I. Paul’s Relationship With The Corinthians

A. History

1. It seems that Paul wrote four letters to the Corinthians.

2. One prior to 1 Cor., then 1 Cor. One prior to 2 Cor., and then 2 Cor.

B. He Had Intended On Visiting Them.

1. See 1 Corinthians 16:1-17. Paul wanted to visit them but was unable.

a. As a result, the Corinthians criticized Paul, implying that he was double-minded.

b. It seems that this criticism started earlier than this. See 1 Corinthians 4:1-5

2. Though Paul was their spiritual father, he was wrongly compared with other so-called apostles, and declared to be inferior. See 2 Corinthians 10:10; 11:5; 11:13; 12:11

C. The Power Of A Godly Life Vs. 12-14

1. When being misunderstood and accused, Paul spoke of himself with a clear conscience.

2. V.12 – Our boasting is this- Paul’s boasting was different than others’. See 2 Cor. 5:12-16a

3. V.12 – Paul was able to ask the Corinthians to remember his former time with them.

a. Simplicity – singleness of purpose

b. Godly sincerity – purity, unmixed motives

c. Not fleshly wisdom – not with purely human cleverness or reasoning.

d. By the grace of God – Paul’s sincerity was prompted & accomplished working in him

e. More abundantly toward you – to a greater degree than normal.

4. V.13 – There were no hidden meanings or cover up in Paul’s communiques with them.

a. Paul hoped that someday, they would have full understanding of his heart for them.

b. His heart for them was sincere, but they couldn’t fully see that yet.

c. They were spiritually immature and had been influenced by the “super-apostles”.

5. V.14 – Paul gave them credit for understanding him partially, but not enough to be proud of him in the same way he was proud of them.

6. Vs. 13, 14 NLT Our letters have been straightforward, and there is nothing written between the lines and nothing you can’t understand. I hope someday you will fully understand us, 14 even if you don’t understand us now. Then on the day when the Lord Jesus returns, you will be proud of us in the same way we are proud of you.

II. The Problem Between Them

A. The Chronology (Per David Guzik)

1. In 1 Cor. 16:5-7 Paul promised to see the Corinthians after his trip through Macedonia.

2. Vs. 15, 16 – He changed his plans and decided to see them first on his way to Macedonia and then again on his way back, to give them a second benefit.

3. Paul made the first visit on the way to Macedonia, but it was painful for both him and the Corinthians because it was full of confrontation (I would not come again to you in sorrow, 2 Corinthians 2:1).

4. At some time after this visit, Paul (or perhaps his representative) was openly insulted in Corinth by someone from the “anti-Paul” party (2 Corinthians 2:5-10, 7:12).

5. Because the first visit was so unpleasant and sensing no benefit in a second visit, Paul abandoned his plan to see them on the way back from Macedonia.

6. Titus was sent from Ephesus to Corinth with the “severe letter” (2 Corinthians 2:3-9). Titus was also there to collect the contribution for the church in Judea, but the Corinthians didn’t give as they should have.

7. Paul left Ephesus and suffered his “affliction in Asia.” 2 Corinthians 1:8

8. Paul then went to Macedonia and among other things, he organized a collection for the needy Christians in Judea. Titus met Paul in Macedonia, and told Paul about the Corinthians’ response to the “severe letter” (#3 letter)

9. Later from Macedonia, Paul wrote 2 Corinthians when he heard of more problems at Corinth. The letter was probably written in the fall of 56 A.D.

B. Accusations & Explanations

1. The Corinthians viewed Paul as flaky because of these changes. Plus, others criticized.

2. Paul has regularly been misunderstood. He takes time to explain himself.

3. Paul also asked them to think things through, and to respond reasonably and spiritually.

4. Paul did change his plans, but he asked them to consider his character and life of faith.

5. V.17 – “Do you think that I am indecisive about life, or that I am moved by the flesh?

a. NOTE – It is acceptable if the Corinthians were disappointed that Paul didn’t come.

b. NOTE – They were totally wrong to now blame his character over this. This was a sin.

c. We must be extremely careful to not presume to know why people do things.

d. Actions and words can be judged. We ought not judge intentions. We cannot know.

6. V.18 – Paul affirms that it was not his way or intention to be doubleminded.

7. Vs 19, 20 – Paul essentially says as he followed Jesus, even a change of plans is a “Yes”.

a. If the Corinthians would receive this, they would see it as a yes to the glory of God.

b. Paul saw the changes as good; he prayed they eventually would too.

C. Paul’s Conclusion Vs. 21-24

1. V. 21 – Paul points out that God had called them all and had anointed Paul & company.

2. V. 22 – Paul had the internal witness of the Holy Spirit. He had God’s internal witness.

3. V. 23 – Paul avoided them because of how tense and painful previous visits had been.

a. They assumed he stayed away for selfish reasons; he didn’t want to bring sorrow.

4. V. 24 -The Apostle didn’t believe he had a divine right make them do anything.

a. He would prefer to reason with them from God’s truth.

b. His ultimate desire for them was their spiritual joy.

5. Does a pastor have a divine right to tell people what to do?

a. I can’t tell anyone what to do. I can’t make anyone do anything.

b. I can’t make anyone agree that they should change their life, follow God, repent.

c. I will reason with people. Appeal to the scriptures. Appeal to life experience.

d. But I can’t make anyone do anything.

6. When does a pastor take authority over the life of someone?

a. I can’t tell them what to do, but I will tell them what they can’t do.

b. They can’t come to Cornerstone and hurt, scare,
intimidate gossip, lie, slander, seduce, steal, defraud, lust after, or manipulate anyone in this church.

c. For their own good, and the good of the church…

7. Ray Stedman– Now this is a very important principle, because here the apostle is challenging one of the widespread misunderstandings in the church in our day. Paul says, “Look, I am not your boss. If I had come to Corinth the way I had originally planned, after having already paid you a painful visit, it’s very likely that my powerful personality, my strong will, my position as a respected apostle would have put such pressure upon you that you would have obeyed me, but not out of conviction that was what the Lord wanted you to do. So I did not come, in order that you might preserve freedom to do what God wants, not what I want.” If he had come he would have given them the impression that he had authority over them. But that is not true, he says, “We are not lords over your faith. We are not your boss. We have no authority to tell you what to do or what to say or how to act, but rather” (in a beautiful phrase he puts it), “we are helpers of your joy.” That is wonderful, isn’t it?