Setting

Paul has established that the believers in Corinth are partners with him in his sufferings and comfort. In this next part of the letter, Paul makes an appeal to the Corinthians to trust in his sincerity and love. He explains his genuine intentions for his previous change of plans and urges them to forgive the ones who have caused Paul and the brethren pain.

Key Verse

(1:12)

Did You Know...?

  1. Macedonia (1:16) was a Roman province in the Balkan Peninsula. Paul’s first missionary efforts in Macedonia began after he saw a vision in a dream of a Macedonian man calling for help (Acts 16:9–10). There, he and his fellow workers won converts in the cities of Philippi, Thessalonica, and possibly Berea. But wherever they preached they met fierce opposition and were forced to leave (cf. Acts 16:16–17:15). Despite their adversity, the churches in Macedonia excelled in their steadfast faith and generosity (cf. Php 1:3–7; 4:14–18; 1 Thess 1:6–8; 2 Cor 8:1–5; 11:9).
  2. Silvanus (1:19) is the Latin form for the Greek name “Silas.” He was a prophet and a prominent brother in the church in Jerusalem (Acts 15:22, 32). After the Jerusalem council, the church appointed him and Barsabbas to accompany Paul and Barnabas to deliver the council’s decision to all the churches (Acts 15:22–33). Later, Paul chose him to be a fellow missionary (Acts 15:40–18:5).
  3. Seal (1:22): “[S]eals in antiquity were widely used and extremely important in commerce and everyday life. On a document, the seal serves as a signature, guaranteeing its authenticity. Parcels could be sealed to ensure that their contents were not disturbed in transit. The seal itself was made of stone, metal, or ivory, which was then pressed into soft wax or lead to make a distinctive impression. The imprint might bear the name of the owner, a unique symbol, or perhaps the image of a mythological figure or deity. Seals became objects of detailed craftsmanship in the Roman era and commonly imprinted the image of the one to whom they belonged.” [ref]
  4. Guarantee (1:22): The word is a commercial term that signifies 1) a “pledge” which is later returned; 2) a “deposit” which pays part of the total debt and gives a legal claim; or 3) “earnest-money” ratifying a compact. It always implies an act which engages to something bigger. [ref]

Outline

  • Conduct in the World and toward Believers
    (1:12–14)
  • Trustworthiness Despite Change of Plans
    (1:15–22)
  • Reason for Change of Plans
    (1:23–2:4)
  • Forgiving the Offender
    (2:5–11)

General Analysis

  • 1.

    What change took place in Paul’s travel plans?

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    Paul’s original plan was to visit Corinth on the way to Macedonia and return to Corinth before traveling to Judea (1:16). But he decided not to come to Corinth lest his visit would be another painful visit (1:23; 2:1). While the Bible provides little detail about the previous “painful visit,” we can infer that Paul had made a prior visit to Corinth during which some conflict arose between him and some of the believers in Corinth.

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  • 2.

    In what ways does Paul reveal his deep affections for the Corinthian believers?

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    Besides Paul’s explicit words about his abundant love for the Corinthian believers (2:4), we observe numerous clues in this passage that reveal his deep affections for them. Paul takes great pains to convince the Corinthians of his pure intentions (1:12–23). He decided against another visit to Corinth because he wished to spare them of the kind of conflict that occurred previously (1:23–2:1). He even wrote them a letter out of much affliction and anguish of heart and with many tears in the hopes that his next visit would be one of joy. (2:3, 4). Evidently, Paul cares deeply about the mutual bond between him and the Corinthians, and he makes every effort to ensure that this bond is not weakened as a result of misunderstanding or conflict.

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Segment Analysis

  • 1:12–14

    1.

    What kind of boasting does Paul have in mind?

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    Paul mentions two aspects to his boast. The first is the testimony of conscience (v. 12) and the other is the believers (v. 14). Paul and his fellow ministers took pride in their conduct in the world and toward the believers in the sense that they made it a priority to walk in integrity before God and men. They also hope that the believers will boast of the ministers on the day of our Lord Jesus just as the ministers will boast of the believers. In other words, when the Lord comes, the believers will rejoice when seeing that the ministers who have served them receive commendation from the Lord, and the ministers will rejoice when they see that the believers they have labored to serve also receive commendation from the Lord.

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  • 2.

    What does it mean to conduct oneself not by earthly wisdom but by the grace of God? (v. 12)

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    The Greek word for “earthly” means “fleshly” or “human.” While it sometimes has a neutral sense of everyday things, it can also carry negative connotations such as following man’s ways and thoughts rather than God’s (cf. 1 Cor 3:3–4). To conduct oneself by earthly wisdom has a negative sense here, referring to trusting in the education, experience, and accomplishment that society esteems. On the contrary, to conduct oneself by the grace of God is to aim to please God and to depend on Him for guidance and help.

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  • 3.

    How can we conduct ourselves in simplicity and godly sincerity?

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    “Simplicity” denotes being without guile (e.g. “healthy” in Mt 6:22), sincere, or generous (e.g. “generosity” in 2 Cor 8:2). To conduct oneself in simplicity and godly sincerity is to be completely honest as God would expect. The opposite of such conduct is to be cunning and distort God’s word for one’s own advantage (2 Cor 2:17; 4:2). Whether it is in our daily interactions with others, our relationships, or our ministry, we must be careful not to do anything with ulterior motive or hidden agenda.

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  • 4.

    What is Paul’s point about his letter in verse 13?

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    Just as Paul and his fellow workers have conducted themselves in simplicity and godly sincerity, they are now writing the Corinthians with the same kind of honesty. They are being open with the believers, not hiding behind obscure words or secret intentions. Paul hopes that the believers will come to the same conclusion.

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  • 1:15–22

    5.

    How does Paul convince his readers that he was not vacillating when he made his plans?

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    Paul reminds the Corinthians that his words to them have not been ambivalent or untrustworthy (v. 18). Furthermore, Jesus Christ, the Son of God, whom Paul had proclaimed to the believers, is always faithful (v. 19–20). Not only so, God has personally confirmed the gospel of Jesus Christ by giving them His Holy Spirit as a guarantee (v. 21–22). All of these are testimonies that Paul, a minister of the gospel of God, is not frivolous or double-minded towards the believers.

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  • 6.

    Explain the following words about Jesus Christ: a. It is always Yes in him; b. All the promises of God are Yes in Christ; c. Through him we utter our Amen to God.

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    a. Our Lord Jesus is the first and the last. He is living and he holds all power and authority (Rev 1:17–18). He is also the founder and perfecter of our faith (Heb 12:2). He is the same yesterday and today and forever (Heb 13:8). He is worthy of our complete trust.

    b. God’s promises are fulfilled in Jesus Christ (cf. Acts 13:32–33; 2 Tim 1:1). In Christ we have assurance that God’s promises are true, and we can receive these promises by putting our faith in the Lord Jesus (cf. Gal 3:14; Eph 3:6).

    c. The word “amen” is from the Hebrew word that means “verily, truly.” The Hebrew word, in turn, relates to words that denote faithfulness. To utter our Amen to God may be understood as our heartfelt response to God for His faithfulness. Because through Christ God has fulfilled His promises to us, we glorify God by praising Him and trusting in His promises.

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  • 7a.

    When does God anoint, set a seal on, and give His Spirit to believers?

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    Anointing is used figuratively with reference to the bestowment of the Holy Spirit upon Jesus (Lk 4:18; Acts 10:38). In Ephesians Paul writes that believers are sealed with the Holy Spirit (Eph 1:13; 4:30). In the present verse (2 Cor 1:22), we read that God gives His Holy Spirit in the believers’ heart as a guarantee. This statement coincides with Ephesians 1:13–14. Therefore, in 2 Corinthians 1:21–22, Paul is alluding to receiving the promised Holy Spirit. This event takes place when God pours out His Holy Spirit on the believer. It is a tangible experience in which the believer is given the ability to speak in tongues (Acts 2:4; 10:44–46; 11:15; 19:6).

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  • 7b.

    How is the message of vv. 21–22 encouraging for believers?

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    The fact that God has chosen us to believe in the Lord Jesus Christ and poured out His promised Holy Spirit on us as a seal and guarantee is a powerful testimony that our hope in Christ is sure.

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  • 1:23–2:4

    8.

    In what manner ought a minister relate to believers? (1:24)  

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    Like our Lord Jesus, a minister of the gospel is to serve believers rather than be served (Mt 20:28; Mk 10:45; 1 Pet 5:1–3). He has only the believers’ interest at heart. His goal is for them to grow and rejoice in their faith and for them to stand before the Lord at His coming (cf. Phil 1:25; 1 Thess 2:9).

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  • 9.

    What did Paul hope to accomplish by writing a previous letter and delaying his visit to Corinth?

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    We have no details about the issue at Corinth that had brought so much grief. But it seems that Paul chose to delay his visit and write the Corinthians a letter instead to correct the problems so that when he does come, it would not be another painful visit. The said letter might have been quite harsh, and hence the words, “if I cause you pain” (2:2) and “not to cause you pain” (2:4).

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  • 10.

    How can grief, anguish, and tears be a sign of our love for others?

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    When we care deeply about someone, their mistakes and struggles cause us great pain. Even as we try to guide them, we worry that our words and actions may hurt them. All these conflicting emotions flow out of our love for them.

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  • 2:5–11

    11a.

    Assuming that this segment is related to the “painful visit” Paul mentions in 2:1, what situation do you think Paul is alluding to?

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    Reading between the lines, we may surmise that a certain member in Corinth has committed a sin or an offense that has brought much grief to the church and to Paul. Subsequently, the church enforced some disciplinary action against this offending member.

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  • 11b.

    What is Paul urging the believers do?

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    Paul urges the believers to forgive and comfort the offender and to reaffirm their love for him (2:7–8).

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  • 11c.

    What scheme of Satan should we be aware of if a similar situation arises in the church today?

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    In his letter James explains to his readers that jealousy and selfish ambition is earthly, unspiritual, and demonic, and they result in disorder. But the wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, open to reason, full of mercy and good fruits, impartial and sincere (Jas 3:13–18). Based on his exhortation we may deduce that the work of Satan involves strife and division among believers. If anyone is caught in any transgression, those who are spiritual should restore him in a spirit of gentleness (Gal 6:1). Punishing the erring one without any mercy or gentleness may result in strife and schism, leaving Satan a foothold.

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