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Summary: Paul wrote Second Corinthians for several reasons: He wanted to encourage the church to forgive and restore the member who had caused all the trouble (2 Cor. 2:6-11). He wanted to reassert his apostolic authority among the Corinthians (2 Cor. 4:1-2; 10-1)

March 1, 2014

Tom Lowe

The Second Epistle of Paul to the Corinthians

I.A. Salutation. (1:1–2)

2nd Corinthians 1:1-2 (NKJV)

1 Paul, an apostle of Jesus Christ by the will of God, and Timothy our brother, To the church of God which is at Corinth, with all the saints who are in all Achaia:

2 Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.

Introduction

When serious problems arose in the Corinthian church, after his departure, he sent Timothy to deal with them (1 Cor. 4:17), and then Paul wrote the letter we call 1st Corinthians. Unfortunately, matters grew worse and he had to make a “painful visit” to Corinth to confront the trouble makers (2 Cor. 2:1). Still there was no solution. He then wrote a severe letter which was delivered by his associate Titus (2 Cor. 2:4-9; 7:8-12). After a great deal of distress, Paul finally met Titus and got the good report that the problem had been solved. It was then that he wrote the letter we call 2nd Corinthians. He had suffered great persecution in Asia Minor—perhaps in the city of Ephesus—and he was on the way to visit the Corinthians. He was traveling through all of Greece—through both Macedonia in the north and Achaia in the south—to collect a donation for the poor Christians in Jerusalem. Paul sent this letter on ahead of him to tell the Corinthians how they should handle some of the problems that were plaguing them; he especially focused on the problem of false teachers who had infiltrated the church. A significant number of believers had been influenced by these false teachers. Paul wrote Second Corinthians for several reasons:

He wanted to encourage the church to forgive and restore the member who had caused all the trouble (2 Cor. 2:6-11).

He wanted to reassert his apostolic authority among the Corinthians (2 Cor. 4:1-2; 10-12).

He wanted to explain his change of plans (2 Cor. 1:15-22).

He wanted to encourage them to share in the special “relief offering” he was taking up for the needy saints in Judea (2 cor. 8-9).

Much of this letter, written about twelve months after 1st Corinthians is intensely personal, ‘a pouring out of the man himself.’ Though containing several doctrinal matters (for example, 5:1-10 on the resurrection; Ch. 8-9 on Christian giving), the letter vividly reveals Paul’s feelings—and his faith—as he faces peril and disappointment, and counters slander and disloyalty, while he carries out his commission as an apostle. Often we will be puzzled by unexplained references and allusions to people and events, doubtless familiar to the Corinthians, yet totally unfamiliar to us. But in general the letter is Paul’s spirited refutation of certain sham ‘apostles’ who had infiltrated the Corinthian church for their own ends, and in the process were busily discrediting the apostle and the true gospel he preached.

This letter was probably one of the more difficult letters for Paul to write. Although Paul wanted to rejoice with the Corinthians in their spiritual growth, he didn’t shrink from asserting his authority and disciplining those who needed it.

Commentary

1 Paul, an apostle of Jesus Christ by the will of God, and Timothy our brother, To the church of God which is at Corinth, with all the saints who are in all Achaia:

Paul, an apostle of Jesus Christ by the will of God.

Right from the start, Paul introduced himself as an apostle. It was appropriate for Paul to mention his apostleship here, for his authority is a major theme of this letter. A group of false apostles had infiltrated the Corinthian church—“For such are false apostles, deceitful workers, transforming themselves into apostles of Christ” (2 Cor. 11:13). This greatly distressed Paul because he had founded the church on his second missionary journey. To gain a foot-hold in Corinth, these false apostles had systematically discredited Paul’s missionary work. Paul wrote 2 Corinthians to defend his apostolic authority and to refute the false teachers and their accusations.

What does it mean to be an “apostle”? The Greek word from which we get “apostle” means “one sent forth.” An apostle was “sent forth” by Jesus Christ with the mission to make disciples in His name—“And Jesus came and spoke to them, saying, "All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age." Amen. (Matt. 28:18-20). The disciples—the twelve who followed Jesus during His earthly ministry, learning from Him and witnessing His miracles—became the apostles. Yet Paul was also included among the apostles because Jesus Himself had called Paul to preach the Good News to the Gentiles. Although Paul had been a zealous Pharisee who persecuted Christians, Jesus appeared to him on the Damascus road, calling him to a radically different life. Paul was a disciple by the will of God because God Himself chose him for that work—“But the Lord said to him, "Go, for he is a chosen vessel of Mine to bear My name before Gentiles, kings, and the children of Israel” (Acts 9:15). This vision of Christ changed Paul forever, making him not only a devoted follower of Christ, but also an apostle sent by Christ to make disciples among the Gentiles. Jesus’ calling gave Paul the authority to establish churches throughout the known Mediterranean world and to teach the believers who gathered in these churches. Paul’s apostleship was confirmed by the apostles in Jerusalem (Acts 9:28), and his message was confirmed at the council of Jerusalem (Acts 15:1-21). However, it was this divine call that sustained the apostle during many bitter hours. Oftentimes when, in the service of Christ, he was pressed beyond measure, he might well have given up and gone home if he had not had the assurance of a divine call.

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