Reading through Paul's second letter to the church at Corinth makes you aware that this is the most personal and emotional of all his letters. It throbs with a sense of the glories of God's grace.
Visiting Corinth on my recent trip was a moving experience for me. There is very little left standing of the original city -- it was destroyed by the Romans shortly after Paul's visit there and has been lying in ruins ever since. Certain temple columns remain, though. as well as the market place and other public areas of the city. They can be clearly discerned, and the actual pavement of the judgment hall of the Roman proconsul is well preserved.
It wasn't hard for me to imagine the Apostle Paul as he came down from Athens into this city which was at the time a center of pleasure, a great commercial city and a city of great beauty, with many, many temples. It had gained a reputation as the center of lascivious worship -- the worship of the Goddess of Love. There were some 10,000 prostitutes attached to the temple of Aphrodite and the city lived up, or perhaps I should say, down, to its reputation as a place of sensual pleasure. It represented a sex-saturated society. You can see indications of this in Paul's letters to the church there. It was easy to imagine the apostle arriving in the dust of the road unknown and unheralded a simple tentmaker by all appearance. Finding two people of the same trade, Aquila and Priscilla, he lived and worked with them, and preached up and down the city streets and in the market places and synagogues. Thus God used him to lay the foundations of the church at Corinth.
Why Does it Hurt so Much? (2 Corinthians 1:1-11)
The second letter of Paul to the Corinthians is probably the least known of all his letters. It has sometimes been called "Paul's unknown letter." I do not know why that is. First Corinthians is very well-known among his writings, but many people feel that Second Corinthians is heavy reading. It is too bad that we are so unfamiliar with it, because it represents the most personal, the most autobiographical letter from the apostle's pen.
When you are Misunderstood (2 Corinthians 1:12 - 2:4)
Our subject this morning is how to handle misunderstanding. I wish we could take time to ask how many of you are going through a time of being misunderstood, of having your motives misjudged and your actions misinterpreted, of experiencing something that you meant to be taken one way being taken in quite a different light. We have a classic case of a misunderstanding here, in Chapter 1 of Second Corinthians, that will help us in handling such matters. This is the fourth letter Paul wrote to the church at Corinth, but we call it Second Corinthians because two of the letters he wrote are missing. In this section he is sharing certain experiences which come from being a Christian in a pagan world.
When Discipline Ends (2 Corinthians 2:5-11)
In our study of Second Corinthians this morning, we will be dealing with the third of three very practical problems which arose in the church there in Corinth, to which Paul is writing: (These problems frequently arise in California as well.)
Who is Sufficient (2 Corinthians 2:12-17)
Today we begin what I think is one of the greatest passages in the New Testament. It is found in Second Corinthians, beginning in Chapter 2. Here is the clearest explanation in all the Word of God of the secret of the Apostle Paul's phenomenal ministry. It runs from Chapter 2, Verse 12, through Chapters 3, 4, 5, and 6, and ends with Verse 2 of Chapter 7. I have treated this in my book, Authentic Christianity, because it has meant so much in my own life, and I have seen its impact in the lives of many others. It is such a splendid example of what genuine, true, authentic Christianity is. Yet, strangely enough, this great passage is a parenthesis in this Second Corinthian epistle; it is a digression on the apostle's part.
Have you got What it Takes? (2 Corinthians 3:1-11)
I have often wondered how the Apostle Paul would rate in ecclesiastical circles, whether he would be considered a success or not, if he were carrying on his ministry today. It is hard to believe that a man who spent most of his ministry in jail, who never made enough salary to buy a home of his own, who never built a church building, who never spoke on television, or even had a radio broadcast, who ran around so much that he had no permanent residence of his own, who frequently had to get a job to support himself, who admitted that he was a poor speaker and had a very unimpressive appearance, could be a successful pastor or minister. He just does not fit the accepted scheme of what makes for success in the ministry today. No wonder they had trouble with him in Corinth, and had difficulty believing that he was a real apostle. That is what they were thinking when Paul wrote this letter, and that, perhaps, explains why Chapter 3 begins with these words:
Who is that Masked Man? (2 Corinthians 3:12-18)
We are nearing the season of mask-wearing, Halloween, and some of our children, at least, will be putting them on. In the radio program, The Lone Ranger (who was known as "The Masked Man"), some of us who are older remember how thrilled we were when we heard that call of, "Hi-ho, Silver!" to the beat of the William Tell Overture, and the invariable question, "Who was that Masked Man anyway?" And, we were distressed a couple of weeks ago to learn that the Supreme Court has ordered that The Masked Man has to take his mask off. The Lone Ranger cannot wear it anymore! But in Verse 12 of Second Corinthians, Chapter 3, Paul tells us who "The Masked Man" of the Bible is. It is Moses.