2Corinthians 1 — To a Church in Crisis, with Love

Text: 2Corinthians 1

With love, even God’s own divine love in our hearts, Paul and I move from 1Corinthians into 2Corinthians Chapter 1 today. This letter was written by Timothy and Paul to the church at Corinth after a painful visit by Paul (and probably Timothy). Paul will write of his deep grief and sorrow because the attitude of the Corinthian believers required that he add a severe letter of rebuke.

Timothy and Paul note that some at Corinth have repented. But some still do not understand (fully know). And they must come to this full knowledge, in order for Paul to be able to boast about them when he stands before Christ in the day of the Lord, to be able to say, “Look at what the believers at Corinth have done, because they are filled with Your Spirit and walking as You walked in the world!” And they must come to this full knowledge so they are able to boast that it was because of Timothy and Paul’s work among them.

I were to give this a title, it would be, “A Partial Understanding.” That is the condition of the believers at Corinth, and I have deep grief and sorrow that the same is true of today’s church, as well! 

Verses 1-2—

Paul identifies himself once again as an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God. He writes that this letter is from Timothy, “our brother,” and him. Again, he emphasizes his God-appointed apostleship, which has been questioned by the believers at Corinth. 

And he assures them that Timothy is his brother and theirs. They all have believed into Jesus Christ. But we will see, later in 2Corinthians, that many in the church at Corinth have begun to follow a different Jesus! How I wish that such a thing did not happen in today’s church, beloved, but it does!

He calls them the church of God at Corinth, but does not address them as saints. He reminds them of who they belong to, and that they are part of a greater whole that includes the saints throughout Achaia, the region where Corinth is located. 

He ends the greeting with “Grace to you, and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.” It is greeting commonly used by Paul. 

He prays for them to have grace (the divine influence on their hearts and His reflection in their lives) and peace (the peace of Jesus Christ). These are only possible through God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. He is the Father of the Corinthians, as well as of Timothy and Paul, for they have believed into Jesus Christ —

John 1:12 But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, even to those who believe in His name, 13 who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God.

Verses 3-5 —

Remember that Paul said a wide door for effective service (ministry) had opened in Ephesus, but that there were many adversaries (1Corinthians 16:9). Now he writes of the perils and affliction Timothy and he endured in Asia Minor, after they were persecuted by Demetrius and the rest in Ephesus (see Acts 19:24-38). 

Paul blesses the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort (solace, consolation, exhortation). Because of His mercy, God the Father gave Timothy and him consolation amidst their great persecution for the sake of the gospel. And indeed, there is much persecution of the believers at Corinth.

God Himself comforts Timothy and Paul in all their affliction (persecution, tribulation), so they are able to comfort those who are in every affliction with the same comfort that God gave them. Timothy and Paul are filled with His Spirit, so His comfort flows from within them to others who are persecuted for the sake of the gospel — including the believers at Corinth. How wonderful that He does that for all who are persecuted for their faith in Jesus Christ, even today!

Timothy and Paul super-abundantly suffer persecution as Christ super-abundantly suffered persecution. But they receive super-abounding comfort, in Christ! 

It is true of all Christians who are persecuted. I will add that in the 20th and 21st centuries, more Christians have been persecuted for their faith than in all of the centuries since the church was birthed at Pentecost approximately 2,000 years ago! And still, Christ comforts them, just as He did Paul and Timothy!

Verses 6-7 —

All that Paul and Timothy endure is for the comfort (consolation) of the believers at Corinth. All they endure is for the salvation of the Corinthians. Paul uses the present tense (“is”) here. But aren’t all who are presently in the church at Corinth saved?

The Corinthians were surely comforted when they first heard the gospel from Paul, realized their need for a Savior, and came to faith in Jesus Christ. But the condition is dire in Corinth, as he writes this letter, to the point where some are in danger of losing their salvation. So, all that Timothy and Paul endure was for their salvation then, and is for their salvation now.  

NOTE: I checked the commentaries, because I wanted to be sure I was understanding this passage correctly. “The spiritual survival of some of them is in jeopardy,” writes Paul Barnett in The New International Commentary on the New Testament! 

But when the wayward members of the church at Corinth repent and are filled with the Holy Spirit, they will share in Paul and Timothy’s consolation through Christ. In the midst of the persecution suffered by the believers in Corinth at the hands of their fellow Corinthians, Jesus Christ will comfort them, giving them strength to patiently endure the same kind of persecutions that Paul and Timothy endure.

Paul and Timothy’s hope for the church at Corinth is steadfast and sure, amidst the troubles at Corinth, and amidst the Corinthians’ ongoing persecution for their faith. Why? Again, they know that if those who are Spirit-filled in Corinth share in Timothy and Paul’s persecution for the sake of the gospel, then they will also receive God’s consolation. 

Verses 8-10 —

Paul does not want the believers at Corinth to be ignorant of the suffering Paul and Timothy underwent in Asia. It is the mark that theirs is a ministry of the gospel of Jesus Christ. 

Here, in Paul’s own words, are some of what he has endured —

2Corinthians 11:24 Five times I received from the Jews thirty-nine lashes. 25 Three times I was beaten with rods, once I was stoned, three times I was shipwrecked, a night and a day I have spent in the deep. 26 I have been on frequent journeys, in dangers from rivers, dangers from robbers, dangers from my countrymen, dangers from the Gentiles, dangers in the city, dangers in the wilderness, dangers on the sea, dangers among false brethren; 27 I have been in labor and hardship, through many sleepless nights, in hunger and thirst, often without food, in cold and exposure. 28 Apart from such external things, there is the daily pressure on me of concern for all the churches.

Timothy and Paul were burdened excessively, beyond their own strength, even to the point where they despaired even of life. Please understand that they were not depressed, as I have heard some teach, for they were constantly comforted and delivered by Jesus Christ. But they were utterly at a loss (i.e., “What will they do to us next?”) because of the intensity of the opposition.

Paul now launches into a series of double entendres (double meanings) for the words “death” and “delivered,” so the Corinthians may understand the kind of death they had died, and the kind of death the Lord commands all believers to die.

Paul and Timothy had the sentence of death within them. They were already filled with the Holy Spirit, and therefore dead to self, their sin nature crucified. Therefore, they could both say —

Galatians 2:20 I have been crucified with Christ; and it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself up for me.

Because they were dead to self, they did not trust in themselves, but in God who raises the dead. Even if they were to physically die, they possessed eternal life! 

They trusted in God, who delivered them from so great a death (literal death from persecution, but also spiritual death had they not believed into Christ). It is on God that they have set their hope, not man. 

And Paul is confident that He will yet deliver them from future persecution that they will endure. He will do so for as long as He wants them to remain on the earth. When their lives and ministry are fulfilled, they will be delivered to the very throne room of God! Hallelujah!

Verse 11 — 

Paul does not fail to thank some of the believers at Corinth, who were co-helpers to them, through their prayers for Timothy and Paul. How did these believers help? By their prayers on behalf these two men! It is also through fellow believers’ prayers that the Lord showed them favor during this intense persecution in Asia.

Do you see that, if you know and love and obey Jesus, your prayers for those in the harvest field are heard by the Lord? Indeed, the prayers of the righteous (those made righteous by being filled with Christ’s righteousness) are powerful and effective, availing much (see James 5:16)!

Verse 12 —

Now Paul begins to address the continuing problems at the church at Corinth. The first is the Corinthians’ questioning of Timothy’s and Paul’s integrity (lack of corruption, moral uprightness). 

And so, Paul writes that Timothy and he boast in this — their consciences testify that their ministry at Corinth was done in holiness (in the power and wisdom of the Holy Spirit who has filled them) and godly sincerity (very exceeding divine purity), not in fleshly wisdom but in the grace (the divine influence on their hearts and its reflection in their lives) of God. That is how they have conducted themselves in the world, and especially toward the believers at Corinth.

Verses 13-14 —

Paul speaks of how the Corinthians should be able to understand (fully know) what he has written. He hopes they will be able to understand (fully know) until the end  (the day of the Lord Jesus). But the believers at Corinth only partially know. If they fully knew, they would not question Timothy’s or Paul’s integrity.

He hopes they will be able to fully know until the end (the day of the Lord Jesus). And when they are filled with the Holy Spirit, they will fully know until that day!  Then, the believers at Corinth will boast in the Lord’s work done through Timothy and Paul, and Timothy and Paul will be able to boast in the work done through the believers at Corinth. 

But the believers at Corinth remain infants, even after 1Corinthians, and the visit, and the harsh letter from Paul. They still question the integrity of men sent by Christ to them. They are still not filled with the Holy Spirit, so they remain self-centered and quarrelsome. They still have not heeded Timothy and Paul’s exhortation to ask the Lord to change their hearts, so He is able to work His works through them!

Verses 15-17 —

Paul relies on the Corinthian church to have at least a partial knowledge of Timothy and him. He intended at first to come to them, so they might have a second grace. The first grace is salvation. The second is the infilling of the Holy Spirit.

He intended to pass through Corinth on the way to Macedonia, and again from Macedonia to come to Corinth, and then receive funds from Corinth for his journey to Judea. 

And he certainly did not make this plan lightly. He was not fickle, changing his mind at the last moment. He had planned to visit them again. He did not take counsel with the flesh (the carnal nature, or men who are carnal), so as to say, “yes” and then not come, or “no,” and then come.

Verses 19-20 —

Paul now uses a double entendre again, to lead the church at Corinth away from their contempt for him, and to the gospel. They say to Paul, You said yes, you were coming. But then you said no, you were not coming. You were fickle! You lied to us!

God is faithful. God’s Spirit has filled Timothy and Paul, and Silvanus (see verse 19), who also came to Corinth. Therefore, their word to them is faithful. Their word is not fickle, that they would say both yes and no.

All three preached the Son of God, Christ Jesus to the believers at Corinth. And the gospel of Christ is not yes and no — it is YES, in Him. 

There is no wavering, no faithlessness with Christ. If you believe into Him, you will be saved from God’s wrath, and if you obey His commands to stay and wait (Luke 24:49, Acts 1:1-4, 8), your sin nature will be crucified and you will be filled with the Spirit, like Paul and Timothy and Silvanus!

For as many as are the promises of God — the promise of salvation from God’s wrath, the promise of a Savior who would take upon Himself the punishment we deserved, the promise of the Holy Spirit who would fill us and give us new, pure hearts — all these are “yes,” in Christ!

And through Christ is Paul’s Amen, and Timothy’s Amen, and Silvanus’ Amen, and Jeff’s Amen, and my Amen! We say, “Truth!” We say, “He has made it so in us!” And God is then glorified through us! He works through us, and He receives all honor and praise from us, for what He does!

Verses 20-21 — 

The Corinthians have doubted and mistreated Paul, Timothy and Silvanus, questioning whether they are really servants of Christ. So, Paul now speaks of God’s inward anointing of him and Timothy and Silvanus. God has filled them with His Holy Spirit, equipping them to be Christ’s ambassadors!

Paul reminds the believers at Corinth that it is God who establishes (confirms) these three evangelists with the church at Corinth, and it is God who has anointed these three. It is God who has sealed them, and it is God who has given them the Spirit — the Amen — in their hearts, as a pledge, property given in advance as a downpayment for the rest! Therefore, the Corinthians have no business judging their integrity and motives!

Verses 23-24 —

Paul calls God as his witness upon his soul. He speaks the truth to the believers at Corinth. After his so-called “painful visit,” he wanted to spare them further harsh rebuke. So he did not make another visit. 

The believers at Corinth have accused Paul and the rest of “lording it over” them (domineering them, acting arrogantly toward them)! Paul answers, “We have done no such thing!” 

They are workers with the Corinthians, for the joy of the Corinthians. It was the privilege of Paul and the rest to work with them to secure their faith in Christ, which gave the Corinthians joy.

Indeed, with regard to their faith, Paul and the rest had no need to lord it over them. It is not by Paul or Timothy or any other that they can be made able to stand firm in their faith. It is by faith in Christ, and obedience of His command to be filled with the Holy Spirit. 

I like the King James Version here —

2Corinthians 1:24 Not for that we have dominion over your faith, but are helpers of your joy: for by faith ye stand.

But do the believers at Corinth really stand by their faith? We will soon learn that not all stand in such a way, for they have not heeded Paul’s exhortation, seen the poverty of their hearts, and cried out to be filled with the Holy Spirit. Stay tuned! 

Lord Jesus, may your church heed Your words, and may hearts be changed, for the glory of the Father, and for Your glory! Amen.