Chapter One2 Corinthians 1:1-2
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Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God, and
Timothy our brother,
To the church of God in Corinth, together with all the
saints throughout Achaia:
2 Grace and peace to you from God our Father and the
Lord Jesus Christ.
Letter openings in the first century followed the
typical pattern, "(Sender) to (recipient): Greetings!"
Paul customarily followed this form, but expanded
these standard elements in order to indicate his
own authority for writing, the recipient's qualification(s) for receiving what is
written, and the Christian perspective on what we desire for one another. In
2 Corinthians, however, Paul foregoes a detailed elaboration of his own authority
and the status of the believers in Corinth (cf. 1 Cor. 1:1-3) in favor of a
nearly standard salutation. His only expansions are the reminders that he is "an
apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God" and that the Corinthians are the
"church of God," who exist "together with all the saints throughout Achaia."
This unusual simplicity serves to emphasize that Paul is an "apostle" (Gk.apostolos) and that he owes his calling as an apostle to the "will of God." An apostolos
is an emissary who is authorized and commissioned to carry out a personal
mission on someone else's behalf. Paul's use of the genitive, "an apostleof Christ Jesus," indicates that Christ is the one who has directly andultimately sent him, while the reference "by the will of God" asserts that God is theintermediate agent of Paul's apostleship. Christ is the one responsible for sending
Paul, but God is the one who has made this sending possible. In other words,
Christ sends Paul in accordance with God's will.
Separated from Paul's tradition and culture, it is easy to miss the significance of
Paul's self-designation. There is no parallel in the Greco-Roman
world for the use of the noun "apostle" to refer to an emissary who carried
an authorized commission as a matter of sovereign appointment. Rather, the
New Testament concept derives from the Old Testament, where the verbapostello occurs approximately 696 times in the LXX to refer to sending someone
out on a mission or special task (the noun apostolos occurs only once in
the LXX in 1 Kings 14:6). In all but twelve of these passages it renders the
Hebrew verb salab (= "to commission with a mission or a task"; cf. Gen. 32:4;
Num. 20:14; Josh. 7:22; Judg. 6:35; 2 Chron. 36:15; Mal. 3:1).
Although apostello is not a specifically religious term, in the LXX it becomes
a technical designation for "the sending of a messenger with a special task"
in which "the one who is sent is of interest only to the degree that in some
measure he embodies in his existence as such the one who sends him." This
meaning anticipates a later rabbinic aphorism, that "the one sent by a man
is as the man himself" (m. Ber. 5:5). Rengstorf consequently concludes that in
contexts where sending with a religious purpose is in view, apostello begins to
become "a theological term meaning 'to send forth to service in the kingdom
of God with full authority (grounded in God).'"
In line with this development, Paul's own use of the term corresponds
most closely to the use of apostello in regard to Moses and the prophets, where
it signifies that they had been sent with an official commission as a representative
of Yahweh and were thus unconditionally subordinate to God's
will (cf. Ex. 3:10; Judg. 6:8, 14; Isa. 6:8; Jer. 1:7; Ezek. 2:3; Hag. 1:12;
Zech. 2:8-9; 4:9; Mal. 3:1; 4:5). This is confirmed by the use of the verb in the New
Testament as a whole, where it occurs 135 times, only twelve of which are
found outside of the Gospels and Acts. Whereas in secular literature there
is no essential distinction between pempo (to send) and apostello, in the NTpempo usually occurs when the emphasis is on the sending as such (cf. Rom. 8:3;
2 Thess. 2:11), whereas apostello carries the nuance of a commission.
This same emphasis on being sent with a commission is found in the seventy-nine
uncontested uses in the New Testament of the corresponding noun,
"apostle" (apostolos), where all ten of its occurrences in the Gospels refer to the
twelve "apostles" who were commissioned and sent out by Christ. Hence,
although Paul's letters are the earliest writings of the New Testament, and
although he uses the word apostolos more than any other New Testament writer,
the origin of its specific use for Christian emissaries almost certainly goes back
to Jesus, who himself was "sent" (apostello) by the Father (cf. Mark 9:37; Luke
4:43; John 5:36) and can therefore also be called an "apostle" (Heb. 3:1).
Moreover, the transition from the ministry of Jesus to that of the apostles
is reflected in the fact that in the Gospels and Acts the action of "sending"
(apostello) is emphasized, whereas in the letters the emphasis is on the one sent
(apostolos). These statistics point to the unique meaning of "apostle" within early
Christianity as a designation of those commissioned to preach and act in theauthority of Christ's name (cf. Matt. 10:1, 7-8; Mark 3:14; 6:30; Luke 9:1-2).
Paul's point in 2 Corinthians 1:1 is that the will of God that sent Jesus is the
same will that Christ enacts in sending Paul to represent him as his "apostle."
The simple declaration in 1:1 thus reminds Paul's readers of his divinely
appointed role and authority among God's people, thereby opening the
way for the defense of his apostolic ministry that will be the focus of so much
of 2 Corinthians (see Introduction). Indeed, Paul's self-designation in 1:1 is
the first salvo in the battle to reaffirm his apostolic legitimacy (cf. 10:1-6).
There can be no compromise between Paul's claim here and the claims of
those whom Paul will unmask as "pseudo-apostles," "deceitful workmen,"
and "servants" of Satan (cf. 11:13-15). This affirmation of Paul's own authority
as an apostle is most likely the reason why he also mentions Timothy,
his "brother," as a cosender of the letter. By associating Timothy with
himself in this way, Paul reaffirms the legitimacy of Timothy's ministry
among them, both in his helping Paul to establish the church (cf. Acts 18:5)
and in his recent visits on Paul's behalf (cf. 1 Cor. 4:17; 16:10). This too
underscores the validity of the gospel the Corinthians have received through
Paul's coworkers (cf. 2 Cor. 1:19).
Having asserted his own authority and the validity of Timothy's earlier
ministry among them, Paul turns to the Corinthians as his addressees (v. 1b).
His warrant for writing (i.e., he is "an apostle of Christ Jesus") is matched by
their reason for receiving it (i.e., they are the "church of God"). Despite their
past problems and recent rebellion, the repentance of the majority of the
Corinthians (cf. 2:6; 7:2-16) has demonstrated that they continue to be
God's people (cf. 7:2-16). The designation "church" (ekklesia) is one of two
terms used in the LXX to define the local gathering of God's chosen people
(cf., e.g., Deut. 9:10; Judg. 20:1-2; 1 Kings 8:14; Ps. 22:22; 26:5; 35:18;
40:9). Thus, just as Paul owed his life as an apostle to the same will of God
that had called Moses and the prophets (cf. 2 Cor. 2:16b; 3:4-5), so too the
Corinthians owed their existence as Christians to the same mercy of God that
had chosen Israel.
Hence, these twin designations, "apostle . by the will of God" and
"church of God," connote a continuity with the people of God and her leaders
under the old covenant. At the same time, they also underscore the reality
of the new covenant, since Paul is an apostle "of Christ [i.e., Messiah]
Jesus," and they are the church of God, not the synagogue (cf. 3:14-18).
Moreover, the Corinthians are part of a larger gathering of "all the saints"
(bagioi; i.e., "holy ones") scattered throughout the Roman province of Achaia,
an area roughly equivalent with modern-day Greece. Corinth was the capital
of Achaia and the home of the first of the interrelated churches in the
region (cf. Acts 18:1-11; 1 Cor. 16:15).