Second Reading: 2 Corinthians 1:18-22

A Question of Character

Popular Translation

18 The same way you can trust God, you can trust what we tell you. It isn't "wishy-washy." 19 Silvanus, Timothy and I preached Jesus Christ, the Son of God, to you. And he wasn't "wishy-washy." You can always find a solid "Yes" in him! 20 Everything God promised us finds its "Yes" in Jesus. So, with Jesus, we can shout "Amen" to God and praise him. 21 Remember, God was the one who put you and us together with Jesus. He told us to preach 22 and made it happen. And he put the Spirit in our hearts to make sure we knew that he will be always with us.

Literal Translation

18 God is trustworthy that our word to you is not "Yes" and "No." 19 For the Son of God, Jesus Christ, having been preached by us to you, by me, Silvanus and Timothy, was not "Yes" and "No," but was (always) "Yes" in him. 20 For as many promises of God (that there are), they are "Yes" in him. And so, (together we say) "Amen" through HIM to God, to (God's) glory. 21 But, (it is) God, securing us with you in Christ, having anointed us, 22 having sealed us, and having given a "security deposit" of the Spirit in our hearts.

1:20 "And so, (together we say) "Amen" through HIM to God, to (God's) glory." Literally, this sentence is: "And so, through HIM (there is) an "Amen" to God, to (his) glory, from us."

1:22 "'security deposit' of the Spirit" The Greek word for "security deposit" was an advance payment for services to be rendered. Paul used a financial analogy to describe the gift of the Spirit as a divine promise of salvation. With the Spirit in our hearts, we can be certain God is leading us to his Kingdom.

St. Paul's second letter to the Corinthians has been a mystery. Chapters 1-9 seem to be distinct from Chapter 10-13. In 2 Corinthians 10-13, Paul heavily criticized the community, as he announced his immanent visit. Yet, Paul tried to reconcile with the community in 1-9 as he avoided a visit to them. Many scholars have a theory of two letters were edited into one.

In the 2 Corinthians 1:18-22, Paul explained that, even with changes in his travel plans, his ministry and character did not vacillate. Both were rooted in preaching the Gospel. Where did the power of the gospel come from? God! Take a close look at 2:21-22. Paul wrote "God" with four participles in which "God" is the understood subject. First, God put Paul and the Corinthians together in Christ. Second, God "anointed" (called) Paul to preach. Third, God "sealed" (fulfilled) Paul's preaching with results among the Corinthians. And, fourth, God gave the Spirit to Paul and the faithful as a sign of eternal life; implicitly, the Spirit confirmed the power of Paul's preaching. None of these activities showed vacillation. Neither did Paul (although Paul did use God and the other evangelists for cover!).

Why did Paul change his travel plans? According to 2:3-4 and 7:8-12, Paul had an unpleasant encounter with someone in the congregation. He neither received an apology from his opponent nor the support of anyone in the community. Hence, he felt isolated (even rejected).

The identity of Paul's opponent remains a mystery. Some have speculated Paul referred to the incestuous man he censured in 1 Corinthians 5:1-5. But, can we connect that man to the one Paul forgave in 2 Corinthians 2:5-11? If we do, we must assume Paul visited the community between the time he wrote First and Second Corinthians to have the public disagreement. This might be too much speculation.

Nevertheless, the point of the verses found in Paul's letter was simple. While he might have been trying to defend himself from the questions others had about his character, he ultimately had only one defense: God. 1:21-22 with its subject and four participles does ring with truth. God chose the weak and the sinner (like Paul) to spread the Good News, to build community, and to enjoy the presence of the Spirit.

Sounds familiar, does it?

Has anyone attacked your character? How did you react? How did you defend yourself? Where did God figure into your defense?