When Paul was in Macedonia, about AD 56, God inspired him to write a second letter to the brothers of the church in Corinth and in the entire region of Achaia. This letter is different from the others he wrote, since it expresses other very relevant ideas and because it is very personal.
Through this letter, Paul defends his apostleship. So as we read his defense, we can see the invaluable teachings that every believer must keep in mind.
God teaches us in the midst of suffering (2 Corinthians 1:1 – 2:11)
Paul was taught by God while suffering for the Gospel. For example, Christ comforted him in his affliction so that he could be a comfort to others. He also learned that he should trust God in every situation, and never himself. This was reflected when, seeing that it would not be helpful, he decided not to visit the Corinthians, and also when he motivated the church to forgive the person who had offended them. As believers who suffer for the cause of Christ, we can learn from all this.
We are participants in the triumph of Christ (2 Corinthians 2:12 – 5:10)
Paul learned that to suffer for Christ and to spread the Gospel, guided by the Spirit and not by the letter of the law, was to participate in the triumph of Christ. Taking this good news to others in the midst of afflictions, reveals that this message comes from God and that we are vessels of clay that God wants to use. Likewise, just like Paul, we await the hope that our sufferings will end and turn into joy in the glory of Christ. The fragrance of this hope spreads through us today.
Let our lives be consistent with the message of reconciliation (2 Corinthians 5:11 – 6:13)
God had redeemed Paul from his old life of sin, and making him a new creature reconciled him to Himself through Christ, filling him with His Spirit. God did that, so that Paul would transmit that same message of reconciliation to others. So, he took care that his own life was consistent with the Gospel he spread. As believers, we announce reconciliation with God through Christ, while showing, with our lives, that we have already been reconciled to Him.
Being unequally yoked generates spiritual harm (2 Corinthians 6:14 – 7:15)
False Christians in the church belittled Paul, so he contrasted the harm of joining in an unequal yoke with these unbelievers, with the benefit of joining with genuine believers. False Christians, being unjust and living in darkness, encourage the believer to sin. True Christians encourage constant repentance and the abandoning of sin. So even though the correction of true Christians can be tough, we must be thankful that they do it for our good.
Let us be like Christ, let us be generous (2 Corinthians 8:1 – 9:15)
The highest act of generosity is done by Christ, since being God He became flesh to live and die for his church, and thus enrich it spiritually. Paul takes this example to instruct the church to be generous to the brothers in Jerusalem. This teaches us to practice generosity towards brothers who need it, determining in our hearts to do so, not with sadness or obligation, much less expecting something in return. The generous heart of the believer is a reflection of the generosity of Christ.
Our authority comes from the merits of Christ (2 Corinthians 10:1 – 13:14)
The apostleship that God had granted to Paul was not due to his own merits (being a Jew and a Pharisee, etc.) nor because of the supernatural privileges that he had experienced (visions and revelations). His authority as an apostle came from the merits and the power of Christ that was reflected in his weakness and sufferings (lashes, prison, hunger, etc). Likewise, our authority as the church of Christ does not come through our own human achievements but through the grace of God; the same grace that empowers us to be his ambassadors in this world.
“He [=the Lord] said to me, My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness. Therefore, I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong” (2 Corinthians 12:9-10).
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