2 Corinthians 1

Introduction
Second Corinthians is arguably the most personal of Paul’s nine letters to local churches (not including those to Timothy, Titus, or Philemon). Over thirteen chapters he shared his physical and emotional distress, he encouraged a volatile group of believers as he defended his apostolic authority over them. The first section (chapters 1-5) contains the major key to the letter’s theme (2 Corinthians 1:3-4) and reveals the apostle as weak and sickly, battling heartache and depression. In this letter, Paul truly wrote out of his pain. (See the introduction to 1 Corinthians for more information regarding this church.)

Paul’s exact location at the time of this writing is uncertain, but his account of waiting for Titus at Troas then going to Macedonia (2 Corinthians 2:12-13; 7:5-7) seems to place him in Macedonia (near Philippi, Thessalonica, or Berea) in Acts 20, so he probably wrote this letter around A.D. 55-56. Since he was in Ephesus headed for Macedonia when he wrote 1 Corinthians (1 Corinthians 16:8), it is probable he was still traveling on that itinerary.

 

Chapter one breaks slightly from the traditional letter format of ancient times. Following the writer’s name and intended recipients, we find Paul’s standard blessing of “grace and peace” (2 Corinthians 1:2). Often there would be a short prayer of thanksgiving for the readers as well (see Romans 1:8; 1 Corinthians 1:4; et al.), but Paul chose to focus his attention immediately upon God, the Great Comforter. Paul was quick to declare a major reason that they were comforted “in all our troubles” was “so that we may be able to comfort those experiencing any trouble” (2 Corinthians 1:4). The cliché, “Blessed to be a blessing,” is more appropriately stated, “Comforted to extend comfort.” This is not only a major theme of this letter, but it is also a timeless principle that believers would do well to remember and faithfully live out today. Whenever we gain comfort in a time of testing or trial, God wants us to hold onto that so we can share that with others.

The reason for Paul’s introductory remarks is obvious very quickly: he and Timothy were sick and discouraged (2 Corinthians 1:8-11). Consider his description of their current state: “affliction . . . burdened excessively, beyond our strength . . . despaired even of living . . . sentence of death . . . so great a risk of death.” Whatever the situations they faced that combined to bring them to that point, Paul’s only hope was that the believers would join with him in prayer and that God would deliver them from death again.

Paul revealed the second purpose of his letter in 2 Corinthians 1:12-22. He had intended to visit Corinth again, so he could provide them with a spiritual blessing and experience mutual comfort and growth (2 Corinthians 1:15; see Romans 1:11-12). While he was with them, he expected that they would help him get to Macedonia and back to Judea. Although he deliberately chose to not ask for ongoing financial support, Paul knew he had that right and was not hesitant to seek monetary help when he thought it necessary (see 1 Corinthians 9:1-12). However, as he would explain shortly, he had to change those plans. Unfortunately, it appears that someone in the church had used Paul’s delay to malign the apostle and make it seem that he was two-faced, promising one thing yet doing something else. Paul questioned his accusers and those who listened to them: “Is this my normal method that you have to come expect? Is this the gospel I preached to you, how I presented Christ? Have my co-workers, Silas or Timothy, ever given you that impression?” His answer was, “Of course not. God speaks only truth, and we glorify him by doing the same.” Paul claimed that the truth of his promises (and plans) was based on God’s strength, our unity in Christ, and the Spirit’s indwelling and sealing (2 Corinthians 1:21-22).

What a great reminder for us that speaking the truth is the very work of the Trinity in our lives.

Proverbs 10

Chapters ten through thirteen form one unit in the Hebrew text, the first of three long sections, with no paragraph marker until the end of the four chapters. Unlike the first nine chapters, the format starting at this point is what most people consider a “proverb,” e.g., a one- or two-line saying containing a general principle or command, though not necessarily a guaranteed of promised results in every case.

Most of these proverbs are contained in a single verse and follow one of four patterns. In nearly every case, these use a common form of parallelism (A-B or A-A) to make the point.:

  • Positive statement…but parallel negative opposite
  • Negative statement…but parallel positive opposite
  • Positive statement…and further positive statement
  • Negative statement…and further negative statement

Solomon called the people in his positive statements righteous, wise, upright, shrewd, faithful, diligent, generous, and blameless. In contrast, the person we should not emulate is wicked, foolish, lazy, perverse, sluggard, evildoer, faithless, ruthless, without discretion, stupid, twisted, and a scoffer.

The topics of this section are just as plentiful as Solomon’s descriptions of those who participate in them. Because he addressed finances, instruction and discipline, personal appearance, parenting, integrity, anxiety, hope, work, speech, and motives, this section contains a wealth of wisdom and general principle for many of life’s daily situations.

Proverbs 9

Chapter nine closes the first section of Proverbs, with its emphasis on finding, gaining, and heeding wisdom. In Proverbs 9:1-6, wisdom is personified as a woman preparing for a dinner party. She has created a meal, set the table, and sent out the invitations. Her special guests are the naïve, who desperately need the knowledge and understanding she offers. In one of the first major distinctions between the wise and foolish person, Solomon noted that a wise person receives instruction, whereas a fool does not (Proverbs 9:7-9). In fact, it is often better to not even try to correct a fool, because he will mock and abuse the would-be helper. A wise person, on the other hand, will use the instruction to become wiser.

Proverbs 9:10 is the matching bookend to Proverbs 1:7 for this opening section of the book. Solomon has already described the “fear of the LORD” as rejecting evil, and in Proverbs 1:7 and Proverbs 9:10, he wrote that this proper fear of the LORD is required to obtain true knowledge and wisdom. This God-given wisdom can add years to a person’s life but the one who mocks God’s wisdom pays for it (Proverbs 9:11-12).

Just as Wisdom has been personified as a woman in the past few chapters, this chapter closes by personifying Folly as well. Like Wisdom, Folly also stands and calls for followers. In fact, Folly’s words in Proverbs 9:16 are identical to Wisdom’s call in Proverbs 9:4. Foolishness often looks like Wisdom on the surface, but those who reject Wisdom for Folly’s called “do not realize that the dead are there, that her guests are in the depths of the grave.”