Monday, May 10, 2010

2 Corinthians 1:12-24

Opening Questions:

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.

v 13:

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.

Study Questions:

  1. In what does Paul boast? What is the basis for his integrity?
  2. How does a leader who uses his authority according to "worldly wisdom" differ from one who does so by "God's grace"? (v12)
  3. 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?
  4. 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?
  5. 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?
  6. What was Paul probably accused of? How does he account for his change of plans?
  7. What does it mean that Christ is the "yes" of God's promises to us? How does this relate to Paul's argument?
  8. What promises in Christ are you really holding onto right now? How is Christ's manifestation of God's promises real to you?
  9. Who needs you to pray for them this week? Which of God's promises in Christ can you pray for him/her this week?


Commentaries used:

Robertson's Word Pictures of the New Testament

People's New Testament

Scofield Reference Notes (1917 Edition)

John Gill's Exposition of the Bible


Friday, April 30, 2010

2 Corinthians 1:1-11

2 Corinthians 1: 1-11 -- NASB

Opening Questions:

1. When you were sick or hurt as a kid, to whom did you turn most often for comfort?

2. When was the last time you felt like you were in a "pressure-cooker" situation? What happened and how did you respond?


Corinth: This city lay on an isthmus between the mainland of Greece and Peloponnese (the southwest corner of Greece). Greece was divided into two provinces: Macedonia in the north (which included Berea, Philippi, and the capital city of Thessalonica) and Achaia in the south (which included Athens and the capital city of Corinth). Many ships sailed into Corinth and moved their goods over land across the isthmus rather than risk the wild seas around the Peloponnese. This brought lively trade and many vices to the city. Corinth had a reputation as a sexually immoral city. [Archeological Study Bible, Zondervan, 2005]

Read 2 Corinthians 1: 1-11.

v 1: Paul addresses the Corinthian church directly and the believers in the province of Achaia indirectly.

As a side note, Paul was successful in starting churches in this province due to the support of the proconsul (the governor of the province). Some Jews brought Paul before the proconsul complaining that Paul was leading people to worship God in a way that was contrary to the law. The proconsul refused to get involved, essentially giving Paul free reign in that Achaia to preach and evangelize [Acts 18:12-16].

Church - (ekklesia): compound word of ek (together) and derived from kaleo (to call or to invite), so "church" literally means "to call together".

v 2: This is the same greeting Paul used in 1 Corinthians and is a common greeting in all his letters.

v 3: It is and was very common for Jews to refer to God as the "Father of Mercies". The plural is used to indicate God's exceeding mercies, both physical and spiritual.

comfort - (paraklesis): literally, to call to one's side. The roots of this word are para (beside) and kaleo (to call or invite), the same root as used in "church", discussed above. Isn't that cool? God calls us, invites us to His side to comfort us. This word is also used to describe the Messianic salvation; Rabbis, therefore, call the Messiah "The Comforter" or "The Consoler". The English word "comfort" comes from the Latin "confortis", which means "to brave together". You can see how you could brave something together with God if you were by His side.

v 4: The word comfort is the same in the Greek here as in verse 3. So we're comforted by God -- He's by our side -- and we can then call others to His side. So due to the comfort we get from God when we're afflicted, we can then call afflicted people to God. Nice!

Affliction - (thlipsis): literally, pressing together; but it is used as a metaphor. Every use of this word in Revelation is translated as "tribulation", but it can also be translated as anguish, distress, or persecution, depending on the context. The root of this word is "thlibo", which literally means to press hard upon, as upon grapes. We can think of it as feeling as though being stomped on. You've seen the "Grapes" episode of I Love Lucy, right?

v 5: Here is one of those verses that's sometimes hard to swallow. It tells us that we suffer abundantly, like Christ. However, we also receive abundant comfort from Christ. He is able to comfort us because of the great suffering He endured while on Earth and the suffering He endures through believers as we suffer. You can see the connection between verses 4 and 5. Because of our afflictions, we can comfort people by bringing them to Christ; Christ, then, is fully able to comfort any and all afflictions due to the degree to which He suffered. Another cool thing with the Greek in verse 5 is that "afflictions" is plural -- covering any and all; but "comfort" is singular -- Christ's [singular] comfort covers all afflictions. It's kind of like one size fits all. Jesus is able to offer comfort because of His great sufferings. Sometimes hurting people can only be comforted by others who have suffered as well. Your trials make your message of Christ more authentic and make you more compassionate to hurting people. In addition, personal experience of God's comfort is necessary before we can pass it on to others.

v 6: Paul is stating that Christians are in community with each other. If one suffers or is comforted, the others see the comfort from Christ and are themselves comforted and/or brought to a saving knowledge of Christ. As Christians, we can look at our sufferings as a way to be witnesses to others, as we allow Christ to comfort us in the midst of our suffering. In addition, Christ's comfort makes withstanding suffering possible.

Patient enduring - (huponome): This word is used 32 times in the New Testament and in each place you can see a picture of a believer sticking with Christianity, even through tribulation and suffering, because "tribulation brings about perseverance; and perseverance, proven character; and proven character, hope; and hope does not disappoint..." [Romans 5:3-5a] In the New Testament, this word refers to the characteristic of a man who is not swerved from his deliberate purpose and his loyalty to faith and piety by even the greatest trials and sufferings. If you are suffering today, know that you can have the comfort and hope that can only come from Christ Jesus.

v 7: Paul continues with the idea of Christian community in this verse, saying that we share in each other's sufferings and in each other's comfort. Paul's participation in suffering encouraged the faith of the Corinthians.

Firmly grounded - (bebaios): This word can also be translated as "certain", "guaranteed", or "unalterable", but its origin is the Greek "basis", meaning "the foot" or literally "that with which one steps". It's like Paul is saying that his hope is as sure as the feet he walks on.

vv 8-11: Paul makes reference to a time in Ephesus when he was so greatly afflicted that he thought he was going to die. Notice, though, that he states that God's comfort outweighs his affliction. While his affliction was great, he wants us to know that he was delivered from them by the God who raises from the dead. Some commentators believe that Paul was threatened by the Ephesians because he turned people away from worshipping Artemis (Diana). Silversmiths in that area were making money because they made and sold silver shrines to Artemis. These silversmiths created an uproar and Paul probably had good reason to fear for his life [Acts 19: 23-41; 2 Corinthians 7:5-7]. However, other commentators believe that this threat was not enough for Paul to feel "burdened excessively" and to "despair even of life". These commentators believe that Paul is referring to plots of the Jews [Acts 20:19], fighting off wild beasts [1 Corinthians 15:32], and facing many adversaries [1 Corinthians 16:8-9], combined with a grave illness, so that Paul felt that he was all but dead. In any case, Paul is letting us know that he is no stranger to affliction or to suffering and that he was pushed beyond his human strength so that he could not trust in himself, but he had to trust in God. He is authenticating what he stated in verses 6 and 7. He is not asking the Corinthians (or us) to do anything he hasn't already done. He knows that God will deliver him, due in part to the Corinthians' prayers. And because of that deliverance, many people will give thanks for the favor granted. Further, Paul wants the Corinthians to know his depth of suffering and subsequent deliverance, so that they might have reason to give thanks to God.

Sentence of death within ourselves - (apokrima): an answer given to a direct question. This word is only used once in the New Testament, although it is present in other ancient writings. The meaning here is "on asking himself if whether he might come out safe from mortal peril, he answered himself, 'I must die'". It refers to an internal dialogue.

Dead - (nekros): can refer to either physical death or spiritual death, depending on the context. Either way, God is the only one who can do that kind of raising.

Deliver/Delivered - (rhoumai): This word can also be translated as "to draw to one's side". So again, as in "comfort" (paraklesis) and in "church" (ekklesia), we see God drawing us to Him. This word also has the connotation of flowing, so that the deliverance is more or less constant. This word is a derivative of "rhusis", which is translated as "hemorrhage" in the story of the woman who touched the hem of Jesus' cloak [Luke 8:40-48]. The NIV says "continue to deliver us", which is a good translation. Notice that there are three verb tenses: past (delivered), future (will deliver), and a tense we don't have in English (will yet deliver). This tense we don't have refers to something that went on before and which now continues at present. All of this information is stored in the teeny Greek adverb "eti". I love how the Greek is so descriptive and has such richness of meaning.

Favor - (charisma): a gift which one receives through no merit of his own; divine grace

Thanks - (eucharisteo): to be grateful; to feel thankful; derived from "eucharistos", which means "to be mindful of favors". This is where we derive our word "Eucharist", referring to the elements of Communion.

Study Questions:

1. Do you think "grace and peace" would be a good bumper sticker to describe what the gospel is all about?

2. What is the relationship between God's comfort to us and our ability to comfort others? What does that say about suffering? How might that relate to Romans 8:28?

3. How are Christ's and Paul's sufferings related to your suffering [Acts 19:23-42 and 2 Corinthians 7:5-7]? How might that bring you comfort?

4. What reaction is Paul trying to teach the Corinthians [vv. 6-7, 10-11]? How did you react to these verses?

5. Paul found that intense pressure led him to depend on God even more [v. 9]. How do you respond when pressures mount? What does dependence on God look like on a day-to-day basis?

6. Whom do you know who is under intense pressure now? How can you pray for him/her this week?

Thanks for stopping by. I look forward to your comments.

Study Guides used:

Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible (Robert Jamieson, A.R. Fausset, and David Brown, 1871)

Geneva Study Bible

John Gill's Exposition of the Bible

Robertson's Word Pictures

The NAS New Greek Lexicon, based on Thayer and Smith's Bible Dictionary