Introduction to II Corinthians

Grace and Peace to you from God our father and the Lord Jesus Christ.

Today, we’ll start reading Paul’s second letter to the church at Corinth. In this chapter, Pau l emphasizes the comforting and merciful nature of God, and lays the groundwork for the remainder of the book.

Reading: II Corinthians 1

1 Paul, an apostle of Jesus Christ by the will of God, and Timothy our brother, unto the church of God which is at Corinth, with all the saints which are in all Achaia:

Once, letters were addressed first and the content came next. Then, we started signing our letters at the bottom, and now we don’t actually know what letters are (emails written on paper and carried by the post office to the recipient).

The letter we’re about to read was written by Paul, with Timothy’s assistance, in the region of Achaia. And, of course, we know that it’s to the church at Corinth.

2 Grace be to you and peace from God our Father, and from the Lord Jesus Christ.

Look familiar?

3 Blessed be God, even the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies, and the God of all comfort;

We get three names for God the Father here: the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of Mercies, and the God of all Comfort. The meanings of these names are clear, but it’s important to acknowledge such descriptions as aspects of our Lord, who is both greater than all imagining and who relates with his creation.

4 Who comforteth us in all our tribulation, that we may be able to comfort them which are in any trouble, by the comfort wherewith we ourselves are comforted of God.

The word of the day is “comfort.” God comforts us in times of trouble (tribulation), both with the Holy Spirit and by the saints. In turn, when another of the brethren is in trouble, we are called to show that same comfort which God has shown us to them. We are brothers in Christ, and should live as loving brethren.

5 For as the sufferings of Christ abound in us, so our consolation also aboundeth by Christ.

We are partakers in the suffering and death of Christ, for we have been baptized by water and the Spirit. His death has made the way for us to be called Children of God, and we carry his blood as the Children of Israel carried the blood of the lamb above their doorposts. By his suffering we have received all riches and glories in Heaven, and comfort and consolation abounds in us.

6 And whether we be afflicted, it is for your consolation and salvation, which is effectual in the enduring of the same sufferings which we also suffer: or whether we be comforted, it is for your consolation and salvation.

So all things work together toward our consolation and salvation. When we suffer, we receive comfort from God and derive instruction from those sufferings; then, when others suffer, we provide them comfort and instruction as we have received.

The likes of Mother Theresa believed this passage meant that suffering is necessary for salvation, but that is not accurate. Rather, because we are saved the world will hate us, and because we are fallen man we will suffer as all things suffer. Salvation is by the blood of the Lamb alone.

7 And our hope of you is stedfast, knowing, that as ye are partakers of the sufferings, so shall ye be also of the consolation.

This is not a natural consequence of suffering, but an assurance through faith that our Lord loves us and will comfort us. Christ himself promised that we would not be given more than we could stand, but that God would always provide comfort and a way out of tribulations. For Peter, it was more literal than for most (an Angel walked him out of jail), but all of us are assured that our Lord will be with us in all things.

Again, I recall the psalmist’s words: “God is our refuge and strength, an everpresent help in times of trouble.”

8 For we would not, brethren, have you ignorant of our trouble which came to us in Asia, that we were pressed out of measure, above strength, insomuch that we despaired even of life:

9 But we had the sentence of death in ourselves, that we should not trust in ourselves, but in God which raiseth the dead:

10 Who delivered us from so great a death, and doth deliver: in whom we trust that he will yet deliver us;

11 Ye also helping together by prayer for us, that for the gift bestowed upon us by the means of many persons thanks may be given by many on our behalf.

At the time, Paul and the brethren with him were in grave danger. We don’t know exactly what the circumstances were (as Acts only records a few riots), but it is very possible that Paul was personally flogged or even stoned. However, his hope comes from the God who Delivers from Death, and the God who raises the dead, and so he was delivered from great troubles.

If our God can deliver a man from death itself, how much more can he deliver us from the lesser evils that we experience.

12 For our rejoicing is this, the testimony of our conscience, that in simplicity and godly sincerity, not with fleshly wisdom, but by the grace of God, we have had our conversation in the world, and more abundantly to you-ward.

Paul is grateful that by the grace of God he is able to continue to teach the churches and preach the gospel. Further, he rejoices that he is able to see the churches grow in size and in favor with God and men.

13 For we write none other things unto you, that what ye read or acknowledge; and I trust ye shall acknowledge even to the end;

14 As also ye have acknowledged us in part, that we are your rejoicing, even as ye also are our’s in the day of the Lord Jesus.

15 And in this confidence I was minded to come unto you before, that ye might have a second benefit;

16 And to pass by you into Macedonia, and to come again out of Macedonia unto you, and of you to be brought on my way toward Judaea.

This would suggest that Paul has not yet come to Corinth following his previous letter, as he had intended. Honestly, though Like did a great job recounting the history of the early Church in the book of Acts, too much happened to fit into writing, so we draw conclusions from little verses like these.

17 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?

18 But as God is true, our word toward you was not yea and nay.

Paul wanted to come, and he wasn’t being flippant with his words. He fully intended to come to them, but have not yet come for reasons that Paul will no doubt elaborate.

19 For the Son of God, Jesus Christ, who was preached among you by us, even by me and Silvanus and Timotheus, was not yea and nay, but in him was yea.

No half-truths, and no nice-sounding myths. What Paul, Timothy, and Silvanus preached was truth, as pure as they could make it.

20 For all the promises of God in him are yea, and in him Amen, unto the glory of God by us.

In the same way, God does not lie to us or change his mind in regards to his commands and teachings. As Numbers recounts, God is not a man that he should change his mind, and he does not make a promise that he does not fulfill.

21 Now he which stablisheth us with you in Christ, and hath anointed us, is God;

22 Who hath also sealed us, and given the earnest of the Spirit in our hearts.

God is the author and sustainer of our faith. He has established the church, anointed the brethren, sealed us into His family, and given us His Spirit that we might have all grace and comfort in this world. Our God has done all these things, and thousands beside which we do not know.

23 Moreover I call God for a record upon my soul, that to spare you I came not as yet unto Corinth.

Apparantly, Paul has not yet come back to Corinth primarily because there is some conflict in Corinth into which he did not intend to come. The phrase “spare you” seems interesting, and would imply that there are many happenings in Corinth which Paul would condemn.

24 Not for that we have dominion over your faith, but are helpers of your joy: for by faith ye stand.

Paul is no king of the faithful, nor does he have authority over faith (which is God’s alone), but he would rather come in joy and faith than in rage and condemnation. The next few chapters should prove enlightening.

Let us Pray

Lord God, author and perfecter of our faith, You are the God who gives all comfort and the Father of mercies. We thank you that you have given us the Holy Spirit, the great comforter, though you already demonstrated the greatest mercy by giving your Son Jesus to die for our sins. To God be all glory and honor, now and forever.

We thank you that your promises are always true, for every promise you give you also fulfill. We thank you that you do not change, and that you have loved us.

Teach us as we study your word and meditate upon the teachings you have given to us. Give us all wisdom, for you are the source of all wisdom and truth.

In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, one God now and forever,

Amen.

Go in peace to serve the Lord.