What was Paul’s relationship to the Corinthian Church?
Paul’s relationship to the Corinthian church reaches far and wide and extends over a long period of time. This relationship ranges from rejoicing to sorrowful and from anxiousness to calmness. Paul’s love, concern, and affection for the Corinthians can be seen in both of his epistles to them.
First, Paul evangelizes in Corinth while he is on his second missionary journey. While Paul was here, he made tents with Priscilla and Aquila. He preached in the synagogues. It is probably here that he wrote First and Second Thessalonians. Additionally, it is there in Corinth that Paul received a dismissal of charges against him from the Roman Proconsul. Paul ministered there on this occasion for about a year and a half.
Sometime after this visit, Paul wrote what is known as “the lost early letter”. This early letter is assumed from I Corinthians 5:9 where Paul says, “I wrote you in my letter not to associate with immoral people”. Evidently the Corinthians misunderstood the intent of this lost early letter. They thought they were to disassociate with all immoral people. Paul explained to them that he was only referring to professing Christians who lived in persistent and continual sin.
Paul wrote First Corinthians while in his third missionary journey. Although named First Corinthians, it was probably the second letter written by Paul to the church in Corinth (the lost early letter would be the first). Paul wrote First Corinthians from Ephesus near the end of his stay there. This letter to the Corinthians was written to address a wide variety of problems in the church in Corinth.
Paul probably made a quick, “painful” side visit from Ephesus to Corinth after having written First Corinthians and discovering that this letter may not have been as effective as he desired. This visit indicated that his relationship with the Corinthians may have been strained at the time. It is theorized that Paul failed to accomplish his purpose for the quick, “painful” visit to Ephesus, which was to straighten out problems in the church.
Paul sent another lost letter to the Corinthians. This letter is called the “sorrowful letter”. This letter was written after Paul returned to Ephesus from his quick, “painful” visit to Corinth. It is fascinating to note that Second Corinthians 2:4 Paul regretted having to write this “sorrowful letter”. According to Second Corinthians 7:8, he even regretted having sent the letter. In this letter, he commands the church to discipline a man who was leading opposition against him. However, Paul does require the church to forgive and comfort even this man. He also urged them to confirm their love for him, even though he opposes Paul and has caused controversy in the church.
Titus carried this letter to Corinth after Paul wrote it. Paul left Ephesus and waited in Troas for Titus to arrive with a response to the “sorrowful letter” from the Corinthians. When Titus didn’t show up in Troas, Paul went on to Macedonia. Titus met him there. Upon Titus’ arrival, he delivered good news to Paul. The good news was that the church had disciplined Paul’s opponent and most of the Corinthians had submitted to and recognized Paul’s authority.
Paul’s sorrow quickly turns to joy upon such a favorable message from Titus. This favorable report, along with the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, compels Paul to write Second Corinthians. This epistle was written from Macedonia to not only express his relief and joy about the favorable response from Titus, but also to stress that he was taking up a collection for the Christians in Jerusalem. He also used the opportunity of Second Corinthians to defend and affirm his authority as an apostle of Jesus Christ.
Paul’s relationship to the Corinthian church was just as solid in the times of sorrow as it was in times of joy and peace. God used Paul to help disciple the church there through the good times and the bad times in the same way that Christ is there for His disciples during the bad times and good times. Though the relationship between Paul and the Corinthian church may have been strained from time to time, it was never broken – He always had a great love for this church, and he always held them near and dear to his heart!!
Likewise, due to our own fault or neglect, our relationship with Jesus might be strained from time to time; however, it is never broken.