Saturday, November 04, 2006

2 Corinthians 1

1:1-2 Greeting

1Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God, and Timothy our brother, To the church of God in Corinth, together with all the saints throughout Achaia: 2Grace and peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.

This is the second letter included in the New Testament from Paul to the church in Corinth. Paul went to Corinth on his second missionary journey, as is recorded in Acts 18. He spent about 18 months there. After leaving, he heard about immorality in the church and wrote a letter to confront that. That letter was lost. He refers to it in 1 Corinthians 5:9.

While Paul was ministering in Ephesus, he heard of further trouble in the Corinthian church, this time in the form of divisions among the members. The Corinthians also wrote Paul a letter asking for him to address certain issues. Paul wrote the letter we know as 1 Corinthians in response.

Paul sent Timothy to Corinth and stayed in Ephesus. However, he heard bad news, possible from Timothy, including the arrival of false prophets who were attacking his character, so he went to Corinth. He refers to this as the “painful visit” in 2 Corinthians 2:1.

The visit did not go well. Paul returned to Ephesus and wrote the letter he mentions in 2 Corinthians 2:4. He sent that letter to Corinth with Titus.

Paul then left Ephesus because of the riot started by Demetrius, as recorded in Acts 19:23-20:1. Upon leaving Ephesus, he went to find Titus and get news of the response of the Corinthians. When he found Titus, he learned that the Corinthians has repented of their rebellions against him. He wrote them again, and that letter is what we know as 2 Corinthians. The letter was probably written about A.D. 55.

In 55 A. D., Nero had been the emperor of Rome for about a year. He was about 18 years old. The Pax Romana was at its height. Paul’s travels are all within the Roman empire.

Paul is with Timothy as he writes. He mentions immediately that he is an apostle and that he is that by the will of God. The Corinthians had at time rebelled against his authority, false prophets had attacked him. But, he claims apostleship and the authority to go with it. An apostle (Greek: apostolos) is one who is sent. Acts 9 records the calling of Paul. The Lord told Ananias in Acts 9:15, “Go, for he is a chosen instrument of mine to carry my name before the Gentiles and kings and the children of Israel.”

In Galatians 1:15, Paul said “But when he who had set me apart before I was born, and who called me by his grace, was pleased to reveal his son to me, in order that I might preach him among the Gentiles…”

1:3-7 The God of All Comfort

3Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, 4who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves have received from God. 5For just as the sufferings of Christ flow over into our lives, so also through Christ our comfort overflows. 6If we are distressed, it is for your comfort and salvation; if we are comforted, it is for your comfort, which produces in you patient endurance of the same sufferings we suffer. 7And our hope for you is firm, because we know that just as you share in our sufferings, so also you share in our comfort.

Paul first lifts up praise to God, and that is always a good thing to do first. He calls God the “God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ”, meaning he is the God of redemption. He loved us and sent his son to redeem us. He deserves our praise and our gratitude. In Romans 15:6, Paul said we should with one voice glorify the God and father of our Lord Jesus Christ.

Paul also calls him the Father of compassion. One of the traits of God’s character is compassion. Psalm 116:5 says “The LORD is gracious and righteous; our God is full of compassion.” Jesus modeled the compassion of the Father. Matthew 9:36 says “When he saw the crowds, he had compassion on them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd.” Matthew 14:14 says “When Jesus landed and saw a large crowd, he had compassion on them and healed their sick.” Matthew 15:32 says “Jesus called his disciples to him and said, "I have compassion for these people; they have already been with me three days and have nothing to eat. I do not want to send them away hungry, or they may collapse on the way."

Compassion is a feeling of deep sympathy and sorrow for another who is stricken by misfortune, accompanied by a strong desire to alleviate the suffering. When things are going badly for you, you can call out to the Lord and know that he cares about that. He is not removed from your suffering. He sympathizes, he grieves, and he wants to help you. Don’t hesitate to talk to God about your troubles.

Our Heavenly Father is also the God of all comfort. He does this in two ways. First, he often delivers us from evil. Second, he gives us comfort of the mind and emotions, peace of mind, if you will. In Romans 15:13, Paul prayed: “May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.”

Philippians 4:6-7 says “Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”

Paul says here that God comforts us in all our troubles. Whatever your troubles are, he is there to bring comfort to you. Psalm 23:4 says “Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me.” His guidance and his provision are there to bring us comfort. The sovereign God of all things wants to give you comfort.

Anxiety is rampant in our society. We have a lot to worry about. But, God wants us to trust him and to receive peace of mind from him.

That comfort is a matter of giving as well as receiving. We are comforted not only for our own sake, but to extend that comfort to others. We receive comfort from the Lord and pass it on to others.

Although Paul used the plural “us”, you get the feeling he is talking largely about himself. He had a lot of trouble, and he received comfort from the Lord. The sufferings of Christ had been passed on to Paul.

Jesus suffered. He predicted it to the disciples. In Matthew 16:21, From that time on Jesus began to explain to his disciples that he must go to Jerusalem and suffer many things at the hands of the elders, chief priests and teachers of the law, and that he must be killed and on the third day be raised to life. In Matthew 17:12, he said But I tell you, Elijah has already come, and they did not recognize him, but have done to him everything they wished. In the same way the Son of Man is going to suffer at their hands." He suffered in his trial and crucifixion.

You could say Paul was called to suffer. Jesus told Ananias in Acts 9:16, “I will show him how much he must suffer for my name." Paul himself said “I fill up in my flesh what is still lacking in regard to Christ's afflictions, for the sake of his body, which is the church.” Colossians 1:24. Paul listed those sufferings in 2 Corinthians 11: 24-28: “Five times I received from the Jews the forty lashes minus one. 25Three times I was beaten with rods, once I was stoned, three times I was shipwrecked, I spent a night and a day in the open sea, 26I have been constantly on the move. I have been in danger from rivers, in danger from bandits, in danger from my own countrymen, in danger from Gentiles; in danger in the city, in danger in the country, in danger at sea; and in danger from false brothers. 27I have labored and toiled and have often gone without sleep; I have known hunger and thirst and have often gone without food; I have been cold and naked. 28Besides everything else, I face daily the pressure of my concern for all the churches.” Paul experienced the sufferings of Christ. In Romans 8:17, he said we share in his suffering so that we may share in his glory.

I don’t know if you have every said this, but in Philippians 3:10, Paul said “I want to know Christ and the power of his resurrection and the fellowship of sharing in his sufferings….”

Peter tells us, in 1 Peter 4:13, “…rejoice that you participate in the sufferings of Christ, so that you may be overjoyed when his glory is revealed.”

But as Paul suffered the sufferings of Christ, he received comfort through Christ. He passed this on to others, including the Corinthians.

1: 8-11 Paul’s Hardships

We do not want you to be uninformed, brothers, about the hardships we suffered in the province of Asia. We were under great pressure, far beyond our ability to endure, so that we despaired even of life. 9Indeed, in our hearts we felt the sentence of death. But this happened that we might not rely on ourselves but on God, who raises the dead. 10He has delivered us from such a deadly peril, and he will deliver us. On him we have set our hope that he will continue to deliver us, 11as you help us by your prayers. Then many will give thanks on our[a] behalf for the gracious favor granted us in answer to the prayers of many.

Paul suffered severe hardships. He was under great pressure. It was way beyond his own ability to endure. He thought he might die. But he realized that his suffering happened to teach him something. It taught him not to rely on himself, but on God. He was beyond his ability to endure, but God was not beyond his ability to deliver. Indeed God did deliver him and be believed God would continue to do so.

Still, even with his great faith in God, Paul asked for their prayers to help him find deliverance. Paul knew that God would work in answer to prayer, and he sought their help.

We should pray for our missionaries and our pastors, that God would deliver them from evil and protect them.
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