Heart to Heart2 Corinthians 7:2-16Theme: Intimacy.This week’s lessons teach us that true companionship can only be found in Christianity.
LessonWhen Paul writes this letter, he is particularly vulnerable. He is very frank and open as he shares his experiences and feelings with the Corinthians. The keynote of this section is his reference to the word “hearts.” In verse 2 he uses “your hearts,” and in verse 3 he uses “our hearts.” This section is a repetition of what he wrote in the previous chapter, verse 11: “We have spoken freely to you, Corinthians, and opened wide our hearts to you”; then on that basis in verse 13 he says, “…open wide your hearts also.” Here, in chapter 7, he says, “Make room for us in your hearts. …I do not say this to condemn you; I have said before that you have such a place in our hearts that we would live or die with you.”
Paul is, in this section of the letter, actually opening up his heart to these people. I find a number of ways in which he does it. The first thing he does, beginning in verse 5, is talk about his troubles. This is where he refers back to what he was saying in the second chapter about his travels, how it was he came into Macedonia, how he waited there for Titus to come up from Corinth and bring word, how he was distressed waiting to know what the Christians in Corinth would do, and how he was encouraged by their concern for him.
I detect a different tone here from what we found when he talked about his sufferings earlier and how he talks about them again in chapter 11. Here he speaks about his trouble in a most personal way. “For when we came into Macedonia, this body of ours had no rest, but we were harassed at every turn – conflicts on the outside, fears within.” Other passages describe them far more extensively. When he talked about his suffering in chapter 6, he went on and on at length: “troubles, hardships and distresses; beatings, imprisonments and riots; hard work, sleepless nights and hunger.” He is describing the circumstances by which, as a minister of God, he accredited himself in the eyes of all people. He is talking about ministry.
Later in chapter 11, he again talks about his great suffering. He says he was flogged and exposed to death, and beaten, five times receiving from the Jews forty lashes, and so on. There he says his sufferings flow from his apostleship and on that basis he is commended to his hearers.
But this is not what he does in chapter 7. He is not making a point here; Paul is simply saying that when he came to Macedonia, he was really troubled. His body had no rest. He had enemies from without who were harassing him. He confessed this freely to them, his Christian friends at Corinth. He was troubled from within. He was very fearful, even despairing of the loss of life itself. I think that is an amazing measure of disclosure and vulnerability on the Apostle Paul’s part because I do not believe that the situation was any different in his day than in ours.
We look at our elders and we assume that they are not supposed to be vulnerable. They are not supposed to be troubled. After all, they are pastors or elders. They are the leaders. If they cannot ride through storms high on the crest of the wave, who can? Likewise Paul, though an apostle, was afraid as a result of the kinds of suffering he experienced.
What specific ways does Paul open his heart to the believers at Corinth?
Why is it especially hard for ministers and elders to be vulnerable?
Further StudyNot only did Paul make himself vulnerable by sharing his sufferings, but also he was open about his sin. Read the following passages to see how: Romans 7:14 – 8:1;1 Timothy 1:12-16.