Summary: A closer look at the relationship between Paul and the Corinthian church is revealing. Motives of ministry that come from God are powerful and effective for the cause of Christ.
True Christian Ministry on the Inside
Verses one and two of chapter 6 are a continuation of verses 20-21 of chapter 5. Also at the end of this chapter, verse one of chapter 7 is part of what’s being said at the end of chapter 6. The truth is, the chapters and verses have butchered this letter! It is a shame that they break the thought up like they do so that the point is lost to the reader who stops at the chapter break.
David Proctor is at home this morning suffering from kidney stones. I taught his class on this same passage and in preparation for it, read the whole letter again.
Here’s the message for today:
Imagine being an apostle and risking your life for the sake of sharing the gospel with a wild and immoral city called Corinth. You were the first one to bring the good news of Jesus Christ into this place and you worked for years laboring night and day giving all you have to convince and convert as many souls as possible to Christ. You’ve spent hours and hours pouring your very life into the lives of these new struggling Christians. They know the Lord but they come with many immoral sinful habits that must be confronted and replaced with holy habits fit for the kingdom of God. You’ve grown to love them, in spite of the difficulty working with them. Perhaps the very pain and grief of giving your life to them has bonded you even closer to them. God has put them on your heart. Now you are away from them for a while, having left certain trusted leaders in charge. They have suffered setbacks and sent you reports with questions and you’ve written them to help them. While you are away some slick false teachers come in among them and try to undermine your work. They accuse you of being weak, and insincere. They say you are not really a true Apostle because you are not one of the 12. They use your past time of unbelief against you. They begin to get a foothold in the hearts of some and start turning the church against not just you, but the gospel you have taught them. They are changing the message, preaching a false Jesus and a false gospel. You hear about it and come to visit them, but it turns into a nightmare of anguish. You have to leave and you write a nasty letter. Then you regret it until you hear that it actually stirred many of their hearts to repentance. Hope returns. You send Titus to find out what is happening while you labor with another church. You can’t stand the wait so you pass up a golden opportunity to share the gospel in Troas and take a trip to Macedonia planning to go there to Corinth and face whatever it takes to set things straight. On the way you meet Titus and he gives you good news. There’s been a stirring recovery. Hope is rising. It’s time to write another letter before making this third visit. You can expect to be received well by many and face rejection by others. You must prepare well. You must recover and reclaim as many as possible! So you sit down to write.
This describes the background and heart of the letter of 2 Corinthians. We’ve been covering it piece by piece. They read it in its entirety. Perhaps that would be a good idea to do here at some point. Since we are unfamiliar with the particulars of that time and place, we need to go through it as we are doing first. But I’ll tell you, once you get a feel for what it must have been like to be these Corinthians and what it was like to be Paul, this letter takes on a whole new and rich meaning! We often read scripture without considering who wrote it and who received it and what purpose brought it about. That has created a lot of false teaching itself. Many people take little snippets of verses from here and there in the Bible and build entire theological structures by them. Many tracts do just that. Instead of reading the Bible to hear what it intended to say, many take pieces of scriptures and create new and false teachings from them. Translations sometimes make things difficult to understand.
Listen to this passage with me as I read it from the King James Version.
11 O ye Corinthians, our mouth is open unto you, our heart is enlarged.
12 Ye are not straitened in us, but ye are straitened in your own bowels.
13 Now for a recompense in the same, (I speak as unto my children,) be ye also enlarged.