason why Paul says that God comforts us.  The reason is that we can extend this same comfort to others who need it.  So not only Paul went through trouble and needed comfort.  Others did as well, including you and I.


Note the word "comforter" in verses 3 and 4.  The Greek word "parakletos" is translated into the English word "comfort' here.  "Parakletos" is made up of two Greek words.  They are, "along side", and "helper'.  "Parakletos' is actually a Greek legal word often used in a court room.  A "parakletos" was a lawyer, a counselor, or, an advocate.  The word comforter may suggest warm and fuzzy feelings, but a "parakletos" is more than that.  He is an advisor, one who stands beside you in time of trouble, giving advise, support, and direction.  This Greek word is used ten times in the first ten verses of chapter 1.        


Paul says an interesting thing in verse 5.  He says that “the sufferings of Christ flow over into our lives.”.  Picture yourself pouring a cup of tea into your cup.  You pour until you reach the brim of the cup, but you keep pouring and so the tea begins to spill over on to the table.  Paul is saying that there was suffering poured out on Jesus.  Yet the suffering did not stop with Jesus.  God kept on pouring this suffering.  After Jesus experienced all the suffering He could, the residue of the suffering is now being poured out on Paul and others.  Paul understood suffering to be a part of the Christian life. 


Modern western Christianity knows little about suffering, neither does it want to know anything about it.  Suffering is often preached as being outside of God's will.  Paul did not understand this to be the case.  It was simply part of normal Christian life.  Maybe we do not suffer as those in the first century church because we do not live the life of a Christian with the same intensity as they did.  They also had a hostile government and religious system to contend with that we may not have today, or not as yet.  I do believe the western church will see more suffering as our western nations move away from their Christian and Jewish foundations.  Other Christians, as in China , have experienced this suffering for years.  Our turn in the west to suffer has just begun.  In Biblical terms, suffering is simply part of the Christian life.


Paul also says in verse 5 that not only the sufferings of Christ have overflowed to us, but His comfort has overflowed to us as well.  Jesus will comfort us, or, advise and counsel us through the hard times.  He expects us to advise, counsel, stand alongside  our brothers in the Lord as well, when they go through hard times.  This is the true nature of the Body of Christ, that which we call church.  One problem in the west is that we are much more independent and individualistic for the true meaning of the Body of Christ.  Again, we should not think of the word "comfort" here simply in terms of warm and fuzzy feelings.    


We need to understand the more we live for Jesus, the more we will suffer, but the more Jesus will stand along side of us through our suffering.  We should to the same for others in the Body of Christ.  What Paul is pointing out here in the church, or the ekklesia, is its foundation of relationship, first to the Lord and then to each other. 


We should understand what suffering that overflows from Paul is talking about here.  It is certainly not the suffering for sin that Jesus experienced on the cross.  Only Jesus suffered for sin.  Jesus suffered grief and pain for the lost sheep of Israel .  Before Jesus was arrested He sat on the top of the Mount of Olives and wept over the fate of Jerusalem . He was also persecuted by the Jews, His own people.  He suffered by simply being in a world of sin.  So, when thinking of suffering here, we shouldn't think just about being persecuted.  All these things that Jesus suffered, Paul and the early church suffered as well. 



In verse 6 Paul says that if “he is distressed”, which at times he was, “it was for their comfort and salvation”.  Paul went through a lot of distress to bring salvation and subsequent comfort to these Christians. I think this is one very important issue that modern day pastors must know,  understand, and make part of their lives.  I believe many modern day pastors don't really feel this way.  It's my contention that 2 Corinthians should be well taught in Bible colleges in their pastoral studies department because we really do learn how to shepherd God's flock from this letter.


The word "distress" in verse 6, or "afflicted" in the KJV, is translated from a Greek word meaning, "to press in, to press hard upon".   The circumstances relating to Paul's ministry "pressed in upon" him in such a way that it was distressful to him.          


On the other hand, Paul says that if indeed “he was comforted”, or advised, counseled, or helped, this would lead to them being comforted as well.  So know matter what state Paul would find himself in, it was all for the good of God’s people.  That was Paul's life as a Christian.  The one who once persecuted Christians dedicated every fiber of his being to helping others, including those who persecuted them. 


The comfort that these Christians would receive, both from God and from Paul would produce “patient endurance” in them, something they definitely needed, because they suffered as Christians as well.  "Patient endurance" means to willing and actively endure hardship for both the sake of Jesus and the sake of others.  Again, this is something that is sadly lacking in our modern, wealthy, and prosperous western church.  Remember, the word comfort means much more than warm fuzzy feelings.  This comfort includes support, counsel, and advice based on strong relationships.    


Note the word "share" in verse 7.  Paul speaks of the Corinthians “sharing in his sufferings”.  The sufferings that were poured out on Jesus overflowed to Paul and kept on overflowing to those he ministered to.  They were all in the same boat, sharing in the suffering of Christ.  Suffering was common to Paul and to the Corinthians.  They were also in the same boat, sharing in the comfort that God gives in the midst of such suffering.


Once again, the word "share" is one of those New Testament words that speak of the real meaning of the church, the real meaning of "ekklesia".   Paul is speaking of sharing in both suffering and comfort here, but this presupposes the sharing of many aspects of the believers lives with one another.  Church is not simply going to meetings.  Church is sharing of lives.   


In verse 8 Paul says that “he does not want them to be uninformed…”   These are also common words that you see throughout Paul’s writings.  He is a teacher.  He is a dispenser of truth and information.  The things he wants them to be informed about in this instance are the facts that he and his companions have suffered greatly for the sake of the gospel and for the sake of the Corinthians. 


Today's church needs to be more informed, or so I believe.  We major on preaching and not teaching.  Really, the Bible does not distinguish between preaching as being inspirational and teaching as being instructive as we do.  The general consensus is that Christians would rather be inspired instead of instructed.  This leads to what I call "inspired ignorance".  


Paul says another interesting thing in verse 8.  He says that we “were under great pressure, far beyond our ability to endure, so that we despaired even of life”.  These words are from the mouth of one of the greatest men of God in history.  For those who think that Christians should be happy all the time, they should look closely at what Paul says here.  Paul and his companions, at times despaired of life.  They felt like dying.  They wished that they were dead.  These hardships were “beyond their ability to endure”. That is how bad it got for Paul and his fellow workers.  If not for Jesus, in their own human strength they would have died.  That's how rough things got in those days for Paul and others. 


Note the word "despaired" in verse 9.  It is translated from a Greek word that consists of two other Greek words; one meaning "out of" and the other meaning "find you way through".  Paul, and those with him could not find their way through and out of these hardships.  It was impossible without Jesus.   


Why Paul was so distressed, or on what occasion or occasions he is talking about, we don't know.  Many people have guessed.  It might well be something that was never written in his letters or the book of Acts.   In 1 Corinthians 15:31 Paul says that he "dies every day".  That doesn't sound all that pleasing.  In verse 32 he speaks about fighting "against wild beasts".  We don't know whether to take these "wild beasts" literally or figuratively.  We know he did fight against wild beasts in a figurative sense, and he might well have fought against wild beasts in a literal Roman arena.  We don't know that because it is not recorded.  We do know that not all of what Paul did is recorded.       


Paul and his friends "despaired of life".  I take that to mean that they would have rather died than to try to find their way out of these hardships.  In Paul’s letter to the Philippians (chapter 1:20 - 24)  Paul basically said that if he had a choice between living and dying, he would rather be dead and be with Christ.  The only reason why he would choose to stay alive would be to help God's people.  This tells you how Paul viewed his existence on earth.  This also shows you that Paul did not have an easy life.  At times it was so hard that he preferred to be dead.  Was Paul depressed?  Maybe he was.  Did he give up?  He certainly did not.


In verse 9 Paul states that he and those with him felt like they were under “the sentence of death”.  The term" sentence of death" is a judicial or legal term.  Maybe this tells us a bit about what was distressing Paul so badly.  Maybe it was over a legal problem, but this is still speculation.  They felt like a courtroom judge had pronounced the sentence of  death on them.  Yet all this was to help Paul and the others “to rely on God and not themselves”, as he says in the same verse.  They had to rely on God and Him alone, Him “who raises the dead”.  So even if they did experience death, they knew that God would raise them into a new and better life.  Yet even at death’s door, Paul would trust fully in His Lord, and nothing else.


As we see in verse 9, for Paul, this hardship, and all hardships were for one reason, and that was so they would not rely on their own human effort.  They must rely totally on God, on the Lord Jesus Christ.  This is something that the modern church knows little of.  We rely on our own human strength way too much.  We rely on our ministries, our finances, our buildings, our organizational structures, and on all that is called the church these days.  This is not good.   


From what we know of Paul's life before he met Jesus, I believe he was one strong willed and humanistic man, yet in the name of Judaism.  All that he went through was to knock this humanism out of him, which these hardships certainly did.


In verse 10 Paul continues by saying that they are still alive.  God has delivered them and will deliver them”.  He says, that “on Him we have set our hope”.  Like the old hymn says, “my hope is built on nothing less…”  Paul’s only hope was in the God and Father of his Lord Jesus Christ


Biblical hope is different than our modern day idea of hope.  We say, “I hope I win…”   This means that we have no assurance of winning, we are simply “hoping to win”.  Biblical hope is having an assurance that because of Jesus something that He says will happen at a future date will happen.  Hope implies that the thing we hope for is in the future and has not come to pass as yet, but it will, if Jesus says it will. That is why Paul has a great hope in the resurrection at the end of the age.  Faith differs from hope in that faith is trusting for present realities.  We place our trust in Jesus for salvation, which we have to some extent already.  There may be a future element to faith, but it is not all futuristic like hope.  


As far as I am concerned, when it comes to hope and faith, we should think and act like the three Hebrew men who were cast into the fire in the book of Daniel.  If you read the account, they had the same hope and faith in their God that Paul had.  They believed that their God could save them, but even if He didn't, they would never bow down to the pagan idol.  In the end, even in death, these three men understood that God would be with them.  Death is simply passing from one form of existence to another.    


Paul says in verse 11 that all this will happen as a result of the Corinthian’s prayers, and as their prayers are answered in the life of Paul and his company, “many will give thanks for the gracious favour granted” by God.  


Note the importance that Paul places on the prayers of the believers.  He is expecting the Corinthians, and all who read this letter, to pray for them.  Then, in answer to these prayers, God will help Paul and his team to minister to others.  Serious prayer, intercession, is important, but often overlooked these days.  This verse clearly tells us that we need to be in serious prayer for one another.   We simply need to make ourselves available to pray.  We need to put ourselves in a position of prayer where the Lord can place a burden in our hearts that brings us to a place of serious prayer.  



Paul’s Change Of Plans (ch. 1:12 – 2:4)


In verse 12 Paul uses the word boast in relationship to his work in the Lord.  He is usually quick to point out that his boasting is really based on God’s grace alone.  Here in verse 12 he boasts that he “has conducted himself with all holiness and sincerity”, both in the world and to them.  He and his company have conducted themselves and their ministry in a blameless fashion.  Although Paul got lots of criticism, it was not based on any type of misconduct on his part.  He could stand before the Corinthians with a clean conscience and make this statement.  The same should be true with us, yet we often are criticized, not for the gospel we believe in, but for the way we behave.  That should not be.  The gospel should be the offense, not us.


Paul says that he has not conducted himself “according to worldly wisdom, but according to God’s grace”.  So you can see that though he boasts, his boasting rests on the grace of God and nothing else.  Worldly wisdom is what I believe the church is battling with today.  We are allowing worldly wisdom to influence us, and that should not be. 


Note Paul's use of the word "conscience"  in verse 12.  Our conscience is part of our sinful nature and therefore cannot always be trusted.  Our conscience must be trained to fall in line with the Word of God.  Only then, can we fully trust our conscience.  I believe that Paul's conscience was fully in line with the truth of God.  His conscience was pure and clean before the Lord.  


Verses 13 and 14 seems to suggest  that there is mistrust in the relationship between Paul and the Corinthian church.  Not that Paul mistrusts them, because he says  “he will be able to boast of them in the day of the Lord”.  Yet he is hoping that they can do the same on that day.  He says that at the present moment their understanding of himself and his companions is “in part”.  Once they know all about Paul and his ministry, they should be able to boast in him and he will boast in them at a future date.  I am not sure that Paul could boast about the Corinthians at the present moment, but he has great hope that he will be able to boast about these people in the future.  He only wishes that the reverse would be true as well. 


This boasting is based on the Corinthians knowing who Paul is.  Who Paul is, is important, because what Paul is attempting to do in this letter is to restore a lost relationship that he once had with these people.  The health of church depends on the health of individuals in the church.     


As we see in verse16, Paul’s original travel plans were to go to Macedonia .  He would go to Macedonia via Corinth .  Once at Macedonia , after staying a while, he would head to Judea with the gift of money for the poor saints.  He would drop into Corinth on this trip, thus visiting them twice.  He really wanted to see these people twice.  Paul's heart was very heavy concerning them.


In verse 17 we see a glimpse into how Paul understands the will of God for the things he does in life.  He asked, "did I plan this trip lightly".  The answer is obviously "no".  Paul does sit down and plan his trips out, but he is very serious about these trips.  He clearly seeks the Lord concerning these things. 


Note the words, "in the same breath I say, yes yes, and no no".  The point is simple here.  If Paul says "yes", he means "yes".  If he says "no" he means "no".  He doesn't speak out of both sides of his mouth.  Unlike those in the world, he does not say one thing and do another.  Paul was saying this because the Corinthians had misgivings about him not coming to visit them.   


Paul was probably a decisive man by nature, but that being said, I think such decisiveness is part of a godly character.  I believe we all should be like Paul in this respect.  We should not be wishy washy.  When we say "yes", we should follow up on our "yes" with actions.  When we have to say "no", we should act accordingly as well.    


In verse 18 Paul continues his discourse concerning  the words’ “yes and no”.  He wants them to know for sure that the good news preached to them by himself and “Silas and Timothy” was “yes” only.  There is no maybe about the gospel.  God is faithful, as he puts it, and so is the gospel.  If the Lord says something, then you can rely on what He says. 


Paul says that all the promises of God are “in Christ” and they are “yes”.  We need to understand that what God promises can only be fulfilled in Jesus.  Outside of Jesus, none of God’s promises can be realized. As a result Paul says “that the “amen” is spoken by us”.  By this Paul means that he agrees with all of the promises God has proclaimed in Jesus. His “amen” is an affirmation of God’s word.  


If God says He will do something, if He promises something, He will do what He promises.  You can count on that.  In Romans 11:29 Paul states that "God's gifts and call are irrevocable".  I would say that his promises are also irrevocable.


In verse 20 Paul says that "the amen is spoken" by them.  This means that Paul agrees with the promises of God.  He agrees with God.  When God says He will do something, Paul says "amen" because he knows the promises will come to pass. 


In verse 21 and 22 Paul says that it is “God who makes both you and us stand firm in Christ”.  Notice again, that we as Christians stand firm not only in God, but in Christ.  How does this happen?  Paul says that God has “anointed us, set His seal of ownership on us, and put his Spirit in our hearts as a deposit, guaranteeing what is to come”. 


Paul speaks of three things here.  He says we are anointed.  This means  as someone would be anointed with oil, that is, oil poured over their heads as a symbolic gesture, so the Holy Spirit comes over us and is poured out on us to give us the ability to do what God wants us to do.             


Paul also says that “God’s seal of ownership” is on us.  Elsewhere in Paul’s writings we see that the Holy Spirit’s entrance into our lives is like a lawyer’s seal on a document to prove its authenticity.  So the Holy Spirit is the seal.  This idea of seal here is important.  This seal is not like glue that seals something up.  It is a seal, a mark that validates something.


Thirdly Paul says that we have indeed received the Holy Spirit “as a deposit of things to come”.  The Holy Spirit in our lives is a down payment of better things.  When you buy something with a down payment, this means that you have not yet paid the full price.  You will pay it later.  We have not yet received all there is to receive from God.  The Holy Spirit is only a down payment, a deposit towards the future, and what a deposit He is.


From verse 25 to chapter 2:4 Paul explains why he did not come to visit the Corinthians after the last letter.  He realized that the letter that was sent to them was fairly harsh and disturbing.  He did not want to come and make “another painful trip”. (verse 25)   Sometimes Christian leadership has to use harsh words that are spoken from a spirit of love.  This too is something that is often missing in our day.


In verse 24 Paul explains his situation, Paul says that he does not want “to lord it over them”.  Christian leaders are not dictators that “lord it over others” as if they are some powerful person.  Christian leaders should be servants.  The harsh things that Paul wrote these people should be viewed as him “working with these people for their joy”.  Paul  should not be viewed as if Paul was the Emperor of the church.  Paul did have a measure of apostolic authority in the Gentile churches.  He will comment on this later, but for now, we need to understand that apostolic authority is not heavy handed, dictatorial, authority.  It is actually being a servant, not a dictator.  Instead of being a dictator, Paul says that he "work with them for their joy".  The Corinthians and him should be working together.  That is the way Paul does things.  It's a joint venture, but this joint venture is in the process of crumbling away.  All the work that Paul did for and with these people was to eventually bring joy to them.  Paul thought more of the Corinthians than he did of himself.   


I do not believe that Paul had any hint of arrogance in his life.  Prior to meeting Jesus, he might well have been arrogant, but not any more.  Pastors and Christian leaders today must not have any hint of arrogance as well, but that is not always the case.  The simple fact the style in which  some preachers preach tells me that they have arrogance in their lives.  This should never be. 


In verse 24, Paul also says that “it is by faith that you stand firm”.  It is by our trust in Jesus alone that causes us to stand firm.  Submission to a man can never cause us to stand firm.  We need to have strong individual faith before God.  Attempts over the centuries have been made to have people submit to their leaders, and this submission was viewed as Christian maturity.  Paul says that this thinking is wrong, and that this is not what he is trying to do.


In chapter 2, verse 1 Paul points out that he did "not want to make another painful visit" to the Corinthians.  What he is probably speaking about is the change of plans he made.  Back in chapter 1, verses 15 and 16 Paul said that he expected to visit Corinth on his way north, and then visit them on the return trip again.  It appears that he changed his mind because the visit would have been too painful.  Again, we see Paul's emotions coming out here.  Paul may appear to be a hard nosed guy at times, but his heart was full of emotion.    


In verse 2 Paul admits that his letter caused the Corinthians to “grieve”.  If he had come to them and saw them grieving, then there would be no one there to bring joy to his life, since all were grieving.  Paul did not want this situation when he came to visit.  He didn't want to grieve himself as a result of their grieving, although Paul was grieving over them anyway, just not in their presence.


Verse 3 says, “I wrote as I did so that when I came I should not be distressed by those who ought to make me rejoice.”  You see how Paul felt here.  He had great emotion for the work of the Lord and to those he ministered to.  He was hoping and praying that his letter would bring change into their lives so that when he arrived in their city, they could rejoice in the Lord with him.


Paul says that he wrote his letter “out of great distress and anguish of heart and with many tears”.  Paul put his whole heart into his work.  This was not merely a job or a career choice that he made.  You can see by these words that he gave his whole life to these men and women.  His hard words were not meant to be spoken from a dictator, but a servant who loved them and wanted the best for them. 


Paul's intent in writing his previous letter was not merely to “grieve them”, or make them feel bad.  In love, he wanted to point out the error of their ways in order for them to rectify this situation, thus bringing maturity and joy to their lives, and his as well.


This shows you the importance of repentance.  It also shows you that repentance is not only for the sinner, but for the saint as well.  We all need to repent of something from time to time.    


Paul is really sharing his heart here.  We really see how he feels.  His emotions are pouring off the page of your Bible.  This tells us what kind of man Paul was.  You might think that Paul comes off pretty stern at times, but here we see his heart.  Here we see the tears.  Such heart felt tears and emotions comes from a true leader of the saints.  O that  pastors today would share Paul's feelings.  I wonder how many pastors today feel distressed like Paul and shed heart felt tears for their people.  


Note the word "wrote" in verses 2 and 4.  In English, the word "wrote" is passed tense.  So, in English, we would think that what Paul wrote was a previous letter to this one.  Some say the previous letter was 1 Corinthians, and others say it is a lost letter that would fit between 1 and 2 Corinthians.  Yet others, due to the Greek sentence structure here, actually say it's this present letter.  It's really hard to say who is right.


If you read 1 Corinthians, you might see what Paul is talking about here.  He said some very hard things.  One of the hardest things he said was in 1 Corinthians 5.  He told the Corinthians that they needed to disassociate themselves from a certain man who was having sexual relations with his father's wife, probably his step mother.  He said that they should simply hand the man over to satan "so that his sinful nature may be destroyed, but his spirit saved on the day of judgment". (1 Corinthians 5:5)  The topic concerning this man is talked about further in the next section.



Next Section - Chapters 2 and 3

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