Evangelical Community Chapel at Liberal: a Molalla, Oregon Church

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2 Corinthians 1-2

October 21st, 2012 by Vic

2 Corinthians 1-2

“Comforted to Comfort” or “You have BO”

October 21, 2012

 

Chapter 1 is known at the chapter of comfort.  It is God’s plan to comfort us so we can comfort others.  We don’t receive comfort from God just for our own personal comfort.  As we learned in 1 Corinthians all gifts from God are for the edification of the church and not for self.

 

It is never easy being misunderstood and falsely accused.  Paul is being personally opposed, taunted, and maligned by an individual or a group.  They have criticized his physical appearance, his teaching, and his character.  He was weak physically, short, and had an eye problem.  He chose not to be an overpowering eloquent orator.  They said he was wishy-washy.  He was in ministry for the money.  He was no example of God’s power.  He couldn’t even heal himself.  He did not have good credentials.  He’d been in prison.  This letter is his response to criticism.  He reveals his heart to them.  He tells them how much he cares.  (People do not care how much we know until they know how much we care.)  He shows us how to handle criticism.

 

Like some in the Corinthian church we all have a rebellious tendency.  We don’t have to teach a child how to rebel, but we do have to teach him submission.  We teach our children submission by our love.  Likewise, God so loved the world to teach us the value of submission.  Life is better when we submit to God, His word, and to one another (Eph 5).  Be cautious of a tendency to rebellion and declaring your rights.

The city of Corinth has been compared to San Francisco during the gold rush days.  It was a capital city with sea ports on two seas.  Paul planted a church in Corinth (Acts 18:1).  After a year and a half he went to Ephesus.  He sent the church a letter that is now lost (1 Cor 5:9).  He receives a letter back from the church asking for advice, primarily regarding worship.  Paul answers with 1 Corinthians.  He sent that letter with Timothy.  He gets frustrating news and pays a brief visit to Corinth in person (2:1).  It was a short painful visit.  He returns to Ephesus and writes this letter we call 2 Corinthians.  He sends Titus and tells him to bring back a report and meet him in Troas.

 

1:1-2  Paul introduces himself as an apostle of Christ Jesus.  Many claimed to be apostles, but Paul was sent and commissioned by Christ Jesus in harmony with the will of God.  Timothy is now with him and also sends greetings.  Note the church addressed is in Corinth, but this was an open letter sent to all the saints scattered throughout Achaia (Greece).  The noun ‘saints’ as a title for Christians is rooted in the OT with the idea of separation.  Saints are separated ‘from’ evil and dedicated ‘to’ God.  Saints are the people of God.

 

To his enemies and critics Paul sends grace and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.  He asks God to be good to his critics.  Grace and peace became a standard Christian greeting.  Grace has the root idea of pardon.  All have sinned and justice requires punishment.  But Jesus died for our sins and took our punishment.  By His stripes we are pardoned.  We deserve a ‘time out’, but instead receive apple pie and ice cream.  God’s grace is not deserved.

 

The peace of God includes harmony and health.  Paul wishes grace and peace to his critics.

 

1:3-7  Paul could have been bitter, sarcastic, combative, depressed or discouraged, but he found comfort from God.  The word comfort is used 29 times in this letter (verb 18; noun 11).  God is the source of all comfort.  The Holy Spirit is by nature the Comforter.

 

Verse 4 tells us why Christians suffer ‘affliction’ (to be pressed between a rock and a hard place).  Could God eliminate the pain in your life?  Could God keep you from getting in an accident?  Could God make your life all peaches and cream?  Why are good Christians afflicted?  Paul’s first answer is that we receive encouragement from God so we can give encouragement to others.  Pain is a part of life.  We can go through pain with God or without God.  God can use our pain to serve His purposes.  A pastor’s trials and comforts are permitted and sent for the benefit of the Church.  Any and every trouble Christians experience can result in comfort for us and comfort for others.  Sympathy can be defined as love perfected by suffering.

 

The sufferings of Christ (5) overflow on His followers so that our comfort is abundant in Him.  Jesus’ sufferings were greater than ours will ever be so His comfort is more than enough.

 

False teachers were saying that Paul was not really a Christian.  Look at all the ways God was punishing him.  If he was really a Christian he would not have to suffer.  Paul says, “Wrong” (6)!  God does not punish us for our sins.  Jesus died and was punished for our sins.  Jesus promised that when you become a Christian you will suffer, but you are not being punished.  God has your comfort and salvation continually in view.  He sends tribulation (Rom 5) to build character.  All things work together for good.  You are being trained as an athlete.  In everything give thanks.

 

In Mark 4:25 the disciples were going through a great storm and Jesus was sleeping.  They were in the center of God’s will.  The disciples wake Jesus and ask, “Don’t you care that we are about to die?”  Why did God allow the storm?  In Acts 28 Paul was ship wrecked and was helping collect sticks for a fire.  A viper fastened to his hand.  Why did God allow the viper?  God created man with free will.  Adam sinned and satan became the prince of this world.  In this world you will have pain.  James says God uses tribulation to build our character and make us mature (James 1:4).

 

1:8-11  Recently in his life Paul experienced a situation where he had no hope of escaping death.  Even during that time he gave thanks for the prayers of the many persons (11) in the church.  The NIV does not include the word ‘persons’.  The word for ‘persons’ is literally the word ‘faces’.  At the time of death Paul saw the faces of the many praying for him.  He remembers to give thanks.  I was blessed Friday night with a dream that I remembered when I woke up.  It was a big potluck dinner and I was able to greet many of my friends from the past and give God thanks for their faithfulness.  I saw the faces of friendship.  I do not remember seeing any critics.

 

Verse 9 gives us another reason for affliction and testing—so we would trust God more.  We go through suffering with God so we can receive comfort and comfort others.  Those experiences build our trust in God.  He delivered us in the past.  He delivers us now.  He will deliver us in the future (10).  We can trust Him.

 

1:12-20  Critics were reading into Paul’s motives and actions.  They were reading between the lines of his text messages (13).  Paul replies that his conscience is clear.  He has nothing to hide.  He did not intend to deceive or be unclear.  Neither did he claim to have all the answers.  In the sphere of God’s grace Paul said his motives, words, and deeds were holy and sincere.  The word he used for sincere is the word used for examining something in the light.  In the light of God’s presence Paul has examined his life and found that God has given him a clear conscience (12).

 

We can use words to hide our motives or reveal our motives.  We can use words to hide our meaning or disclose our meaning.  Paul illustrates how the prefix to a word can make a difference.  He uses the word ‘knowledge’ with 2 different prefixes—ana… means read and epi… means understand (13).  Some have received and responded to the grace that Paul had received and dispensed to them (14), but the critics misunderstood.

 

Paul now answers the criticism of not keeping his word.  He acknowledges that he intended to come and visit them for an extended period of time.  His hope was that they could rejoice in the Lord together and that they could send him off to Judea with the offering for the poor (16:7).  Some had forgotten that Paul prefaced those plans and all his plans with, “Lord willing”.

 

We do not control the will of God.  We submit to it.  God directs our lives and as we submit to His will our desires and plans will change.  I must be careful not to plan my tomorrows without saying, “If the Lord wills.”  As Christians we know it is no longer me living so my plans are subject to His plans (17).  Paul says his plan is to follow God’s plan.  God is faithful.  He can change my plans.  Ultimately everything is ‘yes’ in Jesus.  There are no secret agendas.

 

God made a lot of promises in the Old Testament.  They are all ‘yes’ in Jesus.  He was careful to fulfill all the promises of God.  Paul says that in the sphere of His grace we have been faithful, open and honest with you (20).  We want our lives to be the ‘Amen’ to God’s faithfulness.

 

1:21-22  It is God who guarantees our relationship in Christ, anoints us for ministry, and seals us with the Holy Spirit.  God’s grace established Paul’s relationship in Christ.  God anointed him with Christ, the Anointed One.  (Anointing oil has a fragrance.)  God sent the Holy Spirit as earnest money on our new life in Christ.

 

1:23-2:2  Paul says, “As God is my witness, because my last visit was painful for both of us, I decided not to visit you again right away.”  There was a person or small group who had grieved both Paul and the majority of the church.  Paul did not want to be an authority figure that told them what to do.  He did not want to dominate.  He wanted to be a co-worker so they could encourage each other and grow together.

 

Later Paul writes in Romans 12, “Let love be without hypocrisy… Be devoted to one another in brotherly love… Rejoice with those who rejoice and weep with those who weep.”  Here he says, “If I hurt the ones I love, how can I ever be happy?”  This is really a heart of love speaking.  “When I come to visit you the next time I want to be able to rejoice with you.”

 

2:3-11  Our joy is full when those we love really understand us and love us (3).  Discipline may be harder on us than it is on our kids (4).  Paul says the reason he wrote to them was to let them know how much he loved them.  Loving correction is required.  The goal of discipline is not punishment but correction; tenderness not vengeance.  Ignoring rebuke or failing to discipline is not a display of kindness.  There is a time to speak and a time for silence.  All I do must demonstrate love.

 

The father disciplines his children in love.  75% of teen suicides occur in fatherless homes.  90% of all homeless and runaways are from fatherless homes.  80% of rapists are from fatherless homes.

 

If you are the one who has been a jerk, then repent and submit to church discipline (5).  They probably did not allow you to participate in the Lord’s Supper (potluck dinners).  Your attitude did not reflect a Christlike attitude.  Your actions have probably hurt many.  Your discipline was not to destroy you, but to lead you to repentance.  If God has forgiven you and you have made things right, then those you hurt must forgive, comfort, and restore.  There is to be unity in the church.

 

How can we recognize true repentance?  Only God knows the heart.  How do we know when satan will use our discipline for harm?  At some point your discipline will be sufficient (6).  Restore the person to your fellowship.  If you forgive him, I forgive him (10).  Paul pleads for mercy on the man who was his enemy.

 

Satan delights in dividing and destroying Christians.  He is good at distorting God’s plan for our lives.  Satan would be pleased if the offended was overwhelmed with excessive grief and committed suicide.  He would also be pleased if the church had a bitter unforgiving heart and would withhold their love (11).  Forgiveness is risky.  We could get hurt.  But we will destroy ourselves if we don’t forgive.  Satan wins if the sinner does not repent and we do not forgive.

 

2:12-17  Paul had planned to meet up with Titus in Troas.  He was hoping for a good report from the church in Corinth.  Paul immediately saw an open door of ministry in Troas, but he was anxious to meet Titus.  Pastoral concerns weighed heavily on him.  He could not fully minister to others when his heart was troubled (13).  Right now he needed comfort and that is what he was about to receive.

 

He travels on to Macedonia, gets a good report from Titus, and bursts out in spontaneous praise.  “Let God be praised!”  Christ is victorious and leads us in a triumphal procession.  The sweet fragrance of the knowledge of the Anointed One is in this place, in Corinth, and throughout the world (14).  Paul was encouraged and again could see God working for good.

 

Paul may be picturing a triumphal parade.  A triumphal parade was a special honor conferred on a victorious general in Rome.  To qualify he had to establish peace in a new region.  He had to bring his troops home.  He had to conquer at least 5,000 enemy soldiers in one of his battles.

 

The parade began with the state officials and senate, then the trumpeters, then those carrying some of the spoils, then models of the conquered land, then the white bull for sacrifice, then the captives in chains, then those with the whips, then the musicians, then the priests with the sweet smelling incense, then came the general himself.  He rode in a special gold chariot holding an ivory scepter with an eagle on top.  He wore magnificent robes.  He was followed by his family and the decorated army.  All public buildings and temples were to open their doors and burn incense.

 

Like the pervading aroma of a victory parade you are to smell like Jesus (15).  When my life is burning, does it smell good?  The fragrance of the parade meant death for the captives and rewards for the army.  Do I realize the seriousness of my influence on those around me (16)?  The Jews said the Torah was the giver of life and at the same time a poison.

 

In verse 14 Paul said his preaching was the sweet fragrance of Jesus.  Now in verse 17 he contrasts his preaching with peddlers.  The word for peddling is used for Inn keepers who corrupt or dilute good wine.  Some preachers were adulterating God’s word for the purpose of popularity or gain.  Peddlers put their best fruit on top.  Their preaching does not smell like Jesus.

 

On the other hand Paul and his associates are persons of sincerity.  Their lives are totally revealed by the light of God’s presence.  They have a sincere heart and their message is from God.  They preach of Christ in the presence of God (17) without distortion, dilution, or corruption.  Their words and their lives are a sweet smelling fragrance in the world as they follow Christ in victory.

 

Do you want to smell good?  Live in the light.  We are cleansed in the Light of the Word.

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