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2nd Corinthians
Chapter 1

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2 Corinthians Chapter 1
Commentary by Ron Beckham

Verse 1.  "Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God, and Timothy our brother, To the church of God which is at Corinth with all the saints who are throughout Achaia:"

It was late in 56 AD, and Paul was writing this letter with Timothy (acting as amanuensis or secretary to Paul); and it was sent to the Corinthians with Titus.   Paul later actually went to Corinth, where he wrote his letter to the Romans.

Notice Paul in this verse is an apostle by the will of God.  All too often, we are given office in the church through the will of men.  Some years ago, I spent an afternoon with a bishop from a certain denomination.  He wanted to know why I longed so much to minister the gospel of our Lord, and I gave him my testimony.  I told him Jesus died for me, personally touched me, and drew me to Him, when I was 15-years old.  Later, He unmistakably called me to ministry but I ran away, because I was afraid.  Back in His Arms, I am only fully alive when I serve Him, and I want to serve Him more.

I asked the bishop, a very personable man, how he came to be a minister, and he told me of a youthful struggle as to which profession he would enter.  Would he be a lawyer?  Following much thought, he became a minister.  He was "called" by his denomination, after he completed his studies.  Yes, we may be called by men, but we also must be called by the will of God.

From Paul’s perspective, by the way, Timothy, though much younger, and without Paul’s office, had the same standing with God he did ("Timothy our brother").  So did the Corinthians, who he called "saints."  The church is not a denomination, a place, or a name; it is a state of being within the Person and Body of Christ.  We are owned by Him, called by Him, and the highest office in the church is "saint" ("called out one").  ALL who are in Christ have attained that office.  When we are in Christ, we "have it all," for we have HIM (and He has us).  We are His "saints" and He loves you and me.

Verse 2.  "Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ."

True grace is unmerited favor with God, obtained through the cross of Jesus Christ.  There are rare times in life when we experience a sense of peace.  Our cares fall away, as we stand in the presence of something or someone so beautiful that we are awestruck, taken by that which we see.  REAL peace is lasting, though, and it only comes from the grace of God. There is no grace without Jesus Christ, for His is "the only Name under heaven given among men, by which we must be saved" (Acts 4:12).

The cross, which was an ugly thing, becomes beautiful, when you understand that this cruel instrument was used by God to end death - forever.  For you.  Oh, your body might fall away for a time, but it is Him you want; more than money, more than success; more even than this form you walk around in.  You body will be restored, in His time, as will everything that is truly important to you.

You can be at peace, because through the cross, which ruined the body of Jesus Christ, you have been given LIFE.  You are offered His grace, and in Him, you are given the "peace of God."

Verse 3.  "Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort,"

The key to this book (to this LIFE, for that matter), is here.  The word "blessed" is a form of the word "praise." We find that the comfort, the mercy we have hungered for, is given us when we start honestly giving praise to God (instead of seeking it for ourselves).  "Mercy" is the gift of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.  We became a race of rebels, who did not want God.  If we feel we are somehow "ethical" in our dealings with others, we still have the problem that we are a "self-ruled" people, who don’t want outside interference.  We were created to praise God (and be loved by Him).

"Comfort" is the key to our lives, because the word is "parakaleo" which is "to call along side of."  This was the promise of Jesus, to His apostles, in John 14:16, and 16:7, that the "Comforter" (the One called alongside), would be given to them.  It is also the promise to YOU.   In departing from this world, Jesus said "I will send Him to you." He has given us forgiveness in Christ, and we live within the comfort of the Holy Spirit of God.  We praise our God, for we are forgiven.  Also, we are truly WITH Him, like we have never been with anyone before, and even better, HE is with US.

Verse 4.  "who comforts us in all our affliction so that we will be able to comfort those who are in any affliction with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God."

We are comforted (by Him) in our trouble.  The question is, why do we have trouble (tribulation) at all?  One of the answers is right here:  So WE may comfort OTHERS who are in similar distress.  And how we do this is interesting.   It is not so much our comfort we give them, but God’s!  How did we get through that horrible mess in our lives?  By the intervention and comfort of the Holy Spirit of God.  How do we REALLY comfort another person?  By sharing with them, through Christ, what the Holy Spirit of God has done for us.  Actually, it’s more.  We truly don’t have to say anything, for people tend to see the presence of God in our suffering, and gain courage.  Our greatest witness is to courageously and joyfully face (in His strength) whatever life sends our way.

We all know that the person who is devastated by loss, does not want our advice.   Instead, the current idea is to just "be there" for them, and that is good.  But also, PRAY for them - a lot.  And, it is in prayer, that the Lord is apt to remind you of that which may be precisely what that other person needs at that moment.  I don’t know what to say - but HE does.  Be there for them, which may help that other person.  Be there for them, but also be OPEN to the Lord.   HE has a great deal to offer the person who is in distress.

Verse 5.  "For just as the sufferings of Christ are ours in abundance, so also our comfort is abundant through Christ."

We have certainly noticed there is much trouble in life, and we don’t like it when things are not as we want them to be.  A great secret is here, for there is never any lost with God, except you also receive much in return.  It has been my experience that I have always received much MORE than any loss, though not in ways I expected.

For instance, "trouble" is often curative in nature.  We are sinners (Romans 3:23) after all, and I don’t know about you, but through the years, I was often astonished by my stupidity (sinful thoughts and actions are stupid in nature).   All of us have negative tendencies, and we see that sort of thing in David (Psalm 51).  And like in the life of David, God allows not only suffering, but also amazing consolations in our lives.

The combination of the two, will lead to renewed faith in God.  You could well say there is a formula here, which is:  Suffering plus consolation equals Faith (S+C=F).

Part of our problem in life, is that we easily "see" our suffering, but often we don’t perceive the consolation of God, for many years.  Tragically, some NEVER see His consolation; but for those who do, it’s time to also discover the JOY of the Lord (within the suffering of this life).

Verse 6.  "But if we are afflicted, it is for your comfort and salvation; or if we are comforted, it is for your comfort, which is effective in the patient enduring of the same sufferings which we also suffer;"

Our afflictions in life are often for other people.

We usually go through life without ever understanding that we are God’s gift to someone else.  The husband is selected by God, to LOVE his wife; but he typically decides SHE will serve HIM!  The wife often cooks, cleans, serves, etc., but misses his real need, deep in his soul.  He does the same to her.  Taking out the trash just doesn’t touch that deep ache within the one he is supposed to love.

The concept that you are God’s gift to others, carefully enclosed within the ribbon and gift wrap of suffering, is offensive to most.  We try to throw off the gift wrap - "Let someone else suffer - not me!"  This verse is so clear.   If we suffer, it is for others (perhaps far in our future), that we may comfort them in their distress.  Our suffering qualifies us for them, that they will listen to us about Christ (will see Christ within us).

The same with our consolations.  We have been given much in Christ, and they will want to hear about consolations, too.  But to the one who suffers, it is your suffering (like theirs), which will enable them to LISTEN about your consolations in Christ.

Verse 7.  "and our hope for you is firmly grounded, knowing that as you are sharers of our sufferings, so also you are sharers of our comfort."

Here’s a guarantee you can bank on.  Here’s a certain HOPE you can count on. Whatever sufferings you are experiencing, they are DESIGNED in such a manner that you will receive the consolations of God.  Here’s a good example - wheel chairs!

I hated being in wheelchairs, and as a boy, I was in them for years!   People looked at you with those pitying eyes (but bless them, Lord, for their concern), and sometimes they just plain got angry!  Like the little lady who placed her body squarely in front of the wheel chair, and wouldn’t let us proceed.  She shook her finger at me, and shouted, "That’ll teach you to run out in traffic," and then stomped away!  The fact that my problem was not from an accident, never occurred to her.  (And I became very obese, after years of inactivity, but that’s something else).

The fact is, since I have been teaching at the convalescent home, I have observed that my years in the wheelchairs are actually a BENEFIT!  I do not know why it is a benefit in EVERY way, but I do know THIS one.  And that is, when you are speaking to an audience where ALL of them are in wheelchairs, they listen more attentively and with extra receptivity, when they know you were in one, too.  It is my whole LIFE that people will know our Savior, and if those wheelchair years will aid in that process, then I PRAISE Him for those years.

There ALWAYS is comfort, hidden within the sufferings of this life.

Verse 8.  "For we do not want you to be unaware, brethren, of our affliction which came to us in Asia, that we were burdened excessively, beyond our strength, so that we despaired even of life;"

There is a prevalent teaching that "trouble will not come to us, beyond our ability to endure it."  While I recognize such teachers are attempting to comfort those in need, the teaching simply is not true.  Often, the idea is based on 1 Corinthians 10:13, where Paul correctly points out God "will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation, will also make the way of escape, that you may be able to bear it."

Unfortunately for that doctrinal belief, the key word in 1 Corinthians 10:13, is "temptation" rather than "trouble" or "tribulation."   We ARE tempted, but God is with us, and we no longer need to fall into sin.   Here in Verse 8, Paul relates to us a terrible mess he got into, which was so bad, so overwhelming, that it was completely beyond all reason.  We will study 2 Corinthians 11 (God willing), where, in the second half of the chapter, Paul relates trouble like our worst nightmare.  It is likely most of us could not emotionally or physically survive the trouble which came to those people - constantly.

And he was depressed, disheartened, overwhelmed - there is no other way to understand the phrase in this verse "we despaired even of life."  Remember, tribulation WILL come, but God is with us in all of our trouble.  As He was for Paul; so also He is for you.

Verse 9-10.  "indeed, we had the sentence of death within ourselves so that we would not trust in ourselves, but in God who raises the dead; who delivered us from so great a peril of death, and will deliver us, He on whom we have set our hope. And He will yet deliver us,"

Trouble brings trust.

Here’s another great reason for suffering.  Perhaps the greatest of all:   Most people think that to die is worst of all.  Yet Paul, who thought (along with his companions) that he would die, many times, found a wonderful treasure in the sentence of death.  He learned to not trust in himself, but in God, Who raises the dead.

Death has no hold over you. In Acts 14:19-20, where Paul was stoned at Lystra, he was left for dead.  Many teachers have said that he WAS dead, and God returned him to life, for his work was not yet done.  That may be true, for God does indeed raise the dead.  He DID raise the dead, He WILL raise the dead, and He DOES raise them, more than we know.  Afraid of dying?  Give your life to Christ in God, Who raises the dead ).  Trust in Him.

Verse 11.  "you also joining in helping us through your prayers, so that thanks may be given by many persons on our behalf for the favor bestowed on us through the prayers of many."

Trouble causes us to pray.

There are so many REASONS given for human suffering, in this chapter.  Another is here is this verse, and it is that, in the midst of trouble, we learn to pray.  Here in America, about the only time people give thanks, is to thank Him for food.  Not many do that, and even less believe that our food really comes from Him, anyway.  But it does.  And it is when we LACK the means to purchase adequate food for our children, that we really start to learn how to pray.  We often sat down to breakfast, not knowing what the children would eat for dinner.  And when the food did come, miraculously, I found myself uttering spontaneous phrases, like "Wow, THANK You, God," and "Hallelujah" (which, of course, means "praise the Lord).

Paul was OPEN in his trouble.  During the years of my wife’s severe mental illness, we kept it so secret, that people later asked, "why didn’t you TELL us?"  And we should have.  Real tribulation brings out prayer in other people, and when the answer comes, in response to the prayer (and it will), many will be able to give THANKS for this work that God has done.

Verse 12.  "For our proud confidence is this: the testimony of our conscience, that in holiness and godly sincerity, not in fleshly wisdom but in the grace of God, we have conducted ourselves in the world, and especially toward you."

Joseph Excell observed these remarks presuppose Paul was told he had been accused of "insincerity" by his opponents.  Paul opens his heart and shows the simple love of God, he had for these people.  My mother was a child prodigy on the piano, later playing on the radio, teaching lessons, and so on.  Now, she will not play, because she cannot "read the notes" and her "fingers are not good."   But she CAN play, for when I come up to her door (before she knows someone is there and stops), I am struck by the beauty of her music.  I encourage her to play, for it is her HEART that we long to hear.

Matthew Henry said, "the conscience is God’s deputy of the soul, and the voice of the conscience is the voice of God."  Paul had the clear conscience of one who does the will of God, out of love.  As J. Vernon McGee stated, about this verse, "by God’s grace, through suffering (see previous verses), simplicity and Godly sincerity (KJV) was produced in Paul’s life.  Suffering is a mercy of God, and it produces qualities in our lives that are to be shared.

Dr. McGee said, "My friend, if today, you are on a bed of pain, and you are in the will of God, that bed can become a greater pulpit than the one preachers stand behind."  Trouble is God’s opportunity to express His love through our lives.  Simply be open about your life, and let God do HIS work through you.

Verse 13.  "For we write nothing else to you than what you read and under- stand, and I hope you will understand until the end;"

Paul has no hidden agenda, and there is no "hidden message" in any of the Scriptures, for that matter (contrary to what some teach).  These verses have been about suffering, and it is obvious there is suffering in the world.  Pick up a newspaper from any day, any city, and you find suffering; but what is that suffering about?  These verses have been revealing the reasons for suffering, in your life and in mine.  Often we can’t figure it out, because the purpose of our suffering (verse 6) may be for the benefit of someone in our future; someone we may not even have met, & won’t, for many years.

Another series of truths in these verses, involves the Person of God. Pre- supposed here, is that 1) God exists, 2) He is Sovereign, 3) He has a purpose in allowing your suffering, and 4) it is a good purpose, for He is good (and He loves – you).  This is very simple, and God intends that you will understand.

Verse 14.  "just as you also partially did understand us, that we are your reason to be proud as you also are ours, in the day of our Lord Jesus."

Our purpose in all of this suffering we have been discussing; all this LIFE we live, is that we might give something of God to one another.  We are to delight in one another, as God in Christ cares for us.  It is vanity (to recall Solomon in Ecclesiastes), to be "proud" of money, a prestigious marriage, social standing, importance in employment, physical beauty, and so on.  Such are a waste of time, if they become the focus of our lives.  Even good health is in this category, if it becomes our passion.

You are my purpose in living, and I yours (as God enables us), for we are one in Christ Jesus, given to love one another.  Even this, though, can be vanity, for mere philanthropy, without the power and love of God, can be a mask for bringing glory to ourselves.  Our glory in life is that the work of God may be done in the lives of that other person.

Verse 15.  "In this confidence I intended at first to come to you, so that you might twice receive a blessing;

Paul longed to come to them; that he might give to them of the Holy Spirit of God.   This was his consistent desire (as it should be ours), as seen in his desire for the Romans (1:1) when he wanted to bring to them a spiritual gift.  Another place is Romans 15:29, where his intention was to come to them in the fullness of the blessing of the gospel of Christ.

Our ability to help another person is quite limited.  We give the food, and they get hungry again.  The doctor who restores a patient to health, knows that surgery (wonderful and led of God it may be), will be followed by a need for MORE surgery in a few years.  Our physical blessings are transitory, at best.  Bring the Holy Spirit to a person, however, and you change them – forever.

Verse 16.  "that is, to pass your way into Macedonia, and again from Macedonia to come to you, and by you to be helped on my journey to Judea."

It is not wrong to receive help from another person, as led by the Lord.  Paul sometimes refused help from others, and as led by God, he would occasionally SEEK help FROM them.  To refuse all assistance, can actually become a problem, for the OTHER person has just as much right to give, as you do.

Notice the references in this section.  Paul is answering a letter or letters from them, and his statements are responsive in nature.  We do not have the letter(s) from Corinth and do not completely understand.  This is important for it goes to the authenticity of these writings.  These are real people and this is a real letter, much like the one found in the attic – you may not understand all your grandfather was writing, but you would see the authenticity of his love for the woman who was to become your grandmother.  A forger (writing many years later) would avoid the obscure at all cost.  As in verse 1, the author was Paul the apostle (as led by the Holy Spirit), and you are reading a letter written in the year 56 AD.

Verse 17-18.  "Therefore, I was not vacillating when I intended to do this, was I?  Or what I purpose, do I purpose according to the flesh, so that with me there will be yes, yes and no, no at the same time? But as God is faithful, our word to you is not yes and no."

We often tend to plan lightly, for what we are doing.  Let’s go out to dinner, we may announce, at the last possible moment.  Our minds are easily changed and we often care very little about what we do.  Paul was a different kind of man, who did everything on the basis of answered prayer, and because of the leadership of the Holy Spirit of God.

Paul not only teaches us to "pray without ceasing" (1 Thessalonians 5:17), but was a man who DID exactly that!  As he spoke, he was always submitting his words to the Lord - what we (and the Corinthians) hear in these verses, is from God.  Paul did not share "according to the flesh" but based all on God (Who is faithful to us).  WE vacillate, but God does not; and we can trust the words of Paul, because he looked to God.

Verse 19.  "For the Son of God, Christ Jesus, who was preached among you by us – by me and Silvanus and Timothy -- was not yes and no, but is yes in Him."

Paul (and Silvanus and Timothy) had spoken a clear, simple message among these people, and that message was Jesus Christ.  He said to them, "Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, and He was buried, and He rose again on the third day, according to the Scriptures" (1 Corinthians 15:3-4).  This was utterly clear, simple and profound – What we need is Christ, and what we are given is Christ "Who died for our sins, according to the Scriptures."  Paul had only one message to give (as should we), and he gave it (Him) consistently, at all times.

Verse 20.  "For as many as are the promises of God, in Him they are yes; therefore also through Him is our Amen to the glory of God through us."

Now Paul (and Silvanus and Timothy) was consistent, because Christ in God (of Whom Paul was ambassador) was also consistent in every way.  We’ve all had the experience of asking someone something, and the answer starts, "Well, yes and no…"   Not so with our Lord; not so with Paul.  "Jesus Christ is the same, yesterday, today, and forever" (Hebrews 13:8), and His response to the need of your heart, is "Yes."

Our Lord, as stated, is utterly consistent in His message to you.  You need to be "born again" (as Jesus said to Nicodemus, in John 3:3, 7); "born in the Spirit" (John 3:8), and when you look to Him, you will find Him, for He has promised that you will.  The "Son of Man" (Jesus) was to be "lifted up" (crucified – John 3:14), and in His death, you CAN be made new.  There is no "yes and no" but only "yes" for you and for me.

Verse 21.  "Now He who establishes us with you in Christ and anointed us is God,"

Question:  Who told Paul he could say such things to you?  By what right does he speak to us?  Because he spoke not only to the Corinthians, but like your grandfather’s letter you found in the attic, he speaks to you, also.  Who told him he could do this?  The answer is – God!  Paul was given us by Christ, and establishes our Lord in us.  He was appointed, ordained, selected – to speak to you, right now.  To such a man, we must listen; for he was sent to you and
me - by the Lord God, Maker of heaven and earth.

Verse 22.  "who also sealed us and gave us the Spirit in our hearts as a pledge."

In real estate sales, we find the concept of "earnest money."  When the seller of the property receives a contract from a potential buyer, he is justly concerned – what if the buyer does not follow through and buy the property?  Should I take my property off the market for him?  How do I know the buyer can afford to buy my property?  So the buyer, understanding this, not only offers a signed purchase contract, but also pledges something of great value to the seller, which is to belong to the seller, should he not follow through.

In our case, the purchase contract was written in the Blood of Jesus Christ.  He died for you, and WILL follow through on all He has pledged.  But, since there is a little TIME left before "close of escrow," and since we tend to become afraid and doubt, He has given us more.  Our "earnest" is the Holy Spirit of God, this Precious Gift, Who is with us and IN us, all the days of our lives.

Sign the contract!  Say "yes" to Him.  "Sell" yourself utterly to Him, and you will not regret that decision, now, or at "closing," or in all eternity.  All that is of value in life, and in eternity, is given to you.

Verse 23.  "But I call God as witness to my soul, that to spare you I did not come again to Corinth."

Paul is explaining why he did not go to Corinth, at a certain time.  If he had, he would have done so to CORRECT them, as we see in the first letter (1st Corinthians).  "I wanted to spare you all that," he is saying.  He prayerfully sent the first letter, and had been praying for them, ever since.  With that letter and with prayer, they had all that was needed.  If Paul was to come to them now, he would not come in correction, but he would come in love.

Verse 24.  "Not that we lord it over your faith, but are workers with you for your joy; for in your faith you are standing firm."

We do not Lord it over one another.  The "minister" is the servant of all, and we minister to one another, in order to HELP the other person.  Paul had told them to "imitate" him (1st Corinthians 4:10), and the answer to what he meant by that, is found right here in this verse.  We are to imitate him, by becoming ourselves people OF FAITH IN GOD.  They too, now had such faith, and therefore were imitators of Paul.  We need to do the same.  For our trust in God is not based in the faith of some other man, but we directly entrust our lives to God, through Jesus Christ our Lord.  In FAITH, in His grace, we stand in Him.

Ron Beckham, Pastor
Friday Study Ministries
www.fridaystudy.org
Ron@fridaystudy.org

2nd Corinthians