Heart to Heart2 Corinthians 7:2-16Theme: Intimacy.This week’s lessons teach us that true companionship can only be found in Christianity.
LessonAnother time Paul is most open and vulnerable is when he begins to talk about his comfort at the coming of Titus. We know from the earlier chapters that he was troubled on behalf of the Corinthians. He had sent them the first letter, but he did not know how it would be received. He had gone to Macedonia when, at first, Titus was not there. But finally, Titus came to see him. He says that he was comforted in that great period of trouble to have this fellow soldier of Jesus Christ, this companion in his labor, come and bear good tidings.
We may look at a person like Paul and say, “Paul, you were supposed to be the pillar. You were there to comfort others. How could you be comforting them if you were a person who needed comfort?” And yet, Paul does not hesitate to say that Titus brought him a great measure of comfort. And as a result, he entered into a period of joy and rejoicing that he talks about later on in the same chapter.
I think what we find here is another illustration of what is quite evidently a biblical pattern, namely, the pattern of God sending individuals out into Christian work–not alone but with other individuals, often in pairs. The first great example of this is God creating Eve for Adam. God had created a man with whom he, at that stage in the creation, was in perfect fellowship because sin had not yet entered the race. There were no troughs of the wave in those days. It was beautiful and tranquil and Adam had a perfect relationship with God. And yet, God looked at Adam in all his perfection and said that it was not good for the man to be alone. So he decided to make a helper perfectly suited for him. God made Eve for Adam and the two of them shared the work God gave them.
We do not want to say that fellowship with God is not sufficient. God is sufficient for all things. If we have him, we have everything. But yet, we are still human beings and we live in a world of human beings. God makes us to work with other people, and one of the great blessings of life in God’s normal way of doing things is that he provides companions of one sort or another as we do our work. Again, I think of the example of our Lord as he sent out his disciples to preach the kingdom. We find this described several times in the Gospels. Jesus sent them out two by two–not one preacher or one witness in isolation. They were always two by two, so one could encourage the other and hold him up when the going got tough or he got discouraged.
I know of a husband and wife who served as missionaries in a very difficult area of South America. When talking about their difficulties the husband said the only reason they had not quit and come back from the mission field many years earlier was that they could never agree to quit at the same time. God had given him a wife to hold him up when he was down, and God had given her a husband to hold her up when she was down. That is God’s normal way of working.
I notice also that as Paul went about establishing churches, he always left a number of leaders behind to carry on the work he had begun. He never left just one elder in charge. The principle of the plurality of leadership in the church dictates that we are not to have single individuals who function as potentates. We are to establish a team that shares the responsibility of leadership in the Lord.
That is why Paul was so happy when Titus came. He did not say, “I am sufficient all by myself.” That is because he knew that he needed the help and encouragement that God was gracious to provide for him when he sent Titus to meet him in Macedonia.
Then thirdly, Paul talks about his feelings for the Corinthians. He heard from Titus that what he had written them earlier caused the Corinthians great distress. Paul said he was sorry that he had had to write it, yet he also explains that he was not sorry, because this was what had to be done in order to recall them from their sin. Paul was not indifferent to what was happening. When they sorrowed, he sorrowed. And when they repented, he rejoiced at their repentance and what God was doing in them. It was a wonderful thing that Paul was not afraid to speak in an open and vulnerable way to the Corinthians.
What is the biblical pattern for those who work in ministry?
Further StudyMeditate on the following passages about the importance of intimacy for living the Christian life: Genesis 2:18-24; Ecclesiastes 4:9-12.
ReflectionAt times in our lives, God may withhold from us the companionship of other people. If so, it is so that we will come to know him more intimately first. God desires that we feel as the psalmist did when he penned Psalm 73:25.