2 Corinthians is more “stream of consciousness” than any of Paul’s other letters. Paul is a strategic writer, and this letter is so personal that it has some scholars scratching their heads. This letter gives is unique insight into who Paul is.
“Since Paul’s first letter, the Corinthian church had been swayed by false teachers who stirred the people against Paul. They claimed he was fickle, proud, unimpressive in appearance and speech, dishonest, and unqualified as an apostle of Jesus Christ. Paul sent Titus to Corinth to deal with these difficulties, and upon his return, rejoiced to hear of the Corinthians’ change of heart. Paul wrote this letter to express his thanksgiving for the repentant majority, and to appeal to the rebellious minority to accept his authority. Throughout the book he defends his conduct, character, and calling as an apostle of Jesus Christ.” (1.)
- Ch. 1-7: Paul’s ministry and relationship with the Corinthians
- Ch. 8-9: Paul’s concern for the poor in Jerusalem and importance of the Corinthians’ contributions.
- Ch. 10-13: the clearest defense of Paul’s apostleship. He explains why he can say what he’s saying, and why he can confront the false teachers he’s confronted, anchored on his commitment to Jesus Christ.
- This is Paul’s most personal and intimate letter, sharing feelings, concern, and insights for the Corinthians.
- Paul’s main concern was false teaching—not because it’s just divisive, but because it’s dangerous.
- Paul defends his apostleship in an unusual manner.
Ch. 1 emphasizes comfort, affliction, and suffering. 2 Corinthians 1:3-7 is a passage I’ve returned to and shared again and again as I or others face challenges. A remarkable passage to dwell upon when we endure sickness, disease, aging, discouragement, loss—anything that brings affliction and suffering.
“When I understand that everything happening to me is to make me more Christlike, it resolves a great deal of anxiety.” – A. W. Tozer (2.)
What a mark of maturity to be able to recall that all of our suffering is to make us more Christlike.
Notably, following this passage is an encouragement not to underestimate our prayers. 2 Corinthians 1:11
This is a verse we take by faith. Somehow, God uses prayer in ways we cannot measure. Don’t underestimate your prayer life.
- 2 Corinthians 3:2 Paul is writing to people who are giving him grief, and he says of them “you are our letter, written in our hearts…”
- 2 Corinthians 4:1, 2 Corinthians 4:16 “we do not lose heart” Do not lose heart! How helpful is it to lose heart? Some of you, that’s all you need to know today: don’t lose heart.
- 2 Corinthians 4:17
- 2 Corinthians 5:14 A consideration for us: Does the love of Christ control you?
- 2 Corinthians 5:17 A passage many are exposed to when they come to Christ. A recalibration: you were dead to sin, now you’re alive to Christ. You were enslaved to sin, now you’re enslaved to Christ. If this occurs in your life, you are a new creature. You still have a sin nature, but you’re new. A great reminder.
- 2 Corinthians Ch. 8 is an important passage on financial stewardship.
- Consider 2 Corinthians 8:3-4 This passage speaks of truly transformed lives, a people compelled to live generously.
- 2 Corinthians 11-12 is a defense of Paul’s credentials outlining:
- He laid no financial burden when he was within rights to do so
- He worked
- He does not boast in his abilities, but in his weakness (a theme he uses in 1 Corinthians 1 as well)
- 2 Corinthians 11:22-28 He’s been through such suffering and affliction, and carries the weight of concern for all the churches.
What constitutes a true apostle?
- Chosen by Christ
- Having been with Christ
- Doing the works of Christ
Paul doesn’t have the experience with Christ as the 12 did, he has that Damascus road experience and gives us the qualifications of an apostle.
- 2 Corinthians 13:5 We often hear in application of this verse that this is a test to determine if you’re a Christian, but I’m not sure that’s what Paul intends. I think he’s saying: if you’re a believer in Jesus Christ, you ought to be sanctified, growing in your faith, so test yourself!:
- Are you any more like Jesus Christ than you were last year? Several years ago?
- Are you becoming a little more like Christ and a little less like your sinful self?
- Are you obeying him—joyfully? Do you want to be sanctified? Some of us like our sin, and we should examine that. What’s going on? “Test yourself.”
We measure progress in a number of our efforts. Have you ever tried to lose weight, or run a marathon, or otherwise alter your lifestyle or grow in some way? You measure small increments of success.
Here, Paul suggests: examine yourselves. Do you recognize Christ in you?
Keep your nose in the Bible. Keep working at your prayer life. Keep working to be the man or woman God made you to be—and don’t lose heart! He loves you!
He loves you more than you love your sin.
He loves you more than you love the world.
He cares about your maturity, that you’re becoming more like Jesus Christ.
- Bruce Wilkinson and Kenneth Boa, Talk Thru the Bible(Nashville: T. Nelson, 1983), 387.
- Article: “God Uses Everything, Why Our Suffering is Never Wasted,” Vaneetha Risner