2 Corinthians 1
There’s a reason I didn’t visit you
Hello again1 From: Paul, picked by God to work as an apostle of Jesus the Messiah. And from our dear colleague Timothy.
To: God’s church in Corinth and to all God’s people scattered throughout the Roman province of Achaia. 2 I hope you experience the kindness and peace of God our Father and of our leader Jesus, the Messiah.
God shows us how to comfort others3 We owe thanks to God. He’s the father of our leader, Jesus the Messiah. He’s the father of mercy, too. And he’s the God of comfort. 4 When troubles come, God is already there to comfort us. He does it to show us how to comfort others in trouble. That way, we can comfort others the same way God comforted us. 5 It’s our fault the Messiah suffered. If we poured our guilt into a bucket, it would fill up and run over. Yet in return the Messiah gave us a gift: comfort. If we poured all the comfort he gives us into a bucket, it would fill up and run over. 6 When my colleagues and I face tough times, it’s for your sake. It’s because we want you to get in on this comfort, along with salvation. When we’re comforted, it’s for your sake. We want you to see that when you face tough times like we’ve experienced—and you do it with patience and endurance—you’ll be comforted, too. 7 We have high hopes for you, and we’re confident about them. I’ll tell you why. It’s because even though you share in our sufferings, you also share in the comfort that the Messiah gives us.
Paul’s great escape8 Dear family, I don’t want to keep you in the dark about how I suffered in Asia. The pressure there was too much for me. I couldn’t handle it. I thought it would kill me. 9 I kid you not, I felt like someone had sentenced me to death. That’s when I decided to let go. I stopped trusting in myself. I started trusting in the God who can raise the dead. 10 He saved us from the brink of death. He’ll keep on rescuing us. We’re counting on him to save us once again. 11 You have a role to play, too: pray. If you pray, a lot of people will have good reason to celebrate. They’ll know that their prayers encouraged God to treat us kindly.
Paul: “Honestly, I’m honest”12 I want to tell you about how we conducted ourselves in the world, and especially with you. We kept it simple and sincere, like God does. I take pride in knowing I can say that with a clear conscience. We didn’t need to borrow any philosophy or wisdom from this world. God kindly gave us everything we needed. 13 There’s nothing in the letters I write you that’s over your head. No need to read between the lines, either. What I write is simple enough to read and understand. I can only hope that someday you’ll understand it fully. 14 For now, you may only partly understand what I tell you. But when our leader Jesus comes back, I’m sure you’ll be as proud of us as we are of you.
Why I didn’t come to see you15 I’m so confident of this that I decided to double dip you in a visit. I was going to spend time with you twice on my next mission trip. 16 I planned to visit you on my way to Macedonia, and then again on my way back. After that second visit, you could have sent me on my way to Judea. 17 You don’t think I made these plans lightly, do you? When I plan a mission trip, do you really think I put together an itinerary the way people of the world do, saying “Yes, yes. Let’s go here,” when you know that later you’ll find an excuse to say, “No, no. That doesn’t sound like a good idea”? 18 As surely as you can trust God, trust this. When I tell you “Yes,” I don’t mean “No.” 19 Silas, Timothy, and I taught you about Jesus Christ, the Son of God. Jesus wasn’t a person who said “Yes” when he meant “No.” He is and always has been God’s “Yes” to the world. 20 All God’s promises are fulfilled in Jesus, as God’s “Yes” to everyone. Can I get an Amen? That’s an appropriate way for us to express some gratitude for what our wonderful God has done through Jesus. 21 It is God who gives me and my colleagues the strength we need to stand with Christ. He does the same for you, too. He personally chose each one of us. 22 We belong to God now. He paid us a deposit as a guarantee: he gave us his Spirit to guide our hearts as we make decisions. 23 As God is my witness, I decided not to visit you again because I wanted to spare you. 24 I don’t mean to imply that we’re in charge of your faith. Our job is to help you find joy in your faith. You’re already doing great at standing firm in the faith.
Apostle means “official messenger,” such as a delegate or an ambassador sent to deliver a message. The title “apostle” came to mean disciples hand-picked by Jesus to tell his story and spread his teachings. The title usually referred to the 12 original disciples of Jesus and to Paul, who met Jesus in a miraculous encounter while Paul was traveling to Damascus to arrest Christians (Acts 9:5).
Timothy was an associate who often traveled with Paul and helped him in his ministry. Paul wrote the books of 1, 2 Timothy to him, revealing that Paul thought of him as a son.
Corinth, in what is now Greece, was a busy transportation hub about a two-day walk south of Athens. Built on a narrow strip of land, it had nearby ports in two seas: the Aegean Sea in the east and the Ionian Sea in the west.
Achaia was a Roman province in what is now southern Greece. Corinth and Athens were both in that province.
For “kindness,” Paul uses the Greek word charis, often translated as “grace.
The original Greek word for “leader” is kyrios, often translated “lord” or “master.”
Paul doesn’t bother to explain what kind of suffering he experienced. But many Bible experts say he was probably talking about the riot in Ephesus that drove him out of town (Acts 19:23–20:1). It seems to fit the timeline because in his first letter to the church in Corinth he described Ephesus as an opportunity and a risk: “I’ve got a ministry opportunity here that’s too good to pass up, in spite of the opposition I’m facing” (1 Corinthians 16:9).
In Roman times Asia did not refer to the Far East. It was the territory on what is now Turkey’s west coast. It was home to one of the largest cities in the Roman Empire: Ephesus. Paul spent three years there, getting the church started. That’s longer than he is known to have spent anywhere else. The runner-up was Corinth: 1½ years.
More literally, “We acted with simplicity and sincerity.” The Greek word for ‘simplicity, aplotaiti (aplothti), can also mean “purity.” Some Bible translations use the word “holiness” (New American Standard Bible).
Macedonia was a region in what is now northern Greece and the Republic of Macedonia, which is just north of Greece. Thessalonica was about 300 miles (480 km) north of Corinth, by land, and about 400 miles (645 km) mainly by sea. The trip by land, at 20 miles a day, may have taken around 15 days. By sea, sailing at about 4-5 knots, it could have taken about four days.
This may have been a polite way for Paul to invite Christians in Corinth to help him get ready for the trip back to Jerusalem. They could have helped find a ship, make the reservation, put together a care package of food and clothing.
Paul used the Greek version of Silas’ name: Silvanus.
Some Bible experts say Paul may have been referring to God sending Jesus to save people from the harm that sin causes. God sent his Son on that mission trip with a “Yes.” There was not even the faintest possibility of a “No.”
As usual, Paul begins his letter by identifying himself as a minister “picked by God to work as an apostle of Jesus the Messiah” (1:1). Honestly, that sounds a little bit like bragging. Why do you think he typically begins his letters this way?
When Paul finishes an opening greeting in his letters, he generally follows it with a note of gratitude for the people he’s writing. Not in this letter. Instead, he jumps to what some Bible experts describe as a benediction—a prayer of thanks, in this case for God and for the comfort God offers people in times of suffering. We can only guess why Paul starts his letter this way, leaving out the expression of thanks for the people in Corinth. What are some reasons you think he might have done that?
Paul seems to say that prayer can help rescue a person from suffering. He encourages the people at Corinth to pray for him and his mission team. He says that when the people pray for them, “They’ll know that their prayers encouraged God to treat us kindly” (1:11). Do you think God needs us to encourage him to treat people kindly?
Paul seems to begin answering questions the people of Corinth may have raised in a letter they sent to him. Apparently, one of the complaints they leveled is that they couldn’t understand what he was writing. He responds by assuring the people that he’s a man of integrity who is passing along God’s message, keeping it “simple and sincere, like God does…. What I write is simple enough to read and understand. I can only hope that someday you’ll understand it fully” (1:12-13). What do you think of Paul’s answer?
The big complaint Paul deals with in this chapter seems to be that the people of Corinth said they couldn’t trust what Paul said. That’s because he had promised to come and visit them, but then he changed his mind. Paul assured them that he’s not a flip-flopper who says he’ll do one thing when he plans to do something else. He means what he says. But apparently the relationship between Paul and the church in Corinth got so dicey that he felt a personal visit would only make things worse. Do you think that’s a legitimate reason for not showing up in person? Or is it just an excuse?
LIFE APPLICATION. Paul said, “When troubles come, God is already there to comfort us” (1:4). How do you think God comforts us, given the fact that we have never looked him in the eyes or shook his hand?