Books For You
1. From Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God, and Timothy our brother, to the church of God that is in Corinth, with all the saints who are in all Achaia.
Paul begins the letter with his usual greetings. It appears that the apostles' authority had been questioned by some Corinthians, which is why he restates that he is "an apostle of Jesus Christ by the will of God." Paul does not boast of it, but neither is he ashamed of his God given position. In other places he affirms that he has all the qualifications of an apostle. Timothy was present with Paul, as he wrote, meaning that this letter must have been written after his return from Achaia - a region covering most of southern Greece. The letter is addressed both to the church of God in Corinth and to all the believers in Achaia, who are "saints". Every believer is a saint - someone who belongs to God and is holy. Individual believers and the church as a whole are God's possession. Kruse describes each Christian churches as being: "Not just assemblies of like minded people with a religious bent, but communities which belong to God and have a special relationship with him."
2. Grace and peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ!
Paul sends his customary greeting, praying that the grace and peace of God would be with them. God's grace (unmerited favor) "was shown in sending his son into the world for the salvation of mankind (Rom. 5:8). But that being completed, it is now shown by repeated gracious acts of love, help and provision." (Kruse) Peace is well being, wholeness and prosperity, both in natural and spiritual terms. The state of peace which we have with God is objective; it has nothing to do with feelings. It is a fact that by faith in Jesus Christ we have been made right with God and are at peace with him (Rom. 5:1). When we realize that this unalterable possesion of peace is ours, we begin to enjoy the peace of God subjectively, with our feelings and emotions.
Praise for God's help in Trouble.
3,4. Blessed is the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles so that we may be able to comfort those experiencing any trouble with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God.
Paul gives praise and glory to God for his mercies. He blesses God as "the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ"; affirming that Christ is the only begotten Son of God, not by creation, but because he is of the same nature with him, being both eternal and equal to him in perfection, power, and glory. Gill states: "This is the right introduction (to the subject of comfort) for there is no mercy nor comfort given to the sons of men but through the Lord Jesus Christ, the Son of God, and Saviour of sinners."
God is "the Father of mercies" for all mercies come from Him. He is the origin and source of mercy, which is kindness felt and given tothose in trouble or need. He is the God of every consolation, the compassionate Father, who comes along side to support and help us in any and every trouble. It is the help which Paul and his companions had lately received that inspires this exclamation of praise to God.
Whether the Christian's trouble is due to the pressure of circumstances, or the antagonism of persons, in all of them God comes to our aid. God is a "very present help in trouble" (Psa. 46:1), and promises to help all who call upon Him (Psa. 50:15). Paul's testimony is that whilst they had been greatly troubled, he and his companions were not "left destitute of divine help and support under their trials" (GILL). Whilst Paul makes suffering a major theme of this epistle, it is only that he might show the Corinthains how through all his afflictions, God was with him, and thereby he emphasies two other major themes: comfort and hope.
Paul was never remiss to show us that as Christians we will suffer hardship and trial in this life, for it is part of our calling. On the other hand, he would not have his young converts give way under trial, for God is underneath to uphold and strengthen them. It is, strangely, God's will that His saints suffer many afflictions in this life, but it is the will of God that they should be helped and comforted through them all (Isa. 40:1).
We are able to comfort others only if we ourselves have experienced not only trouble, but God's comfort in the trouble. Gill says of those who can communicate somethign of their experience of God's help and comfort: "they are blessed with a rich experience of divine consolation in themselves and are the fittest, indeed the only proper persons to speak a word in season to weary souls."
God never intends believers to manage on their own, which is why he places every believer in the local church. Church meetings and commitment to church fellowships may be out of fashion for many Western Christians today, but they will never be out of fashion with God (Heb. 10:25).
5. For just as the sufferings of Christ overflow toward us, so also our comfort through Christ overflows to you.
Just as Christ's sufferings overflow into the lives His followers, so does His comfort in an all surpassing measure. The fact that we suffer with Him and for His sake reveals that we are truly His (John 15:19); and if we share Christ's troubles, then we can be sure that we will also share His consolation.
The same passage which begins, "Do not let your hearts be troubled," includes the words, "you shall be hated by all men for my sake." One might expect a man with no troubles to be at rest, but the believer has peace in trouble, for his consolation is supernatural, coming from God Himself. That is why the apostles could rejoice even as they suffered for Christ. (Acts 5:40-41 ; Acts 16:22-25). Their relationship with the Lord more than made up for the sufferings they experienced; as Wesley puts it: "The sufferings were many, but the comfort was not only equal to them, but overbalanced them all."
6. But if we are afflicted, it is for your comfort and salvation; if we are comforted, it is for your comfort that you experience in your patient endurance of the same sufferings that we also suffer.
Paul admits, later on in this epistle, that at times he gave way to despair. But having received God's comfort, Paul was later able to see his trials in a more positive light. He realised that He could now offer hope to others facing trials, and so His trials made him more able to help and minsiter to others. As he suffered and endured, it was that they might endure, as he was comforted it wasthat he might share this comfort with others for affliction is common to all saints. It is difficult for a man to keep courage when on his own, but men are strengthened to bravery by fellowship with others who have such courage.
We can imagine that in a pagan city like Corinth, the believers would experience daily pressures and conflicts. Richard Jeffries (in his novel "Bevis") observes that it is always easier for a person to learn to swim by watching another person learn to swim. Having seen the first person instructed and practising, the second picks up the art much more quickly and easily. In the same way, it is true that if someone we know has been though a terrible experience and come through rejoicing, we find similar trials easier to bear, because we have their example to follow. Even so, this would not be the case but for the comfort they had received, which leads us to trust that we will receive the same when needed. Thus Paul's experience was for the benefit of the other believers, that they might be comforted and safeguarded (the word "salvation" as used in this context) by his example.
7. And our hope for you is steadfast because we know that as you share in our sufferings, so also you will share in our comfort.
Paul's hope that the Corinthains would stand in Christ was unshaken, for although they were suffering for their faith, he knew that they would not abandon it, but be kept from falling away by the strengthening a nd comforting of God. Christians are not to be moved from the Lord by their sufferings, but drawn closer to Him. God's mercies to us is the source of our victory over suffering.
8. For we do not want you to be unaware, brothers and sisters, regarding the affliction that happened to us in the province of Asia, that we were burdened excessively, beyond our strength, so that we despaired even of living.
With this in mind Paul shares his own experience and that of the other apostles in more detail; though what exactly befell them in Asia is not clear. Besides anything else, a great mental and spiritual affliction is implied. Whatever the exact nature of the trial it was far beyond their ability to endure. Yet it was not above the strength of grace, or that spiritual strength communicated to them, by which they were supported under it. "We despaired of life" shows that no way of escape presented itself despite their best human endeavours. The pressure of their situation was such as would crush them and destroy them. And yet they were not destroyed.
9. Indeed we felt as if the sentence of death had been passed against us, so that we would not trust in ourselves but in God who raises the dead.
As Kruse says "it was only when Paul faced death that he learned to depend on the God who raises the dead." This kind of faith does not come naturally, it is through our experiences that God imparts and then strengthens it. Just as Abraham when offering Isaac reasoned that God was able to raise the dead, so Paul in his extremity had to trust his soul to the hands of God, for he was unable to keep himself alive either physically or spiritually. It is only when men reach "wits end corner", that they discover God has a tryst to meet them there.
10. He delivered us from so great a risk of death, and he will deliver us. We have set our hope on him that he will deliver us yet again.
Eventually, God delivered his servants from their terrible experience; and having received such a mighty deliverance, Paul was confident that God would certainly deliver in future. This experience was important for Paul, for he would face even greater difficulties and sustained perils in later life, for which he would need the supernatural faith to sustain him which he had learned through his recent circumstances.
11. As you also join in helping us by prayer, so that many people may give thanks to God on our behalf for the gracious gift given to us through the help of many.
Paul was never alone in his ministry, for he had many assistants. Though they were not present with him, they helped him by their prayers, which he ascribes as being the means of his deliverance and vital to every future deliverance. God answered the prayers of the many who prayed for the apostle, and they could now rejoice together for the answer. We should learn the lesson that we are in constant need of each others prayers and that our prayers are important - there is always an effect when we pray; but there a negative effect if we neglect to pray.
Paul's Integrity Defended.
12. For our reason for confidence is this: the testimony of our conscience, that with pure motives and sincerity which are from God -- not by human wisdom but by the grace of God -- we conducted ourselves in the world, and all the more toward you.
Why should the Corinthians pray for Paul? Paul's conscience allowed that he had lived in a single minded way (for Christ and his glory), without corrupt motives. He did not live according to worldy wisdom, but by the grace of God he lived in the way God wanted him to.
13. For we do not write you anything other than what you can read and also understand. But I hope that you will understand completely.
Paul was certain that the Corinthians themselves would affirm his testimony as genuine. Not only so, he would have them uphold his testimony in the face of his opponents.
14. Just as also you have partly understood us, that we are your source of pride just as you also are ours in the day of the Lord Jesus.
Although they did not fully understand Paul's character or motives, they knew enough to acquit him of his opponents charges. Paul hoped that one day they would fully acknowledge and appreciate all that they owed him and the other apostles, just as one day - the day of Christ - the apostles would rejoice in those who were the result of their labors.
The Reason Paul Changed his Travel Plans.
15,16. And with this confidence I intended to come to you first so that you would get a second opportunity to see us, and through your help to go on into Macedonia and then from Macedonia to come back to you and be helped on our way into Judea by you.
Paul explains the reasons for his change of travel plans; for some agitators might have grumbled "why hasn't he come to Corinth yet? He's fickle; he says something but doesn't mean to do it." Paul would not have this said of him. So he explains his reasons in detail.
Being confident that the work done by Christ in their lives was genuine, he had hoped to come to Corinth before going on to Macedonia so that he could visit them again on his return journey. He planned this so that they might have more opportunity to be established in God's grace through Paul's ministry. However, because the problems at Corinth were, as far as he knew, still unresolved, he had decided to change his plans. This change of plan may well have given rise to a charge of fickleness.
17. Therefore when I was planning to do this, I did not do so without thinking about what I was doing, did I? Or do I make my plans according to mere human standards so that I would be saying both "Yes, yes" and "No, no" at the same time?
"The yea, yea, and the nay, nay." Was Paul a man to change his mind lightly? It was not his own idea to go to Corinth and plant a church. God had sent him to them as His messenger. Would he promise to come and then break his promise? Henry says "it was for some weighty reasons that he altered his purpose"
18. But as God is faithful, our message to you is not "Yes" and "No."
They had not found the apostles untrue until now. Their message and preaching was not fickle. They preached the unchangeable truth of God. Strange then, if the heralds of an unchanging truth, sent by an unchanging God, should be so changeable and fickle as some made them out to be.
19. For the Son of God, Jesus Christ, the one who was proclaimed among you by us -- by me and Silvanus and Timothy -- was not "Yes" and "No," but it has always been "Yes" in him.
How unchanging is this gospel! "The prophets of the Old Testament, and the apostles of the New, agreed in all the doctrines and truths of the Gospel; so did the apostles themselves; and so all faithful dispensers of the word have in all different times and places agreed, and still do agree; which serves greatly to corroborate the truth of the Gospel" (Vincent).
20. For every one of God's promises are "Yes" in him; therefore also through him the "Amen" is spoken, to the glory we give to God.
However many promises God has made, Christ is the incarnate answer, "yes!" to the question, "Will they be fulfilled?" The promises of God are absolute and are fulfilled in our lives when we receive Christ as Saviour. Hence the use of the words "by us". God made the promise, we communicate that promise by preaching to the people, and so in the hearts of those who believe God fulfills his promise in Christ.
21,22. But it is God who establishes us together with you in Christ and who anointed us, who also sealed us and gave us the Spirit in our hearts as a down payment.
Though it is "by us" that the word is preached, God does the saving. It is God who is making us stand with full assurance in Christ and who has anointed us, separating us to Himself by the power and Work of his Holy Spirit. He has set His seal of Divine ownership on us through new birth and has filled us with the Holy Spirit who is promsied to those who believe. Gill notes that "we do not have the foretaste or pledge of the Spirit, but the Spirit Himself in pledge of the fulfillment of the promises".
23. Now I appeal to God as my witness, that to spare you I did not come again to Corinth.
Solemnly calling God as his witness, Paul insists that it was in order to be lenient that he had not yet visited Corinth. For had he come with disciplinary matters unresolved, he would have needed to impose sharp and painful discipline on the church.
24. I do not mean that we rule over your faith, but we are workers with you for your joy, because by faith you stand firm.
Not that this indicates that the apostles were lords over the flock of God, as Henry says "Christ only is Lord; He is the author and finisher of our faith (Heb. 12:2). He reveals to us what we must believe. Paul and the rest of the apostles, were but ministers by whom they believed (1 Cor. 3:5), and so helpers of their joy, the joy of faith."
Nevertheless, the apostles had great responsibility for the churches. They were to safeguard them, exhorting them to keep the faith, lest they should fall away and perish. It was for this reason that Christ had given them authority to censure and discipline those in his church.
Copyright (2009-2014) Sharon Full Gospel Church, United Kingdom. Reg. Charity No. 1050642 www.sharonchurch.co.uk