Mon, 27 April 2009
The epistle provides a sort of living picture of an apostolic Church. In this particular letter Paul's passionate words rival only those in Galatians. After a summary of the early apostolic period, one can see that Paul suffered much before meeting the Corinthians.
A proper context for the Corinthian letter makes for a more comprehensive study. One will see that Paul's fiery ministry, the inclusion of Gentiles into the Church, and many other historical truths are significant factors into the problems that Paul addresses by his second epistle to the community.
He first enters Corinth during the Second Missionary journey, at a time when he was wishing to know only Christ and Him crucified. This city would perhaps seem an unlikely location for Christian mission. The city was renowned for its commerce, government, and sex-industry. Likely five times the population of Athens at this time, in this bawdy city that Paul meets Priscilla and Aquilla as well as a number of other leading members of the synagogue. Full of moxie, Paul sets up his ministerial center in the house next door to the synagogue, a move that loses him friends and alienates him from the Jewish population, to say the least. His ministry takes place over only 18 months.
Trouble with the Jews in Corinth lands Paul in court. Providentially, this shrewd proconsul of Achaia, Gallio, cuts the trial short and Paul escapes without harm. At that point he leaves Corinth and vows to arrive in Jerusalem by early the next year to celebrate the Passover. In April of A.D. 52, he fulfills his vow and then begins his Third Missionary journey, finally reaching Ephesus. It was at this time that Apollos enters the Corinthian Church, an eloquent man who only recently learned Christian doctrine of baptism.
While in Ephesus, Paul hears of the tumult within the Corinthian church, and writes his first letter to the Church. This letter is not to be confused with what we now refer to as the First Epistle to the Corinthians, and scholars continue to debate the exact content of this first letter.
Music: Boismortier's Sonata 4 in D Minor - Aria-Affettuoso, from the album 'Six Sonatas for Flute and Violin - Opus 51 - Boismortier' performed by Duo de Bois. www.magnatune.com
Sat, 18 April 2009
Paul's argument in the 11th chapter of Second Corinthians is similar to the one he uses in Galatians against the Judaizers. He writes ''if you accept a different gospel from the one you accepted, you submit to it readily enough.'' He then derides the so-called ''superlative apostles'' and boasts how he provided the gospel free-of-charge out of love for God. He juxtaposes his apostolic efforts with those who do not support themselves with their hands, but who claim to be apostles.
With wit and sarcasm, Paul continues to establish the merits of his ministry versus the failures of these ''superlative apostles.'' His argument then takes on a frantic tone: ''Are they Hebrews? So am I. Are they Israelites? So am I. Are they descendants of Abraham? So am I. Are they servants of Christ? I am a better one--I am talking like a madman--with far greater labors, far more imprisonments, with countless beatings, and often near death.'' He describes the terrible sufferings and beatings he has endured for the mission. Throughout his toil, he also contends with the daily anxiety for the welfare of the churches.
In chapter 12, he reluctantly reveals some of his spiritual revelations he has received. He also gives an account of how ''to keep me from being too elated by the abundance of revelations, a thorn was given me in the flesh, a messenger of Satan, to harass me, to keep me from being too elated. Three times I besought the Lord about this, that it should leave me; but he said to me, 'My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.''' He then resumes his defense of his ministry through the 13th chapter, one that has the utmost credibility. He then closes the letter with exhortations to repentance and holiness.
Music: Boismortier's Sonata 4 in D Minor - Gavotta, from the album 'Six Sonatas for Flute and Violin - Opus 51 - Boismortier' performed by Duo de Bois. www.magnatune.com
Sat, 11 April 2009
A marked shift in topic and tone appears within the last four chapters of Second Corinthians. Regardless of whether or not these chapters were added to the epistle after its original composition, its apostolic authority is unquestioned.
These chapters are a reaction to the Corinthian situation: trouble making evangelists agitating the impressionable church. These missionaries establish themselves by targeting Paul's recent converts and casting doubt upon his credibility. Sarcastically calling them the "super apostles," these bold Christians preach a different gospel than his, one that has a rather Jewish bent. Although we undoubtedly know him as St. Paul, in his time, the apostle's authority was consistently doubted and ridden with turmoil.
The difficulties within the Corinthian church are expounded by the makeup of the congregation: a progressive, almost antinomian faction and a legalistic, Judaizing faction.
In the tenth chapter, he humbly asks, if not begs, the church to reflect on the genuineness and fruitfulness that has always accompanied his ministry. He hopes to reestablish order and will later single out those responsible for creating the troubles between these two groups. Paul will not be put to shame by those who criticize him and addresses their claims with bold strength. His speech was "not eloquent," but this does not necessarily mean he could not command an audience. In the rest of the chapter, he shows the failings of his foes and the strength of his own ministry.
Music: Boismortier's Sonata 2 in E Minor - Gigha, from the album 'Six Sonatas for Flute and Violin - Opus 51 - Boismortier' performed by Duo de Bois. www.magnatune.com
Sat, 4 April 2009
Returning from his quick diversion to stress that God's people must be consecrated to the holy and sacred (cf. 6:14-7:1), Paul writes, ''I have great confidence in you; I have great pride in you; I am filled with comfort. With all our affliction, I am overjoyed'' (7:4). He continues by accounting his troubles in Macedonia and how he received comfort from Titus and the Macedonian church. He recounts how he regreted, at the time, having to write his ''tearful letter'' to the Corinthians, but upon seeing how it moved them to repentance, he no longer has regrets (cf. v. 8). Paul masterfully illustrates how a healthy amount of grief which can lead to repentance, in contrast to the evil of worldly grief (cf. v. 9-11).
To get an insight into the mind of Paul, consider ''So although I wrote to you, it was not on account of the one who did the wrong, nor on account of the one who suffered the wrong, but in order that your zeal for us might be revealed to you in the sight of God. Therefore we are comforted. And besides our own comfort we rejoiced still more at the joy of Titus, because his mind has been set at rest by you all'' (v. 12-13). He used to boast to Titus of his own band's apostolic efforts, and now he boasts in the fruit of Titus' apostolate. He repeats a previous statement to conclude the seventh chapter, ''I rejoice, because I have perfect confidence in you'' (v. 16). His confidence in them, however, will not be nearly as apparent throughout the rest of the epistle.
In the eighth chapter, he addresses the collection to Jerusalem and how the poor Macedonian Christians gave abundantly for the needy within the City of David. He commends the Corinthians to likewise give alms with a number of arguments and illustrations (cf. v. 7 ff.). He then explains that Titus will be arriving shortly to assist with this collection and exhorts them to generosity by adding, ''So I thought it necessary to urge the brethren to go on to you before me, and arrange in advance for this gift you have promised, so that it may be ready not as an exaction but as a willing gift. The point is this: he who sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and he who sows bountifully will also reap bountifully. Each one must do as he has made up his mind, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver. And God is able to provide you with every blessing in abundance, so that you may always have enough of everything and may provide in abundance for every good work.'' (9:5-8). Paul promises that this almsgiving will benefit the saints, the giver, and the glory of God. The abundant charity of the first Christians is a worthy of emulation by Christ's faithful in every age.
Music: Boismortier's Sonata 6 in G Minor - Minoetto I-III, from the album 'Six Sonatas for Flute and Violin - Opus 51 - Boismortier' performed by Duo de Bois. www.magnatune.com