YOUR GUIDE TO II CORINTHIANS

Purpose of the Book

The main purpose for Paul writing the second letter to the Corinthian
Church is vindication. Paul seems to be clarifying his position as a bonified
Apostle. Paul’s effort to vindicate his authority gave him no great pleasure
(2 Cor. 12:11).

However, Paul felt this was necessary because of the opposition that had
been in the church. Apparently, some agitators had invaded the church
and had begun to stir up trouble after his first letter to the church (Chapter

W ho they were is virtually unknown, but we do know they were Hebrews
(11:22). These Hebrews may not have been Judaizers like those who
invaded the Galatian Church; they may have been a sect of Jews who
didn’t want Christianity to be covered under the Jewish license of Rome as
a legal religion (Acts 18:1-17).

They fained that they had special authority above that of Paul (11:5). They
also were putting the people into bondage. They continued their assault by
attacking Paul personally (10:7-10). The last part of the book is dedicated
to the refutation of these claims (Chapters 10-13). He also uses the
occasion to offer the church some needed instruction in regard to penitent
offenders (2:5-11) (Heibert p. 147-149).

Date and Place

Second Corinthians was written from Macedonia, likely from Philippi, in the
fall of 54 or 55 A.D., the same year in which I Corinthians was written or in
the autumn of the succeeding year.

Connecting the Two Books

After Paul sent First Corinthians, it was evident that news reached the
apostle of growing problems initiated by Judaizers. So Paul felt it
necessary to visit them a second time and found the reports to be true.
Perhaps, before the congregation at Corinth he was flouted.
Returning to Ephesus he wrote a severe epistle which he sent through the
hand of Titus. Before Titus could return, events took a disastrous turn at
Ephesus and Paul had to flee at the peril of his life. He went to Troas, but
unable to wait patiently there for tidings of the Corinthian issue, he crossed
into Macedonia and met Titus there, possibly Philippi. The news, happily,
was reassuring. He then wrote again in the present epistle and sent it on
by Titus and others (Ungers p. 222).

The Theme

More than all the other epistles that Paul wrote, 2 Corinthians allows us a
glimpse into his innermost feelings about his personal life. He reveals his
ministry. In many respects this epistle is autobiographical. There is a lot
more detail in this book than in his other writings. After writing First
Corinthians from Ephesus, Paul had found it necessary to make a “painful
visit” to Corinth and back – painful because of the strained relationship
between Paul and the Corinthians at the time. Luke does not record this
visit in Acts. It is to be inferred, however, from 2 Corinthians 12:14; 13:1-2
where Paul refers to his coming visit as the “third.”

W ithout the inferred painful visit, Paul had visited Corinth only once before.
The statement in 2 Corinthians 2:1, “for I made up my mind not to make
you another painful visit” (RSV), implies a past visit which can hardly be
identified with his first coming to them with the joyful tidings of salvation
through Jesus Christ.

The Lost Letter

For whatever reason Paul made the short, painful visit, he was apparently
unsuccessful in bringing the church into line. Upon returning to Ephesus,
therefore, he wrote a now lost “sorrowful letter” to Corinth, which at first he
regretted having sent (2 Corinthians 2:4; 7:8 – the descriptions hardly fit
First Corinthians). This is the second lost letter to Corinth. The sorrowful
letter commanded church discipline against an obstreperous (riotous)
individual who was leading the opposition against Paul in the Corinthian
church (2 Corinthians 2:5-10) (Gundry pp. 285-286).

Commentary by Forman

Greetings (1:1-2)
This is a typical Pauline opening. He gives himself the familiar and
important title, “apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God”. He names
Timothy as co-author, though Timothy may have had little to do with writing
the epistle, as Sosthenes did with First Corinthians. The letter is sent not
only to Corinth but also to the Christians of Achaia, a province of the
Roman Empire, in which Corinth was an important city.

The God of Comfort (1:3-7)
Once the greeting and the signature are down on papyrus, or whatever
material he used, Paul, as is natural to him, begins with a prayer of thanks
to God. The word “bless” has at least two biblical meanings: one refers to
God’s kind mercies to man, as when we pray that God will bless us. The
second means to “praise”, as does here. The sentence (v. 3) means
“Praised be the God and Father…” God is described in three ways: He is
the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, He is the Father of mercies,
and He is the God of all comfort. There are not definitions. No writer in the
Bible ever gives a dictionary definition of God. The Bible writers all knew
God, and they no more tried to argue that He really exists than people
would argue that they are breathing real air. There is a place and time for
discussing the reality of God, but Paul knows this is not that place and

Paul in trouble (1:8-11)
Here we wish again that we had Paul with us to ask him what he means.
W hat was that affliction in Asia? This is one of the places where his
readers understood what he meant, so he does not try to make himself
clearer for their benefit. This affliction might have been illness, or severe
persecution, or a trial in which everything seemed to go against him. All
that is clear is that Paul had been so depressed by whatever it was that he
had not expected to live.

W hen rescue came, it seemed as astounding as the resurrection; it was
like being raised from the dead. Paul’s faith came out clearer and stronger
than before; he will not give up hope the next time. John Bunyan, centuries
after this, was to write some verses that included the words, “He that is
down need fear no fall.” Paul had been down, and now he feared no fall.

The Aroma of Christ (2:14-17)
Now Titus did at last arrive (7:6), and the news he brought was good, but
Paul does not say so here. Instead, by one of the quick shifts of thought so
typical of him, he starts to praise God presumably for the news that Titus
brought, only he does not say this. He burst into one of his elaborate by-
the-way figures: The triumphal procession. To get the real picture here
that Paul intended, the reader must remember that all Roman emperors
were generals, and after a general had won some notable victory, the
Roman senate would grant him the right of a “Triumph” or victory
procession. At the tail end of the procession would come those captives
who, when the “Triumph” was over, would be publicly killed to top off the
occasion. Paul had perhaps seen these affairs and been impressed by
them. He mixes his metaphor here as he often does, but some of the main
ideas are clear. Christ is the Lord of lords who celebrates His triumph.
Christians, including Paul reap the benefits of His victory. Another feature
of this figure of speech is in Paul’s reference to “fragrance.” Paul may
have been thinking of the incense bearers, the priest who would walk in
such a triumphal procession carrying censers. To some in the procession,
that perfume would always remind them of joy and peace and victory; to
others, the poor men doomed to death that day, it would be an odor
reminding them of the slaughter to come. So, Paul, mixing his metaphor a
bit more, thinks of Christians as an “aroma” or “fragrance” which, like all
odors, means different things to different people. To put it in plain
language: Christians should remind all men of God. But to some, God is
terror to think of; and to others he is perfect love. To some, God means
death; to others life.

Christians are Letters from Christ

Paul’s next thought is about his own credentials as a minister of Christ. For
after all, this was forced upon him by the constant nagging of enemies and
ill-wishers who kept saying that Paul was a faker, that he had no
credentials. W ell, of course, in the usual meaning of the word, Paul did not
have credentials. He carried no diploma from any theological seminary.
No one of the original twelve was vouching for him. He had no letters of
recommendation when he came to Corinth from any other church. But
Paul has a happier approach. For the Corinthians, most of whom had been
converted by Paul’s preaching, no credentials were needed but just
themselves. The church might have its troubles; but evidently there were
enough real Christians there so that Paul could say, “These people are
evidence enough to convince anyone that I am a real minister and not a
faker.” A true minister writes his own record in the lives of those he has
won to God.

Treasure in Earthen Vessels (4:7-12)
The gospel of Christ is always better than any preacher can explain it.
Paul feels as if he were a cheap crockery jar containing a hoard of jewels.
The minister is like a very frail wire carrying a vital message. But if the
message comes through, it does not matter how frail the wire may be. Life
and death were mingled in Paul’s experience. He was literally never far
from death yet his very weakness shows that “the power belongs to God”
and not to his own strength or genius.
The Ministry of Reconciliation (5:17-19)
The life in Christ furthermore, is not something a man simply decides to do,
not mere turning over a new leaf. It is something God does to and in a
person. And yet there is no getting away from personal response,
accepting or rejecting God’s love in Christ. Paul does not say, “All this is
from God and therefore you don’t need to do a thing.” He says, “All this is
from God…so we …beseech you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to
God.” Here as elsewhere, Paul speaks of our being reconciled to God, not
of His being reconciled to us. Other religions may recommend ways of
persuading the gods to be gracious; the Christian religion knows that the
only God is a God of grace. He does not need to be won over to us; we
need to be won over to Him.

No Mismating with Unbelievers
The main meaning is clear enough: “do not be mismated with unbelievers”.
This is the same advice to which Paul refers in I Corinthians 5:9 if not a
quotation from the same letter. Paul explains what he means by this, in I
Corinthians 5:9-11. He does not mean that Christians are never to have
any dealings with non-Christians. He does mean that Christians ought not
to have unbelievers involved in their fellowship. This is a warning against
accepting hypocrites as if they were genuine Christians. Now the
unbelievers of whom Paul speaks are not seeking salvation. These are
immoral pleasure seekers. The reference is from an Old Testament
passage (Isa. 52:11).

                            Outline of the Book

   I.     Conciliation 1:1-7:16
          A. Paul’s distress mutual 1:1-7
             1.     Saluation 1:1-2
             2.     Paul’s thankfulness for God’s faithfulness 1:3-11

   II.    Paul deals with the problems at Corinth
          A. He changes his plans 1:12-2:4
          B. He changes his plans on punishment 2:5-11
          C. He makes plans with Titus 2:12-13

   III.   Paul reveals his ministry 2:14-6:10
          A. His confidence 2:14-17
          B. His commendation 3:1-3
          C. His covenant with Christ 3:4-18
          D. His character 4:1-6
          E. His courage 4:7-18
      F. His calling 5:1-21
         1.    Called to raise up 5:1-8
         2.    Called to receive 5:9-11
         3.    Called to rejoice 5:12-13
         4.    Called to reconcile 5:14-21
         5.    Called to reputation 6:1-13

IV.   Paul reviews their position 6:14-18
      A. He teaches them to fear God 7:1
      B. He teaches them to repent 7:2-11
      C. He teaches them to rejoice 7:12-16

V.    Paul solicits their possessions 8:1-9,15
      A. The ordinance of giving 8:1-6
      B. The occasion of giving 8:7-15
      C. The order of giving 8:16-9:5
      D. The outcome of giving 9:6-15

VI.   Paul reviews his position 10:1-12:18
      A. His authority 10:1-18
      B. His ministry 11:1-12; 12:18
              1. His behavior 11:1-15
              2. His battle 11:16-33
              3. His breakthrough 12:1-10
              4. His burden 12:11-21

 VII. Conclusion 13:1-14
      A. His fathering 13:1-1
      B. His farewell 13:11-14

      Suggested Questions and Discussions:

      1.   Illustrate from these Corinthians Epistles the reasons it may
           be said that they form the heart of the Pauline writings.

      2.   Briefly summarize Paul’s experience in Corinth prior to
           writing I Corinthians. Hint – Acts 18

      3.   W hat was the immediate occasion for Paul’s writing
           I Corinthians?

      4.   W hat is the central concept of I Corinthians and how can it
           be fulfilled?
5.    Illustrate from Paul’s dealing with any three problems in the
      Corinthian Church how Paul’s solutions are applicable

6.    Summarize the teaching of I Corinthians 15 concerning the

7.    Briefly summarize the background of II Corinthians.

8.    W hat was Paul’s major purpose in writing II Corinthians?

9.    List several important doctrinal emphases in II Corinthians.

10.   List five of your favorite verses from these books and write
      short paragraph explaining why they are your favorites.

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