Monday, April 13 2 Corinthians 1:1-11
“God is the source of all comfort”
These verses give us a wonderful statement about divine comfort (vv. 3-7) and divine deliverance (vv. 8-11). First, we see that even the most devout of God’s people can become discouraged. Paul had experienced outstanding success in his ministry in Ephesus, but that was followed by a time of great pain. He tells us that as Christians we share the kind of experiences that Christ had. We live in the same kind of world in which he lived and face the same forces of evil he faced, and if we are faithful to Christ we will get the same reaction he received. But all who share Christ’s trials can also tap the resources of comfort that were his, for true comfort always has a divine source.
Second, Paul reminds his readers that the God who comforts can also deliver. Paul knew what it was to be stripped of all confidence in his own strength, and he states that in our difficult times we learn that we should not trust in ourselves but in God. For Paul, his trouble was like Calvary and God’s rescue was like Easter Sunday morning.
You comfort me in my trouble, Lord, and it is well with my soul. Amen.
Tuesday, April 14 2 Corinthians 1:12-16
“We depend on God’s grace”
In this letter Paul engages three groups of people. His first concern is for the Corinthians themselves, who are divided into those who have already repented from their rebellion against Paul and those who are still questioning his legitimacy as an apostle. In addressing the Corinthians as a whole, he seeks to encourage the former while trying to win back the latter. At the same time, Paul needs to counter the “false apostles” who have recently arrived in Corinth and are trying to turn the believers against Paul.
Paul has a clear conscience concerning his conduct toward each of these three groups, claiming that it is God’s grace in his life that has shaped his ethical conduct toward them. For Paul, there is a direct link between theology and ethics, between the dynamic nature of God’ presence in one’s life and how one actually lives. In applying Paul’s example, we too should evaluate whether or not our way of life reflects the sincerity and uprightness that flow from the presence of God’s grace in us.
May my words and behavior reflect the truth, Lord, that you live in me. Amen.
Wednesday, April 15 2 Corinthians 1:17-20
“You may be asking why I changed my plans”
Evidently, Paul’s opponents had pointed to his change in plans regarding coming to Corinth as evidence of his illegitimacy as an apostle. After all, if Paul were a true, Spirit-filled apostle, he should be able to rely on the guidance of God, rather than changing his mind concerning his itinerary, not only once, but even two and three times! Paul’s plans should reflect the very surety of the God who never changes, his word should be as reliable as the God who never lies, and his authority should be as unassailable as that of God’s himself.
In response to such accusations, Paul reminds the Corinthians that his first change in plans derived not from a lack of God’s guidance or as an expression of a vacillating character, but from the confidence that his actions were being carried out in response to God’s ever-expanding grace in both his life and in the lives of the Corinthian believers. That such a change in plans did not reflect a lack of the Holy Spirit is evident in Paul’s purpose for the extra visit: that the Corinthians, not Paul, might “receive a double blessing” (see verse 15).
I am available to you, Lord, to change my plans as you choose. Amen.
Thursday, April 16 2 Corinthians 1:21-24
“I didn’t return so as to spare you a severe rebuke”
Paul’s second change of plans was in order to extend mercy to them. In his first letter (13:1-10), Paul stated that he is both willing and able to exercise his authority to judge those who claim Christ but live in sin. Nevertheless, before judgment comes mercy. God is long-suffering. Just as God has extended one more opportunity for repentance and restoration to the world by separating the two comings of Christ, Paul too wanted to extend this same opportunity to the Corinthians.
The gravity of what Paul is saying is reflected in his willingness to confirm it by a solemn oath, which calls God to be his witness, as in a court of law, thereby inviting divine judgment on himself should he be lying. Paul is testifying in the most earnest way possible that it was not his fear of rejection that kept him from returning to Corinth (as his opponents were claiming), but his wish to spare them the judgment of God. Had Paul come to them in the midst of their rebellion, he would have been compelled to pronounce God’s condemnation and to put them out of the church.
We praise you, Lord, that you give us opportunity to repent and be forgiven. Amen.
Friday, April 17 2 Corinthians 2:1-4
“If I cause you grief, who will make me glad?”
Paul canceled his return visit because he recognized that his own happiness as an apostle was wrapped up in the Corinthians’ progress in faith, not in their judgment and ensuing grief. Paul was willing to deny himself the immediate pleasure of his own vindication for the greater satisfaction of seeing the Corinthians experience the joy of a renewed faith. In this sense, Paul changed his plans not solely for the sake of the Corinthians, but for his own sake as well. Moreover, in making this decision, Paul had the confidence that his mercy toward the Corinthians would have its desired result: The Corinthian would repent and once again share Paul’s joy in Christ.
The very existence of 2 Corinthians is itself testimony to the fact that Paul’s confidence was not misplaced. Paul’s love for the Corinthians, expressed in the severe warnings and calls to repentance of his previous letter, was the instrument God used to bring the majority of the Corinthians back to Paul. Paul’s hope is that his present letter will do the same for the rest.
There are times when tough love is needed to bring us back to you, Lord. Amen.
Saturday, April 18 2 Corinthians 2:5-11
“It is time to forgive”
Paul does not give us the specifics of the “trouble” that this particular man had caused, but it must have involved some sort of slander against him and his apostolic relationship with the Corinthians, resulting in both they and he being hurt. Perhaps the offender had been a person of influence who had sided with Paul’s opponents and led the opposition against Paul. Whatever the case, most of the Corinthians had initially sided with this slanderer. Later, after the majority had repented, they punished the offender, most likely by excluding him from the fellowship of the Christian community.
The punishment had its intended impact. The offender repented, and he wanted to rejoin the congregation. In response, Paul calls the Corinthians to follow in his footsteps not only in punishing those who deserve it, but also in showing mercy to the repentant. Paul’s purpose is the redemption of the man, not the clearing of his own name. The same mercy that Paul had showed to them, they were now to show to one another.
Forgive us our sins, Lord, as we forgive those who have sinned against us. Amen.