Shortly after the happenings discussed in Lesson Four, Paul entered upon a series of activities which are now frequently referred to under the collective title "The Third Missionary Journey." This third journey forms the subject of the present lesson. In earlier lessons, several important features connected with Paul's first and second journeys were emphasized. But this third journey also has its claim to importance. It resulted in the formation of additional Christian groups, which in turn made for the enlargement of the early Church. During this period also, Paul wrote some outstanding epistles, which now form part of our New Testament. Other important features of the journey will be discussed as the lesson proceeds.
For purposes of study, the major events connected with Paul's third missionary journey may be divided into three sections which, when arranged in chronological order, appear as follows.
Acts 18:22-23; Gal. 1:1-10; 3:1-5
1. THE GALATIAN CONTROVERSY
The disturbed state of affairs indicated by the term "Galatian Controversy" forms the historical background of Paul's Epistle to the Galatians; and if this Epistle is to be properly understood, some knowledge of what was taking place at the time of writing is absolutely necessary. Unfortunately, the New Testament gives little detailed information on the subject. Consequently, many differing accounts of these happenings have been put forward, and even the time and place of Paul's writing have been variously stated. However, this lesson will present what appears the most reasonable explanation of what took place, giving the happenings in the chronological order which best harmonizes with other activities ofPaul.
(1) The disturbing news: When Paul reached Antioch, at the close of his second missionary journey, disturbing news awaited him. It would appear that, during the apostle's long absence, emissaries of the "Judaizing party" had visited the Christian groups in Galatia, denouncing Paul as an impostor, and declaring that all Gentiles—if they desired to become Christians—must submit to the ordinances of Judaism, including circumcision. Some time earlier, this matter had been taken up by the Apostles at the Jerusalem council (as discussed in Lesson Three), and a decision favorable to the Gentiles had been rendered; but during Paul's prolonged absence in Europe this decision had been thrust aside, and many Gentile converts had been intimidated into submission. Thus much of Paul's work among the Gentiles had been nullified, and the converts had surrendered their newly-gained freedom.
(2) The churches affected: The term Galatians, as here used, refers to the Christian groups formed by Paul and Barnabas on their first missionary journey. Thus, the churches concerned in this Galatian controversy would be those of Antioch (in Pisidia), Iconium, Lystra,and Derbe.
(3) Paul's twofold action: Paul first dictated the strongly-worded letter, which we now refer to as the Epistle to the Galatians, and dispatched it to the above-mentioned churches. The apostle's purpose in writing is clearly indicated in the Epistle. First, he sought to vindicate his claim to apostleship—averring that his appointment was not "from men or through man, but through Jesus Christ and God the Father" (Gal. 1:1). Then he plunged into the important business of reconverting those Gentile Christians who had been so basely deceived by the "Judaizers," and winning them back into experiences of Christian freedom. Paul further instructed his converts in the right use of this Christian freedom—their actions being no longer restricted by the limitations of the law, but enlarged through the working of Christian love.
Then, following the writing and dispatching of this Epistle, Paul hurriedly departed from his headquarters at Antioch (in Syria), and revisited the Christian groups in Galatia. During this visit Paul gave the converts further instructions along lines laid down in his Epistle, together with whatever additional guidance was necessary. Evidently Paul's efforts to reestablish his Galatian converts in Christian freedom were successful, for after a short stay with them, he departed from Galatia and journeyed westward as far as Ephesus, where some important work awaited his coming. Paul's activities in Ephesus will be discussed later in this lesson.
(4) Historical significance: It is true that Paul wrote his Epistle to the Galatians in order to vindicate his apostleship, and to win back the misguided Galatian converts. But history clearly shows that the Epistle to the Galatians should also be recognized as a combined "Declaration of Independence" and "Magna Charta" of Christian freedom. For at the time of writing something more than the ceremonial status of a few Galatian converts was at stake. The real points at issue were: Should Christians in general submit to the bondage of the Mosaic law, or should they find their freedom in Jesus Christ? Should the Christian Church continue as a subsidiary of Judaism, or should it now be regarded as a completely independent organization? The apostle took a stand for freedom and independence. Of course, all this controversy was not settled at that time. Nevertheless, Paul's Epistle to the Galatians, and his courageous actions, should be recognized as important milestones along the road which ultimately led to Christian freedom and the separation between Judaism and Christianity.
(5) Metaphysical meaning: The Roman province of Galatia derived its name from the Gauls, who invaded that section of Asia Minor in preChristian times. Thus, the term Galatia meant "the territory occupied by Gaulish immigrants"; and it also tended to emphasize the fact that the inhabitants were of comparatively recent arrival (or to use a modern term, they were "newcomers"). In a somewhat similar way, the Gentile Christians in Galatia should be recognized as recent converts, who were not yet fully established in the Christian teaching. Later on, Paul termed some of his newly-fledged converts "babes in Christ" (I Cor. 3:1-3). Apparently it was because of this spiritual immaturity that the Gentile converts in Galatia so easily surrendered their Christian freedom to the "Judaizers."
Applying what is indicated above to present-day experiences, it would seem that the Epistle to the Galatians has special reference to the dangers associated with spiritual immaturity. Like the Galatians, persons who are not well-grounded in Truth may easily become involved in erroneous teaching, and soon lose whatever measure of freedom they have gained. Possibly, it was some recollection of this Galatian experience which later caused Paul to write: "Therefore, take the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand" (Eph. 6:13).
Another important present-day message from Galatians is to be recognized in Paul's oft-quoted admonition: "For freedom has Christ set us free; stand fast therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery" (Gal. 5:1). Religious freedom is a precious heritage. But this freedom, when once attained, must also be maintained, and its maintenance calls for constant vigilance. Jesus made clear what our attitude must be in this respect, when He said: "Watch and pray that you may not enter into temptation" (Matt. 26:41). Paul's words, given in a later epistle, are also significant: "Pray at all times in the Spirit. . . keep alert with all perseverance" (Eph. 6:18).
Gal. 1:1 - Gal. 6:18 (Entire letter)
(Note: The student should now read the entire Epistle to the Galatians, using what is written above as a guide, and also following carefully the outline to the Epistle, given at the end of this lesson. (See Appendix "A.")
Acts 18:23-28; 19:1-41
2. PAUL'S ACTIVITIES AT EPHESUS
Following Paul's hurried visit to Galatia, as already discussed, the apostle then journeyed westward to Ephesus, and made that city his headquarters for a period of nearly three years. Here it should be noted that Paul's earlier associate, Silas, returned to Jerusalem at the close of the second missionary journey. Thus on the third journey, Paul was accompanied only by his young friend Timothy. Some details connected with the apostle's activities at Ephesus should now be considered.
(1) Aquila and Priscilla: When Paul reached Ephesus, he probably stayed with his friends Aquila and Priscilla—with whom he had formerly lodged when at Corinth. Paul also continued his practice of self-support, working daily at his trade, as is indicated in a later statement: "I coveted no one's silver or gold or apparel .. . these hands ministered unto my wants" (Acts 20:33-34). Paul's attitude in this connection may at first sight appear contrary to the Scriptural teaching regarding proper support for the ministry. However, it should be recalled that Paul's opponents had been claiming that the apostle was an impostor, and that his missionary efforts were undertaken merely for personal profit. Paul realized that his practice of self-support throughout his ministry would furnish the most effectual answer to these base charges.
(2) Visit of Apollos: Shortly before Paul arrived at Ephesus, a man named Apollos visited that city, and soon gathered around him a small group for purposes of religious study. The activities of Apollos will be discussed fully in a later lesson, when his work comes into great prominence. Meanwhile, it will be sufficient to note that Apollos was an Alexandrian Jew, probably educated at the University of Alexandria, and he had become well-versed in the teachings of John the Baptist. Apparently Apollos crossed the Mediterranean Sea and came to Ephesus where, after speaking at the synagogue, he was contacted by Aquila and Priscilla. This worthy couple further instructed him in the Christian teaching. Apollos then crossed to Macedonia, where he shortly afterward became active in the Christian church at Corinth. The New Testament account states that Paul, shortly after his arrival at Ephesus, visited the study group formed by Apollos, and the apostle's discourse at that time regarding the Holy Spirit should be carefully studied. The important point to note is that the early Church placed great emphasis upon receiving the Holy Spirit—a doctrine and experience apparently unfamiliar to Apollos. Earlier references regarding the coming of the Holy Spirit should also be checked at this time. (See John 20:22; Acts 2:4; Acts 8:17; Acts 10:44.)
(3) Paul's preaching work: While at Ephesus, Paul followed his regular procedure ("to the Jew first"), and presented his Christian message at the synagogue. Apparently some members of this synagogue were receptive to Paul's teaching, for the account states that he was able to continue his work there for three months. But then came the inevitable break, and Paul was compelled to withdraw from the synagogue and continue his activities in a nearby auditorium, designated as "the hall of Tyrannus"—probably a school or public lecture building. Some early writers state that Paul had the use of this building only "from the fifth hour to the tenth" (11:00 a.m. until 5:00 p.m.). It should be noted that schools, colleges, and similar institutions in that area started their activities very early in the morning, and closed at 10:00 a.m. This would mean that Paul was compelled to conduct his preaching and teaching during the hottest and most difficult part of the day. This, therefore, should be recognized as a high tribute to Paul's energy, ability, and sincere dedication to his work. Not only was he successful in attracting many hearers and students at this inconvenient time, but the record states that he continued this work in the hall of Tyrannus over a period of two years. However, Paul's preaching activities were not limited to Ephesus. During this period, which extended beyond the two years mentioned above, Paul visited many of the surrounding cities, not only delivering the Christian message, but also organizing a number of Christian groups, or churches. The following churches, mentioned in the New Testament, may be connected, either directly or indirectly, with Paul's activities during this period: Ephesus, Colossae, Smyrna, Thyatira, Pergamum, Sardis, Philadelphia, Laodicea.
(4) Paul's healing work: On his earlier journeys, Paul's missionary activities had been mainly concerned with proclaiming the Christian message, while some instances of healing are reported, these appear only incidental. But while at Ephesus, Paul devoted considerable time to the work of Christian healing. The nineteenth chapter of Acts records many healings of various sorts, including the casting out of evil spirits. Indeed, so successful was the apostle in this latter work that some itinerant Jewish exorcists sought personal profit by imitating Paul's healing methods and statements. (These fradulent efforts ended in dismal failure.) The New Testament further indicates that Paul's healing work gave additional impetus to his preaching: "God did extraordinary miracles by the hands of Paul ... so the word of the Lord grew and prevailed mightily" (Acts 19:11-20). It is worthy of note that shortly after this period of healing activity at Ephesus, Paul was again joined by Luke—after the separation at Philippi, as discussed in the preceding lesson.
(5) Demetrius, the silversmith: Paul's stay at Ephesus was brought to a sudden end by a riot, instigated by a silversmith named Demetrius. Details of the outbreak are given in Acts, chapter nineteen; but the following details will help to clarify the situation.
In New Testament times Ephesus was famous for its magnificent temple of Artemis (Diana), the mother-goddess and emblem of fertility. Pilgrims came from all parts of the ancient world to bring their offerings. These offerings consisted mainly of silver shrines of replicas of the goddess, which were made by the local silversmiths and sold to pilgrims at high prices. At times of worship these replicas were presented to the priests, who later melted them down and resold the precious metal to the silversmiths—who, in turn, made new shrines for sale to the pilgrims. Thus the worship of Artemis constituted a very lucrative business for the people of Ephesus. But the preaching and healing work of Paul made serious inroads into all this idolatrous activity, and the business of the silversmiths fell off rapidly. Hence, when Demetrius called together his fellowsilversmiths to discuss this serious situation, their unanimous decision was to get rid of "this man Paul"! A riot quickly developed, with a threatening crowd surging through the city, and seeking to kill the Apostle. The New Testament account tells how Paul was protected, and no serious harm came to him. Nevertheless, this was an all-too-familiar signal, indicating that Paul must now bring his work at Ephesus to a close, and depart from the city.
(6) Metaphysical meaning: Ephesus is symbolic of that important activity within consciousness called "desire." How desire may be dominated by unenlightened consciousness is clearly indicated by the temple of Artemis, and the activities associated therewith. But desire may also be uplifted and directed toward the highest and best—and how this is accomplished is indicated by Paul's activities at Ephesus. Paul not only presented the freeing word of Truth, but also brought about healings, and cast out possessing demons. The following quotation will make this symbology clear:
"Desire is but another name for constructive thought. The desire is the center from which goes forth the impetus that makes the form. "The cells that build the form are moved upon by ideas; hence the character of the form is determined by the prevailing ideas back of it. Ephesus was given up to idolatry, superstition, and general materialism. So we find in unregenerate man that the Ephesus center is given over to physical and sense ideas that must be raised to the spiritual by the impregnating power of the word; hence Paul spent three years preaching the Gospel in Ephesus" (Metaphysical Bible Dictionary 203).
I Cor. 1:1-19; I Cor. 13:1-13
3. THE CORINTHIAN CORRESPONDENCE
The two Epistles of Paul known as First and Second Corinthians contain many familiar passages which are highly regarded by all readers of the New Testament. These passages, even when considered apart from their context, are a constant source of inspiration and spiritual uplift for all concerned. But there are also many sections of these Epistles which are somewhat difficult to read, and their purpose and meaning remain obscure. Because of this, these sections are usually set aside as unintelligible, with the result that many important messages in the Epistles are entirely missed. This state of affairs can be rectified by placing these Epistles in their proper setting, and then rereading them in the light of their historical background. Nor is this a difficult task. To establish the historical background for First and Second Corinthians it is only necessary to ascertain when and why these Epistles were written, and then gather all available information regarding what the apostle was seeking to accomplish by thus writing. When this data is before the reader, the so-called obscure passages in the Epistles immediately become clear, while the more familiar passages take on new and more helpful meaning.
In seeking to establish this historical background, as suggested above, it will be necessary to give consideration to each Epistle separately, using a step-by-step process. However, at the same time, the connection between the two Epistles should also be kept well in mind.
Toward the close of Paul's ministry at Ephesus, the apostle received very disturbing news regarding conditions in the church at Corinth. It was reported that there were dissensions in matters of doctrine, immorality among the membership, and many other irregularities quite inconsistent with Christian principles. Paul immediately wrote a strongly-worded letter of admonition, calling upon the Corinthians to amend their ways. Unfortunately, this letter is now lost; but Paul clearly refers to it in a later message. (See I Cor. 5:9-11.) In any event, it would appear from what transpired later that this letter of admonition was completely ignored by the Corinthians.
However, a short time later some of the leaders and teachers in the Corinthian Church wrote to Paul—not mentioning his letter of admonition, but urgently seeking answers to some important questions concerning Christian conduct and doctrine. Apparently these questions had arisen in instruction classes or religious discussions at Corinth, and the local teachers had been unable to furnish satisfactory answers. Paul immediately replied by sending to them what we now term the First Epistle to the Corinthians. This Epistle consists of two clearly indicated sections.
First Epistle to the Corinthians
First Section (Chapters one through six)
This section consists of a repetition of the admonitions previously given in the "lost letter," as referred to above. Probably Paul made a copy of the first letter, and then added such additional words of admonition as seemed necessary. In this, he calls special attention to three disturbing conditions:
(1) Dissensions in the church (Chapter 1-4): Apparently the Corinthian church had become factional while Paul had been busy elsewhere. Some converts were following the teaching of Apollos, some claimed to have received instruction from Cephas (Peter), while others had probably come under Judaistic or Gnostic influence. Paul, therefore, calls for spiritual unity.
(2) Immoral practices by some church members (Chapter 5): Paul called for immediate disciplinary action, with the expulsion of the offenders. Note references to the "lost" letter.
(3) The practice of going to law over trivial matters (Chapter 6): Paul calls for the exercise of Christian principles in settling these affairs, and in all activities of life. There are also some further references to immorality.
Second Section (Chapters seven through fifteen)
In this section, Paul gives detailed answers to the questions raised by the Corinthians.
(1) Questions relating to marriage and personal relationships (I Cor. 7:1-40): Here it must be recalled that the early Christians were expecting the speedy return of the Lord, and life was therefore lived on a day-by-day basis. Paul accordingly advised against making far-reaching commitments, whenever this was possible.
(2) Questions concerning meat which had been offered to idols (I Cor. 8:1-11:1): Paul stated that partaking of such food might not adversely affect the individual Christian, providing his faith was strong. But how would this affect some of his fellow Christians, whose faith might be weak? Paul then gives an important principle regarding abstention: "lest I cause my brother to fall" (I Cor. 8:13).
(3) Questions regarding personal deportment in church (I Cor. 11:2-16): Here it should be recognized that Paul was emphasizing practices already established in Jewish synagogues, not laying down a law for all time to come. Many Gentile women were then joining the Corinthian church, and some of them were not familiar with Jewish religious customs. There is also a possibility that Paul was here seeking to guard against further inroads of immorality—as already discussed in the first section of this Epistle.
(4) Instructions regarding the Lord's Supper (I Cor. 11:17-34): The indications are that confused teaching in the Corinthian church had brought about some misunderstandings regarding this sacred observance. Paul clearly outlined correct procedures, and also warned against partaking of this sacrament in an unworthy manner.
(5) Questions concerning spiritual gifts (I Cor. 12:1-14; I Cor. 14:40): Apparently the possession and exercise of spiritual gifts had become a subject of controversy among the Corinthian Christians, and what may be termed a spiritual class distinction had developed. Paul therefore emphasized the essential unity of all spiritual gifts, and also urged the converts to seek and express the greatest of all spiritual gifts: love.
Here it should be noted that the word love would have had special significance for the people of Corinth. Corinth, as mentioned in the preceding lesson, was noted for its temple of Venus, the goddess of love. Consequently, at Corinth love was frequently associated with the sensuality and infamous practices of the temple; and because of this, the Greek word eros was commonly used to indicate love. But when Paul wrote to the Corinthians, he used the Greek word agape—which represents love at its highest and best, the love of God as expressed toward and through man. Thus the apostle was here saying, in effect, "Let us turn aside from all false beliefs of love, and seek to incorporate into our being the wondrous love of God; for this is indeed the love which never fails."
(6) Questions regarding the Resurrection (I Cor. 15:1-58): Note how the apostle here sets forth the "proofs" of Jesus Christ's resurrection, and then proceeds to explain how, in Christian experience, "death is swallowed up in victory." This is an enlargement of the apostle's earlier teaching, given in I Thess. 4:13; 5:11.
Concluding Section (Chapter sixteen)
Here Paul gives instructions regarding an offering which was to be taken up for the famine-stricken Christians at Jerusalem. He indicates a later visit to Corinth, and also hints at some further extended travel. He then concludes the Epistle with a word of greeting (given "with my own hand"), and adds a loving benediction.
(With the above information before him, the student should now start reading the entire First Epistle to the Corinthians, using the outline given in Appendix "B" as a guide. The best plan will be to make a careful study of the first section, seeking to relate the contents to the "lost" letter. Then take up the second section, carefully noting each question, and also the Apostle's methods of answering.)
Second Epistle to the Corinthians
This Epistle also contains two sections, although they are not so clearly indicated as those in the First Epistle. However the two sections are of totally different character, and should be studied separately. The following explanation will help to make the situation clear.
When the Corinthian Christians received Paul's Epistle (which we now know as First Corinthians), it might be supposed that they forthwith amended their erroneous ways, and conformed to Paul's instructions. But this was not the case. News soon reached Paul (who was still in Ephesus) that conditions in Corinth were rapidly deteriorating, and that the converts were conducting themselves in ways unbecoming to Christians. Paul hurriedly departed from Ephesus and sailed to Corinth, determined to set things right.
Paul's first meeting with the Corinthians brought a rude shock to the apostle. It must be remembered that several years had passed since Paul had established the church, and during the intervening period Apollos and other teachers had been active among the converts, with the Judaizers also making inroads into the congregation. Consequently Paul's authority at Corinth was questioned, and his leadership repudiated. Indeed, the Corinthians refused to listen to the apostle—much less obey his commands! Paul was therefore compelled to withdraw from the meeting without accomplishing his purpose, and indications are that he retired heartbroken to a suburb of Corinth. But Paul was by no means vanquished. He immediately wrote a very strongly-worded letter, and instructed his young helper Titus to carry it to the rebellious converts. This letter, with its presentday designation, forms
Section One: "The Letter of Sharp Remonstrance"
Unfortunately, several parts of this letter are now lost. However, two fragments still remain, and through these we are able to trace something of Paul's turmoil of mind, together with his continuing love for the erring converts. These fragments are embedded in Second Corinthians.
The first fragment (II Cor. 6:14; II Cor. 7:1):
This contains Paul's urgent command that the Corinthians immediately separate themselves from all persons who are following immoral or idolatrous practices. The apostle formulates a series of sharp questions, all pointed against attempts by the Corinthians to serve both Christ and Belial.
The second fragment (II Cor. 10:1; II Cor. 13:10):
Paul opens this section with an appeal, "by the meekness and gentleness of Christ"—although his opponents may regard this as mere sentiment. But then the apostle, recalling the exalted claims of the false teachers, proceeds to make even greater claims for himself. He relates (imitating the boastful language of the false teachers) what has befallen him in preaching the Gospel. He mentions "beatings," "imprisonments," "shipwrecks," "robbers," "hunger and thirst," "cold and exposure," and many other difficult experiences. Then, as a climax, he tells of "visions and revelations," leading to his "thorn in the flesh," and the final assurance: "My grace is sufficient." He then closes the letter with a warning regarding a renewed visit, which will not be repetition of the former failure. But even here, the apostle clearly hopes that his converts will now repent of their erroneous ways.
When Titus arrived at Corinth with Paul's "letter of sharp remonstrance," as mentioned above, a miracle happened. Whether this miracle was brought about by Paul's letter, or whether Titus' persuasive abilities produced the result, must remain a matter of conjecture. (Possibly Paul's prayers and the activity of the Holy Spirit should also be taken into consideration.) Certain it is that the Corinthians completely repented, both of their evil ways and of their shameful behavior toward Paul. Furthermore, they immediately disciplined the wrongdoers, and then asked Titus to return to Paul and entreat his forgiveness for their hostile attitudes and actions. Paul, on his part, was overjoyed when he received the good news, but for some reason he was unable to return to Corinth at that time. However, he immediately wrote a loving and appreciative letter, which was carried to the repentant Corinthians by Titus. Fortunately we now have this letter in its entirety, incorporated in Second Corinthians; and, giving it the present-day designation, it forms
Section Two: "The Letter of Loving Reconciliation."
For purposes of study, this important letter may be helpfully subdivided, as follows:
(1) II Cor. 1:1; II Cor. 2:17. After opening with a brief salutation, Paul recalls his earlier troubles at Ephesus, and elsewhere. The apostle then seeks to remove all misunderstandings between himself and the Corinthians.
(2) II Cor. 3:1; II Cor. 6:10. Paul tells of his apostolic ministry, with its tribulations and rewards. He has experienced many outer disturbances, but has always been strengthened by his inner assurance. Difficulties of the present can be endured when there is the vision of the future.
(3) II Cor. 6:11-13; (omit 6:14-7:1) II Cor. 7:2-16. This section deals with the joys associated with the newly-restored relationship between the apostle and the Corinthians. But while Paul rejoices in this happy state of affairs, he also insists that there must now be proofs of loyalty on the part of the Corinthians. However, he feels that the past agonizing experiences are canceled by the abundant joy of the present.
(4) II Cor. 8:1; II Cor. 9:15. Here Paul again refers to the offering for the famine-stricken Christians at Jerusalem, and urges liberality in this philanthropic work. (Seealso I Cor. 16:1-4.)
(5) II Cor. 13:11-14. Paul's closing message and loving benediction.
(A step-by-step account of activities connected with the Corinthian correspondence is given in Appendix "C." This will make clear all that is mentioned above.)
Suggestions for additional metaphysical study
In Lesson Four it was indicated that the city of Corinth symbolized the love center in consciousness. This had special significance in connection with Paul's activities in that city; and attention was directed to the effects of the freeing word of Truth when carried to this love center. But the Corinthian correspondence opens up further possibilities for metaphysical study along somewhat similar lines. Continuing, therefore, to recognize Corinth as symbolizing love, the following developments should be given careful consideration.
(1) Love, and disturbed conditions: At first sight, the words love and disturbed conditions appear to have no connection. Indeed, they usually represent diametrical opposites. But conditions in Corinth were very disturbed, and specific instances are given in the opening section of First Corinthians. (I Cor. 1-6.) However, this section also reveals that these disturbing conditions arose out of what may be termed misguided or misapplied love. Thus, personal love for the various teachers led to factional disturbances; unbridled emotional love led to immorality; and possessive love caused unseemly squabbles in the Corinthian law courts. Of course, there are times and occasions when love functions helpfully when associated with other spiritual faculties—such as wisdom, faith, and so on; but the Corinthian correspondence clearly indicates that love should be separated from all adverse influences and restored to its proper place, so that it may function helpfully in all our affairs. Paul recognized this, and later on wrote, "The love of Christ controls [A. V. constraineth] us" (II Cor.5:14).
(2) Love, and problems: Here the connection is fairly clear. The second section of First Corinthians (I Cor. 7-15) deals with a number of varied problems, but all these find their ultimate solution through love. It is significant that the chapter dealing with the Resurrection follows immediately after Paul's matchless exposition of love. (I Cor. 13-14.) Not only does love open "prison doors," but also all other closed doors of life.
(3) Love, and discipline: The first section of Second Corinthians ("Letter of Sharp Remonstrance") shows Paul as a loving parent who iscalled upon to discipline his erring children. It is rather unfortunate that, in associating love with tenderness and sentimentality, we so often overlook its functions in guidance, and that at times this guidance calls for the exercise of discipline. The love of God is mentioned many times in the Bible, but both the Old and New Testaments also tell of divine discipline. In the Twenty-third Psalm we are assured that "The Lord is my shepherd"; but the Psalm also indicates that His "rod and staff" are used to keep us in line with our good. The writer to the Hebrews also tells how "The Lord disciplines [A. V. chasteneth] him whom he loves" (Heb. 12:6). In like manner, Paul places emphasis on the connection between love and discipline.
(4) Love, and reconciliation: Paul's "Letter of Loving Reconciliation" brings the Corinthian correspondence to a happy ending. This is especially significant as connected with Corinth—metaphysical symbol of love. Actually one of love's great functions is to reconcile, or to bring things and persons together. In a later letter to his friends at Colossae, Paul wrote, "Above all these put on love, which brings everything together in perfect harmony" (Col. 3:14). Love thus leads through "disturbing conditions," "problems," and "discipline" to the "loving reconciliation." It is significant that shortly after the experiences referred to in the Corinthian correspondence, Paul wrote these joyous words: "God's love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit which has been given to us" (Rom. 5:5).
APPENDIX "A": PAUL'S EPISTLE TO THE GALATIANS
(Written at Antioch, following Paul's return from his second missionary journey, about A.D. 52)
Greetings (Gal. 1:1-5):
Very brief, as compared with Paul's other epistles. Paul stresses his apostleship.
1. Paul's self defense (Gal. 1:6-2:21):
- Paul reproves the Galatian Christians for being so easily turned aside to "a different Gospel," and conforming to the demands of the Judaizers. (Gal. 1:6-10)
- Paul's apostleship—as above Tells of his conversion. (Gal. 1:11 -24)
- The Jerusalem council. (Gal. 2:1-10) See also Acts 15.
- Paul's dispute with Peter at Antioch. (Gal. 2:11-21)
2. Paul restates his doctrine of Christian freedom (Gal. 3-4):
- Law, or faith? Note: Paul in his epistles usually uses the term law to indicate the entire religious structure and practices of Judaism. (3:1-5)
- Example of Abraham. Faith came before law. (3:6-18)
- Why was the law given? To be our "Custodian" [A. V. Schoolmaster] to bring us to Christ. (3:19-29)
- Slaves, or sons? "Because you are sons, God has sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, crying, 'Abba! Father!' " Allegory of Abraham and Hagar. (4:1-31)
3. Practical application and admonitions (Gal. 5—6)
- "For freedom ... stand fast therefore" (Gal. 5:1-15).
- "Walk by the Spirit. . ."(Gal. 5:16-25).
- "Bear one another's burdens . . ." (Gal. 6:1-6).
- "Whatever a man sows ... reap" (Gal. 6:7-10).
4. Personal subscription and benediction (Gal. 6:11-18).
"Large letters ... with myownhand.""l bear on my body the marks [brand] of Jesus."
APPENDIX "B": PAUL'S FIRST EPISTLE TO THE CORINTHIANS
(Probably written at Ephesus, about A.D. 55)
Personal greeting (I Cor. 1:1-3).
First section (I Cor. 1:4-6:30).
(Probably this is a copy of an earlier letter of admonition—see I Cor. 5:9-13.)
- Regarding factions in the church. (I Cor. 1:4—4:21) Note the activities of Apollos and others.
- Denunciation of immorality within the church. (I Cor. 5) Paul insists that the guilty parties be expelled.
- Admonitions regarding practice of going to law. (I Cor. 6) These differences should be settled in church councils, where Christian principles would prevail.
Second section (I Cor. 7—15).
(In this section Paul answers inquiries which had been sent to him from Corinth.)
- Questions relating to marriage and personal relationships among members. (7:1-40)
- Questions concerning meat which had been offered to idols. (I Cor. 8:1-11:1) Note the important principle stated in 8:13.
- Questions regarding personal deportment in church gatherings. (I Cor. 11:2-16)
- Instructions regarding observance of the Lord's Supper. (I Cor. 11:17-34)
- Questions concerning spiritual gifts. (I Cor. 12:1—14:40) The answers place special emphasis upon love, the greatest gift.
- Questions relating to the Resurrection. (I Cor. 15:1-58) Compare with Paul's earlier teaching in I Thess. 4:13-5:11.
Concluding section (I Cor. 16:1-24)
This section deals with proposed contributions for the famine-stricken Christians in Jerusalem. Paul also mentions plans for further travel. He concludes with personal greeting, "with my own hand," and a loving benediction.
APPENDIX "C": THE CORINTHIAN CORRESPONDENCE
(Probably sequence of events)
1. Paul while at Ephesus, received disturbing news regarding conditions at Corinth.
2. Paul's "lost letter" to the Corinthians. (See I Cor. 5:9.)
3. The present First Corinthians—which contains:
- Copy of the "lost letter"—referred to above. Found in I Cor. 1-6.
- Answers to inquiries sent to Paul by the Corinthians. These answers are to be found in I Cor. 7-15.
4. Paul's personal visit to Corinth; his rejection; the "Letter of Sharp Remonstrance," carried to Corinth by Titus; repentance of Corinthians; Paul's "Letter of Loving Reconciliation."
5. The present Second Corinthians—which contains:
- Two fragments of "Letter of Sharp Remonstrance" See: II Cor. 6:14-7:1 II Cor. 10:1-13:10
- Entire "Letter of Loving Reconciliation"— written by Paul after repentance of the Corinthians (as mentioned above), and carried to Corinth by Titus. This letter is contained in: II Cor. 1:1-6:13 II Cor. 7:2-9:15 II Cor. 13:11-14
APPENDIX "D": PAUL'S "THORN IN THE FLESH"
When dealing with the Corinthian Correspondence, questions often arise concerning Paul's "thorn in the flesh." The passage reads as follows:
"And to keep me from being too elated by the abundance of revelations, a thorn was given me in the flesh, a messenger of Satan to harass me, to keep me from being too elated. Three times I besought the Lord about this, that it should leave me; but he said to me, 'my grace is sufficient for you' " (II Cor. 12:7-8).
Some writers have explained the "thorn" as a physical ailment of some sort, suggesting epileptic seizures and impaired eyesight. However, it should be recalled that in those days the Greeks demanded physical perfection in public speakers. Had Paul been so afflicted, the people at Lystra would scarcely have acclaimed him as the god Hermes [A V. Mercurius] . (See Acts 14:12.) Others have suggested that the "thorn" represented severe losses incurred by Paul, or possibly fierce personal temptations.
However, the most likely explanation seems to have been overlooked. Nowadays it is customary to think of Paul as the apostle to the Gentiles. But careful reading of the New Testament shows that Paul's order of procedure was always "to the Jew first"; and it was only when rejected by the Jews that Paul turned to the Gentiles. The record clearly indicates that Paul's greatest desire was to win over his own people to Christianity. In all his activities, Paul was bitterly opposed by the Jews. They denounced his teaching and made many personal attacks upon him. The troubles in Galatia and Corinth, as discussed in this lesson, were brought about mainly by Paul's Jewish opponents. But how did Paul really feel about the Jewish people? A quotation from his Epistle to the Romans makes this clear:
"I am speaking the truth in Christ, I am not lying; my conscience bears me witness in the Holy Spirit, that I have a great sorrow and unceasing anguish in my heart. For I could wish that I myself were accursed and cut off from Christ for the sake of my brethren, my kinsmen by race ... my heart's desire and prayer to God for them is that they may be saved" (Rom. 9:1-4; Rom. 10:1).
From the above, it is not difficult to recognize in this "great sorrow and unceasing anguish" Paul's "thorn in the flesh." The salvation of the Jewish people was the burden of Paul's constant prayer, but this seemed impossible of attainment. However, more important than the explanation of the "thorn" is the helpful assurance given to the apostle: "My grace is sufficient for you." It is significant that in Paul's Epistle to the Romans—written shortly after the distressing Corinthian experience—the apostle takes as his main theme, "saved by Grace."
Questions for Lesson 5
- Briefly explain why Paul wrote to the Galatians. Why was it necessary for Paul to vindicate his apostleship? Make clear what Paul sought to accomplish through this Epistle.
- Acts, chapter nineteen, tells of Paul's preaching and healing work at Ephesus. Was this work successful? To substantiate your answer, mention several of Paul's outstanding accomplishments at Ephesus and vicinity.
- Using your own words, briefly describe the riot at Ephesus. What was the main cause of this outbreak? What attitude did the rioters take towards Paul?
- What was the twofold purpose of Paul's First Epistle to the Corinthians? List and briefly explain the questions dealt with in the second section of this Epistle. (I Cor. 7-15)
- Apparently the Corinthians completely ignored the Epistle which we now call First Corinthians. How did Paul deal with this difficult situation? Give the various steps taken by Paul.
- Briefly discuss the metaphysical significance of the Epistle to the Galatians. What state of consciousness is here represented? How can we guard against the dangers which may arise in this state of consciousness?
- The Epistle to the Galatians places emphasis upon spiritual freedom. While attainment of this freedom is desirable, what else is necessary? Explain briefly how this applies to us today, both individually and nationally.
- What is the metaphysical meaning of Ephesus? How may our desires be uplifted and directed towards the highest and best? Also, what should we guard against in this activity? In youranswer, use examples from Paul's activities at Ephesus.
- Are there times when our activities, habits, or means of livelihood are challenged by spiritual ideals? Give a specific instance. What was Demetrius' attitude in dealing with this type of situation? Can you suggest a better way?
- From a metaphysical viewpoint, the Corinthian Epistles indicate how love deals with arising problems of life. List several of the problems mentioned in these Epistles, and (using your own words) explain how love finds the right solution.