2 Corinthians: St. Paul Bears His Soul

by Steve Ray on June 26, 2017

(In this article I emphasize Paul and his apostolic calling along with the actual letter. In 1 Corinthians I emphasized the city of Corinth, the immorality and the actual letter.)

The water was cold and his legs were numb. His skin was wrinkled after the many hours of bobbing in the waves desperately clinging to a beam ripped from the ship as it capsized in the storm.

It was dark and the moon was still hidden by the frightening storm clouds swirling low over the sea. But he was not concerned for himself, even though in dire straits. Far be it from this rugged traveler to worry about himself when he had the churches on his mind. God had called and the apostolic call was more important than his own comfort, even more crucial than his own life.

It was hard work—even harder than staying afloat in the waves. Separation by miles of mountains and seas made the internal struggle acute. The brethren in other cities and lands, exposed to temptations, divisions, pagan cultures, and sin were on his mind. His labor of prayer was intense. At times he longed for them as a parent longs for a lost child. His prayers were agonizing—and his prayers were heard.

Writing to one of these churches, the church in Corinth, Paul describes his labors, imprisonments, beatings—his sufferings external and internal. He humbly boasts, “Five times I have received at the hands of the Jews the forty lashes less one. Three times I have been beaten with rods; once I was stoned.

Three times I have been shipwrecked; a night and a day I have been adrift at sea; on frequent journeys, in danger from rivers, danger from robbers, danger from my own people, danger from Gentiles, danger in the city, danger in the wilderness, danger at sea, danger from false brethren; in toil and hardship, through many a sleepless night, in hunger and thirst, often without food, in cold and exposure. And, apart from other things, there is the daily pressure upon me of my anxiety for all the churches” (2 Cor 11:24-28).

To another church north along the coast of the Aegean Sea, Paul again pours out his heart, informing them that he is “praying earnestly night and day” for them (1 Thes 3:10). Paul begins his letter of Second Corinthians by expressing this concern: “For I wrote you out of much affliction and anguish of heart and with many tears, not to cause you pain but to let you know the abundant love that I have for you” (2 Cor 2:4).

This is the life of Paul, former persecutor of the Church, now himself persecuted for their sake. Involved with taking the life of others, he now lays down his own life for others. Having watched Stephen pray while the rocks crushed his body, Paul now prays under the crushing weight of his apostolate and concern for the churches. Nowhere in the letters of Paul is he more intimate, more personal, or more vulnerable than in Second Corinthians.

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