Today’s reading: 2 Cor 1
Today we begin Paul’s Second letter to the Corinthians. This letter was most likely written with a year or so of the first letter probably in the fall of A.D. 56 or 57. Several things are noticeable in the first chapter:
First, notice how Paul begins:
Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God, and Timothy our brother, …
Paul does NOT appear to be the sole author of this letter! He ascribes authorship of it as coming from himself and Timothy. That shows us the Timothy in present has become a collaborator with Paul. We might think of it as a professor working with a graduate student. The student has advanced to the point where they are making contributions and is about to go out and do work in his own right. We should be clear, tradition and accepted scholarship consider Paul the author or the letter. However, Timothy is clearly present, well enough know to the faithful, and assisting Paul in his missionary activities that we can confirm his rise in the Church hierarchy. And we know that is what ends of happening. Timothy is eventually put in charge of the Church at Ephesus.
It also implies that Timothy has the same authority as Paul. Remember in 1 Corinthians, Paul said that what he writes is the same as a commandment of the Lord. That would still be true in this second letter and here Paul is having Timothy work collaboratively with him on the letter. Thus, to the extent Timothy contributed to the letter he is also speaking authoritatively. Presumably, he would expect to have the similar authority once Paul places him in charge of Ephesus. By this we see that authority does not end with the Apostles. They have done just as Jesus did. They found new disciples, trained them as their successors and passed on their authority.
In addition, Paul recounts some of their troubles. People sought to kill them but they escaped through the blessings of God. He writes:
But that was to make us rely not on ourselves but on God who raises the dead. 10 He delivered us from such a deadly peril, and he will deliver us. On him we have set our hope that he will deliver us again. 11 You also must help us by prayer, so that many will give thanks on our behalf for the blessing granted us through the prayers of many.
Notice, Paul says that this experience was so harrowing that they realized that they could not rely on themselves but had to rely on God. However, notice what Paul says next, “you must HELP US BY PRAYER.” Paul is asking for the prayers of the Corinthians for the ongoing success of his ministry. Thus, we can and should pray for each other and our leaders. This may seem like an obvious point but its implication is often missed. It is Paul who also wrote, “there is one God, and there is one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus”. Thus, when Paul is asking the Corinthians to pray for him, he is asking them to mediate for him. How are these two ideas of Paul consistent? Simple, Paul told us earlier in the letter.
Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God. For as we share abundantly in Christ’s sufferings, so through Christ we share abundantly in comfort too.
Thus, as Christians we share in the suffering and comfort of Jesus Christ. In other words, we are so radically untied to him that our sufferings are his sufferings and his comforts are our comforts and our prayers are his prayers. Christ takes what inadequate things we do and makes them adequate.
Finally, there is this wonderful verse:
For the Son of God, Jesus Christ, whom we proclaimed among you, Silvanus and Timothy and I, was not Yes and No, but in him it is always Yes. For all the promises of God find their Yes in him.
So the answer from God is always “yes”. I heard it described once this way, “God always answers prayers with “Yes”, “Yes but not right now”, or “Yes, but not that because I have something better for you.”
Tomorrow: 2 Cor 2