This is Episode #338 and today we’ll read 2 Corinthians chapters 1-4 together. Today? The painful visit and the severe letter.
Joy: You’re listening to Season 2 of the Lifting Her Voice podcast. This is Episode #338 and today we’ll read 2 Corinthians chapters 1-4 together. Today? The painful visit and the severe letter.
Welcome to the Lifting Her Voice podcast, Season 2! I’m your host, Joy Miller, and I invite you to grab your Bible and join me – from the beginning – simply reading God’s word together. We built some spiritual muscles in 2020 with just the New Testament. But this year we’re going all out, cover-to-cover, Old Testament and New. So, whether with your first cup in the morning, your commute to work, or as the last thing on your mind before sleep, God’s Word will equip you for every good work. I’m really glad you’re here!
Intro to 2 Corinthians
Once again, we are starting a new book. It’s Paul’s second letter to the church at Corinth, 2nd Corinthians. 2nd Corinthians is a very practical letter written around AD 56 to address some very practical problems in the church. Since the founding of the church, certain “Super Apostles” had arisen in the church who sought to undermine Paul and his teachings.
Believers in the church were aligning themselves behind these “Super Apostles” when they should have been aligning with each other in unity for Christ. These false teachers were making the claim that Paul’s suffering for Christ was somehow an indication that he was not a true apostle.
Paul confronts these challenges to his leadership by defending his ministry and laying out the case for his claim to be an apostle. He points out that he relies on Christ’s strength and not his own. Paul arranges for the collection of a gift from the Corinthians to help struggling believers in Jerusalem, and he also works to repair relationships in the church. Are you ready? Let’s dig in.
2 Corinthians Chapter 1
Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by God’s will, and Timothy our brother:
To the church of God at Corinth, with all the saints who are throughout Achaia.
Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.
The God of Comfort
Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and the God of all comfort. He comforts us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any kind of affliction, through the comfort we ourselves receive from God. For just as the sufferings of Christ overflow to us, so also through Christ our comfort overflows. If we are afflicted, 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 that we suffer. And our hope for you is firm, because we know that as you share in the sufferings, so you will also share in the comfort.
We don’t want you to be unaware, brothers and sisters, of our affliction that took place in Asia. We were completely overwhelmed — beyond our strength — so that we even despaired of life itself. Indeed, we felt that we had received the sentence of death, so that we would not trust in ourselves but in God who raises the dead. He has delivered us from such a terrible death, and he will deliver us. We have put our hope in him that he will deliver us again while you join in helping us by your prayers. Then many will give thanks on our behalf for the gift that came to us through the prayers of many.
A Clear Conscience
Indeed, this is our boast: The testimony of our conscience is that we have conducted ourselves in the world, and especially toward you, with godly sincerity and purity, not by human wisdom but by God’s grace. For we are writing nothing to you other than what you can read and also understand. I hope you will understand completely — just as you have partially understood us — that we are your reason for pride, just as you also are ours in the day of our Lord Jesus.
A Visit Postponed
Because of this confidence, I planned to come to you first, so that you could have a second benefit, and to visit you on my way to Macedonia, and then come to you again from Macedonia and be helped by you on my journey to Judea. Now when I planned this, was I of two minds? Or what I plan, do I plan in a purely human way so that I say “Yes, yes” and “No, no” at the same time? As God is faithful, our message to you is not “Yes and no.” For the Son of God, Jesus Christ, whom we proclaimed among you — Silvanus, Timothy, and I — did not become “Yes and no.”
On the contrary, in him it is always “Yes.” For every one of God’s promises is “Yes” in him. Therefore, through him we also say “Amen” to the glory of God. Now it is God who strengthens us together with you in Christ, and who has anointed us. He has also put his seal on us and given us the Spirit in our hearts as a down payment.
I call on God as a witness, on my life, that it was to spare you that I did not come to Corinth. I do not mean that we lord it over your faith, but we are workers with you for your joy, because you stand firm in your faith.
2 Corinthians Chapter 2
In fact, I made up my mind about this: I would not come to you on another painful visit. For if I cause you pain, then who will cheer me other than the one being hurt by me? I wrote this very thing so that when I came I wouldn’t have pain from those who ought to give me joy, because I am confident about all of you that my joy will also be yours. For I wrote to you with many tears out of an extremely troubled and anguished heart — not to cause you pain, but that you should know the abundant love I have for you.
A Sinner Forgiven
If anyone has caused pain, he has caused pain not so much to me but to some degree — not to exaggerate — to all of you. This punishment by the majority is sufficient for that person. As a result, you should instead forgive and comfort him. Otherwise, he may be overwhelmed by excessive grief. Therefore I urge you to reaffirm your love to him. I wrote for this purpose: to test your character to see if you are obedient in everything. Anyone you forgive, I do too. For what I have forgiven — if I have forgiven anything — it is for your benefit in the presence of Christ, so that we may not be taken advantage of by Satan. For we are not ignorant of his schemes.
A Trip to Macedonia
When I came to Troas to preach the gospel of Christ, even though the Lord opened a door for me, I had no rest in my spirit because I did not find my brother Titus. Instead, I said good-bye to them and left for Macedonia.
A Ministry of Life or Death
But thanks be to God, who always leads us in Christ’s triumphal procession and through us spreads the aroma of the knowledge of him in every place. For to God we are the fragrance of Christ among those who are being saved and among those who are perishing. To some we are an aroma of death leading to death, but to others, an aroma of life leading to life. Who is adequate for these things? For we do not market the word of God for profit like so many. On the contrary, we speak with sincerity in Christ, as from God and before God.
2 Corinthians Chapter 3
Are we beginning to commend ourselves again? Or do we need, like some, letters of recommendation to you or from you? You yourselves are our letter, written on our hearts, known and read by everyone. You show that you are Christ’s letter, delivered by us, not written with ink but with the Spirit of the living God — not on tablets of stone but on tablets of human hearts.
Such is the confidence we have through Christ before God. It is not that we are competent in ourselves to claim anything as coming from ourselves, but our adequacy is from God. He has made us competent to be ministers of a new covenant, not of the letter, but of the Spirit. For the letter kills, but the Spirit gives life.
New Covenant Ministry
Now if the ministry that brought death, chiseled in letters on stones, came with glory, so that the Israelites were not able to gaze steadily at Moses’s face because of its glory, which was set aside, how will the ministry of the Spirit not be more glorious? For if the ministry that brought condemnation had glory, the ministry that brings righteousness overflows with even more glory. In fact, what had been glorious is not glorious now by comparison because of the glory that surpasses it. For if what was set aside was glorious, what endures will be even more glorious.
Since, then, we have such a hope, we act with great boldness. We are not like Moses, who used to put a veil over his face to prevent the Israelites from gazing steadily until the end of the glory of what was being set aside, but their minds were hardened. For to this day, at the reading of the old covenant, the same veil remains; it is not lifted, because it is set aside only in Christ. Yet still today, whenever Moses is read, a veil lies over their hearts, but whenever a person turns to the Lord, the veil is removed. Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom.
We all, with unveiled faces, are looking as in a mirror at the glory of the Lord and are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory; this is from the Lord who is the Spirit.
2 Corinthians Chapter 4
The Light of the Gospel
Therefore, since we have this ministry because we were shown mercy, we do not give up. Instead, we have renounced secret and shameful things, not acting deceitfully or distorting the word of God, but commending ourselves before God to everyone’s conscience by an open display of the truth. But if our gospel is veiled, it is veiled to those who are perishing. In their case, the god of this age has blinded the minds of the unbelievers to keep them from seeing the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God. For we are not proclaiming ourselves but Jesus Christ as Lord, and ourselves as your servants for Jesus’s sake. For God who said, “Let light shine out of darkness,” has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of God’s glory in the face of Jesus Christ.
Treasure in Clay Jars
Now we have this treasure in clay jars, so that this extraordinary power may be from God and not from us. We are afflicted in every way but not crushed; we are perplexed but not in despair; we are persecuted but not abandoned; we are struck down but not destroyed. We always carry the death of Jesus in our body, so that the life of Jesus may also be displayed in our body.
For we who live are always being given over to death for Jesus’s sake, so that Jesus’s life may also be displayed in our mortal flesh. So then, death is at work in us, but life in you. And since we have the same spirit of faith in keeping with what is written, I believed, therefore I spoke, we also believe, and therefore speak. For we know that the one who raised the Lord Jesus will also raise us with Jesus and present us with you. Indeed, everything is for your benefit so that, as grace extends through more and more people, it may cause thanksgiving to increase to the glory of God.
Therefore we do not give up. Even though our outer person is being destroyed, our inner person is being renewed day by day. For our momentary light affliction is producing for us an absolutely incomparable eternal weight of glory. So we do not focus on what is seen, but on what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.
Apparently, there is a lost letter to the Corinthians. After leaving Corinth, Paul heard of immoral goings-on in the Corinthian church and wrote this letter to confront the sin referred to in 1 Corinthian 5:9. And then, while in Ephesus, he received reports of divisions among them as mentioned in 1 Corinthians 1:11-13. Paul really wanted to stay and minister more in Ephesus, so he sent Timothy to attend to these issues with the Corinthians. Finally, more disturbing news came to Paul…probably from Timothy. False apostles had infiltrated and started undermining Paul’s authority by assaulting his character.
That did it for Paul and he abandoned the work in Ephesus temporarily to head for Corinth in person. This visit came to be known as the “painful visit.” It was not a successful visit. Paul was hurt because none of the Corinthians stepped forward to support Paul and he hesitated to continue to nag them. So he returned to Ephesus and wrote what is known as the “severe letter.” Apparently, it was a doozy. He sent it to be delivered by Titus and then wrung his hands until he met up with Titus to give him news of their reaction to his harsh reprimands. The news was good and most had repented of their rebellion against Paul. Hence, all the references to this exchange here in 2 Corinthians.
Let’s pray. Father, thank You that, like dearly loved children, You discipline us sometimes. It is never pleasant and many times we kick against Your correction like the Corinthians did Paul. Open our eyes to Your rebuke, Lord, knowing that in the long run, it is for our good and Your glory and the furtherance of Your kingdom. Amen.
Thank you for joining me here today. I pray that by spending time in His Word every day, you will be changed. Visit me at Lifting Her Voice.com with your comments and questions. And don’t forget to visit the Blog page while you’re there. If you like the podcast, it would be great if you’d give it a five-star review and share it with everyone you know. Don’t forget to subscribe wherever you get your podcasts. See you tomorrow!
Unless otherwise noted, all Scripture quotations are taken from the Christian Standard Bible(r), Copyright (c) 2017 by Holman Bible Publishers. Used by permission. Christian Standard Bible(r) and CSB(r) are federally registered trademarks of Holman Bible Publishers.
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