2 Corinthians

Author: Paul.  Aside from Paul identifying himself as the author, this book contains more autobiographical material than any other letter.

Date: 55 AD.  This letter is most likely written later in the same year as 1 Corinthians.  While 1 Corinthians was written from Ephesus before Pentecost, this letter was likely penned from Macedonia before winter set in that year.

Recipients:  This letter was obviously to the Corinthian church but was also for the believers of the surrounding area.  While one church or person is addressed in Paul’s letters, he understood that his instructions would be circulated.

Purpose: False teachers had infiltrated the Corinthian church and were challenging Paul’s authenticity as an apostle as well as his personal integrity.  While Paul’s first letter to the Corinthians was to offer instruction on numerous areas, his second letter is largely written to defend his ministry while in Corinth as well as himself.  Like a lawyer, he lays out point after point in his defense as to why the attacks on his ministry and integrity are without merit.

In addition to Paul defending his ministry, he wrote to inform them that he was coming to them and would be taking up a collection for the poor believers in Jerusalem.  He also admonishes them for their previous faithfulness in giving to those in need.

Key passages in 2 Corinthians

In 2 Corinthians 6 Paul instructs the believers not to be yoked together with unbelievers.  His reasoning for this is simple – the two have nothing in common and the unbeliever will corrupt the believer.

While Paul encourages the Corinthian believers to give to Jerusalem he reminds them in 2 Corinthians 9 that those who sow sparingly will reap sparingly but those who sow generously will reap generously.  Likewise, Paul tells the people to give not under compulsion but simply because they want to give because God loves a cheerful giver.

While Paul defended his ministry he gave an account of his sufferings for the gospel (to date – Paul would go through even more before his death!)  In 2 Corinthians 11 Paul states that he had been lashed 39 times on five occasions   He was beaten with rods three times. He was stoned once and shipwrecked three times and spent an entire day in the open sea.

In 2 Corinthians 12 Paul relates his personal suffering with his thorn in the flesh.  While no one knows what this thorn in the flesh actually was, Paul states that he was given it to keep him from becoming conceited.  Some have speculated that Paul’s vision was failing as there are indications of poor eyesight in other letters.  Paul could have suffered any number of physical problems due to the hardships that he endured and recounted in chapter 11.  Or Paul’s thorn in the flesh could have been any number of naturally occurring physical ailments such as severe arthritis or a hernia.  Whatever the problem, it was severe enough to cause Paul to plead with the Lord to take it from him three times.  God responded the Paul that His grace was sufficient enough for him however.

Key verse

As Paul is defended his credentials and his ministry against false teachers in Corinth, 2 Corinthians 1:12 serves as a good summary of Paul’s defense.

Now this is our boast: Our conscience testifies that we have conducted ourselves in the world, and especially in our relations with you, with integrity and godly sincerity. We have done so, relying not on worldly wisdom but on God’s grace.

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