1. What was one accomplishment as a teenager of which you felt especially proud?
2. What was one of the most effective punishments your parent(s) used on you as a child?
Remember that Corinth had a reputation as an immoral city and that it was a city of commerce and trade. It was a pretty unlikely place for a flourishing church to be found. Also remember that Corinth was the capital of the southern province of Greece.
Read 2 Corinthians 1:12-24.
My online Bible subtitles this section "Paul's Integrity". Now that Paul has gone through the letter's introduction, he's ready to get into the meat of the reason(s) he is writing to them. This is a lengthy letter, so his reasons are many, but he jumps in here semi-defending himself regarding why he didn't come visit the Corinthians when he said that he would. His integrity and honesty had been questioned by some members of this church apparently and he's answering these accusations.
v 12: This is a long verse, but Paul is kind of saying the same thing in different ways, emphasizing different aspects of his behavior. He says that he has conducted himself in a Godly way toward the Corinthians and to the rest of the world around him, not through his own wisdom, but through God's grace. It may seem that he's boasting about his own behavior, but upon closer examination, he's boasting about God's grace enabling him act in a fashion that is beyond reproach. What a great thing to be able to boast about! To be accused of something and know deep inside that you've done nothing wrong, yet attribute that to God's grace and not to your own abilities -- that's very freeing.
Proud confidence - (kauchesis - kow'-khay-sis): This word is used 6 times in 2 Corinthians and the other 5 times it's translated as "boasting". So Paul is, in essence, boasting about the fact that he has been sincere in his dealings with the Corinthians. The King James Version translates this as "rejoicing".
godly - (theos): This word is used over 1300 times in the New Testament and almost all of those are translated as "God". One of the Greek definition of this word is "whatever can in any respect be likened unto God, or resemble him in any way". In fact, further down in this verse where Paul says "grace of God", that word "God" is "theos". I am clearly not a Greek scholar, but if I were to translate this, I think I might have capitalized it: "Godly". Just my two cents.
Understand - (epiginosko): This is one of the coolest parts of these verses. In verse 13, this word means "by sight, hearing, of certain signs, to perceive who a person is". Paul is appealing to their knowledge of him as a person by their experience with him. He is saying, "You know what kind of a person I am. I haven't written or done anything in contrast to that which you know about me from experience."
Read - (anaginosko): See how close this is to the word above? They have the same root word. This means to know something by being able to accurately distinguish it from something else. Here it means that they know Paul to be a man of integrity by comparing him to people they know are unprincipled. So this isn't "read" as in to have read his letters; it's "read", as in to read a person by his actions.
v 14: Some of the commentators I read think that this has been misunderstood. In the KJV, this is translated as "also you have acknowledged us in part". Most commentators think that this should be understood to mean that some of the Corinthians didn't understand Paul (hence the character assassination) and some of them did; rather than all of them partially understood Paul. It's a subtle change in language, but a significant one in meaning. Paul is calling on those who do know him to be honest and upright to appeal to his accusers. He also tells them that just as they could boast (or rejoice) in his integrity, he is also rejoicing that they have returned to their relationship with Christ.
Lord - (kurios): This is not a word used solely for Jesus Christ. It is a common word used as "a title of honor expressive of respect and reverence, with which servants greet their master". Isn't that how we should approach Jesus; with respect and reverence, acknowledging him as our master?
vv 15-16: Paul is referring back to his confidence in those that understand who Paul is. Paul had originally planned to go from Troas to Corinth to Macedonia back to Corinth, then on to Judea. In 1 Corinthians 16:5, he lays out these original plans.
vv 16-20: For some reason (possibly due to the uncertainty with which he would be received after the painful letter), he decided not to come to Corinth on his way to Macedonia. Apparently some of his detractors in Corinth accused him of being fickle. He takes the next few verses to answer this charge.
vv 17-18: In the NKJ, the first part of this verse says, "Therefore, when I was planning this, did I do it lightly?" In the NAS, it says, "Therefore, I was not vacillating when I intended to do this, was I?" In the original Greek, Paul uses a question word "ara" that implies that the questioner expects a negative answer and it also implies impatience on the part of the questioner. The point Paul is trying to make here is that he did not make this decision lightly and that he was not vacillating and he makes this point rather emphatically. He also wants the Corinthians to know that he is a man of his word and that he is not someone who says "yes" and means "no" or vice versa. He calls on God to verify his (Paul's) truthfulness.
v 19: Paul then calls on Christ to verify his truthfulness by saying that Jesus Christ, the son of God who was preached by him, Silas (Silvanus), and Timothy (Timotheus) had "yes" manifested in his life. The Greek literally says, "Yes in him has been". Jesus is the ultimate unwavering person.
v 20: I love this verse! All the promises God has ever made have come true in Christ, to the glory of God. This refers to the "yes in him has been" from the previous verse.
Amen - (amen): This word has come from the Hebrew to the Greek to Latin and then to English almost unchanged. In a Jewish synagogue, when a person prayed the others responded "Amen" and made the substance of what was said their own. In our own churches, the same tradition remains. Someone prays, we say Amen. Usually we say it to be in agreement with what the pray-er said. Here, it is more like the Jewish tradition, since Paul would have been more familiar with that. God brought His promises to fruition in Jesus and when Paul said "Amen", he was taking the substance of those promises as his own. And now, all these centuries later, we can take those promises to be our own as well, through our relationship with Jesus Christ. All of God's promises came true through Christ. Awesome!
v 21: God established us and anointed us in Christ.
Established - (bebaioo): This word can also be translated as "to make firm" or "to confirm".
Anointed - (chrio): This word is used 5 times in the New Testament and is translated all 5 times as "anoint". However, it can carry the meaning of Christ being anointed as the Messiah or as believers being anointed with the Holy Spirit. Same word, it's just used in different circumstances.
v 22: In these ancient times, a seal was used as a mark of ownership. A seal was widely used in the same way we use signatures today: on legal documents, contracts, and the like. A seal was also used to close up a document to keep others from seeing what was inside; it was a form of security. We believers are sealed by the Holy Spirit and therefore, we are marked as belonging to Christ.
Pledge - (arrabon): This word is strictly translated as "pledge", but the connotation is that of a nonrefundable down payment and that the full amount will subsequently be paid. So the Holy Spirit in us now is just part of the whole that is our heavenly inheritance. Wow!
v 23: Paul is so sure of what he is saying that he is asking God to be his witness to the Corinthians. It was common in literature of the time period to call on heaven as one's witness to something. This idea would have been familiar to the Corinthians, but Paul took it a step further by calling on God by name. The reason he did not come to Corinth when he said he would is not because he is fickle, but because he wanted to spare them his anger and frustration. Paul was upset with them and he may have come with a spirit of judgment when he came to visit. One commentator stated that Paul's "painful letter" was probably enough and Paul was probably hoping that it would bring about repentance without him having to say these things to them in person.
v 24: Because Paul stated that he was sparing the Corinthians, now he wants to make sure that they don't think Paul thinks he's got some sort of tyrannical hold on them. He wants them to know that they are accountable to Christ, not to Paul. He puts himself on their same level by saying that we "are workers with you for your joy". It is by their own faith that they stand, not through Paul's faith.
Workers - (sunergos): This word can also mean "a companion in work" or a "fellow worker".
Standing firm - (histemi): This word is also used specifically to mean "to stand before judges" or "to stand before members of the Sanhedrin". The connotation is to be able to hold your own, not by your own strength, but by your faith.
- In what does Paul boast? What is the basis for his integrity?
- How does a leader who uses his authority according to "worldly wisdom" differ from one who does so by "God's grace"? (v12)
- Have you ever worked under a leader who led according to worldly wisdom? What was that work/volunteer situation like? Did you enjoy coming to work?
- Have you ever worked under a leader who led according to God's grace? How was that (or might that) be different than a "worldly wisdom" leader?
- Think about your position of leadership (at work, to your kids, as an example to others). Would those you lead think of you as leading by God's grace? What is a specific example of you leading by God's grace? What is a specific example of you leading by worldly wisdom?
- What was Paul probably accused of? How does he account for his change of plans?
- What does it mean that Christ is the "yes" of God's promises to us? How does this relate to Paul's argument?
- What promises in Christ are you really holding onto right now? How is Christ's manifestation of God's promises real to you?
- Who needs you to pray for them this week? Which of God's promises in Christ can you pray for him/her this week?
Robertson's Word Pictures of the New Testament
People's New Testament
Scofield Reference Notes (1917 Edition)
John Gill's Exposition of the Bible