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Bible Commentaries

Brian Bell Commentary on the Bible

2 Corinthians 1

Verses 1-11

  1. Intro:
    1. The bulletin board out in a shop carried this notice: IN CASE OF ACCIDENT OR INJURY, NOTIFY YOUR SUPERVISOR IMMEDIATELY. At the bottom of the notice someone scribbled, “He’ll kiss it and make it better.” [we laugh but, God will...]
    2. Alan Redpath said, “Personally, I would rather have the spiritual gift of bringing life to one broken heart than the ability to preach a thousand sermons.”
    3. There was actually 4 letters written by Paul to Corinth that we know of:
      1. The 1st we don’t have; the 2nd letter written was our 1st Cor.; the 3rd we don’t have(mentioned 2:4-11, scholars have named it the “severe” letter); & this letter was the 4th letter, written from Macedonia & sent to Corinth by Titus.
      2. 1st Cor. was Practical; 2nd Cor. is Personal.
    4. Purpose of this letter - to affirm his ministry, defend his authority as an apostle, to prepare them for his visit, & refute false teachers.
    5. Key word – Comfort (29 x’s in 2 Cor.)
      1. Yet many references to “suffering” also. – We’ll see they often go hand in hand!
  2. COMFORT! (1-7)
    1. Paul addresses one of the oldest questions of man…“Why suffering?”
      1. His answer is 3-fold: Christians Need Comfort; Christians Receive Comfort; Christians Share Comfort.
    2. Let’s define…Comfort/Παρακaλεw – (Para=alongside; Kaleo=to call) “to call alongside.”
      1. Thus, comfort is given by someone called alongside to help.
        1. Like a nurse called to a patients bedside.
    3. CHRISTIANS NEED COMFORT!
    4. Who comforts US in ALL our tribulations(afflictions)
    5. Everyone needs comfort! - [Jesus in Gethsemane. Paul. To the disciples Jesus said He would send them “the comforter”]
      1. When tragedy strikes, when our life collapses before our eyes, that’s when we need someone to come alongside & put an arm around us!
    6. CHRISTIANS RECEIVE COMFORT! (3,4a,5)
    7. Though God is often silent during these times, He’s always our Παρακaλεw.
      1. You’ve heard of “Creature Comfort”?…well, the best comfort for the creature is from his Creator!
      2. He will give you the Grace & Peace(2) you need, when you need it.
      3. Sufferings are not accidents but divine appointments.
      4. To follow Christ is to follow him into suffering!
    8. The law of flow and overflow! (5)
      1. When a cup is filled to overflowing, whatever spills over the edge is the same as what's being poured in.
      2. If suffering is poured into a Christian, the Christian will overflow. But what spills over is different from what is poured in.
        1. Suffering goes in but comfort comes out.
      3. When we experience tribulation for being a Christian, and suffering is poured into our lives, God will transform it by His supernatural grace and power. Another translation reads, "Just as the sufferings of Christ flow over into our lives, so also through Christ our comfort overflows" (2 Cor. 1:5 NLT 2007)
    9. The law of a blessed proportion! (sufferings/comforts)
      1. The Ruler of Providence seems to bear a pair of scales - on one side He puts His people’s trials, and in the other He puts their consolations/comforts.
        1. When the scale of trial is nearly empty, you will always find the scale of consolation in nearly the same condition; and when the scale of trials is full, you will find the scale of consolation just as heavy.
    10. How have you experienced God’s comfort during times of difficulty & pain?
    11. CHRISTIANS SHARE COMFORT! (4b,6,7)
    12. I’m listening to the audiobook Kel gave me for Father’s day by Philip Yancey called Prayer.
      1. He was interviewing a lady who goes ever day into the most violent prison in South Africa. Her efforts there have shown remarkable results in calming the violence. Twice prompting the BBC to do a documentary on her. In trying to explain the results Joanna said to him, “well of course Philip, God was already present in the prison, I just had to make Him visible!
        1. When you come alongside to share comfort w/someone, remember this 1 thing.
          God is already present in that situation, & you just had to make Him visible!
    13. ​​​​​​​​​​​​​​When it comes to suffering, you can choose to have “Me-centered suffering” or “Others-centered suffering”!
    14. “God’s comfort is not given; it is loaned, & you are expected to pass it on to others.” (Warren Wiersbe)
      1. God seeks chain reaction comfort…pass it on!
      2. Here is a ministry all Christians can(& should) possess! [the giving comfort ministry!]
        1. Yet, it is a very costly ministry!
    15. Remember, comfort is given by someone called alongside to help.
      1. Little children have to deal with monsters or bad guys under the bed.
        1. A child’s fears are not to be laughed at but to be worked through.
          1. I used to check for sure! (under beds, in closets, make my rounds b4 bed)
        2. And so, you alleviate those fears by “looking under the bed” for them!
    16. When you suffer, avoid self-pity, because self-pity will turn you into a reservoir instead of a channel.
      1. If you don’t share the comfort God gave you, your experience in the fire will be wasted. - Don’t waste your sufferings!
      2. John Henry Jowett said, “God does not comfort us to make us comfortable, but to make us comforters.”
        1. Lycia at Randy’s memorial...comforted us! [Greg England gave the nicest compliment]
      3. Have you gone through any sufferings? How have you used them?
      4. When you know someone around you is suffering, how do you respond? Do you agonize with them, or does it give you 5 minutes of concern? :(
    17. What a sad plight when our modern-day armchair-preachers, preach a gospel of health & wealth for everyone…what do they do with this?
      1. God forbid their message was true…look how much we’d miss out on via suffering!
        1. I don’t look forward to suffering, but when I read it’s divine benefits how can’t you seek God’s direct comfort to you? And, being able to help others because of it.
      2. To point to “suffering” & say it is “because of sin in the individuals life”, their finger also must point to the Savior & damn Him also…for He suffered!
        1. Rom.8:18 For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us.
    18. P. T. Forsyth said, “You must live with people to know their problems, and live with God In order to solve them.”
      1. If we want to bring comfort to others, we must have an intimate relationship with the Lord and experience His comfort.
    19. (6) Enduring = υποµονη(upomone), not bleak acceptance of trouble, but triumph.
      1. Don’t just except suffering, but triumph over it.
      2. Often we start well in our sufferings, often holding on to our “pat” scriptures (i.e. not fresh). Yet after “a whole day” we fizzle fast!
        1. The cheetah survives by running down its prey. The big cat can sprint 70mph. But the cheetah cannot sustain that pace for long. Within its long, sleek body is a disproportionately small heart, which causes the cheetah to tire quickly. Unless the cheetah catches its prey in the first flurry, it must abandon the chase.
        2. Sometimes Christians seem to have the cheetah's approach to suffering. We lack the heart for sustained effort, we fizzle before we finish. We vow to start faster and run harder, when what we need may be not more speed but more staying power - stamina that comes only from a bigger heart. Motion and busyness, no matter how great, yield nothing unless we allow God to give us the heart.
    20. So, How do I share this comfort?
      1. Well, How do you seek to be comforted & supported by others?
      2. Read practical list…
    21. What Do I Do? What Do I Say?
      1. Do be a good listener. Answer briefly any questions.
      2. Do show extreme sensitivity.
      3. Do remember words aren’t always necessary (in giving comfort).
      4. Do acknowledge the grieving person’s pain.
      5. Do allow them to express whatever emotion they are comfortable with.
      6. Do give a squeeze of the hand, or hand on the shoulder (depending on its appropriateness, or familiarity with the individual).
      7. Do remember the others who are grieving also.
      8. Do help them to put off any decisions that don’t have to be made right away (often they start worrying about the future, this obviously isn’t the right time to make any “life” decisions at such an emotional time).
      9. Do give brief & simple explanations w/children. Use concrete & familiar examples.
      10. Do give assurances, and extend hope (“You will be ok”, “You will get through this.”)
    22. What I Shouldn’t Do. What I Shouldn’t Say?
      1. Don’t avoid the grieving person.
      2. Don’t wait for them to reach out to you, reach out to them.
      3. Don’t be critical of the bereaved person’s actions.
      4. Don’t ask countless loaded questions.
      5. Don’t encourage flights of fantasy, help them in the process of accepting the realities of death.
      6. Don’t say, “I know what you are going through.” Everyone’s grief is unique.
      7. Don’t try to answer when they ask “Why?”
      8. Don’t try to have “all” the answers.
      9. Don’t give platitudes, cliches or trite expressions, such as, “At least he didn’t suffer”, “Time heals all wounds”, “The Lord knows best”, God doesn’t make mistakes.” (These are true, but they don’t necessarily bring comfort at this time)
      10. Don’t minimize the loss of a baby through a miscarriage, or still-birth.
      11. Don’t tell them about similar incidents or accidents!!!
    23. Read Job 2:11-13 --> then 16:1-5.
    24. How have you been able to help others because of the sufferings & comforts you have experienced? (my moms death, & being involved in many families lives through many funerals)
  3. CONFIDENCE! (8-11)
    1. ​​​​​​​(8) We do not know exactly which experience this was.
      1. Paul experienced suffering so intense that he was almost ready to give up.
      2. Fact…God does not shelter His people from trials!
    2. Re-read vs.8 (Poem)
      1. Pressed out of measure and pressed to all length; Pressed so intensely, it seems beyond strength; Pressed in the body, and pressed in the soul; Pressed in the mind till the dark surges roll. Pressure by foes, and pressure from friends, Pressure on pressure, till life nearly ends. Pressed into knowing no helper but God; Pressed into loving the staff and the rod; Pressed into living a life in the Lord; Pressed into living a Christ-life outpoured.
      2. Are you under pressure? Sure. We all are. But we can be victorious if we let that pressure teach us to live in the power of Christ! (Galaxie Software. (2002). 10,000 Sermon Illustrations. Biblical Studies Press.)
    3. NOT TRUST IN OURSELVES! (9a)
    4. Just as we shouldn’t focus on self in suffering so we shouldn’t focus on self in trusting!
    5. Alan Redpath said, “…God has one great purpose for His people above everything else: It is to destroy in us forever any possible confidence in the flesh; it is to bring us to the place where self-confidence has passed into history & has been exchanged for a confidence in God, who raises the dead.”
    6. When we are most helpless we are also most dependent!
    7. TRUST IN GOD! (9b)
    8. Be driven back to God!
    9. Why is it so important to learn how to rely on God rather than ourselves during life’s trials?
      1. We need divine weapons to fight against these.
      2. And only God’s Grace is sufficient for us in every type of suffering or hardship.
      3. A key throughout 2 Cor. is that, God displays His power to us & others through our weaknesses!
        1. He is usually most glorified in the midst of our weaknesses rather than by removing them!
    10. Job said, Though He slay me, yet will I trust Him. 13:15
    11. End: Robert Louis Stevenson tells of a storm that caught a vessel off a rocky coast and threatened to drive it and its passengers to destruction. In the midst of the terror, one daring man, contrary to orders, went to the deck, made a dangerous passage to the pilot house and saw the steerman, lashed fast at his post of holding the wheel unwaveringly, and inch by inch, turning the ship out, once more, to sea. The pilot saw the watcher and smiled. Then, the daring passenger went below and gave out a note of cheer: “I have seen the face of the pilot, and he smiled. All is well.”
    12. Prayer:
      God, show us Your face so we’ll know all is well.
      God, You WILL kiss it & make it better. God, we will do our best to make you visible.

Verses 12-24

  1. Intro:
    1. Don’t you hate to be misunderstood?
      1. Last week we talked about “suffering”, & being “comforted by God”!
      2. Another aspect of suffering is when we “verbally suffer”, from verbal attacks!
        1. Often verbal wounds cause far worse pain then the physical one’s.
        2. Ecclesiasticus 28:17(written by Jesus ben Sira, 200bc. aka Wisdom of Sirach) (though not inspired, certainly is true) “The blow of the whip raises a welt, but a blow of the tongue crushes bones.”
        3. ​​​​​​​Or, as Washington Irving said, “A sharp tongue is the only edge tool that grows keener with constant use.”
    2. We know the old adage we said as kids is NOT true, “Sticks & stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me.”
      1. They not only hurt but can cause “internal bleeding”! – Ask the employee that gets daily berated by his boss in front of his/her coworkers. Ask the wife/husband that deals w/this daily. Ask the child who gets this dished on his/her plate at every meal.
    3. We have all experienced attacks against our actions (what we haven’t done), our words (what we haven’t said), or our motives (what we didn’t mean).
      1. This is what Paul now faces w/the Corinthian church!
    4. Outline: What you see is what you get! What you heard is not what I said! What you perceive is not what it is!
      1. The Corinthian’s misjudge Paul by his: Actions, by his Words, & by his Motives!
    5. So how do you deal with false accusations?
      1. Some plant the flag of Passivity & say nothing; others the flag of Aggression & lash out
        1. Passivity leaves the lie unanswered – Aggression only complicates things.
        2. Which do you usually lean towards?
          1. Paul simply uses wisdom & truth!
  2. WHAT YOU SEE IS WHAT YOU GET! (12-14)
    1. ​​​​​​​Here they misjudged Paul by his Actions! [Paul you’re insincere!]
    2. (12) Paul brings 3 things to the witness stand: (simplicity; Godly sincerity; & the Grace of God)
      1. Simplicity – Frankness.
      2. Godly sincerity – Purity.
        1. It means “Judged by the sun”. “Determined by sunlight”.
          1. “It is something that can bear the test of being held up to the light of the sun & looked at w/the sun shining through it.”
        2. If I held you up to the light how would you fare?
          1. When Jesus, the unapproachable light, eyes fix on you how will you & your actions stand?
      3. The Grace of God – Not mere human wisdom.
    3. We can add a new beatitude, “Blessed is the man who has nothing to hide.”
      1. ​​​​​​​Both Mark Twain and Arthur Conan Doyle supposedly sent similar telegrams to a dozen prominent men, "FLEE AT ONCE - ALL IS DISCOVERED." All of whom packed up and left town immediately!
    4. (14) In the day of our Lord Jesus - George Whitefield said, “When I die the only epitaph that I desire to be engraved upon my tombstone is "Here lies George Whitefield; what sort of man he was the great day will discover."
  3. WHAT YOU HEARD IS NOT WHAT I SAID! (15-22)
    1. ​​​​​​​Here they misjudged Paul by his Words! [Paul you don’t keep promises!]
    2. (15,16) Paul’s writing this letter from Macedonia (ad55-57).
    3. Read 1 Cor.16:5-7 where he “promised” to come to them.
      1. Note the words: “it may be”(6); “I hope”(7); “if the Lord permits”(7).
      2. They mistook his full intentions for a firm promise.
      3. Their conclusion, “if you can’t trust a man to keep a promise, how can we trust him as an apostle?”
    4. (17-20) Words can both reveal or conceal our thoughts.
      1. Sometimes we say things because “it is the right thing to say”; or “to be agreeable”; or “to avoid trouble”.
      2. Samuel Goldwyn said, "A verbal agreement isn't worth the paper it's written on."
        1. No promise, verbal or written, is of any value except in relation to the integrity of the one who makes the promise.
        2. Some recall a time when "a man's word was his bond." - If we make promises, we ought to keep them. God does.
    5. (20) Yes & Amen!
      1. We often think that both the Yes & Amen are God’s, but they are not. - The Yes is Him, & the Amen comes from us!
        1. NIV For no matter how many promises God has made, they are "Yes" in Christ. And so through him the "Amen" is spoken by us to the glory of God.
    6. God’s “Yes”!
      1. ​​​​​​​Note: In Him – In Jesus is the Yes to every Promise! – He is the personal guarantee of God to every promise.
      2. Literally, “in Him yes was & continues to be a reality” (the perfect tense emphasizes continuous action)
      3. Sometimes a political candidate who wishes to be returned to office will say, "I stand on my record."
        1. Our faith stands on the record of what God has done, on the record of promises kept.
        2. John 20:31 says "These are written that you may believe."
        3. Faith is not inherited, nor does it come by accident.
        4. Faith comes by hearing the Word of God, and discovering that God keeps his promises.
        5. Faith is "standing on His promises."
      4. D.L.Moody said, “God never made a promise that was too good to be true.”
    7. Our “Amen”!
    8. Amen means: “so let it be”, “true, trustworthy”. It was used as a strengthening & confirming statement.
      1. It wasn’t just a formality or ritual. – It expresses our confidence!
    9. If you truly have the Holy Spirit residing in you, then you should from the depths of your soul, w/o any hesitation, believe all of God’s promises are Yes & thus shout Amen!
      1. Can you say, “True, Trustworthy, or Amen to His love for you?”
      2. Are you assured of His love? Can you say Amen to his Forgiveness? Can you say Amen to All of His will for your life?
    10. Amen is the voice of “absolute, personal, unshakeable, & unreserved faith”!
    11. (21,22) Establishes us, Anointed us, Sealed us; & has Given us (a guarantee).
      1. Note the Trinity at work here in us! - Establishes us(in Jesus). Anointed us(in God). Sealed us & has Given us (the H.S.)
    12. The “seal” impresses its likeness upon everything it touches.
      1. All these are the marks of His divine ownership.
      2. All of these take place at salvation when God raises the flag of heaven over the territory of our soul, & seals it w/the Spirit.
        1. Remember how exciting it was on July 20th, 1969 – When Apollo 11, the first manned lunar landing mission, reported…"HOUSTON, TRANQUILITY BASE HERE. THE EAGLE HAS LANDED." – For the 1st time a Flag was flown on the moon & the USA was proud to plant it!
        2. When God saves your soul, He seals you with a big seal that says “Mine” then raises Heavens flag to fly over your soul!
          1. Like the mountain climber who whips out his flag when he reaches the top & has conquered the mountain!
  4. WHAT YOU PERCEIVE IS NOT WHAT IT IS! (23,24)
    1. ​​​​​​​Here they misjudged Paul by his Motives! [Paul you’re not a servant but are seeking to Lord it over us!]
      1. If we are honest, seldom do we do anything w/absolutely unmixed motives.
      2. Purity of Action is difficult, but purity of Motive is still more difficult.
    2. (23) Paul calls God to take the stand – There’s a great check for us…Can we call God to the stand to speak for us?
      1. Spare you – Spare you what? – See 2:1-4.
      2. His 1st visit he flew in to Corinth, but instead of fixing things it stirred up more problems which broke his heart. He then wrote a letter of rebuke w/tears. For this reason he didn’t return because it would only have hurt them…& him.
    3. (24) Dominion/rule over your faith!
      1. Paul you’re trying to throw your spiritual weight around!
        1. No way! Paul knew the duty of the teacher is not to impose beliefs on other people, but to enable & to encourage them to think out their own beliefs.
      2. No – I’m a fellow worker! - I’m your bondservant (4:5)
      3. He always rebuked to restore joy!
        1. “The effective rebuke is that given w/the arm of love around the other person.”
    4. Like Paul, let’s set our sites on the target of: no hidden actions; no hidden meanings; no hidden motives!
  5. CRITICISM...WHAT DO WE DO WITH IT?
    1. ​​​​​​​Proverbs 26:4,5 says, Do not answer a fool according to his folly, Lest you also be like him. Answer a fool according to his folly, Lest he be wise in his own eyes.
      1. This tells me different circumstances dictates different biblical methods!
    2. 6 ways to deal with criticism:
      1. 17b Expect it! Jesus was unjustly criticized. So how can His followers escape the same treatment?
      2. 17c Wait on the Lord! Don’t phone friends, don’t email the pastor, quiet your heart & focus on 2 things: 1] Bringing glory to the Lord through this 2] Praying for the critic.
      3. 17d Evaluate it! Consider the source.
        1. Not all criticism is bad. Even if it is given to us in an unloving way by an unsympathetic person. (www)
        2. Tozer, “If the critic is right, he has helped you. If he is wrong, you can help him. Either way, somebody gets helped.”
      4. 17e Confront the accuser! Don’t run around to tell a lot of people.
        1. Swindoll, “Go directly to the person holding the knife. For until you take the knife away, the back stabbing will only continue.”
      5. 17f Remain silent! Sometimes the more you try to defend yourself the more you appear guilty.
        1. Go immediately to God, pray for His vindication then step out of the way!
          1. Read Ps.26:1-3.
        2. A pastor once told Warren Weirsbe, “Never kick a skunk. You may manufacture a worse problem that you started with.”
      6. 17g Never take revenge! That’s God’s business.
        1. Deut.32:35 Vengeance is Mine(God’s), and recompense; Their foot shall slip in due time; For the day of their calamity is at hand, And the things to come hasten upon them.
        2. Ps.40:13-15 Be pleased, O LORD, to deliver me; O LORD, make haste to help me! Let them be ashamed and brought to mutual confusion Who seek to destroy my life; Let them be driven backward and brought to dishonor Who wish me evil. Let them be confounded because of their shame, Who say to me, "Aha, aha!"
    3. Criticism - Let the man who says it cannot be done not disturb the man doing it.

      Chinese proverb

      Remember, there is no city in the world where they have a statue to a critic.

      The story is told of a judge who had been frequently ridiculed by a conceited lawyer. When asked by a friend why he didn’t rebuke his assailant, he replied, “In our town lives a widow who has a dog. And whenever the moon shines, it goes outside and barks all night.” Having said that, the magistrate shifted the conversation to another subject.

      ​​​​​​​Finally someone asked, “But Judge, what about the dog and the moon?” “Oh,” he replied, “the moon went on shining—that’s all.”
Copyright Statement
These files are the property of Brian Bell.
Text Courtesy of Calvary Chapel of Murrieta. Used by Permission.
Bibliographical Information
Bell, Brian. "Commentary on 2 Corinthians 1". "Brian Bell Commentary". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/cbb/2-corinthians-1.html. 2017.