This Weeks Text: 2 Corinthians 5:16-17
Paul wrote 2 Corinthians from Macedonia in the north of Greece after his second visit to Corinth to prepare the church for his third final visit. Paul had decided to phase himself out of his ministry to the provinces surrounding the Aegean Sea (Asia, Macedonia, Achaia) and to establish a new work in Spain at the western extremity of the Empire. This letter and Paul’s proposed farewell visit therefore must be seen within the apostle’s wider missionary plans.
There are major differences of emotional tone between the two surviving letters of Paul to the Corinthians. The first indicates major problems of behavior (e.g. divisions slack moral standards lawsuits unkindness to the poorer or less-gifted members) and of doctrine (e.g. doubts about the coming resurrection of believers). There is evidence that the believers questioned Paul’s abilities and authority. Nevertheless the apostle writes objectively confidently and with his emotions well controlled throughout.
The second letter however is less well arranged than the first and moreover reveals a range of emotional extremes in the author. On the one hand he is overjoyed and has confidence and pride in the Corinthians (7:4) while on the other he is deeply hurt that they are withholding their affection from him (6:12) and that they have to ‘put up’ with him (11:1). Moreover they have been ready to believe a whole range of criticisms against him—of being worldly and irresolute (1:17) of moral cowardice in writing instead of coming (1:23) of his lack of inner strength (4:16) of being demoralized and theologically deviant (4:2) of being an imposter (6:8) of being corrupt and exploitative (7:2) of not being a true minister of Christ (10:7) of being weak in speech when present and powerful only by letter when absent (10:1 10; 11:6 21) of being a fool even mad (11:1 16 23) of breaching convention or of craftiness in declining their financial support (11:7; 12:13–16) and of lacking mystical and miraculous credentials of ministry (12:1 11–12). Throughout this letter Paul is forced to defend his doctrines his ministry and his character. He expresses sorrow that the Corinthians do not reciprocate the love he had for them (6:11–13) and that they do not acknowledge the genuineness of his apostleship and what under God has been achieved by him among them (3:1–3; 12:11–13).
Nevertheless despite the emotions he displays the letter ends in a strong and confident way evidence perhaps of Paul’s God-given resilience.