Monday, October 20, 2014

Paul's Greeting (part 1)

Have you read 2 Corinthians 1:1-2? I mean, really "read" it? Seems to be no different than any other letter written by the Apostle Paul, doesn't it?  One commentator had this to say, “It was a convention in ancient letters for the writer to express pious wishes for the health and well-being of his readers, invoking the names of the gods. Although he observed this practice in the form of his greeting, the apostle introduced the distinctively Christian hope that his readers will enjoy grace and peace which come from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. Nevertheless, the words used here by Paul do not have any special force in this letter, since they are in identical form in greetings in six other letters.” (1)

Frankly, that’s sad.  His words have no special force? Paul’s greeting was just reduced to, “hey, s’up?” I think there is something more here than “greetings” and the fact that Paul uses the same formula in every letter should be a clue that what he has to say is very, very important.

Every letter Paul wrote was inspired by God; therefore, every word has significance. I can’t write off these two verses as “My name is Paul. How are you, in Jesus’ name, Amen?” The recipients of this particular letter are troubled; besides, Paul is about to defend his ministry, so every word explodes with meaning! What is Paul’s motive for doing this? Job security? No, but his Love for Christ, builder of the Church.

Remember Jesus’ conversation with Peter after the resurrection? (John 21:16) “He said to him a second time, ‘Simon, son of John, do you love me?’ He said to him, ‘Yes, Lord; you know that I love you.’ He said to him, ‘Tend my sheep.’"

John Chrysostom (ca. 344-407) wrote, “What advantage, pray, could be greater than to be seen doing those things which Christ with his own lips declared to be proofs of love to Himself?” The primary charge of the pastor: “Tend my sheep” so those who shepherd the flock of the Lord, and care for His sheep do out of their love for Christ.

Paul loves the bride of Christ, so his words are a little more than “hello.”

Stay tuned as we study Paul’s greeting.

(1) Barnett, Paul. The Message of 2 Corinthians. Downers Grove: Intervarsity, 1988.

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