If even one Christian doesn’t make it to the finish line – the day of the Lord Jesus – we all lose. For Paul, it’s complimentary: we boast in you, you boast in us. When someone stumbles, we go back and pick them up.
Like the Marines, “no man left behind” should be our motto.
But believe it or not, the Corinthians were ready to leave Paul behind. ‘Forget about him! Let’s go on without him!’ They would have gone on without him, all the way to heaven if necessary. They believed the absolute worst about him.
Why would they believe that? Because as 2 Corinthians chapter one explains, Paul had changed his travel plans. Of all things!
Here’s the circumstances. In the letter we call First Corinthians Paul had mentioned his soon coming to the church to collect their offering for the poor saints in Judea: “I will come to you after I go through Macedonia, for I am going through Macedonia; and perhaps I will stay with you, or even spend the winter” (1 Cor. 16:6). It was a pay back, of sorts. You Corinthians have benefited so much by them spiritually, you should let them benefit from you, materially.
The problem is that since writing those things in First Corinthians, circumstances have changed. And so too did his plans accordingly. The best laid plans of kings and men, my friends.
Now the Christians in Corinth think Paul is wishy-washy, insincere and vacillating: “do I purpose according to the flesh, so that with me there will be yes, yes and no, no at the same time?” (2 Cor. 1:17). They think he’s inconsistent, that he teaches them one thing but he himself does another.
Paul gives them a clear ‘no’ and says that what he does, he does in the sight of Christ:
“our proud confidence is this: the testimony of our conscience,
that in holiness and godly sincerity, not in fleshly wisdom
but in the grace of God, we have conducted
ourselves in the world, and
especially toward you”
“we are not like many [among you now] peddling the
word of God, but as from sincerity, but as
from God, we speak in Christ in
the sight of God.”
So how did changed travel plans get to be a cause for accusation? There were people in the leadership trying to undermine everybody’s confidence in Paul because they loved authority and having people underneath them, looking up to them, and treating them special.
Paul and his humble integrity got in their way. Still, with him gone, they were succeeding, for some of the very people Paul had led to Christ were saying of him, “He talks out of both sides of his mouth. What you hear one day is not the same as you’ll hear the next day. He prevaricates, he plays people!”
Those are the folks Paul is especially speaking to chapter 1.
And exhibit #1, as far as these people were concerned, was a promise he broke to come see them. Only it wasn’t a promise, and it wasn’t broken. They had been deceived by their leaders to spin Paul as fearful.
This is a common lot for pastors in churches. Power hungry slanderers work a perception and spin it under the cloak of “love and concern.” Gullible folks are always open for hear such things. It’s fallen human nature.
Once the church turned away from him, Paul went back to Ephesus. Praying, planning, and waiting. Until the time came to execute ecclesiastical judgment.
Which is what the letter we call 2 Corinthians is. Ecclesiastical judgment.