Second Epistle to the Corinthians
Christ, in Paul’s eyes, is the beginning and the end, Alpha and Omega. That is why all his letters begin with Jesus. “Paul, an apostle of Jesus Christ: grace be to you and peace … from the Lord Jesus Christ.” (1: 1, 2)
This letter is characterised by the description of Paul’s participation in Christ’s sufferings. “For as the sufferings of Christ abound in us, so our consolation also aboundeth by Christ.” (1:5) However, Saint Paul remains firm unto death in faith, despite his sufferings. (1:9, 10) “But as God is true, our word toward you was not yea and nay. For the Son of God, Jesus Christ, who was preached among you by us, …was not yea and nay, but in him was yea.” (1:18,19)
Paul “forgives in the person of Christ.” (2:1) He travels, going to one place after another (2:12) and going from one victory to another in Christ. (2:14) He is “a sweet savour of Christ” (2:15) and his trust even amid difficulties, is boundless. (3:4) All his strength and capability is in Jesus Christ. (4:4-6)
In this letter, especially in chapters three, four and five, Saint Paul expresses his passionate love for Christ and his experience of life in Christ, despite troubles and perplexities, persecutions, sufferings, pains, spiritual and bodily illnesses and betrayals. “For we which live are always delivered unto death for Jesus' sake, that the life also of Jesus might be made manifest in our mortal flesh.” (4:10-12) But he is not, so to speak, limited; he does not fall into despair; he is never disappointed, despite troubles and persecutions. (4:8, 9) As he says, “though our outward man perish, yet the inward man is renewed day by day.” (4:16) “For the love of Christ constraineth us.” (5:14) “Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature.” (5:17) “We are ambassadors for Christ” (5:20) and “ministers of God, in much patience, in afflictions, in necessities, in distresses, in stripes, in imprisonments, in tumults, in labours, in watchings, in fastings; by pureness, by knowledge, by long suffering, by kindness, by the Holy Ghost, by love unfeigned.” (6:4-10)
There is an example of the experience of Paul in his life in Jesus Christ, but nothing destroys his will and enthusiasm, “for the weapons of our warfare are not carnal, but mighty through God to the pulling down of strong holds; casting down imaginations, and every high thing that exalteth itself against the knowledge of God, and bringing into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ.” (10:4-6a) Again, Saint Paul describes all his toil with respect to life in Christ: (11:23-33) prisons, stripes, mortal perils, beatings with rods, stoning, shipwrecks, journeyings, floods, robbers, false brethren, weariness, painfulness, watchings, hunger, thirst, fastings, nakedness and from Damascus, escape down by the wall into the desert. (11:23-33)
But Jesus strengthens Paul and says to him in his temptations, “‘My grace is sufficient for thee: for my strength is made perfect in weakness.’ Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me. Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in necessities, in persecutions, in distresses for Christ's sake: for when I am weak, then am I strong.” (12:9,10)
These are the great challenges and experiences of faith that Saint Paul has lived through in his Epistles, that he might live in Christ and Christ in him.