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2Corinthians 1

Thursday Evening Bible Study

November 13, 2014


Do people see Jesus? Is the gospel preached? Does it address the person who is: Empty, lonely, guilty, or afraid to die?  Does it speak to the broken hearted? Does it build up the church? Milk – Meat – Manna Preach for a decision Is the church loved? Target 3500 words

Paul had established the church in Corinth on his second missionary trip in AD 51 (Acts 18).  He spent 1 ½ years in Corinth building up the church.

After Corinth, Paul sailed to Ephesus, dropped off his friends Aquila and Priscilla there, while he continued on to Jerusalem.

When Paul made it back to Ephesus on his third missionary trip, he stayed in Ephesus for just about three years.

It was during this time in Ephesus that Paul had a group from Corinth show up with a list of concerns and questions.

Paul wrote his first letter to the Corinthians from Ephesus, and sent it back to Corinth with his friend Timothy (1Cor. 4:17)

Paul addressed the questions in 1Corinthians, and sent the letter back to Corinth with his friend Timothy. (1Cor. 4:17)

(1 Corinthians 4:17 NKJV) —17 For this reason I have sent Timothy to you, who is my beloved and faithful son in the Lord, who will remind you of my ways in Christ, as I teach everywhere in every church.

Timothy was also supposed to find out what was going on and report back to Paul.

What happened immediately after that is a little unclear.

It would appear that Timothy didn’t come back with the greatest news about Corinth, and Paul might have made a “quick trip” to Corinth, a trip not recorded in the book of Acts.

We think there was another trip to Corinth because of what Paul says in 2Cor. 12:14; 13:1.
(2 Corinthians 12:14a NKJV) Now for the third time I am ready to come to you.

And I will not be burdensome to you; for I do not seek yours, but you. For the children ought not to lay up for the parents, but the parents for the children.

(2 Corinthians 13:1 NKJV) This will be the third time I am coming to you. “By the mouth of two or three witnesses every word shall be established.”

Luke records Paul’s first visit to Corinth in Acts 18, and after he writes 2Corinthians he will make another trip (Acts 20:2), so where was the other missing trip?

Paul will make a trip to Corinth after writing 2Corinthians (Acts 20:2), so he must have made an unrecorded trip between Acts 18 and Acts 20.

Some have suggested that there might have also been two more letters to the Corinthians which we do not have.
Paul mentioned in his first letter that he had already written them once (1Cor. 5:9)

(1 Corinthians 5:9 NKJV) —9 I wrote to you in my epistle not to keep company with sexually immoral people.

Some have suggested that Paul might have written another letter, a “sorrowful letter”, between 1Corinthians and 2Corinthians (2Cor. 2:4; 7:8), but I prefer to think that the “sorrowful letter” was 1Corinthians.  Paul said some pretty hard things in 1Corinthians that would cause the church a bit of grief.

(2 Corinthians 2:4 NKJV) —4 For out of much affliction and anguish of heart I wrote to you, with many tears, not that you should be grieved, but that you might know the love which I have so abundantly for you.

(2 Corinthians 7:8 NKJV) —8 For even if I made you sorry with my letter, I do not regret it; though I did regret it. For I perceive that the same epistle made you sorry, though only for a while.

Back in Ephesus, after having written 1Corinthians, there was a full on riot in Ephesus over Paul’s ministry (Acts 19:23-41), and as a result, Paul left Ephesus and headed north to Troas, then on to Macedonia (Acts 20:1)

(Acts 20:1 NKJV) —1 After the uproar had ceased, Paul called the disciples to himself, embraced them, and departed to go to Macedonia.

It’s when Paul gets to Macedonia that Paul meets up with Titus, and gets the latest update on the Corinthians (2Cor.2:12-13; 7:5-7). 

(2 Corinthians 7:5–7 NKJV) —5 For indeed, when we came to Macedonia, our bodies had no rest, but we were troubled on every side. Outside were conflicts, inside were fears. 6 Nevertheless God, who comforts the downcast, comforted us by the coming of Titus, 7 and not only by his coming, but also by the consolation with which he was comforted in you, when he told us of your earnest desire, your mourning, your zeal for me, so that I rejoiced even more.

Paul hears that most of them responded to his letter in repentance, yet there were still some who were rebellious towards Paul. 

So, from Macedonia, most likely Philippi, around A.D. 56, about a year after the first letter (2Cor.8:10), Paul and Timothy write this letter, and send it with Titus (2Cor.8:16-17).  Paul then makes his third trip to Corinth (Acts 20:2), where he writes the letter to the Romans.

If you want to keep track of these things – make a couple of notes in your Bible

At Acts 19:22, write “Paul writes 1Corinthians”
(Acts 19:22 NKJV) —22 So he sent into Macedonia two of those who ministered to him, Timothy and Erastus, but he himself stayed in Asia for a time.
At Acts 20:1, write “Paul writes 2Corinthians”
(Acts 20:1 NKJV) —1 After the uproar had ceased, Paul called the disciples to himself, embraced them, and departed to go to Macedonia.
At Acts 20:2-3, write “Paul writes Romans”
(Acts 20:2–3 NKJV) —2 Now when he had gone over that region and encouraged them with many words, he came to Greece 3 and stayed three months. And when the Jews plotted against him as he was about to sail to Syria, he decided to return through Macedonia.

1:1-2 Greetings

:1 Paul, an apostle of Jesus Christ by the will of God, and Timothy our brother, To the church of God which is at Corinth, with all the saints who are in all Achaia:

:2 Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.

:1 Paul, an apostle

When the church in Corinth received Paul’s first epistle, those who were against Paul became more vocal, questioning Paul’s authority and apostleship.

This second epistle contains some of Paul’s defense and testimony of his ministry.

:1 … and Timothy

Paul had sent 1Corinthians to Corinth with Timothy.

Timothy has spent some more recent time in Corinth than Paul and adds some additional authority and weight to this new letter.

:1 Corinth … Achaia

Achaia is the Roman province that included all of southern Greece.

It included cities like Athens.
The capital of Achaia was Corinth.
The letter is not just written to those in Corinth, but also the wider region of Achaia.

1:3-7 Comfort

:3 Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort,

:4 who comforts us in all our tribulation, that we may be able to comfort those who are in any trouble, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God.

:3 God of all comfort

Warren Wiersbe writes,

We must not think of comfort in terms of “sympathy,” because sympathy can weaken us instead of strengthen us. God does not pat us on the head and give us a piece of candy or a toy to distract our attention from our troubles. No, He puts strength into our hearts so we can face our trials and triumph over them. Our English word comfort comes from two Latin words meaning “with strength.”[1]

comfortparaklesis (“called alongside”) – exhortation, comfort, that which brings comfort or refreshment

One of the descriptions of the Holy Spirit is that of the “comforter” or “Helper” (same Greek word).

(John 14:16 NKJV) And I will pray the Father, and He will give you another Helper, that He may abide with you forever—

:4 who comforts us in all our tribulation

tribulationthlipsis a pressing together, pressure; oppression, affliction, distress

Jesus promised,

(Matthew 5:4 NKJV) Blessed are those who mourn, For they shall be comforted.

God promises to give us “comfort” in every difficult situation.

The hard part is our receiving it.

David wrote,

(Psalm 27:10 NKJV) When my father and my mother forsake me, Then the Lord will take care of me.
I don’t think this is something that automatically happens.  I don’t think that just because you go through a difficult situation you will automatically be comforted.
Sometimes the way we receive comfort is through others who have gone through similar things.
But ultimately God wants to be the one who provides comfort.

:4 that we may be able to comfort

Paul had found comfort in his difficulties and now he shares that comfort with the Corinthians.


Helping Others

When you go through a difficult situation and have found God’s help in the struggle, God wants to be able to use you to help someone else going through that struggle.
A.B. Simpson declared.  “You will have no test of faith that will not fit you to be a blessing if you are obedient to the Lord.  I never had a trial but when I got out of the deep river I found some poor pilgrim on the bank that I was able to help by that very experience.”
It really is a horrible thing to be going through a tough time and meet up with someone who has no clue what you’re going through, and yet they have decided they are going to help you.
I’ve heard Greg Laurie talk about the kinds of things he used to say to people who have lost a loved one, and how he changed his whole approach to grieving people after he lost his own son Christopher in a car accident.
On Monday I saw a pretty funny video about how impatient people can get when things go slower than they want.
Video:  Gags Grandparents Crosswalk
After seeing that video, I decided to get to my project for the day, to work on a problem we had been having with our DVR.

I called the cable company, spent the required ½ hour on the phone, and ended up going to the store and exchange my DVR for a new one.

I got home, plugged in the new DVR, and it didn’t work.  I fiddled with it for a while before calling customer service, spending another ½ hour, and then went back to the store to exchange the DVR for another one.  This time there were seven people in line ahead of me, and all but one of the customer service reps were gone for lunch.

When I got home with the new DVR, It didn’t work.  Again.  I called customer service and after ½ hour we decided we needed to have a cable guy come out to the house, and it wasn’t going to happen until WEDNESDAY.  Ughh!

All the while I was kind of occasionally chuckling to myself because I kept thinking about that video I had watched, and was amazed at how impatient I was.

Then yesterday I was on the phone with a friend who was telling me about what kind of day he had had at a government office – the inefficiency, and the long, long waits.  We had to laugh as we compared our days.

I was able to comfort and encourage my friend because of the terrible, horrible, no good day I had been through on Monday.

I see this on a regular basis in the church when those of you who have survived certain difficulties get connected to those who are currently going through those same difficulties.
I’ve seen it happen with people going through cancer.
I’ve seen it happen with people who are struggling with addiction.
I’ve seen it happen with people who have lost a loved one.

Be careful of thinking that the difficult thing you’ve just survived was a total waste of time in your life.  God can use you in the life of another person.



Sometimes we don’t really give any help at all when we don’t realize what a person is going through.
Spurgeon shares a story about Charles Pratt, Earl Camden, when he was Chief Justice of the Common Pleas. “Being on a visit to Lord Dacre, he walked out with a gentleman—a very absent-minded man—to a hill, on the top of which the stocks of the village stood. The Chief Justice sat down, and wanting to feel what the punishment was, he asked his companion to open them and put him in. This being done, his friend took a book from his pocket, sauntered on and completely forgot the judge. In the meantime, the Chief Justice tried in vain to release himself. Seeing a countryman, he endeavored to convince him to let him out, but obtained nothing by his persuasion. ‘No, no, old gentleman,’ said the man, ‘You were not set there for nothing,’ and left him until he was released by a servant dispatched from the house.
“Later he presided at a trial in which a magistrate was charged for false imprisonment and for sitting in the stocks. The counsel for the magistrate made light of the whole charge and especially of sitting in the stocks, which he said everybody knew was no real punishment.
“The Chief Justice rose and, leaning over the bench, said in a half-whisper, ‘Brother, have you ever been in the stocks?’
“’Really, my lord, never!’
“’Well, I have,’ said the judge, ‘and I assure you, it is no such trifle as you represent.’”
A little experience of the real trials of life would be of essential service to many professing believers, and especially to those religious teachers whose path in life has been smooth and prosperous. Nothing promotes true sympathy like a kindred experience.

- Charles Haddon Spurgeon, The Quotable Spurgeon, (Wheaton: Harold Shaw Publishers, Inc, 1990)

If you haven’t gone through what another person is going through, that doesn’t mean that you can’t help.
Just be careful to not pretend like you “understand”.
Ultimately, Jesus is the only one who really understands.

(Hebrews 4:15–16 NKJV) —15 For we do not have a High Priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but was in all points tempted as we are, yet without sin. 16 Let us therefore come boldly to the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need.

:5 For as the sufferings of Christ abound in us, so our consolation also abounds through Christ.

:5 consolation

paraklesis – exhortation, comfort, that which brings comfort or refreshment

It’s the same word translated “comfort” in the previous verses.

:5 as the sufferings of Christ abound in us

There will not be an end of difficulties any time soon, unless Jesus comes back.

Yet God promises to give you comfort each time you face difficulty.

:6 Now if we are afflicted, it is for your consolation and salvation, which is effective for enduring the same sufferings which we also suffer. Or if we are comforted, it is for your consolation and salvation.

:7 And our hope for you is steadfast, because we know that as you are partakers of the sufferings, so also you will partake of the consolation.

:6 it is for your consolation and salvation

Paul knows that his own sufferings end up benefitting others because he is receiving God’s comfort and passing it on to others.

:7  sufferings … consolation

Someone once wrote,

There is no oil without squeezing the olives,
No wine without pressing the grapes,
No fragrance without crushing the flowers, and
No real joy without sorrow.

1:8-11 Paul’s Deliverance

:8 For we do not want you to be ignorant, brethren, of our trouble which came to us in Asia: that we were burdened beyond measure, above strength, so that we despaired even of life.

:8 we were burdened beyond measure

Paul is looking back to what has happened over the last year in his life, especially what had just happened in Ephesus.

The men who made their living in Ephesus making pagan idols were very upset with Paul and the church in Ephesus. (Acts 19:23-41)

There were so many people coming to Christ and giving up idol worship that these fellows were going out of business.
They got the whole city stirred up, had a huge rally in the theater in Ephesus, and were very nearly on the verge of a city-wide riot over the situation.
Paul barely escaped with his life.
(Acts 19:23–41 NKJV) —23 And about that time there arose a great commotion about the Way. 24 For a certain man named Demetrius, a silversmith, who made silver shrines of Diana, brought no small profit to the craftsmen. 25 He called them together with the workers of similar occupation, and said: “Men, you know that we have our prosperity by this trade. 26 Moreover you see and hear that not only at Ephesus, but throughout almost all Asia, this Paul has persuaded and turned away many people, saying that they are not gods which are made with hands. 27 So not only is this trade of ours in danger of falling into disrepute, but also the temple of the great goddess Diana may be despised and her magnificence destroyed, whom all Asia and the world worship.” 28 Now when they heard this, they were full of wrath and cried out, saying, “Great is Diana of the Ephesians!” 29 So the whole city was filled with confusion, and rushed into the theater with one accord, having seized Gaius and Aristarchus, Macedonians, Paul’s travel companions. 30 And when Paul wanted to go in to the people, the disciples would not allow him. 31 Then some of the officials of Asia, who were his friends, sent to him pleading that he would not venture into the theater. 32 Some therefore cried one thing and some another, for the assembly was confused, and most of them did not know why they had come together. 33 And they drew Alexander out of the multitude, the Jews putting him forward. And Alexander motioned with his hand, and wanted to make his defense to the people. 34 But when they found out that he was a Jew, all with one voice cried out for about two hours, “Great is Diana of the Ephesians!” 35 And when the city clerk had quieted the crowd, he said: “Men of Ephesus, what man is there who does not know that the city of the Ephesians is temple guardian of the great goddess Diana, and of the image which fell down from Zeus? 36 Therefore, since these things cannot be denied, you ought to be quiet and do nothing rashly. 37 For you have brought these men here who are neither robbers of temples nor blasphemers of your goddess. 38 Therefore, if Demetrius and his fellow craftsmen have a case against anyone, the courts are open and there are proconsuls. Let them bring charges against one another. 39 But if you have any other inquiry to make, it shall be determined in the lawful assembly. 40 For we are in danger of being called in question for today’s uproar, there being no reason which we may give to account for this disorderly gathering.” 41 And when he had said these things, he dismissed the assembly.

:8 we despaired even of life

Though God promises to give us comfort in our “tribulations”, it often does not seem like this at first.

Usually our initial response to difficult times is to agree with this phrase from Paul, that we “despair even of life”.

The trick in life is to not stay “stuck” in despair.

The way you survive life is to learn to look up and get a hold of God.

:9 Yes, we had the sentence of death in ourselves, that we should not trust in ourselves but in God who raises the dead,

:10 who delivered us from so great a death, and does deliver us; in whom we trust that He will still deliver us,

:9 in God who raises the dead

Paul had had a hint while writing 1Corinthians of the trouble ahead in Ephesus, but he hadn’t gone through the worse of it yet.

Yet even then he had written that the thing gave him hope was his confidence in the resurrection, that there was indeed life after death, and that everything he would go through was all worth it.

(1 Corinthians 15:30–32 NKJV) —30 And why do we stand in jeopardy every hour? 31 I affirm, by the boasting in you which I have in Christ Jesus our Lord, I die daily. 32 If, in the manner of men, I have fought with beasts at Ephesus, what advantage is it to me? If the dead do not rise, “Let us eat and drink, for tomorrow we die!”

:11 you also helping together in prayer for us, that thanks may be given by many persons on our behalf for the gift granted to us through many.

:11 helping together in prayer for us

Paul acknowledged that some of the help he received came through the prayers of the church in Corinth.

Please do not underestimate the power there is in praying for others.

You may not see the help it brings, but it’s real.

1:12-14 Paul’s Sincerity

:12 For our boasting is this: the testimony of our conscience that we conducted ourselves in the world in simplicity and godly sincerity, not with fleshly wisdom but by the grace of God, and more abundantly toward you.

:13 For we are not writing any other things to you than what you read or understand. Now I trust you will understand, even to the end

:14 (as also you have understood us in part), that we are your boast as you also are ours, in the day of the Lord Jesus.

:12 we conducted ourselves in the world …

Some in Corinth were saying that Paul was a liar because he had promised to come to them when he ended up going to Macedonia first.

But Paul was proud of how he had conducted himself through the prior year.

(2 Corinthians 1:12 NLT) We can say with confidence and a clear conscience that we have lived with a God-given holiness and sincerity in all our dealings. We have depended on God’s grace, not on our own human wisdom. That is how we have conducted ourselves before the world, and especially toward you.
Paul had not been trying to manipulate the Corinthians in the things he wrote or in how he acted.
He always meant what he wrote.

1:15-24 Sparing the Church

:15 And in this confidence I intended to come to you before, that you might have a second benefit—

:16 to pass by way of you to Macedonia, to come again from Macedonia to you, and be helped by you on my way to Judea.

:16 to pass by way of you to Macedonia

Paul had originally made plans to make a couple of trips to Corinth before going to Jerusalem, but he had to change his plans.

:17 Therefore, when I was planning this, did I do it lightly? Or the things I plan, do I plan according to the flesh, that with me there should be Yes, Yes, and No, No?

:17 did I do it lightly?

(2 Corinthians 1:17 NLT) You may be asking why I changed my plan. Do you think I make my plans carelessly? Do you think I am like people of the world who say “Yes” when they really mean “No”?

Some in Corinth were upset because they felt that Paul was going back on his word to them on how many times he would visit.

What do you call a person who says one thing and then does another?
We often call them “politicians”.

We call them “flip-floppers” or “wafflers”

Yet if a politician is a wise man, he will have to acknowledge from time to time that he might have promised one thing, but later found out that it was the wrong thing.


Plans can change

It is not a bad thing to make plans.
(Proverbs 21:5 NKJV) The plans of the diligent lead surely to plenty, But those of everyone who is hasty, surely to poverty.
But sometimes plans change.  Sometimes even the best of plans need to change.
(Proverbs 16:9 NKJV) A man’s heart plans his way, But the Lord directs his steps.

:18 But as God is faithful, our word to you was not Yes and No.

:19 For the Son of God, Jesus Christ, who was preached among you by us—by me, Silvanus, and Timothy—was not Yes and No, but in Him was Yes.

:20 For all the promises of God in Him are Yes, and in Him Amen, to the glory of God through us.

:20 and in Him Amen

Amenamen – surely, truly, of a truth; so it is, so be it, may it be fulfilled

(2 Corinthians 1:18–20 NLT) —18 As surely as God is faithful, our word to you does not waver between “Yes” and “No.” 19 For Jesus Christ, the Son of God, does not waver between “Yes” and “No.” He is the one whom Silas, Timothy, and I preached to you, and as God’s ultimate “Yes,” he always does what he says. 20 For all of God’s promises have been fulfilled in Christ with a resounding “Yes!” And through Christ, our “Amen” (which means “Yes”) ascends to God for his glory.

:21 Now He who establishes us with you in Christ and has anointed us is God,

:22 who also has sealed us and given us the Spirit in our hearts as a guarantee.

:22 as a guarantee

guaranteearrhabon money which in purchases is given as a pledge or down payment that the full amount will subsequently be paid.

If you went out garage sale shopping this Saturday and came across a lamp that would look just great in your den, but didn’t have enough money to outright buy the item, the seller might allow you to make a “deposit”.  You won’t get to take the item home, but the “deposit” insures the seller keeps the item aside only for you.

The presence of the Holy Spirit in our lives is a “deposit”, a pledge from God to us that Jesus will indeed come back and pick up this ugly old lamp one day.

:23 Moreover I call God as witness against my soul, that to spare you I came no more to Corinth.

:23 to spare you

One of the reasons Paul hadn’t returned to Corinth yet was because he was pretty upset with them and he would have given them a severe rebuke if he had come.

I think it is okay sometimes to let things cool off.

:24 Not that we have dominion over your faith, but are fellow workers for your joy; for by faith you stand.

:24 dominion over your faith

(2 Corinthians 1:24 NLT) But that does not mean we want to dominate you by telling you how to put your faith into practice. We want to work together with you so you will be full of joy, for it is by your own faith that you stand firm.


Lord or Helper

What role does church leaders have in your life?
Are they supposed to be “lords”, telling you what to do?  Or are they “helpers”?
A “lord” is in control of your life, and they make all your decisions for you.
A “fellow worker” is someone who struggles like you do, but who can give help and guidance – yet ultimately your walk depends on you.
There is a place of learning to submit and pay attention to what a person in leadership might say to you.  We saw last week (1Cor. 16:15-16)
(1 Corinthians 16:15–16 NKJV) —15 I urge you, brethren—you know the household of Stephanas, that it is the firstfruits of Achaia, and that they have devoted themselves to the ministry of the saints—16 that you also submit to such, and to everyone who works and labors with us.
But in reality, a leader is not your “lord”.  Only Jesus is your “lord”.  Peter wrote to leaders when he said,
(1 Peter 5:2–3 NLT) —2 Care for the flock that God has entrusted to you. Watch over it willingly, not grudgingly—not for what you will get out of it, but because you are eager to serve God. 3 Don’t lord it over the people assigned to your care, but lead them by your own good example.

[1] Wiersbe, W. W. (1996). The Bible exposition commentary (Vol. 1, p. 629). Wheaton, IL: Victor Books.