Summary: What happens when something goes wrong - does it mean you are bad? What happens when you think you’ve heard God and things don’t work out - does it mean you didn’t hear right? Paul answers both questions in this 1st chapter.
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Most Christians fall under two common misconceptions. The first is that when bad things happen, it means something has gone wrong or that I’ve done something wrong. The second is that when I’m hearing the voice of God to direct me, things will always go right, and if things go wrong then I guess I wasn’t hearing correctly.
Both of these misconceptions are not true – and we’ll find out why as we begin our study of 2nd Corinthians.
Although it is called 2nd Corinthians it is probably the 3rd letter Paul wrote to the church he founded in Corinth. From our study in 1st Corinthians you may remember that the church there was filled with division – as people split up into camps and rallied around people, rather than joining together to serve Christ. The church was filled with carnality and tolerance to blatant sin, and the church was filled with philosophies of the day both pagan and Greek – that misshaped their theology. Some even challenged Paul’s authority as an apostle.
Paul was pretty upset and parts of the 1st Corinthians are pretty blunt. When Paul found out how bad things were he wrote a second letter. It seems that Timothy, a young disciple of Paul’s, was to deliver the letter, then Titus was to stay on at Troas in order to give Paul a report of how the letter was received. But Titus didn’t show, so Paul when on to Macedonia where Titus delivered the news – some in Corinth had accepted Paul’s rebuke – but others were really starting to challenge his Apostleship.
So Paul writes a 3rd of at least 4 letters to the Corinthians.
1:1 Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God, and Timothy our brother,
To the church of God in Corinth, together with all the saints throughout Achaia:
2 Grace and peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.
Since Timothy was with Paul in Corinth, the two together write. Notice what Paul says: “an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God.” Paul didn’t wake up one day and decide to get his PhD in Apostleship – God stopped him on the road to Damascus and personally called him into service. This makes sense in light of the attackers – men who had not been personally visited by the Lord. In fact there were three requirements to be an apostle: you had to have seen the risen Lord Jesus, been called specifically by him, and then perform miracles to attest to your apostleship. Paul met all these.
I want to point out as well that it is not by the will of men that you are called to what God wants you to do. Just because someone says “I think you should do this,” or even “I think God wants you to do this or that.” There is no requirement that you listen. Take godly advice from those whom you respect in the Lord, yes, but you need to seek God for what He is calling you to do, not just fulfill what someone else’s idea of ministry is.
How do you know? Without going into great detail – take what you like to do, what you are good at, and see if God isn’t working through you in that area. Maybe you are a salesperson – you sell used cars. Not everyone thinks that a used car salesman could be used by God – but sales is really just identifying a need, helping the customer to see the need, then filling it. How is that different from sharing the gospel? Now we don’t mislead people or use worldly tactics to fool them into salvation – but you get the idea. Pray about what God has you doing to see if He can use it.
Now this next paragraph gets to our first misconception – that if things hurt or go bad, then I must have done something wrong.
3 Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, 4 who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves have received from God. 5 For just as the sufferings of Christ flow over into our lives, so also through Christ our comfort overflows. 6 If we are distressed, it is for your comfort and salvation; if we are comforted, it is for your comfort, which produces in you patient endurance of the same sufferings we suffer. 7 And our hope for you is firm, because we know that just as you share in our sufferings, so also you share in our comfort.