"A Commended Ministry"
2 Corinthians 1:1-2; Introduction
Wednesday AM Bible Study
April 23, 2008
This morning, we begin a study of Paul's second letter to the Corinthians. His first letter focused primarily on the problems in the Corinthian church that Paul was seeking to solve—always by pointing to the person of Jesus Christ as the answer. And in his second letter, the focus is much more personal with respect to Paul himself—but still, always pointing to Jesus Christ as the source of his authority. In the first letter, we see Paul's mind in operation; and in the second, we see Paul's heart. The first letter deals with Corinthian problems; the second with the apostle's passion.
In many ways, this second letter is harder to outline than the first; because it deals so much with matters of the heart. Paul often bears his soul to his beloved brothers and sisters in a very passionate manner; and in doing so, he isn't so much concerned with the systemization of his thoughts as he is with the expression of his heart. But for the most part, his letter can be seen as having four main parts:
I. PAUL'S ACCOUNT OF HIS MINISTRY TO THE CORINTHIANS (chps. 1-5).
II. PAUL'S AFFECTION FOR THE CORINTHIANS THEMSELVSE (chps. 6-7).
III. PAUL'S APPEAL TO THE CORINTHIANS TO GIVE TO OTHERS (chps. 8-9).
IV. PAUL'S AUTHORITY TOWARD THE CORINTHIANS WHO DISOBEYED (chps. 10-13).
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As we saw from the first letter, there were many correspondences between Paul and the Corinthians—some of which we do not have. Apparently, after Paul first went to them (Acts 19), he had written to them (see 1 Cor. 5:9). Afterwards, they wrote to him and asked further questions (1 Corinthians 7:1). The first letter is in response to those questions.
Afterwards, further issues arose. Apparently, sin continued to be tolerated in the midst of the Corinthian church; and in addition, some were openly questioning Paul's authority. Apparently, Paul—around that time—made a second visit to them; and afterwards, wrote a third letter—a "painful" one (2 Corinthians 7:8) which we do not have in our Bible. Anxious about their response to this harsh letter, he sent Titus to find out how they were. When Titus came back with a positive report, Paul was overjoyed—and this joy moved him to write a fourth letter, which we have in our Bible's as 2 Corinthians.
In this fourth letter, Paul expresses his joy, gives further instructions, and addresses the problem of those who still questioned his apostleship. He wished to deal with these things before he came to them a third time; so that his time with them would not be a sorrowful one.
Key passage: 2 Corinthians 4:1-2:
Therefore, since we have this ministry, as we have received mercy, we do not lose heart. But we have renounced the hidden things of shame, not walking in craftiness nor handling the word of God deceitfully, but by manifestation of the truth commending ourselves to every man’s conscience in the sight of God (NKJV).
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Note how, in the first two verses, key themes are presented:
1. Paul's authority as an apostle.
2. Paul's co-laborship with others in the ministry.
3. Paul's value of the church as that which belongs to Christ.
4. Paul's insistence that the Corinthians were a part of a larger body.
5. Paul's great theme of the grace of God through Jesus Christ.
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