Title: Content, but Concerned
Text: 2 Corinthians 1.1-2
CIT: The typical greeting and salutations of a letter.
CIS: to give a basic overview of this letter and challenge the listener to gain a better understanding up Paul.
Introduction: You see I’ve chosen the title, Content, but Concerned, for my first sermon series in 2nd Corinthians. This is Paul’s fourth known letter to the Corinthians. This letter appears to be written with the goal of explaining why he did not come to them as he had originally planned. Basically, in chapters 1-7, Paul explains why he has been unable to come to Corinth. In chapters 8-9, he talks to them about the collection in which they had promised to take part. And in the final section he talks to them about what he plans to do when he gets there. Throughout his letter, Paul appears to be content with his ministry and confident in his service, but concerned with their behavior. Let me take a moment to show you how I plan to divide this book into four different sermon series:
- Contentment (1-2)
- Confidence (3-7)
- Collection (8-9)
- Concerns (10-13)
Now, this might be an oversimplification of how this book’s parts are to be subdivided. For now, It is a simple way for us to begin making our way through this letter and maybe understanding Paul’s intentions for the Corinthian church. A further breakdown will look like this:
Here is a more detailed outlined:
- Content in his leadership 1.1-12
- Content in his plan 1.12-2.4
- Content in his decision 2.5-11
- Content with God’s direction 2.12-17
- Confidence in his Ministry 3.1-18
- Confidence in the Message 4.1-18
- Confidence in the future 5.1-10
- Confidence in the Gospel 5.11-21
- Confidence in affliction 6.1-13-7.1
- Confidence in grief and sorrow 7.2-16
- Giving generously 8
- Confidence in their completion 9
- Concern for their spirituality 10
- Concern for their leadership 11.1-23
- Paul’s suffering 11.22-33
- Paul’s boasting 12.1-11
- Concern for their deception 12.11
- Final warnings 13
Transition: let’s begin our study with a brief history lesson.
1. A brief history
exp.: rd 1.1-2; Corinth was a popular and powerful Commerce from about 600 BC until 146 BC, when the Romans destroyed her. The emperor had her rebuilt in 42 BC, and made her a powerful political pawn. She became the most popular political city outside of Rome and Alexandria. Her location was key. She had 2 ports and was strategically located for shipping and commerce. So you see, when Paul journeyed into Corinth for the first time he came to a beautiful city that wasn’t very old – 80 years old. Tyler is older than that!
Paul had a deep affection for the people of Corinth. While on his second missionary journey, and with the help of Priscilla and Aquila, and his faithful disciples Timothy and Silas, he planted and established that church in that city. He had lived there for over 18 months and stood toe-to-toe with the Jews who hated him. After Paul left Corinth, he traveled to Ephesus, and then went on down to Jerusalem. You can read about this and Acts 18.
Shortly after Paul returned to Antioch, Apollos arrived on the scene in Corinth. With the aid of Priscilla and Aquila, Apollos was baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus. Apollos was an incredible orator. His style of preaching and teaching wowed the Corinthians. I believe Apollos was from Alexandria, and so he probably fit in well with the Corinthians. It appears that Apollo’s did a great job in following up Paul’s work. And Paul clarifies Apollos’ job when dealing with division in the church in 1 Corinthians. He says: I planted, Apollo’s watered, but God gave the growth (3.5).
Chronologically, sometime after Paul left and traveled home, then back to Ephesus that he wrote his first letter to the Corinthians. We don’t have this letter, but we know of its existence because of 1 Corinthians 5.9: I wrote to you in my letter not to associate with sexually immoral people–. To be honest, not having this letter around anymore is probably a blessing in disguise. There were misconceptions and misunderstandings from this letter that caused Paul to write his second letter, 1st Corinthians.
Now after Paul’s first letter was written, he then received a letter from the Corinthian church with some of their concerns. It appears Paul’s first letter created more questions and concerns then it brought clarification. A second letter was then composed by Paul, which you know as 1st Corinthians. The purpose of this second letter was to clear up any miscommunication and confusion is first letter brought. From the second letter we understand the situation in Corinth to be very serious. So serious, that Paul sent Timothy to deal with the problems even before he sendt his second letter.
At some point after Paul sends his second letter, he makes a short, quick visit to Corinth. This is visit #2. It appears that he was unable to accomplish very much in that short period of time. It is possible that this visit was so short because it was so unpleasant and painful. And so the situation grew worse. The truth is, we don’t know the exact problem Corinth faced. I’m sure there were multiple problems. To be sure it had something to do with the denial of Paul’s authority as an apostle. The only reason we know about this visit is because it is mentioned in 2nd Corinthians when Paul says he’s now ready to pay a third visit to the Corinthians (12.14; 13.1) and, because he refers to a ‘painful’ visit.
After his painful visit, Paul writes a third letter, known as the ‘severe’ letter and it is in reference to this ‘painful’ visit. Whatever problems Paul experienced on this second, painful visit, he must have been very forceful and forthright in this third, severe letter. He must’ve really let the Corinthians have it! Finally, Paul writes his 4th letter, 2nd Corinthians, which is the letter we’ll be studying. So, here is a basic outline of their history.
- Visit #1: The Church is Planted
o The Previous Letter (The 1st Letter): Offering them guidance
- The Corinthian congregation sends a letter of response with questions and concerns.
- Timothy is dispatched to deal with the situation.
o 1st Corinthians (The 2nd Letter)
- Visit #2 – The Painful Visit – Paul leaves Ephesus and makes a quick attempt to correct matters, but leaves abruptly.
o The Severe Letter (The 3rd Letter)
- A Visit with Titus assuring Paul that all was well and good in Corinth (2.12-17; 7.6-7)
o 2nd Corinthians (The 4th Letter)
- Visit # 3 – He leaves Ephesus and travels the interior to Corinth for his 3rd and final visit.
Maps: 1, 2, & 3
Transition: So, this is a very short and abbreviated history. For fun, let’s now take a brief glimpse of the letter.
2. A Brief Glimpse (27-29)
exp.: there are some wonderful verses in 2 Corinthians. Some you will recognize, and maybe some you’ll say, “I didn’t know that verse was found here!” I’ve highlighted a few for you to see some context to the letter, and some concerns Paul had, and popular verses – maybe you didn’t know came from 2 Corinthians.
1.3-4: 3 Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, 4 who comforts us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God.
2.3-4: 3 And I wrote as I did, so that when I came I might not suffer pain from those who should have made me rejoice, for I felt sure of all of you, that my joy would be the joy of you all. 4 For I wrote to you out of much affliction and anguish of heart and with many tears, not to cause you pain but to let you know the abundant love that I have for you.
3.5: Not that we are sufficient in ourselves to claim anything as coming from us, but our sufficiency is from God.
4.17, 18: For this slight momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal.
5.10: For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each one may receive what is due for what he has done in the body, whether good or evil.
5.17: Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.
5.21: For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.
6.2-3: Behold, now is the favorable time; behold, now is the day of salvation. 3 We put no obstacle in anyone’s way, so that no fault may be found with our ministry,
6.14-16:14 Do not be unequally yoked with unbelievers. For what partnership has righteousness with lawlessness? Or what fellowship has light with darkness? 15 What accord has Christ with Belial? Or what portion does a believer share with an unbeliever? 16 What agreement has the temple of God with idols? For we are the temple of the living God;
8.9: For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sake he became poor, so that you by his poverty might become rich.
9.6-8: 6 The point is this: whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows bountifully will also reap bountifully. 7 Each one must give as he has decided in his heart, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver. 8 And God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that having all sufficiency in all things at all times, you may abound in every good work.
10.4: 4 For the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh but have divine power to destroy strongholds.
11.28: And, apart from other things, there is the daily pressure on me of my anxiety for all the churches.
12.7-9: 7 So to keep me from becoming conceited because of the surpassing greatness of the revelations, a thorn was given me in the flesh, a messenger of Satan to harass me, to keep me from becoming conceited. 8 Three times I pleaded with the Lord about this, that it should leave me. 9 But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.”
Transition: I think this last verse hits upon a theme that flows throughout 2nd Corinthians: suffering.
3. The Letter’s Theme: (17.1c)
exp.: He’s writing to explain why he hasn’t made his way there and to tell them of what to expect when he finally gets there. But there is more here: they want to know why he suffers and struggles so much. I mean, if you really are called of God, then:
- Why hasn’t God made things easier for you?
- Why aren’t you eloquent, like the other super apostles we’ve heard from?
- Why don’t you have money and your wife with you?
- Why are you always arrested and imprisoned, beaten and mistreated? These other super-apostles don’t suffer like you?
- Why does your ministry reflect a lackluster appearance compared with the others?
- Most preachers take money for their services, what is your motivation to not receive payment, and to work so hard at tent-making to survive?
- Are you really then taking up a collection for those in Jerusalem?
- Why do you, Paul, spend so much time in teaching Scripture and not entertaining and inspiring us with stories about the demonstration of God’s power, like the other apostles?
Transition: No wonder he was hurt!
Dr. Fred Creason did a study on 2 Corinthians when he was the pastor of FBC, Moorcroft, WY. He entitled his study, A Pastor’s Pain. Although, that isn’t the direction I’d like to go, you can’t help but see Paul’s painful struggle with these Corinthians. He loves them so much – I guess that’s why it all hurts so bad.
Truth is: you can protect yourself from pain by not developing relationships, don’t love those you work and serve with, by all means, don’t become a member of a church. Instead, don’t do what Paul did and risk having your heart broken.
CS Lewis:“To love at all is to be vulnerable. Love anything and your heart will be wrung and possibly broken. If you want to make sure of keeping it intact you must give it to no one, not even an animal. Wrap it carefully round with hobbies and little luxuries; avoid all entanglements. Lock it up safe in the casket or coffin of your selfishness. But in that casket, safe, dark, motionless, airless, it will change. It will not be broken; it will become unbreakable, impenetrable, irredeemable. To love is to be vulnerable.”
Maybe I chose to teach through second Corinthians for myself. Or, maybe just maybe I thought that was something you needed to hear. What Paul did and said and wrote to the Corinthians, it hurt them. But isn’t that how he showed his love? I mean really, if he didn’t love them, wouldn’t it have been so much easier on him if he would have just left them alone? But, when you love someone, you will share with them what they need to hear – even if it hurts.
I’d like to offer you some thoughts as we begin. Let me close with a few questions today:
- What is the state of your heart? Is it vulnerable, because you’ve been willing to love? Or, is it locked away safe from those who might hurt it? Be honest. What is the state of your heart? Some of you today will acknowledge that your heart is locked away safe and sound from ever being hurt by anyone ever again. And you will leave this place today without placing them before the Lord. I plead with you, don’t do it.
- Sometimes it’s not about loving, but more about allowing yourself to be loved. Maybe you think you don’t deserve it, and maybe you don’t! You’ve burned bridges, you’ve been mean, you’ve sabotaged your relationships. But isn’t that when love is truly expressed – When it’s given without any strings attached?
- Are there ministries that have become more important to you than people? Think about that for a moment. Do you worry more about money and possessions and power than you do about the very people you’re trying to serve?
- Is the Gospel hindered in any way because of relationships that remain unmended, unattended? Is it possible that you are the barrier to the Gospel going out?
- Do you have unfair expectations of your pastor? Of your staff? Maybe because another church has this or that or does this or that? Maybe your experience with ministry has given you expectations of this current administration that are unrealistic? Maybe you were a pastor (Lyle, Joshua, Tony Boyd, Rod Skelton, Shawn from the military) or your husband was a pastor or your dad was a pastor or your grandfather was a pastor or your brother is a pastor or your cousin is a missionary or maybe you served as a missionary or your parents were missionaries or your grandparents were missionaries or your dad’s cousin’s college roommate’s step-sister was a missionary! … Do you have a unfair expectations because you’re comparing the ministry staff at Calvary to something you know or heard of?
- Time. How do you spend your time? Is it investing in people or things?