2 Corinthians 1-2
2 Corinthians starts off with Paul praying a blessing of comfort and mercy upon all those in Corinth who are receiving his words. He points to God as the source of all comfort and abundance which they are all to join in through Christ. Continuing on, he references the many hardships and afflictions he and his have endured on behalf of believers just like those in Corinth, being brought to the very end of themselves and despairing of life entirely.
Paul alludes to his meekness and simplicity of life as a measure of submission to God and calls on his listeners not to exclude him or others on account of a humble life but to see him as a slave of Christ, one utterly submitted to the Lord, who leads them all in a triumphal procession. He references a painful visit that took place somewhere between the first and second book of Corinthians, too, where those of Corinth who have grown arrogant demanded Paul verify his claims to leadership. This is continued on in the third chapter, however it is helpful to realize where Paul is aiming his words in the first and second chapter!
It’s no secret that Paul’s time in and among the church in Corinth (and everywhere else, for that matter) was one of turbulence and toil. Between his many comings and goings, weeds would always spring up and try to choke those seeds that had sprouted in good soil. 2:11 tells us to forgive one another and ultimately keep the bigger picture of the body of Christ in mind when dealing with such troubles, mending and healing quickly, “so that we would not be outwitted by Satan; for we are not ignorant of his designs.”
Time and time again, Paul references the issues over which people in Corinth are dividing, and the entire thrust of these two letters are to forget about yourself and do everything you can to maintain the unity of the Body! For Paul had more than two interactions with the church in Corinth as a cursory look at the Epistles would appear to reveal: he had many a heated interaction with those who sought to leave the church over petty issues or worse, divide it.
This led to a confrontation which is referred to as a painful visit and was clearly something that left a lasting impression. He points to Christ as the one who leads them, not any man or woman of eloquent speech and fine attire. He points to Christ as the source of authority and anointing; each and every leader appointed by God acts according to the Spirit, “And it is God who establishes us with you in Christ, and has anointed us, and who has also put His seal on us and given us His spirit in our hearts as a guarantee.” It is this very same Christ who “always leads us in triumphal procession, and through us spreads the fragrance of the knowledge of Him everywhere … for we are not, like so many, peddlers of God’s word, but as men of sincerity, as commissioned by God, in the sight of God we speak in Christ.”
Application and question:
I would speak plainly to those who seek to divide the church in this day and age over petty concerns; those who have been faithfully anointed and appointed by Christ, in the presence of many witnesses and according to Scripture and the discernment and guidance of the Holy Spirit; those who have obediently and with unwavering loyalty wielded authority as faithful shepherds of God’s flock – when it comes down to it, why do you suddenly feel right to reject their leadership and guidance and the opinion of the majority when it comes to inconsequential matters? You who read of ancient Israel or the church in Corinth and shake your head at their disobedience and hubris, do you not condemn yourself for nearly identical acts? Those whom God has established in Christ, and has anointed, will you reject and ignore? Shall we divide the Body of Christ over questions of sexuality or walk out over vaccines? Or will we submit to God’s ordained leadership until it comes time to actually be lead? Nonsense!
This painful visit that took place with Paul must have been truly painful, but it was pride that stoked the flames. The unwillingness of those Corinthians to actually be led by Paul resulted in them being shown their place so as to save them from further guilt – guilt of division and arrogance and pride. No doubt some of those who sought to split one way or another did so out of sincerity and conviction, but just as they were, so too are we capable of being sincere and convicted and wrong. When in doubt, let us put all things to Scripture in prayer, examining the faithfully ordained shepherd over us, and recount the many ways in which the Spirit has led us all so far. Let us choose obedience in uncertainty and ensure that we not only maintain the unity of the Body, but faithfully work alongside that which God has already established.
Lord God, we are all in need of humility and your mercy. We are desperate for your guidance and leadership, so please open our eyes to how you are already leading and guiding. Give us eyes to see and a heart to accept your mastery of our lives. Please honour us as we step out in faith and obedience, especially in areas where we feel uncomfortable. Help our love and reverence for your Body overcome all our objections, and in doing so keep us from any evil division. Amen!
Song: Tis So Sweet (Shane & Shane)
In 2023, each week's blog is a follow-up reflection written by the preceding Sunday’s preacher to dig deeper into the sermon topic and explore engaging discussion questions.