Titus’ report prompted Paul’s fourth letter to Corinth, which was written approximately one year after his second (57 A.D.) and is what we know as 2 Corinthians. Soon thereafter, Paul made a third visit to Corinth. He stayed for about three months, finalized the collection for the church in Jerusalem and repaired whatever relational damage remained between him and the congregation (Acts 20:2-3; 2 Corinthians 12:14; 13:1). Priscilla and Aquila returned to Rome; Timothy remained with Paul. Sometime between 57 and 61 A.D. Paul and his entourage delivered what must have been a sizeable relief gift to the Jerusalem church. He was soon arrested and began his trip to Rome as a prisoner in chains.
As I consider the stories of this dear brother’s life, I am struck by his faithfulness to Christ’s call. I am also struck by the “common” nature of what I read. He was a middle-class, blue-collar worker, a tent-maker by trade. He knew seasons when he had enough food and shelter and he knew seasons when there was not enough money to pay all the bills. He had some intellectual, relational, status and skill resources that could be applied in many ways. He came to Corinth in “weakness and fear, and in much trembling” (1 Corinthians 2:3). Along the way he experienced relational struggles and people misunderstanding what he was trying to say. People outside the church tried to stop him while some within the church sought to undermine him. He felt “hard pressed on every side” and was worried, carrying with him the daily “concern for all the churches” (2 Corinthians 4:8, 11:28). He worked hard, was often fatigued and had a recurring illness that magnified his weakness and inhibited his abilities. Any of this sound familiar yet?
There is much in the apostle Paul that reveals him to be a man of far greater faith and courage than many of us will ever know and so he seems distant and disconnected from us and our reality. At the same time, we see a profound humanness in this man, an every-man nature that creates a strong and definitive connection between his life and our own.
In these letters we see that Paul is a human being who daily stepped out in faith to use what he had where he was to express the truth of the gospel in word and deed as best he could over the entire course of his life. Go back and read that last sentence again, only this time put your name in the place of Paul’s (adding the “s” in front of “he” if necessary 😊). When put this way, it seems like the things Paul did are accessible to us; we can do them too! And who knows what God might do with our long obedience in the same direction.