2nd CORINTHIANS: The Character of Christ's Servants
The Corinthian church wasn’t healthy before, but it seems something even worse happened between the time Paul wrote 1st and 2nd Corinthians. When Paul wrote 1st Corinthians, his relationship with the Corinthian church seemed intact. In 2nd Corinthians, Paul is dealing with the aftermath of a pretty serious conflict. What happened?
The Corinthian culture resembled our “selfie generation” quite well. The Corinthians were driven by worldly success and self-promotion. They loved competing, succeeding, and promoting the winner. Now, it seems this mindset could put them in danger of skewing how they followed Christ. This was especially evident in the types of leaders the Corinthians embraced. Who doesn’t love confident, powerful leaders who seem like they have the whole world in their hands?
Apparently, not Paul. Paul was the poor, suffering man who emulated the crucified Lord in his ministry. The Corinthians loved teachers who used their ministry as a stage for personal success, but Paul boasted of nothing but his weaknesses. Soon enough, the Corinthians began accepting intruding “super apostles” to the exclusion of Paul. Sadly, when the Corinthians rejected this “weak” apostle, they were rejecting Christ and the message of the cross. Paul writes 2nd Corinthians after reconciliation has already begun.
Second Corinthians is often neglected since many read it as a defense of Paul’s apostleship. We don’t have questions about Paul’s apostleship, so the letter feels irrelevant to us. Reading 2nd Corinthians primarily as Paul’s defense of himself is seriously misguided. “Have you been thinking all along that we have been defending ourselves to you? It is in the sight of God that we have been speaking in Christ, and all for your upbuilding, beloved,” (2 Corinthians 12:19 ESV). Paul does explain why he does what he does, but his primary goal is not to defend himself. His goal is to humbly show the Corinthians what it looks like to walk in the path of the cross. Paul is trying to motivate the Corinthians to join him in a life of weakness for God’s glory. Here are our objectives for the quarter:
- Look at 2nd Corinthians as a whole. Paint a picture of the conflict - past and present.
- Understand the flow of this seemingly erratic letter.
- Understand what it means for Paul (and for us) to live a cruciform (cross-shaped) life.
- Learn how to perceive afflictions in light of the cross.
- Learn to see our relationships and entire lives in light of the cross.