2 Corinthians Intro ~ 20171001 ~ Pastor Rodney Zedicher ~ Ephraim Church of the Bible ~ www.ephraimbible.org
10/01 2 Corinthians Introduction; Audio available at: http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20171001_2cor-intro.mp3
Turn with me to 4th Corinthians... You will find it in your Bibles as 2 Corinthians, but it was likely the fourth letter Paul wrote to this church. 1 Corinthians 5:9 refers back to a previous letter that the Corinthians had misunderstood, so that would make our 1 Corinthians Paul's second letter. Then 2 Corinthians 2 and 7 refers back to a painful letter that grieved the Corinthians, making 2 Corinthians his fourth letter to this tumultuous church.
So if you've ever heard of the lost books of the Bible, those are them. In the sovereign wisdom of God they were not preserved for us. God preserved his word exactly as he intended for us to benefit by it. If you hear people claiming that they have discovered some of the lost books of the bible, examine the evidence carefully. The 'lost' books that people often claim are not lost at all; rather they have been known throughout the history of Christianity and have been rejected by believers as false writings.
What we know as 2 Corinthians is a passionate letter, sometimes sarcastic, intimately personal and transparent, even raw. In it we see the heart of the apostle, and the depth of his love for a broken church. We get a glimpse into the emotional struggles of ministry, and how Paul handles conflict and tension in relationships. Most of all, we see ministry shaped by the cross; that the gospel message of Christ crucified shapes all authentic ministry.
History of the Church in Corinth
It will be helpful as we launch into a study of 2 Corinthians to sketch out a rough sequence of the history of this church and where this letter fits. On what is known as Paul's second missionary journey, when Paul was forbidden by the Holy Spirit to speak the word in Asia (Acts 16:6), he had a vision in which God called him to preach in Macedonia (Acts 16:9-10). They preached and were imprisoned in the Macedonian city of Philippi, and then after being released, they preached and were persecuted in Thessalonica and Berea. Paul was brought alone to Athens to escape the riots and preached there while he waited for Silas and Timothy to rejoin him. Listen to the birth of this church as Luke tells it in Acts 18:
After over a year and a half in Corinth, Paul sailed for a brief stop in Ephesus, where he left Priscilla and Aquila, then on to the port of Caesarea. From there he visited the Jerusalem church, and then traveled back to his home church in Syrian Antioch. This ended his second missionary journey. Sometime after he left Ephesus, the eloquent Apollos came to Ephesus and was discipled briefly by Priscilla and Aquila before being sent with a letter of recommendation to the church in Corinth.
In the spring of the next year, Paul traveled by land north from Antioch through the regions of Galatia and into Asia, arriving at Ephesus and spending over 2 years there.
It was early during his first year in Ephesus that Paul received news of trouble in the church in Corinth, and wrote them the 'previous letter,' “not to associate with sexually immoral people” (1Cor.5:9).
Later, he received correspondence from the church in Corinth asking a number of questions, along with a report of more trouble in the church there, brought by Chloe's people, possibly Sosthenes (1:1), Stephanas, Fortunatus, Achaicus (16:17); he was also joined by Timothy and Erastus (Acts 19:22). At some point Apollos also returned to Ephesus with Paul (1Cor.16:12).
It was in response to their letter and the reports he was receiving that he wrote what we know as 1 Corinthians, and sent it with believers sailing to Corinth, possibly with Stephanas, Fortunatus and Achaicus, or maybe with Timothy or Titus. In 1 Corinthians, he addressed the issues of divisiveness and party spirit, immorality, idolatry, disorderly worship, and confusion over the resurrection.
Paul's plan as stated at the end of 1 Corinthians, was to leave Ephesus the following spring and travel through Macedonia to visit them, and spend some time with them, and then the following spring to carry their gift to the church in Jerusalem.
But after Timothy arrived in Corinth and saw that the Corinthians did not respond well to Paul's instructions, he sent word to Paul and Paul changed his plans and made an emergency visit to Corinth. This proved to be a difficult confrontation, a 'painful visit' (2Cor.2:1). After Paul returned to Ephesus, he was personally attacked and his authority rejected and undermined by the individual.
He apparently planned to complete his ministry in Ephesus, sail to Corinth, continue up through Macedonia to receive their collection, then stop again in Corinth on his way back to Jerusalem with the collection (2Cor.1:15-16). Instead, when he received news that things only got worse in Corinth after his painful visit, he sent Titus with a 'painful letter' (2Cor.2:3-4)
Paul sent this third painful letter with Titus, and he sent Timothy and Erastus ahead into Macedonia to prepare for the collection (Acts 19:21-22). After a riot in Ephesus, Paul traveled north through Asia to the port at Troas. He says
Paul expected that Titus would sail from Corinth to Troas with news. Finding no sign of Titus, Paul traveled on to Macedonia, where he says:
The painful letter had accomplished its desired response from the Corinthians.
It was in response to Titus' report on Corinth that Paul together with Timothy wrote what we know as 2 Corinthians from Macedonia. He sent Titus ahead of him to deliver the letter, as he continued to minister in Macedonia and make his way down to Corinth.
Although Titus and the painful letter had accomplished much to mend the relationship between the Apostle and this church, there was still much work to be done, and 2 Corinthians attempts to move this work forward and prepare them for his visit. About a year later, Paul arrives in Corinth and stays with them for 3 months. Paul wrote his letter to the Romans during his stay at Gaius' house in Corinth (1Cor.1:14; Rom.16:23). From there, he had to return through Macedonia because of a plot (Acts 20:3), and eventually returned to Jerusalem with the gift, where he was taken into Roman custody and eventually to Rome. Paul's outlook in Romans is that
Apparently 2 Corinthians also accomplished its purpose.
Corinth was a city where social status was a big deal; eloquent wisdom was prized, and pursuit of prosperity and power was the main goal. We already saw in 1 Corinthians that Paul took a totally counter-cultural approach. He refused to come with lofty speech or wisdom, but determined to know nothing but Jesus Christ and him crucified. He came in weakness and fear and much trembling (1Cor.2:1-5). God had turned the ideas of status and honor upside down by choosing the foolish, the weak, the low, the despised, the nothings, to shame the wise, powerful, noble, and strong, to eradicate boasting and pride (1Cor.1:26-31). Paul had offended them by working for his living with menial hands-on labor, refusing to take money from them (1Cor.9). He refused to put himself on a pedestal to be honored, rather identifying himself as a servant.
The Corinthians continued to struggle with these concepts that are really at the heart of the gospel. The gospel is a message of grace – being given something you don't deserve.
Jesus gave us what we didn't earn. Jesus shows us that true greatness is not being served, but serving; humbly serving others for their good. The gospel is a message about a King who laid aside his royal robes and stooped down to serve in the filth and grime, in the lowest, most menial way.
Paul takes this very seriously; to seek honor is to abandon the gospel.
The Corinthians wanted an apostle that was powerful, eloquent, triumphant; but Paul's ministry was characterized by suffering, affliction, shame, dishonor. He was weak, plain, poor, unimpressive. Instead of being served, he chose to serve others. Instead of accepting honor, he directed all honor to Jesus.
Chapters 1-7 explain the characteristics of genuine ministry; gospel ministry is ministry that looks like the gospel and is shaped by the gospel. Real ministry is service that embraces suffering for the good of others.
Chapters 8-9 encourage an experience of God's grace to overflow in practical generosity to others.
Chapters 11-13 confront the false apostles who proclaim a false Jesus, a false Spirit, and a false gospel.
AD 50-51 Paul's first visit to Corinth (1.5+ years) (Acts 18)
AD 52-55 Paul in Ephesus (2+ years) (Acts 19)
52 Writes 'previous letter' (1Cor.5:9)
53 Writes 1 Corinthians (1Cor.16)
54 Second 'painful visit' (2Cor.2:1)
54 Writes 'painful letter' (2Cor.2:3-4)
AD 55-56 Paul ministers in Troas and Macedonia (Acts 20:1; 2 Cor.7:5-7)
55 Writes 2 Corinthians from Macedonia (2Cor.7-9)
AD 57 Paul's 3rd visit to Corinth (3 months) (2Cor.13:1; Acts 20:2-3)
57 Writes Romans from Corinth (Rom.16)
2 Corinthians Outline:
1-7 Gospel ministry is ministry shaped by the gospel
8-9 God's grace overflows in practical generosity
10-13 False apostles proclaim a false jesus, false spirit, false gospel
Pastor Rodney Zedicher ~ Ephraim Church of the Bible ~ www.ephraimbible.org