2. Corinthians 1 – Changed Travel Plans

Pasi Hujanen
Taisto Sokka

Read or listen the Second Epistle to the Corinthians - chapter 1 online (ESV, Bible Gateway)

Greetings – 2 Cor 1:1-2

St. Paul begins his letter following a certain formula:
1. Introduction
2. The recipients
3. Bestowing God’s grace
4. Thanks and praise

This formula of greeting points to the core of the letter: St. Paul is an apostle called by God to serve Him through a specific mission (Acts 9:15-16).

As Paul had directed his 1st Letter to the Corinthians to all other Christian in addition to the church in Corinth (1 Cor 1:1–3), he now sends this 2nd Letter to the Christians in Corinth and in the whole of Achaia. The province of Achaia consisted of the southern parts of current Greece, and Corinth was its capital city.

The second sender of the letter is Timothy. Timothy was a fellow worker to Paul when they were establishing the church of Corinth (Acts 18:5). He had also visited Corinth as a representative to Paul (1 Cor 4:17; 16:10).

Paul emphasizes that he is not working of his own accord but sent by the will of God.

Note, that despite of all the problems in the church of Corinth, Paul calls them “the church of God” and “saints”. Our holiness does not come from our blameless way of living but from Jesus Christ.

God’s Comfort – 2 Cor 1:3-11

We cannot know exactly what affliction and suffering St. Paul is referring to. The most natural conclusion is the riot in Ephesus (Acts 19:23-34; 2 Cor 1:8). Ephesus was the capital of the province of Asia (Asia-minor), but the depiction of the danger of the riot is less severe in Luke’s writings in Acts than what Paul is speaking about here. Perhaps Luke does not record everything that happened in Ephesus.

There was a “continuation” of comforting between Paul and the Christians of Corinth. The Corinthians comforted Titus (2 Cor 7:7), Titus comforted Paul (2 Cor 7:6), and now Paul comforts the Corinthians (verse 6). Often “you reap what you have sown”. But this might not happen right away or not even soon, but sometimes only after several years.

A troubled person often does not see that even in that trouble there might be something good (refer to 1 Cor 10:13). A spiritual counsellor working in hospitals said that suffering and anxiety should be pondered and discussed when they are not so active in our lives. During great suffering and anxiety, we don’t have any strength to ponder about anything.

In the best-case suffering can make us grow. The best lesson of suffering is to depend even more in God and his help for us (verse 9).

St. Paul teaches clearly that the foundation of Christian comfort is in the resurrection (ref 1 Cor 15:19). Everything does not end in this life, but God has so much more to offer to us.

When Paul asks for prayers, it is an indication that not all troubles are behind in his life either. A Christian is called to a life-long duty of carrying the cross of Christ (Matt 16:24-28).

Can you only be helped by someone who has also experienced the same suffering as you? Clearly a common experience helps (ref Heb 4:15). But a common experienced is not required, for that would mean that we must fall into the same sins of others to understand and help them. Comforting another is not based on a shared experience or on skills of comforting, but what God has suffered and how He can comfort. Christ has suffered for all our sins and all evil, and He sends His Christians to comfort each other.

A Change of Plans – 2 Cor 1:12-24

St. Paul had promised to travel to Corinth and from there to Macedonia, but now he travelled in the opposite direction. Apparently, he had promised this to the Corinthians when he made a short and painful visit there. After this Paul’s plan had changed: He sent Titus instead and presumably the “Letter of Tears” with Titus to the Corinthians while he himself stayed in Ephesus.

It seems that in Paul’s opinion the new visit (2 Cor 2:1-2) would just make the situation worse. Their reconciliation was not yet finished, and it was wise to take a “timeout” and give it some time rather than trying to settle the matter as quickly as possible. Accordingly, sometimes it is better to wait. But it does not mean that disputes would be solved by themselves. Time is not a fixer almighty.

Some of the Corinthians had concluded that because of this new situation they cannot trust St. Paul anymore, since he did not keep his promises. Even the preaching of Paul was called suspicious because of this event. Paul does not begin hastily to explain himself but rather emphasizes how he and the Corinthians and One in Christ. Also, he continues by explaining how Christ is “yes” to all the promises of the Old Testament. Therefore, there is no reason for the Corinthians to doubt Christ or even Paul, His servant.

We Christians are called to be honest (Matt 5.37; James 5:12). It does not mean that we must always do what is supposed or even promised, since God can change our plans (James 4:13-17). But this gives no reason to brake promises, but rather to be careful what you promise - for who knows what tomorrow will bring? You may even pray: “God, you know my plans. Let them be done if it is your will. If it is not, then prevent my plans from succeeding!” (ref. Acts 16:6-8).

Verse 22 refers to baptism. In baptism we have received the seal of the Holy Spirit (Ap.t. 10:38; Romans 8:15-16). In the Early Church they painted a cross with oil on the forehead of the one being baptized. In our current baptismal practise in Finland, we do this same sign of the cross, though not with oil.