Sometimes real love demands confrontation. Paul has spent the majority of this letter defending himself against the accusations of the false teachers and apostles, as well as those brought by the congregation. But as he ends this letter, it is time for Paul to confront the Corinthians. Paul reminds them that all they do is done in front of God, who is our judge. If they won’t listen to him, then Paul tells them to examine themselves to ensure they are in Christ, and He in them. Because ultimately, Paul’s primary concern has always been the Corinthian church and their wellbeing.
Paul has spent the last little bit engaging in foolish boasting in order to undermine the false teachers and apostles. But now, the tone changes, and he begins to challenge the Corinthians themselves. While he was with them, all the true signs of an apostle were evident, and they received the same care, love, and teaching that any church planted by one of the other apostles gave. Except he was not a burden on them. He wonders why he is to be loved less for this. Finally, he expresses his concern with what he might find on his next visit.
Paul now moves on to visions and revelations in his foolish boasting, almost like he is answering a check list of things the false apostle were boasting about. Even though Paul had experienced great visions and revelations, he quickly falls back to boasting in his weakness. It is in his weakness that he is strong in Christ and he is content in whatever hardship and suffering comes his way in order that Christ be glorified.
The false apostles had been doing their fair share of boasting. So, Paul, even though he would prefer not to, is required to act foolish and boast of his own accomplishments. But the purpose of this is not to build himself up, but rather with frequent exclamations of the foolishness for this exercise, it is to undermine the validity of the false apostles boasting. But even in his boasting, Paul boasts of his weaknesses primarily instead of his strength. The truth is, God moves in our weaknesses where there can be no doubt that it is Him working.
The Corinthians had been easily deceived and led astray by false teachers. These teachers came in and boasted of their own abilities all the while cutting down Paul. But Paul is now going to take an aggressive stance with these false teachers. By the end of this message, we will know exactly what Paul thinks of these false apostles.
With the last couple of chapters dealing with gift the Corinthians had promised to prepare for the Saints in Jerusalem but had not yet, this chapter switches gears. Paul once again begins to defend his ministry from the false teachers who have infiltrated the Corinthian church and have relentlessly attacked him and his ministry.
The Corinthian church had caused Paul no shortage of heart aches. But, in spite of this, he loved them very much. The first part of this letter has been about defending his ministry and restoring his relationship with them, and today, we finish with Paul encouraging them once again to open their hearts to him. In addition, he spends a great deal of time encouraging and commending them on how they responded to his first letter.
As we read 2 Corinthians, it seems the Corinthian church did not really appreciate Paul and what he had done for them. When they should have been defending Paul to his opposition, they were instead listening to them. Today, we are going to see a continuation of Paul's defense and proof of Paul’s love for the Corinthians. In addition, he will round out the chapter with a very important lesson about making sure that we are not yoked (partnered) with unbelievers.
Paul continues in his thoughts on the eternal verses the temporal as we begin chapter 5. We live in earthly bodies, but we groan to be clothed in our heavenly bodies. But whether in this body or our heavenly body, our aim is to please God. And while we are here, we are ambassadors of Christ and we have been given the ministry of reconciliation. And our goal should be to share the gospel and persuade others of its truth.
Paul was no stranger to difficulties, hardship, and persecution, but, because of the importance of his ministry and the power and strength of God, he didn't lose heart. Instead of complaining about hardships and what he didn’t have, he keeps his focus on what He does have in Christ. We should do the same.