2 Corinthians: The Beginning

2 Corinthians 1:1-2

And so it begins: By “it,” I mean an almost 2-year, weekly dose of 2nd Corinthians. This entry is the first among a lot of short devotionals that address 2nd Corinthians. We will travel from chapter to chapter, verse by verse. It is my intention to make these brief expositions of 2nd Corinthians informative, convicting, encouraging, and comforting. A lot can be said about this letter. I can’t say it all, but I will say some. It’s my prayer that the some that I say will be of much use for you and your family.

You may ask, “Why 2nd Corinthians?” My reply: “Why not?” But also, it’s a letter often neglected (at least in my experience). It’s a difficult letter (leaving the vague word “difficult” unexplained for now). It’s a heartfelt, deeply personal letter. It’s also a comforting letter. Paul wrote 2nd Corinthians during his 3rd Missionary Journey around 56-57 A.D. in Macedonia, about a year after he wrote 1st Corinthians.

Paul: Apostle of Christ Jesus

Paul begins his letter by calling himself “an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God” (1:1). Such a title sounds harmless and like a given to the typical Christian these days. But nothing could be further from the truth for the Corinthians. As we’ll see, Paul goes to great lengths defending his title. In fact, most of the letter consists of this defense. More on that later, to be sure. Suffice it to say for now that Paul did not take this title upon himself by himself. The phrase “by the will of God” is significant. In God’s providence is the gifting of apostolicity to Paul. What a gift! Paul is a representative, an ambassador for Christ to the people of Christ. When Paul speaks in this letter, therefore, God speaks. Christ Jesus speaks. Paul’s words are God’s words. To disbelieve or to disobey Paul, then, is to disbelieve or to disobey God. Beloved, the Corinthians who rejected Paul’s words were not off the hook for doing so. And neither would we be. As you read this letter to the Corinthians, know that it is from the God who speaks through his apostles, apostles whom Christ called to himself for the very purpose of being messengers of his word.

Timothy: Our Brother

Paul mentions that alongside him is their brother Timothy. The Corinthians knew Timothy, because he had accompanied Paul in his journey to Corinth (Acts 18:1, 5). Paul and the Corinthians have Timothy in common. They share Timothy as their mutual brother. How so? Because no matter how trying the Corinthians are at times, they still share in the adoption of sons in Christ.

Corinth

You can read about Paul’s time in Corinth in Acts 18:1-17. Many of the Gentiles in Corinth heard the gospel, believed, and were baptized. In God’s providence, Paul’s ministry there lasted 18 months. Paul had invested a lot of time and effort in the Corinthians, which is one reason why his letters to them are packed with passion, teeming with tears, busting at the seams with sorrow, and full of Pauline personality. These men and women of Corinth were a great joy and cause of thanksgiving to God, but they were also huge pains in the neck. Some of the many issues that Paul addressed in 1st Corinthians remained by the time he wrote his second letter. This fact is not surprising. After all, only a year had passed between letters. At least three issues from 1st Corinthians persisted into 2nd Corinthians: factionalism/church divisions, Paul’s refusal to be supported financially by the Corinthians, and Paul’s apparently poor speech. More on those later also.

Grace & Peace

Paul makes sure to begin his letter by pronouncing a blessing on its recipients. We tend to brush past that usual Pauline greeting: “Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ” (1:2). But these words weren’t perfunctory. If Paul hadn’t meant them, he wouldn’t have penned them. True grace and true peace come only to the Corinthians and us from God our Father through Jesus Christ. Paul can tell us that we have God the Father in common. He is our Father. He is our God, and we are his people. We belong to him, and he to us! And he is our Father. Indeed, he is our Lord, but he also relates to us as his beloved children.

We who are in Christ Jesus all belong to God. We are his children. And we are his children, because God has graciously adopted us to be his children, and because Christ has made peace with us through his sacrifice on the cross. Because our Father has given us grace and peace by declaring us righteous in his sight, he will also continue to give us grace and peace as we walk in sanctification after his ways, as he seeks to conform us, his beloved sons, into the image of his Beloved Son. Be encouraged, beloved, that since even the troublesome Corinthians receive both grace and peace, we certainly do as well. But then again, maybe we’re more like the Corinthians than we let up, realize, or care to admit. In either case, we can affirm with Paul: “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ” (1:3), a verse we’ll look at next time.

     
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