Snapshot View of 2 Corinthians
Snapshot of 2nd Corinthians.
Two letters, same writer and same recipients, yet totally different in so many ways. In reading 1st and 2nd Corinthians one cannot but help notice how different they are. Some time has passed and the situation has changed. There is also reference to another letter that somehow must have got lost in the sands of time. Some argue that it is included in part of 2nd Corinthians, but evidence from the earliest texts and the Church Fathers disprove this theory. This is also a general letter (1.1) addressed to the Corinthian Church but also to "all the saints throughout Achaia" and so it has a more general audience. Paul again claims that what he writes is easy to understand. This is in direct contrast to Peter's statement with which we can also agree, that many of Paul's writings are "hard to understand" (2 Peter 3:16). This letter, however, is full of great truths that amaze us time and time again. His comparison of the Christian victory to the Roman "Triumph" (2:14-16) is a masterpiece of mind blowing literature. His statement about God's "yes" to us in Christ (1:18), his explanation of freedom in the Spirit (3:16) and how the light of God shines into the world through believers (4:6) are a few examples of the richness of this great letter. But some passages are also difficult to understand, perhaps because he seems to presume that we have information that we do not have. His death sentence (1:9) and his thorn in the flesh (12:8/9) are but two such passages that leave commentators guessing.
Why then is there such a difference between the two letters? Again Paul is responding to news about the Church in Corinth, but now his tone has changed, perhaps because this is also a general letter to the other churches in Achaia and he might have had some regrets about the tone of the previous letter (2:2). As some commentators have written, "This letter is the pouring out of care and concern from the heart of Paul, as a father would write to his children" (6:13).
Paul is concerned mainly about two things in this letter and he makes an heartfelt plea concerning them. Firstly, he is worried about the false apostles who are trying to discredit him and his teaching. Secondly, he is concerned about the aid that was promised to the congregations in Judea and he wants to ensure that what has been promised, is properly taken care of.
In the early Church, as there is today, false prophets were busy and active leading believers away from the truth. Unity in the Church depends on staying with the teaching of the early apostles and so some claimed that as Paul was not one of the original 12, he did not have the authority that he claimed to have. This was an ongoing problem that Paul had to deal with. As the one who brought the good news to Corinth, (see Acts 18:1ff) he felt a great responsibility for the Christians there. Now some were following others and their teaching, and this obviously hurt him deeply.
The other important theme in this letter is the responsibility of the Church to help others and Paul encourages them not to neglect this responsibility. He wants everything to be done "correctly and in order" as he emphasises, both in this letter and also in his previous one. In the rather loose atmosphere in Corinthian Society that attitude could easily infiltrate the Church.
Some key verses that are so important for us in today's world are:
1. 1:12 Here Paul refers to the integrity and sincerity of God.
2. 1:18 God's "yes" to us in Christ.
3. 3.1 The letter of commendation written on the hearts of Christians.
4. 3.6 Where the Spirit is, there is freedom.
5. 4:6 God's light shines through us as we preach the message of Christ.
6. 5.1 The promise of an eternal building from God.
7. 5:16 Being a new creation in Christ.
8. 6:14 Do not be yoked together with unbelievers.
9. 7:10 Godly sorrow leads to repentance which the leads to salvation.
10. 8:9 Christ gave up his heavenly riches so that we can become rich in God's blessings.
11. 10:4 The weapons of spiritual warfare.
12. 11:13-15 Warning against false apostles.
13. 12:8 "My grace is sufficient for you."
14. 13:5 Examine yourself.
15. 13:11 Rejoice, strive and encourage and God's peace will be with you.
What a powerful letter filled with good advice for every age and an encouragement indeed!
References: TNIV New Testament
New Illustrated Bible Dictionary
Barclay, W. The men, the meaning, the message of the books. St Andrews Press