Tag Archives: Apostle Paul

2 Corinthians

Deeply personal, 2 Corinthians is a letter that resonates with many of today’s Christians. Written by Paul along with Timothy, the letter reveals the difficult, often painful realities in ministering to and unifying the body of believers in Corinth. Striving to repair the strained relationship he has with the Corinthians, Paul begins his letter reassuring the people of Corinth that they will not have another painful visit, explaining that his recent visit did not go as planned and that he sincerely wanted them to know that he had a deep love for them. The letter continues by describing the role of an Apostle in ministering the New Covenant; making practical arrangements for collecting gifts for the struggling believers in Jerusalem; and defending his Apostleship and integrity. In refuting and condemning false teachers, Paul encourages the faithful to stay committed to the truth which is often a challenge and in closing reaffirms his deep love for them. More than his other letters, this one shows us Paul at his most vulnerable. With his integrity in question, he defends his faith and Apostleship. Drawing from personal experiences, he shares the persecution he suffered in Jesus Christ’s name and the chronic “thorn in the flesh” that keeps him grounded and reliant on God. Recounting how God refused his heartfelt request to remove suffering from his life, Paul embraced suffering saying (2 Corinthians 12:9):

But he 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 about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me.”

Grounded in faith, Paul understood that God is sovereign and in control of every aspect of our life… including suffering. While difficult, he surrendered to God and to the pain that was preparing him for a greater purpose that would be revealed in His perfect timing. Until then Paul found comfort in knowing that when he was at his weakest, he could rely on God as the source of infinite strength. A beautiful lesson we all have an opportunity to learn.

Timing

While the New Testament leaves you with the impression that 2 Corinthians was Paul’s second letter, it was in fact the fourth letter he wrote to the community in Corinth. In 1 Corinthians 5:9, Paul references his first letter saying:
I wrote to you in my letter not to associate with sexually immoral people.

From there, Paul wrote 1 Corinthians… his second letter…  which Paul asked Timothy to deliver to Corinth. In the meantime, Paul returned to his ministry in Ephesus, where he continued to be concerned about the church in Corinth. Weak and struggling with spiritual immaturity, the community was increasingly tense and divided due to the arrival of an opposing teacher. Presenting himself as an apostle, this opposing teacher questioned Paul’s authority and was misleading the community with false teachings. In an attempt to solve the turmoil, Paul traveled to Corinth. Unfortunately the visit was unsuccessful and only fueled the church’s growing resistance.

Upon returning to his work in Ephesus, Paul wrote a third and painful letter to the Corinthians (2 Corinthians 2:3-4) saying:
I wrote as I did, so that when I came I would not be distressed by those who should have made me rejoice. I had confidence in all of you, that you would all share my joy. For I wrote you out of great distress and anguish of heart and with many tears, not to grieve you but to let you know the depth of my love for you.

Following this painful letter, Paul departed for Macedonia. Once there, he received encouraging news from Titus regarding the Corinthians (2 Corinthians 7:13):
In addition to our own encouragement, we were especially delighted to see how happy Titus was, because his spirit has been refreshed by all of you.

This news prompted Paul to write a fourth letter entitled “2 Corinthians”, which he composed near the end of AD 56, possibly in the city of Philippi.

Outline
This letter consists of five sections:

  1. Salutation and Thanksgiving (Chapter 1)
    Paul introduces himself and Timothy as the authors of this letter; praises and thanks God for the comfort He provides to all; and describes changes to upcoming travel plans.
  2. Characteristics of an Apostle (Chapters 2 to 7)
    Paul discusses forgiveness; the role of an Apostle in ministering the New Covenant; and the characteristics of an Apostle. More specifically, he explains that his ministry is not about him; rather it is about sharing the teachings of Jesus Christ alone. Further, that as Christians, they too would experience suffering as he did, but compared to eternity with Christ, the sufferings of this world would be temporary and serve a purpose.
  3. Collections for Jerusalem (Chapters 8 and 9)
    Paul encourages the Corinthians to give an offering to the believers in Judea as they had promised, saying that if they gave generously. they would also “reap generously”
  4. Paul Defends His Authority (Chapters 10 to 13)
    In response to those criticizing him and questioning his integrity and Apostleship, Paul defends his ministry and declares that those who preach a Gospel differing from that of Jesus are false, deceitful teachers who should not be trusted or accepted. In Chapter 12, Paul details the persecution he suffered in Jesus Christ’s name and the mysterious “thorn in the flesh that keeps him reliant on God.
  5. Concluding Exhortations and Benediction (Chapter 13:5)
    Paul closes the letter by challenging Christians to test their faith, saying  … if you want to know if you are a Christian, if you want to know if you are a believer and follower of Jesus Christ, then you must test yourself (2 Corinthians 13:5) “to see if you are in the faith”; examine yourself with Scripture.

Describe a time in your life when you were at your weakest, What strength did God provide you to get you through it?

1 Corinthians

A chief city in Greece, Corinth was inhabited by approximately 400,000 made up of a mix of Greeks, Jews, and Italians, along with other nationalities. Upon his arrival there during his second missionary journey, Paul found Corinth to be a crowded center of world commerce, where sailors, merchants, adventurers, and refugees came to trade their goods as well as to partake in a vast array of questionable cultural practices and beliefs. Out of this mixed population grew many forms of rituals and human degradation with religion and philosophy being prostituted to new lows; intellectual life being placed above moral life; and future life being denied in favor of enjoying present day life to its fullest without restraint. It was in this setting known for its wickedness that Paul founded the church in Corinth.

During his subsequent stay in Ephesus somewhere between 55 – 57 AD, Apostle Paul received word that increasing tension and divisiveness had arisen due to the continuance of immoral behavior amidst his Christian community at Corinth. It is in the first of two letters to the Corinthians (1 Corinthians) that Paul addressed the increasing divisiveness along with ways on how to fix it. With Sosthenes as his scribe, Paul began this letter as he always did first by thanking God for His continued grace and providence. From there, he explained the reason for his letter, “admonishing” his beloved children as a loving parent would do. Urging uniformity of belief (“I appeal to you, brothers and sisters, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that all of you agree with one another in what you say and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be perfectly united in mind and thought”), this letter focused on the key issues plaguing the community — divisiveness, immorality, marriage, liberty, and worship — with the goal of bringing the community back to Christian doctrine. As a community, Paul shared that he expected them to become imitators of and to follow the ways of Jesus Christ (1 Corinthians. 4:14–16). Further, that as a “wise builder”, God gave him (Paul) the grace to lay a foundation upon which others could build upon (1 Corinthians 3:10). The remainder of the letter delivers some of the greatest passages in the New Testament, including the very familiar “Love Chapter” (1 Corinthians 13) and is remarkable in that it offers some very practical advice that remains relevant today in resolving problems associated with everyday life.

Outline

1 Corinthians is divided into seven parts:

  1. Salutation (1:1–3). In this section of the letter, Paul addresses the challenges in his apostleship with stated resolutions being given to him through a revelation from Christ.
  2. Thanksgiving (1:4–9). In this section of the letter, Paul thanks God for health, a safe journey, deliverance from danger, and good fortune. In addition, it introduces unity, which is the focus of this letter.
  3. Division in Corinth (1:10–4:21). In this section of the letter, Paul addresses the nature of divisiveness in the Corinth community, including facts, causes, and cures. The focus here was relying upon the Holy Spirit, Christ as the foundation for unity, and the Apostles as servants of Christ.
  4. Correction of Immoral Behavior (5:1–6:20). In this section of the letter, Paul admonishes the community of Corinth as beloved children, sharing ways in which to discipline an immoral Brother; resolve personal disputes; and address issues surrounding sexual purity.
  5. Difficulties in Corinth (7:1–14:40). In this section of the letter addresses marriage and celibacy, freedoms, the rights of the Apostles, warns against idolatry, encourages reverence in worship, and spiritual gifts, including prophecy, but the greatest of all gifts is love.
  6. Doctrine of Resurrection (15:1–58). In this section of the letter, Paul addresses the doctrine of Christ’s resurrection, the dead, and the body.
  7. Closing (16:1–24). In this section, Paul closes the letter with remarks about his intentions and efforts in improving the community of Corinth. The letter wraps up with his exhortations and wishes for peace with a prayer request and final grace.

What is some practical advice you learned after reading this letter?

Epistle to the Romans

The Epistle to the Romans is the sixth book of the New Testament. Written by Apostle Paul during the winter of 57–58 AD, this letter represents one of 13 letters or Pauline Epistles written during his travels in spreading the Word of God. Transcribed by Tertius, Paul wrote this letter marking the third stop of his first missionary journey. Having already received contributions from mission churches in Macedonia and Achaia, Paul was staying in Corinth at the home of Gaius in Corinth, Greece prior to heading back to Jerusalem with offerings for poverty-stricken believers.

Addressing the people of the church at Rome (Romans 1:7) who were predominantly Gentile, Paul wrote this letter to prepare the church for his upcoming visit to Rome and his proposed mission to Spain (Romans 1:10-15; 15:22-29). The goal of this letter was to present the basic system of salvation to a church that had not previously received Jesus’ teaching from an apostle. Through this letter, Paul sought to explain the relationship between the Jews and the Gentiles in God’s overall plan of redemption. It was critical that he convey this message to the Romans as the larger group of Gentiles within the church were rejecting Jewish Christians (Romans 14:1). Their rationale? Jewish believers were constrained by dietary laws and sacred days observed under the old law (Romans 14:2-6).

Considered his most important theological legacy or “magnum opus”, it reads more like an essay than a letter, emphasizing Christian doctrine such as sin and death, salvation, grace, faith, righteousness, justification, sanctification, redemption, resurrection and glorification with widespread references to the Old Testament. At the heart of the letter is a beautiful reminder that resonates to this very day… salvation is offered to all of us, not to a select few, through the gospel of Jesus Christ.

Outline

  • Introduction (Romans 1:1-15)
  • Righteousness from God (Romans 1:16-17)
  • The Unrighteousness of All People (Romans 1:18 – 3:20)
  • Justification for Righteousness (Romans 3:21 – 5:21)
  • Righteousness Imparted and Sanctified (Romans 6 – 8)
  • God’s Righteousness Vindicated: The Justice of His Way with Israel (Romans 9 – 11)
  • Righteousness Practiced (Romans 12:1 – 15:13)
  • Conclusion (Romans 15:14-33)
  • Commendation, Greetings, and Doxology (Romans 16)

Map of Apostle Paul’s Greatest Missionary Work (Source: Bible.org)

greatest-missionary-work-area-of-apostle-paul

The area of Paul’s greatest missionary work centers around the lands found near the Aegean Sea. Visiting cities including Miletus, Ephesus, Neapolis, Philippi, Berea, Thessalonica, Athens, Corinth and many others, the Biblical irony is that Apostle Paul wanted to first preach the gospel in other areas and that it took a special miracle to bring him to the continent of Europe!

What does salvation mean to you?