2 Corinthians 2-3
2 Corinthians 2
In Paul's Defense
In this chapter, Paul will launch into a full defense of his choices and conduct. He has been under attack, accused of suffering too much, changing his mind too much, being too inconsistent, and lacking courage and confidence.
Paul's original intention was to go from Ephesus to Corinth, into Macedonia, return to Corinth, and then make his trip to Jerusalem. His problem was that the Corinthians’ attitude toward him changed his plans. He did not wish to come in person to Corinth, exercise his authority by insisting the man who was sinning be disciplined, and create an atmosphere of heaviness.
[The man who had sinned could have been a leader turning a blind eye to the wealthy man sleeping with his father's wife (1 Corinthians 5). The leader could have been ignoring the situation due to the prominence and wealth of the man sinning, convincing the rest of the leaders against Paul's leadership to go along with his indifference.]
Paul Defends His Decision-Making
1. Paul Defends His Decision to Write (1-4)
a) Paul decided to write instead of visit (1).
b) Paul decided pain by letter was preferred to pain by visit (2).
c) Paul decided to write so that when he was present they could enjoy fellowship instead of being embroiled in conflict (3).
d) Paul decided to write so he could share the depth of his love through pen and not the breath of his disgust if he were to pay a visit before they had repented (4).
2. Paul Defends His Decision to Discipline the Sinner (4-11)
When Paul originally wrote to discipline the erring brother, he was not on some vendetta for vengeance but was making his appeal out of love and a desire to restore (4). Paul had no grudge because he had never felt the sin of the man who sinned was ever directed at him but at the church (5). So Paul concluded that the punishment of removing the man for fellowship had been enough (6); it was time to forgive and comfort, realizing excessive sorrow could be damaging (7). Paul calls for a reaffirmation of love (8), explaining he had written and called for the discipline of the sinning leader to see if he would be obedient in the hard matters (9). He had finally passed the test and had done the hard and honorable thing, and now Paul wanted them to forgive, and as they forgave they would be echoing Paul's own heart (10). Keeping grudges, Paul noted, was one of satan's tools to outwit followers and rebind them to darkness and sin (11).
3. Paul Defends the Motive of His Ministry (12-17)
Paul shares an experience to prove God's triumph even when things do not go as we perceive they should. Led by God, Paul went to Troas (Acts 16:9-10). His spirit was not at rest because Titus was not there. He changed plans and went to Macedonia (12-13). Although it was not where he had originally intended to be, God opened for him one amazing door of triumph as he spread the knowledge of Who Jesus really was (14). Paul told the Corinthians that the very smell of what he had to say was death to some and life to others; his ministry was met with mixed success (15-16). Paul's bottom line was simple: he did not peddle the Word as a man seeking universal success but with sincerity, determined to speak in Christ, leaving the results to God. What happened was not that everyone responded but many did, showing there can be great fruit when God changes our plans (17).
2 Corinthians 3
Paul Continues to Defend His Ministry Motives
The Corinthians Are a Letter Written by Christ (1-3)
Paul clearly takes on his opponents by asserting that he does not need letters of commendation as some lesser-known itinerate leaders carried from the more known leaders to verify their leadership integrity. The people whose life and ministry Paul had affected and the planting of the Corinthian church was his letter of commendation (1-2).
For Paul, the very existence of the Corinthian church was a letter, not from other prominent leaders, but from Christ Himself.
Jesus did not write this letter with ink but by the Spirit of God. What the Holy Spirit had written was not like what He had written on Sinai when the Spirit wrote on stone tablets. In Corinth, through Paul, the Holy Spirit had written on their hearts. The Corinthians had become a letter from Christ on Paul's behalf (3).
Christ Is Paul's Sufficiency (4-6)
Paul pulls back for a moment to remind them that he is not arrogant nor boasting; he recognizes his confidence in Christ. Christ did the work through him and Christ made him sufficient to do the work (4-5). Paul then defines what God made him sufficient to do, to serve the new covenant, not like the condemning letter of the old covenant but the new covenant of the Spirit who promises life (6).
Paul Contrasts the Old and New Covenant (7-11)
Paul decided to contrast the New Covenant ministry with the Judaizers' Old Covenant ministry who taught salvation through a mixture of faith and keeping religious traditions, especially circumcision.
Paul introduced the subject by contrasting the letter vs. Spirit, the ministry of condemnation and death against the ministry of righteousness and life.
Paul then reminds the Corinthians of an event which took place in the wilderness when God was giving the Old Covenant to Israel. He reminded them that the Old Covenant was introduced with so much glory that the face of Moses (Exodus 34) had to be covered (7).
Paul asserts how much more glorious the New Covenant and with it God serving up His righteousness had over the Old Covenant serving up its condemnation (8-9). The glory of the New Covenant was permanent; the glory of the Old Covenant was temporary, and the New was so bright it was completely outshining the Old (10-11).
Paul's Confidence in the New Covenant (12-13)
Paul explains that what God accomplished in making a new covenant left him hugely optimistic and confident (12). His confidence was not like Moses' who was embarrassed about the glory fading on his face so he covered it (13).
Paul's Commentary on Moses' Veil (14-17)
Paul takes a moment to give a little commentary on Moses' veil. He states that the minds of the Israelites were so hardened that they could not understand the fading glory on Moses' face so Moses would cover his face to keep them honoring and respecting God's presence among them. The same inability to understand was persistent up to the present generation. Every time a Judaizer read the Old Covenant they refused to see the fading glory of the Old Covenant. They pretended the Old Covenant had a permanent glory about it because they couldn't fathom it coming to a fulfilled end.
Because Moses' glory was temporary, they should have understood something more permanent was yet to come. They should have seen the passing of the law and the arriving of the new in Jesus (14-15).
Paul and Beholding Without a Veil (16-18)
Paul states that the veil was removed when they turned to Lord (16). Then Paul tells the Corinthians that the Lord is the Holy Spirit of Jesus and where the Holy Spirit is there is freedom to see, really see (17). Finally, Paul explains it all: Christ took the veil of their old manner of perceiving so they could see the unfading permanence of the glory of God in Jesus Christ.
As they looked at Jesus, unobscured by their old dull way of thinking, an amazing miracle happened: they saw the glory of God glowing in the lives of other believers. As they saw God's glory in the face of those who reflected Jesus, they were transformed into what they were perceiving. Paul reminds the Corinthians "the Lord is Spirit," and as they saw Jesus' unfading glory in those who reflected Him they were changed into the image they would see. Seeing the unfading presence of Jesus in others, especially in this case, His ministers, is what transformed their lives in a way that would not fade (16-18).