I’ve been chewing on 2 Corinthians lately, not in the slow methodical way where each sentence is carefully weighed in the balances of exegesis, but at a normal pace, like how a person might read a weighty, personal letter. The eye is trained more on the whole of the epistle rather than the details. A “feel” is sought after.
Much could be said in this regard. One might note the deep personality of the Corinthian correspondence, how Paul’s character and heart and hopes bleed through. There’s also an abundance of material concerning Church polity, false teachers, and suffering. All of these and much more permeate the epistle richly.
But what particularly struck me was how often the curtains of life are pulled back; how the grand purposes of God are disclosed and set on display. It’s as if the trials and challenges of church life cause Paul’s theological pistons to fire on all cylinders.
What follows is a sampling of the passages that stood out to me. One could almost frame them in the context of a question to help bring out the amazing universality of God’s designs. For example, one could ask, “What is God up to?” and then quote the passage in response. Or one might similarly ask, “What are God’s plans for us?” Both questions cause us to think in terms of the big picture. And what should be evident is how surprising the ways of God truly are. Our God is not predictable, nor is He boring, and neither is He tame (He isn’t on a leash). His thoughts are much higher than ours. His purposes shatter our categories. And He does not fit into a neat and tidy box.
With this in mind, consider the following:
For we do not want you to be ignorant, brothers, of the affliction we experienced in Asia. For we were so utterly burdened beyond our strength that we despaired of life itself. Indeed, we felt that we had received the sentence of death. But that was to make us rely not on ourselves but on God who raises the dead. 2Co 1:8-9
But we have this treasure in jars of clay, to show that the surpassing power belongs to God and not to us. 2Co 4:7
We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed; always carrying in the body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be manifested in our bodies. 2Co 4:8-10
For we who live are always being given over to death for Jesus’ sake, so that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our mortal flesh. 2Co 4:11
For it is all for your sake, so that as grace extends to more and more people it may increase thanksgiving, to the glory of God. 2Co 4:15
So we do not lose heart. Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day. For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison… 2Co 4:16-17
For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sake he became poor, so that you by his poverty might become rich. 2Co 8:9
But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. 2Co 12:9