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Fourth of Four

Fourth of Four

Words of Faith 8-18-17

Dr. Jeffrey D. Hoy © 2017

Faith Fellowship Church - Melbourne, FL

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2 Corinthians

       Our devotional journey will next move into Paul's Second letter to the Corinthians. How did this letter fit with the first? What is the nature and purpose of this communication? If you don't like background, you might tune in next time. Here is a brief intro for our devotional study together in the weeks ahead.

       First of all... there were actually four letters to the church at Corinth. Yes, four. Two were lost and two were saved for us. We know this because they are mentioned in the scripture. We will see how they fit together here.

       Paul first came to Corinth in the spring of 51AD. His ministry there lasted about 18 months. In the fall of 52AD, he sailed with Priscilla and Aquila to Ephesus where they remained while Paul continued on to Jerusalem. At Ephesus, Priscilla and Aquila met Apollos whom they prepared by instruction and later sent to Corinth for ministry. Apollos became known as a brilliant and eloquent preacher. (Acts 18:18-28)

       While Apollos ministered in Corinth in the fall of 53AD, Paul returned to Ephesus on what is called the third missionary journey. Paul remained there for two and a half years. During that time, the church at Ephesus became the base camp furthest west for missionary and evangelism works that were now reaching into Europe. (Acts 19)

     Paul's very first letter to the Corinthians does not exist today. It was mentioned by Paul in 1 Corinthians 5:9 as having been "misunderstood" by the Corinthians. No copies of it are known today. If you find a copy, please quietly contact me and we will find a home for it… and then retire. It was probably written during the early stages of this Ephesian ministry.

       Paul learned of the misunderstanding and of additional problems in the Corinthian church from members of the household of Chloe. He then received an official delegation made up of Stephanas, Fortunatus, and Achaicus. These guys brought corroborating news and specific questions about issues that were dividing the church. The letter we call First Corinthians was actually Paul's second letter to the church and was written to address these matters.

       Apparently the problems in the church were still not resolved. Sigh. It is possible that Timothy was the bearer of this news. Paul then decided to pay the church a second visit, sailing directly from Ephesus to Corinth. This was the "painful visit" that we will see referred to in 2 Corinthians 2:1. It was painful because of the need for direct action and also because of the man mentioned in 2:5 and 7:12 and the failure of the Corinthians to support Paul.

       After this visit and Paul's return to Ephesus, he sent a third letter to the Corinthians (now lost, like the first) that was carried by Titus. It grieved Paul deeply to write this because of its stark disciplinary nature.

       After a riot provoked by silversmiths Paul left Ephesus in the spring of 56AD. He was headed to Macedonia for a preliminary stop in Troas where he hoped to rendezvous with Titus and receive news from him about the ministry in Corinth. Because he could not find Titus there, he pressed on into Macedonia even though he had great concern about Titus' safety. There he met Titus, who brought a good report about the general well-being of the Corinthian church, but bad news concerning a group opposed to Paul.

       It was from Macedonia Paul wrote a fourth letter which we call 2 Corinthians. Paul then made his third visit to Corinth during the winter of 56-57AD. These two lost letters were obviously not intended by God to be part of our Bible, but would be a remarkable find for biblical archeology. (Check your attic to be sure!)

       This second letter to the Corinthians, which was really the fourth, presents an intimate picture of a pastor's heart as the Apostle Paul continued to shepherd the wayward Corinthians and revealed a love which comes only from God. No letter that Paul wrote is more personal and intimate in nature than 2 Corinthians. In it he bared his soul and professed his abiding love for the Corinthians despite the apparent wavering of their affection for him.

       What concerned Paul preeminently at this point was the presence of false teachers, claiming to be apostles, who had entered the church. They promoted their own ideas and at the same time sought to discredit both the person and message of the apostle. Second Corinthians was written to defend the authenticity of both Paul’s apostleship and his message. This was not carried out in a self-protecting spirit but rather because Paul knew that acceptance of his ministry and message were intimately bound with the Corinthian church's own spiritual well-being.

       Welcome to Second Corinthians-- (or Fourth Corinthians, if you like). Our prayer will be for a deeper understanding of the grace and mercy of God as we hear intimately from the heart of the Apostle.


       Lord God, I thank Your for Your Word. Thank You for Your faithfulness to always meet me in the Word and instruct me by the presence of Your Spirit. Join me in this journey through 2 Corinthians. Lead me on the way. Use Your word to mold and shape me. In Jesus' Name.