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Bailey Sadler Class



Study Theme: Overcome: Living Beyond Your Circumstances

What This Study Is About:

Week of:

Lesson Title:

The focus of this study is on what we can

learn from Scripture so we can minister to those suffering from mental and emotional problems.





Nov. 30

Ministry In The Face Of Mental Illness



God’s people are to care for those suffering from mental illness.


2 Corinthians 1:2-7





Source of Comfort (2 Cor. 1:2-3)

Channels of Comfort (2 Cor. 1:4-5)

A Model of Comfort (2 Cor. 1:6-7)


Introduction (2 Cor. 1:1-2)

The letter begins with a standard greeting. The identification of Paul as an apostle, one specially commissioned by Christ, is significant for Paul’s defense of his calling and ministry.

Apostolic Experience (2 Cor. 1:3-11)

Paul knew what it meant to suffer, but it was in suffering that Paul experienced God’s comfort. Paul uniquely described the value of an experience of suffering (1:4-7) before relating the experience from which the value came (1:8-11). Paul praised God as the source of all comfort, the comfort he wished to pass along to the Corinthians. The apostle thought he might not survive the difficult experience (1:8). God’s intervention seemed like a resurrection in his life. This reinforced Paul’s conviction that God’s resources alone, not human effort, can provide comfort and refuge.

SOURCE: Holman Bible Handbook; General Editor David S. Dockery; Holman Bible Publishers; Nashville, Tennessee.


We are surrounded by people—both inside and outside the church—who bear the invisible wounds that come with mental illness and emotional problems. The most common form might be called depression, but mental illness takes many forms. We typically know how to pray for and minister to those with physical concerns, but less so with those struggling with mental illness. We need not ignore, look the other way, or even worse, denigrate persons with mental and emotional struggles.

Introduction is adapted from the following source:

The Herschel Hobbs Commentary; Family Bible Study; by Robert J. Dean; LifeWay Christian Resources of the Southern Baptist Convention; 1 LifeWay Plaza, Nashville, TN.

Advanced Bible Study; LifeWay Christian Resources of the Southern Baptist Convention; One LifeWay Plaza, Nashville, TN.


Source of Comfort (2 Cor. 1:2-3)

2 Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.  3 Praise the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and the God of all comfort.








1.   What comes to mind when you hear the words “mental illness”?

2.   Why do you think God’s people are to provide a godly source of comfort to those who are suffering?

3.   Do you think it is extremely difficult to comfort those suffering from mental and/or emotional illness?  Why, or why not?

4.   How is one to know how to minister to someone who is suffering from a mental or emotional condition?

5.   According to Paul’s opening statement in verse 2, who is the source of grace and peace?

6.   How can the grace and peace Paul spoke of here apply to our lives today?

7.   How can a lost person experience the grace and peace Paul spoke of in verse 2?

8.   What is the role of a believer in sharing this experience with the lost?

9.   How did Paul take the words beyond a common greeting and infuse them with new meaning?

10.   In what ways would you say that God is Father?

11.   What appears to have caused Paul to erupt in praise to God?

12.   What praise do you give to God the Father and God the Son because of His gifts to you?

13.   How are mercies and  comfort related to each other?

14.   How are they different?

15.   On what occasions have you experienced both in your life?

16.   What is the believer’s role in sharing God’s mercy and comfort to those he/she knows who are suffering?

17.   What are some similarities and differences between physical illness and mental illness?

18.   What are some ways you think believers can provide God’s mercy and comfort to those who are suffering?


Lasting Lessons in 2 Cor. 1:2-3:

1.  God cannot be known apart from His revelation in His Son, Jesus Christ.

2.  We should begin our prayers praising God for who He is and for what He has done.

3.  God gives us not what we deserve, He gives us mercy because of His character.

4.  All genuine comfort finds its source in God.



Channels of Comfort (2 Cor. 1:4-5)

4 He comforts us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any kind of affliction, through the comfort we ourselves receive from God.  5 For as the sufferings of Christ overflow to us, so through Christ our comfort also overflows.

1.   What benefit or purpose did Paul identify in the comfort he had experienced from God (v. 4)?

2.   In what sense can believers be participants in the work of God in the lives of others?

3.   Even as we suffer greatly for Christ, by what can we be encouraged?

4.   What are some ways God has comforted you in your time of suffering?

5.   Do you think that God’s comfort Paul spoke of in verse 4 is available to us today? 

6.   If so, how do you think we can receive it?

7.   Do you believe God has placed us in these disturbing times to be the presence of the Lord Jesus in people’s lives?  If so, why?

8.   Does your daily behavior indicate that you are a godly comfort giver? 

9.   Since Christ’s comfort overflows to us (v. 5), what are practical ways we can share that overflow with others?

10.   What changes of you need to make in your life this week so that your comfort also overflows to others?

11.   What are some ways a believer is to prepare him or herself to provide comfort to those in need?

12.   Do you think distress and comfort, when experienced by God’s children, work for good in the lives of others who are suffering? If so, why?

13.   What do you think these verses offer to someone dealing with mental illness?

14.   Based on this passage, how would you counsel someone who is caring for a person suffering from a mental illness?


Lasting Lessons in 2 Cor. 1:4-5:

1.  God the Father, God the Son, and God the Spirit bring us comfort.

2.  God brings us comfort to meet our needs and then we, in turn, are to meet the needs of others.

3.  God can and does use our sufferings to bring comfort to others.

4.  Whatever afflictions we face because of our relationship to Christ, God meets our needs by causing His comfort to overflow in our lives.



A Model of Comfort (2 Cor. 1:6-7)

6 If we are afflicted, it is for your comfort and salvation. If we are comforted, it is for your comfort, which is experienced in your endurance of the same sufferings that we suffer.  7 And our hope for you is firm, because we know that as you share in the sufferings, so you will share in the comfort.

1.   How would you explain the meaning of verse 6 to a new believer?

2.   What in these verses supports Paul’s view that his life and the lives of the Corinthian believers were intertwined both in times of suffering and comfort?

3.   What was Paul’s disposition toward the Corinthians even though he knew they would face suffering?

4.   Why do you think Paul had such confidence that the Corinthian believers would endure (v. 7)?

5.   According to this passage, what are some purposes of our afflictions or sufferings?

6.   Why is there no doubt that we will share in God’s comfort (v. 7)?

7.   What are three actions you can take now to become a better channel of God’s comfort?

8.   How do you think Paul’s sufferings benefited other followers of Jesus, especially the Corinthian believers?

9.   Do you think it is difficult to extend comfort to others when you are suffering from debilitating pain?  Why, or why not?

10.   What are some barriers that can keep a believer from being a channel of God’s comfort?

11.   What are some things a believer can do to overcome these barriers?

12.   How do you think a believer can grow spiritually through suffering?

13.   How do you think this would equip a believer to comfort others who are suffering?


Lasting Lessons in 2 Cor. 1:6-7:

1.  Christians will experience sufferings as they work for Christ.

2.  God requires us to patiently endure our sufferings.

3.  God expects us to use our sufferings to comfort others.

4.  As we comfort others, we’ll receive more comfort.



None of us is exempt from suffering.   Our preacher once said: “You are either heading into a situation of suffering, you are currently in the middle of a suffering situation, or you are coming out of a situation of suffering.”  Our suffering results from a wide variety of sources.   And it affects us in different ways—either physically or mentally, and sometimes both!  Sometimes we suffer through no fault of our own, like natural disasters, or illnesses over which we have no control.  But, sometimes our suffering is self-inflected, like from addictions or other bad habits.  Christians are not immune from suffering.  God allows us to suffer as an opportunity for spiritual growth.  As we endure suffering God helps us to grow by providing us with strength and comfort to persevere.  And because God provides us with all we need to endure our times of suffering, we, in turn, are to use our experiences as a ministry of comfort to help others who are suffering, both mentally and physically.   

Many around us suffer in silence.   As you consider what you can do to help someone struggling with mental and/or emotional issues, begin with prayer, asking God to reveal to you someone who needs a loving touch, the ministry of presence, or an encouraging word.  Make this a focus of your daily prayer time.  And use your influence to encourage other believers to become more aware and sensitive to those around them who are struggling with mental and/or emotional issues.  So, on a scale of 1 (not at all) to 10 (top priority), where does this statement (“God’s people are to care for those suffering from mental illness.”) stand in your daily life?  Ask God to reveal someone in need of His comfort that you can provide.  If you are sincere, make this a matter of daily prayer-time! 

What are the implications of these truths for your life?  THE CHOICE IS YOURS, ISN’T IT!

REMEMBER, the safest place for a believer is in the center of God’s will.


Lesson Outline, Introduction, Discussion Questions, and Conclusion adapted from the following sources:

SOURCE: Life Ventures-Bible Studies for Life; Leader Guide; LifeWay Christian Resources of the Southern Baptist Convention; Nashville, TN.

SOURCE: The Herschel Hobbs Commentary; Family Bible Study; by Robert J. Dean; LifeWay Christian Resources of the Southern Baptist Convention; 1 LifeWay Plaza, Nashville, TN.

SOURCE: Advanced Bible Study; LifeWay Christian Resources of the Southern Baptist Convention; One LifeWay Plaza, Nashville, TN.


FOCAL PASSAGE:  Genesis 50:

Focal Passage from three different translations of God’s Word:

King James Version:

1 Paul, an apostle of Jesus Christ by the will of God, and Timothy our brother, unto the church of God which is at Corinth, with all the saints which are in all Achaia: 2 Grace be to you and peace from God our Father, and from the Lord Jesus Christ.  3 Blessed be God, even the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies, and the God of all comfort; 4 Who comforteth us in all our tribulation, that we may be able to comfort them which are in any trouble, by the comfort wherewith we ourselves are comforted of God.  5 For as the sufferings of Christ abound in us, so our consolation also aboundeth by Christ.  6 And whether we be afflicted, it is for your consolation and salvation, which is effectual in the enduring of the same sufferings which we also suffer: or whether we be comforted, it is for your consolation and salvation. 7 And our hope of you is stedfast, knowing, that as ye are partakers of the sufferings, so shall ye be also of the consolation.   (KJV)

New International Version:

1 Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God, and Timothy our brother, To the church of God in Corinth, together with all the saints throughout Achaia: 2 Grace and peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.  3 Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, 4 who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves have received from God.  5 For just as the sufferings of Christ flow over into our lives, so also through Christ our comfort overflows.  6 If we are distressed, it is for your comfort and salvation; if we are comforted, it is for your comfort, which produces in you patient endurance of the same sufferings we suffer.  7 And our hope for you is firm, because we know that just as you share in our sufferings, so also you share in our comfort.   (NIV)

New Living Translation:

1 This letter is from Paul, chosen by the will of God to be an apostle of Christ Jesus, and from our brother Timothy.  I am writing to God’s church in Corinth and to all of his holy people throughout Greece.  2 May God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ give you grace and peace.  3All praise to God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. God is our merciful Father and the source of all comfort.  4 He comforts us in all our troubles so that we can comfort others. When they are troubled, we will be able to give them the same comfort God has given us.  5 For the more we suffer for Christ, the more God will shower us with his comfort through Christ.  6 Even when we are weighed down with troubles, it is for your comfort and salvation! For when we ourselves are comforted, we will certainly comfort you. Then you can patiently endure the same things we suffer.  7 We are confident that as you share in our sufferings, you will also share in the comfort God gives us.   (NLT)


Lesson Outline — Ministry In The Face Of Mental Illness” — 2 Cor. 1:2-7




Source of Comfort (2 Cor. 1:2-3)

Channels of Comfort (2 Cor. 1:4-5)

A Model of Comfort (2 Cor. 1:6-7)



(NOTE:  Commentary for the focal passage comes from three sources: The Expositor’s Bible Commentary New Testament,Believer's Bible Commentary,” andThe Complete Biblical Library Commentary,” and is provided for your study.)

The Expositor’s Bible Commentary New Testament:

Paul’s Explanation of His Conduct and Apostolic Ministry (2 Corinthians 1-7)

Salutation (1:1, 2)

1:1. In all his Epistles except 1 and 2 Thessalonians, Philippians, and Philemon, Paul begins with a reference to his being “an apostle” of Christ Jesus. Although he was not one of the twelve chosen by Christ (Mark 3:14-19), Paul claimed equality with them (see 11:5; 12:11; Gal 2:6) on the basis of the special revelation of Christ God gave him at the time of his conversion (1Cor 9:1; Gal 1:15, 16). Like them, he had been commissioned “by the will of God” to be a “chosen instrument” (Acts 9:15).

Paul’s delight in speaking of a fellow Christian as “our brother” (ho adelphos) may be traced to Ananias’s generous and reassuring use of that term (“Brother Saul,” Acts 9:17) at a time when Damascene believers had every reason to regard Saul as the archenemy of the church (Acts 9:1, 2, 13, 14). The mention of Timothy (not Sosthenes, cf. 1Cor 1:1) as a cosender of the letter may be intended to reinstate this timid young man (1Tim 4:12; 2Tim 1:7; 2:1) in the eyes of the Corinthians, possibly after his failure or limited success as Paul’s representative at Corinth (see 1Cor 4:17; 16:10, 11). But it is not certain that Timothy reached Corinth from Macedonia (Acts 19:22). At any rate, Titus had replaced Timothy as Paul’s chief envoy to Corinth by the time this letter was written.

Paul refers to the principal addressees not as “the church of Corinth” but as “the church of God in Corinth,” the local representatives of God’s universal church. Linked with the Corinthians are “the saints”—God’s people (hoi hagioi)—at such places as Athens (cf. Acts 17:34) and Cenchrea (cf. Rom 16:1). Perhaps this joint address explains the absence of personal greetings at the end of chapter thirteen.

1:2. This characteristically Pauline (and also Petrine) salutation combines and elevates the traditional Greek and Hebrew greetings. Chairein (“greetings,” Acts 15:23; 23:26; James 1:1) becomes charis (“grace,” God’s unsought and unmerited favor), to which Paul makes reference at the beginning and end of every Epistle. And the Hebrew salom (“peace”) is replaced by eirene (“peace”), the latter term referring to the peace that comes to man from God (cf. Philippians 4:7) as a result of his having peace with God (Rom 5:1).

Gratitude for divine comfort (1:3-7)

The paragraph embodies the chief emphasis of chapters 1-7: “comfort in the midst of affliction” (see Introduction, 9). The paraklesis (“comfort”) root occurs no fewer than ten times in vv. 3-7, the thlipsis (“trouble,” “affliction”) root three times, and the pathema (“suffering”) root four times.

1:3, 4. Paul generally follows his salutation with thanksgiving for the divine grace evident in the lives of his converts (e.g., 1Cor 1:4-9) and a summary of his prayer requests for them (e.g., Philippians 1:3-11; Col 1:3-12). Here, however, he offers praise to God for consoling and encouraging him, while later (v. 11) he solicits his converts’ prayer for himself. This untypical preoccupation with his own circumstances shows the distressing nature of the experience in Asia he had so recently been delivered from (vv. 8-10). He highlights the aspects of God’s character he had come to value in deeper measure as a result of personal need and divine response, viz., God’s limitless compassion (cf. Ps 145:9; Mic 7:19) and never-failing comfort (cf. Isa 40:1; 51:3, 12;  66:13).

Paul sees his suffering (note Acts 9:15, 16; 20:22, 23) not merely as personally beneficial, driving him to trust God alone (v. 9, and 12:7), but also as directly benefiting those he ministered to: “God ... comforts us ... so that we can comfort....” To experience God’s “comfort” (i.e., help, consolation, and encouragement) in the midst of all one’s affliction is to become indebted and equipped to communicate the divine comfort and sympathy to others who are in any kind of affliction or distress.

1:5. This verse supplies the reason (hoti, “for”) why suffering equips the Christian to mediate God’s comfort. Whenever Christ’s sufferings were multiplied in Paul’s life, God’s comfort was also multiplied through the ministry of Christ. The greater the suffering, the greater the comfort and the greater the ability to share with others the divine sympathy. “The sufferings of Christ” (cf. Gal 6:17) cannot refer to the atoning passion of Christ that Paul regarded as a historical fact, a completed event (Rom 5:8-10; 6:10). They probably included all the sufferings that befall the “man in Christ” (12:2) engaged in the service of Christ (cf. 4:11,12). They are Christ’s sufferings not simply because they are similar to his but because they contribute to the fulfillment of the suffering destined for the Body of Christ (Acts 14:22; Col 1:24) or because Christ continues to identify himself with his afflicted Church (cf. Acts 9:4, 5).

1:6, 7.  Verse 6a restates and applies v. 4b. Paul’s suffering of affliction and endurance of trial ultimately benefited the Corinthians in that he was thereby equipped to administer divine encouragement to them when they were afflicted and to ensure their preservation when they underwent trial (cf. Eph 3:13; 2Tim 2:10). The apostle then makes explicit what he has assumed (in v. 6a) in arguing from his experience of suffering to their experience of comfort and deliverance, viz., his own receipt of divine comfort in the midst of affliction (“if we are comforted”). Whether he suffered affliction or whether he received comfort, the advantage remained the same for the Corinthians (cf. 4:8-12, 15). They too would know an inner revitalization, an infusion of divine strength that would enable them to endure patiently the same type of trial that confronted Paul (cf. 1 Peter 5:9).

Since Paul realized that to share Christ’s sufferings always involved the experience of God’s comfort through that suffering, his hope that the Corinthians would be triumphant in their time of trial was securely grounded (v. 7).

SOURCE: The Expositor’s Bible Commentary Old Testament; Frank E. Gaebelein; General Editor; Zondervan Publishing House; A Division of Harper Collins Publishers


Believer's Bible Commentary: 2 Cor. 1:2-7


1:1. Paul introduces himself at the outset of his letter as an apostle of Jesus Christ by the will of God. It is important that he should strike this note at the very beginning, because there were those in Corinth who raised the question as to whether Paul had ever really been commissioned by the Lord. His answer is that he did not choose the ministry by his own will, neither was he ordained by men, but he had been sent into the work by Christ Jesus through the will of God. His call to the apostleship took place on the road to Damascus. It was an unforgettable experience in his life, and it was the consciousness of this divine call that sustained the apostle during many bitter hours. Oftentimes when, in the service of Christ, he was pressed beyond measure, he might well have given up and gone home if he had not had the assurance of a divine call.

The fact that Timothy is mentioned in verse 1 does not mean that he helped to compose the Letter. It only signifies that he was with Paul at the time the Epistle was written. Beyond this fact, there is a great deal of uncertainty about Timothy's movements during this period.

The letter is addressed to the church of God which is at Corinth, with all the saints who are in all Achaia. The expression church of God means that it was an assembly of believers belonging to God. It was not a heathen assembly, or some nonreligious gathering of people, but a company of born-again Christians, called out from the world to belong to the Lord. Doubtless as Paul wrote these words, he remembered how he had first gone to Corinth and preached the gospel there. Men and women steeped in idolatry and sensuality had trusted Jesus Christ as Lord, and had been saved by His marvelous grace. In spite of all the difficulties that had later come into the assembly at Corinth, the heart of the apostle doubtless rejoiced to think of the mighty change which had come into the lives of these dear people. The letter is addressed not only to Corinth but to all the saints who are in Achaia. Achaia represented the southern part of Greece; whereas Macedonia, of which we shall also be reading in this Epistle, was the northern section of that same country.

1:2.  Grace... and peace form the lovely salutation that we have come to associate with the beloved Apostle Paul. When he wishes to describe his greatest desires for the people of God, he does not wish for them material things such as silver and gold. He knows only too well that these can quickly vanish. But rather he wishes for them spiritual blessings, such as grace and peace, which include every good thing that can come to a poor sinner on this side of heaven. Denney says, "Grace is the first and last word of the gospel; and peace—perfect spiritual soundness—is the finished work of Christ in the soul." These blessings flow from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. God our Father is the source, and the Lord Jesus Christ is the channel. Paul does not hesitate to place the Lord Jesus Christ side by side with God the Father, because, as a member of the Trinity, Christ is equal with the Father.

The Ministry of Comfort in Suffering:

1:3. From verse 3 through verse 11, the apostle bursts forth into thanksgiving for the comfort that has come to him in the midst of his distress and affliction. Undoubtedly, the comfort was the good news which Titus had brought to him in Macedonia. The apostle then goes on to show that whether he is afflicted or comforted, all turns out for the eventual good of the believers to whom he ministers. The thanksgiving is addressed to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. This is the full title of God in the NT. No longer is He addressed as the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, or the God of Jacob. Now He is the God and Father of the Lord Jesus Christ. This name, incidentally, implies the great truth that the Lord Jesus is both God and Man. God is the God of our Lord Jesus Christ; this refers to His relation to Jesus, the Son of Man. But God is also the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ; this refers to His relationship to Christ, the Son of God. In addition, God is described as the Father of mercies and the God of all comfort. It is from Him that all mercies and comforts flow.

1:4.  In all Paul's afflictions, he was conscious of God's comforting presence. Here he gives one of the many reasons why God comforted him. It was so that he in turn might be able to comfort others with the very same comfort with which he was comforted by God. To us, the word "comfort" usually means consolation in time of sorrow. But as it is used in the NT, it has a wider meaning. It refers to the encouragement and exhortation that come to us from one who is beside us in time of need. There is a practical lesson in this verse for us all. We should remember when we are comforted that we should seek to pass on this comfort to others. We should not avoid the sick room or the house of death, but rather fly to the side of any who are in need of our encouragement. We are not comforted to be comfortable but to be comforters.

1:5. The reason Paul can comfort others is that the comforts of Christ are equal to the sufferings that are endured for Him. The sufferings of Christ here cannot mean the Savior's atoning sufferings. These were unique, and no man can share them. But Christians can and do suffer because of their association with the Lord Jesus. They suffer reproach, rejection, hostility, hatred, denial, betrayal, etc. These are spoken of as the sufferings of Christ because He endured them when He was on earth, and because He still endures them when the members of His Body experience them. In all our afflictions, He is afflicted (see Isa. 63:9). But Paul's point here is that there is a rich compensation for all these sufferings, namely, there is a corresponding share in the consolation of Christ and this consolation is abundantly sufficient.

1:6.  The apostle could see good emerging both from his afflictions and his comfort. Both were sanctified by the cross. If he was afflicted, it resulted in consolation and salvation for the saints—not the salvation of their souls, but the strength that would see them through their trials. They would be encouraged and challenged by Paul's endurance, and would reason that if God could give him grace to suffer, He could give them grace too. When Samuel Rutherford found himself in "the cellar of adversity," as he often did, he began to look around for some of the Lord's "best wines." Perhaps he learned to do this from the example of Paul, who always seemed to be able to trace the rainbow through his tears.

The comfort which the apostle received would fill the Corinthians with consolation and inspire them to patient endurance as they passed through the same kind of persecution as he did. Only those who have gone through deep testings know how to speak a fitting word to others who are called upon to go through the same. A mother who has lost an only child can better comfort another mother who has just been crushed by that heartache. Or, best of all, a Father who has lost an only Son can best console those who have lost loved ones.

1:7.  The apostle now expresses his confidence that just as the Corinthians had known what it was to suffer on behalf of Christ, so they would experience the comforting help of Christ. Sufferings never come alone for the Christian. They are always followed by the consolation of Christ. We, too, can be confident of this, as Paul was.

The Living Bible paraphrases verses 3-7 as follows:

What a wonderful God we have—He is the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the source of every mercy, and the one who so wonderfully comforts and strengthens us in our hardships and trials. And why does He do this? So that when others are troubled, needing our sympathy and encouragement, we can pass on to them the same help and comfort God has given us.... In our trouble God has comforted us—and this, too, to help you: to show you from our personal experience how God will tenderly comfort you when you undergo these same sufferings. He will give you the strength to endure.

SOURCE: Believer's Bible Commentary; by William MacDonald; Copyright © 1995, 1992, 1990, 1989 by William McDonald. Database © 2014 WORDsearch.


The Complete Biblical Library Commentary: 2 Cor. 1:1-7

1:1.  In the salutation of all his epistles except 1 and 2 Thessalonians, Paul referred to himself as either an apostle, a servant, or a prisoner of Jesus Christ. His favorite word to describe himself, however, was "apostle" or "sent one." The phrase "of Jesus Christ by the will of God" qualified his office as a "sent one." He had been called and sent out by the Lord Jesus himself. Paul's calling was not of his own choosing. It was by God's will (Acts 9:15).

Paul's emphasis on being an apostle by the will of God here focuses on the privilege that was his in being sent on a mission as an ambassador by the King of heaven. In other places he qualified the reference to his apostleship by declaring he had the office "by the commandment" of God (1 Timothy 1:1). In this case he thought more of the responsibility the Lord laid on him than of the opportunity God afforded him in sending him out. In either case, though, Paul made it clear he did not initiate his entrance into the ministry. No man in the natural would have chosen for himself the kind of life Paul lived. He stated emphatically that God put him into the ministry (1 Timothy 1:12). Paul did not choose the ministry; God chose him for the ministry.

In these opening words Paul identified himself with Timothy "our brother." The word brother was also used in pagan societies, but the Christian gospel gave it new meaning. Here it means "our fellow Christian." Not only was Timothy Paul's brother in the Lord, he was also his son in the Christian faith (1 Corinthians 4:17; 1 Timothy 1:2; 2 Timothy 1:2). The closest of bonds united Paul and Timothy in the ministry of the gospel.

1:2.  This verse has been called a Christian version of a Jewish blessing. Here, and in the first part of verse 3, Paul gives a Christian sense to Jewish liturgy. God is more than just the God of the Old Testament patriarchs and of Israel. God is the Father of Jesus Christ, the Son whom God sent to redeem the world. Implied very plainly in these verses is the deity of Christ.

1:3.  Also implied is the fact that God is not only the Father of the Lord Jesus Christ, He is our Father, the Father of our Lord Jesus. Believers are united to the Father and the Son through faith (1 John 1:3) and are given power to become sons of God (John 1:12). As God's sons Christians are recipients of His mercies and His comfort. God is the divine source of the believer's help. He is the channel through whom all blessings are communicated to men.

1:4.  Some form of the word comfort occurs 10 times in verses 3-7. All are derived from the Greek parakaleō from which we get comforter. Paul declared here that God comforts His children in times of tribulations. How? We are not told; possibly through the ministry of Christian friends, certainly through the Scriptures. Christ promised He would not leave His followers orphans but that He would send the Holy Spirit to be their Comforter (John 14:16-18; 15:26). The emphasis here is on the constancy of that comfort. It is not to be temporary or spasmodic. This verse could just as well read: "who always comforts us...."

Several times this epistle expresses a paradox, i.e., affliction and comfort appear to go together, but not without a purpose. The very comfort that is received in times of suffering brings with it an understanding of why the comfort is sent in the first place. It is not only for the one who is comforted, it will also through that one benefit others.

1:5.  It is a reassuring thought that the constant comfort of God attends the overflowing sufferings that may come the believer's way. The Greek adverbs kathōs ("for as") and houtōs ("so also") express a comparison in which the second element matches the first. "For as" the sufferings of Christ may be present in abundance (perisseuei), "so... also" is the encouragement and comfort present in abundance (perisseuei) for enduring the trial. This word means "to provide in superabundance." It is used in Matthew 14:20 to describe the fragments taken up "over and above" what had been eaten. It is also used by Jesus in the Parable of the Prodigal Son to describe the "bread enough and to spare" in the father's house (Luke 15:17).

Paul was saying here that although the sufferings of Christ seem to be present in abundance, even to overflowing, the comfort and encouragement for enduring the trial is just as abundant if only the Corinthians were spiritually sensitive enough to recognize it.

Paul was not necessarily referring only to what he suffered in his own body. These "sufferings" are those common to all who are united with Christ (Romans 8:17; 2 Corinthians 1:7; 1 Peter 4:13). "For as" union with Christ may be the cause of affliction, "so also" is its source of consolation. Apart from Christ, suffering often leads to despair rather than comfort.

1:6.  The conditional "if" found in some versions does not imply any doubt regarding the sufferings. It is a simple way of stating the case. The verse has been translated "whenever we suffer" or "every time we suffer." The affliction that came to Paul and his companions enabled them to share this comfort with the saints at Corinth in such a way that it resulted in the strengthening of their faith, patience, and endurance as they went through similar trials. One of the wider results of suffering is the ability to comfort others.

Paul began here to distinguish between himself and his companions and his readers. He endured distress, trouble, and afflictions for the consolation and salvation of the Corinthians. In this sense their salvation became effective as they endured the same kinds of sufferings Paul and his party were going through.

"Salvation" here means more than conversion. The term salvation (Greek, sōtēria) also implies the following: (1) deliverance (material, temporal, spiritual, and eternal); (2) present experience of God's power to deliver from the bondage of sin; (3) future deliverance of believers at the return of Christ; (4) inclusively, to sum up all the blessings given by God to men through Christ by the Holy Spirit.

Thus the comfort ministered abundantly by God to His children in times of suffering extends beyond this present life into eternity. Our Heavenly Father plans all on our behalf with eternity in view while we tend to think in terms of time. Seeing things with temporal eyes we conclude God's chief aim for us is constant health, wealth, and happiness in this world. Instead, His major concern is our spiritual growth. Paul told the Romans that tribulation—suffering—works patience or perseverance, and patience produces experience or character (Romans 5:3, 4). Character motivated by godly love as described in 1 Corinthians 13 is the one thing we will take with us into eternity (1 Corinthians 13:13).

1:7.  Comfort does not mean suffering will be taken away. But it can be understood as suffering for Christ with the result being hupomonē (verse 6), i.e., patient endurance in suffering. Paul's knowledge of this caused him to regard the believers with an unshakable hope despite their deficiencies in love and loyalty.

He calls them fellow participants (koinōnoi) of the sufferings. This term means "to share with someone in something." For Paul, the law of fellowship with Christ meant that as they participated in the sufferings of Christ, so also would they share the divine comfort.

SOURCE: The Complete Biblical Library Commentary – Romans-Corinthians.  Database © 2009 WORDsearch Corp.; World Library Press, Inc.



Comfort—Paul used a form of the Greek word for comfort 10 times in 2 Corinthians 1:3-7.  The word carries the ideas of solace, care, giving aid and help, as well as sympathy.

The Greek term rendered comfort comes from a compound Greek word made up of the verb translated “called” and the preposition translated “along side of.”  We get our word Paraclete, used of the Holy Spirit, from these Greek letters being put directly into English letters.  The root meaning of the term indicates one function of the Holy Spirit, who Jesus promised would come to those who followed Him (John 14:16,26; 15:26; 16:7).  This word is also used of Jesus Himself in 1 John 2:1.  Based on the Bible passage for this session from 2 Corinthians 1, believers are called to give comfort to others because God is our comfort and we are to imitate Him (Eph. 5:1). 

SOURCE: Advanced Bible Study; LifeWay Christian Resources of the Southern Baptist Convention; One LifeWay Plaza, Nashville, TN.

Comfort kum´fẽrt (נָחַםnāḥamπαρακαλέωparakaléō): The New Testament word is variously translated, as “comfort,” “exhort,” “beseech,” the exact translation to be determined by the context.  Etymologically, it is “to call alongside of,” i.e. to summon for assistance. To comfort is to cheer and encourage.  It has a positive force wanting in its synonym “console,” as it indicates the dispelling of grief by the impartation of strength. The Revised Version (British and American) has correctly changed the translation of paramuthéomai from the King James Version “comfort,” to “consolation.” So in the Old Testament, “Comfort ye my people” (Isa 40:1) is much stronger than “console,” which affords only the power of calm endurance of affliction, while the brightest hopes of the future and the highest incentives to present activity are the gifts of the Divine grace that is here bestowed.

SOURCE: International Standard Bible Encyclopedia; James Orr, M.A., D. D., General Editor; Parsons Technology, Inc.; Cedar Rapids, Iowa.




Emotional/Mental Healing Scriptures

Joyce Meyer Ministries1

All Bible references are from The Amplified Bible.  (Bible references from KJV added for study guide users.)

Is there something in your past or your present that is causing problems with your emotions or thoughts? If we’re honest, all of us would admit there are times when we struggle with wrong thoughts and the unhealthy emotions they create. Sometimes this can even lead to depression or other serious ongoing conditions that keep us from being emotionally and mentally whole.

I’ve experienced issues like this in my own life as a result of the abuse that happened to me throughout my childhood. But the power of God’s love and His Word in my life have brought me total restoration, and they can do the same for you. Whatever your need may be in this area of your life, use these scriptures to renew your mind and experience mental and emotional wholeness in Christ. – Joyce Meyer

1 Peter 5:7

Therefore humble yourselves [demote, lower yourselves in your own estimation] under the mighty hand of God, that in due time He may exalt you, Casting the whole of your care [all your anxieties, all your worries, all your concerns, once and for all] on Him, for He cares for you affectionately and cares about you watchfully. (AB)

1 Pet. 5:7 Casting all your care upon him; for he careth for you. (KJV)

Psalm 147:3

He heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds [curing their pains and their sorrows]. (AB)

Ps. 147:3 He healeth the broken in heart, and bindeth up their wounds. (KJV)

Philippians 4:6-7

Do not fret or have any anxiety about anything, but in every circumstance and in everything, by prayer and petition (definite requests), with thanksgiving, continue to make your wants known to God. And God’s peace [shall be yours, that tranquil state of a soul assured of its salvation through Christ, and so fearing nothing from God and being content with its earthly lot of whatever sort that is, that peace] which transcends all understanding shall garrison and mount guard over your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. (AB)

Phil. 4:6 Be careful for nothing; but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God.  7 And the peace of God, which passeth all understanding, shall keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus. (KJV)

Psalm 42:5

Why are you cast down, O my inner self? And why should you moan over me and be disquieted within me? Hope in God and wait expectantly for Him, for I shall yet praise Him, my Help and my God.  (AB)

Ps. 42:5 Why art thou cast down, O my soul? and why art thou disquieted in me? hope thou in God: for I shall yet praise him for the help of his countenance.  (KJV)

Psalm 30:11

You have turned my mourning into dancing for me; You have put off my sackcloth and girded me with gladness. (AB)

Ps. 30:11 Thou hast turned for me my mourning into dancing: thou hast put off my sackcloth, and girded me with gladness;  (KJV)

Psalm 34:18

The Lord is close to those who are of a broken heart and saves such as are crushed with sorrow for sin and are humbly and thoroughly penitent. Joyce Meyer Ministries

Psalm 119:50

This is my comfort and consolation in my affliction: that Your word has revived me and given me life.

Deuteronomy 31:6

Be strong, courageous, and firm; fear not nor be in terror before them, for it is the Lord your God Who goes with you; He will not fail you or forsake you.

2 Timothy 1:7

For God did not give us a spirit of timidity (of cowardice, of craven and cringing and fawning fear), but [He has given us a spirit] of power and of love and of calm and well-balanced mind and discipline and self-control.

Ephesians 4:23-24

And be constantly renewed in the spirit of your mind [having a fresh mental and spiritual attitude], and put on the new nature (the regenerate self) created in God’s image, [Godlike] in true righteousness and holiness.

Isaiah 26:3

You will guard him and keep him in perfect and constant peace whose mind [both its inclination and its character] is stayed on You, because he commits himself to You, leans on You, and hopes confidently in You.

Confession for emotional/mental healing: “I have peace, power, love and a calm and well-balanced mind because I trust God. I don’t worry about anything, instead, I pray about everything and God blesses me by giving me His peace.”

1.  Joyce Meyer Ministries; internet access: www.joycemeyer.com  (Joyce Meyer Ministries – U.S. Headquarters; P.O. Box 655; Fenton, MO 63026)





By Thomas D. Lea

Dr. Lea is associate professor of New Testament, Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary.


O LESS THAN ten times in 2 Corinthians 1:3-7 Paul used a noun or a verb form of the Greek word meaning “comfort.”  He uses the word here in its basic sense of standing beside a person to encourage him when he is undergoing severe testing.  Paul himself had suffered severe affliction, and he wanted his readers to know the extent of God’s mercies to him.  Paul affirmed that God comforted his people by encouraging and strengthening them so that they might not be crushed by their afflictions.

The word used by Paul is the Greek verb parakaleo  (pah-rah-kah-LEH-oh) or its noun.  The word has an interesting history of usage.1 Outside the Bible the idea of comfort contained in this word often blended with the practice of exhortation.  To offer comfort to a grieving husband, a friend might urge him to stop weeping.  To give encouragement to a defeated personality, a companion might urge him to take heart.  A concerned friend might help the bereaved or the discouraged by suggesting more sleep, some entertainment, or might give him a convincing reason to avoid dejection.  Most of the advice offered was an effort to cheer the dejected person by helping him to face without divine aid powers and events he could not control.  All of these efforts were “petty and pitiable, however, in relation to the heavenly comfort of God in Christ to which the men and writings of the New Testament bear witness.”2

In the Old Testament, the source of all comfort was God alone.  In Psalm 23:4 God’s rod and His staff are symbols of His comfort.  In Psalm 86:17 David praised God for having helped and comforted him.  God offers His comfort to His people through Scripture (Ps. 119:52,76), and the prophets of God spoke words of comfort from him ((Isa. 61:2).  Among the people who embraced the Old Testament, comfort was found not merely in advice, positive thinking, or human word of encouragement, but in Jehovah alone.

The word parakaleo  is often translated in the New Testament as “beseech” or “exhort,” in addition to being rendered as “comfort.”  Sometimes it is used to describe someone who makes an earnest request of Jesus, as with the centurion who begged Jesus to heal his servant (Matt. 8:5).  In other instances it is used to describe an exhortation to spiritual response as in the action of Judas and Silas who exhorted the Christians at Antioch to encouragement and trust (Acts 15:32).  Twenty-three times in the King James Version the verb parakaleo  is translated “comfort.”  Sometimes God may comfort personally by using people or circumstances to exhort people to greater trust or obedience (Heb. 12:5).  At other times the source of comfort is a firm reliance on God’s promises (Heb. 6:18).  Whenever this word for comfort is used in the New Testament, it refers to a divine aid which is lavished on God’s people by exhortations, events, and promises.  This comfort will last throughout this life and will reach its goal when God’s people are finally delivered from all their affliction and suffering and from death itself in the presence of God.

In 2 Corinthians 1:3-7 Paul’s repeated statements about comfort grew out of the personal experience of difficulty he had suffered.  He says in 2 Corinthians 1:8 that he had trouble in Asia and despaired even in life.  Perhaps his reference to fighting with wild beasts in Ephesus (1 Cor. 15:32) will allow us to see his difficulty as a form of persecution against him.  To meet the discouragement, drain, and difficulty which his sufferings had caused, he found help from God’s comfort.  In 1:3-7 he simply asserts that God offers or provides the comfort.  In other passages he discusses sources of this kind of comfort.

Sometimes a divine arrangement of circumstances provided comfort.  Paul found comfort from a sudden contact with Titus after he had searched for him (2 Cor. 7:6-7).  Also, the response of people to his ministry became a source of encouragement or comfort to Paul (2 Cor. 7:13).  Sometimes an affirmative word about what was happening to other Christians could bring comfort (Eph. 6:22; Col. 4:8).  In other instances a better understanding of God’s ways and plans brought comfort (Col. 2:2).  The examples and promises of Scripture became a source of help and comfort as they influenced the mind to greater trust in God (Rom. 15:4).  In all of these events and incidents it was God himself who became the ultimate source of all comfort (Rom.15:5).

The context of 2 Corinthians also provides some additional insights into comfort.  When Paul asserted in 2 Corinthians 1:4 that God comforts us in our tribulation, he used a Greek present tense.  This tense signifies a comfort that is dependable and continuous rather than one which is uncertain and intermittent.

Also, the comfort received by Paul did not end merely with encouraging Paul.  It enabled him to comfort others (2 Cor. 1:4).  God’s comfort is intended to do more than meet personal needs.  It enables a comforted person to become a comforter to others. 

Still further, the comfort experienced by Paul was powerful enough to enable him both to endure difficulty and to rejoice amidst it.  Even while suffering from a “thorn in the flesh” (2 Cor. 12:7-10), Paul was enabled to rejoice.                                                               Bi

1.  For a full discussion of these word meanings, see the word listings in Theological Dictionary of the New Testament  by Otto Schmitz and Gustav Stahlin.

2.  Ibid., 5:788.

SOURCE: Biblical Illustrator; LifeWay Christian Resources of the Southern Baptist Convention; Nashville, TN 37234; Fall 1983.

Paul’s Asian Afflictions

By John Mason

John Mason is pastor of Trinity Baptist Church, Norfolk, Virginia.


E ARE LARGELY DEPENDENT on the Book of Acts not only for the basic outline of the events and course of Paul’s ministry, but for a description of specific events to which Paul alluded in his letters.  When Paul’s letters make reference to an event that is not recorded in Acts, even the best historians must look for clues and possibilities in an attempt to reconstruct the events.  While scholars are slow to admit it, the results are often guesswork.  Paul’s reference in 2 Corinthians 1:8 (NASB) to “our affliction which came to us in Asia” requires such guesswork.

Paul’s Asian afflictions can hardly refer to the riot in Ephesus, the principle city of Asia Minor.  According to Acts 19, Paul spent two or three years in Ephesus.  While there, Demetrius, a silversmith and idol-maker, incited a riot against the church.  Demetrius recognized that the apostle and his followers offered a significant threat to the worship of Artemis, the chief goddess of the Ephesians (and therefore to his profits as an idol-maker).  Yet this riot, as described by Luke, cannot be made to agree with Paul’s statements about his Asian afflictions, that he was under a “death sentence” or “death warrant.”  Paul’s life was never threatened in the riot of Ephesus.  Although Demetrius’ accusation was made against Paul, members of the church of Ephesus hindered Paul from becoming involved.  The more serious threat was against two of Paul’s companions from Macedonia (Acts 19:23-31).  The riot was quieted by the city clerk before harm came to any of the Christians of Ephesus.  Either the threat against Paul was much more severe than Luke described in Acts, or Paul’s discussion of his afflictions in Asia refers to something else. 

The suggestion that the Asian affliction refers to a serious illness, perhaps related to the “thorn in the flesh” (2 Cor. 12:7), has no real foundation of evidence.  Indeed, the reference to the “thorn in the flesh” is as enigmatic as Paul’s reference to his Asian afflictions.  Was the thorn an illness, such as fever, epilepsy, or even poor eyesight?  Did Paul refer to his opponents with this term?  Or was Paul tormented by the Jewish rejection of the gospel?

In 1 Corinthians 15:32 Paul spoke of being exposed to wild beasts in Ephesus.  Was he condemned to death and forced into the arena?  While later Christians suffered this fate (in the second and third centuries), there is little clear evidence that Christians in the first century were ever condemned to such sadistic sport.  Abraham Malherbe pointed out that the term “wild beasts” was frequently used metaphorically by ancient writers to refer either to one’s struggle with his own lusts and passions or to struggles against human opponents.1  Yet Paul seems to have more in mind.  He related the exposure to the “wild beasts” to faith in the resurrection, implying a real threat of death.  Was this the death sentence to which Paul referred when speaking of his Asian afflictions?  On the other hand, in his enumeration of punishments and hardships suffered as an apostle, Paul made no mention of being exposed to wild beasts.

Paul wrote 1 Corinthians while in Ephesus.  He spoke not only of exposure to wild beasts (whether actual or metaphorical) in the letter, but also of God putting “us apostles” on display, a spectacle (theatros, related to “theater,” perhaps again suggesting the scene of a public execution) to the world, both to angles and to men, as men condemned to death (1 Cor. 4:9).  Was Paul making a statement about an actual threat to his life in Ephesus, or was he stating a theological conviction about apostleship?  When 1 Corinthians 4:9; 15:32; and 2 Corinthians 1:9 are seen together, the preponderance of evidence seems to point to an actual threat to the apostle’s life.  Additional evidence may substantiate this conclusion.

If Paul’s Prison Epistles (especially Philippians, Colossians, and Philemon) were written from Ephesus, then they would provide additional insight into Paul’s Asian afflictions.  Perhaps Paul was imprisoned in Ephesus and faced the possibility of execution there.  In his letter to the Philippians Paul wrote from prison indicating that either his acquittal or his conviction and execution were at hand, saying that he did not know for which to hope and pray (Phil. 1:20-23, but also see 2:17).  Whether Paul was imprisoned and threatened with execution in Ephesus cannot be known with certainty.  Even Acts (20:19-23) indicates that Paul faced greater threats in Ephesus than were presented in its own description of the riot in Ephesus.  There can be little doubt that a major theme of 2 Corinthians is God’s comfort to those afflicted.  In the first four verses of the body of the letter (1:3-6) Paul spoke of comfort no less than nine times and affliction and suffering six times.  Paul referred to God’s deliverance from his Asian afflictions to illustrate from his personal experience that God is a God of comfort who rescues Christians by the same power that raised Jesus from the dead.  Whatever this Asian affliction was, it caused Paul to despair, to give up on his own strength, and to rely on God (2 Cor. 1:8-9).  Reliance on God is a lesson that must be learned by experience.  Through his Asian and other afflictions Paul leaned a crucial lesson about God’s transcendent power.  When Paul relied on his own strength, he despaired (2 Cor. 1:8).  But he wrote that by the transcendent power of God, “We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair” (2 Cor. 4:8, RSV).

The resurrection of the dead makes this transformation of attitude possible.  Afflictions are no longer a cause of personal struggle, but a sharing of Christ’s suffering in hope of sharing His resurrected life (2 Cor. 4:10-11,13; Phil. 3:10-11).  As a result, afflictions can no longer be viewed as a disadvantage, nor can they be viewed as an indication of God’s disfavor.  They are signs of human weakness, to be sure.  Yet in them Paul founded his boast: for while they showed his weakness, they also manifested God’s power (2 Cor. 12:9-10).  Paul viewed afflictions to be the marks of a true apostle.  For this reason, Paul offered lists of his persecutions for the Corinthians (2 Cor. 6:4-10; 11:23-28) that demonstrated that he was a servant and apostle of Christ.

Paul’s Asian afflictions, along with his other afflictions, became for Paul a key to his self-defense as an apostle.  How opponents of Paul could use his imprisonments and punishments against him as a means of saying that his gospel was in some way perverse can be understood easily enough.  They needed only ask Paul’s congregations the question, If Paul is trustworthy and his motives pure, why is he always in trouble with the law?  Paul responded to such criticism by saying he behaved “with holiness and godly sincerity” (2 Cor. 1:12, RSV).  He also pointed to his afflictions as indications that he shared the sufferings of Christ (or, to use Mark’s terminology, he bore his own cross), hoping always to share also in the power of His resurrection.                                  Bi

1.      Abraham J. Malherbe, “The Beasts at Ephesus,” Journal of Biblical Literature 87 (1968); 71-80.

SOURCE: Biblical Illustrator; LifeWay Christian Resources of the Southern Baptist Convention; Nashville, TN 37234; Summer 1994.


Paul and the Corinthians

By Thomas D. Lea

Thomas D. Lea is dean of the School of Theology and professor of New Testament, Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, Fort Worth, Texas.


AUL SPENT MORE TIME living in Corinth than he did in any other city he visited except Ephesus.  In Ephesus Paul spent a three-year period of residence (Acts 20:31).  Paul lived in Corinth for 18 months (Acts 18:11).  Luke described Paul’s 18-month residence in Corinth in Acts 18.  This was Paul’s first visit and he made it during his second missionary journey.

After arriving in Corinth, Paul met Priscilla and Aquila, a Christian couple who had recently come to Corinth from Rome.  Because they and Paul alike were tentmakers, he remained with them.  They practiced their craft together.  They became faithful friends who served with him and risked their lives for his sake (Rom. 16:3-4).  Paul also preached in the synagogue regularly in an effort to reach Jews with the gospel (Acts 18:4). 

Paul earlier has sent Silas and Timothy to Macedonia (Acts 18:5; 1 Thess. 3:2).  When they returned to Corinth, they assisted with the preaching there (2 Cor. 1:19).  The combined preaching of Silas, Timothy, and Paul aroused Jewish opposition.  This opposition drove Paul from the synagogue, but he found another location nearby for preaching the gospel with an encouraging response from the Corinthian audience (Acts 18:7-8).

The resistance to Paul’s preaching must have provided a serious threat to him.  Eventually he received a vision from the Lord promising him that he would experience protection as he preached (Acts 18:9-10).  Paul was able to remain in Corinth for 18 months in a preaching and teaching ministry (Acts 18:11).

Near the end of this period Paul’s Jewish opponents brought him before Gallio, the Roman proconsul of Achaia.  They accused Paul of urging Jews to worship God with practices contrary to the law (Acts 18:13).  Gallio viewed the Jewish opposition to Paul as an internal issue among the Jews.  He cleared Paul of any violations of Roman law and his decision freed Paul for additional ministry in Corinth (Acts 18:18).

After Paul’s ministry in Corinth, he returned to Antioch (Acts 18:22) and began his third missionary journey.  During this period he spent a three-year residence in Ephesus and made several visits to Corinth from his Ephesian base.

When disagreements arose in the church, some Corinthian friends contacted Paul.  Chloe’s servants (1 Cor. 1:11) brought him word about disagreements in the fellowship.  Others in the church sent Paul a letter requesting information about several issues of behavior and doctrine.  The report from Chloe’s servants and the letter from friends requesting information prompted Paul to write 1 Corinthians.  In this letter Paul referred to an earlier letter to Corinth in which he had warned the church against association with immoral people (1 Cor. 5:9).  This earlier letter had caused some misunderstands, and Paul clarified his statement in 1 Corinthians 5:10-11.  The letter mentioned in 1 Corinthians 5:9 is no longer extant.  Paul’s explanations called for Christians to break fellowship with professing Christians who lived immoral lifestyles.  He did not intend for Christians to break all contact with unbelievers who practiced immorality, but he commanded his readers not even to eat with professing believers who lived in immorality.

Paul sent Timothy to Corinth to confront some of the errors of the Corinthians concerning the Christian life (1 Cor. 4:8-17).  Paul asked the Corinthians to assist Timothy in accomplishing the aim of the visit (1 Cor. 16:10).  We learn nothing more in either Corinthian epistle about Timothy’s visit.  We assume that few productive results developed from his contact.

Paul finally decided that he personally would go to deal with the problems in the church.  His own visit proved both unpleasant and unsuccessful.  New Testament scholars have named this visit the “painful” visit, and many believe that Paul described it in 2 Corinthians 2:1.  In this passage Paul could not be referring to the founding of the Corinthian church.  We assume that his words must apply to a visit not mentioned in Acts but occurred before his visit in Acts 20:2.  We find additional evidence for this “painful” visit in Paul’s describing his final visit to Corinth as his third visit (2 Cor. 12:14; 13:1-2).   There Paul indicated that he did not want to make another such visit to the Corinthians.  He had apparently tried to lead the Corinthians to change their behavior, and they resisted his efforts.  Thus the visit was apparently unsuccessful, and Paul returned to Ephesus in disappointment.

Back in Ephesus Paul penned a strong letter to the Corinthians urging them to change their attitudes toward him and toward God.  He urged the Corinthian church to enforce discipline against an individual who had led opposition against Paul (2 Cor. 2:5-11).  Titus carried the letter to Corinth and planned to return to Ephesus through Macedonia and report to Paul.  Paul described the contents of this letter also in 2 Corinthians 7:5-16.

In the letter Paul called the Corinthians to repent of their immoral behavior (2 Cor. 7:9-10).  The letter produced the desired results among the Corinthians, and the Christians then made a renewed commitment to follow the Lord faithfully (2 Cor. 7:11).

Paul was anxious to know the effect of the letter among the Corinthians and left Ephesus.  He waited in Troas and then in Macedonia for Titus to come (2 Cor. 2:12-13).  In Macedonia Titus met Paul and delivered the encouraging report that the Corinthians had repented of their attitudes of resistance toward Paul (2 Cor. 7:4-16).  This uplifting report led Paul to write 2 Corinthians while he was still in Macedonia.  He sent the letter back to Corinth with the understanding that he himself would return to Corinth soon (2 Cor. 13:1-4; Acts 20:2).  Luke wrote of Paul’s visit to Corinth in Acts 20:2.  This was Paul’s third visit to the city.

We do not know all the details of this third visit, since the contents in Acts 20:2-3 do not elaborate on the results of the visit.  We can read in 2 Corinthians 8:16-24 that Paul went back to the city to finish the collection of funds for poor Christians in Jerusalem.  He also wanted to confront personally some opponents who had infiltrated the church from outside (2 Cor. 11:4).  These enemies of Paul seem to have suggested that his own preaching was unimpressive.  Paul defended himself against them in 2 Corinthians 11:6 and in 12:1-10.

We can present the following summary of Paul’s relationship with the Corinthian church:

1.        Paul made his first visit to Corinth and evangelized the city in an 18-month stay during his second missionary journey  (Acts 18:1-11).

2.        Paul wrote a letter to Corinth, now lost, in which he urged Christians to avoid association with professing believers who lived an immoral lifestyle (1 Cor. 5:9-11).

3.        Paul wrote 1 Corinthians from Ephesus during his third missionary journey.  In the letter he advised the Corinthians on handling some problems in the church.

4.        Concerned about the difficulties developing in the church, Paul made a visit to the city that Acts does not mention.  We call this visit the “painful” visit.  Although Paul tried to correct problems in the church, his visit was not successful (2 Cor. 2:1).

5.        Paul wrote another letter, also lost, urging the Corinthians to repent and calling for discipline of an opponent in the church (2 Cor. 2:4-11).  Scholars have called this letter the “severe” letter.  Titus carried the letter to Corinth.

6.        Paul left Ephesus for Troas and then Macedonia.  He waited for word on the success of Titus’s visit (2 Cor. 2:12-13). 

7.        Titus met Paul in Macedonia with a report about his visit to Corinth.  He indicated that the church had warmly accepted Paul’s letter and was eager to see him (2 Cor. 7:5-16).

8.        Paul wrote 2 Corinthians from Macedonia and sent it to Corinth with Titus.

9.        Paul went to Corinth on his third visit (2 Cor. 12:14; 13:1; Acts 20:2-3).  Paul wrote four documents to the church.  These include 1 and 2 Corinthians and two letters now lost.  Paul mentioned the first of these letters in 1 Corinthians 5:9.

Paul made three visits to the church in Corinth.  He made the first during his second missionary journey (Acts 18:1-11).  We call the second visit the “painful” visit, and we find reference to it in 2 Corinthians 2:1.  Paul made his third visit to Corinth on his third missionary journey and stayed three months (2 Cor. 13:1; Acts 20:2).

Paul’s relationships with the Corinthians provided an example of dealing with difficult people who offer opposition and resistance.  Paul patiently taught and corrected those who disagreed with him.  He called them to Christian commitment and warned against compromise with the values of Hellenism and Judaism.  We can learn much about helping troubled churches by observing how Paul confronted the problems at Corinth.                                                                                                                                                               Bi

SOURCE: Biblical Illustrator; LifeWay Christian Resources of the Southern Baptist Convention; Nashville, TN 37234; Summer 1999.



What Is The Answer To & Where In The Bible Is This Week’s Trivia Question Found? (11/30/14)  (Three-part question) (1) Which Judge defeated the Midianites and (2) what three objects did he and his army use?;  (3) found in what Book of the Bible   Answer next week: (1) Who: (2) Objects: (3) Where (KJV):

The answer to last week’s trivia question:  (11/23/14) (Three-part question) Who slew 600 Philistines with an unusual weapon? Answer: (Who?) Shamgar; (What kind of weapon?) ox goad or cattle prod; (Found in?) Judges 3:31.