Paul’s Second Epistle to the Corinthians
There is some debate over how many letters Paul wrote to the Corinthians, with some considering that this second letter as
we have it is, in fact, a composite of three, a fraction of the first plus the third and fourth. As one would expect, many
scholars will insist that Second Corinthians is complete in its own right. This summary will treat this letter as one since it
‘forms a coherent whole… Tradition has been unanimous in affirming its unity (the early church fathers, for example, knew
the letter only in its present form)… none of the Greek manuscripts break up the book’ (Quoted from the New International
Version introduction to 2 Corinthians).
First Corinthians dealt with problems in the church in Corinth. After this letter was written, misunderstandings arose
between Paul and the Corinthian church, which caused great distress to Paul, leading him to make what he described as a
painful visit to Corinth. After this painful visit, he wrote a letter ‘with many tears’, then sent Titus to them to try to appease
the situation there. When Titus returned with good news from Corinth, the relieved Paul wrote this second Epistle.
Paul excuses his not coming to them
Following his initial greeting, Paul offers thanksgiving to God for bringing him and his companions through all their
tribulations, particularly mentioning their troubles in Asia and the prayerful support of the Corinthian church. He appeals to
their recognition of his integrity and that of his fellow labourers, mentions his intent to visit them and excuses his not doing
Preparing the way for his next visit
Paul’s earlier letter was written with much anguish and in tears. He now exhorts them to forgive the repentant sinner and
confirm their love for him. Paul then gives thanks to God, reflecting on his recent ministry centred on Macedonia.
The ministry of the New Testament
Paul explains how he doesn’t need letters of confirmation of his ministry as an apostle, since the converts at Corinth were
more than sufficient commendation. He then draws a comparison between the ministry of the law (the Old Testament), the
truth of which remains veiled to the Jews, and that of the Spirit (the New Testament) and its superiority in that it is able to
lead Christians to salvation.
Afflictions in ministry
Paul explains the integrity of their ministry and that any failure is because unbelievers were being blinded by the god of
this world (Satan). His preaching is of Christ and he, being merely an earthen vessel, gives glory to God. Troubles and
afflictions are suffered but do not deter, since their faith in Him who raised the Lord Jesus will also raise them.
Consequently, their afflictions are considered light when compared to the prospect of eternal blessings.
Paul’s ministry of reconciliation
Paul expresses his desire to be with the Lord, but there is also the need to be about his ministry, a need driven by the
Spirit and the knowledge he will be judged, for all will appear before the judgement seat of God. It is for the love of Christ
that he labours to persuade all to be prepared for that day, by becoming new creatures in Christ, who died that we might
be reconciled to God. This, Paul says, is his ministry, that of reconciliation.
Paul appeals to the Corinthians
Expressing the many trials he has suffered to bring his message to them, Paul appeals to them not to have received the
gospel in vain. They are not to fellowship with unbelievers, for their ways have nothing in common with Christ’s ways. His
appeal is that of a spiritual father to his children.
Paul’s joy with the Corinthians
Paul reflects on the concern he had for them whilst in Macedonia, and how the news that Titus brought of their reformation
turned that concern to great joy. Their reformation had been brought about because of his earlier letter, and he is able to
rejoice that his boasting to Titus concerning them, and his confidence in them, is now validated.
The collection for the Christians at Jerusalem
Paul praises the Macedonian churches for their generosity in giving, and encourages the church at Corinth to emulate
them. Nevertheless, he advises them that their giving should be with a willing heart and not such that it would prove a
burden to them. Paul commends the integrity of Titus and others who are being sent to them for the purpose of collecting
the church’s offerings.
However, Paul recognises his writing to them concerning giving is hardly necessary, but he desires that their collection
should be made before he arrives so as not to appear to be by coercion, should some Macedonians come with him. They
are reminded that being generous in their giving results in generosity from God, particularly when giving is from the heart
and not grudgingly, for God loves a cheerful giver and His grace will abound towards them.
Paul’s defence of his apostolic authority and the area of his mission
There are those who oppose Paul (vs 2, 10, 12), so here he seeks to vindicate himself. He asserts his spiritual authority in
preaching and in his punishment of offenders, emphasising his relationship with Christ and authority through Him. He
refuses to behave like the false teachers amongst them who judge themselves by comparison with one another, but
measures himself according to his own rules that focus on glorifying God.
Paul forced into foolish boasting
Paul apologises for what he is about to write, for he has a great love for them and is fearful they may be drawn away from
the simplicity of the gospel by false teachers. He then boasts of his own ministry, comparing himself to other apostles, and
emphasises how he was supported by the church in Macedonia whilst bringing the gospel to them at Corinth. Paul mentions
the deceitful nature of false teachers, then boasts of all his troubles and afflictions in support of himself as a true apostle.
Paul relates his own glorious conversion and how he suffers an infliction, his ‘thorn in the flesh’, which in answer to pleas in
prayer was told by Christ, ‘My grace is sufficient for thee: for my strength is made perfect in weakness.’ In this he even
takes pleasure in his sufferings, as they bring glory to God and vindicate his position as an apostle. He now tells of his
intention to visit them again, expresses his love for them, and tells them of his apprehension that he might still find
unrepentant sinners in their midst.
Reminding them that his next visit will be his third, Paul warns them he will not be weak in dealing with sinners, and pleads
with them to examine themselves so that they might be true to their faith.
He concludes with a final exhortation of Christian love and his prayer of grace.