II Corinthians 1-4
We are starting a new book in the Church Stream. The Apostle Paul is addressing the church of Corinth in a 2nd letter. We are reading from The Message this week.
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Commentary by Dr. Drake Travis
Jesus we thank you for the gift you give us that fills our lives with joy and purpose and gracious mercy that saves us. Amen.
Paul is writing to the church in Corinth a second time. This time he is addressing the believers in the Achaia region also. In Paul’s first letter to the Corinthian church he was instructing a splintered body of believers. They were disorderly. Unsanctification/sexual matters/immorality and ebullience were problems, They were even suing eachother, and their competitions regarding the Communion were silly; just wrong (?who brought the most elaborate food to the event?! -yeesh). Simply put, they were a bustling church but they were divided and had not been loving. Many were duplicitous as there was debate and tension over how to conduct their lives in a city where paganism had been the rule for centuries.
Titus had caught up with Paul during his third missionary journey. The purpose was to relay that Paul’s ‘year-and-a-half’ in Corinth had done much good. There was however a faction in Corinth (imagine that!) that was raising the question whether Paul was authentically one of the Apostles of Christ. The latter was a slickly calculated attempt to discredit Paul since he had spoken to issues ‘spot on’ in his first letter. The naysayers knew there were things that needed to be remedied and they preferred to deride Paul v.s. grow in their faith. For them it was more natural to act like hucksters, change the subject – turning the focus to Paul being an illicit source of leadership. So Paul goes right at this topic in his second letter. He had founded the church in Corinth and he knew what he was doing since he was getting direction from the Holy Spirit.
1 – Paul’s greeting is rich and warm as he had met with Titus after escaping a brush with death in Ephesus. And despite notable unsavory matters in Corinth, they were a loyal group who in many ways wanted to know Jesus better. Paul is realizing more-so all the time, the suffering that accompanies mission work and Christian service. He is relieved to meet up with Titus but there had been anxiety involved from his hearing of situations in Corinth. All in all, the time with Titus was of a comfort that strengthened Paul. He needed to remind the Corinthians that he was delayed because of hardship along the way, not because he was fickle. Paul is not like that.
2 – the chapter opens with talk of discipline. The scalliwag who had a “relationship” with his stepmom [he was exhorted in I Cor. 5] was a painful mess that called for discipline. Apparently that discipline had been administered come the time Paul is writing II Cor. so Paul is sounding conciliatory by now. It had been a painful pilgrimage, but prayerfully it is dealt with and over by now. Paul had been so embroiled, hoping this matter would get settled that he had scuttled right past an evangelistic opportunity in Troas to tend to the trouble. Be that as it may, Paul experienced triumph in Christ and the Providence that walking with Christ had brought him everywhere Paul traversed. Yes, some men violently rejected Paul’s message but that came with the territory and Paul was content regardless.
3 – the opening issue here is most likely Paul refuting the n’ere-do-wells traveling from Jerusalem that trolled the Empire and insisted that the new Christians adhere to the Law of Moses namely to circumcision [along with the rest of the Law!]. And as they traveled they always touted their reference letters from the Sanhedrin who sent them along with their resumes hoping that would enhance reverence for them as they traveled … to cause trouble for Paul! Paul smacks ’em pretty soundly here. These Judaizers were proud of their resumes, while Paul was gratified by the Church he planted; the Corinthians themselves who were testament to his anointing by God Himself. The Law of Moses was the last word on righteousness in the former era but Jesus is the one we are to look to now. He is the Light. Only Jesus can bring us into the Presence of God. Following the Law only has one … following a set of laws that do not save.
4 – Paul’s calling and mission in entirely consuming joyful assignment. Persecutions at any and/or all levels are not going to intimidate or sway him in the least. The joy of following God is that great for him. Paul noted that there were souls who were blinded to God’s Love – that’s the only explanation for people rejecting God.
Paul’s analogy of clay pots has become a timeless illustration. Valuable documents were preserved in clay pots. These pots weren’t necessarily much to look at but the value of the contents altered history. With the Spirit of Christ living in us; as “jars of clay”, we then become lives that transport, transmit and divulge value that translates into eternal wonder and also blesses the clay pot in a glorious way. The joy of the whole process blossoms into a beauty that overtakes everything as we follow Paul’s instruction and immerse ourselves in Jesus’ grace.
The theme that reoccurred each day this week surfaced to be “what are we going to do with the sin?” In Leviticus 1-6, most of the offerings brought to God were for sin; accidental or deliberate, simply bring it to God and therein it is redemptive. In I Kings 11-14 the matter came home for Solomon. He had gathered foreign/pagan women like people collect anything collectible. What would Solomon do with this sin? He was king and he did it because he could and he wouldn’t put this matter away. It altered and corrupted the nation forever. Psalm 78-79 was a litany of God’s faithfulness contrasted against the Israelites’ sinfulness. Would God’s love ever get them to turn from their shameful sin? Their sin had caused them to be routed. When will this obvious memo ever ‘sink in’? Jeremiah brought up their sin as a nation and –> they attacked Jeremiah, not the sin. They would be sent into exile for this. Also ignoring the lesson from the yoke Jeremiah put on would end up being costly. We’ll read about that next week. Amos bellowed that the whole region was living sinfully. And all were impenitent as well. They would burn for it.
John/Baptist, in Luke, was preaching powerfully against sin. People repented and were baptized. It was marvelous. In Corinth, Paul was doing some follow up regarding a man in the church who was living in terrible sin and … it turned out that by then the matter was rectified and propriety had been restored. The memo this week is that sin shall be dealt with God’s way or it will only continue to get worse – and more so until things are handled God’s way.