Book of 2 Corinthians
DON’T MISTAKE MEEKNESS FOR WEAKNESS – The Apostolic Authority of Paul is under attack. Paul turns the tables by aggressively defending himself and pointing to his apparent weaknesses as opportunities for God to demonstrate His grace and power in vindicating Paul‘s authority.
He deals with the weaknesses of:
- Physical Suffering or Trials
- Personal Inadequacy
- Painful Attacks Against His Authority
The Apostle Paul pours out his heart to the Corinthians in an open dialogue to get them to freely submit to his legitimate apostolic authority regarding some reconciliation issues in the church. He warns them not to force his hand and cause him to swing the big stick of severe discipline. But make no mistake he is prepared to exercise his authority in this way if necessary.
Paul demonstrates his pastoral heart and loving commitment to the Corinthians as he defends the integrity of his ministry and the legitimacy of his authority. He does not like to be put in the position of commending himself since it should be obvious to the believers that he has ministered sacrificially and with their best interests in mind. It is difficult to imagine how the counterfeit leaders had been able to drive a wedge between the Corinthians and Paul, but the Apostle to the Gentiles turns his sarcastic wit on his opponents and aggressively refutes all of their trumped up charges.
He emphasizes the glorious nature of the New Covenant ministry as it focuses on the grace of God. This grace manifests itself through the power of God working in areas of our weakness in complete opposition to the performance-oriented false apostles. He seeks for reconciliation as the basis for intimate partnership in the gospel ministry.
He challenges them with their responsibility to carry through on their professed good intentions to take up a collection for the poor saints in Judea. This offering must be carefully prepared, must be offered freely from the heart, and must be administered with the highest level of integrity and accountability.
He closes with further defense of his apostleship and an appeal that they respond properly to avoid the unpleasantness of disciplinary action.
“My grace is sufficient for you, for power is perfected in weakness. Most gladly, therefore, I will rather boast about my weaknesses, that the power of Christ may dwell in me.” – 2 Corinthians 12:9
God Vindicates The Legitimate Authority Of New Covenant Ministers By Transforming Their Apparent Weaknesses Into A Demonstration Of His Grace And Power
(1:1-11) Introduction — God Manifested His Life To Be Proclaimed, Shared And Enjoyed (Paul‘s Apostolic Calling And Pastoral Heart)
“that we should not trust in ourselves, but in God who raises the dead” (1:9)
a. (:1-2) Greeting: Apostolic Calling
b. (:3-11) Pastoral Heart: The Sufficiency of God‘s Comfort in Our Own Desperate Trials Equips Us to Comfort Others in Their Trials
I. (1:12-7:13) Personal Inadequacy Provides Opportunity For The Glory Of The New Covenant Ministry To Be Displayed In Ministry Integrity And Reconciled Relationships (Paul‘s Confidence In His Ministry Integrity And His Commitment To Reconciled Relationships)
“But we have this treasure in earthen vessels, that the surpassing greatness of the power may be of God and not from ourselves” (4:7)
a. (1:12-2:13) Ministry Integrity for the Apostle Paul Means that He Has the Best Interests of the Corinthian Believers at Heart
b. (2:14-3:18) New Covenant Ministry Is Victorious, Life-Changing and Glorious
c. (4:1-5:10) Ministers of the New Covenant Should Never Lose Heart
d. (5:11-6:13) Reconciled Relationships and Ministry Integrity Are the Keys to Intimate Partnership in the Gospel
e. (6:14-7:16) Intimate Partnership in the Gospel Requires Avoiding Contamination and Repenting
f. (2:12-14) Aside: All Believers Need Encouragement As They Apply These Tests of Fellowship
II. (8:1-9:15) Poverty Of Fellow Believers Provides Opportunity For God‘s Grace And Sufficiency To Be Displayed In Generous Christian Giving (Offered Freely From The Heart And Administered With Integrity) (Paul‘s Plea For Practical Demonstration Of Fellowship In God‘s Gracious Work Of Generous Giving)
“And God is able to make all grace abound to you, that always having all sufficiency in everything, you may have an abundance for every good deed.” (9:8)
a. (8:1-15) Good Intentions in Giving Must Be Consummated According to Your Ability – Or Ideally Beyond Your Ability
b. (8:16-9:5) Christian Giving Must Be Administered with Financial Integrity and Offered from Prepared Hearts
c. (9:6-15) God Guarantees a Return on Spiritual Investments – the Promises of God Promote Generous Giving Which Binds Believers Together in Glorifying God
III. (10:1-13:10) Painful Attacks Against Spiritual Leaders Provide Opportunity For Legitimate Authority To Easily Be Distinguished From Counterfeit Authority (Paul‘s Aggressive Defense Of His Legitimate Apostolic Authority)
“For this reason I am writing these things while absent, in order that when present I may not use severity, in accordance with the authority which the Lord gave me, for building up and not for tearing down.” (13:10)
a. (10:1-18) The Reality of Paul‘s Authority – When Necessary, Spiritual Leaders Must Defend Their Legitimate Authority Against Misrepresentations by False Leaders
b. (11:1-15) Marks of Apostleship #1: Humility in Ministry –Humility in Ministry (Demonstrated Here by Preaching the Truth Without Charge) Differentiates the True From the False Apostle
c. (11:16-12:13) Marks of Apostleship #2: Weakness Fortified by Grace –Severe Pressures in the Ministry Make Weakness the Platform for Exalting Christ‘s Grace and Power
d. (12:14-13:10) Spiritual Leaders Exercise Their God-Given Authority for the Purpose of Loving Edification (Including Discipline When Necessary)
(13:11-14) Final Charge / Greeting / Benediction
“The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit, be with you all.” (13:14)
Why Study This Book?
- To examine our motives in ministry and make sure we are practicing integrity
- To encourage us to persevere in ministry regardless of the difficulties or sense of inadequacy
- To give us a vision for pursuing reconciliation of relationships as an ambassador of Jesus Christ
- To help us distinguish between legitimate and false spiritual authority
- To highlight the tremendous glory of New Covenant ministry
- To give us a sober respect for the potential of discipline as exercised by God‘s appointed authorities
Daniel Wallace: “This note on God‘s comfort in affliction is a natural bridge to the body of the epistle, for 2 Corinthians is supremely about God‘s glory in the midst of suffering. There are three main sections to this epistle: (1) defense of Paul‘s apostleship in the light of his critics‘ charges (1:127:16), (2) exhortation of the Corinthians to give to the collection for the poor believers in Jerusalem (8:19:15), and (3) final affirmation of Paul‘s apostolic authority (10:113:10). It will be seen that the first and third major sections are dealing with the same issue, though with a different tone (causing some scholars to argue that chapters 1013 comprised a different letter, the “severe letter” [cf. 2:3-4; 7:8]). There are further differences: (1) in the first section Paul defends his altered plans to visit, while in the third section he again mentions his desire to visit; (2) the first section boasts of the Lord, while the third section boasts of Paul. In many ways this letter heats up toward the end, with the second section (dealing with the collection) functioning as a calm before the final storm!”
Bob Deffinbaugh: While others of Paul‘s epistles may be more profound, scarcely any could be more precious than this second heart-outpouring to the Corinthians. It was written with a quill dipped in tears, from the apostle‘s ‘anguish of heart,’ and contains more of human pathos than any other of his letters. Yet there is a lovely rainbow shining through it all, for in his dire distress and deep disappointments he is discovering more than ever before that “the Father of mercies” is the “God of all comfort,” and that the heavenly Master‘s strength is made perfect in His servant‘s weakness. [J. Sidlow Baxter]
“What an admirable Epistle,” he [George Herbert] exclaimed, “is the second to the Corinthians! How full of affections! He joys and he is sorry, he grieves and he glories; never was there such care of a flock expressed, save in the great Shepherd of the fold, who first shed tears over Jerusalem and afterwards blood.”
Ray Stedman: Notice the weakness of the “pot” there, and the transcendence of the power. “Transcendent” means “beyond the ordinary.” The power of God is not ordinary. It is different than any other kind of power we know about. Therefore, it is wrong to expect it to be dramatically visible. It is a quiet power that is released in quiet ways, and yet what it accomplished is fabulous. Here is the weakness of the pot: “We are sore pressed; we are at wit’s end, we are persecuted, we are knocked down.” On the other hand, here is the transcendent power: “We are not hemmed in; we are not at hope’s end; we are never abandoned and we are never knocked out.” That is the way God expects us to live. The remarkable thing, and the place where we struggle is, it takes both of those. It takes the weakness in order to have the strength. That is what we do not like. We all want to see the power of God in our lives, but we want it to come out of untroubled, peaceful, calm, circumstances. We want to move through life protected from all the dangers and all the difficulties.
Ray Ortlund, Jr.: “Paul is defending his ministry, but he‘s doing so with great embarrassment. He was being criticized within the Corinthian church as a spiritually overrated man. That seems absurd to us today. We revere Paul. But in the first century, he was under constant attack from several fronts, including men in Corinth he calls “super-apostles” in II Corinthians 11:5. Whoever they were, they were vying for the loyalty of the Corinthian church, boasting about their spectacular spiritual experiences among other things and putting Paul down as their spiritual inferior, a man uninitiated into the depths of spiritual reality. . .
Christianity does not produce supermen a cut above everyone else. The fullest, the most perfect expression of God‘s power is when our hearts are subdued to meekness. And it‘s there that God‘s power enters in. Paul‘s thorn was not a barrier to the transforming power of the gospel; it was an occasion for that power. And that spiritual power, entering into our distress, is what really authenticates a Christian and advances the cause of Christ…
Then Paul teases out more fully what‘s included in that large category of “weaknesses.” As verse 10 proceeds, Paul includes “insults” (insolent contempt heaped upon his office, his ministry and his person), “hardships” (unmet needs stretching him to the limit), “persecutions” (the relentless pursuit of his opponents), and “calamities” (pressure and stress and confinement and deadlines). This principle of power being most perfectly and fully expressed in weakness applies across the whole of our lives.”
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