Lesson 41: Introduction to SECOND CORINTHIANS
Review: Acts 15:1-35, Acts chapter 19, I Corinthians
Review Acts 15:1-35, Acts. 19, I Corinthians. Paul's Missionary Journey Epistles. This is lesson #41. Welcome again to our study! And, welcome to Second Corinthians! Now, my first recommendation as we begin to focus in on the book of Second Corinthians is to go back and replay lesson #17 and lesson #18, the introduction to First Corinthians - then maybe do a quick review of First Corinthians on your own. The more you know about these things, the geographic location, the city itself, the Corinthian congregation, the problems of that congregation and the commands and recommendations Paul, the apostle, had made to encourage them and help them overcome evil and restore true Christianity; the better equipped you'll be to deal with and understand the book of Second Corinthians; but, beyond that and more importantly still, you'll be more able to bring it down home (so-to-speak), i.e., understand how this book applies to us. What does it mean in our lives? And as you consider that, (#2) may I encourage you once again to enroll more people in these correspondence courses. Some of your friends and neighbors will enjoy and appreciate these lessons. Please take the time to call them on the telephone. Write them a letter. Go visit them. Encourage them to study. Tell them what you have learned. Show them the tapes and paper work. Give them an enrollment card. Guide them in enrolling in the right courses. They will thank you for it. Think how much Bible study you could instigate if you were to enroll one person per week for the next year. Will you help? Please do! Help us get these lessons to others. We need your help.
I trust you have reviewed, at my suggestion, both the introduction and contents of the book we call First Corinthians. With that background fresh in mind, let me draw your attention to that day in Ephesus when Paul's three brothers in Christ, Stephanas, Fortunatus and Achaicus, departed from Ephesus. We have said Stephanas was one of the first converts in and around Corinth. Paul had baptized this man with his own hands (I Cor. 1:16). Paul must have accompanied these men to the seaside and waved good-bye as they went up the gangplank and as their ship lifted the anchor and began to hoist up those big flopping sails that eased the vessel westward out of the harbor of Ephesus. A fourth man on that ship, very dear to Paul, was probably Titus, a gospel preacher younger than Paul; but, boarding that ship as Paul's messenger to the Corinthian church. This was undoubtedly the same Titus, who-has as a young Greek man (more than 10 years before) walked from Antioch of Syria to Jerusalem (over 300 miles) with Paul and Barnabas concerning the circumcision dispute that arose in the Antioch church. Do you remember the First few verses of Acts ch. 15 and the first few verses in Galatians ch. 2? You might want to re-read that. Paul, in this book we call Second Corinthians, (8:23) refers to Titus as, "my partner and fellow helper." In the hands and possession of Titus or possibly one of the other three men, as that ship moved westward that day, was very likely the message and an original copy of what we call The Letter of First Corinthians.
Now, try just a moment, for the sake of insight, to tune in Paul's thoughts as he strolled back toward the school of one Tyrannus there in Ephesus that day, keeping hi mind the description in Acts 19:9. Burned into Paul's memory above everything else must have been their brief fervent prayer together at the seaport of Ephesus that morning; first, that these men have a safe trip back to Corinth and second, that the problems of the Corinthian congregation be resolved speedily and in the best interest of all and for the salvation of every member in that congregation. Then, looming above all this, must have been the $64,000 question in Paul's mind: will the Corinthian brethren obey that epistle that Titus was carrying? Will they correct then- marriage problems? Will they disfellowship those who insist on illicit sexual and immoral conduct? Will they separate their love feast from the Lord's supper? Will they greet each other with a holy kiss and breakdown the factional barriers that exist? How are they going to react to my letter? Will they take it constructively or will the rogues, the frauds and the fakes use it to finish up and destroy that congregation and persecute those that are the Lord's disciples in Corinth? As Paul went to bed that night he must have prayed and poured over the same thoughts again. As the days went by he must have become more and more eager for some word from the Corinthian church.
Paul had planned to stay at Ephesus until Pentecost (I Cor. 16:8). So, the letter of First Corinthians must have been written in late winter or very early spring of that year, probably A.D. 57. Paul was at Ephesus approximately three years, we learn in Acts 20:31. However, Paul's plans to stay in Ephesus a few more months or at least a few more weeks were soon crushed. The big riot brought on by the silversmith union, makers of the idol Diana (described in Acts 19:23-41, the last 18 or 19 verses of that chapter) soon ensued and Paul considered himself fortunate to escape alive. Read the first verse of Acts ch. 20 and then read v.8 hi the first chapter here hi II Corinthians, where Paul, himself, alluded back to that incident. Those beasts Paul were fighting with at Ephesus (I Cor. 15:32) finally made their attack. Please read or re-read those verses right now. So, the bottom line is Paul left Ephesus undoubtedly before Pentecost. He first went to Troas (city #23 on your map-worksheet). This is the city where Paul was when the Macedonian call came, you will remember, several years before; back during the second missionary journey (Acts 16:8ff). Just for perspective: this is still about a year before the Eutychus incident that Luke described in the first 12 verses of Acts ch. 20, which took place at Troas, also you'll remember. But when Paul made that quick exit from Ephesus and arrived hi Troas in the spring of A.D. 57; Paul found much opportunity for teaching and preaching there. Paul describes this occasion in v. 12-13 of ch. 2; here in II Corinthians. Paul said, "I came to Troas to preach Christ's gospel, and a door was opened unto me of the Lord..." At Troas, Paul waited for Titus to return from Corinth. Paul's anxiety about the Corinthian mess must have been bearing heavily upon him. For Paul said hi the next verse, "I had no rest in my spirit ," i.e., at Troas. Then Paul gave the reason: "because I found not Titus my brother; but taking my leave of them, I went from thence into Macedonia." Thafs II Cor. 2:13.
So, after Titus didn't show up at the expected time; Paul admits that he became somewhat despondent Thus, before Titus arrived, mostly out of anxiety it would appear; Paul decided to go on into Macedonia. Where hi Macedonia? We do not know. Obviously it was Philippi, Thessalonica or Berea; where Paul had planted churches on the second missionary journey. Paul may have visited all three congregations, we don't know. And, so far as we know, this was the first time Paul had been back to visit those congregations and the Christians there: Lydia, the Philippian jailer, Jason and others; people very dear to Paul's heart. Paul had communicated often. Several allusions are made to messengers and we have two books (or letters) that he wrote to the Thessalonian brethren back when he was at Corinth. We've been through those letters. You know that story, right? However, Paul had decided not to go to Corinth until he had given that congregation time and space enough to consider and obey before he arrived. Here in II Cor. 2:1, Paul told the Corinthians, "I determined this with myself, that I would not come again to you hi heaviness. For if I make you sorry, who is he then that maketh me glad...?"
Somewhere in Macedonia, sometime that summer, that young Gentile gospel preacher, named Titus, finally caught up with Paul. Can you imagine the conversation that night? For several months, Paul heard nothing from his brethren hi Corinth as he preached in Troas and the towns of Macedonia. However, get this, Titus carried good news. The Corinthians had repented, got their act together and were trying to obey the apostle's instruction, sent via that letter, we call Fust Corinthians. Here in this letter (7:5-6); Paul related this: "when we were come into Macedonia, our flesh had not rest, but we were troubled on every side; without were fightings, within were fears. Nevertheless, God, that comforteth those that are cast dow, comforted us by the coming of Titus..." Then in the next verse, Paul said, "he [i.e., Titus] was comforted in you, when he told us your earnest desire, your mourning, your fervent mind toward me; so that I rejoiced the more." Thus, it is obvious from reading this book; Paul, that day, must have sat down with pen and ink and manufactured that inspired scroll from whence cometh our book of Second Corinthian. Paul immediately sent this letter on to Corinth from some place hi Macedonia by the hands of this young Greek preacher, Titus and two other brothers, not identified by name.
Now, for the time we have left; while Titus and the other brothers are delivering this letter that we call Second Corinthians and before you and I begin to read from that book where Paul began to spill his sentimentalities and dispel his anxieties; let's try to get a little more perspective and insight into the circumstances, as they apparently existed at Corinth and then finally, lefs look at Paul's style and why Paul apparently structured this letter as he did. First, you must realize what we have said about repentance at Corinth applied to the majority. Nevertheless, some at Corinth continued to openly, defiantly and very vocally opposed and criticized Paul. Possibly some in that latter group were of the Greek philosopher-type which likely included those who refused to believe in a resurrection of the dead as mentioned in I Cor. ch. 15. However, some in that group and perhaps the ring leaders of the defiant group were the so-called Judaizing teachers that by that time were apparently spreading widely over the empire. Let me briefly review the doctrine of the Judaizing teachers for which I know very little. First these were Jews, of course -Jews, of the sect of the Pharisees, that made a claim of espousing Christianity, i.e., they had been baptized I would infer; but, then they taught that Christians must circumcise their children and keep the law of Moses or in other words follow the 10 commandment law given from Mt. Sinai in addition to Jesus' teachings. That in a nutshell was their doctrine. They looked upon Jesus as a reformer, i.e., the things that Jesus taught they considered as an amendment to the Mosaic law or as a patching up of the Mosaic law, if you will. This is an incorrect view and their doctrine was, therefore, a false doctrine. Jesus did not teach that Jesus said very plainly in the sermon on the mount: "I am not come to destroy, but to fulfill." To "fulfill" in that passage means to come to pass that which was formerly prophesied and foretold in the Old Testament. However, the O.T., itself, taught that the Messiah would bring a new covenant and furthermore that covenant would not be like the Mosaic covenant. Jer. 31:31-34 is a good example of this; but there are hundreds of similar prophecies. Jesus illustrated this with the parable about patching an old garment with new cloth, i.e., a new patch on an old garment. Jesus said, "No man," i.e., nobody does it. it's just common sense, that's wrong! Illustrating further Jesus said, "Neither do men put new wine into old bottles..." (Matt. 9:16-17). That is, trying to include Jesus' teaching under the old law would destroy even the old system. It won't work. Now, I get the impression the so-called Judaizing doctrine was more or less a political attempt on the part of the Pharisees, either consciously or subconsciously, to infiltrate Christianity. In effect, they were incorporating and annexing what Jesus taught into Judaism and pulling it back under the old law and thus trying, you see, to make Christians subject to the old Jewish economy and the Mosaic priestly system for which the Pharisees were trying to perpetuate. Luke briefly describes this Pharisaic doctrine in Acts 15:5. Paul and the apostles at Jerusalem condemned that doctrine all the way. In the little letter (Acts 15:24) they said those who taught that doctrine were subverting souls, i.e., undermining and destroying souls. We'll run across this doctrine again in the book of Galatians and also in Romans.
The point you want to get here is that apparently it was after Paul left Corinth; that the Judaizing doctrine came to Corinth. The leaders of that movement were at least part of those that attacked and ridiculed Paul by claiming him to be a sissified and self-styled prophet with no authority from Jerusalem or the other apostles that had been with Jesus. They apparently carried letters of commendation from some supposed high authority in Jerusalem which they claimed Paul did not possess and therefore they said Paul was a false apostle. They tried, as so often happens, to advance their doctrine by degrading some one else; hi this case Paul. Do you remember in I Cor. ch. 9, Paul talked about the seal of his apostleship and defended his apostleship? You see, this Pharisaic doctrine accounted for at least part of the division and preacheritis problems at Corinth. That was one of the things that so depressed Paul that summer - the possibility these Pharisaic rogues might get the upper hand of the Corinthian congregation.
So, Paul was much relieved when Titus finally arrived in Macedonia and explained that the Corinthians had not sold out to the Judaizers. When you grasp this thought in light of all the competitive environmental spirit that had existed in the Corinthian congregation, it really sets the tone for understanding Paul's letter, we call Second Corinthians. Paul, in a very tender way, began to convey to the Corinthians his concern and genuine affection for them. Sprinkled into this also were the afflictions Paul himself had recently suffered. So, about the first seven chapters of this book were obviously addressed to those who repented and tried to amend their ways and their attitudes in Christ and were trying to obey Paul's epistle, we call First Corinthians. Paul, here, encouraged them and urged them on in the Christian life. He touched on several things the congregation needed to do. He urged them to carry
through with the collection-for-the-saints benevolent program in chapters 8 and 9 that had been earlier started but had fallen through the cracks, and possibly continued under some splinters and divisions hi the congregation.
This brings us to chapter 10! I believe the last four chapters were written primarily for the benefit of the Judaizing teachers and the other rogues of the Corinthian congregation who opposed Paul and questioned his authority. In a very humble and a very courteous sort of way, Paul let them have it with both barrels. If they had any conscience or even a soft spot some place in their heart they must have gone away sobbing when they read Paul's letter - the letter, we're about to begin. Would you like to do a quickie reading of that letter as your homework before the next lesson? Until lesson #42, this is saying, "Have a good day."