June 10th: “Seeing Tomorrow from Today”

Although our outward appearances are flimsy, we rejoice in our assurance of restoration through Christ, to perfect communion with God.

This Week’s Passage: 2 Corinthians 4:13 – 5:1

I. Establish the text

D. Brainstorm: What questions/thoughts come to mind?

4:13 What is Paul quoting? [Psalm 115:1 LXX] How does the context of this quote affect its meaning?

14 Is Paul merely speaking eschatologically, or does resurrection to newness of life have implications in this life as well?

15 If we are raised to new life and gathered into God’s presence in this life, we will demonstrate it in how we live each day, drawing others to also experience God’s mercy and grace.

16-18 Consider the testimonies of those who are most feeble. Strengthening of their spirits and souls out shines their illnesses and infirmities.

5:1 What if we lived each day, acknowledging our flimsy physical existence and confident of an eternal abode in heaven? How do we exhibit the reverse: placing confidence in physical health and deriding as ephemeral life in heaven?

E. Reconsider where the text begins and ends: What got chopped out?

  • Paul’s body-tent illustration echoes a clay jar illustration that began at 4:7 and continues through 5:10.
  • Exhibiting newness of life is a major theme that ties the whole letter together.

F. Are there any significant variants in the manuscripts? Why?

14 A few newer manuscripts replace /sun Iasou/ [with Jesus] with /dia Iasou/ [through Jesus] potentially spiritualizing Jesus risen presence.

II. Literary Study.

A. What is the history of the text? Who wrote it? When? In what social context? What Historical/Religious/Sociological factors influenced its writing?

  • The epistle was written by Paul to the congregation at Corinth. At least chapters 1-7 were written in response to a report from Titus of their response to an earlier severe letter, possibly 2 Corinthians 10-13. Chapters 8-9 might be part of another letter (or letters) on stewardship. Verse 6:14 – 7:1 appear to be an inclusion from an earlier letter.
  • This passage occurs in the middle of a larger section in which Paul asserted his authority and credibility to minister.

B. What parallel passages exist? How do they differ? How does this author’s intent differ from other authors? Is the text used elsewhere?

  • Psalm 116:10 “I was faithful to you when I was suffering,”

C. Review syntax/meanings of critical words, phrases, idioms

/Egeirw/ – to excite, to arouse, to awaken, to restore to health, and to raise (from the dead). Resurrection would further diminish other meanings, and hence implications for being aroused in this life for the sake of the gospel. In verse 14, Paul used the aorist, rather than simple past or past perfect, emphasizing the continuing implications of Jesus’ resurrection.

17 – REB, TEV, CEV and NIV interpret God’s glory as outweighing present troubles. NAB and NJB interpret our present troubles as earning an eternal weight of glory. RSV and NRSV translate present afflictions as preparing for the eternal weight of glory.

D. What is the literary style of the text? And how does it affect the reading? What does a poetic form do to the meaning? Lament/Praise/Petition? Any subtle variations in the repetitions? What is emphasized/minimized by the repetition?

Lawyerly Rhetoric! Several commentaries consider this passage the center or kernel of chapters 1 – 7 which exhibit a chiastic structure.

III. Question the text.

C. What is the center of gravity of the text? Where was the author heading? What question did the author intend to answer? What is the emotional center of the text? What music would it call for?

  • Center of Gravity: Do not be consumed with the afflictions of this life, but look for permanence in what cannot be seen yet is permanent.
  • Emotional Center: Everything is for your sakes.
  • Music: “My Hope Is Built on Nothing Less”

D. Look for conflict: stated or implied.

  • We are to rely on that which cannot be seen and touched, for the physical is transitory. But heaven, which cannot be verified by physical means, is eternal.

F. How will this text be heard by individuals in the congregation, including the preacher?

  • Death can easily be perceived as the cure for the afflictions of this life, thus newness would happen in the life to come. But the verbs Paul selected have present implications.

IV. What do the commentaries have to say about the text?

Floyd V. Filson (The Interpreter’s Bible, Exegesis of 2 Corinthians 4:13-16. Abingdon, Nashville, 1953.) discerns four factors that upheld and sustained Paul in his ministry: belief in one Spirit (v. 13); that God will raise him up (v. 14); concern for the people (v. 15); and that grace may increase (v. 15). He also interprets Paul’s understanding of the inward and outward person dualistically (body and spirit) (v. 16).

Ernest Best (Interpretation: Second Corinthians. John Knox Press, Louisville, 1987.) argues that Paul is not speaking dualistically, but that the outer nature is the way people live among others and the inner nature is new life in Christ. Thus Paul is not looking forward to being with Christ after his death, but looking forward to Christ coming in his own lifetime.

William Baird (Knox Preaching Guides: 1 Corinthians / 2 Corinthians. John Knox Press, Atlanta, 1980.) dispenses with attempting to discern if Paul was speaking of rising eschatologically or in this life and recommends focusing on assurance that God will take care of us both now and in the eschaton, for people of faith do not need secure and visible rules for guides, but can hope for the unseen.

V. With respect to the hearers (including the preacher), What does this text want to say and do?

Those times when my sermons were best received,
when parishioners came up and said: “I felt you were preaching directly to me,”
were those times when I was preaching to myself. — Rabbi Chet Diamond

A. What is the theological meaning of the verses?

Paul directed the reader’s attention away from the trials and tribulations of earthly existence to the building of the spirit through these trials.

B. Focus Statement: Central, controlling, unifying theme.

Although our outward appearances are flimsy, we rejoice in our assurance of restoration through Christ, to perfect communion with God.

C. Function Statement: What change in the hearer?

Shift in focus from flimsy physical structures to firm heavenly structures.

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