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.

2 Peter 1

Introduction
No New Testament book was more disputed by the Early Church regarding authorship and authenticity than 2 Peter. The similarities between chapter two and Jude’s letter have caused scholars to question whether Peter borrowed from Jude, Jude from Peter, or if they both borrowed from another common source. There are at least three strong reasons that support Peter as the genuine author of this letter and that he wrote before Jude.

First, there is some difference in the language used between 1 and 2 Peter. On the one hand, if 2 Peter were a forgery, someone simply using Peter’s name for credibility would have attempted to make it sound as much as possible like the letter already received and trusted. The difference in language actually supports its authenticity. On the other hand, the differences are not so great as to obviously come from two different people. A comparison of 2 Peter with Peter’s sermons recorded in Acts reveal similar language, although he preached them twenty years earlier. Thus, the similarities point to an older, more mature version of the same speaker/writer.

Second, Peter’s account of the Transfiguration in 2 Peter 1:16-19 seems to be a personal reflection, not just a repeat of the accounts in Matthew, Mark, and Luke – each of whom wrote about that second-hand. 1 Since there is nothing like that in Acts or 1 Peter, it seems unlikely that a forger would try to credit that to Peter, supporting the case that this is Peter’s own letter.

Third, like the other later writers (Hebrews, Jude, John, and even Paul’s later writings), Peter was concerned about the false teachers that would certainly infiltrate the church (2 Peter 2:1-3; 3:3-4). However, whereas in Peter, Hebrews (Hebrews 13:9), and Paul (Acts 20:28-30) these teachers were still future, Jude and John referred to them as already present in the churches (Jude 4, 17-19; 1 John 4:1-6). Thus, it is reasonable to conclude that Jude followed Peter and that he quoted from Peter in Jude 6-13 and Jude 17-18, as he fought against those Peter only prophesied.

This last reason also points to the primary theme of 2 Peter: truth versus falsehood. Throughout this short letter, starting even in the second verse, Peter repeatedly emphasized the importance of growing in our knowledge of God and Jesus. Though knowledge itself is not the only step in our spiritual growth, we have no recourse against false teachers without the full knowledge of God as revealed in the Scriptures (2 Peter 1:20-21). This “FULL KNOWLEDGE” (2 Peter 1:2, 3, 5, 8) is not to be confused with the cultic ideas of “secret” knowledge accessible to a select few. All believers (2 Peter 1:1) have access to the full knowledge of God because God has made it readily available to us.

Chapter one begins by presenting the path or process of spiritual growth in a succinct way. After stating that God had already granted believers “EVERYTHING NECESSARY FOR LIFE AND GODLINESS” (2 Peter 1:3), Peter commanded that we add to our saving faith seven qualities, each one cementing and building on the previous and producing the next (2 Peter 1:5-7). This process is based on our pursuit of truly coming to know Jesus better and love him more, without which we wander through this life blindly, forgetting God’s past grace and unable to see his promised future (2 Peter 1:9-11). You can read more about this spiritual growth process at oaktreechurch.com/thepath.

Knowing that he was about to die soon (2 Peter 1:14-15), Peter wrote this letter to make sure that his followers focused on the one thing that matters: knowing Jesus. (Some scholars believe Peter’s “TESTIMONY” also meant Mark’s Gospel, which is traditionally understood to have been Peter’s account.) For them to accomplish this, Peter insisted that they not rely on personal testimonies, even his own eyewitness account of Jesus’ Transfiguration (2 Peter 1:16-18). Instead, he pointed them to the Scriptures, the timeless account that was created by the Holy Spirit himself (2 Peter 1:19-21). Peter called these “AN ALTOGETHER RELIABLE” witness, something that they all had. Not only were the Hebrew Scriptures complete and available, the Greek apostolic writings were becoming more and more available (see Peter’s comment on Paul’s letters in 2 Peter 3:15-16), verifying that the older prophecies had come true in Christ: “IN THESE LAST DAYS HE HAS SPOKEN TO US IN A SON” (Hebrews 1:2).

Notes:

  1. Even though Matthew was one of the Twelve, he was not at the Transfiguration, and Jesus told Peter, James, and John to not talk about it until after the Resurrection (Matthew 17:9).

Acts 28

Chapter twenty-eight concludes Luke’s account of Paul’s journey to Rome. Because it does not contain the details of what happened after Paul’s two-year imprisonment, and because Acts was already part two of Luke’s work, some think that he intended to write a third volume, but that is only speculation. There is nothing in Acts or Church history to confirm it as fact.

All the people on board safely reached the shore of an island called Malta (Acts 28:1-6). The locals saw them come ashore (276 of them, Acts 27:37) and built fires to dry them out and warm them. Famously, a viper bit Paul’s arm, but he shook it off into the fire. When he did not drop dead as they expected, they began to believe that Paul was a god rather than a criminal.

Some people use this example in conjunction with Mark 16:18 to prove that Christians can handle poisonous snakes without being hurt. Paul, though, was not “handling” the snake, and God did the miracle so Paul could gain a hearing with the local official. It was not like the self-serving “snake handling” events we see today.

When Paul learned that the official’s father was very sick, he prayed over him and laid his hands on him, and the man was healed (Acts 28:7-10). After this, many others were brought to Paul and were healed as well. Although Luke does not specifically mention it, Paul certainly took the opportunity to preach the gospel while he was there.

They remained on Malta for three months before being picked up by another ship (vs. 11-16). After a few more weeks they made it to Rome. Because of Paul’s situation, he was not taken to the prison, but “WAS ALLOWED TO LIVE BY HIMSELF, WITH THE SOLDIER WHO WAS GUARDING HIM.” Because he could not make it to the synagogue, Paul asked the Jewish leaders to come to him, and he told them his story in defense of his accusations (Acts 28:17-22). They were surprised because they had heard nothing about his case, but they were very interested in hearing his message.

On the appointed day a large group came to hear him teach and discuss the gospel with him, which lasted all day long (Acts 28:23-28). As was normal, the response among the Jews was mixed. As they left, Paul declared that the Gentiles would certainly accept the gospel, even if the Jews would not.
Luke closed this volume with a note that Paul remained in that situation in Rome for two whole years, teaching everyone who would come to him. The final words in the NET translation state that he taught “WITHOUT RESTRICTION,” an accurate translation of Luke’s Greek. Acts ends Paul preaching the gospel, unhindered and with full Roman protection, from the capital of the known world.