Lesson 43: "To Spare You I Came Not As Yet Unto Corinth" (II Corinthians 1:23)
II Corinthians 1:12--2:4
Paul's Missionary Journey Epistles. This is lesson #43. Welcome again. In the first 12 verses, Paul identified himself and stated to whom he addresses this letter of Second Corinthians. He didn't waste a single word; he stressed his apostleship; he greeted the brethren; he wished a blessing upon them; he mentioned his suffering hi Asia and emphasized their common suffering and called attention to how God had comforted both him and them. In v.ll, the last verse we covered, Paul said this could be attributed (partly as least) to the prayers of the Corinthians themselves. Paul was a master at getting the attention of his audience and identifying with his readers. Beginning in v.12, the apostle began in a rather subtle way, to get to the bottom of and resolve some of the remaining problems at Corinth. You must keep hi mind that although things had unproved in the Corinthian congregation, the division and contentions Paul mentioned in v.10-11 of I Cor. (ch. 1) still existed to some degree. Now, to exactly what degree is a little hard to access. There were the Judiazing teachers and others that were at enmity with Paul; although, as we have said, they were (at the time of this writing) decidedly in the minority. These false teachers had evidently brought certain charges and accusations against Paul - accusations that were untrue, of course. They accused Paul of certain inconsistencies to impugn his motives and to cast doubt upon bis apostleship. First, they contended Paul said one thing and then did something else, e.g., they pointed out that Paul had promised to come to Corinth but then conveniently changed his plans to prevent any confrontation. Secondly, they evidently said Paul was boastful in his letters; but in reality, he was weak, his speech was contemptible and he would not come face to face with his adversaries, painting Paul as cowardly. In third place, it would appear they rejected Paul as an apostle. They accused Paul of being a self-styled apostle and not legitimate. Evidently, the Judaizing teachers claimed Paul did not have letters or credentials from the apostles at Jerusalem that established Paul's apostleship (i.e., those apostles that had been with Jesus, they must have stressed). In contrast, of course, these false teachers claimed (evidently) they did have such letters and credentials. It was these accusations and innuendos that Paul began to deal with here in v.ll. First, Paul explained why he had postponed his visit to Corinth and he was not saying one thing and doing something else in the sense that he was evidently being accused.
We'll begin our reading in v. 12 in just a moment; but, before we do, I think I should tell you there has always been somewhat of an unsolved riddle here as relates to Paul's travels and to the exact correspondence to which Paul refers. For example, in 2:3-4 Paul referred to a letter he had written to the Corinthians with anguish of heart and with many tears. Does this refer to the letter we call First Corinthians which was not the first letter that Paul wrote we discovered in I Cor. 5:9, you will remember? Some think that Paul wrote another letter even after that letter we call First Corinthians, i.e., after that letter (we have covered in this course) and that, that letter was more blunt and used stronger language than the former. Personally, I doubt that the text warrants this, but, I think you should be aware this is a great point of controversy among the commentators that have written concerning these things over the years. Some believe that chapters 10, 11, 12 and 13 of this book (we call it Second Corinthians) are out of sequence and that those chapters hi reality constitute the harsh letter Paul mentioned (here hi 2:3-4) and that this material therefore should be placed between First and Second Corinthians as they occur in our New Testament. You'll have to draw your own conclusion. Another factor in this riddle has to do with Paul's travels. In II Cor. 12:14, Paul said, "Behold, the third time I am ready to come to you..." (he repeated that same thought again in the first verse of ch. 13, the last chapter). This, of course, raises the question: When did Paul make his second visit? We have no record in the book of Acts or elsewhere concerning that second visit. Was it at the beginning of Paul's third missionary journey before he came to Ephesus? (See Acts 18:22-23 and 19:1.) Or, did Paul make a visit to Corinth during that three years he was at Ephesus? Or, did Paul make a trip to Corinth following the letter we call First Corinthians and we have no record of that visit? Let's face the facts, we don't know. Placing the last four chapters of this book between First and Second Corinthians doesn't help a bit on that question. I would favor the possibility that Paul may have taken a short visit to Corinth sometime during the three years he spent at Ephesus that we read about in Acts ch. 19 and is referred back to hi Acts 20:31. Look at your map, it was a straight shot right across the Aegean Sea from Ephesus to Corinth and hi good sailing weather there were probably ships arriving and leaving every day. Smoke this hi your pipe as my grandfather use to say. My favoring that view does not make it true. The fact still remains - we don't know when Paul visited Corinth the second time; but, we do know that he went. As I said, some of the details here are really an unsolved mystery, so far as I know. However, even if these riddles were answered, they would add very little information as it relates to us. So, don't let it interfere with your sleep or cause you to question what is clearly said for our benefit.
O.K., let's read! Beginning hi v.12. Have you got it? (II Cor. 1:12). We'll read down through v.4 of ch. 2. Here we go! Verse 12 - "For our rejoicing is this, the testimony of our conscience, that in simplicity and godly sincerity, not with fleshly wisdom, but by the grace of God, we have had our conversation hi the world, and more abundantly to youward. For we write none other things unto you, than what ye read or acknowledge; and I trust ye shall acknowledge even to the end; as also ye have acknowledged us in part, that we are your rejoicing, even as ye also are ours in the day of the Lord Jesus. And in this confidence I was minded to come unto you before, that ye might have a second benefit; and to pass by you into Macedonia, and to come again out of Macedonia unto you, and of you to be brought on my way toward Judea. When I therefore was thus minded, did I use lightness? or the things that I purpose, do I purpose according to the flesh, that with ine there should be yea, yea, and nay, nay? But as God is true, our word toward you was not yea and nay. For the son of God, Jesus Christ, who was preached among you by us, even by me and Silvanus and Timothy, was not yea and nay, but in hLn was yea. For all the promises of God in him are yea, and in him Amen, unto the glory of God by us. Now he which stablisheth us with you in Christ, and haul anointed us, is God; who hath also sealed us, and given the earnest of the spirit hi our hearts. Moreover I call God for a record upon my soul, that to spare you I came not as yet unto Corinth. Not for that we have dominion over your faith, but are helpers of your joy: for by faith ye stand. But I determined this with myself, that I would not come again to you hi heaviness. For if I make you sorry, who is it then that maketh me glad, but the same which is made sorry by me? And I write this same unto you, lest, when I come, I should have sorrow from them of whom I ought to rejoice; having confidence in you all, that my joy is the joy of you all. For out of much affliction and anguish of heart I wrote unto you with many tears; not that you should be grieved, but that ye might know the love which I have more abundantly unto you."
Alright, back to v.12. What is Paul saying? The word "for" F-O-R at the beginning of v.12 means "because" and ties back into Paul's "comfort" and that steadfast hope Paul had in the Corinthians (v.1-7). So, Paul rejoiced (v.12) because he and his co-workers had a clear conscience hi simplicity and godly sincerity. There was no cunning, cleaver, worldly shrewdness or craftiness built into anything he did or anything his co-workers had done as was being claimed by those at Corinth who demeaned Paul. His relation to the Corinthians was exactly as he had written to them. That's the idea hi v. 13-14. Now look at v. 15-16 (one big long sentence). It was true (Paul confirmed) that at one time, he had planned to come by Corinth on his way into Macedonia. He had, at one time, even considered going through Corinth on his way and then returning to Corinth for an extended time after visiting in Macedonia, possibly spending the winter with them (as he said in I Cor. 16:6). The explanation was very simple, Paul changed his mind and thus altered his plans accordingly. Now, why did Paul change his mind? It was not because Paul was afraid of his critics (or he couldn't answer his critics) as some were implying. Paul stated the reason very plainly hi v. 1 of ch. 2. He said, "I determined this with myself, that I would no come again to you hi heaviness." Thus, Paul was saying hi effect: the last time he visited Corinth (whenever that was) things got a little sticky. In other words, Paul was forced to ba \vl-them-out or tell-them-off in a disciplinary way. He wanted to visit them again, yes, but he wanted to visit them hi love and mutual kindness. The next time, he hoped to avoid the strained relationship that had developed before. So, Paul gave them space to repent and correct their attitudes. He had confidence (v.3) that when his message began to penetrate the masses they would eventually correct things. The initiative had to come from the Corinthians themselves. In. v.24 Paul realized he did not have dominion over their faith. What's the message for us? You cannot force people to do anything religiously. If people insist on being lost, you cannot save them. Christianity is a taught religion. It is not a forced religion. Some were puckered because Paul did not immediately drop everything else and rush to the Corinthian church. Remember in I Cor 4:18, Paul said, "Now some are puffed up, as though I would not come to you." Here Paul said, "to spare you I came not as yet unto Corinth." That's v.23! Do you remember that Greek word "agape" translated "love" in English? Love means to seek one's highest welfare. It does not mean supply every want. Love involves needs -not necessarily wants. Paul understood that and he acted accordingly. It was not then and neither is it now always the popular thing to do.
Now, what's that "yea" and "nay" business back in v. 17 and 18? Some of the critics complained that Paul was not consistent. To make their point they must have emphasized that Paul said he would come to Corinth; but then he didn't come. He doesn't keep his commitments, in other words. They used Paul's change in plans against him and to paint him as fickle and inconsistent. They were questioning Paul's loyalty and faithfulness. They interpreted Paul's change of plans as saying "yes" when he meant "no," i.e., speaking out of both sides of one's mouth at the same time. Have you heard that? This "yea"-"nay" business came from what Jesus had taught in the sermon on the mount (Matt. 5:37), "Let your communication be Yea, yea; [or] Nay, Nay..." Take a stand; don't be wishy-washy in other words. However, Paul was not being wishy-wishy. He had good reason for his change in plans. That's Paul's point and there is a great lesson here for us. It is not wrong to change your mind and alter your plans accordingly when you get new or better information that warrants it. Now, what's the message in all this that you want to take home with you today? Isn't it strange and wasn't it outrageous that Paul found himself on the defensive by a congregation that he himself had founded? Do you (occasionally at least) find yourself in some similar strange position in this denomination laden world? How should we respond? In arrogance? Of course not! Paul even here acted with integrity. When you try to follow the Bible (speak where the Bible speaks and be silent where the Bible is silent) you will still be berated and accused by some as narrow minded and self serving. Do I hear an Amen? Some are open minded...they are so open minded it goes in one ear and falls out the other. Or, maybe you think Paul was in a strange world. It's just as strange today, believe me. And it's just important that you respond with integrity. Follow Paul's example.
Alright, back up just a moment. I want you to re-read these verses again in a couple minutes after I sign off. Please re-read all of ch. 1 and v.1-4 in ch.2. I've made this appeal before and I don't want to over-do this; but, in the remaining time we have together in this lesson; try once again to psyche yourself to identify with Paul's thinking if you can. Get a mental grip on Paul's state of mind. He had narrowly escaped death at Ephesus; by the grace of God (v.9-10) - a very sobering experience. Naturally Paul examined and analyzed his conscience (v.12). Who wouldn't? Paul was humbled in simplicity and godly sincerity (v.12). He had spent several weeks nervously awaiting a reply from the Corinthian church as he preached at Troas and moved on into Macedonia and undoubtedly began to fear the worst. [Have you got the picture?] Then, Titus came with startling news; the big majority of the Corinthian congregation had feared and trembled at the words of Titus and at the reading of Paul's letter delivered by Titus, that letter usually known as First Corinthians (we learn this in a later chapter). I get the impression that most of the Corinthian Christians responded positively to Paul's message far beyond what he expected. Now, while you're at it, psyche yourself a little more! Load a few brain cells with this: Titus was overwhelmed at their obedience. Paul's confidence in those disciples of Achaia was not misplaced. Paul was elated and refreshed at the thought, i.e., "comforted" is Paul's words (v.3-4, etc). In II Cor. 7:15; Paul said as he wrote back to the Corinthian people that "his [i.e., Titus'] inward affection is more abundant toward you, whilst he remembereth the obedience of you all, how with fear and trembling ye received him." Can you imagine Titus telling and explaining these emotional laden things to Paul? Yet, don't forget (now), there were still real problems in faith and divisive potential at Corinth. The one group (by far the largest group) needed to be complimented and nurtured in their faith and obedience on the one hand while the other group needed a kick in the seat of the britches just to wake them up, spiritually speaking. So, as Paul wrote Second Corinthians he was walking a tightrope between the two groups and trying to influence both groups in a positive way. Now, if you can psyche yourself into some semblance of Paul's encumbered state of mind; comfort on the one hand and many tears on the other (v.4): then, apply that frame of mind as you re-read chapter one. Also, you must develop a knack and appreciation for that King James language to analyze chapter one here. Paul had compassion on both; because, Paul understood the value of a soul. Do you? Give it your best shot. Read with expression. See if you can get a good firm grip on these verses. I leave it with you. Until lesson #44, this is saying work on it and have a good day.