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2 Corinthians 5:11-21

You can read the text here.

Paul and his coworkers know and respect God. And given the coming judgment they seek to bring others to know and fear the Lord. But it's not only other people they are open to scrutiny from, God knows them well and approves of them and Paul hopes that the Corinthians share in that judgment.[1] Paul's not trying to convince the Corinthians that God is with them and working through them. He is letting them know how God works so that they can counter those who argue against the divine origins of Paul's mission based on his outward appearance. Yes, Paul did not display ecstatic religious behavior before them, but those experiences were private and not something that would benefit the Corinthians to see. They carry on and persevere in their perilous apostleship because Jesus' love compels them;[2] they need to spread the good news! Jesus died a death for all,[3] so that we would serve him as our Lord and Master, living to please him rather than o…
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2 Corinthians 5:1-10

You can read the text here.

Paul further expands on the hope that gives him strength to carry out his ministry. In a nutshell this hope is resurrection.[1] Paul knows that after death, the perishable human body will be no more, and the imperishable resurrection body will be gained, it's waiting for us, prepared by God. Life in the body was hard and full of suffering, but if we are approved by God,[2] then there will be more to the end than death; resurrection life will await.[3] Paul and his companions faced much opposition and persecution that broke their bodies, however their longing wasn't for death as an end to suffering, but a new mode of existence where suffering and weakness were no more. In fact, that is what God was preparing them for, little by little in this life, through the agency of the Holy Spirit. Those changes and victories that were alluded to earlier in the letter were God's guarantee of the fullness of life to come when the resurrection happens. Life ov…

2 Corinthians 4:7-18

You can read the text here.

Paul continues his discussion of his persecution continuing to insist on a particular way of framing them. Paul and his coworkers may be fragile,[1] but what they contain within them is something very, very valuable, and something that was given to them by God; not their own. The glory of Jesus' resurrection life, on display in their ministry is what gives them the strength to endure all hardships. It's the reason they suffer, so that Jesus empowering and transforming life can be seen in them in how they persevere as a witness to him. It may look like they are dying in the process, but their death brings life to all who come to follow Jesus as a result of their witness in and through suffering. In a way their life is a replica of Jesus pattern of death and resurrection.[2]

Like the psalmist, Paul has to speak about what (who) he has seen: the resurrected Jesus! He speaks because he knows all who are faithful to the resurrected Lord will experience t…

2 Corinthians 4:1-6

You can read the text here.

Paul and his co-workers faced real difficulties during their missionary journeys. However, he knew that God was always sustaining them so they carried on. Since they have a ministry that reveals glory, they preach openly and honestly, with no deception and nothing to hide. They plainly appeal to everyone, speaking the truth before God. Now not everyone perceives the truth in their message, so it is veiled to some, but they are not going to participate in the life in the age to come anyways.[1] Seeing the gospel is equivalent to hearing with faith. This is what Satan prevents.[2] The enemy has blinded them so that cannot see God's glory in the person of Jesus, the Christ.[3] That is what they preach, Jesus, not themselves, they are his servants, and hence theirs as well.[4] This is Paul's experience, that God moves when received with faith. His glorious light shone into Paul and transformed him via knowledge of God through the sight of Jesus. What he…

2 Corinthians 3:7-18

You can read the text here.

Paul continues to mount a sustained defense of his ministry in this section. His main tool is to argue from lesser to greater. The baseline assumption throughout the section is that the Mosaic covenant and law are glorious and there is no attempt to denigrate it.[1] So, if that covenant is glorious, then surely the coming of the Spirit, with its power to transform is even more glorious. Here glory is best understood as manifestation of the divine nature. So, the reasoning is clear, the Spirit with its ability to transform and bring life and righteousness is more glorious than the ministry that ultimate brought condemnation because it did not bring about the required transformation.[2] As a result the time of the Law is ending because the Spirit surpasses the Law.

Paul now shifts and probably tackles a specific charge laid against him. Paul was very frank in the way he presented the gospel, not veiling it from the Corinthians, like Moses did from the Israeli…

2 Corinthians 2:14-3:6

You can read the text here.

Paul continues with a more general defense of his ministry. This section is not defensive but he still is clearly playing some defense.

Despite all of that happened along the way, and all of the opposition Paul can thank God.[1] God is victorious and in his victory parade, Paul himself willingly gets paraded around in his suffering, because his suffering spreads the victory. Paul may appear defeated but in reality he is exuding the sweet odor of Christ's sacrifice in his example and preaching.[2] Only those who are being saved have the discernment to correctly identify the smell, however. And to those who are not, it is the stench of death. Paul is not in this role because of any inherent quality he has, God has qualified him for this role and God sends them in contrast to others who may have less pure motives.

Why is Paul bringing this up? Is it to commend his ministry to the Corinthians? No, he isn't and he doesn't need to prove his credential…

2 Corinthians 2:1-13

You can read the text here.

Paul continues to explain his deviation from his originally communicated travel plans. He did not want to visit and have to offer a rebuke for a lingering problem within the community, thereby causing them pain. He wanted his next visit to be a joyful meeting, rather than a painful one, as causing them pain would be painful for him. Likewise seeing him joyful would bring them joy which was the goal of his intended visit. He wrote the painful letter to challenge them for this reason, out of love, since their personal meetings were rare, the loving thing to do was to deal with the problem via letter so that their in person meeting could be as sweet as they both desired.[1] It was also written to test their character, to see if they would be obedient.[2]

While Paul did write to challenge them to deal with an issue related to a member within the congregation, it wasn't he who was affected by the problem, it was rather the Corinthian body itself. Paul was gl…