Renew-Hicks Articles on Women and the Assembly

April 23, 2021

For convenience, below are links to the discussion between Renew and myself. I hope you find the series informative as well as reflective of attitudes that honor God and bear witness to the fruit of the Spirit.

I only respond to Renew posts that explicitly interact with my book Women Serving God.

  1. Renew’s Review (Part 1): Hermeneutics.
  2. My Response to Part 1.
  3. Renew’s Reply to my Response to Part 1. (I also copied it into #4 below.)
  4. My Rejoinder to Renew’s Reply to my Response to Part 1.
  5. Renew’s Review (Part 2): 1 Corinthians 11.
  6. My Response to Part 2.
  7. Renew’s Review (Part 3): 1 Corinthians 14.
  8. My Response to Part 3.
  9. Renew’s Review (Part 4): 1 Timothy 2:8-15.
  10. My Response to Part 4.
  11. Renew’s Review (Part 5): Elders.
  12. My Response to Part 5.
  13. Renew’s Review (Part 6): Marriage.
  14. My Response to Part 6.
  15. Renew’s Review (Part 9): Where Does Egalitarianism Lead?
  16. My Response to Part 9.
  17. Renew’s Summary (Part 12).
  18. My Response to Renew’s Summary.
  19. Renew’s Final Response to My Comments on their Summary.
  20. Christian Chronicle Review by Sproles.
  21. My Response to Chronicle Review by Sproles.

2 Corinthians 2:14-3:6 — Who is Sufficient for Ministry?

October 28, 2021

Paul asks, who is sufficient (competent, qualified, or adequate) for the ministry of reconciliation?

This question begins a lengthy digression (if that is an appropriate description; 2 Corinthians 2:14-7:4) where Paul describes the significance, practice, and meaning of the ministry of reconciliation in which he is engaged for the sake of the Corinthians and others.

Perhaps it is not a digression at all. Rather, when Paul noted his opportunity to preach the gospel in Troas but chose to find Titus in Macedonia instead (2 Corinthians 2:12-13), it moved him to thanksgiving for the opportunities he has had to share the good news of Christ, including the planting of the church in Corinth. Paul gives thanks for how God works through through the ministry of reconciliation.

What begins as a thanksgiving becomes an exposition, which addresses—in one way or another—some of the significant misunderstandings Corinthians had about Paul and their misappropriations of the meaning of gospel ministry. This, then, is no digression in the normal sense of that word. Instead, it confronts a core problem: the Corinthians do not fully understand the cruciform gospel.

They do not understand how the gospel is deeply intertwined with suffering or how it is integral to the gospel of the crucified Jesus. This is why Paul suffers. It is not because Paul is an incompetent apostle but because he is a follower of the crucified Christ. This is the larger point of 2 Corinthians 2:14-7:4, and he articulates it in order to invite the Corinthians into the ministry of reconciliation, which involves both suffering and glory.

Ministry begins with gratitude: “Thanks be to God!” Thus, ministry recognizes that God is at work:  God leads us and spreads the aroma of Christ through us. God is acting, and we are God’s instruments.

In Christ, God leads us in triumphal procession. While some read this as participation in a triumphal procession or parade where we are the victors who celebrate our triumph in Christ, it is probably better to read this against the backdrop of a Roman general or Emperor who returns to Rome and leads their captives, slaves, and prisoners into the city. God is triumphant, and we are God’s slaves, but slaves invited to participate in the triumphant ministry of Christ. This procession ultimately leads to death, to a cross that we share with the triumphant Christ.

Further, in Christ, God spreads the aroma of Christ through us in every place. We are the means by which God fills the air with the fragrance of Christ, which is the knowledge of God. We are the means by which others come to know God—they can smell it from our life, actions, and words. Unfortunately, the Christ many smell is odorous because of the lives, actions, and words of those who claim to be Christians but whose aroma gives off a stink rather than a sweet smelling perfume.

Who is sufficient to give off a fragrant aroma of Christ? The seeming answer is, Nobody! But if that were true, then no one would come to know God through us. God uses us—leads us in triumphant process and spreads the aroma of Christ through us!  But how does this happen?

Unlike those who peddle God’s word for profit or their own glory, the one who is competent to spread the aroma of Christ speaks sincerely as one from God who stands in the presence of God. Sincerity rather than ambition must condition and shape the manner in which we spread the fragrance of Christ. We speak, but we speak in the presence of God rather than peddling our wares for the sake of our own interests.

So, is Paul a peddler or sincere? Does he seek his own glory or work for the joy of others? In other words, is Paul authentic? Is Paul trustworthy? Who can recommend Paul for the ministry of reconciliation?

It was common in the ancient world, as even in many circumstances today, to expect letters of recommendation. The best way to gain the trust of a new acquaintance or community was for a mutual friend or a recognized institution to introduce you through a letter of recommendation. Apparently, Paul had not come with any such letters, and perhaps there were other leading (competing?) persons who had letters of recommendations. Why, then, should we trust Paul? Where are his letters of recommendation?

Paul responds, “You Corinthians are our letter of recommendation.” Paul characterizes this in several ways.

  • The Corinthian church, as the letter of Paul, Silas, and Timothy (“our letter”), is “known and read by all.” The Corinthians are a public witness to the gospel, which they embody. They are visible to all, and they ought to bear the fragrant aroma of Christ among those who know and read them.
  • These letters are written in (or, on) “our” hearts—the hearts of the ministers who spread the fragrance of Christ among them. The hearts of the ministers are the papyrus upon which these letters were written. The Corinthians are seared into the hearts of their evangelists, those who planted the church (Paul, Timothy, and Silas).
  • The Corinthians are a “letter of (or, from) Christ,” that is, Christ wrote this letter through the evangelists who planted the congregation. Paul prepared the letter as if he were an amanuensis, but it was Christ who created the letter. Paul is instrumental, but the authorship belongs to Christ.
  • The letter from Christ is an act of God through the Holy Spirit, just as much as the ten commandments were written by the finger of God at Mount Sinai. In this case, the finger of God is the Holy Spirit who inscribes this letter upon the heart.
  • This letter is written on human hearts (in this case, the hearts of the church planters—upon Paul’s heart, for example) rather than on tablets of stone. In other words, Paul’s letter of recommendation (the Corinthians) is written on his heart rather than the use of some external means—whether stone or paper.

In summary, by the Spirit of God, Christ wrote a letter of recommendation on Paul’s heart, which is the Corinthian congregation. Paul does not need any other letters of recommendation, whether from other congregations, from Jerusalem, or from any external authority. The existence of the Corinthian church is itself Paul’s letter of recommendation, which is present in his heart and authored by Jesus Christ by the Spirit of God.

There are a number of allusions to the Hebrew Scriptures that extend the application of Paul’s words. The references to the “tablets of stone” (Exodus 34:1, 4, 28, 29), a heart of flesh rather than stone (Ezekiel 11:19), a new heart and new spirit (Ezekiel 18:31; 36:26-27), and writing the law on the heart (Jeremiah 31:33) provide a context of hearing Paul’s language. He is saying more than simply the Corinthians are letters of recommendation but the nature of the thing recommended (Paul’s new covenant ministry) possesses a glory that surpasses that of the Mosaic covenant or even the tablets of stone. This language anticipates what Paul will explain in 2 Corinthians 3:7-18, which is the topic of the next blog.

At this moment, however, this language suggests—as Materna notes—that “even though the community is Paul’s letter of recommendation written on his heart, the community is also Christ’s letter written on their hearts by the Spirit of the Living God, whose temple they are (see 6:16)” (II Corinthians: A Commentary, p. 78). While the recommendation appears in Paul’s heart, that recommendation was accomplished by the Spirit of God who inscribed the law of God upon the hearts of the Corinthians rather than on stone tablets alone.

Paul’s confidence in ministry does not arise out of his ambitions, merchandizing of the gospel, or external letters of recommendation. Rather, his confidence comes from the fact that God does the letter-writing! Paul is competent—sufficient, qualified, and adequate—because God is at work in his ministry: “our competence is from God.”

This competence is expressed in their function as “ministers of a new covenant.” This language comes from Jeremiah who envisions a time when the law will not be written on tablets of stone alone but upon human hearts (31:33). The ministry of the new covenant is not one that ends with tablets of stone or external letters. Rather, it finds its fruit in the work of the Spirit who writes on human hearts or “hearts of flesh.” The ministry of the new covenant is a ministry of the Spirit of God. It is not only a matter of letters written in stone—which is a good thing because it is the law of God. And it is that law (written on stone) that is also written on the hearts of people by the Spirit.

The letter kills when it is only written in stone. To be effective—to give life—it must be written on the heart as well. Thus, the letter kills, but the Spirit gives life because the Spirit writes the law upon our hearts.

Who is sufficient? The Spirit of God who writes on human hearts gives the ministers of the new covenant sufficiency for their task of preaching the good news of Jesus the Messiah.

Thanks be to God who in Christ writes on our hearts by the Spirit of God so that we become letters of recommendation for the gospel itself and ministers of the new covenant.

In this way, we are sufficient, empowered, and competent for the missional task of sharing the gospel and spreading the aroma of Christ.

2 Corinthians 2:12-13 — Parental Anxiety

October 15, 2021

Sometimes somethings are more important than an open door.

That is the upshot of these two fascinating sentences in 2 Corinthians 2:12-13.

Earlier Paul had intended to visit Corinth, then go to Macedonia, and then return to Corinth before he left for Jerusalem. However, the circumstances in Corinth led Paul to change that travel plans. Instead, he sent Titus with a tearful letter that confronted the Corinthians about the events of his most recent and painful visit, particularly how the Corinthians had sided with the one who had opposed Paul.

Now Paul is awaiting word from Titus about how the Corinthians responded to his confrontational letter. Apparently, they had intended to rendezvous in Troas, and so Paul went to Troas where he anticipated seeing Titus. After reuniting, they would then proceed, presumably, to Corinth.  

In these two verses, 2 Corinthians 2:12-13, Paul not only explains why he went on to Macedonia instead of waiting in Troas but also reveals his deep concern and care for the Corinthians themselves.

His relationship with the Corinthians and the ministry of reconciliation in Corinth was more important than the open door in Troas.

Paul is a minister of the gospel of reconciliation. Moreover, his own sense of vocation is to sow the seed of the gospel in new places (Romans 15:20); he plows new ground for the gospel. Consequently, he went to Troas “to proclaim the good news (or, gospel) of Christ.” This is his vocation. Seemingly, he expected to stay there a while for the sake of the gospel with Titus before heading on to Corinth.

The gospel is central for Paul. Paul refers to “our gospel” (2 Corinthians 4:3) and the “gospel of the glory of Christ” (2 Corinthians 4:4) as well as again proclaiming the “good news (gospel) of Christ” as his missional task (2 Corinthians 10:4). Further, he also warns the Corinthians that they had accepted among them (presumably the so-called “super apostles” or perhaps others) some who preach a “different gospel” as well as a “different Jesus” (2 Corinthians 11:4).

In fact, Paul is engaged in a defense of not only his missional vocation to proclaim the good news but of the gospel itself. This explains, in part, Paul’s lengthy digression (if that is a good word for it) from this travelogue in 2 Corinthians 2:14-7:4: Paul identifies, explains, and defends his practice of the ministry of reconciliation through the gospel. Paul rehearses the nature of his ministry and gospel so that the Corinthians may understand what compels Paul and drives him to share this good news with others, which included the founding of the Corinthian congregation and was the rationale for his participation in the suffering of Christ.  

It was for the sake of preaching the gospel that Paul came to Corinth in the first place, and it is the reason that he continues to walk with them through thick and thin. Paul’s priority is the gospel and how it reconciles us with God and each other.

It is surprising, then, to hear Paul describe how he went to Troas to preach the gospel but decided to move on to Macedonia without taking advantage of the open door in Troas. It was an open door, but he did not walk through it. Understanding how deeply committed Paul is to his missional vocation to preach the gospel, it is rather unnerving to watch him pass up a golden opportunity to spread the aroma of Christ in a new place. (Paul had visited Troas previously, but it was a momentary stay as he was called to Macedonia through a vision; see Acts 16:6-10.)

Why would Paul pass up this opportunity? We can only imagine his own anguish and struggle with the decision. This was, as Paul said, an “open door in the Lord.” It was opened, it seems, by God. Paul recognized this divine moment but hurried on to Macedonia. Something, it seems, was more compelling for Paul.

Paul, in fact, tells us: Titus was not there. He had expected to meet Titus, but he had not yet arrived. Paul felt compelled to go to Macedonia in order to find him. Why was Paul compelled? Literally, his “spirit” could find no rest while waiting for Titus in Troas.

This reveals Paul’s deep love for and anxiety about the Corinthians. Paul continually professes his love for the Corinthians, which includes his desire for reconciliation and the renewal of their mutual joy.

This desire creates an anxiety. It is not so much a lack of faith in God but a restlessness about the relationship. It is an anxiety that arises from the burden Paul carries for the churches he has planted. It is, actually, part of his daily burden, even daily suffering. Indeed, it is the last item Paul mentions when he catalogs his suffering in 2 Corinthians 11.

He writes, “And, besides other things, I am under daily pressure because of my anxiety for all the churches” (2 Corinthians 11:28). Literally, the word “anxiety” refers to cares or concerns but can refer to worries or anxieties. This is the only time Paul uses this word in his writings.

His burden or care for the Corinthians, as with other congregations, created unrest in his spirit. He wanted to know the result of Titus’ visit. He wanted to know the well-being of their souls. He wanted to know whether reconciliation was possible.

Paul did not know the answer to those questions, and, consequently, he was restless. This was a moment of desolation for Paul, and he wanted consolation, that is, the kind that comes from God through the Corinthians who reciprocate Paul’s love and comfort his anxiety.

Perhaps an analogy might be helpful. It is the sort of anxiety a parent fills when alienated or uncertain about their relationship with their children. Paul is the father of the Corinthian congregation; they are his children (1 Corinthians 4:14-15). And he speaks to them as his children (2 Corinthians 6:13; 12:14). Paul is experiencing an acute form of parental anxiety.

As a result, Paul does not wait in Troas and explore the opportunity to share the gospel there but rushes to Macedonia in order to learn from Titus as quickly as possible how the Corinthians responded to his letter.

Sometimes we are faced with an opportunity to minister but are also filled with anxiety about another situation. Sometimes, perhaps, it is appropriate to resolve the anxiety before pursuing the opportunity.

This is a place in which people often find themselves. We are sometimes too troubled about a relationship—too wounded, hurt, consumed, anxious—to pursue a different opportunity. Just as Paul sought Titus, sometimes we must seek reconciliation with others before we are healthy enough or ready to pursue other ministry opportunities.

At the same time, the burden we carry for the churches is deep because our love for those congregations is deep as well. The depth of love correlates with the depth of anxiety when the relationship is wounded, broken, or under repair. Sometimes the work of repair is more important than new opportunities.

It is good to feel this burden. It is a healthy anxiety or care; we want what is best for congregations. We seek their renewal, reconciliation, and repair. This is Paul’s passion for the Corinthians. It is also, I hope, our passion for people and congregations.

2 Corinthians 2:5-11 – Forgiveness

October 9, 2021

The one who grieved Paul (and the Corinthian congregation as a whole) should not be burdened with excessive grief but forgiven and consoled. Paul does not seek revenge for the wrong but reconciliation.

That is a bold claim. Apparently, the severe letter Paul wrote after his second (painful) visit addressed the problem this particular individual imposed. This is our first indication of the content of Paul’s letter, which, of course, no longer exists (unless it is found in 2 Corinthians 10-13).

In that letter, Paul opposed a person who had caused him great pain. Paul describes him as “the offender”—the one who wronged Paul (2 Corinthians 7:12). Perhaps he attacked Paul’s ministry style, gifts, or authority. Or, perhaps this person was one of the impenitent ones with respect to sexual immorality. Traditionally, the person has been identified with the incestuous man of 1 Corinthians 5. While some still contend for that identification, most modern readers have questioned it. In reality, we don’t know the specifics, though it seems likely that the problem is related to some of the misgivings of other Corinthians and/or the “super-apostles” rather than any sexual immorality. But we can’t be sure.

Whatever the case, the severe letter had a positive outcome (as 2 Corinthians 7:5-12 confirms). Apparently, Paul learned the outcome from Titus who reported the Corinthian response. A majority of the Corinthians responded by, in some sense, punishing the offender. Perhaps that included the exclusion of this person from the community. This kind of discipline (also envisioned in 1 Corinthians 5 for the incestuous man) intends to create an awakening by distancing people from their beloved community, which, it is hoped, creates a desire to return to the community. At the very least, it seems, it protects the community from further harm.

It seems this “punishment by the majority” had its intended effect. The offender was now overwhelmed with grief, a “godly grief” (1 Corinthians 7:11). The offender had repented and sought reconciliation.

It is important to recognize this move. Paul is not suggesting reconciliation for those who willingly and deliberately continue in their sins, abuse their victims, and continue to prey on others out of their own self-interests. Paul is not describing an impenitent offender. In fact, Paul will not “spare” the impenitent (2 Corinthians 12:21-13:2).

Paul invited the Corinthians to participate in the ministry of reconciliation with regard to this offender. He called upon them to “forgive and console” the penitent offender. Just as God forgives (shows grace to us) and consoles us (as in 2 Corinthians 1:3-8), so they are to forgive and console this penitent offender. They are to treat him as Paul has treated them and, more importantly, according to the grace of the gospel founded in God’s own identity. In this way, the Corinthians would “reaffirm [their] love” for the offender; they would reaffirm the love of God in the community.

Forgiveness is the atmosphere in which the community of Christ lives. The Corinthians forgive and Paul forgives. This forgiveness is God-driven, rooted in Christ, and other-centered. As Paul writes, he forgives “for your sake in the presence of Christ.”

Paul forgives for the sake of the Corinthians; it is for their benefit. He does this, literally, “in the face of Christ;” forgiveness happens with Christ as a witness or before Christ’s presence. Given what God has done in Christ (which is the ministry of reconciliation, 2 Corinthians 5:18-19), we forgive others because of Christ and with Christ watching. Living in the presence of Jesus forms us into a forgiving people.

Paul wrote in a confrontational manner to “test” their obedience to the apostolic witness. While the “offender” protested–in some sense–Paul’s ministry, the letter asked the Corinthians to distance themselves from him. The Corinthians did obey and passed the test. But now another test lies before them.

If the Corinthians are to embody the gospel and practice the ministry of reconciliation, they must forgive and console the offender. Forgiveness is also a matter of obedience to the gospel, an expression of the ministry of reconciliation. It is conformity to the gospel of grace in Jesus the Messiah. Paul wrote the severe letter, in part, to test their obedience to the gospel. This reflects both the seriousness of the problem in Corinth (whatever the offense was) and the importance of forgiveness within the community of Jesus for past offenders.

Whether the Corinthians forgive or not is, in fact, part of the conflict between God and Satan. Conflict, particularly between Paul and his opponents, appears over and over again within 2 Corinthians, and Paul frames this as a conflict between God and Satan. The identification of Satan as the protagonist who lies behind this conflict pervades 2 Corinthians. Paul names him (2:11; 11:14; 12:7), calls him “the god of this age” (4:4), “Beliar” (6:15), and “the serpent” (11:3). Satan is the premier opponent of the gospel, deceives people, and rules this present evil age. Satan has “designs” and intends to undermine the ministry of reconciliation in whatever way possible.

When the community of Jesus fails to forgive penitent offenders, it gives space for the wiles of the Devil and, in fact, has been “outwitted by Satan.” Or, to put it another way, when the community of Jesus forgives penitent offenders, it subverts the reign of Satan and we watch Satan fall like lightning. Forgiveness is Christ’s victory over the designs of Satan.

At the same time, we must remember that reconciliation between believers is impossible when one of them persistently continues in their sinful practices. For example, predators and abusers in the community of faith should be “punished” (like this offender), and there is no reconciliation without confession, godly sorrow, and living amends (the fruit of repentance). Authentic repentance entails submission to the guidelines and healthy practices the community of faith puts in place in order to protect the flock as well as to welcome the penitent offender.

Paul’s language gives no sanction to forgiven offenders who protest communal practices that ensure the safety of the community due to their history, and neither does it demand reconciliation for those who are impenitent, arrogant, and resistant to healthy practices and guidelines that are committed to the ethics and goals of the ministry of reconciliation. Forgiven offenders seek peace rather than self-justification. They do not demand their own rights.

The forgiveness Paul describes here is a function of the ministry of reconciliation; it is about reconciliation. It forgives, consoles, and reaffirms love. It includes others in such a way that a wronged and grieved community is healed. Grief dissipates and joy is restored. In this particular text, Paul does not envision forgiveness without reconciliation.

At the same time, Paul does not seek revenge, harbor bitterness or malicious intent, or desire to harm offenders. But reconciliation between the abused and the abuser is impossible without repentance.

The ministry of reconciliation invites penitent offenders into a community of grace and forgiveness, and it does not “spare” those who arrogantly and persistently continue their offenses or insist on setting their own guidelines.

2 Corinthians 1:23-2:4 – Why Did Paul Change His Plans?

October 2, 2021

Some Corinthians thought Paul was fickle and unreliable because he changed his plans and did not show up in ways they expected or Paul had intimated. Paul responded that his decisions—his plan changes—were  rooted in God’s faithful grace rather than human wisdom.

There was more, however, to the situation than simply the rearrangement of Paul’s intended visits to Corinth. It is also involved the nature of Paul’s presence. In person he appeared weak and uninspiring, but his letters were bold and audacious. To Paul’s critics, it was obvious why he wrote letters in the place of visiting the congregation: Paul’s presence is ineffective.

Consequently, Paul needed to explain why he wrote a letter rather than visiting. In general, Paul made decisions according to the grace of God (1:11-1:22). In other words, his faithfulness to the grace of God moved him to write a letter rather than visit. More specifically, it was for the Corinthian’s own good that Paul wrote a letter rather than visiting. Paul acted in the best interest of the Corinthians, that is, writing a letter rather than visiting was the best way for Paul to pursue a ministry of reconciliation toward the Corinthians in faithfulness to God’s grace.

It Was to Spare You

God is central to Paul’s own identity as well as his relationship with the Corinthians. God’s own identity is the centrifugal reality that shapes their life together. Paul has already articulated this in several ways in this first chapter of 2 Corinthians.

  • God is merciful and consoling (1:3)
  • God raises the dead (1:9)
  • God is faithful (1:18)
  • God establishes believers (1:21)

Here, in 1:23, Paul appeals to God as a witness as to his motive for substituting a letter for a visit. Paul has already appealed to his conscience and integrity (1:12) but now appeals to God’s own integrity. He swears an oath upon his own life (literally, “soul”) in the presence of God, and such appeals occur elsewhere in 2 Corinthians (11:31; 12:19). Paul wants the Corinthians to know his decisions were made with a deep sense of his own integrity and before the presence of God.

The motive for writing instead of visiting? To “spare” the Corinthians.

As Paul explained later in the letter, he had warned them during his second visit that he would not “spare” the impenitent when he visited for a third time (13:2). While some had suggested that Paul was too weak and ineffective to act boldly toward his opponents and the impenitent, Paul had assured them that he would do so in accordance with the gospel. Exactly what that entailed is not necessarily clear at this point though future parts of the letter may help us understand what kind of action Paul had in mind. Neither is it entirely clear whether the problems are theological (doctrinal), moral, or both. At this point, Paul depends on their shared knowledge and experience, and he has no need to explain the details to the Corinthians. That leaves us—2000 years later—a bit in the dark.

At the same time, his intent to “spare” them expresses his desire to give space for their faith rather than lord it over or “control” (NRSV) their faith. The word kurieuomen (“we control” or “lord over”) is the verb form of kurios (Lord). Only Jesus is Lord and lords over the faith of others. Believers—brothers and sisters in the body—do not exercise lordship over each other, including Paul.

On the contrary, Paul, Timothy, and Silas (1:19), and perhaps Titus as well, are “co-workers” with the Corinthians. They, the apostolic team and the Corinthian believers, are co-participants in the mission of God, and the apostolic team wants to work with the Corinthians for their joy.

Joy is a rich, robust word. It is not a simple synonym for happiness, though there is semantic overlap. Joy expresses a deep sense of relationality, communion, and experience of God’s own life. The apostolic team wants to cultivate joy in the Corinthian community rather than hardship, grief, and conflict. It is something Paul wants to enjoy with the Corinthians so that his joy is also their joy and vice versa. This is part of the reality that the ministry of reconciliation produces—joy. In essence, Paul spares them a visit in this moment in order to serve the goal of the ministry of reconciliation between himself and the Corinthians. He wants to experience joy among them once again.

Paul does not seek to control their faith but work with them because the Corinthians, too, like Paul, “stand by faith” (NRSV). Actually the phrase may mean “stand in the faith” as well as “stand by faith.” Perhaps Paul is intentionally ambiguous, and either way the point is that “faith”—allegiance to the gospel of Jesus the Messiah as the revelation of God’s own faithfulness—is the realm or means by which the Corinthians remain in the presence of God and co-workers with Paul in the kingdom of God.

It Was To Avoid Further Grief

Joy is the end-game for Paul—shared ministry in the gospel of reconciliation. Paul seeks reconciliation with the Corinthians. Consequently, he wants to avoid disruptions to that process, including another conflict-ridden visit like his previous (second) one. That was a painful or grief-filled visit.

Paul is not specific about what caused the pain or why he experienced it as such. Whatever that cause (and more is revealed later in the letter), it is the opposite of Paul’s intent. Paul seeks their mutual joy rather than grief. When the Corinthians are grieved, Paul, too, is grieved. There is no joy in their relationship or in the gospel. In other words, another visit—at least in the immediate aftermath of the second one—had the potential of generating more grief than healing, and that did not serve the interests of Paul’s reconciling ministry.

Confrontation is sometimes necessary, but we also want to pursue the best possible means of securing reconciliation. Paul chose a letter rather than a visit, though another visit was in the immediate future.

In order to promote reconciliation and embody the gospel in their relationship, Paul shifts from making another visit to writing a letter. His letter is bold in its language and severe in its confrontation. But it arose out of the anguish and distress of his heart accompanied by “many tears.”

This conscientious appeal to God, his own conscience, and to the Corinthians for reconciliation—for joy—between himself and the Corinthians expresses Paul’s heart, which contains his “abundant love” for the Corinthians. While the letter may have produced grief and hurt among the Corinthians, Paul does not write it to generate pain but to secure mutual joy in the gospel.

Paul’s commitment to the gospel of reconciliation is at stake in his relationship with the Corinthians. He ministers in the gospel for the sake of the world, including the Corinthians. His heart is breaking; his life has lost some of its joy. Consequently, he confronts the Corinthians not only because of his love for them as his children (he is the “father” of their congregation, 1 Corinthians 4:14-15), but because it is part of the ministry of reconciliation in which he and his apostolic team are engaged.

The Corinthians have become a sort of test case for the ministry of reconciliation itself. Can the gospel truly effect reconciliation? Can it last?

Paul’s heart is heavy with anguish and grief about the potential answer to that question between himself and the Corinthians.  He loves them, wants what is best for them, and seeks to know joy with them again. But at this moment—the moment between the painful letter and Paul’s reunion with Titus (2 Corinthians 7:5-12)—Paul is anxious about their response to his most recent letter (which is 2 Corinthians).

How will the Corinthians respond? That remains the open question at this point in 2 Corinthians.

Searching for the Pattern 3: Reading the Bible Jesus and in the Light of Jesus

September 28, 2021

Searching for the Pattern 2: Contrasting the Use of Scripture

September 28, 2021

Searching for the Pattern 1: Command, Example, and Necessary Inference

September 28, 2021

2 Corinthians 1:12-22 — Operating by Grace Rather Than Worldly Wisdom

September 26, 2021

Paul makes ministry decisions according to the grace of God grounded in the faithfulness of God rather than according to fleshly or human wisdom rooted in self-interest and egoism. His goal is not to attain celebrity status within Greco-Roman culture but to embody God’s faithfulness for the sake of others.

Given Paul’s relationship with the Corinthians, we might imagine the misgivings some had.

  • He appears fickle and unreliable in his plans; he does not do what he says he is going to do. It seems that with every encounter with Paul, he has a different travel schedule and fails to follow through on previous plans.
  • Paul’s history of suffering—from shipwrecks to beatings to imprisonments—is not the sort of credential that assures hearers that his message is true. Within a Greco-Roman context, suffering is not a strength but a weakness.
  • He is unimpressive in speaker with little rhetorical skill, and his presence is far from charismatic and striking. He sounds impressive from his letters, but in person he is weak and toothless.
  • He refused remuneration from Corinthian patrons, which made no sense in a Greco-Roman patronage system that respected teachers or philosophers typically followed.

The Corinthians, egged on by the “super-apostles” and Paul’s opponents in the community, have good cultural reasons to doubt Paul’s integrity and credentials, and this leads to doubting his message.

Paul does not fit the Greco-Roman cultural image of a respected and renowned teacher. But his response is: “No, I don’t, but I do represent the faithfulness of God who has established me with you!” That contrast is the subtle but foundational point of this opening to the body of the letter.

Paul’s Integrity (1:12-14).

Paul’s integrity, including the authenticity of his ministry, is the theme of the letter. This is Paul’s “boast” (or confidence).

This boast, however, is other-centered. He asserts his purity of motive—a singleness of purpose and a godly sincerity—in in order to say that he has conducted himself in this way for the sake of the Corinthians. His plans, and whatever changes that were made, did not serve his own interests but were directed primarily and abundantly toward the good of the Corinthians.

As such, his decisions are made according to the grace of God rather than by fleshly or worldly wisdom. His decisions are not driven by some selfish motive or desire to elevate himself. Rather, they are driven by his experience of and commitment to the grace of God. Paul has no ulterior motives except to promote the grace of God in the lives of the Corinthians so that the Corinthians and Paul might “boast” in each other on the day when the Messiah appears again. Paul maintains his integrity and makes decisions according to the grace of God so that even now but also eschatologically the Corinthians would be Paul’s “boast” and Paul would be their “boast.” This boasting, we should recognize, is rooted in God’s grace rather than human pride.

Since this “boast” is Paul’s hope and goal, he wants the Corinthians to understand the nature of his ministry. They may understand in part, but they do not yet fully appreciate what this means for Paul. As the letter will reveal, the Corinthians don’t understand how suffering is an integral part of the ministry of reconciliation. Some, if not many, see it as a sign of weakness, but Paul understands it as an occasion for boasting.

Paul boasts in his weaknesses and suffering because the grace of God is his strength and the gospel includes the suffering of the Messiah himself. When the Corinthians see suffering as weakness, then they do not understand the gospel. If they don’t understand the gospel, then they cannot fully understand Paul’s approach to the ministry of reconciliation. This is why Paul will spend the major portion of this letter unpacking that ministry (2 Corinthians 2:14-7:4).

Changing Travel Plans (1:15-18)

Nevertheless, the constant change in Paul’s travel plans created doubt (perhaps suspicion) among the Corinthians. Why can’t Paul keep his word?

In 1 Corinthians 16:5-11, Paul expected to visit Corinth after passing through Macedonia, then returning to Macedonian before once again visiting Corinth (“a double favor,” Paul calls it in 2 Corinthians 1:15). At that time, he was uncertain where or what he would do when he left Corinth.

In contrast to that expectation, Paul made an emergency visit to Corinth from Ephesus. This second visit was a “painful” one (2 Corinthians 2:1). Instead of going to Macedonia and then returning to Corinth, he sailed back to Ephesus but with an apparent promise to return to Corinth. Instead of returning, he sent a “severe letter” with Titus (2 Corinthians 2:4) and waited to hear from Titus. Thus, it was charged, Paul is more bold with his letters than with his presence!

Instead of coming to Corinth and then heading to Macedonia, Paul ultimately meets Titus in Macedonia. Paul, it seems, says or promises one thing, and then does something else.

Paul’s Plan in 1 CorinthiansPaul’s Plan after the 2nd VisitWhat Paul Actually Did
Located in EphesusLocated in EphesusLocated in Ephesus
  Went to Corinth
  Returned to Corinth
  Wrote the Severe Letter
 Go to CorinthSent Titus to Corinth
Go to MacedoniaFrom Corinth to MacedoniaWent to Macedonia
From Macedonia to CorinthFrom Macedonia to CorinthPlans to come to Corinth
From Corinth to ???From Corinth to JudeaPlans to go to Judea

It is rather easy to see how Paul is charged with saying “Yes and No” as if he were talking out of both sides of his mouth. Some may hear him saying what he needs to say to protect himself, advance his interests, and promote his status. He changes like the wind out of his own self interests. He does not want to deal with the Corinthians personally or perhaps particularly his opponents (including the “super-apostles”). He stays away and writes letters.

Paul admits he changed his plans. His intent when he wrote 1 Corinthians 16 was sincere but things changed on the ground. And he provides an explanation in the next section of the letter (2 Corinthians 1:23-2:4). But he is more concerned about the charge of insincerity and unreliability. Consequently, he addresses this first.

This is the crux: did Paul change his plans for his own sake or for the sake of the Corinthians? To what was Paul ultimately faithful? Was he faithful to his commitment to the gospel for the sake of the Corinthians or to his own self-promotion and ego?

Paul did change his mind, but his adjustment is not a matter of fleshly wisdom but is faithfulness to his love for Corinth, for their best interest.  Paul’s commitment to Corinth is his “Yes.” Paul’s integrity means he will change his travel plans if it is better for the Corinthians to do so. Paul is not living in a “Yes and No” mindset but is living out the gospel-shaped character that loves the Corinthians so that he might be their boast and they his on the day of the Lord Jesus.

The Faithfulness of God—why Paul is faithful (1:19-22)

Paul is faithful because God is faithful. 

The message Silas, Timothy, and Paul heralded (proclaimed) among the Corinthians was the faithfulness of God in the gift of the Son of God, Jesus the Messiah. In Jesus, God said “yes” to the divine intent to redeem the world from its sin and rescue it from the powers of evil in the world. Every promise of God is “Yes” in Jesus the Messiah. And the response of believers, in their hearts and in their assemblies, is “Amen!”

Paul’s message, then, was never “Yes and No,” but “Yes.” His commitment to the gospel means that Paul seeks to announce a “Yes” among the Corinthians, the “Yes” of the message of God in Christ.

Consequently, whenever Paul changes his travel plans, it is not about his comfort. He suffers for the sake of the ministry of reconciliation, for the sake of the gospel. Rather, it is guided by the grace of God. This is a godly wisdom that seeks the best interest of the other toward the goal of a mutual boast on the day of the Lord Jesus.

Paul changed his plans because of his faithfulness to the ministry of reconciliation, which expressed the faithfulness of God whose “Yes” appears in Jesus Christ. Paul was faithful to his commitment to the gospel when he changed his plans because he changed them so that the Corinthians might hear the gospel more effectively. He changed his plans for their sake.

What lies behind these decisions—made according to the grace of God rather than by fleshly wisdom—is the ongoing work of God in the lives of Paul and the Corinthians. God, Paul wrote, “establishes us with you in Christ.” 

This language is foundational and pregnant with meaning. God is the actor; God establishes, confirms, or provides a foundation upon which to stand. Jesus the Messiah is the reality in which this happens; we are established in or by our union with Christ. Paul and the Corinthians experience this as a shared reality; Paul is established “with you”—it is mutual. God, in Christ, establishes a community (Paul and the Corinthians), and God continues to do this. The verb is present tense.

This process of establishing—the continual activity of God—to form us into a community in Christ is grounded in God’s past (and present as well) pneumatological (Spirit) act:

  • God anointed us
  • God sealed us
  • God gave us the Spirit in our hearts as a first installment

God anointed us with the Spirit, just as God anointed Jesus with the Spirit. This is more than delighting in the anointed one. It is also a commission. The anointed are invested with a mission. Christians (those who belong to the Christ) are also anointed as the Christ was, and we are commissioned to follow Jesus into his ministry and participate in the mission he was given by God as God’s Anointed.

God sealed us with the Spirit, just as God sealed Jesus with the affirmation: “you are my son, whom I love; I am delighted with you.” God seals those who belong to him. Our identity is found in God’s community rather than the world. We act out of the grace of God rather than making decisions according to fleshly wisdom.

God gave the Spirit to us by pouring the Spirit into our hearts by whom we cry “Abba, Father.” God communes with us through the Spirit. To give the Spirit to our hearts is to enable an intimacy that exceeds God’s presence or immanence within the creation. This is true because this is an eschatological gift—it comes to us from a future dwelling with God that is face-to-face and full. As yet, we know this through the experience of the Spirit as a first installment or a down payment, but this first payment is a guarantee of what is to come. Our present experience of intimacy with God is the promise of a future intimacy that is beyond our imagination.

Some suggest, with good reason, that perhaps Paul is alluding to a common past experience that all believers have and share with Jesus himself: baptism. When we are baptized into Christ, we are anointed, sealed, and given the Spirit of God. While Paul is not explicit about this and his emphasis lies on the Spirit, the past tense (aorist), language, and relation to Jesus generate a baptismal allusion. This is the shared experience of believers in Christ. We can rightly imagine that the Corinthians would have recalled their baptism with this language. We can recall ours as well.


Paul heralds this message: God has faithfully kept his promises for the redemption of the world through Jesus the Messiah, the Son of God. God has said “Yes” to the groans and cries of the world ravaged by death, sin, and the powers of evil.

Paul’s ministry also says “Yes!” His commitment to the faithfulness of God and the gospel of Jesus the Messiah means he will behave in the world according to the grace of God rather than according to worldly wisdom. While this means Paul will also suffer with Jesus, he will nevertheless seek the best interests of others through the gospel. Consequently, he will change his plans when it serves the interests of the proclamation of the gospel for the sake of others.

Paul is not fickle. He is committed. But his commitment is to the gospel of Jesus, the grace of God, and the work of the Spirit rather than boasting about his credentials. The ministry of reconciliation is his credential, not his own exploits and pride.

Part of Paul’s intent, then, is to deepen the Corinthian understanding of that ministry and the nature of the gospel. If they understand the gospel—including the cross of Jesus, then they will understand Paul’s affliction for the sake of the ministry of reconciliation. When they understand that, it will clarify why Paul boasts in his weaknesses and afflictions rather than in his credentials.

2 Corinthians 1:1-11 – Salutation and Doxology

September 20, 2021

The God who raises the dead addresses desolation with consolation through the suffering and victory of Jesus the Messiah.

Salutation (2 Corinthians 1:1-2)

Like most letters in the ancient Greco-Roman world, 2 Corinthians begins with an identification of the sender and its recipients. In this case, Paul is the sender and the church at Corinth is the recipient.

The interest, however, is wider than simply Paul and Corinth. Timothy, who was Paul’s envoy to Corinth and had recently returned from there, is also a sender, and Achaia, which is the Roman province in which Corinth is located, is also a recipient. A wider community has a stake in the reconciliation of Paul and Corinth. Paul and Timothy address all of God’s holy ones (“saints”) in Achaia.

We, too, are part of this wider community as we read 2 Corinthians. As we overhear this letter, we enter into Paul’s narrative of gospel ministry to understand the dynamics of the ministry of reconciliation and what that means for our lives. Though the letter is not specifically written to us (it was written in Koine Greek, for example), we are nevertheless addressed in the sense that we share a common identity with these early believers: we are children of God of Israel, who is the Father of our Lord Jesus the Messiah.

Like the Corinthians, we also live in, under, and through the grace and peace of God our Father and our Lord Jesus.

Significantly, Paul’s self-description stresses his apostolic standing. He is an apostle of Jesus the Messiah by God’s will. In other words, (1) his ministry did not arise out of his own imagination but by God’s calling, (2) he was sent (apostle) to represent Jesus the Messiah, and, consequently, (3) his ministry is not self-interested or ego-driven. His apostleship (his “sent-ness”) is grounded in and is pursued for the sake of the ministry of reconciliation. Paul identifies his sacred calling in the first line of the letter, and the significance of this calling—apparently questioned or perhaps contested by some—appears again and again throughout the letter.

Doxology (2 Corinthians 1:3-11)

Immediately after the formal opening of the letter (“Dear Saints”), Paul breaks out in praise of God (“Blessed be . . .” in 2 Corinthians 1:3-7), and then specifically locates this praise in a particular and recent circumstance in his own life (2 Corinthians 1:8-11).

Paul praises God for the consolation that God gives amidst moments of desolation.

I am reminded how Ignatius of Loyola counseled that we ought to pay attention to both our desolations (what stresses us, or what sucks the life out of us) and our consolations (what pours joy into our hearts, or what gives us life). It is a way, spiritually speaking, to pay attention to our own heartbeats.

Life is filled with both desolation and consolation, and Paul’s praise is that though we often experience desolation, the God who raises the dead also provides consolation.

Blessed be God (2 Corinthians 1:3-7).

We bless God because the God of Israel is “the Father of mercies and the God of all consolation, who consoles us in all our affliction.”

Typically, Paul follows his salutation with a prayer of thanksgiving, but in this case, he offers a doxology (like in Ephesians 1:3-14). It seems rather strange, however, that Paul’s doxology is focused on desolation and consolation. For example, the Ephesian doxology (Ephesians 1:3-14) focuses on God’s act of redemption and adoption through Jesus in the power of the Spirit. The topic is God’s saving work.

Here, however, the topic is affliction or suffering (used seven times in five verses) and God’s comforting response (used nine times in five verses). But how are desolation and consolation the topic of praise or God’s blessedness?

Perhaps Paul highlights affliction or suffering because this is a major point of contention between Paul and the “super-apostles” he identifies later (2 Corinthians 11:5; 12:11). The latter boast in their victories, but Paul boasts in his sufferings. Those sufferings are not marks of shame for Paul. On the contrary, they are marks of the suffering of Jesus (cf. 2 Corinthians 4:10-11). Moreover, they are enriching experiences that yield opportunities for and empower the ministry of reconciliation.

In this light, the suffering of the Messiah is a pattern for our own suffering. When we suffer, we suffer with the Messiah and participate in his suffering. Our suffering, therefore, is not meaningless or pointless. Rather, through suffering, we participate in the ministry of Jesus, which is the ministry of reconciliation. Moreover, we participate in each other’s suffering as well.

Also, our desolations and the subsequent consolations equip us to minister to others in their desolations because we are enabled to console others with the consolation we have received by the mercy and comfort of God’s work in our lives. This consolation is rooted in the work of Jesus whom God comforted and through whom God promises to comfort us with that same consolation God provided to Jesus.

There is a connection between suffering and comfort. Just as Jesus suffered for our sake, so his consolation is for our sake as well. In a similar way, Paul’s suffering for the sake of the ministry of reconciliation is for the sake of the Corinthians, and his consolation is for their sake as well. Just as Jesus and Paul have the hope of consolation in their suffering, so the Corinthians have that same hope when they suffer for the sake of the ministry of the gospel.

God consoled Jesus in his suffering, and that is also the promise that God will comfort us in our suffering. When we suffer, we share (commune with) both the suffering of Jesus and the suffering of fellow believers, and this means we will also share in the consolation of Jesus and the comfort of other believers. God pours comfort into the hearts of the afflicted so that the afflicted might pour that comfort into the hearts of others who are afflicted.

Suffering empowers us because God comforts us. And this is why we say,  “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus, the Father of mercies and the God of all consolation, who consoles us in all our affliction.”

The Corinthians Need to Know (2 Corinthians 8-11).

While Paul offers a broad doxology concerning suffering and comfort, he apparently has a recent experience in mind. He wants the Corinthians to more fully understand his experience as they seem to have already been aware of it. They prayed for Paul; so, they must have known something about his circumstances.

Unfortunately, we don’t know much about it other than what is written here. We can glean that Paul was uncertain whether he would live through the experience or not. Perhaps it was an illness. Perhaps he was imprisoned and in danger of a death sentence while in Ephesus (the capital of the province of “Asia”). We do know that, at times, Paul encountered severe hostility in Ephesus (see Acts 19).

Whatever the specifics, it was a dire instance of “affliction” due to his commitment to the ministry of reconciliation. The depth of his despair included a sense that he might not live through it or perhaps that his ministry would come to an end, though Paul never despaired of the significance and importance of his ministry. Though sometimes perplexed in the midst of his ministry, he never despaired over the task and its meaning (2 Corinthians 4:8).

What is particularly important about Paul’s statement is not so much the reason for his despair and alarm, but the reason for his consolation. What is the source of consolation when we are filled with dread and under the sentence of death (whether external or internal)?

The doxology actually answers that question, and it is important to see the connection between the two sections (vv. 3-7 and vv. 8-11). We bless God, the Father of our Lord Jesus the Messiah, who raised Jesus from the dead. We bless the God who raises the dead.

We trust in the rescue of God from trouble, or the redemption our bodies from death, because we believe in the God who raises the dead.

This is Paul’s identifying marker for God. His joy, confidence, and hope rests in this God, the God who raises the dead. This theological affirmation—the God who raises the dead—undergirds Paul’s apostolic ministry. The ministry of reconciliation does not make sense without it; it is the ground of salvation and hope.

God is the God of all mercies and comfort because God raises the dead. Specifically, the God of all comfort is the God, the Father of our Lord Jesus the Messiah, who raised Jesus from the dead. Further, just as we participate in the abundance of the sufferings of Jesus, so also we will participate in the abundance of his consolation. This means that, though we, too, will die, the God of all comfort will raise us from the dead just as God raised Jesus from the dead.

But this rescue is not only about resurrection from the dead. While that is the ultimate rescue, there are smaller graces of comfort in our lives in the midst of suffering.

Paul’s affliction did not end in death; he was recused from it. Paul attributes this rescue to the prayers of the Corinthians. Through their prayers, many give thanks to God for the comfort God poured out on Paul through a divine rescue from his affliction in Ephesus.

Corinthian prayers—their participation in the ministry of reconciliation—resulted in thanksgiving to God by others. God rescued Paul through their prayers by which thanksgiving rose to God from other believers. Prayer, apparently, was a powerful instrument that contributed to Paul’s rescue.

Somehow God and the Corinthian prayers cooperated in Paul’s rescue. God works with our prayers and through our prayers for the sake of God’s people and God’s mission. Prayer is no addendum to the Christian life but a powerful means by which God works for the sake of the people of God.


Paul is an apostle of Jesus the Messiah, which means he follows Jesus into his ministry. Suffering is no surprise because the Messiah suffered, and we participate in that suffering with him. Suffering is a mark of authentic ministry.

In this context, we bless the Father of our Lord Jesus the Messiah who is the God of all mercies and comfort. Though we suffer, God is at work in our suffering to console us, empower us, and make-meaning in our lives through our participation in the life, suffering, and resurrection of Jesus.

Every particular moment of affliction shares in the suffering of the Messiah, and every suffering carries with it the hope of God’s rescue because the God we confess is the God who raises the dead!

The God who raises the dead is the God of all mercy and comfort in conformity to the life, suffering, and resurrection of Jesus the Messiah.

Outline of 2 Corinthians

September 9, 2021

This outline follows and adapts the work of Frank J. Matera, II Corinthians: A Commentary, New Testament Library (Louisville: WJK, 2003).

Opening: Salutation and Doxology (1:1-11).

Part 1 – The Crisis Over Paul’s Apostolic Integrity (1:12-7:16).

  1. Paul Narrates Recent Events (1:12-2:13).
    1. The Letter’s Theme (1:12-14).
    2. Paul’s Reliability (1:15-22).
    3. A Change of Plans and a Harsh Letter (1:23-2:4).
    4. Forgiving the Offender (2:5-11).
    5. Paul’s Anxiety at Troas (2:12-13).
  2. The Integrity of Paul’s Apostolic Ministry (2:14-7:14).
    1. The Ministry of the New Covenant (2:14-4:6).
      1. Qualified by God (2:14-3:6).
      2. The Ministries of Moses and Paul (3:7-18).
      3. Paul’s Apostolic Integrity (4:1-6).
    2. Ministry and Apostolic Suffering (4:7-5:10).
      1. Life and Death in Apostolic Ministry (4:7-15).
      2. Present Transformation (4:16-18).
      3. Final Transformation (5:1-10).
    3. A Ministry of Reconciliation (5:11-6:10).
      1. Ambassadors for Christ (5:11-21).
      2. Appeal and Defense (6:1-10).
    4. Paul’s Appeal for Reconciliation (6:11-7:4).
  3. Paul Narrates Recent Events Resumed (7:5-16).

Part 2 – An Appeal to Complete the Collection (8:1-9:15).

  1. The Grace Given to the Churches of Macedonia (8:1-6).
  2. An Appeal to Complete the Collection (8:7-15).
  3. Recommendation for Titus and Two Brothers (8:16-24).
  4. Paul’s Purpose in Sending the Delegation (9:1-5).
  5. The Relationship Between Sowing and Reaping (9:6-9).
  6. Theological Significance of the Collection (9:10-15).

Part 3 – Defense and Warnings in Preparation for Paul’s Third Visit (10:1-13:10).

  1. Paul’s Integrity and Missionary Assignment (10:1-18).
    1. Bold Whether Absent or Present (10:1-11).
    2. Paul’s Assignment (10:12-18).
  2. Boasting Foolishly (11:1-12:13).
    1. An Appeal to Bear with Paul (11:1-4).
    2. Not Inferior to the Super-Apostles (11:5-15).
    3. A Renewed Appeal to Bear with Paul (11:16-21a).
    4. Daring to Boast as a Fool (11:21b-29).
    5. Boasting in Weakness (11:30-33).
    6. Boasting in Visions and Revelations (12:1-10).
    7. Peroration (12:11-13).
  3. Preparations for Paul’s Third and Final Visit (12:14-13:10).
    1. Announcement of the Visit (12:14-21).
    2. The Need to Prepare for Paul’s Visit (13:1-10).

Closing: Exhortation, Greetings, and Blessing (13:11-13).