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Highlights for the Reading of the Bible: 1-Corinthians - 2-Corinthians
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HIGHLIGHTS FROM THE BOOK OF 1-CORINTHIANS - 2-CORINTHIANS
Corinthians, Letters To The*** it-1 pp. 509-512 Corinthians, Letters to the ***
Two inspired canonical letters written by the apostle Paul to the Christians in Greece during the first century C.E. The letters stand in seventh and eighth places, respectively, in most English versions of the Christian Greek Scriptures. Paul identifies himself as the writer of both letters, addressing First Corinthians to “the congregation of God that is in Corinth,” and Second Corinthians to “the congregation of God that is in Corinth, together with all the holy ones who are in all of Achaia.”—1Co 1:1, 2; 2Co 1:1.
That Paul did indeed write First and Second Corinthians cannot be seriously questioned. In addition to the apostle’s own testimony, the authenticity and general acceptance of both letters are attested by external testimony. The two letters are ascribed to Paul and quoted by writers of the first to the third centuries. Also, what is known as “The Canon of Athanasius” (367 C.E.) lists, among “fourteen letters of Paul the apostle,” “two to the Corinthians.” This list is the first example of the catalog of books of the Christian Greek Scriptures as we have them today, preceding by 30 years the list published by the Council, or Synod, of Carthage, Africa, in 397 C.E.
Paul’s Ministry in Corinth. Paul arrived in Corinth about 50 C.E. Initially he gave a talk in the synagogue every Sabbath “and would persuade Jews and Greeks.” (Ac 18:1-4) However, after encountering opposition and abusive speech among those in the synagogue, the apostle turned his attention to “people of the nations,” the Gentiles in Corinth. Paul’s meetings with them were transferred to a house next door to the synagogue, and many “began to believe and be baptized.” Told by the Lord in a vision, “I have many people in this city,” the apostle remained there for a year and six months “teaching among them the word of God.” (Ac 18:5-11) Because Paul had been instrumental in establishing a Christian congregation in Corinth, he could say to them: “Though you may have ten thousand tutors in Christ, you certainly do not have many fathers; for in Christ Jesus I have become your father through the good news.”—1Co 4:15.
Gross immorality was practiced in Corinth, and in time it even affected the Christian congregation in that city. Paul found it necessary to rebuke the congregation in a letter because among them arose a case of “such fornication as is not even among the nations,” for a certain man had taken his father’s wife. (1Co 5:1-5) Using an illustration they could appreciate, he also encouraged them to faithfulness. He knew that they were acquainted with the athletic contests at the Isthmian Games held near Corinth. So he wrote: “Do you not know that the runners in a race all run, but only one receives the prize? Run in such a way that you may attain it. Moreover, every man taking part in a contest exercises self-control in all things. Now they, of course, do it that they may get a corruptible crown, but we an incorruptible one.”—1Co 9:24, 25.
First Corinthians. During his third missionary tour Paul spent some time in Ephesus. (Ac 19:1) Probably during the last year of his stay there, the apostle received disturbing news about conditions in the Corinthian congregation. Paul had been told “by those of the house of Chloe” that dissensions existed among the Corinthians. (1Co 1:11) Stephanas, Fortunatus, and Achaicus had also come from Corinth and may have provided some information about the situation there. (1Co 16:17, 18) Also, Paul had received a letter of inquiry from the Christian congregation in Corinth. (1Co 7:1) Hence, out of deep regard for the spiritual welfare of his fellow believers there, Paul wrote this first letter to the Christian congregation in Corinth, about 55 C.E. That Ephesus was the place of composition is made certain by Paul’s words recorded at 1 Corinthians 16:8: “But I am remaining in Ephesus until the festival of Pentecost.”
In the introduction to First Corinthians Paul mentions an associate, Sosthenes, who may have penned the letter as dictated by Paul. This is likely, since toward its conclusion we read: “Here is my greeting, Paul’s, in my own hand.”—1Co 1:1; 16:21.
Second Corinthians. Paul wrote his second letter to the Corinthians probably during the late summer or early autumn of 55 C.E. The apostle had written the first letter in Ephesus, where he probably stayed as planned, until Pentecost of that year, or longer. (1Co 16:8) Paul then departed for Troas, where he was disappointed in not meeting Titus, who had been sent to Corinth to assist in the collection for the holy ones in Judea. So Paul proceeded to Macedonia, where Titus joined him with a report on the Corinthians’ reaction to his first letter. (2Co 2:12, 13; 7:5-7) Paul then wrote the second letter to them from Macedonia, evidently dispatching it by the hand of Titus. Then, after a few months, his efforts to visit Corinth materialized. So Paul actually visited the Corinthians twice. After his first visit, at which time he established the congregation, he made a plan for a second visit, which failed. But “the third time” that he planned or got “ready” he was successful, for he was able to see them again in about 56 C.E. (2Co 1:15; 12:14; 13:1) During this second visit in Corinth he wrote his letter to the Romans.
Reasons for writing. Titus brought Paul a favorable report. The first letter to the Corinthians had awakened in them sadness in a godly way, repentance, earnestness, a desire to clear themselves, indignation, fear, and a righting of the wrong. Paul responded in his second letter commending them for their favorable reception and application of counsel, urging them to “kindly forgive and comfort” the repentant man they had evidently expelled from the congregation. (2Co 7:8-12; 2:1-11; compare 1Co 5:1-5.) Paul also wanted to encourage them to proceed further with the relief work for their needy fellow believers in Judea. (2Co 8:1-15) Then, too, there were persons in the congregation who continued to challenge Paul’s position and authority as an apostle, making it necessary for him to defend his apostolic position; really, it was not for himself, but “it was for God,” that is, to save the congregation that belonged to God, that Paul spoke very strongly in his letter and ‘boasted’ of his credentials as an apostle.—2Co 5:12, 13; 10:7-12; 11:16-20, 30-33; 12:11-13.
Light on Scriptures Previously Written. Paul fortified his arguments by use of the Hebrew Scriptures in his inspired letters to the Corinthians. When exposing the foolishness of worldly wisdom as displayed by the false apostles, he proved the importance of getting the superior wisdom of God. This he did by pointing out what the psalmist had said to a generation centuries before, that “the thoughts of men . . . are as an exhalation” (Ps 94:11; 1Co 3:20), and by asking what Isaiah had asked the rebellious Jews: “Who has taken the proportions of the spirit of Jehovah, and who . . . can make him know anything?” (Isa 40:13; 1Co 2:16) Paul proved that the Christian minister has a right to receive material aid by showing that Deuteronomy 25:4, “You must not muzzle a bull while it is threshing,” really was written primarily for the ministers’ sakes. (1Co 9:9, 10) He demonstrated that God had long ago promised a resurrection, by calling on the statements at Isaiah 25:8 and Hosea 13:14, about the swallowing up of death. (1Co 15:54, 55) Additionally, he shed much light on the Lord’s Evening Meal by his detailed discussion of Jesus’ words spoken at the time He established the observance.—Lu 22:19, 20; 1Co 11:23-34.
Paul demonstrated what God’s attitude had always been as to spiritual cleanness by quoting from or alluding to Deuteronomy 17:7; Leviticus 26:11, 12; Isaiah 43:6; 52:11; and Hosea 1:10. (1Co 5:13; 2Co 6:14-18) He showed that the matter of material giving had not been overlooked by God’s servants in the past and that the generous Christian is viewed favorably by Jehovah. (Ps 112:9; 2Co 9:9) And he indicated that the principle in the Law of establishing every matter at the mouth of two or three witnesses applies in the Christian congregation. (De 19:15; 2Co 13:1) These and other references to scriptures written beforehand illustrate these texts and clarify their application for us.
[Box on page 510]
HIGHLIGHTS OF FIRST CORINTHIANSA letter sent by Paul to the congregation in Corinth after he had received shocking reports about dissensions and immorality and in response to an inquiry about marriage
Written from Ephesus, about 55 C.E.
Exhortation to unity (1:1–4:21)
Following men results in divisions
God’s view of what is wise and what is foolish is what counts
Boast not in men but in Jehovah, who supplies all things through Christ
Be mature, spiritual persons, appreciating that God causes spiritual growth and that Christ is the foundation on which Christian personalities are built
Let no one get puffed up, thinking he is better than fellow Christians
Keeping the congregation morally clean (5:1–6:20)
Disfellowship any who become fornicators, greedy persons, idolaters, revilers, drunkards, or extortioners
Better to be defrauded than to take a fellow Christian to court before unbelievers
Moral uncleanness defiles God’s temple, prevents one from entering the Kingdom
Counsel regarding marriage and singleness (7:1-40)
Sexual due to be rendered, but with consideration
Marriage is better than singleness for persons inflamed with passion
Married Christian not to depart from unbelieving mate; may eventually help mate to gain salvation
Not necessary to change one’s status when becoming a Christian
Marriage brings increased anxiety; singleness can be advantageous to one desiring to serve the Lord without distraction
Consideration for the spiritual welfare of others (8:1–10:33)
Do not stumble others by eating foods that were offered to idols
To avoid hindering any from accepting the good news, Paul did not exercise his right to receive material help
Take to heart the warning examples from Israel’s wilderness experience—to benefit self and so as not to be a cause of stumbling to others
Though lawful, not all things build up
Congregational order (11:1–14:40)
Respect Christian headship; women’s use of head covering
Show respect for the Lord’s Evening Meal
Use the gifts of the spirit with appreciation for their source and their purpose
Love is the surpassing way
Maintain orderliness in congregation meetings
Certainty of the resurrection hope (15:1–16:24)
Christ’s resurrection a guarantee
Anointed Christians must die in order to be raised to immortality and incorruption
Your labor is not in vain in connection with the Lord; stand firm in the faith
[Box on page 511]
HIGHLIGHTS OF SECOND CORINTHIANSA follow-up letter regarding action taken to keep the congregation clean, to stir up desire to help brothers in Judea, and to counteract the influence of false apostles
Written by Paul in 55 C.E., a few months before he arrived in Corinth on his second and final visit
Paul’s loving concern and the position of Paul and of Timothy in relation to their brothers (1:1–7:16)
Tribulation Paul and Timothy have experienced as Christians has brought them near death, but God’s deliverance of them can comfort others
Have conducted selves with holiness and godly sincerity; not masters over the faith of others but fellow workers for their joy
First letter was written out of love and with many tears; now the man who formerly was immoral should be forgiven and comforted
Paul and his associates are qualified by God as ministers of the new covenant; the Corinthians are their letter of recommendation, written on the hearts of these ministers
In carrying out this ministry, they do not adulterate God’s word but preach Christ as Lord; such good news is veiled only among those blinded by the god of this system of things
Though in earthly tents, Paul and Timothy as well as Corinthians share the hope of everlasting heavenly dwellings; but each one must be made manifest before the judgment seat of Christ
Anyone in union with Christ is a new creation; all of such share in ministry of reconciliation; all, as ambassadors, urge, “Become reconciled to God”
Paul and associates are recommended as God’s ministers by what they have endured in their ministry, by giving evidence of God’s spirit in their lives
With widened hearts they appeal to their brothers to widen out in their affections, to avoid becoming unevenly yoked with unbelievers, to cleanse themselves of every defilement of flesh and spirit
Paul’s great comfort at report of their fine response to counsel in first letter
Encouragement to help brothers experiencing adversity in Judea (8:1–9:15)
Macedonians, though very poor, begged to have a share
Christ became poor so the Corinthians (and others) could become rich
Corinthians commended for their readiness to share
Let each one do as he has resolved in his heart; God loves a cheerful giver
Arguments to offset the influence of false apostles (10:1–13:14)
Answers to opposers as to Paul’s being “weak,” ‘in territory belonging to them,’ “inferior,” “unskilled in speech,” “unreasonable,” and their claim that he proved he is not an apostle like them when he humbled himself to do secular work
Paul equal in genealogy; superior in record of persecution and hardship endured for Christ, in loving concern for congregations, in visions, in signs of apostleship
Keep testing whether you are in the faith
Bible Book Number 46—1 Corinthians*** si pp. 210-214 Bible Book Number 46—1 Corinthians ***
Place Written: Ephesus
Writing Completed: c. 55 C.E.
CORINTH was “a renowned and voluptuous city, where the vices of East and West met.” Situated on the narrow isthmus between the Peloponnesus and continental Greece, Corinth commanded the land route to the mainland. In the days of the apostle Paul, its population of about 400,000 was exceeded only by Rome, Alexandria, and Syrian Antioch. To the east of Corinth lay the Aegean Sea, and to the west, the Gulf of Corinth and the Ionian Sea. So Corinth, the capital of the province of Achaia, with its two ports of Cenchreae and Lechaeum, held a position of strategic importance commercially. It was also a center of Greek learning. “Its wealth,” it has been said, “was so celebrated as to be proverbial; so were the vice and profligacy of its inhabitants.” Among its pagan religious practices was the worship of Aphrodite (counterpart of the Roman Venus). Sensuality was a product of Corinthian worship.
2 It was to this thriving but morally decadent metropolis of the Roman world that the apostle Paul traveled in about 50 C.E. During his stay of 18 months, a Christian congregation was established there. (Acts 18:1-11) What love Paul felt toward these believers to whom he had first carried the good news about Christ! By letter he reminded them of the spiritual bond that existed, saying: “Though you may have ten thousand tutors in Christ, you certainly do not have many fathers; for in Christ Jesus I have become your father through the good news.”—1 Cor. 4:15.
3 Deep concern for their spiritual welfare moved Paul to write his first letter to the Corinthian Christians while in the course of his third missionary tour. A few years had passed since he had resided in Corinth. It was now about 55 C.E., and Paul was in Ephesus. Apparently he had received a letter from the relatively new congregation in Corinth, and it required a reply. Furthermore, disturbing reports had reached Paul. (7:1; 1:11; 5:1; 11:18) So distressing were these that the apostle did not even refer to their letter of inquiry until the opening verse of chapter 7 of his letter. Especially because of the reports he had received did Paul feel compelled to write to his fellow Christians in Corinth.
4 But how do we know Paul wrote First Corinthians from Ephesus? For one thing, in concluding the letter with greetings, the apostle includes those of Aquila and Prisca (Priscilla). (16:19) Acts 18:18, 19 shows that they had transferred from Corinth to Ephesus. Since Aquila and Priscilla were residing there and Paul included them in the closing greetings of First Corinthians, he must have been in Ephesus when he wrote the letter. A point that leaves no uncertainty, however, is Paul’s statement at 1 Corinthians 16:8: “But I am remaining in Ephesus until the festival of Pentecost.” So First Corinthians was written by Paul at Ephesus, apparently near the end of his stay there.
5 The authenticity of First Corinthians, and also of Second Corinthians, is unquestionable. These letters were ascribed to Paul and accepted as canonical by the early Christians, who included them in their collections. In fact, it is said that First Corinthians is alluded to and quoted at least six times in a letter from Rome to Corinth dated about 95 C.E. and called First Clement. With apparent reference to First Corinthians, the writer urged the recipients of this letter to “take up the epistle of the blessed Paul the apostle.” First Corinthians is also directly quoted by Justin Martyr, Athenagoras, Irenaeus, and Tertullian. There is strong evidence that a corpus, or collection, of Paul’s letters, including First and Second Corinthians, “was formed and published in the last decade of the first century.”
6 Paul’s first letter to the Corinthians gives us an opportunity to look inside the Corinthian congregation itself. These Christians had problems to face, and they had questions to be resolved. There were factions within the congregation, for some were following men. A shocking case of sexual immorality had arisen. Some were living in religiously divided households. Should they remain with their unbelieving mates or separate? And what of eating meat sacrificed to idols? Should they partake of it? The Corinthians needed advice regarding the conducting of their meetings, including the celebration of the Lord’s Evening Meal. What should be the position of women in the congregation? Then, too, there were those in their midst who denied the resurrection. Problems were many. Particularly, though, was the apostle interested in bringing about a spiritual restoration of the Corinthians.
7 Because conditions inside the congregation and the environment outside in ancient Corinth, with its prosperity and licentiousness, have modern parallels, Paul’s sterling counsel penned under divine inspiration commands our attention. What Paul said is so full of meaning for our own day that thoughtful consideration of his first letter to his beloved Corinthian brothers and sisters will prove beneficial indeed. Recall now the spirit of the time and place. Think searchingly, as the Corinthian Christians must have done, while we review the penetrating, stirring, inspired words of Paul to his fellow believers in Corinth of old.
CONTENTS OF FIRST CORINTHIANS8 Paul exposes sectarianism, exhorts unity (1:1–4:21). Paul has good wishes for the Corinthians. But what of the factions, the dissensions, among them? “The Christ exists divided.” (1:13) The apostle is thankful that he has baptized so few of them, so they cannot say they have been baptized in his name. Paul preaches Christ impaled. This is a cause of stumbling to the Jews and foolishness to the nations. But God chose the foolish and weak things of the world to put to shame the wise and strong. So Paul does not use extravagant speech but lets the brothers see the spirit and power of God through his words, that their faith may not be in men’s wisdom but in God’s power. We speak the things revealed by God’s spirit, says Paul, “for the spirit searches into all things, even the deep things of God.” These cannot be understood by the physical man but only by the spiritual man.—2:10.
9 They are following men—some Apollos, some Paul. But who are these? Only ministers through whom the Corinthians became believers. The ones planting and watering are not anything, for “God kept making it grow,” and they are his “fellow workers.” The test of fire will prove whose works are durable. Paul tells them, “You people are God’s temple,” in whom His spirit dwells. “The wisdom of this world is foolishness with God.” Hence, let no one boast in men, for indeed all things belong to God.—3:6, 9, 16, 19.
10 Paul and Apollos are humble stewards of God’s sacred secrets, and stewards should be found faithful. Who are the brothers at Corinth to boast, and what do they have that they did not receive? Have they become rich, begun ruling as kings, and become so discreet and strong, while the apostles, who have become a theatrical spectacle to both angels and to men, are yet foolish and weak, the offscouring of all things? Paul is sending Timothy to help them remember his methods in connection with Christ and become his imitators. If Jehovah wills, Paul himself will come shortly and get to know, not just the speech of those who are puffed up, but their power.
11 On keeping the congregation clean (5:1–6:20). A shocking case of immorality has been reported among the Corinthians! A man has taken his father’s wife. He must be handed over to Satan because a little leaven ferments the whole lump. They must quit mixing in company with anyone called a brother who is wicked.
12 Why, the Corinthians have even been taking one another to court! Would it not be better to let themselves be defrauded? Since they are going to judge the world and angels, can they not find someone among them to judge between brothers? More than that, they should be clean, for fornicators, idolaters, and the like will not inherit God’s Kingdom. That is what some of them were, but they have been washed clean and sanctified. “Flee from fornication,” says Paul. “For you were bought with a price. By all means, glorify God in the body of you people.”—6:18, 20.
13 Counsel on singleness and marriage (7:1-40). Paul answers a question about marriage. Because of the prevalence of fornication, it may be advisable for a man or a woman to be married, and those who are married should not be depriving each other of conjugal dues. It is well for the unmarried and the widows to remain single, like Paul; but if they do not have self-control, let them marry. Once they marry, they should remain together. Even if one’s mate is an unbeliever, the believer should not depart, for in that way the believer may save the unbelieving mate. As to circumcision and slavery, let each one be content to remain in the state in which he was called. With regard to the married person, he is divided because he wants to gain the approval of his mate, whereas the single person is anxious only for the things of the Lord. Those who marry do not sin, but those who do not marry “do better.”—7:38.
14 Doing all things for the sake of the good news (8:1–9:27). What about food offered to idols? An idol is nothing! There are many “gods” and “lords” in the world, but for the Christian there is only “one God the Father” and “one Lord, Jesus Christ.” (8:5, 6) Yet someone may be offended if he observes you eating meat sacrificed to an idol. Under these circumstances, Paul advises, refrain from it so as not to cause your brother to stumble.
15 Paul denies himself many things for the sake of the ministry. As an apostle, he has a right “to live by means of the good news,” but he has refrained from doing so. However, necessity is laid upon him to preach; in fact, he says, “Woe is me if I did not declare the good news!” So he has made himself a slave to all, becoming “all things to people of all sorts” that he “might by all means save some,” doing all things “for the sake of the good news.” To win the contest and the incorruptible crown, he browbeats his body so that after preaching to others, he himself “should not become disapproved somehow.”—9:14, 16, 19, 22, 23, 27.
16 Warning against injurious things (10:1–33). What of the “forefathers”? These were under the cloud and were baptized into Moses. Most of them did not gain God’s approval but were laid low in the wilderness. Why? They desired injurious things. Christians should take warning from this and refrain from idolatry and fornication, from putting Jehovah to the test, and from murmuring. The one who thinks he is standing should be careful that he does not fall. Temptation will come, but God will not let his servants be tempted beyond what they can bear; he will provide a way out so they can endure it. “Therefore,” writes Paul, “flee from idolatry.” (10:1, 14) We cannot be partakers of the table of Jehovah and the table of demons. However, should you be eating in a home, do not inquire regarding the source of the meat. If someone advises you that it has been sacrificed to idols, though, refrain from eating on account of that one’s conscience. “Do all things for God’s glory,” writes Paul.—10:31.
17 Headship; the Lord’s Evening Meal (11:1-34). “Become imitators of me, even as I am of Christ,” Paul declares, and then he proceeds to set out the divine principle of headship: The head of the woman is the man, the head of the man is Christ, the head of Christ is God. Therefore, the woman should have “a sign of authority” upon her head when she prays or prophesies in the congregation. Paul cannot commend the Corinthians, for divisions exist among them when they meet together. In this condition, how can they properly partake of the Lord’s Evening Meal? He reviews what occurred when Jesus instituted the Memorial of his death. Each must scrutinize himself before partaking, lest he bring judgment against himself for failure to discern “the body.”—11:1, 10, 29.
18 Spiritual gifts; love and its pursuit (12:1–14:40). There are varieties of spiritual gifts, yet the same spirit; varieties of ministries and operations, yet the same Lord and the same God. Likewise there are many members in the one united body of Christ, each member needing the other, as in the human body. God has set every member in the body as He pleases, and each has his work to do, so “there should be no division in the body.” (12:25) Users of spiritual gifts are nothing without love. Love is long-suffering and kind, not jealous, not puffed up. It rejoices only with the truth. “Love never fails.” (13:8) Spiritual gifts, such as prophesying and tongues, will be done away with, but faith, hope, and love remain. Of these, the greatest is love.
19 “Pursue love,” Paul admonishes. Spiritual gifts are to be used in love for the upbuilding of the congregation. For this reason, prophesying is to be preferred over speaking in tongues. He would rather speak five words with understanding to teach others than ten thousand in an unknown language. Tongues are for a sign to unbelievers, but prophesying is for the believers. They should not be “young children” in their understanding of these matters. As for women, they should be in subjection in the congregation. “Let all things take place decently and by arrangement.”—14:1, 20, 40.
20 The certainty of the resurrection hope (15:1–16:24). The resurrected Christ appeared to Cephas, to the 12, to upward of 500 brothers at one time, to James, to all the apostles, and last of all to Paul. ‘If Christ has not been raised up,’ writes Paul, ‘our preaching and faith are in vain.’ (15:14) Each one is raised in his own order, Christ the firstfruits, then afterward those who belong to him during his presence. Finally he hands over the Kingdom to his Father after all enemies have been put under his feet. Even death, the last enemy, is to be brought to nothing. Of what use is it for Paul to face perils of death continually if there is no resurrection?
21 But how are the dead to be raised? In order for the body of a plant to develop, the sown grain must die. It is similar with the resurrection of the dead. “It is sown a physical body, it is raised up a spiritual body. . . . Flesh and blood cannot inherit God’s kingdom.” (15:44, 50) Paul tells a sacred secret: Not all will fall asleep in death, but during the last trumpet, they will be changed in the twinkling of an eye. When this that is mortal puts on immortality, death will be swallowed up forever. “Death, where is your victory? Death, where is your sting?” From the heart Paul exclaims: “But thanks to God, for he gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ!”—15:55, 57.
22 In conclusion Paul counsels on orderliness in collecting the contributions for sending to Jerusalem to aid needy brothers. He tells of his coming visit via Macedonia and indicates that Timothy and Apollos may also visit. “Stay awake,” Paul exhorts. “Stand firm in the faith, carry on as men, grow mighty. Let all your affairs take place with love.” (16:13, 14) Paul sends greetings from the congregations in Asia, and then he writes a final greeting in his own hand, conveying his love.
WHY BENEFICIAL23 This letter of the apostle Paul is most beneficial in enlarging our understanding of the Hebrew Scriptures, from which it makes many quotations. In the tenth chapter, Paul points out that the Israelites under Moses drank from a spiritual rock-mass, which meant the Christ. (1 Cor. 10:4; Num. 20:11) Then he goes on to refer to the disastrous consequences of desiring injurious things, as exemplified by the Israelites under Moses, and adds: “Now these things went on befalling them as examples, and they were written for a warning to us upon whom the ends of the systems of things have arrived.” Never let us become self-reliant, thinking that we cannot fall! (1 Cor. 10:11, 12; Num. 14:2; 21:5; 25:9) Again, he draws an illustration from the Law. He refers to the communion sacrifices in Israel to show how partakers of the Lord’s Evening Meal should partake worthily of the table of Jehovah. Then, to back up his argument that it is proper to eat everything sold in the meat market, he quotes from Psalm 24:1, saying, “To Jehovah belong the earth and that which fills it.”—1 Cor. 10:18, 21, 26; Ex. 32:6; Lev. 7:11-15.
24 In showing the superiority of “the things that God has prepared for those who love him” and the futility of “the reasonings of the wise men” of this world, Paul again draws on the Hebrew Scriptures. (1 Cor. 2:9; 3:20; Isa. 64:4; Ps. 94:11) As authority for his instructions in chapter 5 on disfellowshipping the wrongdoer, he quotes Jehovah’s law to ‘clear what is bad from your midst.’ (Deut. 17:7) In discussing his right to live by the ministry, Paul again refers to the Law of Moses, which said that working animals must not be muzzled to prevent their eating and that the Levites in temple service were to receive their portion from the altar.—1 Cor. 9:8-14; Deut. 25:4; 18:1.
25 What benefits of inspired instruction we have received from Paul’s first letter to Corinthian Christians! Meditate upon the counsel given against divisions and following men. (Chapters 1-4) Recall the case of immorality and how Paul emphasized the need for virtue and cleanliness within the congregation. (Chapters 5, 6) Consider his inspired advice relative to singleness, marriage, and separation. (Chapter 7) Think of the apostle’s discussion of foods offered to idols as well as of how the necessity of guarding against stumbling others and falling into idolatry was so forcefully brought to the fore. (Chapters 8-10) Admonition concerning proper subjection, a consideration of spiritual gifts, that most practical discussion on the excellence of the enduring, unfailing quality of love—these things too have passed in review. And how well the apostle accentuated the need for orderliness in Christian meetings! (Chapters 11-14) What a marvelous defense of the resurrection he penned under inspiration! (Chapter 15) All of this and more has moved before the mind’s eye—and it is so valuable to Christians in our day!
26 This letter adds notably to our understanding of the glorious Bible theme of the Kingdom of God. It gives a stern warning that unrighteous persons will not enter the Kingdom, and it lists many of the vices that would disqualify a person. (1 Cor. 6:9, 10) But most important, it explains the relation between the resurrection and God’s Kingdom. It shows that Christ, “the firstfruits” of the resurrection, must “rule as king until God has put all enemies under his feet.” Then, when he has put down all enemies, including death, “he hands over the kingdom to his God and Father, . . . that God may be all things to everyone.” Finally, in fulfillment of the Kingdom promise made in Eden, the complete bruising of the Serpent’s head is accomplished by Christ, along with His resurrected spiritual brothers. Grand, indeed, is the resurrection prospect of those who are to share incorruptibility with Christ Jesus in the heavenly Kingdom. It is on the basis of the resurrection hope that Paul admonishes: “Consequently, my beloved brothers, become steadfast, unmovable, always having plenty to do in the work of the Lord, knowing that your labor is not in vain in connection with the Lord.”—1 Cor. 15:20-28, 58; Gen. 3:15; Rom. 16:20.
Highlights From the Letters to the Corinthians*** w08 7/15 p. 26 - p. 28 Highlights From the Letters to the Corinthians ***
THE apostle Paul is deeply concerned about the spiritual welfare of the congregation in Corinth. He has heard that there are dissensions among the brothers there. Immorality is being tolerated. The congregation has also written Paul, inquiring about certain matters. So about 55 C.E., when he is in Ephesus during the course of his third missionary journey, Paul writes the first of his two letters to the Corinthians.
The second letter, apparently written only a few months after the first, is a follow-up letter. Since conditions both inside and outside the congregation in first-century Corinth correspond in many ways to our times, the message of Paul’s letters to the Corinthians is of great value to us.—Heb. 4:12.
‘STAY AWAKE, STAND FIRM, GROW MIGHTY’(1 Cor. 1:1–16:24)
“You should all speak in agreement,” exhorts Paul. (1 Cor. 1:10) There is ‘no other foundation than Jesus Christ,’ on which Christian qualities are built. (1 Cor. 3:11-13) Concerning a fornicator in the congregation, Paul says: “Remove the wicked man from among yourselves.” (1 Cor. 5:13) “The body is not for fornication,” he says, “but for the Lord.”—1 Cor. 6:13.
In response to “the things about which [they] wrote,” Paul provides sound counsel regarding marriage and singleness. (1 Cor. 7:1) After commenting on Christian headship, on orderliness at Christian meetings, and on the certainty of the resurrection, Paul gives the exhortation: “Stay awake, stand firm in the faith, carry on as men, grow mighty.”—1 Cor. 16:13.
Scriptural Questions Answered:
1:21—Does Jehovah really use “foolishness” to save those believing? No, he does not. However, since “the world through its wisdom did not get to know God,” what he uses to save people appears foolish to the world.—John 17:25.
5:5—What does it mean to “hand [the wicked] man over to Satan for the destruction of the flesh, in order that the spirit may be saved”? When an unrepentant practicer of gross sin is disfellowshipped from the congregation, he again becomes part of Satan’s wicked world. (1 John 5:19) Hence, he is spoken of as being handed over to Satan. The person’s expulsion results in the destruction, or the removal, of the corrupting element from the congregation and in the preservation of its spirit, or dominant attitude.—2 Tim. 4:22.
7:33, 34—What is meant by “the things of the world” for which a married man or woman is anxious? Paul is referring to the mundane things in life with which married Christians need to be concerned. These include food, clothing, and housing, but exclude the bad things of this world, which Christians shun.—1 John 2:15-17.
11:26—How “often” is Jesus’ death to be commemorated, and “until” when? Paul was not saying that Jesus’ death would be commemorated often. The Greek word used for “as often as” means “whenever” or “every time that.” Therefore, Paul was saying that every time anointed Christians partake of the Memorial emblems, once a year on Nisan 14, they are “proclaiming the death of the Lord.” They do this “until he arrives,” that is, until he receives them into the heavens by a resurrection.—1 Thess. 4:14-17.
13:13—In what way is love greater than faith and hope? When the “things hoped for” become a reality and “the assured expectation” of them is realized, aspects of faith and hope come to an end. (Heb. 11:1) Love is greater than faith and hope in that it remains forever.
15:29—What does it mean to be “baptized for the purpose of being dead ones”? Paul was not suggesting that living people be baptized on behalf of those who died in an unbaptized state. Paul is here speaking of the immersion of spirit-anointed Christians into a course of life wherein they keep their integrity until their death and subsequent resurrection to spirit life.
Lessons for Us:
1:26-31; 3:3-9; 4:7. Humbly boasting in Jehovah, not in ourselves, promotes unity in the congregation.
2:3-5. While witnessing in Corinth, a center of Greek philosophy and learning, Paul may have been concerned about whether he would be able to persuade his listeners. However, he did not allow any weakness or fear he might have had to interfere with the carrying out of his God-given ministry. Likewise, we should not permit unusual circumstances to hold us back from declaring the good news of God’s Kingdom. We can confidently look to Jehovah for help as did Paul.
2:16. To have “the mind of Christ” is to know the pattern of his thinking, to think as he does, to have a grasp of the full range of his personality, and to imitate his example. (1 Pet. 2:21; 4:1) How important it is that we carefully study Jesus’ life and ministry!
3:10-15; 4:17. We should analyze and improve our ability to teach and make disciples. (Matt. 28:19, 20) If we do not teach well, our student may not survive tests of faith, and we may suffer a loss so painful that our salvation will be “as through fire.”
6:18. To “flee from fornication” is to avoid not only acts of por•nei′a but also pornography, moral uncleanness, sexual fantasizing, flirting—anything that can lead to fornication.—Matt. 5:28; Jas. 3:17.
7:29. Marriage mates ought to be careful not to get so absorbed in each other that Kingdom interests take second place in their lives.
10:8-11. Jehovah was greatly offended when Israel murmured against Moses and Aaron. We are wise when we guard against developing a pattern of murmuring.
16:2. Our financial giving toward the advancement of Kingdom interests will be consistent if it is planned in advance and is done systematically.
‘CONTINUE TO BE READJUSTED’(2 Cor. 1:1–13:14)
Paul tells the Corinthians that they should “kindly forgive and comfort” a repentant wrongdoer who has been rebuked. Although his first letter had saddened them, Paul expresses joy because they were “saddened into repenting.”—2 Cor. 2:6, 7; 7:8, 9.
‘Just as they are abounding in everything,’ Paul encourages the Corinthians to ‘abound in giving.’ After answering opposers, he gives final advice to all: “Continue to rejoice, to be readjusted, to be comforted, to think in agreement, to live peaceably.”—2 Cor. 8:7; 13:11.
Scriptural Questions Answered:
2:15, 16—How are we “a sweet odor of Christ”? This is the case because we adhere to the Bible and share in dispensing its message. While such “fragrance” might be disgusting to unrighteous individuals, it is sweet-smelling to Jehovah and honesthearted ones.
5:16—How is it that anointed Christians “know no man according to the flesh”? They do not look upon people in a fleshly way, that is, showing favoritism on the basis of wealth, race, or ethnic or national origin. What is important to them is their spiritual relationship with fellow believers.
11:1, 16; 12:11—Was Paul being unreasonable with the Corinthians? No, he was not. However, he may have appeared to some to be boastful and unreasonable because of what he was compelled to say in defense of his apostleship.
12:1-4—Who “was caught away into paradise”? Since the Bible does not speak of any other person who had such a vision and the passage follows Paul’s defense of his apostleship, he was probably relating his own experience. What the apostle envisioned was likely the spiritual paradise enjoyed by the Christian congregation in “the time of the end.”—Dan. 12:4.
Lessons for Us:
3:5. In principle, this verse tells us that Jehovah adequately qualifies Christians for the ministry by his Word, his holy spirit, and the earthly part of his organization. (John 16:7; 2 Tim. 3:16, 17) We do well to study the Bible and Bible-based publications diligently, persistently pray for holy spirit, and regularly attend and participate in Christian meetings.—Ps. 1:1-3; Luke 11:10-13; Heb. 10:24, 25.
4:16. Since Jehovah renews ‘the man we are inside from day to day,’ we should regularly avail ourselves of Jehovah’s provisions, not allowing a day to go by without giving consideration to spiritual matters.
4:17, 18. Remembering that “the tribulation is momentary and light” can help us to remain faithful to Jehovah during hardship.
5:1-5. How beautifully Paul expresses the sentiments of anointed Christians toward their hope of heavenly life!
10:13. As a general rule, unless some specific arrangements have been made for us to help where the need is greater, we should work only the territory assigned to our congregation.
13:5. To ‘test whether we are in the faith,’ we have to measure our conduct in the light of what we learn from the Bible. To ‘prove what we ourselves are,’ we have to evaluate the level of our spirituality, including the sharpness of our “perceptive powers” and the extent of our works of faith. (Heb. 5:14; Jas. 1:22-25) By applying Paul’s sound advice, we can keep on walking in the way of the truth.
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What is the meaning of the words “as often as you eat this loaf and drink this cup”?—1 Cor. 11:26
“Do All Things for God’s Glory”*** w90 9/15 pp. 24-25 “Do All Things for God’s Glory” ***
Highlights From First CorinthiansJEHOVAH GOD’S glory is of vital concern to all who worship him “with spirit and truth.” (John 4:23, 24) Hence, the apostle Paul told fellow Christians in ancient Corinth: “Whether you are eating or drinking or doing anything else, do all things for God’s glory.” (1 Corinthians 10:31) Doing this requires that we accept Jehovah’s way of resolving our problems in this materialistic, immoral world steeped in false religion.
Corinthian Christians needed divine help to resolve problems, for they lived in a prosperous, immoral city full of false religion. Located on an isthmus between continental Greece and the Peloponnisos, Corinth was the capital of the Roman province of Achaia and had an estimated population of 400,000. Paul founded the congregation there in about 50 C.E.—Acts 18:1-11.
The Corinthians had written to Paul asking about marriage and the eating of meat that had been offered to idols. (7:1) He was distressed because divisions and a case of gross immorality existed in their midst. They needed advice on the proper way to observe the Lord’s Evening Meal. There was even the threat of apostasy, and the congregation needed counsel on love. For such reasons, Paul wrote his first inspired letter to the Corinthians from Ephesus in about 55 C.E. But we too can benefit from it.
Unity and Moral Cleanness VitalIf we “do all things for God’s glory,” we will not follow anyone seeking to cause division in the congregation—one of the problems faced by the Corinthians. (1:1–4:21) Paul exhorted them to ‘speak in agreement and be united in the same mind and in the same line of thought.’ Unity will exist if we follow this counsel and cultivate spiritual qualities. Instead of boasting in any sinful human, we should remember that though we ‘plant and water, God makes it grow’ spiritually. Boastful ones in Corinth had nothing that they did not receive; so let us never consider ourselves better than fellow believers. Such a humble spirit will help us to promote unity.
If unity is to prevail, appointed elders must act to keep the congregation clean spiritually. (5:1–6:20) Since “a little leaven ferments the whole lump,” unrepentant fornicators, greedy persons, idolaters, revilers, drunkards, or extortioners must be disfellowshipped. Moral uncleanness, which defiles God’s temple, must not be tolerated among Jehovah’s people. Instead, they must do things that glorify God.
Be Considerate of OthersTo “do all things for God’s glory,” we need to apply Paul’s counsel on marriage and singleness. (7:1-40) Those united in wedlock are to render the sexual due with consideration. A married Christian should not separate from an unbelieving mate, for staying together may help that one gain salvation. While marriage brings increased anxiety, singleness can benefit a person desiring to help others spiritually by serving the Lord without distraction.
Showing consideration for the spiritual welfare of others is the duty of all Christians, whether single or married. (8:1–10:33) Hence, the Corinthians were counseled not to stumble others by eating foods that were offered to idols. To avoid hindering any from accepting the good news, Paul did not even exercise his right to receive material assistance. He also ‘pummeled his body so that after preaching to others, he might not become disapproved.’ Taking to heart the wilderness experiences of sinful Israel will help us to avoid idolatry and wrongdoing. Moreover, ‘doing all things for God’s glory’ will help us to avoid stumbling anyone.
Show Respect and Maintain Order‘Doing all things for God’s glory’ requires that we show proper respect. (11:1-34) A first-century Christian woman showed respect for headship by wearing a head covering when praying or prophesying in the congregation. Similar respect for headship is shown by godly women today. Moreover, to avoid becoming like the Corinthians who needed correction, all of us must show respect for the Lord’s Evening Meal.
To “do all things for God’s glory,” we must conduct meetings in an orderly way. (12:1–14:40) When early Christians met, such gifts of the spirit as speaking in tongues were to be used with respect and appreciation for their source and purpose. Though we do not now have these gifts, we bring glory to God by displaying love, which surpasses them. We also glorify Jehovah because our meetings are well organized, and we respectfully apply Paul’s counsel: “Let all things take place decently and by arrangement.”
‘Doing all things for God’s glory’ calls upon us to respect Bible doctrine and stand firm spiritually. (15:1–16:24) Possibly influenced by Greek philosophy, some in the Corinth congregation said: “There is no resurrection of the dead.” (Compare Acts 17:18, 32.) They may have held the apostate view that there would be no future resurrection but that living Christians had experienced a symbolic, spiritual one. (2 Timothy 2:16-18) Paul supported the true hope by citing Jesus’ resurrection and also showed that anointed Christians must die in order to be raised to immortal heavenly life. In other ways too, his words help us to avoid apostasy and “stand firm in the faith.”
Always Do Things for God’s GloryPaul’s counsel in First Corinthians is as beneficial today as it was in the first century C.E. It moves present-day Witnesses of Jehovah to serve God in unity as a clean people. The apostle’s words should motivate us to be considerate of others and show proper respect. What Paul said can also strengthen us to resist apostasy and stand firm for the true faith.
Surely, it is the heartfelt desire of every faithful servant of Jehovah to bless him, announce his Kingdom, and glorify his holy name. (Psalm 145:1, 2, 10-13) In fact, Paul’s first letter to the Corinthians helps us to “do all things for God’s glory.”
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SURE TO DIE: More than once in his letters to the Corinthians, Paul alluded to death in the arena. For instance, he wrote: “It seems to me that God has put us the apostles last on exhibition as men appointed to death, because we have become a theatrical spectacle to the world, and to angels, and to men.” (1 Corinthians 4:9) Paul may have been thinking about exhibitions of bestiarii (men who fought beasts) and gladiators (men who fought men). Some fought for wages, but criminals were compelled to fight. Allowed to use weapons at first, later these prisoners were brought out unclad, defenseless, and sure to die.
With “angels” and “men” (not just “the world” of mankind) as spectators, the apostles were like those about to die in such a final gory spectacle. Paul said he “fought with wild beasts at Ephesus,” but some doubt that a Roman citizen would have been subjected to this and say that he alluded to beastlike opposers. (1 Corinthians 15:32) Yet, Paul’s statement that God rescued him “from such a great thing as death” in the district of Asia (where Ephesus was located) fits an experience with real wild beasts in an arena better than it does human opposition.—2 Corinthians 1:8-10; 11:23; Acts 19:23-41.
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KEEP THE PRIZE IN VIEW: Paul used features of ancient Greek games to illustrate vital points. (1 Corinthians 9:24-27) In such contests as the Isthmian Games held every two years near Corinth, the program was made up of running, boxing, and other events. While preparing for these contests, runners and boxers were to exercise self-restraint, live on a healthfully lean diet, and drink no wine for ten months. Instead of the perishable pine or ivy wreath bestowed upon winners of the Isthmian Games, however, an anointed Christian strives for the incorruptible crown of immortal life. To win that prize, he must keep his eyes fixed on it and exercise self-control. The same principle applies to Jehovah’s Witnesses who have eternal earthly life in view.
Bible Book Number 47—2 Corinthians*** si pp. 214-217 Bible Book Number 47—2 Corinthians ***
Place Written: Macedonia
Writing Completed: c. 55 C.E.
IT WAS now probably late summer or early fall of 55 C.E. There were still some matters in the Christian congregation at Corinth that were causing concern to the apostle Paul. Not many months had passed since the writing of his first letter to the Corinthians. Since then Titus had been dispatched to Corinth to assist in the collection being undertaken there for the holy ones in Judea and possibly also to observe the reaction of the Corinthians to the first letter. (2 Cor. 8:1-6; 2:13) How had they taken it? What comfort it brought Paul to know that it had moved them to sorrow and repentance! Titus had returned to Paul in Macedonia with this good report, and now the apostle’s heart was filled to overflowing with love for his beloved Corinthian fellow believers.—7:5-7; 6:11.
2 So Paul wrote again to the Corinthians. This heartwarming and forceful second letter was written from Macedonia and was delivered apparently by Titus. (9:2, 4; 8:16-18, 22-24) One of the matters of concern that moved Paul to write was the presence among the Corinthians of “superfine apostles,” whom he also described as “false apostles, deceitful workers.” (11:5, 13, 14) The spiritual welfare of the comparatively young congregation was in jeopardy, and Paul’s authority as an apostle was under attack. His second letter to Corinth thus filled a great need.
3 It may be noted that Paul said: “This is the third time I am ready to come to you.” (2 Cor. 12:14; 13:1) He had planned to visit them a second time when he wrote his first letter, but though he got ready, this “second occasion for joy” did not materialize. (1 Cor. 16:5; 2 Cor. 1:15) Actually, then, Paul had been there only once before, for 18 months in 50-52 C.E., when the Christian congregation was founded in Corinth. (Acts 18:1-18) However, Paul later realized the fulfillment of his wish to visit Corinth once more. While in Greece for three months, probably in 56 C.E., he spent at least part of the time in Corinth, and it was from there that he wrote his letter to the Romans.—Rom. 16:1, 23; 1 Cor. 1:14.
4 Second Corinthians has always been reckoned along with First Corinthians and the other Pauline epistles as an authentic part of the Bible canon. Again we are enabled to look inside the congregation at Corinth and derive benefit from Paul’s inspired words given to admonish them as well as us.
CONTENTS OF SECOND CORINTHIANS5 Help from “the God of all comfort” (1:1–2:11). Paul includes Timothy in the opening salutation. “Blessed,” says Paul, is “the Father of tender mercies and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our tribulation,” that we, in turn, may be able to comfort others. Though Paul and his companions have been under extreme pressure and their lives were in danger, God has rescued them. The Corinthians can help, too, with prayers on their behalf. It is with confidence in his sincerity and in God’s undeserved kindness that he is writing to them. God’s promises have become “Yes” by means of Jesus, and He has anointed those who belong to Christ and given them “the token of what is to come, that is, the spirit” in their hearts.—1:3, 4, 20, 22.
6 It appears that the man who was the object of Paul’s comments in the fifth chapter of his first letter was ousted from the congregation. He has repented and is showing sorrow. Paul therefore tells the Corinthians to extend genuine forgiveness and to confirm their love for the penitent one.
7 Qualified as ministers of the new covenant (2:12–6:10). Paul presents himself and the Corinthian Christians as being in a triumphal procession with Christ. (The Corinthians were familiar with the odor of sweet incense that was burned along the route of the processions of victorious armies in that day.) There is a strong contrast between the “odor” of the Christian to those who will gain life and the “odor” to those who are perishing. “We are not peddlers of the word of God,” affirms Paul.—2:16, 17.
8 Paul and his fellow workers need no documents, written letters of recommendation, to or from the Corinthians. The Corinthian believers themselves are letters of recommendation, written “by us as ministers” and inscribed, not on tablets of stone, but “on fleshly tablets, on hearts,” declares Paul. God has adequately qualified the ministers of the new covenant. The written code was an administration of death, with fading glory, and it was temporary. The administration of the spirit, however, leads to life, is lasting, and is of abounding glory. When “Moses is read,” a veil rests upon the hearts of the sons of Israel, but when there is a turning to Jehovah, the veil is removed, and they are “transformed into the same image from glory to glory.”—3:3, 15, 18.
9 Then Paul continues: ‘We have this ministry due to the mercy that was shown to us. We have renounced underhanded things and have not adulterated God’s word, but we have recommended ourselves by making the truth manifest. If the message of good news is veiled, it is because the god of this world has blinded the minds of unbelievers. Our hearts, however, are illuminated with the glorious knowledge of God by the face of Christ. How great this treasure that we have! It is in earthen vessels so that the power beyond what is normal may be God’s. Under persecution and stress, yes, in the face of death itself, we exercise faith and do not give up, for the momentary tribulation works out for us a glory that is of more and more surpassing weight and is everlasting. So we keep our eyes on the things unseen.’—4:1-18.
10 ‘We know,’ writes Paul, ‘that our earthly house will give way to an everlasting one in the heavens. In the meantime we press on in faith and are of good courage. Though absent from Christ, we seek to be acceptable to him.’ (5:1, 7-9) Those in union with Christ are “a new creation” and have a ministry of reconciliation. They are “ambassadors substituting for Christ.” (5:17, 20) In every way Paul recommends himself as a minister of God. How? ‘By the endurance of much in the way of tribulations, beatings, labors, sleepless nights; by purity, by knowledge, by long-suffering, by kindness, by holy spirit, by love free from hypocrisy, by truthful speech, by God’s power, as poor but making many rich, as having nothing and yet possessing all things.’—6:4-10.
11 “Perfecting holiness in God’s fear” (6:11–7:16). Paul tells the Corinthians: ‘Our heart has widened out to receive you.’ They too should widen out their tender affections. But now comes a warning! “Do not become unevenly yoked with unbelievers.” (6:11, 14) What fellowship does light have with darkness, or Christ with Belial? As a temple of a living God, they must separate themselves and quit touching the unclean thing. Says Paul: “Let us cleanse ourselves of every defilement of flesh and spirit, perfecting holiness in God’s fear.”—7:1.
12 Paul states further: “I am filled with comfort, I am overflowing with joy in all our affliction.” (7:4) Why? Not only because of the presence of Titus but also because of the good report from Corinth, that of their longing, their mourning, and their zeal for Paul. He realizes that his first letter caused temporary sadness, but he rejoices that the Corinthians were saddened for repentance to salvation. He commends them for cooperating with Titus.
13 Generosity will be rewarded (8:1–9:15). In connection with contributions for the needy “holy ones,” Paul cites the example of the Macedonians, whose generosity despite deep poverty was really beyond their ability; and he now hopes to see the same kind of giving on the part of the Corinthians as a demonstration of the genuineness of their love for the Lord Jesus Christ, who became poor that they might be rich. This giving according to what they have will result in an equalizing, so that the one with much will not have too much, and the one with little, not too little. Titus and others are being sent to them in connection with this kind gift. Paul has been boasting about the generosity and readiness of the Corinthians, and he does not want them put to shame by any failure to complete the bountiful gift. Yes, “he that sows bountifully will also reap bountifully.” Let it be from the heart, for “God loves a cheerful giver.” He is also able to make his undeserved kindness abound toward them and to enrich them for every sort of generosity. “Thanks be to God for his indescribable free gift.”—9:1, 6, 7, 15.
14 Paul argues his apostleship (10:1–13:14). Paul acknowledges that he is lowly in appearance. But Christians do not war according to the flesh; their weapons are spiritual, “powerful by God” for overturning reasonings contrary to the knowledge of God. (10:4) Some, seeing things just at their face value, say that the apostle’s letters are weighty but his speech contemptible. Let them know that Paul’s actions will be just the same as his word by letter. The Corinthians should realize that Paul is not boasting about accomplishments in someone else’s territory. He has personally carried the good news to them. Furthermore, if there is to be any boasting, let it be in Jehovah.
15 Paul feels his responsibility to present the Corinthian congregation to the Christ as a chaste virgin. Just as Eve was seduced by the Serpent’s cunning, so there is danger that their minds may be corrupted. With force, therefore, Paul speaks out against the “superfine apostles” of the Corinthian congregation. (11:5) They are false apostles. Satan himself keeps transforming himself into an angel of light, so it is no wonder that his ministers do the same. But as to being ministers of Christ, how do they compare with Paul’s record? He has endured much: imprisonment, beatings, shipwreck three times, many dangers, going often without sleep or food. Yet through it all he never lost sight of the needs of the congregations and always felt incensed when someone was stumbled.
16 So if anyone has reason to boast, it is Paul. Could the other so-called apostles at Corinth tell about being caught away into paradise, to hear unutterable things? Yet Paul speaks about his weaknesses. That he might not feel overly exalted, he was given “a thorn in the flesh.” Paul entreated that it be removed but was told: “My undeserved kindness is sufficient for you.” Paul would rather boast in his weaknesses, that “the power of the Christ” may remain over him like a tent. (12:7, 9) No, Paul has not proved inferior to the “superfine apostles,” and the Corinthians have seen the proofs of apostleship that he produced among them “by all endurance, and by signs and portents and powerful works.” He is not seeking their possessions, just as Titus and his other fellow workers whom he sent did not take advantage of them.—12:11, 12.
17 All things are for their upbuilding. However, Paul expresses fear that when he arrives in Corinth, he will find some who have not repented of works of the flesh. He warns the sinners in advance that he will take appropriate action and spare none, and he advises all in the congregation to keep testing whether they are in the faith in union with Jesus Christ. Paul and Timothy will pray to God for them. He bids them rejoice and be restored to unity, in order that the God of love and peace will be with them, and concludes by sending greetings from the holy ones and his own best wishes for their spiritual blessing.
WHY BENEFICIAL18 How stimulating and encouraging is Paul’s appreciation for the Christian ministry as expressed in Second Corinthians! Let us view it as he did. The Christian minister who has been adequately qualified by God is no peddler of the Word but serves out of sincerity. What recommends him is, not some written document, but the fruitage he bears in the ministry. However, while the ministry is indeed glorious, this is no cause for his becoming puffed up. God’s servants as imperfect humans have this treasure of service in frail earthen vessels, that the power may plainly be seen to be God’s. So this calls for humility in accepting the glorious privilege of being God’s ministers, and what an undeserved kindness from God it is to serve as “ambassadors substituting for Christ”! How appropriate, then, was Paul’s exhortation “not to accept the undeserved kindness of God and miss its purpose”!—2:14-17; 3:1-5; 4:7; 5:18-20; 6:1.
19 Paul certainly provided a splendid example for Christian ministers to copy. For one thing, he valued and studied the inspired Hebrew Scriptures, repeatedly quoting from, alluding to, and applying them. (2 Cor. 6:2, 16-18; 7:1; 8:15; 9:9; 13:1; Isa. 49:8; Lev. 26:12; Isa. 52:11; Ezek. 20:41; 2 Sam. 7:14; Hos. 1:10) Moreover, as an overseer, he displayed deep concern for the flock, saying: “For my part I will most gladly spend and be completely spent for your souls.” He gave himself entirely in behalf of the brothers, as the record clearly shows. (2 Cor. 12:15; 6:3-10) He was untiring in his labors as he taught, exhorted, and set things straight in the Corinthian congregation. He warned plainly against fellowship with darkness, telling the Corinthians: “Do not become unevenly yoked with unbelievers.” Because of his loving concern for them, he did not want to see their minds become corrupted, “as the serpent seduced Eve by its cunning,” and so he heartily admonished them: “Keep testing whether you are in the faith, keep proving what you yourselves are.” He stirred them to Christian generosity, showing them that “God loves a cheerful giver,” and he himself expressed the most appreciative thanks to God for His indescribable free gift. Truly his brothers at Corinth were inscribed in love on the fleshly tablet of Paul’s heart, and his unstinted service in their interests was everything that should mark a zealous, wide-awake overseer. What an outstanding model for us today!—6:14; 11:3; 13:5; 9:7, 15; 3:2.
20 The apostle Paul sets our minds in the right direction in pointing to “the Father of tender mercies and the God of all comfort” as the real source of strength in time of trial. He it is that “comforts us in all our tribulation” in order that we may endure for salvation into his new world. Paul points also to the glorious hope of “a building from God, a house not made with hands, everlasting in the heavens,” and says: “Consequently if anyone is in union with Christ, he is a new creation; the old things passed away, look! new things have come into existence.” Second Corinthians does indeed contain wonderful words of assurance for those who, like Paul, will inherit the heavenly Kingdom.—1:3, 4; 5:1, 17.
“Keep Testing Whether You Are in the Faith”*** w90 9/15 pp. 26-27 “Keep Testing Whether You Are in the Faith” ***
Highlights From Second CorinthiansTHE apostle Paul was concerned about the Christians in Corinth. How would they view the counsel given in his first letter to them? He was in Macedonia when Titus arrived with the favorable report that the letter had saddened the Corinthians into repenting. How that made Paul rejoice!—2 Corinthians 7:8-13.
Paul wrote Second Corinthians from Macedonia, probably after midyear in 55 C.E. In this letter, he discussed steps taken to keep the congregation clean, built desire to contribute to needy believers in Judea, and defended his apostleship. Much of what Paul said can help us to ‘keep testing whether we are in the faith.’ (13:5) So, what can we glean from this letter?
Minister for the God of Comfort
The apostle showed that as God comforts us in all our tribulation, we should comfort others and pray for them. (1:1–2:11) Though Paul and his associates were under extreme pressure, God rescued them. Yet, the Corinthians could help with prayers in their behalf, even as we should pray for others who embrace the true faith. But what about the immoral man mentioned in 1 Corinthians chapter 5? Apparently he had been disfellowshipped but had repented. How he must have been comforted when the Corinthians extended forgiveness and lovingly reinstated him in their midst.
Paul’s words can increase our appreciation for the Christian ministry, strengthening our stand for the true faith. (2:12–6:10) Why, ministers of the new covenant are privileged to be in “a triumphal procession” with God in the lead! Paul and his fellow workers had the treasured ministry because of the mercy shown them. Like them, present-day anointed ones have a ministry of reconciliation. Yet, all Witnesses of Jehovah make others rich through their ministry.
Perfect Holiness and Be GenerousPaul shows us that Christian ministers must perfect holiness in the fear of Jehovah. (6:11–7:16) If we are to stand firm in the faith, we must avoid becoming yoked with unbelievers, and we need to be cleansed of fleshly and spiritual defilement. The Corinthians took cleansing action by disfellowshipping the immoral wrongdoer, and Paul rejoiced that his first letter had saddened them to repentance for salvation.
We also learn that God-fearing ministers are rewarded for their generosity. (8:1–9:15) Regarding contributions for needy “holy ones,” Paul cited the fine example of the Macedonians. They had been generous beyond their ability, and he hoped to see the same kind of generosity on the part of the Corinthians. Their giving—and ours—should be from the heart, for “God loves a cheerful giver” and enriches his people for every sort of generosity.
Paul—A Caring ApostleWhen we accomplish anything in Jehovah’s service as ministers, let us boast in him, not in ourselves. (10:1–12:13) After all, only with spiritual weapons “powerful by God” can we overturn false reasonings. The boastful “superfine apostles” among the Corinthians could never match Paul’s record of endurance as a minister of Christ. Yet, that he might not be overly exalted, God did not remove his “thorn in the flesh”—perhaps poor eyesight or those false apostles. Paul would rather boast in his weaknesses anyway so that “the power of the Christ” might remain over him like a tent. As a man who stood firm in the faith, he had not proved inferior to the superfine apostles. The Corinthians had seen the proofs of apostleship Paul had produced among them “by all endurance, and by signs and portents and powerful works.”
As a minister and as an apostle, Paul had the spiritual interests of fellow believers at heart, even as we should have. (12:14–13:14) He ‘would most gladly be completely spent for their souls.’ But Paul feared that upon arrival in Corinth, he would find some who had not repented of works of the flesh. Hence, he advised all to keep testing whether they were in the faith and prayed that they “do nothing wrong.” In conclusion, he urged them to rejoice, be readjusted and comforted, to think in agreement, and to live peaceably. What fine counsel for us too!
Keep On Testing!Paul’s second letter to Corinthian Christians thus suggests various ways to keep testing whether we are in the faith. His words certainly should move us to comfort others, even as God comforts us in all our tribulation. What the apostle said about the Christian ministry should motivate us to carry it out faithfully while we perfect holiness in the fear of Jehovah.
Applying Paul’s counsel may well make us more generous and helpful. Yet, his words should prompt us to boast in Jehovah, not ourselves. They should heighten our loving concern for fellow believers. And surely these and other points in Second Corinthians can help us to ‘keep testing whether we are in the faith.’
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REFLECT JEHOVAH’S GLORY: When Moses came down from Mount Sinai with the tablets of the Testimony, his face emitted rays because God had spoken with him. (Exodus 34:29, 30) Paul mentioned this and said: “All of us, while we with unveiled faces reflect like mirrors the glory of Jehovah, are transformed into the same image from glory to glory, exactly as done by Jehovah the Spirit.” (2 Corinthians 3:7-18) Ancient hand mirrors were made of such metals as bronze or copper and were highly polished so as to have good reflecting surfaces. Like mirrors, anointed ones reflect God’s glory that shines to them from Jesus Christ, progressively ‘transforming them into the image’ conveyed by Jehovah’s glory-reflecting Son. (2 Corinthians 4:6; Ephesians 5:1) Through holy spirit and the Scriptures, God creates in them “the new personality,” a reflection of his own qualities. (Ephesians 4:24; Colossians 3:10) Whether our hope is heavenly or it is earthly, let us display that personality and cherish the privilege of reflecting God’s glory in our ministry.
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“WEAPONS OF RIGHTEOUSNESS”: One way that Paul and his associates recommended themselves as God’s ministers was “through the weapons of righteousness on the right hand and on the left.” (2 Corinthians 6:3-7) The right hand was used to wield the sword, and the left to hold the shield. Though assaulted from all sides, Paul and his fellow workers were armed to wage spiritual warfare. It was waged against false teachers and “superfine apostles” so that the Corinth congregation would not be led away from devotion to Christ. Paul did not resort to weapons of the sinful flesh—cunning, deceit, or trickery. (2 Corinthians 10:8-10; 11:3, 12-14; 12:11, 16) Rather, “the weapons” used were righteous, or just, means for furthering the cause of true worship against all assaults. Jehovah’s Witnesses now use such “weapons of righteousness” for the same purpose.