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Devotions from Second Corinthians

OUR TRIUMPH IN UNION WITH CHRIST
2 CORINTHIANS 1-7

The Cross Deepens its Work in Spite of a Misunderstanding (3)

2 Corinthians 1:12 - 2:1

Dr. G.E. Johnson

Introduction

We must remember that Paul is writing a letter to his beloved converts in Corinth. He had spent 18 months with them (Acts. 18:11) on his second missionary journey. He apparently visited them on other occasions not recorded in Acts (2 Corinthians 2: 1; 13: 1) and may have written additional letters to them (1 Corinthians 5:9). We find ourselves, then, at a disadvantage to interpret all of his personal travel references. Biblical scholars theorize on these questions. Suffice it to say, we follow his train of thought, often with less than full knowledge. But your personal letters as well as mine may not be the most orderly specimens of correctness! However, the great difference is that Paul's letters are inspired and full of eternal truths.

Paul has just blessed God in an exclamation of praise for a deeper knowledge of God as Father of mercies and God of all comfort. (2 Corinthians 1:3) He now sees suffering as a ministry in and of itself, redounding to the glory of God, the strengthening of his converts and his own walk by faith with God. What a divine insight, so contrary to our view of suffering!

His point of departure was: "Yes, we had the sentence of death in ourselves, that we should not trust in ourselves, but in God who raises the dead" (1:9). This basic truth of our death and resurrection with Christ as set forth in Romans 6:1-14, now sheds light on the whole epistle of Paul's description of ministry, the defense of his conduct and message. In fact we cannot comprehend Paul's rejoicing in suffering apart from Christ living his life in him and in us. In gracious humility, Paul concludes by requesting the prayers of his Corinthians brethren (1:11).

A Major Misunderstanding of Paul's Change of Travel Plans 2 Corinthians 1: 12-17

Paul appeals openly to their heart knowledge of him, his simplicity, his godly sincerity, his not using fleshly wisdom by the grace of God; they are a living proof of that fact; a simple declaration of their being Christians is all the proof that he needs of his character. (2:12-14).

One, however, has not lived very long without realizing how prejudicial and destructive can be misunderstandings in relationships that God has established. It is never easy to know how to repair the breach or even if one should do anything. Here is the delicate area where the enemy of our souls with a fleshly ally in our own heart can undo the work of the Holy Spirit.

Our Lord used a parable to express what Paul faced: "The kingdom of Heaven is like a man who sowed good seed in his field; but while he slept, his enemy came and sowed tares among the wheat and went his way" (Matthew 13:25, 25).

The Corinthians were Paul's converts and he loved them deeply (2 Cor. 2:3, 4). But others had crept in, false apostles who sought to alienate his converts by questioning his apostleship and message, his integrity and thus create their own kingdom (2 Cor. 11:11-15). This was Paul's heart ache. He must now face it squarely.

Earlier under totally different circumstances in 1 Corinthians 16: 5-7, he had written: "Now I will come to you . . . . but it may be that I will remain, or even spend the winter with you . . . I hope to stay a while with you, if the Lord permits." Now Paul explains his original intention " In this confidence I intended to come to you before, that you might has a second benefit--to pass by way of you to Macedonia, to come again from Macedonia to you, and be helped by you on my way to Judea" (Cor. 1:15,16). But because of recent destructive circumstances in the church of which Paul now had learned, he altered his travel plans. But he gives us clearly his reasoning: "Moreover I call God as witness against my soul that to spare you I came no more to Corinth, not that we have dominion over you, but are fellow workers for your joy; for by faith we stand"(1:23,24). He did not want to come with the rod of apostolic authority but in love and support.

Paul Drops His Response to Highlight More Glorious Truths of God's Constancy 2 Cor. 18-22

Paul seizes upon his problem to drop his own defense of personal integrity, a true sign of the Cross. He chooses to defend his message which was really being called into question. The false teachers accused him of being fickle, unstable and his message being equally so. He would later answer fully their accusations in 2 Corinthians 10-12, but the more important issue was the defense of his message.

Paul anticipates the reasoning of the critics by saying: Did I plan lightly as though speaking out of both sides of my mouth; a Yes may later be a No? He answers by saying: "As God is faithful our word to you was not Yes and No" (1:18). There was no equivocation. Our preaching: Silvanus', Timothy's and mine was not Yes and No, but in Christ was Yes (19). Now follows the blessed truth of the fruit of such preaching that delivers authentic holiness: "For all the promises of God in Him are Yes, and in Him Amen, to the glory of God through us. Now He who establishes us with you in Christ and has anointed us is God, who also has sealed us and given us the Spirit in our hearts as a deposit" (1.20-22).

Paul has used the attack on him to highlight the integrity of the Promises of God, the reality of our being established, anointed and sealed by the Holy Spirit as a down payment of a genuine salvation to the glory of God. He says: Choose whom you wish to believe. Your own Christian faith is answer enough.

Paul Returns to His Motivation in Change of Plans 2 Corinthians 1: 23 - 2:1

In effect Paul says: It was out of my deep love and concern for you as a church that I altered my plans. God is my witness. Notice that on two occasions Paul calls God to be his witness (1:18, 23). One does not do that lightly. God will be one finally who condemns or justifies. But such was Paul's spirit and conscience that he appeals to the ultimate truth embodied in God himself. In all this sad and tragic misunderstanding, Paul has shown deep humility in speaking of himself when indeed he must but letting greater truths speak for themselves. We will see much more of this humility and confidence in Paul.

What lessons can we learn in times of misunderstandings?

"Because the carnal mind is at enmity against God; for it is not subject to the law of God, nor indeed can be. So then, those who are in the flesh cannot please God" (Romans 8:8, 9).

1. Let your life be a life of integrity and transparency as was Paul's
2. Speak of yourself with great restraint and reject any supposed hurt, much less vengeance
3. Unless the occasion demands, at the expense of truth, let God be your ultimate defender
4. If you defend your own «self», God won't; if you don't, God may, but in his time and way.
5. Don't "infallibly" judge the motives of the other person. Give them a "break." You could be wrong!

Yours in the Message of the Cross,
Gordon E. Johnson
Rio Grande Bible Institute,
Edinburg Texas 78539