1:1–2 - a standard Pauline introduction. Worth nothing is the phrase “with all the saints which are in all Achaia”. It means that the letter should had been read in all communities in the province of Achaia (Cenchrea - Rom 16:1; Athens - Acts 17:34 - for this practice see also Col 4:16).
1:3–11 Greetings and Thanksgiving
Paul thanksgiving has usually two forms: One we see in Rom 1::8 and 1 Thess 1:2–3 - thanking God for the community - their faith, love, and hope; another one we see here and Phil 1:3 - blessing God for His accomplishments.
God is called here:
Suffering is a part of Christian life - a consequence of following Christ. But, in the midst of this suffering there is a consolation. The source of this consolation is God through Christ.
This apostolic suffering has two aspect - salvific and strengthening. When the Corinthians see how the apostles bear the sufferings with ‘a smiling face’ they are being encouraged to cope with theirs own sufferings. Not only that. They will have the same experience: comfort in the midst of sufferings for the sake of Christ.
1:8–9 - Paul gives his personal example that taught him an important lesson.
Suffering in Asia (perhaps 1 Cor 15:32 and Acts 19:23–20:1). It must have been really serious and life-threatening. Paul compares the happy ending of that experience to the resurrection from the dead. Here, we have a glimpse into Paul’s spirituality:
Sufferings for the sake of the Gospel - spiritual dying with Christ;
Successful overcoming of such sufferings - resurrection.
The lesson learned: do not trust yourself, your physical strength - it is limited; trust God instead - His power to save is unlimited (see Rom 4:17).
Paul wants the Corinthians to see God’s saving power and God’s providence behind the successful ending of trials out of measure. They should also see God’s providence and saving power in their lives.
1:10 reveals Paul’s faith rooted in the Bible, where God is portrayed as “my Rescuer” (Ps 18:3; 70:6). As in the past, so in the future, God will continue rescuing Paul from death - that is Paul’s hope.
1:11 - Paul’s believe in the power of intercessory prayer (the best example is found in Acts 12:5).
1:12–2:13 - Paul explains the change in his plans (see 1 Cor 16:3–7)
1:12–14 - Since, the letter is written from Macedonia and Paul did not go as he promised to Achaia, then he feels the need to explain the situation. It seems that some members of the community were not happy hearing the news.
“Conscience” (see 1 Cor 4:4). Paul has nothing to feel guilty about. However, all shall become clear on the day of Christ’s coming.
“Simplicity and godly sincerity” versus “fleshly wisdom” (see 1 Cor 1:17; 2:1–5). Was Paul accused of ‘duplicity’, promising one thing and doing another thing? (2 Cor 10:1.10).
1:15–16 (see 1 Cor 16:3–7 and introduction)
1:17–18.23 - 2:1–4 - “according to the flesh” is a phrase, Paul used against those who acted contrary to the Gospel (see Rom 8:5). Now, he seemed to be ‘accused’ of acting ‘according to the flesh’ - by not holding on to his plans. Paul calls God as his witness that it is not so. Paul’s reason for not coming was the spare the community. He did not want to be disappointed again. Instead, he sent a letter (2 Cor 7:8–12). The letter was the expression of Paul’s concerns for the community. Some consider 2 Cor 10–13 as that letter written in tears.
2:12–13 - Paul explains what happened next. From Ephesus (1 Cor was written from there - located in the province of Asia 1 Cor 16:8, 2 Cor 1:8), Paul moved to Troas and then to Macedonia (Philippi or Thessalonica - two communities with which Paul had better relationship than with the Corinthians). Thus, he by passed Achaia. Yet, according to the original plan - he supposed to go first to Achaia (Corinth) and then to Macedonia (2 Cor 1:15–16). However in 1 Cor 16:5 - Paul indicates that he will come to them only after passing through Macedonia,
1:19–22 - To defend himself, Paul coins a beautiful theological statement. Christ is the fulfillment of all God’s promises. “Amen” - let it happen”. That is how we answer God to all His promises He has given us in Christ: (1) forgiveness of sins: (2) justification; (3) resurrection from death; (4) eternal life. To all these promises and many more we say through Christ: “AMEN” - let it happen.
Note the movement. The promises of God gets realize through Christ. We say “Amen” to God’s glory also through Christ. Here, we have the mediating role of Christ - always standing between God and humanity.
Then, Paul explains the significance of the sacrament of baptism:
God is the source of our strength and His grace and power operates in the sacrament of baptism. From this sacrament we can constantly draw strength to face the challenges of Christian life.
2:5–11 - A call to forgive
We do not know exactly what happened. We can only guess that during Paul’s short visit brought about and the alarming news from Timothy, a member of the community somehow offended him. It seems that the community imposed a punishment on that person. Paul satisfied with the outcome calls now for forgiveness. Paul pities the person. There is a danger that an excessive punishment can break the spirit of a person and in that case it would not of God. Someone who is not ready to forgive is deceived by Satan. Be on your guard against Satan - deceiver - is often commended in the NT (1 Peter 5:8; Eph 4:27).