For an introduction to this series, click here.
In 2 Corinthians, we find Paul continuing to correct the Corinthian church. Most of his corrections involve addressing overreactions to his previous letter. You have to admit the Corinthians had a zeal for the Lord, but sometimes they went a little too far.
There are some who try to say that the last few chapters of this book are a separate letter. When you read the entire book from beginning to end, Chapters 10-13 do seem disjointed. As long as you recognize that the whole thing is inspired, I don't guess it really matters how you divide it.
As Paul opens his book, he seems a little down-hearted. He is having a rough time as he is writing his letter, but he is still praising the Lord in spite of the problems:
"Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God. For as we share abundantly in Christ's sufferings, so through Christ we share abundantly in comfort too. If we are afflicted, it is for your comfort and salvation; and if we are comforted, it is for your comfort, which you experience when you patiently endure the same sufferings that we suffer. Our hope for you is unshaken, for we know that as you share in our sufferings, you will also share in our comfort. For we do not want you to be ignorant, brothers, of the affliction we experienced in Asia. For we were so utterly burdened beyond our strength that we despaired of life itself. Indeed, we felt that we had received the sentence of death. But that was to make us rely not on ourselves but on God who raises the dead. He delivered us from such a deadly peril, and he will deliver us. On him we have set our hope that he will deliver us again. You also must help us by prayer, so that many will give thanks on our behalf for the blessing granted us through the prayers of many." (1:3-11)
It is so easy to be downhearted and miserable. It is much harder to look beyond our problems and praise the Lord for what He is doing in our lives. But it is good to see that Paul had to work through his problems just like everyone else. The Lord never promised to lead us happily through life and solve all of our problems for us. He promised to work all things together for our good, and sometimes that work isn't very pleasant. I think most of you know my financial situation. Not that I want you to feel sorry for me, but I bring it up because I want you to understand what I feel about this passage. It's easy to feel sorry for yourself and blame God for your problems. That comes naturally to our flesh. I fight the temptation all the time.
"For our boast is this, the testimony of our conscience, that we behaved in the world with simplicity and godly sincerity, not by earthly wisdom but by the grace of God, and supremely so toward you. For we are not writing to you anything other than what you read and acknowledge and I hope you will fully acknowledge— just as you did partially acknowledge us— that on the day of our Lord Jesus you will boast of us as we will boast of you." (1:12-14)
That is interesting how Paul says that there will be boasting in heaven. I think clearly this means boasting in what the Lord has done, not boasting in ourselves. But I think this reference in an odd way confirms that we will keep most of the friends we have down here. Even though the relationships will be different and no doubt better, the relationships will be similar. It is not like we will be bored after a while in heaven. Yeah, fellowshipping with the Lord Jesus will be the best part, of course, but renewing acquaintances with our loved ones will also be a special time. I know I am looking forward to it.
"I wanted to visit you on my way to Macedonia, and to come back to you from Macedonia and have you send me on my way to Judea. Was I vacillating when I wanted to do this? Do I make my plans according to the flesh, ready to say 'Yes, yes' and 'No, no' at the same time? As surely as God is faithful, our word to you has not been Yes and No. For the Son of God, Jesus Christ, whom we proclaimed among you, Silvanus and Timothy and I, was not Yes and No, but in him it is always Yes. For all the promises of God find their Yes in him. That is why it is through him that we utter our Amen to God for his glory." (1:16-20)
This is a hard passage to interpret, I will admit. It has been a long time since I have gone through this book, but apparently there were some erroneous teachers springing up in the Corinthian church who were confusing the simplicity of the gospel. They were using the fact that Paul had not returned, either in person or by another letter, to somehow reason that God was keeping him away because what he was teaching was wrong. Paul could not be more vehement in his repudiation of that rumor.
He begins his explanation in the last two verses of this chapter, but they are more fitting with the beginning of chapter 2. So I will treat them as such and address them tomorrow.