Study Notes

2Corinthians 1:1-7

Fourth Corinthians?

If you've been following our study in 1Corinthians, you know that Paul had written a letter to the church in Corinth prior to 1Corinthians. He mentioned in chapter 5,

1Cor. 5:9 I wrote you in my letter not to associate with immoral people

And in 1Corinthians, he told of his plans to see them

1Cor. 16:5-7 But I shall come to you after I go through Macedonia, for I am going through Macedonia; and perhaps I shall stay with you, or even spend the winter, that you may send me on my way wherever I may go. For I do not wish to see you now {just} in passing; for I hope to remain with you for some time, if the Lord permits.

But when 1Corinthians was delivered to them, many had a bad reaction to it. So instead of waiting for time to have a long visit, Paul made a quick trip to see them. The visit didn't go well - he was not well-received. So instead of visiting them again, like he said he was going to, when he got back to Ephesus, he sent another letter via Titus.

Titus took so long in getting back, that Paul, troubled by what the outcome of his letter would be, actually went to Macedonia to find him. Titus told him that their reaction to the third letter was generally good - that although there were still people who were speaking against Paul, for the most part, the letter had done well.

So now Paul sits down and dictates 2Corinthians, in actuality the fourth letter he has written to them.

1:1 Paul And Timothy

Paul, dictating to Timothy, begins by saying,

2Cor. 1:1 Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God

There were those in the Corinthian church, and other places, who were saying, "Paul's not an apostle! He wasn't one of the 12 apostles that Jesus picked! He doesn't have any apostolic authority! He can't tell our church what God's will or command is!"

So Paul was constantly having to defend his apostleship to people. He says, "I'm an apostle not appointed by men, but by God Himself." If you're interested in reading a detailed defense of this, Paul defends himself in more detail in Galatians 1 and 2. And we have Luke's historic account of Paul's apostleship in Acts chapter 9.

But we know that he was in fact an apostle, so we'll continue on.

With All The Saints

Remember that apostles' letters to churches were cherished. When one was received, it was copied and distributed to other churches. That is why there are so many hundreds of manuscripts of New Testament books still in existence.

So the apostles wrote letters knowing that they would have a wider audience than the people they sent the letters to. Even when Jesus dictated the seven letters to the seven churches in the book of Revelation, though they were addressed individually, they were written to all - each one including the phrase,

Rev. 2:7 "He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches..."

Paul is expecting that this letter will be copied and distributed through many of the churches in Achaia.

1:2 Grace And Peace

Here again we find this greeting, "Grace and Peace."

17 of the 27 books in the New Testament contain the greeting "grace and peace." It is never "peace and grace." Why does grace always come first?

"Grace" is God's unmerited favor. He saved us when we weren't worthy to be saved. The book of Romans says,

Rom. 5:8 ...While we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.

Peter said in Acts 15,

Acts 15:11 "...We are saved through the grace of the Lord Jesus..."

We were sinners - we didn't deserve it. We weren't well on our way to obtaining it. We didn't show any promise of goodness. God just saved us because He loved us. There's nothing that you could have ever done to be saved. God did it purely out of grace. And He did it knowing that you would continue to sin. No matter how many times you've fallen into sin since you've been saved, God knew you would, and He saved you anyway. Grace. God's unmerited favor. You didn't deserve it, but you got it.

And that's where "Peace" comes in. When you truly realize that it's not your righteousness, but God's righteousness that has saved you, you are free. When you finally understand that it's not salvation based on good behavior, then you don't feel condemned or freaked out. It's God's righteousness, it's God's faithfulness, it's God's grace that keeps you. When you realize that, then you can rest and relax. Then you know that you are secure in His hands. Then you have peace.

People that don't understand grace don't have peace. So the expression "grace and peace" is sprinkled all throughout the New Testament.

1:3-7 All Our Afflictions

Comfort in affliction - this is such an important Bible principle to understand.

Why are we afflicted? What purpose does it serve? The book of Romans, chapter 5, says,

Rom. 5:1-4 Therefore having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom also we have obtained our introduction by faith into this grace in which we stand; and we exult in hope of the glory of God. And not only this, but we also exult in our tribulations, knowing that tribulation brings about perseverance; and perseverance, proven character; and proven character, hope

What is the point of tribulation? Of suffering? Of terrible times? Of pain? Of affliction? We think of these things as being entirely negative. But they bring about perseverance. Perseverance turns into proven character. And proven character turns into hope. We need to change the way we think about suffering.

It always takes us by surprise, and often, it makes us think that our world is about to fall apart. But 1Peter 4 says,

1Pet. 4:12 Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery ordeal among you, which comes upon you for your testing, as though some strange thing were happening to you

Don't think it's strange when you suffer. It's normal. God is using these things to show you where you're at.They're simply tests to demonstrate to you exactly where you're at in your walk and relationship with God.

God Comforts Us

Not only is God in full control at all times in these situations, but He is also always offering you comfort. Jesus said,

Matt. 5:4 "Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted."

What kind of comfort? How does God comfort us? When you're in the middle of turmoil, it often seems that God is very far away. I often don't think that I'm blessed when I'm mourning.

The verb "to comfort" in Greek is parakaleo. It is from "para," meaning "beside," and "kaeleo", meaning "to call." So parakaleo means "to call to one's side."

This word was used in court of a legal assistant, the defendant's advocate, the counsel for the defense. God comforts us in our trials much like a lawyer comes to the defense of someone who is on trial.

He remains by our side. He gives us advice in His Word. He explains to us much of what is going on. He stands up in defense of us. He proclaims our innocence to the judge. In all these ways, He is being a comforter, a "parakletos." Jesus said in John 14,

John 14:16-18 "... I will ask the Father, and He will give you another (Parakletos), that He may be with you forever; the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it does not behold Him or know Him, but you know Him because He abides with you, and will be in you. I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you."

God has promised to be by our side, comforting us, never leaving us alone. The Holy Spirit won't leave us as orphans - He abides in us. He strengthens us, intercedes in prayer for us, supernaturally empowers us.

What If I Don't Feel Comforted?

If today, you are a Christian, but feel like you haven't been being comforted, I want to explain why.

Picture a child who has fallen down on the playground and skinned his knee. He is undergoing a terrible affliction. He begins to cry and is sent to the nurse's office. The nurse is a wonderful woman, wanting to help the boy's knee to heal, but also to comfort the boy himself. She reaches out to hug the boy and let him cry on her shoulder.

But he is angry, confused, and embarrassed. He yanks away from the loving arms of the nurse. Every time she tries to comfort him, he twists out of her embrace. The nurse will still heal the knee, but the boy has chosen to suffer his affliction alone.All he has to do to receive the nurses comfort is do nothing.

If today, you don't feel comforted in your affliction, it is not God's fault. He is doing His part. Not only is He defending you to the judge and standing up in your defense, but He is loving you, He is by your side, He's giving you advice and words of wisdom in how to deal with your affliction. He has even offered explanation for much of what is happening to you. He has reached out to embrace you and comfort you.

If you refuse, like that little boy, who needs to change? You or God? You don't have to do anything but to just stop squirming out of God's grasp. Let Him comfort you.

Comfort To Others

When we allow God to comfort us in our affliction, we see how incredibly different it all becomes. We are able like Paul to truly say,

Rom. 5:3 And not only this, but we also exult in our tribulations...

Have you ever wondered what "exult" means? It means to leap for joy, to rejoice. When you allow the God of all comfort to comfort you, you can really exult in your tribulations.

When you've experienced that, and see how God did it, you have a ministry. A ministry to see others in difficulty and affliction, and to minister that comfort that you received from God, and give it to them. He...

2Cor. 1:4 ...comforts us in all our affliction so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God.

That is why I have been able to go to people in the midst of terrible tragedy, when all the world can offer is "there, there, it'll be okay," and give real, tangible comfort to people who are suffering. Very often, I will share a part of the Scripture that has never failed to give me peace. The comforting promise of God found in Philippians 4:6-7.

Phil. 4:6-7 Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all comprehension, shall guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

People in crisis, in tribulation, in affliction, are anxious. They are disoriented, their hearts are racing, their minds are going at a million miles a minute. You and I can come and encourage them to direct all of that up to God. Encourage them to begin to pray, to turn all of these thoughts into prayers, making requests of God. And then to encourage them to begin to give thanks not only in the midst of the circumstances, but for the circumstances themselves. And when people begin to give thanks to the Lord for their afflictions, God pours out His supernatural peace on them in a way that never fails. It envelops them in comfort.

If God has given you comfort like that, use it to comfort someone else in affliction. You don't have to have experienced their same situation. You don't have to say "I know how you're feeling." You don't have to do anything but direct them to the God of all comfort, and allow Him to pour Himself out on them.

Go to next study

Go to previous study