Today we continue Paul’s second letter to the Corinthian church. We left off with Paul talking about enduring suffering as a means of showing forth Christ. We can endure these sufferings because we know that when Christ returns, we will be resurrected in glory. If we keep our eyes on Him and our sure end, we can endure. Paul continues that thought into chapter 5.1
We know that even if we are killed for our testimony, our resurrection body awaits us (5:1). In fact, we long for that body over this one (v. 2), when our burdens are no more (v. 4), and we are in the presence of Christ (vv. 7-8).. And the Spirit that God gave us is our guarantee that we have a sure future of glory (v. 5). So we can be bold for Christ (v. 6, 9 – see 3:12) when we keep our eyes on the eternal (v. 7) and our future reward (which is Christ’s presence physically) (v. 10). Since we know all of this to be true, we must persuade others of the truth (v. 11).
Paul then addresses the issue at hand. There were those in Corinth who wanted to discount Paul and his authority. Paul says that since they know the truth because of the Gospel he preached to them, they can refute those who attack his authority (v. 12), or who say that he is out of his mind (perhaps even for his first letter) (v. 13 – see 2:4). But Paul wrote that way for the sake of the Corinthian church, out of love (vv. 13-14), and because he understands that he has died with Christ, and can be so bold (v. 15). He then tells them not to judge in a fleshly manner (v. 16). The old man – the man of the flesh – has died with Christ (v. 17). Christ reconciled us to God, so we (the church) are called to reconcile people to God through the Gospel (vv. 18-19). We do what Christ did as His ambassadors, which is really God working through us (v. 20), in the same way God worked in Christ to take away our sin (v. 21). It is both our work, and God’s work (6:1)! Paul then quotes Isaiah 49:8, a restoration prophecy and a Messianic prophecy about God’s “help” in salvation whereby Christ is given to the people as a covenant (6:2). Paul says that the fulfillment of that prophecy is now. In other words, Christ is still working through His church!
Paul now returns to some of what he discussed in his first letter to apply it to the current situation. He again speaks of making sure not to hinder the Gospel (v. 3), even if it means suffering (vv. 4-5). This is done in the power of the Spirit and in love (v. 6 – note the parallels to 1 Corinthians 13), through the Gospel – the truth of God (v. 7) – no matter what that means for us (v. 8). Because the truth is the eternal truth (see chapters 4 and 5), not our current situation (vv. 8-10).
Paul then makes a plea for them to return to genuine love for him and his companions (vv. 12-13). They cannot let his detractors lead them away from him and the truth! He calls them to separate themselves from the unbelievers (vv. 14-15).2 Paul reminds them that they are the Temple of God (v. 16 – see 1 Cor 3:17, 6:19). Paul then mashes together Old Testament quotes to show how God calls His people to be separate from what is unholy because He is in their midst (vv. 16-18 – see Lev 26:12, Isa 52:11, Zeph 3:20, 2 Sam 7:14, Isa 43:6), and then again calls the Corinthians to do so (7:1).
Paul continues his plea in 7:2 (see 6:13). Paul reminds them of his love for them (v. 3) to explain why he is being so bold in correcting them (v. 4). He again reminds them of what he and Timothy were suffering in Macedonia (v. 5), but says that they were comforted when Titus came to them (v. 6 – see 2:13). There is joy to be found even in suffering. And part of Paul’s joy was in how the Corinthians felt about him (v. 7). It made Paul feel badly about the tone of the first letter for a while (v. 8), but ultimately he was happy about the letter because it led to repentance (v. 9).
Paul then explains how even grief is good. Godly grief leads to repentance and salvation, unlike worldly grief (v. 10). The Corinthians felt godly grief (v. 11). For that reason, Paul is glad that he sent the letter (vv. 12-13). And Titus was glad after his visit to them (v. 13), and Paul was glad because Titus saw that what Paul said about them was true (v. 14). For this reason, Paul has confidence in them (v. 16). He is still speaking of separating themselves from the unbelieving trouble-makers in the church. Paul is confident they will do the right thing.
1 As a reminder, please keep in mind that the chapter and verse numbers are imposed on the text. A chapter break does not mean a new thought has begun.
2 For some reason, so many take verse 14 and apply it to marriage, saying that this means Christians should not marry unbelievers. I don’t know how we get that from this verse when Paul is talking about the deceitfulness of his detractors in the church. I think a better case for that can be made from1 Corinthians 7:39.