SAINT PAUL'S SECOND LETTER TO THE CORINTHIANS
Lesson 3
Part I: St. Paul's Relationship with the Corinthian Christians
Chapters 5-7
Paul's Ministry of Reconciliation and Resolution of the Crisis at Corinth

Divine Father,
You gave us our earthly bodies to house our immortal souls, and You gave us the Eucharist as the seed of eternal life with the power of resurrection. When we receive the life of Christ in the Eucharist, we remember what Jesus told us when He said, "He who eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up at the last day." It is that "last day" for which we long when we will see our glorious Savior's face to face and accompany Him into Your Divine Presence in the heavenly Jerusalem. Send Your Holy Spirit, Lord, to guide us in our study of St. Paul's fatherly letter to the Church at Corinth. We pray in the name of God the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Amen.

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Once again, Paul is alluding to the resurrection which many of the Corinthians did not understand or accept. The earthly tent is our body. Admittedly, it was not made with hands, but Paul is simply comparing it with the houses we live in. He was not trying to make an exact contrast between the earthly and the heavenly but rather to exalt the latter in every possible way.
St. John Chrysostom, Bishop of Constantinople, Homilies on the Epistles of Paul to the Corinthians, 10.1

But notice that the apostle who, in discussing the corruptible body, had used the words "even though our outer man is decaying," goes on, a little further, to declare: "For we know that if the earthly house in which we dwell be destroyed, we have a building from God, a house not made by human hands, eternal in the heavens."... On the one hand, our corruptible body may be a burden on our soul; on the other hand, the cause of this encumbrance is not in the nature and substance of the body. Therefore, aware as we are of its corruption, we do not desire to be divested of the body but rather to be clothed with its immortality. In immortal life we shall have a body, but it will no longer be a burden since it will no longer be corruptible.
St. Augustine, City of God, 14.3

In his first letter to the Corinthians, Paul chastised them for their lack of faith in the Resurrection of the Christ and His promise of the bodily resurrection of the dead upon His return, writing: But if Christ is preached as raised from the dead, how can some among you say there is no resurrection of the dead? If there is no resurrection of the dead, then neither has Christ been raised. And if Christ has not been raised, then empty too is our preaching; empty, too, our faith ... For if the dead are not raised, neither has Christ been raised, and if Christ has not been raised, your faith is vain; you are still in your sins (1 Cor 15:12-17). Knowing that belief in the Resurrection is critical to their professed Christian faith, Paul revisits the doctrine of the Resurrection in this section of his letter.

Chapter 5: The Corinthian's Future Destiny and Paul's Ministry

2 Corinthians 5:2-5 ~ Our Eternal Destiny
2 For in this tent we groan, longing to be further clothed with our heavenly habitation 3 if indeed, when we have taken it off, we shall not be found naked. 4 For while we are in this tent we groan and are weighed down, because we do not wish to be unclothed but to be further clothed, so that what is mortal may be swallowed up by life. 5 Now the one who has prepared us for this very thing is God, who has given us the Spirit as a first installment.

Question: How many different metaphors has Paul used for our temporal bodies? See 4:7, 16; 5:1 and 2.
Answer: He has referred to our present earthly condition as "earthen vessels," "our outer self," "our earthly dwelling," and a "tent."

Each metaphor expresses the temporal condition of our bodies. Although we know that our earthly bodies are temporal, we want to avoid death and the loss of our bodies (verse 4). However, Paul writes that when we have "taken it off,' referring to our physical bodies in death, that "we shall not be found naked."

Question: Why will we not remain "naked" without bodies after physical death?
Answer: When we die, we will not be "found naked" because we have our immortal spirits and the promise of being "clothed" in immortality with the promise of our resurrected bodies.

Verse 5 reminds us of what Paul wrote in 1:22, he has also put his seal upon us and given the Spirit in our hearts as a first installment.
Question: What is our "first installment"?
Answer: The Holy Spirit dwelling within our souls is our "first installment" on the promise of our immortal souls dwelling in an immortal body after the Resurrection of the dead.

In the ancient world, a slave owner branded his slave with an indelible mark, and Roman soldiers received the brand of the legion to which they were assigned. These were indelible marks of ownership or belonging.
Question: Which of the sacraments do we receive only once because the indelible "seal" of the Holy Spirit is placed upon the soul of the recipient of the Sacrament? See Eph 4:4-5 and CCC 698, 1121.
Answer: We receive the indelible "seal" of the Holy Spirit in the Sacraments of Baptism, Confirmation and Holy Orders upon the soul of the person receiving the sacrament; therefore, a person can only receive the sacrament once. St. Paul wrote ...one body and one Spirit, as you were also called to the one hope of your call; one Lord, one faith, one baptism; one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all (Eph 4:5).

After receiving the Sacraments of Baptism and Confirmation, the person shares completely in the mission of Jesus Christ and the fullness of the Holy Spirit so their lives may give off what Paul called "the aroma of Christ" (2 Corinthians 2:15; CCC 1294). The seal of the Holy Spirit marks a Christian's total belonging to Christ and the enrollment as an apostle in His service forever. It is an "installment" on the promise of eternal salvation and provides God's divine protection in the great eschatological (end time) trial before Christ returns to judge the living and the dead (Mt 24:31-46, CCC 1038, 1295-96).

2 Corinthians 5:6-10 ~ Have Courage as You Prepare to Join the Lord
6 So we are always courageous, although we know that while we are at home in the body we are away from the Lord, 7 for we walk by faith, not by sight. 8 Yet we are courageous, and we would rather leave the body and go home to the Lord. 9 Therefore, we aspire to please him, whether we are at home or away. 10 For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each one may receive recompense, according to what he did in the body, whether good or evil.

The promises of the resurrection and eternal life should make us courageous in facing the trials of this temporary life.
Question: In verse 6, what does Paul remind Christians about the world and our earthly bodies, especially in light of using the "tent" metaphor in verses 1-2, suggesting the abode of a nomadic wanderer?
Answer: St. Paul reminds Christians that the world is not our home and our bodies are only temporal dwellings. We are on a journey through this life and in exile in a land that is not our home. Our destiny is to be reunited with Jesus in Heaven, our true home.

7 for we walk by faith, not by sight.
Paul advises the Corinthians how one is to live while temporarily "at home in the body" and "away from the Lord." We are to make our journey through life by "faith" as opposed to living by "sight" which is only relying on appearance and not guided internally by faith. It is our faith that guides us and shows us the way as we make progress toward eternal life.

And yet, while we are still part of this earthly existence, it is important that we work to please Christ in our words and deeds. The day will come when our actions will be judged for good or for evil when we stand before "the judgment seat of Christ." On this topic, The Council of Vatican II advises us to consider our obligations to the earthly Jerusalem of the Church and to the heavenly Jerusalem that is our future home, and exhorts "...Christians, as citizens of both cities, to perform their duties faithfully in the spirit of the Gospel. It is a mistake to think that, because we have here no lasting city, but seek the city which is to come (cf. Heb 13:14), we are entitled to shirk our responsibilities, this is to forget that, by our faith, we are bound all the more to fulfil these responsibilities according to the vocation of each one (cf. 2 Thes 3:6-13; Eph 4:28) [...]. The Christian who shirks his temporal duties shirks his duties toward his neighbor, neglects God himself and endangers his eternal salvation..." (Gaudium et Spes, 43; also see CCC 1038-41).

10 For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each one may receive recompense, according to what he did in the body, whether good or evil.
Verse 10 addresses the reward or punishment given at the Individual/Particular Judgment and ratified at the Last Judgment at the end of time. Saint Paul taught, and the Church affirms, that immediately following death, every human being faces divine judgment (Heb 9:27). In one's individual judgment, a person is judged on whether or not he or she accepted or rejected the divine grace manifested in Christ (Heb 9:27). The Christian who unites his death to that of Christ sees death as a step towards the Savior and the entrance into everlasting life (CCC 1020). Those who choose Christ and die in a state of divine grace escape death by life in Heaven while retaining, or finally achieving, their true identity, as St. Ambrose wrote: "For life is to be with Christ; where Christ is, there is life, there is the kingdom" (In Luc, 10.121; see CCC 1025-26; Rom 14:10).

A person's merits gained during his life on earth is the basis of the Last Judgment, as Jesus described the Last Judgment to His disciples in Matthew 25:31-46. St. Paul exhorts us to do everything we can in this life to please the Lord God and to prepare ourselves for our meeting with Him in the next. See CCC 1021-22 for the Church's teaching on the Individual or Particular Judgment and 1038-41 on the Last or Final Judgment.

2 Corinthians 5:11-15 ~ Impelled by the Love of Christ
11 Therefore, since we know the fear of the Lord, we try to persuade others; but we are clearly apparent to God, and I hope we are also apparent to your consciousness. 12 We are not commending ourselves to you again but giving you an opportunity to boast of us, so that you may have something to say to those who boast of external appearance rather than of the heart. 13 For if we are out of our minds, it is for God; if we are rational, it is for you. 14 For the love of Christ impels us, once we have come to the conviction that one died for all; therefore, all have died. 15 He indeed died for all, so that those who live might no longer live for themselves but for him who for their sake died and was raised.

This passage is transitional as Paul sums up what came earlier in his letter. Referring to being "clearly apparent," he again defends his transparency before God and the Corinthians in contrast to the self-commendation, boasting, and the preoccupation of what is worldly and external that others have presented to the Corinthians (see 1:12-14; 2:14; 3:1, 4:6).

When Paul writes about knowing "the fear of the Lord" in verse 11, he refers to our love and reverence for God that causes us to fear to offend Him in the same way a child fears to disappoint a loving father. According to the inspired writer of Proverbs, The beginning of wisdom is the fear of the LORD [YHWH], and knowledge of the Holy One is understanding (Prov 9:10, also see 1:7a).

13 For if we are out of our minds, it is for God; if we are rational, it is for you.
Behaving as though they are out of their minds, may refer to the gift of speaking in tongues that is a charism the Holy Spirit gave Paul and members of his missionary team. He defended tongues as a legitimate charismatic gift but one that must not be abused. He wrote about the use and abuse of the gift in the letter entitled First Corinthians if which he ordered the community not to make a public display of speaking in tongues (see 1 Cor Chapters 13-14). Or perhaps it is a reference to the nomadic existence of Paul and his missionary team in traveling from place to place teaching the Gospel of salvation while facing persecution and even death. When Paul mentions being rational, he uses the Greek word sophrosyne which implies moderation, reasonableness, self-control, and good judgment. This, he writes, is how he and his missionary team behaved with them.

14 For the love of Christ impels us, once we have come to the conviction that one died for all; therefore, all have died. 15 He indeed died for all, so that those who live might no longer live for themselves but for him who for their sake died and was raised.
What Paul writes in verse 14 echoes 4:14, and sums up what he wrote concerning "life despite death" in 4:7-5:10. Christ died so that all who believe in Him might live for Him with the promise that they too will rise up from death like Him.

2 Corinthians 5:16-21 ~ A New Creation in Christ and the Ministry of Reconciliation
16 Consequently, from now on we regard no one according to the flesh; even if we once knew Christ according to the flesh, yet now we know him so no longer. 17 So whoever is in Christ is a new creation: the old things have passed away; behold, new things have come. 18 And all this is from God, who has reconciled us to himself through Christ and gives us the ministry of reconciliation, 19 namely, God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting their trespasses against them and entrusting to us the message of reconciliation. 20 So we are ambassadors for Christ, as if God were appealing through us. We implore you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God. 21 For our sake he made him to be sin who did not know sin, so that we might become the righteousness of God in him.

Paul's point is that since the coming of the Christ, we no longer judge anyone's worth according to the standards of wealth or social rank; even in Jesus' case, it does not matter that He was a poor Jewish carpenter from the Galilee. All Christians are equals in Christ.

 
17 So whoever is in Christ is a new creation: the old things have passed away; behold, new things have come.
In the first Creation event, God created all things, the cosmos and everything in it, including humanity, through Christ (Jn 1:3; Col 1:16). Also, through Christ, God has restored the work of Creation that was distorted by sin (Gal 6:15; 2 Pt 1:4; Rev 21:5). He did this by a new humanity, reborn in Christ through the Sacrament of Baptism.

Question: According to the days of the week established at Creation, what day of the week was the first day of Creation? How is that day related to the new Creation in Christ Jesus?
Answer: If the seventh day of Creation is the Saturday Sabbath day of rest in Genesis 2:1-3, then the first day of the original Creation event was on a Sunday. Jesus rose from the dead on Sunday, the first day of the new Creation in Christ Jesus.

20 So we are ambassadors for Christ as if God were appealing through us. We implore you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God.
In the ancient world, as today, an ambassador of a king or a national leader carried the king or leader's authoritative message to whomever the king or ruler sent him. In the same way, Jesus Christ, the King of kings, sends forth all Baptized Christians as His ambassadors with His message of salvation to the world (Mt 28:19-20; Acts 1:8). It is the duty of every Christian to carry on the work of Christ in the world, doing works of mercy and sharing the Gospel of salvation.

Question: Who is the supreme ambassador of Jesus Christ who is human like us and offers petitions on our behalf in the heavenly Kingdom?
Answer: The Virgin Mary.

21 For our sake he made him to be sin who did not know sin, so that we might become the righteousness of God in him.
This verse is another of Paul's statements that is misunderstood to mean that Jesus took the sins of the world on Himself on the altar of the Cross. Other passages in Scripture refute this interpretation. See, for example,1 Peter 1:17-19 where St. Peter wrote, Now if you invoke as Father him who judges impartially according to each one's works, conduct yourselves with reverence during the time of your sojourning, realizing that you were ransomed from your futile conduct ... with the precious blood of Christ as of a spotless unblemished lamb. Jesus could not remain the "unblemished Lamb of God," presenting Himself to God in the heavenly Sanctuary, if He bore the stains of our sins; He could not have even entered Heaven. It was the punishment for our sins that He took upon Himself.

Verse 21 does not mean that Jesus took on all the sinful guilt of humanity. He remained the sinless and unblemished Lamb of God. Catechism 603 states: "Jesus did not experience reprobation as if he himself had sinned. But in the redeeming love that always united him to the Father, he assumed us in the state of our waywardness of sin, to the point that he could say in our name from the cross: My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?' Having thus established him in solidarity with us sinners, God did not spare his own son but gave him up for us all,' so that we might be reconciled to God by death of his Son'" (quoting from Jn 8:46; Mk 15:34 Ps 22:1; Rom 8:32; 5:10). Jesus is our eternal High Priest, offering an infinitely meritorious sacrifice to God on behalf of the human race (Rev 5:6). That sacrifice is Christ's life, His sufferings, His love for the Father and humanity. His unblemished offering satisfied the demand of divine justice. In His willing sacrifice, according to the will of the Father, Christ merits the gift of salvation for all human beings who, in His name, accept His gift of eternal life.

Chapter 6:1-7:4 ~ A Call to Holiness

2 Corinthians 6:1-10 ~ Paul's Ministry of Reconciliation
1 Working together, then, we appeal to you not to receive the grace of God in vain. 2 For he says: "In an acceptable time I heard you, and on the day of salvation I helped you." Behold, now is a very acceptable time, behold, now is the day of salvation. 3 We cause no one to stumble in anything, in order that no fault may be found with our ministry; 4 on the contrary, in everything we commend ourselves as ministers of God, through much endurance, in afflictions, hardships, constraints, 5 beatings, imprisonments, riots, labors, vigils, fasts; 6 by purity, knowledge, patience, kindness, in a holy spirit, in unfeigned love, 7 in truthful speech, in the power of God; with weapons of righteousness at the right and at the left; 8 through glory and dishonor, insult and praise. We are treated as deceivers and yet are truthful; 9 as unrecognized and yet acknowledged; as dying and behold we live; as chastised and yet not put to death; 10 as sorrowful yet always rejoicing; as poor yet enriching many; as having nothing and yet possessing all things.
The paragraph of 6:1-10 is a single sentence in the Greek text. It is even longer than Paul's single sentence in Romans 1:1-7!

 
2 For he says: "In an acceptable time I heard you, and on the day of salvation I helped you." Behold, now is a very acceptable time, behold, now is the day of salvation.
In 6:2a, Paul quotes from the Septuagint translation of Isaiah 49:8. This verse is the first verse of the passage that comes between the second and third of the four "Servant-of-the-Lord" oracles in the Book of Isaiah (42:1-9; 49:1-7; 50:4-11; 52:13-53:12). In the passage of Isaiah 49:8-26, God promises the liberation and restoration of His covenant people. In quoting this verse, Paul is applying the fulfillment of the passage to Jesus' spiritual liberation and restoration of God's New Covenant people. Paul writes that God heard their desire for salvation and sent him as Christ's minister. He urges the Corinthians to respond to his appeal for reconciliation to him and his ministry, telling them "now is the day" to make a commitment to receive the on-going gift of salvation promised by God's Servant, Jesus Christ.

In 6:3-7a, Paul lists his apostolic credentials and defends the integrity of his missionary team. He insists that, as ministers of God, they have caused "no one to stumble in anything," having caused no offense and no scandal. He lists three groups of three hardships (for a total of nine) they have suffered (verses 4b-5), and two series of four virtues (using the words by, in, and with) that explain how they endured and overcame hardships (verses 6-7a). Then, after three transitional phrases (verses 7b-8a), he lists a series of seven antitheses, illustrating the paradoxes of his team's apostolic ministry (verses 8b-10):

2 Corinthians 6:11-18 ~ Be Separated from the Unholy
11 We have spoken frankly to you, Corinthians; our heart is open wide. 12 You are not constrained by us; you are constrained by your own affections. 13 As recompense in kind (I speak as to my children), be open yourselves. 14 Do not be yoked with those who are different, with unbelievers. For what partnership do righteousness and lawlessness have? Or what fellowship does light have with darkness? 15 What accord has Christ with Beliar? Or what has a believer in common with an unbeliever? 16 What agreement has the temple of God with idols? For we are the temple of the living God; as God said: "I will live with them and move among them, and I will be their God and they shall be my people. 17 Therefore, come forth from them and be separate," says the Lord, and touch nothing unclean; then I will receive you 18 and I will be a father to you, and you shall be sons and daughters to me, says the Lord Almighty."

Paul asks five questions in 6:14b-16a:

  1. For what partnership do righteousness and lawlessness have?
  2. Or what fellowship does light have with darkness?
  3. What accord has Christ with Beliar?
  4. Or what has a believer in common with an unbeliever?
  5. What agreement has the temple of God with idols?

Using the familiar Scriptural contrast of light and darkness, symbolizing holiness versus sin, Paul urges the Corinthians to live in the fellowship of the holiness of Christ as "children of light" (Eph 5:8). Their hearts must shine with "the light of the Gospel of the glory of Christ" (2 Cor 4:4, 6) as opposed to consorting with the children of darkness who are doomed by their sins. Christians must not be "yoked" with unbelievers but accept the easy "yoke" of Jesus Christ (Mt 11:28-30).

 
15 What accord has Christ with Beliar?
Beliar is a reference to Satan and is from a Hebrew word meaning "wickedness." Paul's point is that Christians, as the Temple of the "Living God," have as much in common with unrepentant sinners as Christ has with the devil.

For we are the temple of the living God
Question: Throughout 2 Corinthians, Paul answers the question "Who is God" by naming God in various ways in 1:2, 3a, 3b; 1:9; 3:3; 4:6, 14; 5:17-18 and 6:16. In what various ways does Paul name God in those verses?
Answer:

  1. He is "God our Father" in 1:2.
  2. He is the "God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ" in 1:3a.
  3. He is "the Father of compassion and God of all encouragement" in 1:3b.
  4. He is the "living God" in 3:3 and 6:16.
  5. He is the "God who raises the dead" in 1:9 and "the one who raised the Lord Jesus will raise us also" in 4:14.
  6. He is the God who said "Let light shine out of darkness" in 4:6.
  7. He is the God who brings "a new creation" in Christ and the "God who has reconciled us to himself through Christ" in 5:17-18.

as God said: "I will live with them and move among them, and I will be their God and they shall be my people. 17 Therefore, come forth from them and be separate," says the Lord, and touch nothing unclean; then I will receive you 18 and I will be a father to you, and you shall be sons and daughters to me, says the Lord Almighty." Underlining added for emphasis.
Paul turns to Scripture to substantiate his claim that the New Covenant Church is the temple of "the Living God." Paul quotes God three times as his source in three pairs of verses: "as God said," in verse 16, "says the Lord," in verse 17, and "says the Lord Almighty," in verse 18. The first part of the Old Testament quotation at the end of verse 16 combines Leviticus 26:11-12 (from the list of blessings for covenant obedience) and Ezekiel 37:27 (from God's promise of a future everlasting covenant of peace):

Question: Why does Paul quote from these passages? Read Lev 26:1-12 and Ex 37:21-28.
Answer: He uses the combined passages to remind the Corinthians of the fulfillment of the Old Testament promises of the new and everlasting Covenant through the death and Resurrection of the Davidic Messiah, Jesus Christ and the indwelling of the Holy Spirit. God now dwells with the Corinthian Christians and His entire Church through the gift of the Holy Spirit that Jesus made possible.

The next combination of Old Testament verses Paul quotes is from Isaiah 52:11 and Ezekiel 20:34 where the Lord says:

Question: What is the context of these verses? Read Isaiah 52:1-11 and Ez 20:27-39.
Answer: In the Isaiah passage, God urges the covenant people, especially the priests, to return from the Babylonian exile as a pure and holy people, separating themselves from all that is impure and ritually unclean. The Ezekiel passage is also in the context of the return from exile as God calls His people to turn away from false idols and return to Him from the nations where they were scattered.

Question: What is Paul's purpose in citing these verses?
Answer: God called the Corinthian Christians as His holy people in the same way He called Israel. Therefore, they must separate themselves from pagan practices and from anyone who would contaminate their true Christian identity.

The call to separate themselves from what is unholy probably includes any itinerate Christian missionaries who have caused division in the community.

The third set of verses Paul cites as the words of "the Lord Almighty" are from 2 Samuel 7:14a and Isaiah 43:6b:

Question: What is the context of these verses? Read 2 Sam 7:8-16 and from Is 43:1-12.
Answer: The verse from 2 Samuel Chapter 7 is from God's promise of an eternal covenant with David. The Isaiah passage recalls the promised that God will come as His people's Savior to redeem them as His sons and daughters.

Question: Why does Paul quote from these verses?

Answer: He reminds the Corinthians that Jesus is the Son of God and the promised Davidic Messiah. As heirs of Jesus Christ, the Corinthian Christians are true sons and daughters of God in the family of an eternal covenant.

Chapter 7: A Call for Holiness and Reconciliation

2 Corinthians 7:1-4 ~ Paul Calls for Reconciliation
1 Since we have these promises, beloved, let us cleanse ourselves from every defilement of flesh and spirit, making holiness perfect in the fear of God. 2 Make room for us; we have not wronged anyone, or ruined anyone, or taken advantage of anyone. 3 I do not say this in condemnation, for I have already said that you are in our hearts, that we may die together and live together. 4 I have great confidence in you, I have great pride in you; I am filled with encouragement, I am overflowing with joy all the more because of all our affliction.

The promises of the New and Eternal Covenant promised in the Scripture passages Paul referred to above oblige the Corinthian Christians to live in holiness, cleansing themselves from all sin, and to live in perfect communion with God. Paul resumes his appeal to the community to "open their hearts" to him and the other missionaries on his team. He defends his conduct, declares his love, and expresses his pride in them.

In verse 2, when Paul pleads with the Corinthian Christians to reconcile with him and his missionary team by making "room" for them in their lives, he renews the request he made previously in 6:13.
Question: What three reasons does Paul give for their reconciliation?
Answer: He writes that he and his team are innocent of any wrongdoing concerning the community because they have not wronged anyone, ruined anyone, or taken advantage of anyone.

3 I do not say this in condemnation, for I have already said that you are in our hearts, that we may die together and live together.
Paul's comment in verse 2 to is to promote reconciliation and not to cause them to feel defensive. A close association means they die together and live together. The phrase "for death or for life" was a way of expressing friendship and loyalty in the ancient world. See 2 Samuel 15:21 where Ittai the Gittite expresses his loyalty to King David by saying, "As the LORD lives, and as my lord the king lives, your servant shall be wherever my lord the king may be, whether for death or for life." However, for Paul the dynamic of "die together," "live together" may recall Jesus' death and resurrection. In Christ Jesus, all Christians die with Him to sin, while "live together" refers to eternal life together in our future heavenly home.

4 I have great confidence [parresia] in you, I have great pride in you; I am filled with encouragement, I am overflowing with joy all the more because of all our affliction.
Biblical scholar Thomas Stegman, SJ, writes that the New American Bible's translation "I have great confidence in you" fails to capture the sense of the Greek word parresia. He suggests that the New Jerusalem Bible offers a more accurate translation in "I can speak with the greatest frankness to you" (Catholic Commentary on Sacred Scripture, Second Corinthians, page 173; see the same word in 3:12).

Question: Paul offers what two examples of his love for the Corinthian Christians?
Answer:

  1. Out of his love for them, he speaks only with candor and frankness.
  2. Paul has great pride in them.

He writes that even in the midst of his afflictions, his pride in them has filled him with encouragement and joy, repeating what he wrote in his opening blessing in 1:3-7. He is joyful because he endures affliction for the sake of the Gospel: if he suffers with Christ, he will also be raised to glory with Christ (as Paul wrote in Rom 8:16-17).

Chapter 7:5-13 ~ Paul's Affliction and Joy in Macedonia

 

2 Corinthians 7:5-13a ~ Titus Brings Paul the News of Reconciliation
5 For even when we came into Macedonia, our flesh had no rest, but we were afflicted in every way: external conflicts [battles], internal fears. 6 But God, who encourages the downcast, encouraged us by the arrival of Titus, 7 and not only by his arrival [parousia] but also by the encouragement with which he was encouraged in regard to you, as he told us of your yearning, your lament, your zeal for me, so that I rejoiced even more. 8 For even if I saddened you by my letter, I do not regret it; and if I did regret it (for I see that that letter saddened you, if only for a while), 9 I rejoice now, not because you were saddened, but because you were saddened into repentance; for you were saddened in a godly way, so that you did not suffer loss in anything because of us. 10 For godly sorrow produces a salutary repentance without regret, but worldly sorrow produces death. 11 For behold what earnestness this godly sorrow produced for you, as well as readiness for a defense, and indignation, and fear, and yearning, and zeal, and punishment. In every way you have shown yourselves to be innocent in the matter. 12 So then even though I wrote to you, it was not on account of the one who did the wrong, or on account of the one who suffered the wrong, but in order that your concern for us might be made plain to you in the sight of God. 13a For this reason we are encouraged. [...] = literal translation, IBGE, vol. IV, pages 494.

Notice that Paul continues to use the word "afflicted/affliction." However, he also continues to contrast it with the more frequent use of the word "encourage/encouraged" as he did in Chapter 1:3-8 (see encouragement/encouraged seven times in 7:4, 6 twice, 7 twice, 13 twice) . In this passage, he returns to recounting the events he began discussing in 2:13 concerning his delayed reunion with Titus in Macedonia and his joy in hearing about the Corinthian community's positive response to his earlier, "tearful letter" (2:4).

6 But God, who encourages the downcast, encouraged us by the arrival of Titus, 7 and not only by his arrival [parousia] but also by the encouragement with which he was encouraged in regard to you.
The word "parousia" that Paul uses for Titus' arrival in verse 7 means both "arrival" and "presence." Notice that Paul gives credit to God for his gift of encouragement at Titus' arrival (verse 6). The description of God as the one "who encourages the downcast" is an allusion to Isaiah 49:13. It is the verse at the end of the second Servant Song (Is 49:1-13) that the Church always applies to the Christ. Just as God encouraged His lowly Servant, Jesus Christ, He also encourages the lowly servants of the Christ.
Question: How did Paul bless God in his opening prayer in 1:3-4?
Answer: He blessed God as "the Father of compassion and the God of all encouragement."

You may recall that Paul broke off his missionary work in Troas because Titus failed to join him there as planned and traveled to Macedonia hoping to find Titus there (2:12-13). It was Titus who had been sent to deliver Pau's "tearful letter" to the Corinthians and to report back on their response. He writes that when they came to Macedonia that our flesh had no rest, but we were afflicted in every way: external conflicts, internal fears. Paul uses the term "flesh" to convey human weakness and vulnerability. The word "conflicts" is literally "battles" in the Greek text. Paul uses the same Greek word in his second letter to St. Timothy in 2:23 and in his letter to St. Titus in 3:9 to indicate quarrels or controversy, as does St. James in his letter (Jam 4:1). We do not know if "external battles" refers to disputes with non-Christians (see Acts 16:16-17:15) that he encountered on his first visit to Macedonia, or if his problems came from other Christians who opposed him (e.g., Phil 3:2, 18-19) or from both groups. His "internal fears" probably refers to Titus' delayed appearance and anxiety over his report concerning the Corinthian community.

 

Question: Why did Titus' report fill Paul with joy and encouragement?
Answer: His letter led to repentance on the part of the Corinthian community.

In verses 9-10, Paul mentions the "godly sorrow" that produced repentance in the Corinthians and counts toward their salvation as opposed to the absence of repentance that leads to death. The Council of Trent defined contrition as "sorrow of the soul and detestation for the sin committed, together with the resolution not to sin again" (see CCC 1451). There can be more than one motive for contrition, ranging from sorrow for offending a loving God and Father to fear of divine punishment in the fires of Hell. Jesus' preaching called us to show our love for God by renouncing all sin. However, He also taught: "I shall show you whom to fear. Be afraid of the one who after killing has the power to cast into Gehenna" (Lk 12:5; also see Mt 10:28; 25:31-26). The "One" is the Almighty God; Gehenna is Jesus' word for the Hell of the damned. Contrition motivated by the fear of eternal punishment is called "imperfect contrition" (CCC 1453), whereas "perfect contrition" is motivated by one's love for God, the Father of all encouragement (CCC 1452). Even "imperfect" contrition is a gift of God prompted by the Holy Spirit. However, by itself imperfect contrition cannot obtain the forgiveness of grave sins, but it disposes one to obtain forgiveness in the Sacrament of Penance" (CCC 1453). Evidently, the contrition of the Corinthians was motived by love for God and love for God's servant, Paul.

Once again, in verses 11-13, Paul refers to "the matter" without any explanation as to the cause of the crisis. We do not know anything about the "the one who did the wrong;" however, it would appear that the "one who suffered the wrong" is Paul. In any event, the issue is resolve, and Paul is encouraged for its resolution and the restoration of his good relationship with the Corinthian church.

 

2 Corinthians 7:13b-16 ~ Paul's Confidence in Titus and the Corinthian Church
13b And besides our encouragement, we rejoice even more because of the joy of Titus, since his spirit has been refreshed by all of you. 14 For if I have boasted to him about you, I was not put to shame. No, just as everything we said to you was true, so our boasting before Titus proved to be the truth. 15 And his heart goes out to you all the more, as he remembers the obedience of all of you, when you received him with fear and trembling. 16 I rejoice, because I have confidence in you in every respect.

Not only is Paul encouraged by Titus' report concerning the response of the Christians at Corinth, but Paul tells them that their repentance and contrition has "refreshed" Titus' spirit. Paul is gratified, like a proud father, that what he told Titus about the goodness of the Corinthians and the confidence he had in them proved to be true.

Question for reflection or group discussion:
What is your understanding of the Resurrection of Jesus Christ? Is belief in the Resurrection essential to Christian faith? Read some of the Old and New Testament passages in footnote 1 and CCC citations 366, 998, 991, 996, 998-1013, 1038 before you give your answer.

Endnotes:
1. Some Old Testament references to the resurrection of the body: Ps 16:9-11; Job 19:25-26; Is 26:19; Ez 37:1-14; Dan 12:2-3; Hos 13:14; 2 Mac 7:9, 11, 14, 23, 36; 12:38-45; 14:46. Some New Testament references: Mt 13:43; 25:46; Mk 12:18-27 (quoting Ex 3:13-15); Jn 2:21-22; 5:28-29; 6:54; Eph 5:14; 1 Cor 15:41-42; Rev 10

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Catechism references for this lesson (* indicated that Scripture is either quoted or paraphrased in the catechism citation):

2 Cor 5:2 CCC 2796* 2 Cor 5:18 CCC 981, 1442, 1461*
2 Cor 5:6 CCC 769* 2 Cor 5:19 CCC 433, 620
2 Cor 5:7 CCC 164 2 Cor 5:20 CCC 859, 1424, 1442
2 Cor 5:8 CCC 1005, 1021*, 1681 2 Cor 5:21 CCC 602, 603
2 Cor 5:14 CCC 616, 851 2 Cor 6:2 CCC 1041
2 Cor 5:15 CCC 605*, 655, 1269* 2 Cor 6:4 CCC 859
2 Cor 5:17 CCC1214, 1265 2 Cor 6:16 CCC 797, 1179
2 Cor 5:17-18 CCC 1999 2 Cor 6:18 CCC 270
2 Cor 5:18-21 CCC 2844* 2 Cor 7:9-10 CCC 1451-54