It is believed that Paul wrote three letters to the Church in Corinth – that there was a letter between what we know as 1 Corinthians and 2 Corinthians. The manuscript of this letter has been lost but it is believed to have been a harsh or severe letter.
Paul’s first letter to the Corinthians was not well received by everyone in the church. Opposition grew against him and he was spoken of negatively while he was away. His authority was challenged and he was forced to defend himself. He left Ephesus in order to talk with the church face to face, but the visit did not go well. Paul refers to this visit in 2 Corinthians 2:1 as a “painful visit”.
Knowing this helps us to understand the tone of 2 Corinthians 1:12-24. Paul is defending himself in hopes that the Church will have confidence in him and trust his authority. Consider how painful it must have been for Paul to be rejected by a church full of people that he had led to the Lord. He loved them and considered them his children. Paul was suffering for Christ, as we read yesterday in the first half of chapter one. How much more painful for us when we are suffering because of another believer within the church?! Oh how it hurts when we feel the need to defend ourselves to those our brothers and sisters in Christ. Listen to Paul’s defense in the following verses:
We can say with confidence and a clear conscience that we have lived with a God-given holiness and sincerity in all our dealings. We have depended on God’s grace, not on our own human wisdom. That is how we have conducted ourselves before the world and especially towards you. Our letters have been straightforward, and there is nothing written between the lines and nothing you can’t understand. – 2 Corinthians 1:12-13
Oh the peace that comes with confidence and a clear conscience. At the end of the day if my concern is whether or not I have lived a good life or if I represented Christ well, I will fall asleep worrying. BUT, if I look closely at this verse and focus on the word “God-given” then I know that I do not have to produce holiness and sincerity on my own. I can depend on God and HIS holiness, I can trust in HIS grace to lead me rather than any human wisdom I could possibly come up with on my own.
Humanity. None of us is perfect and neither was Paul. Paul goes on to defend his intentions when he stated he wanted to come for a second visit but was unable to come when he had originally planned to. So did he lie or deceive the church in Corinth? Should they question his word? Should they wonder if his “yes” really means yes or his “no” really means no? If they can doubt Paul’s word, will they doubt God’s word? This appears to be part of the issue of concern for the church. Thankfully, Paul knew that it was in Christ that he stands firm. He is called by God and must respond to God in obedience, even if it changes his earthly plans.
It is God who enables us, along with you, to stand firm for Christ. He has commissioned us, and he has identified us as his own by placing the Holy Spirit in our hearts as the first installment that guarantees everything he has promised us. I call God as my witness – and I stake my life on it – that it was in order to spare you that I did not return to Corinth. Not that we lord it over your faith, but we work with you for your joy, because it is by faith you stand firm. – 2 Corinthians 1:21-24
Because of God, I can stand firm in Christ. He has called me and He will equip me. I am HIS child and it is HIS Spirit living within me that leads me and fills me.
Thank you, Lord, for whatever lies ahead. Fill me with Your Spirit and remind me over and over again of Your presence in my life today. When the enemy tries to accuse me and attack me with false guilt, may I stand firm in you! Amen.