Second Corinthians

Who wrote the book?

Paul wrote 2 Corinthians at a vulnerable time in his life. He had learned that the church at Corinth was struggling, and he sought to take action to preserve the unity of that local body of believers. The letter is riddled with personal comments as Paul revealed details about the persecution he had suffered for the sake of Christ as well as about a mysterious thorn in the flesh that kept him reliant on God.

Where are we?

After sending Timothy off from Ephesus to deliver the letter of 1 Corinthians, Paul, in his concern for the church, made a quick visit of his own to Corinth. Afterward, Paul returned to his work in Ephesus, where he wrote a sorrowful letter to the Corinthians that has not been preserved (see 2 Corinthians 2:1–11; 7:8). Paul then departed for Macedonia. Once there, he received a good report from Titus regarding the Corinthians (7:13), which led Paul to write a fourth letter to them, titled “2 Corinthians” in the Bible. (See 1 Corinthians page to read about Paul’s first two letters to the Corinthians.) The apostle composed this letter near the end of AD 56, possibly in the city of Philippi.

Why is Second Corinthians so important?

This letter offers a great deal of personal insight into Paul’s life that is not present in any other New Testament book. However, in chapters 8 and 9, his letter also clearly reveals God’s plan for His people to give to others. Paul first focused on the generous example of the Macedonian churches, largely Gentile, who gave to their Jewish Christian brothers and sisters in Jerusalem. Then he exhorted the Corinthian believers to make donations of their own to the work in Jerusalem. Several realities about Christian giving become clear in these two chapters: Christians give generously according to, and at times beyond, their financial abilities; Christians give their money across racial and national lines; Christians who make commitments to give should follow through with those promises; and Christians should give cheerfully, rather than under compulsion.

What's the big idea?

The church at Corinth had recently been struggling with divisions and quarrels. But for a majority of the believers, the problem had been solved by the time Paul wrote 2 Corinthians. Many had repented of their sinful ways and had come back into unity with one another and with the leadership of Paul.

However, Paul still felt the need to articulate a defense of his apostleship and his message. Some in the church had apparently taken his meekness among them to be a sign of moral weakness or lack of authority (2 Corinthians 10:1–2). These accusations led Paul to defend himself by arguing that he was on the same level of importance as the other apostles, that he had deep knowledge of the Christian faith, that he had suffered profound physical punishment in the name of Christ, and that he had received visions and revelations from God (11:1–12:13).

How do I apply this?

Just as Paul wrote to the Corinthians in the wake of their repentance from divisions and quarrels, the message for today is clear: living in unity requires us to humbly forgive one another and to follow our leaders. Second Corinthians reminds us that even as Christians, we hurt each other and need to forgive those who wrong us (2 Corinthians 2:7). That Paul was willing to exhort the Corinthian believers to forgive those who had fallen away and repented, even as he defended his own apostleship against a vocal opposition, illustrates the apostle’s commitment to this way of life among God’s people.

In what ways do you struggle to forgive others and/or to follow your godly leaders? An overinflated sense of ourselves often leads us to strike out on our own or hold on to our frustration and anger regarding the choices of others. However, just as Paul reminded us of Jesus’s ministry of reconciliation (5:17–19), we must seek to reconcile relationships in which disunity reigns. Look out for the pitfall of disunity with leaders and other believers in your own life while striving to live among all people in humility.

Related Articles

“Lord, Are You Sure?”

Recently, my son Jonathan began asking a particular question after almost everything I said. He asks his question, then follows my answer by asking, “Are you sure?” “Mom, can I go outside?” “Sure.” “Are you sure?” “Yes.” “Mom, can I eat breakfast?” “Absolutely; dive in.” “Are you sure?” “I’m sure.” “Mom, can I play X-Box?” […]

Read More

30 Days to Finding the Freedom of Forgiveness

Living in a fallen world of people where we all sin and have been sinned against means we all need forgiveness and to grant forgiveness. Although they are not always easy tasks, doing so is worthwhile bringing freedom and blessing. This article is designed to create a better understanding and application of forgiveness. For the […]

Read More

A Gift Too Wonderful for Words

Long ago in a quiet, crude place where animals sleep, Mary gave birth and felt the soft, human skin of her firstborn. The humanity of this scene appropriately pulls us in for a closer look. We can identify with Joseph’s confusion, with Mary’s wonder, and with the shepherds’ amazement about the Son of God’s quiet […]

Read More

A Quick-Start Guide to Life

“When all else fails, read the instructions.” That little, seven-word warning ought to appear on every electric train set, every plastic model, every backyard swing set in a two-ton package, every high-tech gizmo—anything that comes disassembled or requires electricity. Don’t try to pretend this doesn’t apply to you! I have no doubt that, just like […]

Read More

Breaking the Stereotype

When Paul and Titus travelled to Crete, Paul left his companion there to oversee the churches on the island. Paul knew that Titus would be up against some unscrupulous rivals for the attention of the islanders. Writing to Titus to instruct and encourage him, Paul uses a most outrageous stereotype to strengthen his resolve. Quoting […]

Read More

Contentment

Laurence J. Peter and I are close friends. No, actually, we’ve never met, but we’ve visited together numerous times. We’ve never even shaken hands, but we’ve been in agreement ever since we crossed paths. Although I’ve never laid eyes on him, I’ve smiled at his comments and nodded at his conclusions . . . amazed […]

Read More

Dependence

For most of us, asking for help is difficult. I really don’t prefer it; some of you may not as well. Yet, God lets us know time and time again that we need help. After all, He refers to us most often as sheep—the most difficult and demanding of any livestock on earth. Admitting need […]

Read More