2 Corinthians 1
Well, here we are! The last of the Pauline letters, and we’re digging in tonight! I’m excited to read Paul’s defense of his ministry! Paul, you will recall, was put out to the extreme, I think to the point where it began to distract him in His service to Christ. After his second visit to Corinth, he was so saddened and deflated that he simply quietly returned to Ephesus. In Ephesus, he wrote the “angry” letter that he sent and then wished he hadn’t. He began to be distracted here, I think – you know, that gnawing thing in your mind and gut that just makes you crazy to know what happened? I wasn’t there, but Paul was one of us – human – and it seems reasonable that he would have human responses.
He was becoming so distracted, he left Ephesus and set out for Troas, where Titus was after his own trip to Corinth. It is entirely reasonable that Paul was after news of what happened with that letter that might have been like a hand grenade in the wrong setting. He didn’t find Titus, so he went looking for him in Macedonia, eventually finding him, and receiving a blessed report that at least a majority of the people there were with Paul and not the false teachers that were calling themselves “super apostles” and attacking Paul’s character. Seems like a great place to start the letter, right?
Since this is chapter one, and we gave a general overview last week, let’s jump right in! I broke the chapter down like this:
KV5: Sufferings are God’s Mechanism of Sanctification
For just as the sufferings of Christ are ours in abundance, so also our comfort is abundant through Christ.
1-7: Comfort in Our Sufferings
8-11: Deliverance in Our Sufferings
12-14: Confidence in Our Sufferings
15-22: Certainty in Our Sufferings
23-24: Joy from Our Sufferings
What I see in this breakdown is all in the title. I see God using the hardship of not knowing, and that clawing, eating, pressure to get even more sanctification, or if you like holiness in His chosen instrument, Paul. More, I think we can line up our own experiences with the Scriptures here if we have been walking with Christ at all in the last year or so, and say that God is using this present trial in all of our lives to bring sanctification to uall those who He has justified, that is saved from His wrath, by His grace.
KV5: Sufferings are God’s Mechanism of Sanctification
For just as the sufferings of Christ are ours in abundance, so also our comfort is abundant through Christ.
This concept of sanctification by trial is by no means new to Christians or unique to Paul or even 2 Corinthians. Peter knew the concept, certainly, as did James, the brother of Jesus. Both of them commented on it. James said, “Consider it all joy, my brethren, when you encounter various trials,” (James 1:2) after which he began to describe the process of how God sanctifies His people. Then Peter said, “In this you greatly rejoice, even though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been distressed by various trials, so that the proof of your faith, being more precious than gold which is perishable, even though tested by fire, may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ; and though you have not seen Him, you love Him, and though you do not see Him now, but believe in Him, you greatly rejoice with joy inexpressible and full of glory, obtaining as the outcome of your faith the salvation of your souls.” (1 Pet. 1:6-9). Peter’s point is that our being distressed by various trials (no details from the Apostle Peter!) is the mechanism by with our faith is proved, that is “tested” [Gk., dokimon, a testing], and that faith (firm persuasion or opinion held) is more precious than perishable gold. Beloved, GOLD is what anchors reality to value, even today. I know I could say a lot about floating point currency having worked in the financial realm for four years, but I’ll restrict myself from a boring lecture on financial gobbledygook. Gold at least at present is not what is anchoring reality to value officially, that is the US Dollar, and the Chinese would rather it be the Yuan. It is the source of much tension in the world at present, and with a weak US presidency and regime, it is going to get a lot worse, in fact it already is.
My point here is that God uses suffering to make His chosen people holy, just as He is holy. This means that we should not – must not – DARE NOT – run from trials, beloved. I’ve spent a lot of time in my life trying to make myself comfortable and insulate myself from pain, only to find that I cannot hide from it, especially as I get older. Why? Because it is not something we can run from or hide from – it will find us. But if that’s the case, doesn’t that mean we should be proactive about looking for it? That’s what the Scriptures indicate in Hebrews 12:14 – “Pursue peace with all men, and the sanctification without which no one will see the Lord.” And it even uses the word sanctification in the NASB. KJV says, “…the holiness without which no one will see the Lord.”
However, it isn’t bad news, even though we are being encouraged here that hard times will come, because in those various trials, as Peter calls them, or Paul’s “momentary light affliction,” we can be assured that Jesus will keep His word from Matt. 28:20 – “…and behold, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” Last I checked, this age isn’t over yet, though one can see the signs of it if one is paying attention. I can see the pieces and parties moving into place for the Ezekiel 38 war, for example. But that’s a BIG rabbit hole, so let’s get into the chapter.
1-7: Comfort in Our Sufferings
Trials that bring better character (sanctification through suffering) are meant to conform us to Christ’s character. I mean, what better character could the Christian [“little christs,” from the early days in Antioch, and it wasn’t a compliment] desire for themselves? Like the rambunctious little sibling, we want to be like big brother when we grow up, and that’s just what is going to happen if you’ve read the story. But growing pains always hit the younger kids, don’t they. It isn’t a question, I’ve lived through it four times. (My own, and then for three kids, and one isn’t over yet.) But there is hope for them, and there is comfort for them. Let’s see it in Paul’s words.
1: Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God, and Timothy our brother, To the church of God which is at Corinth with all the saints who are throughout Achaia:
- We can learn a little about the pattern that Paul used in his letters here. First he identifies and credentials himself. He is using his Roman name Paulus [Gk., Paulos], because he is reaching out to the Gentiles, and because Paul was a new man in Christ Jesus. He uses Christ Jesus because that is how he met Christ, and this is unique to Paul. Think about how in Acts 9, Paul is riding along and then gets knocked off his high horse. He met the resurrected Christ, the man Jesus. To Paul, it was title first, then name. All of the other Apostles met Jesus the man first, and then came to know Him as the Christ, the Anointed of God.
- Then Paul introduces Timothy, who was probably with him, and offering commentary on what Paul was dictating to his scribe. We don’t always learn the name of the scribe like we did in Romans, but we know Paul used one, and even some of the problems it caused him. He simply calls Timothy “our brother.” I like that. I think of myself that way, and I think of you that way – you are my brothers and sisters in Christ.
- After that, he addresses the letter to its intended audience. Here, that is to the entire church at Corinth. However, he does not restrict it to them alone, he also says this letter is also for all the saints (note, most common reference to the people of God in the New Testament, NOT the Romanish Cult version) who are throughout Achaia, the region around Corinth. Now, before you run off and think this is a “multi-site campus,” such a thing was not possible in a day without the technology we have now. Christianity was never intended to be am impersonal, over-the-net kind of thing. These were little gatherings, probably in saint’ homes, and I have seen the modern-day equivalents all over North America. Beloved, it is only in the last 2-3 centuries that churches have actually by and large owned property for themselves outside of the Romanish Cult, who had to declare celibacy for their priests to do it properly (yes, that’s what that was about). Prior to this, it was a part of the state.
2: Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.
- This is a standard Pauline greeting. In fact, I think he only varies from it in his letters to Timothy, where he adds mercy as part of the greeting, but I did not take the time to remind myself of that. I remember doing it a couple of years ago, but I’ll be jiggered if I can remember the results! I’m about 95 percent sure, though. But isn’t a great greeting? Grace and peace from God the Father AND the Lord Jesus Christ. Two of the members of the Godhead mentioned separately. This is an evidence that Unitarians are barking up the wrong tree at a minimum, and it does support multiple persons in the Godhead, even if the third person, the Holy Spirit, is not named here. He often is not, and sometimes it gives me the impression that He likes to operate in the background, even though He is also fully God. And the three are one, but we don’t get that here in its fullness.
3: Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort,
- Notice here that there is even a description of the relationship between God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. He is the God AND Father of OUR Lord Jesus Christ. Notice here that Paul has switched from “the” Lord to “our” Lord. Personally, I find that amazing – that He would choose me to be His subject, because a choice on His part was involved, but the thing I’m pointing out here is that God the Father is the FATHER of our (possessive) Lord. So God the Father, and then God the Son.
- Paul also mentions that He is the FATHER of mercies. That Greek word for mercies can be translated as “pity or compassion for the ills of others,” so God the Father is the Father of all compassion as well. He is also named the God of all comfort, the Greek word paraklesis. Where have we heard that before? Oh yeah, the Comforter God the Father would send in Jesus name in 14:16, 14:26, 15:26, and 16:7 (all translated as “Helper” in the NASB95). The Greek word used for Him, the Holy Spirit, is Paraklete. The One called alongside to help in Jesus’ name. God is also the Father of the Paraklete, and of all parakleting and parakletings. That’s a bit of theology on purpose for you. We have the Holy Spirit as our Helper by the will of the Father at the request of the Son.
4: who comforts us in all our affliction so that we will be able to comfort those who are in any affliction with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God.
- What is this saying? That in our thlipsis, that is our tribulation, He comes along side us to aid. And He does it for a reason! He does it so that those He helps through the trials and tribulations and sufferings that they go through are ABLE TO DO THE SAME THING FOR OTHERS! And the scope of God on this is amazing – after we have suffered trials, we will also will be able to come along side “those who are in ANY affliction” and aid THEM! Beloved, our trials and comforting in those sufferings by God are to not only to show us His faithfulness in our lives, but to equip us to do HIS work in the lives of others in the exact same way HE has served US! Yes, you heard me, God SERVES us when He does this. What else could you possibly call it? We take that comfort that God comforts us with, and we share it with anyone going through literally ANY affliction in order to show His compassion. All in the first 4 verses of his letter. Wowsers, we can be done on that alone! But wait, there’s more!
5: For just as the sufferings of Christ are ours in abundance, so also our comfort is abundant through Christ.
- Well, this is certainly coming to pass these days, isn’t it. It is no longer “cool” to be a Christian. Those who want to live in the worldly and soft ways of the world are finding that the persecution that comes from the opposition of Christ is no longer worth identifying with. It has a tendency to “take the fun out of it,” at least for some. Just to meet for worship can apparently get you thrown in jail these days. Ask Pastor James Coates. You know, this past Sunday, the police were there again with Alberta Health Services, and this time the Elders barred them from entering the building. Using section 176 of the Criminal Code of Canada, they stood their ground when aggressively challenged vocally (they were ordered to stand aside) and quoted this section of the Criminal Code that specifically forbids any person (officer of the law or of a court, or of Alberta Health Service apparently) from interrupting a house of worship in progress. Now – Pastor Coates was informed that they had arrived and were being confronted by the Elders. He had to go through his whole sermon wondering if they were going to arrest him again and toss him back in jail. You think that isn’t persecution? It is, regardless of the intent of the police, who were only there to show their force and “protect” the AHS worker. From what? A mad bunch of Calvinists? Who are going to horribly and terribly preach the gospel to you (again)?
- I should point out that Pastor Coates DID function well. He is a servant of God, doing God’s work. Now – how is that possible? Well, perhaps he had a little help – the Paraklete! You see, his “comfort,” (compassion, pity) is abundant through Christ. So is ours, if we will walk in the Spirit. We shouldn’t need to make our surroundings more comfortable by ordering people to behave the way we want them to behave so that our sensibilities are not offended, we should be able to be content in whatever circumstances we should find ourselves, as Paul told the Philippians. We should be able to not simply survive, but to thrive, but that isn’t Paul’s topic here.
6: But if we are afflicted, it is for your comfort and salvation; or if we are comforted, it is for your comfort, which is effective in the patient enduring of the same sufferings which we also suffer;
- Something you should know is that the Greek conjunction de is translated into the word but here, and is used for emphasis. Paul is not using this as a conditional statement, he is actually saying, “when this happens.” What happens? We are afflicted, of course. We are pressed (sometimes hard) in the work of the Lord. When it happens, though, it has the point of being a paraklesis for you, a calling alongside for aid, and it turns out to be for your soteria, that is, your salvation.
- Or if we are the ones receiving the paraklesis, it is also for your paraklesis. Our comforting, is for your comforting. And this becomes effective in what? The patient enduring of the same sufferings that we also suffer. It is interesting that we have Pastor James Coates to look to as an example. Would I want that situation for myself? No, of course not. But I do know if it does happen, I will have the same Holy Spirit inside me that he did, the same one that Paul did, and will therefore preach the same message they did. Personally, the prospect terrifies me – but remember that little bit about not running from tribulation? It’s like my dad called to me from the side of the field when I was stampeded by a bunch of ornery livestock (cows). I can hear his voice in my head, and it made me a bit misty-eyed. “Stand your ground, son.” This is the same kind of thing. Different ground, but stand we must.
7: and our hope for you is firmly grounded, knowing that as you are sharers of our sufferings, so also you are sharers of our comfort.
- Aside from the fact that I would rather be on the side of the field calling out for you to stand your ground, I am not, I am the one being stampeded by the overwhelming tide of absolute moral bankruptcy that our society has to offer us. As a part of the way I support my family, one of the small contract jobs I have is to comb through news headlines and highlight the ones that we should write about. I get to read all of the nastiness coming down the pipe at us. It will not be pretty, but at least it will be over quickly, is my thought. But that isn’t what Paul says!
- He says, “Our hope for you is firmly grounded.” There’s my dad again. “Stand your ground, son.” Why? Well, as we share in the VERY SAME THINGS that Paul and the brothers back then went through, we have the very same source of comfort that they did – the same One to Paraklete in our case. It is the same hope as the world? No, it is the one that actually works, even though we may die in the standing of our ground. Think of what it must have been like for my dad. He was about 30 yards away, and there was nothing he could do but watch – and if they trampled me? I’d have been dead and there wouldn’t have been thing one he could have done about it. And he’d have watched me die horribly. But I obeyed my father. And I’m still here. And I will continue to obey my heavenly Father. If I die, I get to home. I wonder if there is fishing in heaven? It’s been a long time since I put a line in the water. I’ve been doing a different kind of fishing. My point, we have the same Holy Spirit they did and it’s our job to listen to His word (that’s his voice today) and to stand our ground because He said to do so.
What you have to understand is what the Apostle himself was not stranger to: We will ALL suffer – as Christians. There is no way around it unless you quit, and I don’t like what happens to you if you quit. You want to name the name of Christ, you should stick with it. Stand your ground. This reminds me of a couple of Hebrew guys back in the day. Former residents of Jerusalem, who were captured and transplanted to Babylon. The King of Babylon, a fellow (who actually became a believer! But not at this point of his life) who God had made King of the world, built a statue of himself that he commanded everyone to bow down in front of and worship. These three young men would not. So they were brought before the king. We’ll pick up the story here, in Daniel 3:14-18.
“Nebuchadnezzar responded and said to them, “Is it true, Shadrach, Meshach and Abed-nego, that you do not serve my gods or worship the golden image that I have set up? Now if you are ready, at the moment you hear the sound of the horn, flute, lyre, trigon, psaltery and bagpipe and all kinds of music, to fall down and worship the image that I have made, very well. But if you do not worship, you will immediately be cast into the midst of a furnace of blazing fire; and what god is there who can deliver you out of my hands?”
Shadrach, Meshach and Abed-nego replied to the king, “O Nebuchadnezzar, we do not need to give you an answer concerning this matter. If it be so, our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the furnace of blazing fire; and He will deliver us out of your hand, O king. But even if He does not, let it be known to you, O king, that we are not going to serve your gods or worship the golden image that you have set up.””
That needs to be our attitude. We need to stand our moral ground, Beloved. Our King can rescue us – but even if He doesn’t, we’re still not doing what you say. Lock us up! Throw away the key! Apparently, God wants us to start a prison ministry. Or go ahead and kill us. You’re sending us to our King forever. And we will see you again, but I don’t think you’re going to like what happens.
8-11: Deliverance in Our Sufferings
And that brings us to our next paragraph. Daniel’s friends were all delivered by God miraculously from the fire. It may even be that this incident was used to turn Nebuchadnezzar into a believer some time later. His testimony is actually in the book of Daniel, and surely seeing the fourth man in the furnace when only three went in had some effect on him.
Paul is not only saying that there is comfort in our sufferings, but that there is deliverance from sufferings. This does NOT mean that all of your suffering will be over (are you in Heaven yet? No? Okay, then your suffering is not over yet). The comfort is for when you are needing to stand your ground. The deliverance is about the ending of your trials. It will be miraculous no matter what, but it isn’t always the money in your bank account to pay the overdue bill, or the miraculous cure for cancer you’re looking for (usually demanding). It is deliverance from ourselves and from our own sin. Let’s look.
8: For we do not want you to be unaware, brethren, of our affliction which came to us in Asia, that we were burdened excessively, beyond our strength, so that we despaired even of life;
- Paul is saying “we.” I suspect that he means he and Timothy. Timothy, as Paul’s son in the faith may have been privy to all of the struggle that Paul was going through over that angry letter he wished he could unsend. Because that could have caused that gut-wrenching, gnawing, creeping, afflicting kind of despair that Paul is talking about. Fearing that he had driven the Corinthians away from salvation in Christ, he would have been like Elijah in the cave, asking God to kill him. That would certainly explain what he was talking about here, not to mention all the other stuff that he would have faced as an Apostle and missionary for Jesus Christ.
- Whatever the case was, the Corinthians were likely familiar with what had been going on, and that leaves all the possibilities we have entertained as open maybes. Paul did not describe the details, and that’s what makes me think it was his mental state and anguish over the letter, but it happened in Asia, so likely it happened in Ephesus, and it is possible that some of Paul’s enemies (and he had more than a few) came close to killing him. Whatever the case, that word “despaired of life” literally means “no way out.” Whatever Paul faced, he thought the situation terminal. (Oh God, kill me now territory, or the Jews closing in with nowhere to run and all of them holding stones. Take your pick.)
9: indeed, we had the sentence of death within ourselves so that we would not trust in ourselves, but in God who raises the dead;
- And this should be the attitude of all servants of Christ, Beloved. We MUST not, no, we DARE not trust ourselves, but rather in God who raises the dead. That word for “sentence” only occurs in the New Testament. It means to render and official and legal verdict. Paul is admitting that he came to terms with dying in the situation he was describing. He felt that if he was put to death, it was all for God’s glory anyway. He abandoned himself to God. Just like those three fellows in Daniel 3.
10: who delivered us from so great a peril of death, and will deliver us, He on whom we have set our hope. And He will yet deliver us,
- Whatever it was that was going on, God delivered them. Notice the move Paul has in terminology, moving from comfort (paraklesis) to deliverance (rhuomai, to rescue, to preserve from, hence to deliver). It was a potential life-ending situation, and God rescued them from that situation. But in verse 9, remember, Paul had said that he was willing even to die if he had to.
- What Paul was recognizing here is that our God is a great deliverer. He had delivered them, and He will deliver them! Think about this carefully. God would have been delivering them once and for all from the presence of sin in their lives if they had died. Beloved, that’s still a miracle, and it was won on the cross by our Lord Jesus Christ. And that is why Paul set his hope on Him, and why WE should put OUR hope in Him – because no matter what happens to us, living or dying, He will deliver us – and He will get all the glory for it.
11: you also joining in helping us through your prayers, so that thanks may be given by many persons on our behalf for the favor bestowed on us through the prayers of many.
Paul here acknowledges something else that we as believers can put little emphasis on and we should not. He acknowledges that the prayers of the Corinthian believers helped him. Now – how many people here were at the prayer meeting this past Monday? Well, allowing for sickness (that’s brother Al), it was Alex, Dan, and myself. I think that many so-called Christians simply relegate prayer to a low priority so that it doesn’t interfere with their busy and distracted lifestyle. Even real believers can fall into this trap, and I know because I have done it occasionally. “I’m tired…” That’s my usual phrase. And it’s usually true – I AM tired! I run at full throttle for 16-18 hours a day, and I’m diabetic, and I’m a heart patient, and I have physical disabilities, etcetera. Take the night off, Ger. The guys will carry it. You know, I know you would, but I have to ask myself in those moments – does the enemy take days off? I bet he doesn’t. In fact, I know he doesn’t. Steve Camp wrote a song called, “What Would the Devil Say (about your life)?” Here are some of the lyrics for your edification. What would the Devil say about your life? // Do they know you in hell like they know your Christ? // Are you boiling hot? Or are you cold as ice? I’ll let you answer that question about yourself to yourself. I have already. I don’t know if they know my name in hell, but before this is all over, I bet the name of all of us is a curse word down there.
How does prayer effect the world? Well, if it is a believer praying for the will of God to be done, then it affects it very much, because whatever happens is God’s will. And beloved, God always answers a believer’s prayer. Sometimes the answer is no, by the way, and sometimes it’s not yet, but it always gets answered. And Daniel found out that sometimes God’s enemies resist the will of God and delay the answers to prayers, so we need to keep praying. But we ALL need to pray. And more than that, we all need to pray TOGETHER. There is real power in a corporate prayer time, and that’s the only words I know to explain that.\
This is how God involves us in His work around the world. Of course this has often given rise to some funny incidents! I remember one all-night-prayer session we once had, and a sister that was very tired prayed for coffee. That was chuckle-worthy. I remember one saint praying that an itinerant brother’s plane “be kept in the air,” and the laughter that ensued when he described the landing delays and then the bouncing up off the runway. That was funny, but it’s the unanswered one that makes me laugh the hardest. It was another one of these nights of prayer, and the poor tired saint prayed for our brother who was flying to visit the assemblies in the nation of Greece. It came out like this: “Oh Lord, cover brother James in grease.” there was a sharp intake of breath, and then several people turning red, and then when the saint had said amen, Ione of the younger men lost it. When they lost it, we all lost it, and we couldn’t stop laughing for a few minutes. But as funny as those were, we prayed. Sometimes all night. I miss those days. Because we could circumnavigate the globe without ever leaving the room. Plug for Monday night Prayer Meeting here.
12-14: Confidence in Our Sufferings
Now when the cycle of comfort and then deliverance is repeated, it actually leads to what I saw in this next thought unit – confidence. Not in ourselves, but in God, and in His ability to sanctify you. Let’s see what Paul means. I heard it put this way this week: Don’t say, “The Bible says.” Let the Bible say it. So let’s do that.
12: For our proud confidence is this: the testimony of our conscience, that in holiness and godly sincerity, not in fleshly wisdom but in the grace of God, we have conducted ourselves in the world, and especially toward you.
- That “proud confidence” is actually one Greek word, kauchesis, meaning the reason to boast. What was Paul’s reason to boast? The marturion or witness, testimony, of his conscience (waking conscious thought). He then goes on to explain what that testimony is in the next phrase that in holiness and godly sincerity he has done things.
- That word for holiness is drawn from a version of the Greek hagion, the word hagiotes, which is defined as “sanctity,” the abstract quality of “holiness,” is used (a) of God, Heb. 12:10; (b) of the manifestation of it in the conduct of the apostle Paul and his fellow laborers, 2 Cor. 1:12 (in the best mss., for haplotes). In fact, and I run into this occasionally, the NASB uses a consensus manuscript that settled on hagiotes, while the interlinear I use has settled on haplotes. The latter may be defined as “singleness” or “simplicity” which is elsewhere translated as “bountiful.” In my reading, it is the Greek hagiotes that makes more sense, unless the Apostle is referring to the simplicity or singleness of mind that would invoke that godly sincerity. Either way, it deals with aspects of sanctification.
- The word for sincerity that is used comes from the Greek word for “clearness,” or a kind of transparency, not hiding things. That certainly comes from God. This speaks of a kind of openness in dealing with godly principles and ordinances of the faith, of which Paul would instruct the Corinthians.
- Paul contrasts this with the corrupt wisdom of the world, “fleshly wisdom,” and that’s the literal translation [sophia sarkikee]. This shows a stark difference. Nothing the world does is transparent to the end-user, so to speak. Nothing is a simple, single purpose.
- So the testimony of Paul’s conscience is how he consciously and knowingly conducted himself transparently toward the Corinthians in the world, in holiness, and in compassion. We must be the same way. I love it when I’m accused of running some kind of secret agenda. I simply ask what it could possibly be, and then I tell them my agenda. That was Paul. It needs to be us.
13: For we write nothing else to you than what you read and understand, and I hope you will understand until the end;
- Paul is telling the Corinthians here that they aren’t being complicated, and they aren’t using big words without defining them for people, and they aren’t busy redefining some words, unlike some modern Gospel Coalitions we know. In fact, Paul is saying that he hopes his words will stand for all time in the comment. He wants us to understand until the end, a version of the Greek telios, meaning a resolving conclusion. That’s only going to come at the end when the Lord comes back. I may be reading things in here, and I don’t want to do that, so I will move on.
14: just as you also partially did understand us, that we are your reason to be proud as you also are ours, in the day of our Lord Jesus.
- Paul was also excited that they were getting at least some of what he was saying. Beloved, when a saint grasps something, it is reason for rejoicing. His mind is gaining knowledge of the Saviour and His principles. And when this happens, it is the clearest example of how we can brag on each other. That’s the meaning of the word “proud” as Paul uses it here. When we get to where we are going, we will be able to tell others about how we responded spiritually to all of the things we were faced with. And it won’t be a big commercial about ourselves. We’ve never seen anyone do that, have we? (LOL)
Beloved, this is saying that our confidence is not only found in us, but in our associations with each other. And on that day when we will only be able to answer with truth, what will we be able to say about each other? What will YOU be able to say about ME in righteousness? This is why Paul conducted himself in clarity and in purity, and why we need to be holy as He is also holy, Beloved. Moving on.
15-22: Certainty in Our Sufferings
Not only did Paul talk about comfort in suffering, and deliverance from suffering (one way or another), and how this could bring us confidence in the Lord, but he is telling us here that we can, as this pattern develops in our lives, learn to have a certain certainty about it, if you’ll forgive that turn of phrase. Let’s hop right in, the water’s fine. Heh.
15: In this confidence I intended at first to come to you, so that you might twice receive a blessing;
- Paul is speaking as if he already had this confidence, and the way he says it leads the reader to make the connection between what he has just been saying about the confidence he has gained with what he is about to say. In fact, he had intended to come to the Corinthians in just this confidence of that purity and clarity and simplicity before now, all so that they would be blessed by it. That word for blessing is a form of the Greek charis, the word used for grace. Paul means to convey the grace God has given to him for just this purpose.
16: that is, to pass your way into Macedonia, and again from Macedonia to come to you, and by you to be helped on my journey to Judea.
- Paul is saying that he intended Corinth to be a waystation for himself of sorts. From there he would go into Macedonia to do the work of God, and then he would return through Corinth to be “helped” by them on his way to Judea. We will say more about that aid in later chapters when it comes up, but Corinth was participating in sending financial aid to the beleaguered saints in Judea. See how Paul was intending to set it up as a kind of miniature base of operations for the work?
17: Therefore, I was not vacillating when I intended to do this, was I? Or what I purpose, do I purpose according to the flesh, so that with me there will be yes, yes and no, no at the same time?
- This is a strange sentence in the English. The term “to vacillate” means to waiver between two or more options. This is not what Paul said. The King James (for once) is closer – “When I therefore was thus minded, did I use lightness? or the things that I purpose, do I purpose according to the flesh, that with me there should be yea yea, and nay nay?” The Greek word is part of a larger phrase that means “to graze lightly.” Kind of like what I used to do at a salad bar. Sorry, I’m a meatitarian. 😉 What we might say today is something like, I wasn’t just doing this to do it, I had some actual purpose and intent.
- Paul goes on to say that he doesn’t do things for reasons related to the flesh or for his personal comfort. He wasn’t saying yes and no at the same time. He wasn’t playing around at politics. You know, I used to joke about Jean Chretien, a former Canadian Prime Minister. He had a half-paralyzed face, and that wasn’t his fault, but back in the day, the media made fun of such things. We used to say that he was a politician for all Canadians, because he only spoke out of one side of his mouth. Paul here was saying, I was using you as a base of operations, yes – but I had and have a real spiritual purpose in mind, I’m not just using you.
18: But as God is faithful, our word to you is not yes and no.
- And Paul backed this up to fellow believers with the highest authority even possible. “I’m really doing this, he said. I’m not just making political speeches to practice demagoguery. And I’m pretty sure Paul knew what that was and the problems it could cause. (I’m of Paul! I’m of Apollos! I’m of Peter! I’m of Jesus!)
19: For the Son of God, Christ Jesus, who was preached among you by us—by me and Silvanus and Timothy—was not yes and no, but is yes in Him.
- Besides, all of the promises of God that Paul and Timothy and Sylvanus (also known as Silas) would have preached to them are yes and amen in Christ, Beloved! Have you ever hear the little rhyme, “Every promise in the Book is mine, every chapter, every verse, every line, every promise in the book is mine”? It is true – but in Christ. (In other words, God did not personally promise all of us that He would make great nations of all of us that would be too great to number. But He did promise that to Abraham, and it is fulfilled in Christ, as per what Paul says in Galatians!)
20: For as many as are the promises of God, in Him they are yes; therefore also through Him is our Amen to the glory of God through us.
- See? This is just what Paul is saying. All of the promises are fulfilled in Christ! That means that anything we do now as believers, we also do through Christ if we are walking after the Spirit of God. Even when we say “Amen,” meaning roughly, “So be it.”
21: Now He who establishes us with you in Christ and anointed us is God,
- So, this kind of begs the question – how did this come to be? Well, it was by the will of God that He established us in Christ. Look for a moment at Romans 8:28-30.
- And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose. For those whom He foreknew, He also predestined to become conformed to the image of His Son, so that He would be the firstborn among many brethren; and these whom He predestined, He also called; and these whom He called, He also justified; and these whom He justified, He also glorified.
- God establishes (makes all things work together for good) us (for those that are [continually] loving God and are called according to His purpose[Greek verb tenses are important]). So how did that happen? Well, that’s what verses 29 and 30 in Romans 8 are about. Those that God foreknew, he predestined to be conformed (established – see the connection?) to the image of His Son (not as carbon copies either, there is room for individuality here), and those whom He predestined He also called – and here you are, Beloved, and He isn’t done calling people yet, and those whom He called, he also justified (ALL of them – you think YOU made the choice? Only because He made it possible), and those whom He justified, He also glorified (past tense, even though it hasn’t happened yet – because it is a done deal, and the Holy Spirit living inside of us is a guarantee of that!)
- THAT God establishes us with Paul and companions in Christ. And even more, anointed them in God as chosen vessels to carry God’s message forward to whatever point He predetermines for us. That’s how and why He did that.
22: who also sealed us and gave us the Spirit in our hearts as a pledge.
- Oops! Got ahead of Paul! That word for “pledge” in Greek means “down payment.” Like when you buy a car or a house. You have to prove your intention to buy the vehicle or property, they don’t just give you the keys. God knows that, and he gave us a down payment, a guarantee of ownership at the end, if you will. Couple this with the fact that He sealed us, giving us certainty and security in the permanence of the transaction, Beloved, and what you have here is a stick of theological dynamite. Anyone that says you can lose this is not reading the scriptures properly. If you “lose” this, you didn’t have it to begin with.
And all of this certainty-driving stuff should actually do something else.
23-24: Joy from Our Sufferings
It should bring us JOY. Not just happiness, as in the American or Canadian dream, whatever that means, (and there is no “Canadian dream,” regardless of what Amway people tell you). REAL JOY. The Greek word here is chara, meaning “gladness.” I think I have an impression of what that is from the moment of my own regeneration. I was filled with Joy. I felt like the weight of the world had been lifted off of me, and I was FREE. And in Christ, I was and am. And if you know me, and some of you do, you know this hasn’t had a thing to do with health or financial success.
23: But I call God as witness to my soul, that to spare you I did not come again to Corinth.
- Paul is saying that he was so upset after he sent that letter, he was thinking of sparing the Corinthians by NOT coming. Doing so would not have served any useful purpose, it would have served to subtract from joy, and that’s not the way it is supposed to work. I once heard it said that the Lord’s math is to add and multiply, and it is the enemy’s math to subtract and divide. That isn’t universally true, but it has a certain point. What we are supposed to subtract from ourselves is sin. (As most things charismatic, it’s grossly oversimplified.) Paul was angry, and he would have done no spiritual good in Corinth to go there.
24: Not that we lord it over your faith, but are workers with you for your joy; for in your faith you are standing firm.
- Paul is stating his reasons here. He was not Lord over their faith, and he did not wish to use influence that frankly was not his to use. He knew that Jesus was Lord and not Paul. Rather, he saw that he was only a worker together with those in Corinth (and by extension us), and that relationship was only to bring joy. Paul knew that in the main, despite a few individuals that were supporting this false teacher in their midst, that most were standing firm in their faith, and that brought HIM Joy, especially when he finally got a good report from Titus.
So, you can now see that my outline of the chapter wasn’t something I made up, it was all in the text, and in the order I saw it. I know it doesn’t match John MacArthur’s outline point for point, and it never will, because I am not Johnny Mac! I sure do like his preaching, though! And I have no end of respect for a Pastor who has shepherded the same flock for 52 years now. I was two years old when he took the pastorate at Grace. What Joy that must be. I am also filled with joy even though the flock that God gave me on a good day is eight people. I know each of you, and I know how your walks with the Lord Jesus are developing, and though I don’t always share my concerns for you aloud for lack of opportunity, I know that I can if I have to. I also appreciate that you all try to make sure I don’t have to.
That’s what I saw in chapter 1, and next week we will be in chapter 2. We’ll deal with the whole chapter, because it only has 17 verses.