The book of 2 Corinthians is the most autobiographical of all Paul's epistles. It is seen as intensely personal rather than doctrinal or practical. It is said to consist of explanation, defence, protestation, appeal, reproach, threatening, a subduing quality of pity and subtle irony through out the book.
There are two different views as to why and when 2 Corinthians was written.
Some scholars - both liberal and orthodox - believe there is no direct link between this letter and First Corinthians. They believe this letter was to deal with things that were different from that of the first letter. Paul's first letter seems to have had little effect in regard to dealing with the party spirit which had caused severe problems in Corinth. The party spirit seems to have been strengthened and come to the point of challenging the authority of Paul as an Apostle.
This boldness against Paul was assisted by the arrival of an anti-Pauline party, possibly from Jerusalem. They organized the opposition to Paul that was festering in the Corinthian church. These people from Jerusalem put on a super-spiritual air and presented themselves as being particularly Christ's (10:7) and called themselves the apostles of Christ (11:13). Some suggest that Paul paid a quick visit to Corinth, which is not recorded in Acts. His purpose was to correct these disorders. The attempt was unsuccessful and in fact was quite painful for him. He was insulted by the ringleader of the opposition party (2:1,5-11; 10:7-11;12:14,21;13:1,2).
Paul returned to Ephesus and wrote a letter of rebuke which he sent to Corinth by Titus (2:3-4,9;7:8-12). Some expositors suggest that the letter referred to in these passages is now 1 Corinthians. This is doubted by others because 1 Corinthians was not written in the state of agitation or grief that is described in 2 Corinthians. The letter, most likely was directed mainly toward the Judaistic party and to their ringleader, who had treated Paul so poorly. The letter is now lost.
Paul had now rebuked them in this letter and so he anxiously waited for Titus to return to see how the letter effected the church. In the meantime the silversmith had caused such an uproar that Paul had to leave Ephesus sooner than planned. He went to Troas for a brief and fruitful ministry then went into Macedonia to meet Titus and receive his report (2:12-13).
Paul and Titus met somewhere in Macedonia and Titus brought good news that the letter had won most of the dissenters back to loyalty to Paul. They had severely punished the ringleader (2:5-11). Chapters 10-13 indicate there were some who were still rebellious and openly opposed Paul and his ministry. It then was with mixed feelings of joy and regret that Paul wrote this letter. He had joy because of the change of mind of the majority, but regret for those who were still in rebellion. Paul wrote 2 Corinthians sent it to Corinth by Titus and two other unnamed disciples (8:16-24).
Other scholars feel there is a direct link between the two Corinthians. William Hendriksen feels the arguments for the position stated above are not conclusive. There is little evidence to show that a visit or letter intervened between the writing of the two epistles.
Those who hold this view feel that after sending 1 Corinthians Paul left Ephesus and went to Troas. Paul's original plan, it was believed was to go by sea from Ephesus to Corinth, and then on to Macedonia, back to Corinth then to Jerusalem (2 Cor.1:15,16). There was most likely a letter preceding 1 Corinthians in which he informed them of his plans. He changed his plans (for good reasons 2 Cor.1:23) and gave the church this information. This change brought severe criticism. Paul carried through with his plans so went from Ephesus to Troas, were he expected to meet Titus with news from Corinth. Titus did not appear and Paul was gravely concerned (2 Cor.2:12,13;7:5) and went on to Macedonia. His concern came from the letter 1 Corinthians, in which he had severely reproved them. He questioned if the Corinthian church had taken to heart the admonitions he had given. When he reached Macedonia he found Titus and received good news about Corinth (2 Cor.7:6-15). The majority had repented but Paul's enemies, stung by the rebuke, attacked his apostleship, and charged he was fickle because he changed his travelling plans, (1:15-24). They said he showed a boastful courage when away, but in fact he was inwardly cowardly. His letters were terrifying but his bodily presence weak. Even though he preached at Corinth without financial support from the church they charged that his motives were impure (2 Cor.11:7-12).
It was then from Macedonia and possibly Philippi that he writes 2 Corinthians. He writes to thank the church for their response to his previous letter, to encourage their support for the poor saints at Jerusalem, and to defend himself against the false charges of his enemies.
1. 2 Corinthians contains 13 chapters, with 257 verses.
2. The author, as with 1 Corinthians ,is Paul. Paul speaks directly of himself twice in the book (1:1; 10:1). The style of writing is clearly his and he in several places refers to his experiences (1:8-17;2:12-13;6:4-5;7:5-6;8:16-23).
3. The date of the writing of the book was somewhere between A.D. 54 and A.D.57 with A.D 56 being a probable date.
4. Paul who had been driven from Ephesus wrote 2 Corinthians from Macedonia (2:13;7:5-7;8:1;9:2-4). There are several early Greek manuscripts that suggest the epistle was written from Philippi which seems a good possibility.
The theme of the book is the true gospel ministry and the vindication of that ministry.
Christ is seen as the Son of God, the One who anoints, the revelation of the glory of God, and the great Judge. He is the reconciler and possessor of the saints.
One of the key words is consolation (comfort), another would be glorious or glory.
2 Cor. 10:3,4 For though we walk in the flesh, we do not war after the flesh: (4) (For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal, but mighty through God to the pulling down of strong holds;)
1. One reason was to explain the purpose of his sufferings while in Asia.
2. He wrote to give a defence of his ministry and establish once and for all his authority as an apostle.
3. Another reason for writing was to justify his change of plans in regard to his visit to Corinth.
4. He desired to express his joy over the positive effect of his previous letter to them.
5. He wrote to exalt the Gospel and it's ministry and showing it's superiority over the Law and it's ministry.
6. The book is an exhortation to the rebellious minority to separate from their worldliness and be reconciled to him and his ministry.
7. It was also to exhort the church to exercise forgiveness to the one who had sinned.
8. Another reason for writing was to exhort them to quickly deal with the matter of the offering for the saints at Jerusalem.
Events and Characters
1. Paul gives them his greetings and then shows that God is the comfort in tribulation. He himself has gone through considerable suffering and therefore he can identify with them in their suffering. He changed his travelling plans, which delayed his coming because he wanted to spare them a further rebuke.
2. The offender that he had instructed to be disciplined had now repented so he urges forgiveness. In coming to Troas he did not sense release so, even though there was an open door for him there he travelled on to Macedonia. The good news from Corinth turned his attention to the triumph in the midst of suffering. The enemy may press in on every side, but the Christian's triumph is in the battle. The glory of the Law was great, but the glory of the New Covenant far exceeds that of the Old. The ungodly cannot comprehend because they are blinded but we have this great treasure in earthen vessels. The light affliction we may have to endure is transitory when compared to the eternal glory that is to be ours.
3. This body is to be dissolved, but we have an eternal tabernacle with which we can be clothed upon from above. It is better to be present with the Lord but he has left us here to minister to those who are around us. There is a terror that awaits all outside of him so we are to persuade men of his love. We are to prove ourselves worthy ministers of his grace, enduring whatever hardship may come our way. We are not to be unequally yoked with unbelievers. We have his promise so we are to purify ourselves. Paul is comforted when he hears of their sorrow which works repentance.
4. He reminds them that the churches of Macedonia have given sacrificially to help the saints at Jerusalem. They need to be equally generous. They should follow the example of the Macedonians, but more importantly that of Christ Himself. Titus, who is the faithful servant, will come to assist them in this matter. They are to give bountifully and they will be blessed bountifully.
5. We are in spiritual battle so our weapons are spiritual and effective to bringing down the enemy's strongholds. Some have suggested that Paul is weak and cowardly but he does not compare himself with others which is foolish. He will not boast in the works of others, but will rejoice in the Lord. He is afraid they are being deceived as Eve was in the garden. Those who would depart from the gospel they had received are preaching another gospel. Paul could claim all the credentials these Judaizers had, but he had humbled himself even to supporting himself while serving them. These false apostles came as angels of light but were really deceivers. He had suffered so many things so he was not second to them but rather he was qualified to be their apostle. He would not glory in these things but in his infirmities. Even though Paul had been given such great visions and revelations that he needed a messenger of Satan to keep him humble, he found God's grace sufficient.
6. He warns them that he will not spare them when he comes this time so they need to prove themselves before the Lord. We need to appear as approved of God. He concludes with blessing and salutations.
Lessons to Remember
1. Doing the will of God will often lead to opposition and problems, but we must press through and conquer.
2. When a person repents we are to receive them back again, rather than shun them.
3. The proof of our call from God is the fruit that is produced in the people to whom we minister.
4. We are to be those who reconcile people to God.
5. The needs of fellow Christians in other less fortunate areas are our concern.
6. We have the weapons to accomplish the task to which we have been called.
7. In the time of opposition and infirmities we are to rejoice and use that as a stepping stone to greater things in God.
8. The Church is responsible to take action against those who walk contrary to the truth.
I Introduction 1 - 3
II Paul His Commission, Motives, Message and Fruit 1:3 - 6
A. Triumph 2:14 - 17
B. Changed Lives 3:1 - 5
C. Motives 5:11 - 16
D. Trials 6:1 - 10
III Ministry of Giving 8 - 9
A. Examples 8:1 - 9
B. Advice and Results 8:10 - 9:15
IV Vindication of Paul's Authority 10 - 13
A. His Personal Appearance 10
B. His Apostleship and Authority 11:1 - 15
C. Suffering 11:16 - 33
D. Revelations 12:1 - 10
E. Love 12:11 - 18
F. Future Manifestation 12:19 - 13:10
G. Conclusion 13:11 - 14
I Salutation 1:1 - 2
II Explanation of Personal Conduct 1:3 - 2:13
III The Defence of the Ministry 2:14 - 7:4
A. The Nature of the Ministry 2:14 - 3:18
B. The Sincerity of the Ministry 4:1 - 6
C. The Perseverance of the Ministry 4:7 - 15
D. The Prospect of the Ministry 4:16 - 5:10
E. The Sanctions of the Ministry 5:11 - 19
F. The Example of the Ministry 5:20 - 6:10
G. The Appeal of the Ministry 6:11 - 7:4
IV Comment of Effects of Letter 7:5 - 16
V The Grace of Giving 8:1 - 9:15
VI Personal Defence 10:1 - 12:13
VII Preparation for Visit 12:14 - 13:10
VIII Concluding Salutation 13:11 - 14
Feed Yourself Students:
Before the next lesson arrives do the following:
1. Read through the Book Of Galations three times.
2. Do your own Book Survey of Galatians.