Series: 2 Corinthians
The Lord has given us a great blessing and opportunity. We have his written word, so that we may know about him, his will, and his works, and that we may enter into a personal, covenant relationship with him through the Lord Jesus Christ. Now is our opportunity to listen to God’s Word together, so that we might be transformed into Christ’s likeness together.
We must remember that 2 Corinthians is a personal letter to his brothers and sisters in Christ and that Paul wrote it in part to restore his relationship with them, which had been fractured by the wicked criticisms and schemes of some in that assembly. For this reason he writes this part of the letter. But how he does this is instructive. He does not simply answer the criticism, but he weaves godly ideas and attitudes into his answer for the growth of all his readers, including you and me.
I. Paul reviews his plans that he had to visit Corinth. His opponents had used his change in plans to try to discredit him (1:15-17).
A. He had made his plans with godly expectations.
1. He was confident of their position in Christ by God’s grace, as he had just written in the previous section. He expected that they would rejoice in each other in the day of the Lord Jesus. Every Christian must have this day in their outlook.
2. He was confident that his ministry would benefit them. The word here translated “benefit” by the NIV is “grace”. Knowing his call as an apostle of Christ Jesus, Paul was sure that he would be able to help them grow in grace. The body grows as each part does its work. He clearly teaches us about this characteristic of Christ’s people (Eph 4:16; cf. Rm 1:11-12; Ph 1:25-26; Phm 7).
B. He had made his plans with proper consideration (cf. 1 Cor 16:7).
1. He plainly stated that he wanted their help on the journey to Judea, which was to deliver a large gift to the believers suffering financial hardship in Jerusalem. They knew this, so it wasn’t like he had been trying to slip one past them.
2. He strongly denies that he acted in a fickle or fleshly manner. He was not misleading them or playing with them. He did not say at the same time “yes and no”. Clearly, Paul was very troubled by these accusations, because he responds with very emphatic language in the Greek text.
Apply: Why was Paul making such a point about this? There are two reasons. First, he had to because his character and ministry were being threatened. His opponents were stopping at nothing to try to ruin his ministry at Corinth. Second, he saw that their charges of fickleness and acting according to the flesh affected the trustworthiness of the message in the minds of the Corinthians. For Paul, Christ and the gospel are most important, and he must make every effort to defend them.
Apply: Do we share this passion? Who have you built up in the gospel this week?
II. Paul’s ministry is consistent with the doctrine of God he preached (1:18-19).
A. He preached that God is faithful.
1. Clearly, this is essential to the preaching of the good news of Jesus. If God is not faithful to the promises he has made in Christ, then our faith is useless. Can you depend on God for the gifts of righteousness and life? You can if God is faithful. Unbelievers in Christ lightly dismiss God’s promises with a casual wave of their hands. They think, “God, if he even exists… why should we trust him? We can make it on our own.” However, every believer says, “I can rely on God; his word or message is truth. It is reliable; God is totally trustworthy. God raises the dead (1:9); therefore, he will raise me on the day when Jesus comes to be glorified in his people.” Do you believe this?
2. Next, Paul very boldly says that the message he preached to them is also faithful. God is faithful, and so our message is not an unreliable “yes” and “no”. He is using a greater to the lesser form of argument. If they believed Paul about the message of Christ Jesus (the most important matter), then shouldn’t they trust him about his plans to visit them (a much less important concern)?
B. He preached the Son of God, Jesus Christ. He reminds them about how God worked through Paul and his missional team to bring them to faith in Christ. Consider the importance of this statement.
1. The identification of Jesus Christ as the Son of God was not some later invention of the church. Christ’s deity was not a legend that grew over time. Paul and the other apostles preached this from the beginning.
2. If you want to grasp the message of the apostles, it is this. It is thoroughly Christ-focused and Christ-structured. Read the NTS and you will see how the reality of the Lord Jesus Christ is woven through all teaching. Christ is the substance of all (cf. 1 Cor 2:2; Col 1:28).
3. Paul took this message right smack into the middle of idol-worshiping, sex-crazed, self-centered Corinth. He was not ashamed of the good news of Jesus Christ (Rm 1:16). He was not avoiding the name of the Lord Jesus, because he was afraid of offending other religions or philosophies. He was not watering down the gospel, because someone might not like to hear that Jesus must save us from our sins or we all perish forever in hell. (By the way, if you think this last is not part of Paul’s preaching of Jesus Christ, wait until chapter five.) Paul was not giving messages about how to achieve financial prosperity or how to gain a peaceful frame of mind or how to have a happy family or how to avoid any risks in your life. No! He preached the Son of God, Jesus Christ!
Apply: Jesus said that the message of the Bible is about him (Jn 5:39; Lk 24:44-47). It is time for some preaching that is structured on and focused on the Lord Jesus Christ. May the churches in America return to preaching Christ! This brings us to the next point.
III. Paul restates his goal (1:20).
A. The exaltation of Jesus Christ is the goal of all God’s promises.
1. As Paul is defending his own credibility, he uses the opportunity to lead his dear friends at Corinth back to the story of God’s glory in Jesus Christ. We seem to get easily sidetracked from God’s main message, since well-meaning Christians get mentally hyperactive about things in the Bible like Israel, the law, the covenants, prophecies about the last days, music, worship style, counseling issues, church government, human government, and on and on. I’m not talking about legitimate study of these ideas, but I’m referring to bending one’s church life around any such lesser matters. Some go as far to accept only those who hold to their views on these things or to market their church to the Christian public according to some list of them.
2. Paul wants them to see and glory in Jesus Christ. Here he does this by stating that God’s promises find their fulfillment in Christ. Paul has already written on this idea in Galatians 3:16. He will write more in Romans (1:2; etc) and Ephesians (2:11-18; 3:4-6). When John the Baptist was born, his father Zechariah spoke of Christ in this way (Lk 1:67-75). And then John the Baptist took the promises and preached Christ to the people (Lk 3:3-18). And we have already stated how Jesus had this view of the Bible. We must read the Bible to see how the Lord Jesus is the fulfillment of all God’s promises—no matter how many they are!
Apply: When you read the Bible, do you hear God speaking about the Son of God, Jesus Christ? Or are you mesmerized by some other theme?
B. The glory of God is through Jesus Christ.
1. God’s “Yes” is in Christ. Our “Yes” response is spoken through him. Notice very carefully that proper new covenant worship is through Christ. He is our mediator (cf. 1 Tm 2:5); he is our high priest (Heb 3:1); he is the way to the Father (Jn 14:6).
2. When we realize that God’s promises are “Yes” in Christ, then we speak our “Amen” to the glory of God. When we make such affirmations, we glorify God.
Apply: When we join together to worship, our goal should not be to appear as indifferently cool or sophisticatedly blasé Americans, whose main goal is to synchronized yawning and snoring. Instead, our goal is to bring glory to God, and one easy way to do that is to say “Amen” out loud when your soul is stirred about the surpassing greatness of the Lord Jesus Christ. So sacrifice your supposed “main line cool” and worship as the Spirit of God teaches constantly in the Bible.
Apply: Or perhaps your real problem is that you have never believed in your heart that all God’s promises are “Yes” in Christ Jesus, and so you cannot say your “Amen” to his “Yes”. May God give you the grace to see the glory of his Son, Jesus Christ and to trust him today as your Lord and Savior.