Clarifying the ministry

Clarifying his ministry to the Church of Corinth 

Paul’s sincerity

Paul once and again clarified his ministry toward the Corinthians as one carried out “in simplicity and godly sincerity, not with fleshly wisdom, but by the grace of God”, and that was testified by his conscience. (1:12) He claimed that he was not like many who corrupted the word of God, but “as of sincerity…in the sight of God speak we in Christ”. (2:17) Paul said that he had the obligation in his ministry to renounce and “have renounced (棄絕) the hidden things of dishonesty, not walking in craftiness, nor handling the word of God deceitfully, but by manifestation of the truth commending ourselves to every man’s conscience in the sight of God.” (4:2) Paul stated that he “preach not ourselves, but Christ Jesus the Lord”. (4:5)

Paul’s affliction

At beginning of epistle, Paul told the Corinthians he was afflicted “for your consolation and salvation”. (1:6) He then stated the fact that he and his counterparts received trouble in Asia and were “pressed out of measure, above strength, insomuch that we despaired even of life, but we had the sentence of death in ourselves.” (1:8-9) He trusted that the Corinthians would offer help “by prayer for us” so that many thanks be given by many on his behalf. (1:11)

He again said in Chapter 4, “we are troubled on every side, yet not distressed; we are perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; cast down, but not destroyed.” (4:8-9) He continued, “so then death worketh in us, but life in you…knowing that he which raised up the Lord Jesus shall raise up us also by Jesus, and shall present us with you. For all things are for your sakes, that the abundant grace might through the thanksgiving of many redound to the glory of God.” (4:12,14-15)

Paul again in Chapter 11 spoke of his affliction as true apostle or minister of Christ (compared with those false apostles, 11:12) when his apostleship was challenged. (10:10) He boasted of his affliction in order to convince the Corinthians of his boldness to face hardship. “As a fool receive me, that I may boast myself a little.” (11:16) “Howbeit whereinsoever any is bold, (I speak foolishly,) I am bold also.” (11:21) “Are they ministers of Christ? (I speak as a fool) I am more; in labors more abundant.” (11:23) Then he began to describe his hardship while preaching the gospel. (11:23-33) In 11:28, he said, “besides those things that are without, that which cometh upon me daily, the care of all the churches.”

Paul’s heart for the Corinthians

Paul said to the Corinthians plainly that “our hope of you is steadfast, knowing, that as ye are partakers of the sufferings, so shall ye be also of the consolation.” (1:7) Paul said he trusted that “ye have acknowledged us in part, that we are your rejoicing, even as ye also are ours in the day of the Lord Jesus.” (1:14) Paul explained his reason for not visiting them yet was to spare them, “not for that we have dominion over your faith, but are helpers of your joy, for by faith ye stand.” (1:24)

He said that his purpose of writing the epistle was not to commend himself again. He said to the Corinthians: “ye are our epistle written in our hearts, known and read of all men.” He continued, “ye are manifestly declared to be the epistle of Christ ministered by us, written not with ink, but with the Spirit of the living God, not in tables of stone, but in fleshly tables of the heart.” (3:1-3)

He repeated in Chapter 5 that he is not commending himself to them again, but give them the occasion “to glory on our behalf” and to answer those who take pride in appearance only, not in heart at all. (5:12)

Given the “ministry of reconciliation”, Paul beseeched the Corinthians on behalf of Christ, “be ye reconciled to God.” (5:18,20) Paul also beseeched them that “ye receive not the grace of God in vain.” (6:1) He exhorted them as speaking to his children, “be ye not unequally yoked together with unbelievers”, “be ye separate…and touch not the unclean thing”, “ for ye are the temple of the living God”. (6:14,16,17) He said, “dearly beloved, let us cleanse ourselves from all filthiness of the flesh and spirit, perfecting holiness in the fear of God.” (7:1) He plainly manifested his heart to the Corinthians: “O ye Corinthians, our mouth is open unto you, our heart is enlarged.” (6:11) “There is no restriction in our affections, but only in yours.” (NRSV, 6:12)

Paul beseeched the Corinthians to receive him since “we have wronged no man, we have corrupted no man, we have defrauded no man.” Paul continued, “I speak not this to condemn you, for I have said before, that ye are in our hearts to die and live with you (“to die together and live together”, ASV) .” (7:2-3)

Paul commended the Corinthians that “in all things ye have approved yourselves to be clear (ASV--“pure”, NRSV--“guiltless”) in this matter (in the matter of having a godly sorrow after receiving Paul’s previous letter).” (7:11) In fact, Paul said he was exceedingly joyful because Titus’ spirit was refreshed by them. They received him with fear and trembling and obeyed him. And his boasting of the Corinthians (with respect to their humble reaction) before Titus was proven to be true. He still has confidence in them in all things. (7:13-16)

At epistle end of I Corinthians, Paul has given instruction about collecting contribution for the saints in Judea. (I Cor. 16:1-4) Now in Chapters 8 & 9, he mentioned this matter again. He said the Corinthians started collecting contribution a year ago. (8:10, 9:2) He has sent Titus and two brothers to collect it. (16:16-23) Paul has boasted the Corinthians of their zeal and preparation before the churches of Macedonia. He saw it fit to send someone ahead of him to follow up on this matter, “lest our boasting of you should be in vain”. (9:2-3)

In Chapter 10, Paul changed his tone and seriously warned the Corinthians of some people who despised Paul’s apostleship.

“…some, which think of us as if we walked according to the flesh.” (10:2)

“For his letters, say they, are weighty and powerful; but his bodily presence is weak, and his speech contemptible.” (10:10)

“For we (Paul) dare not…compare ourselves with some that commend themselves…” (10:12)

Paul warned them to beware of the false apostles:

“But I fear, lest by any means, as the serpent beguiled Eve through his subtilty, so your minds should be corrupted from the simplicity that is in Christ.” (11:3)

“For if he that cometh preacheth another Jesus, whom we have not preached, or if ye receive another spirit, which ye have not received, or another gospel, which ye have not accepted, ye might well bear with him.” (11:4)

“For such are false apostles, deceitful workers, transforming themselves into the apostles of Christ.” (11:13)

Paul attempted to argue with the Corinthians about his true apostleship toward them:

“Do ye look on things after the outward appearance? (Paul needs to correct their view) If any man trust to himself that he is Christ’s, let him of himself think this again, that, as he is Christ’s, even so are we Christ’s.” (10:7)

“For though I should boast somewhat more of our authority, which the Lord hath given us for edification, and not for your destruction, I should not be ashamed.” (10:8)

“For we stretch not ourselves beyond our measure, as though we reached not unto you; for we are come as far as to you also in preaching the gospel of Christ.” (10:14)

“for I have espoused you to one husband, that I may present you as a chaste virgin to Christ.” (11:2)

“For I suppose I was not a whit behind the very chiefest apostles.” (“I think I am not in the least inferior to these super-apostles.” NRSV) (11:5)

“But though I be rude in speech, yet not in knowledge; but we have been thoroughly made manifest among you in all things.” (11:6)

“Have I committed an offense in abasing myself that ye might be exalted, because I have preached to you the gospel of God freely? I robbed other churches, taking wages of them, to do you service…in all things I have kept myself from being burdensome unto you” (11:7-9)

“Wherefore? Because I love you not? God knoweth.” (11:11)

Then he spoke of his third heaven experience 14 years ago: “he was caught up into paradise, and heard unspeakable words, which it is not lawful for a man to utter.” (12:4)

“I am becoming a fool in glorying, ye have compelled me; for I ought to have been commended of you, for in nothing am I behind the very chiefest apostles, though I am nothing.” (12:11)

Finally, Paul concluded his argument, “Truly the signs of an apostle were wrought among you in all patience, in signs, and wonders, and mighty deeds.” (12:12)

Paul argued he did not gain any benefit from them: “I did not burden you…Did I make a gain of you by any of them whom I sent unto you?” I desired Titus, and with him I sent a brother. Did Titus make a gain of you?” (12:16-18)

Paul heartfully said, “we do all things, dearly beloved, for your edifying.” (12:19)

Final exhortation

Paul in the end exhorts the Corinthians:

“examine yourselves, whether ye be in the faith; prove your own selves.” (13:5)

“ye do no evil…ye should do that which is honest.” (13:7)

“be perfect, be of good comfort, be of one mind, live in peace.” (13:11)