2 Corinthians

Demetrius lived many centuries ago. He was a Greek literary man. He once said that everyone shows himself in his letters. This is especially true of 2 Corinthians. George Herbert lived in the 17th century. He was a great church leader. And he spoke about this book too. He said that it was full of Paul's different emotions. Paul showed the greatest care for this church too.

This is a letter from the Apostle Paul. He had to tell certain people that he had not done wrong things. These people did not recognize that he was the leader. The letter shows something sad. It is this. The best people often suffer because of ‘good’ people.

The Apostle was Sincere (Chapters 1-2)

Paul started the letter with a greeting. Then there was a great Bible subject. It was the comfort of God (1:3-7). ‘He comforts us every time that we have trouble’. Therefore, ‘we can comfort other people any time that they have trouble’.

[Note: The Greek language word is ‘parakalein.]

This means that we come near to someone. We help and encourage that person. One of the Holy Spirit's names is Paraclete. He comes near to each Christian. He helps and encourages.

Paul had proved these things. He had had many troubles (1:8-11). But they had taught him three things. First, he depended more on God (1:9). Second, he had hope for the future (1:10). Third, he had learned the value of people who prayed for him (1:11).

Some people in the city of Corinth insulted Paul. They told lies about him. And they complained about him. He dealt with some of these things later. But now, he said that he had not done anything wrong.

We see that:

He was sincere (1:12-14).

He was steady (1:15-22). Maybe some people had complained that he was always changing what he thought about things. Therefore, people could not trust him.

He had sympathy (1:23-2:4). He did not visit them, because he loved them. He did not want to cause them pain.

He showed mercy (2:5-11). He spoke about the person in the church who had done wrong. (Maybe he was the leader of those who were opposing Paul.) ‘Now you should forgive him and comfort him,’ he said (2:7). ‘Show him that you love him’ (2:8). Paul seemed to show clearly something serious. If they refused to forgive that person, they were helping Satan (2:11).

He was confident (2:12-17). Human weakness sometimes delays God's work (2:12-13). But Christ's success continues across the world (2:14-17).

The Apostle's Teaching (Chapters 3-6)

Paul's teaching:

Had good results (3:1-3). People at Corinth had become Christians. And their lives showed that Paul's teaching was right.

Had authority (3:4-6). God gave Paul and his friends the right to do this work.

Brought liberty (3:7-18). The old covenant (the Law) was splendid. John Knox lived from AD 1505-1572. And he spoke about the old covenant and the new covenant. He said that the old covenant was like a lamp. It did not seem so bright when dawn came. The old covenant shows us that we are guilty. But the new covenant can change us. We can become like Christ. (Read 3:18.)

Was true (4:1-6). Some people were using God's word in the wrong way. (Read 2:17.) The true message affects a person's conscience. And this test showed people that Paul's message was true (4:2). It is still possible to do this. We might decide that we know what God's word should mean. We might have our own ideas about a passage from the Bible. And this might change its meaning. It could stop its benefits for those who need it most (4:3). The devil (Satan) stops people from seeing the truth. And we must not help him to do this (4:4).

The message is a Person. Paul said ‘We preach that Jesus Christ is Lord’ (4:5). ‘God made his light shine in our hearts.’ This brought us ‘the knowledge of God's glory’. It was ‘shining in the face of Christ’ (4:6). Here Paul is probably thinking about how he became a Christian. (Read Acts 9:1-19.)

Brought honour to God (4:7-18). There should be no honour for the preacher or the teacher (4:7). The honour must be all for the One about whom the preacher or teacher speaks. And Paul's message brought honour to God (4:15). The work was difficult. There were many troubles. But they seemed like nothing when he thought about the future honour (4:16-18).

Was serious (5:1-10). Paul did not deal with minor matters. His message was about life and death. It was about:

  • death (5:1-2)
  • salvation (5:5)
  • faith (5:7)
  • judgement (5:10).

Persuaded (5:11-6:2). Notice the words that Paul used. They are: persuade (5:11), appeal (5:20), urge (6:1). Paul spoke with emotion. He felt God's love for people. He said, ‘The love of Christ controls us’ (5:14). He urged people to go to Christ for salvation. Christ loved them enough to die for them (5:14). And Christ could change them into new people (5:17). By Christ, ‘God made peace between us and himself’ (5:18). ‘God made Christ become sin for us’ (5:21).

God's grace is so wonderful. We do not deserve it. Paul urged people to come to Christ now. The opportunity would not always be there. And Paul used some words from the Old Testament (Isaiah 49:8). He said, “I tell you that the right time is now. The ‘day of salvation’ is now” (6:2).

Brought suffering (6:3-13). God speaks to people in many ways. He uses all sorts of experiences and people. Sometimes God uses hard circumstances. And Paul described nine hard things that happened to him (6:4-7). His enemies said seven negative things about him. But God made them into good things (6:8b-10).

Was clear and definite (6:14-7:1). Paul stated that we are God's Temple. This fact demanded that believers’ lives should be holy (6:16-18).

[Note: There are very important words for single Christians in 6:14-18. ‘You are not the same as people who do not believe. So do not join yourselves to them’. If they did, their marriages could be very sad.]

The Apostle's Sympathy (Chapters 7-9)

Paul said, ‘Be friends with us again’ (7:2). These words describe the subject of this section. Relationships between Paul and the people who belonged to this church were not good. This was because of Paul's earlier letter to them (7:8). But Paul wrote like this because he loved them. He wanted them to repent (7:8-13). Titus told him about the church's response to his letter. And this gave Paul much joy (7:14-16). It showed that his good opinion of them was right.

There were people who needed help. And we see Paul's sympathy for them too. Chapters 8-9 deal with this matter. Christians in Judea needed practical help very much. And Paul stated his opinion about true giving. It:

  • begins with individuals who offer themselves first (8:5)
  • is because Christ offered himself (8:9-10)
  • is continuous (8:10-11)
  • is the right amount of money. This would be a certain proportion of a person's income (8:12)
  • is right by God's standards and by man's standards (8:20-21).

Some people are selfish. They do not want to give to other people. And Paul says that these people will not receive God's gifts (9:6-15). God's greatest gift is Jesus Christ. ‘His gift is too wonderful to explain’ (9:15). We could never pay back enough for this great gift.

The Apostle's Authority (Chapters 10-13)

Here Paul spoke to a few people. They were still against him. And his previous letter did not change their opinion (10:8-11). They did not like the way that he acted. They thought that he was like people in the world (10:2). But Paul explained that his work was not like this. It was about spiritual and eternal things (10:3-6). He was the first person to bring them the gospel (10:14).

People who were against Paul complained about four things. They were:

  • his letters (10:10)
  • his physical appearance (10:10)
  • the way that he preached (10:10, 11:6)
  • his lack of love (11:11).

There was a possible reason why these people opposed Paul. Some Jews spoke different things about Christ. They seemed to be right. So, some people followed them (11:2-4, 22). But Paul called these Jews ‘false apostles’ (11:13). They had not had troubles. And they had not suffered.

Paul recorded many terrible things that had happened to him (11:24-33). But something was more important to Paul. His body was weak. So he had to depend only on Christ (12:1-10).

Paul would do anything that he could for the people who lived in Corinth (12:15). But bad things might be happening in the group. And Paul gave a list of some evil things. He might learn about them when he visited Corinth. They might be arguing, jealous and angry. There might be selfish fights and evil talk. They might gossip and they might be proud. And there might be confusion (12:20).

He urged the people who read his letter to test themselves (13:5). He urged them to change how they lived. He wanted them to agree with each other. And he reminded them who was there to help them. It was God: Father, Son and Holy Spirit (13:14).