2 Corinthians 2:12-13

2 Corinthians 2:12-13

Rest in Search of Brotherhood  

Today we’re looking at just two verses, which seem inconsequential. Paul speaks more about his change of travel plans. No biggie, right? Two things from the outset can be said. First, remember that Paul’s change of plans was for the Corinthians a sign of disloyalty, a sign of some apostolic breach of contract. His change of plans was not looked upon favorably by the Corinthians. When Paul speaks about his change of plans, therefore, he’s also offering a brief defense of his own word and hence apostleship. Second, in Paul’s defense of his change of itinerary we see his heart for the Corinthians, though not in a way we’d expect, nor in the way the Corinthians had desired.

What surprises the reader in these verses is that Paul, the quintessential evangelist, the man who lets no barrier get in his way from preaching the good news about Christ, leaves what seems to be a great opportunity, a divine appointment even, to do the very thing God had called him to do: evangelize the Gentiles. What’s up with that? And why do those in Troas appear to get shortchanged and left high-and-dry, with no gospel-preacher to be found? Don’t they need the gospel as well? His words become especially ironic given verse 14, where he says that God uses him to spread the good news “everywhere.” Does “everywhere” include Troas, the place he left, to meet up with Titus in Macedonia? Paul heads to Macedonia because he had no rest. But what’s even more ironic is that in Macedonia, he had no rest! He says later in this letter, “For even when we came into Macedonia, our bodies had no rest, but we were afflicted at every turn” (7:5). What gives, Paul? How do we sort things out? A few things need to be said.

First, we can’t say that Paul went to Troas on a whim, for selfish purposes, or even contrary to the Lord’s direction. Preaching the gospel was his call, his aim, and his desire. And that’s a beautiful thing. Nothing wrong with it. Everything right with it. Paul even says that a door was opened up for him “in the Lord.” Paul would have been right to evangelize further in Troas (and in fact God does re-open that door: cf. Acts 20:5-12).

Second, Paul doesn’t say that he never gave the gospel while in Troas. He only means that he didn’t stay long. The presence of the opened door is evidence that he did give the gospel. How else should we understand his words? If the Lord opened up a way to preach the gospel, he preached the gospel. Paul speaks elsewhere about opened doors as opportunities to preach, which opportunities were taken (cf. 1 Cor. 16:8-9; Acts 14:27). Therefore, we have no reason to believe that Paul did not preach in Troas. We actually have evidence that he did, and that his preaching was successful, albeit short. Of whom but the evangelized-now-converted did Paul take leave (v. 13)? We just don’t know for how long he stayed, and from a human perspective, his departure seemed too soon. Calvin speculates, though not without an appeal to Paul’s character and custom, that Paul did not leave himself without a witness of the gospel to take the reins: “It is not, however, at all likely that he left Troas, till he had first introduced some one in his place to improve the opening that had occurred” (Calvin’s Commentary on 2 Corinthians 2:13).

Third, the issue of concern or grief for Paul was the absence of Titus. It was his dear brother’s absence that was the cause of a restive spirit. The desire for Paul was not rest per se, nor was it even rest from physical burdens. By God’s grace, Paul braved all those afflictions (2 Cor. 11:16-12:10). Paul’s desire was for his absent brother, Titus, and through him, the Corinthians. Paul’s restless spirit is not the same thing as some may want it to be: an inner feeling from God by which to make a decision. In Christian circles, you often hear things like, “I just don’t have a peace about…,” which means that the person doesn’t feel quite right about making a particular decision. That’s not what Paul was getting at, nor would he advocate such a method for decision-making.

Titus was evidence of God’s work through Paul’s ministry. He was a Gentile convert, a son in the faith (Titus 1:4), and a missionary companion of Paul (2 Cor. 8:23; Gal. 2:1). He was a huge comfort to both Paul and the Corinthians. Indeed, his name features most prominently in 2 Corinthians (here; 7:6, 13; 8:6, 16, 23; 12:18). It’s not a surprise, then, that Paul was grieved when he, expecting Titus in Troas, didn’t see him. Why was Paul awaiting Titus so expectantly? Because Titus had been sent by Paul to Corinth, and he was to return with a report concerning the Corinthians. Paul’s anxiety for Titus was his anxiety for the Corinthians (cf. 2 Cor. 11:28). Calvin aptly summarizes Paul’s heart and love for the Corinthians: “Here is an evidence of a singular degree of attachment to the Corinthians, that he was so anxious respecting them, that he had no rest anywhere, even when a large prospect of usefulness presented itself, until he had learned the state of their affairs…. Paul loved the Corinthians so much, that he accommodated all his journeyings and long circuits to their welfare, and that he had accordingly come to them later than he had promised—not from having, in forgetfulness of his promise, rashly changed his plan, or from having been carried away by some degree of fickleness (2 Cor. 1:17), but because delay was more profitable for them.” Refreshingly, when Titus came, Paul was comforted, and so were the Corinthians (2 Cor. 7:6-7). All this was in God’s good timing.

Do you view your brothers and sisters in Christ with similar love and affection? Remember, these Corinthians aren’t the most lovable people in all the land. Nevertheless, Paul’s love for them was contagious, as seen in Titus’ love for them as well. I hope there’s a kind of anxiety or restless spirit in you as you await the presence of your Christian siblings. You’ll be living with them forever soon enough!

2 Corinthians 2:12-13

Rest in Search of Brotherhood  

Today we’re looking at just two verses, which seem inconsequential. Paul speaks more about his change of travel plans. No biggie, right? Two things from the outset can be said. First, remember that Paul’s change of plans was for the Corinthians a sign of disloyalty, a sign of some apostolic breach of contract. His change of plans was not looked upon favorably by the Corinthians. When Paul speaks about his change of plans, therefore, he’s also offering a brief defense of his own word and hence apostleship. Second, in Paul’s defense of his change of itinerary we see his heart for the Corinthians, though not in a way we’d expect, nor in the way the Corinthians had desired.

What surprises the reader in these verses is that Paul, the quintessential evangelist, the man who lets no barrier get in his way from preaching the good news about Christ, leaves what seems to be a great opportunity, a divine appointment even, to do the very thing God had called him to do: evangelize the Gentiles. What’s up with that? And why do those in Troas appear to get shortchanged and left high-and-dry, with no gospel-preacher to be found? Don’t they need the gospel as well? His words become especially ironic given verse 14, where he says that God uses him to spread the good news “everywhere.” Does “everywhere” include Troas, the place he left, to meet up with Titus in Macedonia? Paul heads to Macedonia because he had no rest. But what’s even more ironic is that in Macedonia, he had no rest! He says later in this letter, “For even when we came into Macedonia, our bodies had no rest, but we were afflicted at every turn” (7:5). What gives, Paul? How do we sort things out? A few things need to be said.

First, we can’t say that Paul went to Troas on a whim, for selfish purposes, or even contrary to the Lord’s direction. Preaching the gospel was his call, his aim, and his desire. And that’s a beautiful thing. Nothing wrong with it. Everything right with it. Paul even says that a door was opened up for him “in the Lord.” Paul would have been right to evangelize further in Troas (and in fact God does re-open that door: cf. Acts 20:5-12).

Second, Paul doesn’t say that he never gave the gospel while in Troas. He only means that he didn’t stay long. The presence of the opened door is evidence that he did give the gospel. How else should we understand his words? If the Lord opened up a way to preach the gospel, he preached the gospel. Paul speaks elsewhere about opened doors as opportunities to preach, which opportunities were taken (cf. 1 Cor. 16:8-9; Acts 14:27). Therefore, we have no reason to believe that Paul did not preach in Troas. We actually have evidence that he did, and that his preaching was successful, albeit short. Of whom but the evangelized-now-converted did Paul take leave (v. 13)? We just don’t know for how long he stayed, and from a human perspective, his departure seemed too soon. Calvin speculates, though not without an appeal to Paul’s character and custom, that Paul did not leave himself without a witness of the gospel to take the reins: “It is not, however, at all likely that he left Troas, till he had first introduced some one in his place to improve the opening that had occurred” (Calvin’s Commentary on 2 Corinthians 2:13).

Third, the issue of concern or grief for Paul was the absence of Titus. It was his dear brother’s absence that was the cause of a restive spirit. The desire for Paul was not rest per se, nor was it even rest from physical burdens. By God’s grace, Paul braved all those afflictions (2 Cor. 11:16-12:10). Paul’s desire was for his absent brother, Titus, and through him, the Corinthians. Paul’s restless spirit is not the same thing as some may want it to be: an inner feeling from God by which to make a decision. In Christian circles, you often hear things like, “I just don’t have a peace about…,” which means that the person doesn’t feel quite right about making a particular decision. That’s not what Paul was getting at, nor would he advocate such a method for decision-making.

Titus was evidence of God’s work through Paul’s ministry. He was a Gentile convert, a son in the faith (Titus 1:4), and a missionary companion of Paul (2 Cor. 8:23; Gal. 2:1). He was a huge comfort to both Paul and the Corinthians. Indeed, his name features most prominently in 2 Corinthians (here; 7:6, 13; 8:6, 16, 23; 12:18). It’s not a surprise, then, that Paul was grieved when he, expecting Titus in Troas, didn’t see him. Why was Paul awaiting Titus so expectantly? Because Titus had been sent by Paul to Corinth, and he was to return with a report concerning the Corinthians. Paul’s anxiety for Titus was his anxiety for the Corinthians (cf. 2 Cor. 11:28). Calvin aptly summarizes Paul’s heart and love for the Corinthians: “Here is an evidence of a singular degree of attachment to the Corinthians, that he was so anxious respecting them, that he had no rest anywhere, even when a large prospect of usefulness presented itself, until he had learned the state of their affairs…. Paul loved the Corinthians so much, that he accommodated all his journeyings and long circuits to their welfare, and that he had accordingly come to them later than he had promised—not from having, in forgetfulness of his promise, rashly changed his plan, or from having been carried away by some degree of fickleness (2 Cor. 1:17), but because delay was more profitable for them.” Refreshingly, when Titus came, Paul was comforted, and so were the Corinthians (2 Cor. 7:6-7). All this was in God’s good timing.

Do you view your brothers and sisters in Christ with similar love and affection? Remember, these Corinthians aren’t the most lovable people in all the land. Nevertheless, Paul’s love for them was contagious, as seen in Titus’ love for them as well. I hope there’s a kind of anxiety or restless spirit in you as you await the presence of your Christian siblings. You’ll be living with them forever soon enough!

     
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