16 June 2011

"And when I was with you and was in need, I did not burden anyone ... So I refrained and will continue to refrain from burdening you in any way." (v. 9)


Between chapters 9 and 10 of this letter to the church in Corinth, the tone changes suddenly. In fact, the change is so abrupt, that many think that this is a separate letter, written on another occasion. These last chapters are full of strong emotion, powerfully expressed. Paul believed that his authority and reputation as an apostle were being seriously undermined in Corinth. He is angry, and anxious about the church, because other teachers had come and brought a different teaching.

This section has three themes:

  • Paul uses the image of a betrothal. It's a bit like a melodrama. He is the father and the Corinthian church is his daughter. He has arranged a marriage with Christ. Now the daughter is led astray by someone who comes and teaches about "another Jesus ... a different gospel" (v. 4). Will she lose her innocence?

  • Paul points out that he has never expected anything back from the Corinthian church. In fact, he exaggerates by saying that he "robbed other churches by accepting support from them" (v. 8). Rather than taking anything from them, what he gave was "free of charge" (v. 7).

  • There is the very evident deep feeling Paul has for these people. It is clear in the tone of much of this. He asks why he would have behaved in this way, giving to them at the expense of others, and at his own expense. Incredulously he asks them: "And why? Because I do not love you? God knows I do!" (v. 11)

We do not know what the different teaching was against which Paul argued. It mattered to him for two reasons. First, because he believed that the Corinthians were being taught something wrong. That wrong teaching involved wrong ways of behaving. This church, already susceptible to arguments (for example, see  1 Corinthians 1:11), is at risk of behaving as something other than a loving community of Jesus. Second, it mattered because he cared about them so strongly himself. They were like a daughter to him.


To Ponder

Have you ever cared about something or someone as passionately as Paul evidently does in this passage? How did you behave?

What are the dangers when we are very personally involved in an issue? How can you guard against these?

Bible notes author: The Revd Andrew Lunn

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