At the end of Paul’s second letter to the Corinthians a few things are clear: circumstances in Corinth are such that Paul feels the need to continue defending his status as an apostle; he continues to push back against charges of enriching himself; and he is dismayed that the Corinthians still have not repented of their “impurity, sexual immorality, and sensuality.”
Much has been written about the composition of 2 Corinthians. Some deduce that this is really a compilation of letters that Paul wrote to Corinth – that this is Paul’s side of a correspondence of which the Corinthian side has been lost. The text itself neither demands nor denies this conclusion, but it is more than mere intellectual curiosity: Paul appears to be inundated with information from his “children” in Corinth, and very little of it has been pleasing.
When you hear Paul’s frustration today, remember what they heard in his first letter:
“For I decided to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ and him crucified… If anyone among you thinks that he is wise in this age, let him become a fool that he may become wise… For the kingdom of God does not consist in talk but in power… You are not your own, for you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body… For now we see only a reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known… Be on your guard; stand firm in the faith; be courageous; be strong. Do everything in love.”
And recall what he’s written already in this letter: “In Christ we speak before God with sincerity, as those sent from God… We have renounced secret and shameful ways; we do not use deception, nor do we distort the word of God… We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed… Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here!... Our desire is not that others might be relieved while you are hard pressed, but that there might be equality… ‘Let the one who boasts boast in the Lord.’ For it is not the one who commends himself who is approved, but the one whom the Lord commends.”
These letters – the second one especially – are often raw and emotional. They are also totally within the range of Biblical expectations: they draw on historical and eternal themes to instruct the local and personal, just like we saw in the law, prophets, and writings. Consider where Paul has been, what he has seen, what he has sacrificed, and what he has offered to this church. How should he respond?
Our verse for this week is Deuteronomy 6:5: You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might.
2 Corinthians 12 and 13. Now let’s read it!
You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might.