2 Cor. 9-13 is our passage for the week. Paul has come full circle with the Corinthian church. He has been there extensive time on two previous visits. He has written [I think 4 letters] at least two canonical letters to the church to try and correct behaviors, sin issues and squabbles. He has in my opinion tried to be a “Nice Guy” apostle and give both grace and mercy to them. However, they have continued to be arrogant and carnal in attitude and behavior.
His first issue was with the benevolent offering for the persecuted church in Jerusalem. It had been a year that the church said they would give an offering; yet they had fallen short of doing anything but talk. Paul admonishes them and challenges them with the testimony of the churches in Macedonia [Philippi] who had through great strain asked to be included in the offering; yet were contributing more than money, but devoted themselves completely to the Lord over it. The stark contrast between the Corinthians and the Macedonians is glaring. One is high and mighty, while the other is characterized by great humility and service. Paul essentially tells the church – Get with it so you nor I will be embarrassed because of the boast I have made about you, then you doing nothing except talk. Obviously great pressure is being applied by Paul for the church to measure up and back up their talk with a considerable offering.
Paul and the church seems to have a very hot and cold relationship. When he is present with them, it seems they are will pleased, but absent with only his letters to them, they become mouthy towards him. In chapter 10, Paul addresses his Apostleship and his credentials. The word “BOAST” will dominate the next three chapters; over 20 times Paul uses the word. Paul boasted in the churches, Christ and in the Gospel. Rarely did he try to bring glory to himself. Yet he wants to make sure that the church knows that he is not inferior to the more eminent apostles. In 2 Cor. 10-11 Paul defends his ministry to the church. I really think it has become a condition of “to familiar ” with Paul where it lessened the strength of his message. I always had to keep in mind the church was in one of the grossly immoral places and at times rivaled Ephesus and Athens with its cultist gods worship. Paul has a way in these chapters of indicting the church for its attitudes, but brings it in such a way that it makes them “feel guilty” about what they were doing. Paul has had enough of the criticism and conflict, he tells the church “I am not going to spare anyone when I come.”
The church was embattled with “Judaizers” and other false teachers that had captured the vain minds of the Corinthian Church. Paul is defending his Gospel, His message, reputation, character and calling to this church. Much like the Galatians who were taken in by “smooth talking preachers,” the church was following a false Gospel.
In presenting his case, Paul brings the evidence that he has not taken anything by way of support from the; and admits that it may have been wrong not to do so. He still hopes that they will invest in Him as he carries his message and Christ’s Gospel to further regions.
In 2 Cor. 12 – we find a controversy over what are the “3 heavens” Paul is talking about. This can be understood better when we look at creation in Genesis 1&2. The three heavens consist of the earth atmosphere, the realm of space and finally the 3rd heaven is the abode of God. It is in the 3rd heaven that Paul speaks of getting his revelation.
Paul has had a ministry that is difficult and filled with hardships, beatings and persecution. Paul also had a thorn in the flesh, he asked God to remove it three times and the answer was no. “My Grace will be sufficient for you.” We can wonder why God would not relieve the pain of this “thorn” from Paul; however if Paul would have been healed, it could be construed that God would have lost Paul through Pride issues. With the thorn, Paul was kept humbled before God and made to recognize and deal with his own strength limits.
We don’t know if Paul made it one more time to Corinth to pick up the offering that Titus and he would bring to Jerusalem, but we do know if he did, things would be different for the church. No more Mr. Nice Guy – enough of their foolishness. It was time for them to grow up and be who they were called out to be. I find that through talking to other Pastors, our ministry today in the church has similar issues with “finishing the task” and respecting the authority of the Ministers God has placed in the Church.