Then Paul left Athens and went to Corinth.Acts 18:1
So Paul stayed there for the next year and a half, teaching the word of God.Acts 18:11
Paul stayed in Corinth for some time after that, then said good-bye to the brothers and sisters and went to nearby Cenchrea. There he shaved his head according to Jewish custom, marking the end of a vow.Acts 18:18)
Did you notice the way Paul marks his section breaks?
Now regarding the questions you asked in your letter.1 Corinthians 7:1
This is the first of the section indicators that break the remaining portions into sections based on Paul’s response to the Corinthians questions.
Did you find the other breaks?
- 1 Cor 7:1 Now regarding the questions you asked in your letter. Yes, it is good to live a celibate life.
- 1 Cor 7:25 Now regarding your question about the young women who are not yet married. I do not have a command from the Lord for them. But the Lord in His mercy has given me wisdom that can be trusted, and I will share it with you.
- 1 Cor 8:1 Now regarding your question about food that has been offered to idols. Yes, we know that “we all have knowledge” about this issue. But while knowledge makes us feel important, it is love that strengthens the church.
- 1 Cor 12:1 Now, dear brothers and sisters, regarding your question about the special abilities the Spirit gives us. I don’t want you to misunderstand this.
- 1Cor 16:1 Now regarding your question about the money being collected for God’s people in Jerusalem. You should follow the same procedure I gave to the churches in Galatia.
Now that was easy wasn’t it! When we pay attention to the little things, the reading of Scripture and the understanding of it just simply work themselves out. We see clearly where Paul is going and how each section connects to the next. When we understand the big picture, the details just fall out. Believe it, it’s true.
It is just like when we write a letter in response to someone else. We deal firstly with their questions or comments or the things we want to respond to from their letter. Paul is no different, only in the case of 1 Corinthians he moves straight to the matters he has heard which concern him then he continues with the matters that concern them.
I am coming to visit you after I have been to Macedonia, for I am planning to travel through Macedonia. Perhaps I will stay awhile with you, possibly all winter, and then you can send me on my way to my next destination. This time I don’t want to make just a short visit and then go right on. I want to come and stay awhile, if the Lord will let me. In the meantime, I will be staying here at Ephesus until the Festival of Pentecost. There is a wide-open door for a great work here, although many oppose me.1 Corinthians 16:5-9
This is likely Paul’s painful visit. So he plans to stay there all winter because he needs the time to work through the issues with the Corinthian church. He indicates to them “This time I don’t want to make just a short visit and then go right on. I want to come and stay awhile, if the Lord will let me.” I am sure Paul was a little apprehensive about this visit:
- how it would work out,
- whether they would receive what he had to say,
- whether this matter could be resolved.
But how much more were the Corinthians apprehensive about it?
I wonder if he stayed with Gaius again (see Bible Gem 303). Or was Paul a bit of hot potato and with the news of his coming maybe they were passing him around “from pillar to post”. Was it that no one really wanted him because they knew why he was coming? I imagine there were a number of people who welcomed his coming in order to resolve the issues among them. Perhaps Gaius was one of those Pauls supporters; quite likely. There are many unanswered questions on this matter.
The other reason that Paul planned to stay a long while was due to the dangers of sea voyages in winter. (See Acts 27:9). It was not safe to travel during the winter months as storms blew up on the Mediterranean too easily. Hence the need to stay put in place over winter.
Now we need to turn our attention to the visits.
It is clear from a straight reading of 2Cor 2:1-4 and 2Cor 7:8 that the painful visit and the letter of tears has taken place between Paul’s 1st and 2nd letters.
- Paul visits Corinth for the first time
- There is regular contact between Paul and the people from Corinth via Chloe’s homegroup, Timothy, Apollos, Stephanas, Fortunatus and Achaicus].
- Paul writes the “warning letter”
- The Corinthians send a letter to Paul.
- Paul writes 1 Corinthians
- Paul makes a “painful visit” to the Corinthians as he said would (1 Cor 16:6)
- Paul writes the “letter of tears”.
- Paul writes 2 Corinthians
- Paul presumably made the third visit after writing 2 Corinthians, (2 Cor 12:14, 2 Cor 13:1)
Did you pick up the fact that a visit has now happened at the start of 2 Corinthians? That has happened between the two letters. Paul it seems has visited them himself and has also written a letter of tears to them as well. Much has happened since we were reading 1 Corinthians. Be aware of this as you read 2 Corinthians so you can pick up on the cues more easily.
There is even a “3rd Corinthians”. It is found in a collection called “The Acts of Paul” but no one believes this to be original Paul. It is part of the Pseudepigrapha, the false writings from the 2nd Century. It is claimed by Tertullian to have been written by an elder in the church in honour of Paul. He was removed from his position in the church for his efforts and was excommunicated by the church. The Armenian Orthodox Church including it in their canon for a while. It is not genuine Paul and doesn’t warrant our interest. I just thought I would tell you. There is all sorts of stuff out there.
- What about a third visit?
- Did it happen?
- When did it take place?
For I am afraid that when I come I won’t like what I find, and you won’t like my response. I am afraid that I will find quarrelling, jealousy, anger, selfishness, slander, gossip, arrogance, and disorderly behaviour. Yes, I am afraid that when I come again, God will humble me in your presence. And I will be grieved because many of you have not given up your old sins. You have not repented of your impurity, sexual immorality, and eagerness for lustful pleasure. This is the third time I am coming to visit you (and as the Scriptures say, “The facts of every case must be established by the testimony of two or three witnesses”). I have already warned those who had been sinning when I was there on my second visit. Now I again warn them and all others, just as I did before, that next time I will not spare them. I will give you all the proof you want that Christ speaks through me. Christ is not weak when He deals with you; He is powerful among you. Although He was crucified in weakness, He now lives by the power of God. We, too, are weak, just as Christ was, but when we deal with you we will be alive with Him and will have God’s power.2 Corinthians 12:20-13:4
Paul thought about how a third meeting with the Corinthians would work out. But he thinks it wouldn’t go well. It seems clear that Paul was still being kept informed, likely by Chloe and the others. He was certain he would find all the same issues still alive and on-going as he had encountered before. He was convinced many of them continued with their sins and had not repented at all
He made it clear to them that this time he will not spare them. This was in the context of “the painful visit”. Paul suggested maybe this visit would be worse than the painful visit. He had warned them before that if they didn’t forsake their old ways and repent of what they were doing then he would come again and not hold back. Remember this is a Christian church in the midst of all the sexual freedom of Corinth, where the term corinthianize meant to give free reign to sexual desire.
The prime question for us now is where all this action fits in the book of Acts?
Man’s way leads to a hopeless end; God’s way leads to an endless hope.Anon
God doesn’t say: “Change your life and I will accept you.” He says “I accept you – now let’s change your life.”Max Lucado
We’re always just one heartbeat away from eternity.Ian Vail
Warning: Exposure to the Son may prevent burning.Ian Vail