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The Second Epistle to the Corinthians
Explanation of the Letter(contd.)
1- Introduction of the Letter:
2- Back to the young man who had done wrong (1Cor. 5: 1-8):
3- On his meeting with Titus who brought to him the Church news (2:12-17)
Topics 1-3 have been previously explained in part 1 (SNOB # 36).
4- A Spiritual Letter (Ch. 3):
Trying to have his relation with the Church of Corinth in the right way, St. Paul says that he does not need to praise himself, or present letters of recommendations to them, or have someone recommending them to him. He tells them “You are our epistle, written in our hearts, known and read by all men” (3:2). Viewed in another way, “Clearly you are an epistle of Christ, ministered by us, written not with ink but by the Spirit of the living God, not on tablets of stone (like the Ten Commandments) but on tablets of flesh, that is, of the heart” (3:3).
He lays stress on the work of the grace of God in this ministry: “Not that we are sufficient of ourselves to think of anything as being from ourselves, but our sufficiency (competence) is from God. This ministry is not just words and letters, but the work of the Spirit of God. He has made us competent as ministers of the new covenant, “not of the letter but of the Spirit; for the letter kills, but the Spirit gives life” (3: 4-6).
Here St. Paul contrasts between the Ten Commandments which were given in engraved letters on stone (he calls it the ministry of death and condemnation), and how it “was glorious, so that the children of Israel could not look steadily at the face of Moses because of the glory of his countenance (face)” (3: 7); and the ministry of the New Testament which he calls “the ministry of the Spirit” and “ministry of righteousness” which excels in its glory, according to the surpassing of the lasting (“what remains”, Christ) over the fading (“passing away”, Moses). He recalls what happened at that time, and how Moses had to put a veil on his face when he descended from the mountain. This veil (representing fanaticism, pride, or lack of understanding) is still placed on the hearts of the Israelites when they read the Old Testament. This veil will not be removed except when they return to the Lord. In contrast, the believers of the New Testament look at the face of God “with unveiled faces, beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord (Jesus), are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory, just as by the Spirit of the Lord” (3: 7 – 18).
5- We Preach Christ not Ourselves (4: 1 –6):
St. Paul talks about his ministry saying that he refused to do what can be shameful and has to be kept secret, and did not use deception, nor distort the word of God, but intended to manifest the truth to be accepted by everyman’s conscience. He says that if our gospel is rejected, it is rejected by those who are perishing, whose conscience is blinded by Satan, “the god of this age”, so that the glory of Christ, revealed by the light of the gospel, does not shine on them. I, and those who are with me, “do not preach ourselves but Christ Jesus the Lord, and ourselves your bondservants for Jesus’ sake”.
6- The Source of Power is from God and not from Us (4: 7–18):
He continues: We are earthly vessels containing a treasure, which is “the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ” (4:6). This means that God, not us, is the source of power. His evidence is this “We are hard pressed on every side, yet not crushed; we are perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not forsaken (from God); stuck down (to earth), but not destroyed (we will rise again); always carrying about in the body the dying of the Lord Jesus (in persecution), that the life of Jesus also may also be manifested in our body. For we who live are always delivered to death (denying the lusts of the flesh) for Jesus’ sake, that the life of Jesus (the new life) also may be manifested in our mortal flesh (dead to the world, or suffering body). So then, death is working in us, but life in you” (7:8–12). Because we know “that He who raised the Lord Jesus (from the dead), will also raise us up with Jesus, and will present us with you (in his presence, in the last day)” (4:7-14).
Therefore, we shall never fail. “Even though our outward man (the body) is perishing (wasting away, getting weaker), yet the inward man (the spirit) is being renewed day by day” (4:16). And if our vision extends to the far horizon “our light affliction, which is but for a moment, is working for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory, while we do not look at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen. For the things which are seen are temporary, but what are not seen are eternal.” (4:17,18). As it is written in the epistle to the Hebrews regarding Moses, that “he endured as seeing Him who is invisible” (Heb. 11:27).
7- We Live by Faith and not by Sight (5: 1–10):
St. Paul continues to lift up the sight of the Corinthians, and urges them to conduct themselves by faith and not by sight. He calls the body “our earthly tent” which is temporary, and when it is destroyed by death, we will receive the body of resurrection, which is eternal, and is made by God and not by man. While we are in the present body “we groan, earnestly desiring … being burdened” not to remove our tent and become naked, but to dress over it “our heavenly dwelling”, so that what is mortal may be swallowed up by life. This is the plan of God who has given us here the Holy Spirit as a guarantee (or deposit) for eternal life (5: 1-5).
As long as we are “at home in the body” we are “absent (away) from the Lord”, but because we live by faith and not by sight “We are confident, yes, well pleased rather to be absent from the body and to be present with the Lord” (6-8). “Therefore we make it our aim … to be well pleasing to Him” knowing that “we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, that each one may receive (what he deserves for) the things done in the body, … whether good or bad” (9,10).
8- God Reconciled us in His Son and Called us to the Ministry of Reconciliation (5: 11-21):
Again St. Paul corrects the relation between him and the Corinthians, directing them to the person of Christ. Concerning him, he does not want to be praised but that they change their view of him, to defend him against his critics. If it is said of him that he is out of his mind, then it is because of the holy zeal for the glory of God. If it is said of him that he is in his right mind, it is for serving them. The highest goal is to be bound by the love of Christ (11-14) who “died for all, that those who live should no longer live for themselves, but for Him who died for them and rose again” (15). If someone has known Christ in the flesh (during His life on earth) and is proud of this knowledge, Christ is no more in our midst in the flesh, but He is above and with us to the end of ages. “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new” (17).
God has reconciled us to Himself in Jesus Christ, not counting men’s sin against them. He has also given us the ministry of reconciliation. Therefore, “we are ambassadors of Christ, as though God were pleading through us” (18–22). In the name of Christ we invite you to come in repentance and reconcile with God, “For He made Him (Jesus) who knew no sin to be sin for us (He carried our sins, 1Pet. 2:24), that we might become the righteousness of God (become justified) in Him” (20, 21).
9- Now it is an Acceptable Time … Now is the Day of Salvation (6:1, 2):
As ambassadors of Christ and fellow workers (1Cor. 3:9) in his vineyard, we ask you to respond to the invitation, and do not waste God’s grace. If the prophecy says, “In an acceptable time I have heard you, and in the day of salvation I have helped you” (Is 49: 8), it is now an acceptable time and a day of salvation. You should not ignore such a great salvation (Heb. 2:3).
10- Consequences of Serving Christ (6: 3-10):
As “ministers of God”, we are careful not to offend anyone “so that our ministry may not be blamed”. We are patient in hardships, troubles, and distresses, enduring stripes, imprisonments, and riots (tumults), “in labors, in sleeplessness, in fastings; by purity, by knowledge, by longsuffering, by kindness, by the Holy Spirit, by sincere love; by the word of truth, by the power of God; by the armor of righteousness (Eph. 6:10-18) on the right and on the left (in offense and defense)” (5-7). We are accepting all what comes upon us: honor and dishonor, good or bad reports. We are regarded as imposters yet we are truthful, as unknown yet known, threatened by death, yet we are alive, being disciplined yet not condemned. We look as sorrowful, yet we are always rejoicing. We live as poor, yet we enrich many (through the grace of Christ). As if we do not own anything, yet we own everything (the knowledge of Christ and His fellowship, Compare with what St. Paul wrote in 1Cor. 4: 9-13).
11- Beware of Fellowship with the Wicked (6: 11 – 7:1):
I am talking with you the, people of Corinth, with honest words and openness of heart. I wish your heart would be open too. It is also required from you – in order to protect your faith and not to be influenced by others – not to have strong ties (fellowship; yoked: same as two bulls are under the same yoke in the field to plow the earth) with unbelievers who are idol worshipers, because righteousness and wickedness do not agree together, neither light and darkness, same as there is no agreement between Christ and the devil. You are the temple of God and His people (match with 1Cor. 3:16, 6:19, Eph. 2:21, 22), as the divine inspiration has said throughout the ages (Exodus 29:45, Leviticus 26:12, Jeremiah 31:32, 32:38, Ezekiel 11:20, 36:28, Zechariah 8:8). For this reason “Come out from among them, and be separate, says the Lord. Do not touch what is unclean, and I will receive you” (see Is. 52:11). At that time, declares the Lord, “I will be a Father to you, and you shall be My sons and daughters” (see Jeremiah 31:1, 9; Rev. 21:7). “Therefore, having these promises, beloved, let us cleanse ourselves from all filthiness of the flesh and spirit, perfecting holiness in the fear of God” (7:1).
12- His Joy for Their Conversion, Repentance, and Love (7: 2- 16):
I am asking that you accept me because I “wronged no one … corrupted (hurt) no one … cheated no one”. I do not mean to hurt your feelings, because you are in my heart and my destiny is bound to yours: I live with you, or die with you (2-4).
(He then gets closer by praising them): I trust you, and I take pride in you. What I heard concerning you has filled me with comfort and joy. I was depressed when I came to Macedonia, surrounded by conflicts and fear; but when Titus came with news of comfort and joy, of your longing for me, your deep sorrow, your obedience and your zeal for me, this has comforted me and made me rejoice even more. If I have made you sorry by my first letter “only for a while”, I do not regret it, but truly I rejoice because “your sorrow led to repentance ... For godly sorrow produces repentance leading to salvation, not to be regretted, but the sorrow of the world (that is the sorrow caused by material loss, worries and matters of the flesh) produces death” (9,10). This godly sorrow has produced in you eagerness (to try and to do) indignation (from the one who offended), alarm (from division), zeal (for the unity and solidarity of the Church), longing (to those who serve you). Your innocence from what was said about you was revealed. If I have written to you, it was not to condemn anyone but to show my concern for you. What Titus brought to me that “his spirit has been refreshed by all of you”, and how you did receive him in fear and trembling, assured me that I was not exaggerating in my confidence in you and in boasting about you in everything (11–16).
(To be continued)
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