2 Corinthians

Genuine Apostolic Ministry

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An Introduction to Courses

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Taster Course

A short introduction

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Starter Course

Getting into the guts of what’s going on

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Main Course

The meat! And what to do about it!

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Dessert Course

Material for Church leaders and Tertiary level students

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The Key
The Key to unlocking the dynamic

The key to unlocking the dynamic of 2 Corinthians is to understand the complicated relationship between the Corinthian church and the apostle Paul. At its simplest, the church is challenging (and in some cases rejecting) Paul’s apostolic oversight. However, not only are the issues and events between church and apostle complicated, but discerning the literary structure of ‘2 Corinthians’ is also exceptionally testing. A summary of the literary issues and the context can be found in ‘The Essentials’ in the ‘Starter Course’.


hear
Hear
Listen Here

2 Corinthians has 13 chapters and it will take about 30-45 minutes to listen to it.

 

Given that the letter is in sections you may find it more beneficial to listen to the sections on their own.

 

Click on the link above to listen to an audio version of 2 Corinthians.

 

Download a Bible App for your smart phone and listen when you’re at the gym, travelling etc …

 


Read
Read

2 Corinthians has 13 chapters and it will take about 30-45 minutes to read it through.

 

Given that the letter is in sections, you may find it more beneficial to read each section on its own:

Chapters 1-7

Chapters 8-9

Chapters 10-13

 

Before starting, I strongly recommend reading about the context and background in ‘The Essentials’ and/or ‘Structure and Argument, or in the ‘Verse by Verse’.

 

Read the chapters in conjunction with the BfL Podcasts in the ‘Starter Course’.

 


Watch
Watch

Any film where the leading character endures severe hardship in order to maintain their integrity while accomplishing their goal.

 

 


Study
Study

2 Corinthians is a complicated letter and you will probably find it easier to study the different parts section by section:

Chapters 1-7

Chapters 8-9

Chapters 10-13

 

BfL recommends careful study; the main substance is in the ‘Verse by Verse’ section in the ‘Main Course’.

 

Begin by studying and becoming familiar with the ‘Structure and Argument’ in the ‘Starter Course’.

 


Meditate
Meditate

Begin your time with God each day by taking three or four verses, ‘wallowing in them very deeply’, and then living the rest of the day in the light of their truths.

 

 

Suggested verses for meditation

 

3:6   ‘He has made us competent as ministers of a new covenant – not of the letter but of the Spirit; for the letter kills, but the Spirit gives life.’

 

4:10  ‘We always carry around in our body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be revealed in our body.’

 

5:9   ‘We make it our goal to please him.’

 

7:1   ‘Let us purify ourselves from everything that contaminates body and soul perfecting holiness out of reverence for God.’

 

9:6-7   ‘Whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows generously will also reap generously. Each man should do as he has made up his own mind, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver.’

 

11:2-3   ‘I promised you to one husband, to Christ, so that I may present you as a pure virgin to him. But I am afraid that just as Eve was deceived by the serpent’s cunning, your minds may somehow be led astray from your sincere and pure devotion to Christ.’

 

12:9-10   ‘But he said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness’. Therefore I shall boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. That is why for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak then I am strong.’

 

13:14   ‘May the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all.’

 


learn
Learn

Consider learning:

 

The whole of chapter 4

 

9:6-7   ‘Whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows generously will also reap generously. Each man should do as he has made up his own mind, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver.’

 

12:9-10   ‘But he said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness’. Therefore I shall boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. That is why for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak then I am strong.’

 


Challenge
The Challenge

Explanation:  We all learn in different ways. This section is for those who find that being challenged spurs them on to master a subject.

 

Here are ten questions about ‘2 Corinthians’. See how you score. The answers are at the bottom of the page.

 

 

 

Easy:

Q1   How many people did Paul send to Corinth to help finish raising the collection the church had promised to give to the Jerusalem Christians?

Q2   The most valiant act a Roman soldier could do was to be the first to scale a wall and subdue the city’s occupants. What is Paul’s highest (deeply ironic) boast?

Q3   Can you quote the final verse of 2 Corinthians?

 

 

Straightforward:

Q4   What damning description does Paul give the “super-apostles”?

Q5   Four times in 2 Corinthians Paul describes the sufferings he is enduring (1:8-10, 4:8-12, 6:4-10, 11:23-33). Why does he do this?

Q6   The leading atonement concept in 2 Corinthians is ‘reconciliation’. In what context is the word ‘reconciliation’ usually found and used?

 

 

Difficult:

Q7   What is the one feature that Paul understands to lie at the heart of all financial giving and receiving?

Q8   What is the ‘operating principle’ of power in the Kingdom?

 

 

Testing:

Q9   Paul urges the Corinthians to re-instate the Christian who had been placed under church discipline (2:5-11). Various suggestions have been made as to who this person was and what he had done. Name two of them.

Q10   What is the operating principle of ‘cruciformity’ (4:8-12)?

 

 

 

Answers:

A1 – 3: Titus, the ‘famous’ brother, and the ‘zealous’ brother (8:16-24).

A2 – He was lowered down the Damascus city wall and he ran away into the night (11:30f)!

A3 – ‘May the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you.’ (Often referred to as ‘The Grace’).

A4 – They are actually ‘false apostles’ operating under satanic delusion.

A5 – Paul repeatedly recounts his sufferings in order to counter the false teaching of his opponents at Corinth who are teaching triumphalism – that the Christian life is a triumphant life where nothing ever goes wrong.

A6 – Reconciliation is best understood as bringing together and restoring the relationship between two members of the same family.

A7 – Grace (8:1, 8:9, 9:14).

A8 – Jesus’ grace is sufficient for us; his power is made perfect in weakness (12:9-10).

A9 – The following have been suggested: 1) The immoral man in 1 Corinthians 5:1-5. 2) The leading opponent to Paul. 3) The defendant in the Court case (1 Corinthians 6:1-11, 2 Corinthians 7:12).

A10 – That since God raises the dead in Christ (1:9), God’s power is witnessed most supremely when those who preach the gospel suffer as a result of their gospel ministry in a way which is like Christ’s own sufferings (2 Corinthians 4:8-12). When this happens the ‘fragrance of the knowledge of Christ’ is spread everywhere (2:14). This is in direct contrast to those who operate ‘by the standards of this world’ and think that Christianity should be triumphalist!

Maps

Map of Corinth

The map shows Corinth, Troas and the Provinces of Asia Minor, Macedonia and Achaia.

taster course

Overview

Questions

5 mins

    • Video - The book explained in 4 minutes
    • Video
      Summary - All the key features in a one page summary
    • Summary
    • /
    • Timeline of Events and Letters

    Summary

     

    The letter entitled ‘2 Corinthians’ is arguably the most complicated literary document in the New Testament. This is because it is only a short window into the much longer interaction between the apostle Paul and the young church at Corinth, which was both complicated and at times traumatic. It is essential to study the background carefully because the structure and argument of the letter are determined by our understanding of the different visits that have taken place and the letters that were written before ‘2 Corinthians’.

     

    When Paul left Corinth in 52CE, he left a young church in a cosmopolitan city at the cross-roads of the Mediterranean trade-routes. The growth and maturing of this Christian community was fraught with complications, and over the next five years several letters passed between them and different visits were made by individuals and small groups. One of the main causes of the complications that Paul addresses was that the church was listening to, and coming under the influence of, travelling wisdom philosophers, and then subsequently Judaisers, who were trying to convince the young Christians to obey the Old Testament law and become Jews. It is also clear from chapters such as 1 Corinthians 4, 5, 6, 9, 10, 12, and 2 Corinthians chapters 1, 2, 5, 6 and 10-13 that there was considerable opposition to Paul from within the Corinthian church. Some were outspokenly critical of Paul; others seemed to think that the church should aspire to success and influence by following worldly patterns and aspirations. Paul’s ungainly missionary party tramping from city to city and working hard to pay their own way looked very third-rate and embarrassing in comparison to the impressive shows the trained wisdom speakers put on as they travelled the Mediterranean seeking patronage from whoever would listen. In addition, not only did the apostle need to address sensitive pastoral disciplinary issues, but he and his missionary team were themselves recovering from a period of such severe persecution that they had become convinced they were going to die.

     

    In 2 Corinthians 1-9, Paul begins by explaining his earlier decisions (which the Corinthians had misunderstood): he defends the integrity of his apostolic ministry and appeals to them to open their hearts to him. He then exhorts them to complete the fundraising for the Jerusalem church that they had promised a year earlier. Paul sends Titus with this letter to Corinth. Soon after, Titus returns with the news that the situation has taken a serious turn for the worse and that some in the church are in open opposition to Paul. Paul decides to visit the church to address the issues once and for all. He writes the strongly worded letter of 2 Corinthians 10-13 ahead of this third visit to them.

     

    In ‘2 Corinthians’, we see the apostle Paul’s love for those who are causing him extreme grief and trouble. We see genuine ‘cruciform’ apostolic ministry. We learn the Kingdom principle that the power of Christ works through weakness, and we watch the most gifted apostolic leader minister with wisdom, courage, love and integrity.

    Timeline: Events and Letters

     

     

    50AD      Paul travels to Corinth and establishes a church

     

    52AD      Paul leaves Corinth

     

    54-55AD      Paul writes the ‘previous’ letter (1 Cor 5:9)

     

    Spring of either 54 or 55AD      Paul writes 1 Corinthians

     

    56AD       Paul’s second visit to Corinth (2 Cor 2:1)

     

                     Paul writes the ‘severe’ letter (2 Cor 2:3-4, 7:8-13)

     

    56-57AD      Paul writes 2 Corinthians – probably just chapters 1-9

     

                         Paul writes 2 Corinthians 10-13 – only a few weeks after 2 Cor 1-9

     

    57AD      Paul’s third visit to Corinth

    Timeline of Events and Letters >
    taster Questions - Questions to start you off

    Question 1 -

    Paul and his team suffered terribly in the province of Asia. Mussie Ezaz, a youth evangelist, and hundreds like him, are suffering (along with their families) today in Eritrea. What can we do to help?


    watch video

    Question 2 -

    What’s the best fundraising project you’ve ever participated in?


    Question 3 -

    Have you ever witnessed the leadership of a church disciplining one of the church members?


    watch video

    starter course

    Structure and Argument

    podcasts

    the essentials

    Questions

    10 mins

    • Structure and Argument -
    • Chapters 1-7
    • /
    • Chapters 8-9
    • /
    • Chapters 10-13

    Structure and Argument

     

    The letter entitled ‘2 Corinthians’ has three sections:

     

     

    Section 1   Chapters 1 – 7: Paul explains his decisions and what has happened. He defends the integrity of his apostolic ministry, and appeals to the Corinthians to open their hearts to him. 

     

    Paul ended the letter entitled ‘1 Corinthians’ with an outline of his plans to visit the church. This visit proved to be (very) ‘painful’ (2:1). It appears that when the Corinthians refused to discipline one of their members – possibly the incestuous man (1 Corinthians 5:9), or perhaps one of Paul’s vociferous opponents – Paul withdrew and then wrote the ‘severe’ letter (2:4). He sent Titus back to Corinth with the letter, while he went north to preach the gospel in Troas. When Titus did not come back to Troas, Paul went north to Macedonia (2:12-13), where to Paul’s great relief Titus returned from Corinth, met Paul (7:5) and reported that the Corinthians had chosen to act on Paul’s exhortations. The letter of ‘2 Corinthians’ is Paul’s response to Titus’ report. In these first seven chapters Paul, describes why he chose to change his plans (1:15-2:3), he explains his reasons for writing the ‘severe’ letter (2:4), he describes his joy when Titus told him that the Corinthians had responded positively to his exhortations, and in regard to a specific dispute he acknowledges that ‘at every point they have proved innocent in the matter’ (7:11). However the dominant section of the letter, 2:14 – 6:2, is a deeply penetrating description of Paul’s apostolic ministry in which he:

    1) outlines why the ministry of the covenant of the Spirit is far greater than that of the old covenant of the law;

    2) defends the ‘cruciform’ nature of his apostolic ministry; and

    3) appeals to the Corinthians to ‘be reconciled to God’ (5:20).

    It appears that Paul has written this to defend his apostleship to his detractors at Corinth.

     

     

    1:1 – 11   Paul starts by describing the severe opposition they faced in Asia

    1:1-7   Paul gives thanks for the comfort God gives.

    1:8-11   Paul describes his difficulties and tells the Corinthians how they can help.

     

     

    1:12 – 2:13   Paul explains why he changed his plans, why he wrote the ‘severe’ letter; he addresses the disciplinary issue and tells them about his search for Titus

    1:12-24   Paul explains why he altered his plans to visit them.

    2:1-4   Paul explains why he wrote the ‘severe’ letter.

    2:5-11   He urges them to reinstate the person who had been disciplined.

    2:12-13   He explains that he searched for Titus at Troas and then Macedonia.

     

     

    2:14 – 6:2   Paul defends the integrity of his apostolic ministry

    2:14-3:6   They are ministers of the new covenant of the Spirit that brings life.

    3:7-18   The glorious ministry of the new covenant far exceeds the old covenant.

    4:1-18   This glorious gospel is spread through people who continually live on the brink of death.

    5:1-10   Whether we are alive or dead, the goal of all ministry is to please Jesus.

    5:11-6:2   Paul, as an ambassador for Christ, appeals: ‘Be reconciled to God’ (5:20).

     

     

    6:3 – 7:1   Paul describes the hardships he endures and appeals to the Corinthians to separate from ‘all that contaminates body and soul’

    6:3-10   The hardships of apostolic ministry.

    6:11-13   Paul appeals to the Corinthians to open their hearts to him.

     

     

    7:2 – 16   Paul describes his relief and joy at hearing Titus’ report that the Corinthians had responded so well to his ‘severe’ letter

    7:2-4   Paul appeals that they open their hearts and affirms his confidence in them.

    7:5-7   He describes Titus’ report that they were deeply concerned for Paul.

    7:8-10   Paul explains why he had to write the ‘severe’ letter.

    7:11-13a   Paul acknowledges that they were innocent in the matter he addressed.

    7:13b-16   Paul states that he has complete confidence in them.

     

    Section 2   Chapters 8 – 9: Paul exhorts the Corinthian church to complete the fundraising they had promised for the church in Jerusalem, and outlines the plans for collecting their gift.   

     

    The background to this section is this: Paul is raising money from the Macedonian and Achaian churches for the relief of the poor in the Jewish church in Jerusalem. The Jerusalem Christians are in poverty because of two events: first Paul himself in his former life destroyed the church in Jerusalem (Acts 8:1), and second, some years later there was a severe famine in the region (Acts 11:27-30). In 1 Corinthians 16:1-4, Paul had already advised the Corinthians about how they could participate in this relief project. The Corinthian Christians had initially – ‘last year’ (8:10, 9:2) – been the first to raise money for this project, and their enthusiasm had had the effect of strongly motivating the Macedonian Christians to ‘share in this service to the saints’ (8:1-4). However, it appears that the Corinthian church had then lost some of their motivation to raise money for the gift, almost certainly because of the strained relationship between the church and their apostle as a result of the ‘painful visit‘ (2:1) he had made and the ‘severe letter‘ (2:4; 7:8-12) he had written after writing ‘1 Corinthians’. This explains why, after carefully articulating and qualifying the different reasons why they should now complete the project (8:1-15) and commending the three men in charge of visiting and helping the Corinthians prepare for the collection (8:16-24), Paul then delicately qualifies and rephrases his appeal to them in 9:1-5.

     

    Paul’s argument:

     

    8:1 – 15   Paul exhorts the Corinthians to complete the ‘gift project’

    8:1-5   He opens the subject by both reporting and celebrating the exceptional generosity of the Macedonian churches in fundraising for the gift.

    8:6-7   He urges the Corinthians to also ‘excel in this grace of giving’ (v7).

    8:8-9   He then immediately qualifies this exhortation by stating that he is not giving them ‘a command’ (v8)! Instead, he exhorts them to follow the very example of Jesus himself.

    8:10-12   Then he gives his advice, which is to get on and complete the fundraising project without delay (v10-12), emphasising that what really matters is the ‘willingness’, not the amount that is given (v12).

    8:13-15   Paul then takes three more verses (v13-15) to explain carefully that the motivation throughout is for equality across the churches.

     

     

    8:16 – 24   Paul gives his official ‘commendation’ of the three men who he is sending to help the Corinthians ‘finish the arrangements for the generous gift’ they had promised (9:5)

    8:16-17   Paul ‘commends’ Titus, the leader of the delegation.

    8:18-19   Paul ‘commends’ the first (famous) brother.

    8:20-21   He then explains his motivation to handle every aspect of this financial project in a way that ‘honours the Lord’ (v19) and is well beyond any criticism.

    8:22   Paul ‘commends’ the second (zealous) brother.

    8:23   Paul summarises the official status of each of the three men.

    8:24   Paul concludes with a summary appeal that the Corinthians complete this loving act of generosity to the church in Jerusalem.

     

     

    9:1 – 5   Paul carefully explains why he is sending the three men, and again urges the Corinthians to complete the project before he arrives

    9:1-2   Paul perhaps fears that the arrival of three men to help the Corinthians finish the collection arrangements could be misinterpreted as Paul meddling in the Corinthians’ affairs, so he then writes with great sensitiveness qualifying his appeal and stating very carefully that he is truly aware of the church’s motivation to participate in this financial project.

    9:3-5   Nevertheless, the project does need to be completed and that is why he is sending the delegation before he himself arrives later with some Macedonian Christians to collect the gift.

     

     

    9:6 – 15   The powerful spiritual principles of giving

    Paul then ends his exhortation with a beautiful and moving section teaching about the circle of blessing that flows out through all God’s family when believers give generously to each other.

    9:6-7   The Kingdom principle of generous giving.

    9:8-9   The divine response to generous giving.

    9:10-11   The human result from generous giving.

    9:12-15   The circle of blessing on the whole of God’s family as a result of God’s grace and their obedience in giving this generous financial gift.

     

    Section 3   Chapters 10 – 13: Paul responds to the challenge to his apostleship.

     

    Not only is there an abrupt discontinuity in content and tone between this and the last section, but these four chapters are a well-constructed complete unit in themselves. From beginning to end, 10:1 – 13:14 reads like a separate letter written by Paul immediately after Titus (and the brother) returned from the visit to Corinth that Paul sent them on, as carefully articulated in chapters 8 and 9. From this short letter, we immediately see that the relationship between church and apostle has taken a very serious turn for the worse. The Corinthian church seems to have come under the pernicious influence of some Jewish Christians who are directly challenging Paul’s apostleship. Claiming to be “super-apostles”, these men are boasting about the achievements of their ministries and their spiritual experiences, and are claiming the right to oversee the Corinthian church. They are highly critical of Paul. They diminish his ministry saying that as a person he lacks presence, that he is not a trained speaker, that he is a financial burden on the church – a reference to Paul’s fundraising through Titus, and conversely because he does not expect regular financial contributions from them that he is inferior to them as “super-apostles”. These men claim they are wise, and state that Paul is a fool. The Corinthian Christians seem to have completely fallen for this rhetoric and as a result are turning on Paul and demanding proof that Christ is speaking through him (13:3)!

     

    Paul feels driven to respond to their charges, in what for him is a most uncharacteristic way, listing his ‘achievements’ and his ‘visions’, which demonstrates that he understood that this was an extremely serious challenge against him and his ministry. He really was in danger of losing his apostolic oversight of the Corinthian church, and this seems to be the implication of 13:7 where he writes about them thinking he has failed the test, and where he prays ‘that they will not do anything wrong’, meaning that they are about to reject him as their apostolic overseer, with the huge ramifications for Paul’s entire ministry throughout the region, and subsequently throughout the whole of the Eastern Mediterranean.

     

    Paul uses all his skill and godliness to rebut this challenge. Nevertheless, he states clearly that these men are not “super-apostles” but false apostles, operating as agents of satan himself (11:13-15). His argument throughout is a warning that unless there is genuine repentance when he comes, he will have no alternative but to use his apostolic authority to destroy the satanic stronghold driving these false apostles and those aligning themselves with them.

     

    Paul’s own defence of his apostleship is summed up in 12:11-13.

     

     

    Paul’s argument:

     

    10:1 – 11:15   Paul points out the mistakes in the way the Corinthians are viewing the situation and states that the “super-apostles” are actually false apostles

    10:1-6   Paul gently but very firmly states that he is coming to visit the Corinthian church. He warns them that he will ‘demolish the stronghold’ (v4-5) that is opposing his ministry, and he ‘begs’ (v2) them stand down before he arrives so that he does not have to take such action.

    10:7-11   The leading “super-apostle” is criticising Paul’s overuse of ‘authority’ (v8), and stating that he is actually a ‘timid’ and ‘unimpressive’ man (v10). But Paul warns that when he arrives, he is absolutely ready to use his authority and address the situation.

    10:12-18   Paul refuses to assert his apostleship on the grounds of any comparison with another person (the leading “super-apostle”), but states that he has every right to have apostolic oversight over the Corinthians because he was the one who established the Corinthian church.

    11:1-6   Paul opens his heart and describes his godly motive underlying his ministry for them which is for their ‘pure devotion to Christ’ (v3). He then states that the “super-apostles” are preaching a ‘different gospel’ (v4)and the Corinthians are gullibly receiving it!

    11:7-12   With biting sarcasm Paul asserts that, unlike the “super-apostles”, he was not a financial burden to the Corinthian church and that he absolutely refuses to change his practice of presenting the gospel ‘free of charge’ (1 Corinthians 9:18), and ministry without any expense to the recipients.

    11:13-15     This, finally, is Paul’s judgement on the “super-apostles”. They are ‘false apostles’ (v13) operating as agents of satan. They are deceitful; ‘Their end will be what their actions deserve’ (v15).

     

     

    11:16 – 12:14   Reluctantly and with penetrating sarcasm, Paul defends his ministry by listing his ‘achievements’ in ministry and his ‘spiritual experiences’. He emphasises that apostolic ministry is characterised by the operating principle of ‘strength in weakness’.

    11:16-21a   With strong, biting sarcasm, Paul asserts that since the Corinthians are so full of their own wisdom and see Paul as a fool, then yes Paul will behave like a fool to them!

    11:21b-33   Paul now plays the “super-apostles” at their own game and ‘boasts’ about the high points of his ministry achievements – he will follow this with his ‘spiritual revelations’. But in doing this, he reverses their argument and shames them. Instead of boasting about miracles and ‘worldly ministry successes’ he gives an astonishing list of the things he has suffered for Christ, culminating, in direct contrast to the highest claim a soldier can make, with a description of how at Damascus he escaped and ran away!

    12:1-6   Paul then ‘boasts’ about his spiritual encounters and revelation by describing an experience of heaven itself. He emphasises that he actually ‘boasts’ about his weaknesses, he implies that the “super-apostles” are lying, and states that people’s ministries should be assessed on what they ‘do and say’ (v6).

    12:7-10   Paul then makes his main point: Christ’s power works perfectly through human weakness.

    12:11-13   Finally, in these three sentences Paul gives his straightforward response to the challenges from the Corinthian leaders. He states that he is ‘not in the least inferior to the “super-apostles” (v11); that the genuine evidences of apostleship which are ‘signs, wonders and miracles… were done among you with great perseverance’ (v12), and finally he states that he has never viewed them as an inferior church.

     

     

    12:14 – 13:14   Paul writes pastorally to prepare the Corinthian church for his forthcoming visit to them

    12:14-18   Paul now writes to prepare the church for his forthcoming visit. But he quickly becomes defensive about their charges that he is a financial burden to them. The reference to Titus and the brother indicates this is a reference to his exhortation (in chapters 8-9) that they fulfil their promise of a financial gift towards the Jerusalem collection.

    12:19-21   Now Paul the pastor is at last free to address the real issues in the church at Corinth. These are grouped around anger (v20b) and sexual immorality (v21b), and continue the subjects addressed in the main sections of 1 Corinthians.

    13:1-4   Having identified the areas of sin (12:19-21), Paul now states the criteria for judgement. He warns them yet again (10:6, 11) that when he visits he will use his authority to bring correction to those people who are persisting in sin in the church (12:21, 13:2).

    13:5-10   Paul urges them not to ‘do anything wrong’ (v7) which probably means to formally reject his apostolic oversight. He again urges them to sort everything out before he arrives.

    13:11-14   Paul closes the letter with a series of short exhortations about community discipleship, and ends with a summary description of our encounter with the Trinitarian God. 

     

    Chapters 8-9 >
      podcasts - 3 to 5 minute ‘Teach-Ins’ on key themes

    Podcast 1 - Paul and Cruciform Apostolic Ministry

    Podcast 2 - Generous Giving

    Podcast 3 - Paul Defends his Apostolic Ministry

      the essentials - The literary features explained
    • Context
    • /
    • Literary Genre
    • /
    • Themes

    Context:

     

    The background and context are as follows: between 50-52CE, Paul spent 18 months at Corinth where he planted a church. Around two years afterwards, he wrote to the church a letter described in 1 Corinthians 5:9 as his ‘previous‘ letter. The church wrote back to him with a number of specific questions, which Paul answered in the New Testament letter entitled ‘1 Corinthians’, in which he warned them against the influence of some pagan wisdom philosophers. Paul followed this by sending his fellow worker Timothy to Corinth. When Timothy returned and told Paul that his visit had not been successful, Paul decided to visit the church himself. However, this second visit proved to be so ‘painful‘ (2 Corinthians 2:1), that Paul decided to leave the church and go north to Troas.

    From Troas he wrote a “severe” letter to the church which Titus took to them. Paul was so worried about the outcome that he left Troas in order to meet Titus. When they met, Titus told Paul that the Corinthians had responded well to his letter. Paul then immediately replied with 2 Corinthians 1-9, in which he explained why he had changed his plans (1:12-2:4), gave guidance on a sensitive disciplinary issue (2:5-11), and wrote a defence of his apostolic ministry in order to counter the influence of Judaisers at Corinth (2:14-7:1). He also urged them to complete their promise to raise money for the collection that the churches in Achaia and Macedonia were raising for the poorer Christians in Jerusalem (chapters 8-9). Titus took this letter to Corinth, but returned a short time later with the news that the situation had taken a very serious turn for the worse. The church, under the influence of the Judaisers claiming to be “super-apostles”, were assertively criticising Paul and ‘demanding proof that Christ was speaking through him’ (13:3).

    Paul writes an impassioned defence of his apostolic ministry in 2 Corinthians 10-13, brilliantly turning their arguments against them.  He tells them that he will be visiting them shortly, warns them in the clearest terms that this time he will not hesitate to use his apostolic authority to discipline those church members who are persisting in sin (13:2), and ‘begs’ them (10:2) to sort the issues out before he arrives. The fact that, some time later, Paul was able to write ‘Romans’ from Corinth is an indication that by that point, the errant issues in the Corinthian church had been resolved.

     

    Author and Date: Paul wrote 2 Corinthians around 56-57CE. As explained above, there were probably in fact two letters: firstly, 2 Corinthians 1-9 was written, at the end of which he introduces Titus and the two brothers (8:12-24) who he is sending to help the Church complete their promised fundraising for the Jerusalem collection.  Secondly, 2 Corinthians 10-13 was written a matter of weeks later after the delegation had returned to Paul (12:18).

    Genre:

     

    The document entitled ‘2 Corinthians’ presents as a conventional letter beginning with an introduction from Paul and Timothy, and ending with final greetings and a prayer of blessing. The content of the letter includes genres such as ‘paraenesis’ (a strong exhortation urging a specific action), a powerful defence of the author’s ministry, ‘boast’, and an appeal for financial contributions in support of mission. Both the content and meaning are strongly determined by the ‘occasional’ nature of the contexts, and the author makes frequent references to specific events, people and actions.

    However, the structure and argument of ‘2 Corinthians’ is severely complicated once it is noted that 1) 2:13 flows directly into 7:5, thereby making 2:14-7:4 appear to be an interpolation, and 2) the argument of 6:13 flows directly into 7:2, thereby making 6:14-7:1 also appear to be an interpolation!

    Themes:

     

    1. In 2 Corinthians, Paul uses all his literary skill, spiritual authority and pastoral discernment to address and resolve the misunderstandings and difficulties between himself and the Corinthian church.

     

    1. Paul vigorously defends his apostolic ministry.

     

    1. Apostolic ministry and leadership is evidenced by ‘cruciformity’.

     

    1. Christ’s atoning work is done through ‘reconciliation’.

     

    1. An appeal to relieve the poverty of other Christians by generous giving.

     

     

    Literary Genre >
    starter Questions - To help you think carefully about the key issues

    Question 1 -

    Christian leaders sometimes face a whole number of challenges on several different fronts at the same time. Some leaders feel isolated, opposed and bruised by the very people who should be supporting them, and who they are trying to help grow in the Kingdom. Have you ever sent the leader of your church a generous gift with a note thanking them for all their help and prayers and told them how much you appreciate their ministry? See what happens when you do.


    Question 2 -

    Have you ever had to write a difficult letter (or email) to someone who has misunderstood you in order to carefully explain why you took a decision? How did you go about trying to defuse the situation and prevent it escalating?


    watch video

    Question 3 -

    Fundraising in almost all churches and Christian work is discreet, gracious and beyond criticism, but regrettably there are sometimes organisations and public evangelists whose fundraising practices leave a lot to be desired. Have you ever witnessed ‘appeals’ that have been ‘bullying’ or have lacked integrity and have left you feeling cautious, wary and uncomfortable?


    Question 4 -

    Google “super-apostles”. What did you find (apart from the references to 2 Corinthians)?


    Question 5 -

    Paul warns the Corinthians not to assess Christian ministry ‘by the standards of this world’ (10:2), or ‘take pride in what is seen rather than what is in the heart’ (5:12). Can you think of places and situations where (sadly) Christian leaders do this?


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    main course

    Verse by Verse

    The Apprentice

    Questions

    • Verse by Verse - For a thorough understanding of the Biblical text
    • Chapters 1-7
    • /
    • Chapters 8-9
    • /
    • Chapters 10-13

    Overall Structure:

    The letter has three sections:

     

    Chapters 1 – 7: Paul explains his decisions and what has happened. He defends the integrity of his apostolic ministry, and appeals to the Corinthians to open their hearts to him. 

     

    Chapters 8 – 9: Paul exhorts the Corinthian church to complete the fundraising they had promised for the church in Jerusalem, and outlines the plans for collecting their gift.   

     

    Chapters 10 – 13: Paul responds to the challenge to his apostleship.

     

     

     

     

    Part 1   Chapters 1 – 7: Paul explains his decisions and what has happened. He defends the integrity of his apostolic ministry, and appeals to the Corinthians to open their hearts to him.  

     

     1:1 – 2   Introduction to the letter: Paul and Timothy are writing

    Although Paul is clearly the main author, Timothy’s inclusion must not be skipped over. Paul had sent Timothy to the church after writing ‘1 Corinthians’ (1 Cor 4:17, 16:10), but what Timothy witnessed so alarmed him that Paul then changed his plans and made the ‘painful‘ visit – his second to the church (2 Cor 2:1). So, we should understand that Timothy guided and informed Paul at key points, and the inclusion of his name shows a ‘united front’.

     

    1:3 – 11   Paul describes the comfort they received from God in the context of overwhelming hardships and trials in Asia

    The “thanksgiving” with which Paul usually begins his letters is changed to a statement of praise for God’s comfort in severe trials, which subsequently leads to a request for prayers of support (v11). Paul’s main argument will be that suffering and endurance are the substance and evidence of true Spirit-led apostolic ministry. This directly contrasts with the false ‘triumphalism’ of the Judaisers who are increasing their pernicious influence over the Corinthians. Paul does not state what happened in the province of Asia, but it is reasonable to assume that one or more of the incidents mentioned in 11:23-29 took place.

    V6-7   Paul expects the Corinthians to share in suffering with him for the gospel.

     

    1:12 – 14   Paul states that he has maintained his integrity in all his dealings with the Corinthians, and looks forward to the day when they trust him completely

    Relations between church and apostle have been very troubled, and he will refer directly to the ‘painful visit‘ and the ‘severe letter‘ in 2:1-4, but he begins by affirming that in all his dealings with the church he has always been honest and sincere in what he said, and consequently has a clear conscience. Furthermore, unlike the ‘worldly wisdom’ of both the church members who oppose him and the Judaisers influencing them, he has acted out of ‘God’s grace’. He states that what he has written was clear and looks forward to the time when they understand him fully and properly.

     

    1:15 – 2:4   Paul explains why he changed the arrangements for his visits to Corinth

    V15-16   Paul explains that his original plan which was to visit the church twice, first on route to Macedonia, and then for a second time on his return from Macedonia as he carried the financial gift to the Jerusalem church.

    V17-20   Paul emphatically states that when he made these plans, he was not vacillating, keeping his options open, making two sets of plans at once, or misleading them. The curious way in which Paul seems to fixate on this detail, saying ‘yes’ and ‘no’ and linking it to the veracity of God’s promises, strongly implies that he is answering a specific accusation by his objectors at Corinth. Perhaps his opponents at Corinth were stating that if the apostle Paul is double minded and his promises can’t be trusted then his gospel message can’t be trusted either, and even the promises about Christ are untrustworthy! This would explain why in v12 his first claim was that his conscience is clear, and that he has always behaved towards them with holiness and sincerity.

    V21-22   By returning to and focusing on Christian new birth, Paul seems to be affirming that both he and the Corinthians are genuine believers. Perhaps because the Corinthians felt that Paul had misled them on the issue of his travel commitments and were stating that he wasn’t even a Christian! Paul turns this into an opportunity to assert the foundation of both his and the church’s standing in Christ and life in the Spirit. This is the foundation and beginning of his main argument, which will run to 6:13, which is an explanation and defence of his apostolic ministry.

     

    1:23 – 2:4   Paul explains why he chose not to make another painful visit to them, and refers to the ‘severe’ letter he had written

    We do not know what made Paul’s second visit to the church so ‘painful‘ (2:1), but there was clearly exceptional tension between the believing community and their founding apostle. It seems that the visit ended with Paul withdrawing from Corinth in order to give both parties space to reflect and work through the implications of what had happened. Paul then wrote the ‘severe’ letter to the church (v4). He himself found this exceptionally distressing.

    V23   Although Paul spared the Corinthians a painful return visit at this earlier point, he will warn them in 13:2 that he will no longer spare them the discipline that is fully warranted by those believers in defiant opposition to him, who are demanding proof that Christ is speaking through him.

     

    2:5 – 11   Paul urges the Corinthians to reinstate and affirm the brother who was being disciplined

    The fact that Paul mentions the disciplinary issue immediately following the explanation of 1:23-2:4 strongly implies that this was the issue that had made the “painful visit” so painful. That is, it was the Corinthians’ refusal to discipline the offender that was the cause of the serious distress between the Church and their apostle. Paul’s withdrawal and his subsequent ‘severe’ letter had led to them to make the decision to place the offender in temporary excommunication. Paul now counsels that they reinstate him, both so that he does not suffer excessive sorrow (v7), but also because Satan can gain the advantage in such situations (v10). But the question remains, who was the offender? Paul’s comment in 7:12 gives a window into the situation; he describes ‘the one who did the wrong’, and another ‘injured party’. The leading suggestion is that the offender is the incestuous man who is addressed openly in 1 Corinthians 5:1-13, where Paul demands immediate excommunication. The second suggestion is that Paul is addressing the ringleader of the Judaisers at Corinth, or possibly that man’s main agent in the Corinthian church who is directly opposing Paul. A third possibility is that Paul is addressing the parties in the court case mentioned in 1 Corinthians 6:1-11. In terms of 2 Corinthians 7:12, this would fit exactly.

     

    2:12 – 13   Paul explains why he went on from Troas to Macedonia to look for Titus

    The importance of these two verses lies in the reason why Paul left Troas to search for Titus. The reason he left ‘an open door for the gospel’ (2:12) was that he was so very concerned about the situation in Corinth that he urgently wanted to meet Titus and find out if his visit to Corinth with the ‘severe letter’ had been successful and whether the church had acted on what he had written. Here we see Paul prioritising relationships and church health over evangelism. His relationship with the Corinthians – ‘the depth of (his) love for them’ (2:4), their ‘obedience’ (2:9), and their devotion to him (7:12) – was more important to Paul than an opportunity to preach the gospel. Later, of course, Paul did return to Troas and preach the gospel there. Paul includes these two verses here as evidence of his overriding concern for the Corinthian church; he is prepared to change his ministry plans in order to ensure they are established as Christians. Once this point is acknowledged, the introductory sentence to 2:14 follows naturally. Paul is saying that whether he is evangelising at Troas, or engaged in the painful pastoral correction at Corinth, whatever it is, Christ always leads him like a soldier in triumph.

     

    2:14 – 17   Paul describes the ongoing triumph of the gospel ministry

    Paul thanks God that whether he is evangelising at Troas, or engaged in the painful pastoral correction at Corinth, whatever it is, Christ always leads him like a soldier in victorious triumph. All ministry in Christ is effective ministry: ‘know(ing) that in the Lord your labour is never in vain’ (1 Cor 15:58).  But for the first time in this letter, he now begins to contrast his ministry with the ministry of his opponents who he states ‘peddle the word of God for profit’ (v17). Paul is equal to the task of evangelism and the establishing of churches – he speaks ‘before God with sincerity like men sent from God’ (v17), whereas the peddlers are motivated only by selfish ‘profit’.

     

    3:1 – 3   Paul states his ‘credentials’ for apostolic ministry

    Paul then states that the Corinthian church is itself Paul’s letter of recommendation, and proof of his apostleship. This immediately begs the question as to why Paul needed to make such an obvious statement. The answer is probably that the ring leader of the opposition to Paul at Corinth, the one who ‘caused grief’ (2:5) and ‘who did the wrong’ (7:12), was criticising Paul precisely because Paul did not himself carry letters of commendation.

     

    3:4 – 6   Christ has made Paul a competent minister of the covenant of the Spirit

    Building on the fact that the very existence of the Corinthian church is proof of his apostleship (3:1-3), Paul now states that, despite any failings on his own part, it is Christ himself who makes Paul competent for the apostolic ministry that he has called and commissioned him into, and for which he is equal to the task (2:16), unlike the ‘peddlers’ (2:17). Then in a leading statement, Paul asserts that he (and his team) are competent ministers of the covenant that is both ‘new’ and ‘of the Spirit’; which ‘gives life’, in direct contrast to the (Old) covenant ‘of the letter’ which ‘kills’ (all v6). V6 is therefore a major statement on the basis of which Paul in the next section will state the way his apostolic ministry operates.

     

    3:7 – 11   The ministry of the Spirit that brings righteousness is far more glorious than the ministry of the old covenant of law that bought death

    The New Covenant brings righteousness, its leading feature is the Holy Spirit, and its glory does not fade. It far surpasses the Old Covenant that resulted in condemnation and brought death.

     

    3:12 – 18   Only through Christ and by the Spirit is the veil of the old covenant law that covers the Israelite’s hearts and minds removed

    The hearts and minds of those dedicated to the Old Covenant law are blinded to the true spiritual reality and truth about God. But when they see and understand Jesus (the Messiah), the fog (the veil) of blindness is blown away. It is the Holy Spirit who brings about this transformation, and is always continuing this transforming work in those who pursue Christ. In this new covenant of the Spirit, it is the Spirit who brings life, righteousness and transforms us to be like Christ.

    V12   Paul’s bold determination in ministry is motivated by his hope – the quiet certainty of the future.

    V18   Even now, today, we are being transformed into the likeness of Christ.

     

    4:1 – 6   Paul affirms the integrity of his straightforward presentation of the gospel

    Paul seems to be doing three things in this section. Having stated the transforming power of the Spirit in the new covenant (3:12-18), he now states the principles of integrity with which he proclaims the gospel, he explains why the veil of unbelief still covers the minds of (Jewish) unbelievers, and states that the essence of the gospel he clearly proclaims is ‘Jesus Christ as Lord’ (4:5).

    V1   Despite the severe hardships in the province of Asia (1:8), the tortured distressing relations with the Corinthian church, and the opposition of the Judaisers (3:7-18), Paul refuses to ‘lose heart’ because (despite his evil past persecuting the church) he has been commissioned into this apostolic ministry to the Gentiles by God himself.

    V4   It appears Paul has his own Jewish countrymen in view here since he again uses the image of the veil: they are blinded by the veil of the law (3:14-15), but in addition they are ‘blinded by the god of this age’.

     

    4:7 – 12   The treasure of this gospel ministry is evidenced through the frailty of our humanity; the principle of cruciform ministry

    Few verses express the principle of ‘cruciformity’ more explicitly than these. Christian ministry, and especially apostolic ministry, is evidenced by suffering; pressure, bewilderment, persecution and setbacks. The evidence that you have an apostolic ministry is that everyone watches you being repeatedly crucified. ‘We are always being given over to death … but life is at work in you’ (4:12). Paul will express this truth in different terms in 2 Corinthians 12:7-10.

    V8   For seven years, around the stage when a man achieves most in his life, (between the ages of 47 and 54), God isolated me and stripped away all my ministry and put me on the shelf, and I had to hold onto this phrase of scripture: ‘perplexed but not in despair’.

     

    4:13 – 15   Paul keeps on speaking because he knows that we shall all be united with Christ in his resurrection

    Despite the setbacks, suffering, opposition, continuous undermining and direct violence, Paul and his team keep on proclaiming the gospel, because the end result will be witnessed when we are all raised and presented before God himself.

    V14   God the Father will raise us with Christ and present us before himself.

     

    4:16 – 18   Despite our bodies getting older and weaker, we fix our eyes on the future because through these trials in ministry we are being prepared for an eternal glory

    Paul refuses to see the harsh trials of ministry as the final reality, in fact, in the light of eternity they are actually only; ‘light momentary troubles’ (v17). More than that, they are themselves the tools through which the Lord is forming within us an ‘eternal glory that far outweighs them all’ (v17).

    V16   ‘…yet inwardly we are being renewed every day’, because ‘we are being transformed into his likeness with ever increasing glory’ (3:18).

     

    5:1 – 10   Paul describes how he lives now in preparation for life in heaven

    We should note that 4:7-5:10 parallels Romans 8:17-27. Both passages speak of suffering, of the glory ahead, of the groaning as we wait, and the Spirit’s transforming preparatory work within us. Having acknowledged that his body is getting older and weaker (4:16), and that he is being prepared for an ‘eternal weight of glory’ (4:17)Paul continues to describe the life we have ahead of us in heaven, and how we should prepare for it. First, our earthly bodies are like tents which will be replaced by ‘eternal houses’ (5:1) which will not ‘waste away’ (4:16). It will be like being properly clothed for the very first time. Second, our goal should always be to ‘please Christ’ (5:9), always being aware that we shall be rewarded for our service in the Kingdom.

    V3-4   Immediately after he had sinned, Adam realised that he was naked, and had become mortal. Perhaps the radiance of his body vanished and for the first time his skin was exposed. When we are clothed in heaven we shall no longer be naked, we shall be covered – perhaps the radiance will be restored. We shall also no longer be mortal, we shall be ‘eternal’, unable to die.

    V5   The clearest explanation of the ‘meaning of life’ in all scripture: all of this experience of life, from birth to the present, is preparation for our heavenly dwelling. The exceptionally wonderful gift of the Holy Spirit is the down-payment of all that is coming. Since in this verse Paul repeats his assertion in 1:22, we should understand that he is again asserting (against his detractors at Corinth) that the Spirit’s ministry is the evidence of his apostleship.

    V7   A typical Pauline aphorism encapsulating the truths of 4:18.

    V10   We are saved by faith (Romans 10:9-10)! But at the judgement we shall be rewarded for our investment in the Kingdom (Matthew 25:14-30). The leading operating principle of the Kingdom is always ‘the measure you use will be measured to you. Whoever has will be given more; and whoever does not have, even what he has will be taken from him’ (Mark 4:24-25).

     

    5:11 – 15   Paul commends his ministry which is motivated and established on Christ’s atoning death for all humanity

    V11   Paul knows he will have to stand ‘before the judgement seat of Christ’, and he describes his attitude towards this as the ‘fear of the Lord’. Paul’s calling is ‘to persuade men’ to turn to Christ. Paul then states that since God himself knows what Paul is like, so should the Corinthians. He draws on his claim in 4:2 that he speaks to the deep into the consciences of men and women.

    V12   Paul appeals to the Corinthian church leaders to recognise God’s ministry through Paul. He appeals to them against the Judaisers who pride themselves on what is seen – the flashy worldly features of successful ministry – ‘rather than what is in the heart’, which will be brought to light at the judgement (1 Corinthians 4:4-5), and rewarded by Christ himself (5:10).

    V14   The Jews are God’s chosen people, elected by God to represent all humanity. Jesus, the Messiah of the Jews, embodied the Jews and all humanity and died for all human sin, so all humanity has already died in Christ. This is the full expression of God’s love for the world (1 John 4:10).

    V15   In our baptism we are united with Christ in his death, and through our baptism we are brought through death into new life in the Spirit to live completely for Christ. This verse articulates Romans 6:1-14.

     

    5:16 – 6:2   Christ has reconciled us to God, and Paul’s ministry is extending that reconciliation to all humanity

    Paul has, from 2:14, been defending his ministry to the Corinthians who have come under the influence of the Judaisers. This long explanation and defence now builds to a climax in an appeal to be reconciled to God.

    V16   The Judaisers are trying to make the Corinthians assess believers from a worldly point of view.

    V17   The moment any person truly turns to Christ, they become part of Christ’s New Creation.

    V18   Paul’s defence against his detractors is that he has been called by God to a ‘ministry of reconciliation’. All believers are called into a ‘ministry of reconciliation’ – to help others accept and believe what Christ has done for them.

    V19   God’s overriding work of salvation has been to ‘reconcile the world to himself through Christ’. God does not ‘count men’s sins against them’ and neither should we. We do not preach sin, we preach the forgiveness of sins.

    V20   Paul and his team are ambassadors for Christ in God’s work of reconciling the world to himself. This is Paul’s description and explanation of his ministry, and his defence against his opponents at Corinth, especially the Judaisers. Paul’s whole explanation, defence and argument reaches a crescendo in his final exhortation: “Be reconciled to God”. This strongly implies that he considered that some of the Corinthians weren’t reconciled to God.

    V21   This magisterial statement of atonement theology must be handled very carefully. Jesus was sinless. Jesus embodied the human race. Since humanity is sinful, Jesus became, embodied, fully owned, all of humanity’s sin and ‘became sin for us’ (5:21 in the ‘Voice’ translation). On the cross Jesus suffered the punishment for all human sin ever committed and then died, ending that era for ever. God raised him from the dead, a completely new creation, and all who believe in him and are baptised into his death are then ‘united with him in a resurrection like his’ (Romans 6:5), where, like Christ, we are not only given the benefits of ‘righteousness’, but we actually become ‘the righteousness of God’. That is, we are in our very existence THE demonstration of the righteousness of God. ‘For by one sacrifice he has made perfect for ever those who are being made holy’ (Hebrews 10:14).

    6:1-2   Paul drives home and applies the exhortation “Be reconciled to God” (5:20) by emphasising that they ought to receive the salvation, now! The phrase ‘we urge you not to receive God’s grace in vain’ implies that some at Corinth have become so influenced by the Judaisers that they are considering, or perhaps have already, given up their faith in Christ. Perhaps like the Galatians they are choosing ‘law’ instead of the grace of Christ that is received by faith (Galatians 5:1-4).

     

    6:3 – 10   Paul lists the hardships and challenges he endures in order to be able to present the gospel

    Having explained the gospel of reconciliation and appealed to the Corinthians to respond to it, Paul now states the extraordinary extremes he and his team endure in order to ensure there are no obstacles to anyone receiving the gospel. The section seems to be an extension and development of 1 Corinthians 4:9-13, and it leads into the longer schedule of hardships listed by Paul in his next letter to the church (2 Corinthians 10-13), probably written only two or three months later.

    V4   Starting with ‘great endurance’, Paul seems to begin a list of godly characteristics which runs to v7b. However, he then immediately digresses to list the contexts in which the endurance is outworked: ‘in troubles, hardships and distresses, in beatings, imprisonments and riots; in hard work, sleepless nights and hunger’ (v5).These are the difficulties his missionary team endured in Asia (1:8-11).

    V5   ‘…beatings, imprisonments and riots’ are what they endured publicly. ‘…hard work, sleepless nights and hunger’ are what they personally endured.

    V6-7   Both the truth of the gospel and the integrity of Christian ministry are commended by ‘great endurance, purity, understanding, patience, kindness, sincere love, truthful speech’ and all of these operating through ‘the power of God’. These features read like the ‘fruits of the Spirit’ in Galatians 5:22-23; Paul is listing the work of the Spirit in their lives as they endure the extreme difficulties listed in v4-5. Perhaps we should understand the ‘weapons of righteousness’ to be one the one hand godly character (great endurance’, purity, understanding, patience, kindness, sincere love, truthful speech), and on the other hand the paradoxes of cruciform ministry listed in v8-10.

    V8-10   Paul lists nine paradoxes of Christian ministry. He enlarges on 4:7-8. He will sum this up in 12:9.

     

    6:11 – 13   Paul appeals to the Corinthians to open their hearts to him

    Paul now directly appeals to the Corinthians to respond to his love for them.

    V13   Paul’s tone here is similar to 1 Corinthians 4:14-17, and Galatians 4:19, but in the appeal of his third letter, 2 Corinthians 12:15 there is a touch of anger because despite his sincere love for them and his repeated overtures, their response continues to be stubbornly ungenerous and unreasonable.

     

    6:14 – 7:1   A strong appeal to separate from evil and not to make partnerships with unbelievers

    Engagement with this unusual section sheds further light on the wider interrelation between church and apostle. In terms of content it is a clear, strong appeal to the disciple of Jesus to separate strictly from all forms of evil, ‘from everything that contaminates body and spirit’ (7:1). This phrase summarises the exhortations in the two leading sections of 1 Corinthians against idolatry (1 Corinthians 8-10) and immorality (1 Corinthians 5-7), and it concludes with a very ‘typical’ Pauline appeal to his ‘dear friends’ to purify ourselves and ‘perfect holiness out of reverence for God’ (7:1). However, in terms of structure and argument, the inclusion of these six verses at this point is awkward. While Paul may have intended this appeal to be the practical application of his argument in chapters 1-6, it is nevertheless the case that 6:14 does not easily follow on from 6:13, and neither does 7:1 easily follow into 7:2. Indeed, if this section is omitted altogether then 6:13 flows perfectly into 7:2: ‘As a fair exchange – I speak as to my children – open wide your hearts to us … Make room in your hearts. We have wronged no one. We have corrupted no one, we have exploited no one…’ One explanation is that these six verses are a direct quotation from the “previous” letter mentioned in 1 Corinthians 5:9, in which the Corinthians had mistakenly understood Paul to mean that they should separate from the immoral people in the world, and which Paul corrects in 1 Corinthians 5:10-11. Perhaps the apostle is deliberately re-quoting from his first (“previous”) letter. There are also literary complexities in that several words in this section occur only here in the whole Pauline corpus. Paul’s use of rhetorical questions and the “Jewish” nature of words such as ‘Belial’ (6:15), ‘temple’ (6:16), and the (three) quotations from the Old Testament (6:16-18) all indicate that Paul is engaged in an interaction with the Corinthian leaders, a number of whose men are being influenced by Jewish and wisdom philosophers.  This is also the case in 1 Corinthians 11:3-16, resulting in the confusion of 1 Corinthians 14:21-22, and the abuse of 14:33b-35.

     

    7:2 – 16   Paul expresses his relief that the Corinthians have responded well to his ‘severe’ letter that Titus had brought them

    Having completed a long explanation and defence of his ministry (2:14-6:2), then movingly appealed for their ‘openhearted support’ (6:3-13) and their obedience (6:14-7:1), Paul now reflects on the outcomes of the church’s response to the “severe” letter that Titus had taken to them.

    7:2-4   These verses follow very naturally from 6:13, thereby indicating that 6:14-7:1 may be a deliberate ‘interpolation’. Paul again appeals to the Corinthians to open their hearts to him, and not to be ornery and view his actions in the worst possible light…

    V2   …the implication being that some at Corinth were accusing Paul of wronging them, corrupting them and exploiting them.

    V3   We have no direct statement of this up to this point in the Corinthian correspondence so this appears to be a reference to a statement in either the ‘previous’ or the ‘severe’ letters. However, in 2 Corinthians 12:15 Paul will state this again clearly.

    V4   A window into the contrasting (strong) emotions that the apostle experienced in all his dealings with this troublesome church.

     

    7:5 – 7   When Paul did eventually meet with Titus in Macedonia, Titus told Paul about the Corinthians’ concern for him

    V5   This sentence (and paragraph) flows naturally on from 2:13, convincing some that 2:14-7:1 is itself an interpolation. The ‘conflicts on the outside’ would be severe opposition from opponents, the ‘fears within’ are probably his fears that the Corinthian church would respond badly to his ‘severe’ letter.

    V6   Paul was hugely relieved to meet Titus and hear from him that the Corinthians had followed the instructions in his ‘severe’ letter.

     

    7:8 – 10   Paul explains why he wrote such a ‘severe’ letter

    Paul regrets that he a had to write such a difficult letter, but nevertheless, even though it was very difficult both for the church and for himself, he is pleased that he took such action because it has brought ‘godly sorrow’ (v10) to the Corinthians, resulting in repentance leaving ‘no regrets’ (v10).

     

    7:11 – 13a   Paul comments on the Corinthians’ response and states that they are ‘innocent’ at every point in this matter

    Paul acknowledges that the Corinthians have gone to great lengths to clear themselves of his fears and allegations against them; ‘at every point you have proved yourselves to be innocent in this matter’ (v10). But he also states that his motive for writing was to help them realise how devoted they were to him – just as has happened and is being demonstrated by their response.

    V12   While we do not know what ‘this matter’ was, the specific details are that it concerned ‘one who did the wrong’ and ‘the injured party’. The scenario that fits this is the defendant and plaintiff in the court case of 1 Corinthians 6:1-11. Since the subject matter in the dispute was clearly a sexual issue (1 Cor 6:9-10), this would concur with the leading application to Paul’s exhortation in 6:14-7:1, and later to the apostle’s discerning description of the root of the problems at Corinth in 12:20-21; issues of anger and sexual impropriety.

     

    7:13b – 16   Paul rejoices that Titus also was encouraged and relieved by the way the Corinthians have responded

    Paul reflects back to the Corinthians the wonderful effect that their obedience and behaviour has had on Titus ‘receiving him with fear and trembling’ (v15). Paul ends this first section of the letter (chapters 1-7) stating that his boasting about the Corinthian church has been proved entirely justified and stating boldly, that ‘I am glad I can have complete confidence in you’ (v16). From such a strong position he will now lead into his main request, that the Corinthian church now sets about completing the arrangements for their contribution towards the gift to the church in Jerusalem.

     

    Part 2   Chapters 8 – 9:  Paul exhorts the Corinthian church to complete the fundraising they had promised for the church in Jerusalem, and outlines the plans for collecting their gift.    

     

    A proper understanding of the context is always important in the interpretation of scripture, but in this passage it is absolutely essential. The background is this: Paul is raising money from the Macedonian and Achaian churches for the relief of the poor in the Jewish church in Jerusalem. The Jerusalem Christians are in poverty because of two events: first Paul himself in his former life destroyed the church in Jerusalem (Acts 8:1), and second, some years later there was a severe famine in the region (Acts 11:27-30). In 1 Corinthians 16:1-4, Paul had already advised the Corinthians about how they could participate in this relief project. The Corinthian Christians had initially – ‘last year’ (8:10, 9:2) – been the first to raise money for this project, and their enthusiasm had had the effect of strongly motivating the Macedonian Christians to ‘share in this service to the saints’ (8:1-4). However, it appears that the Corinthian church had then lost some of their motivation to raise money for the gift, almost certainly because of the strained relationship between the church and their apostle as a result of the ‘painful visit‘ (2:1) he had made and the ‘severe letter‘ (2:4; 7:8-12) he had written after writing ‘1 Corinthians’. This explains why, after carefully articulating and qualifying the different reasons why they should now complete the project (8:1-15) and commending the three men in charge of visiting and helping the Corinthians prepare for the collection (8:16-24), Paul then delicately qualifies and rephrases his appeal to them in 9:1-5.

     

    Paul’s argument:

     

    8:1-15 – Paul exhorts the Corinthians to complete the ‘gift project’

    8:1-5   He opens the subject by both reporting and celebrating the exceptional generosity of the Macedonian churches in fundraising for the gift.

    8:6-7   He urges the Corinthians to also ‘excel in this grace of giving’ (v7).

    8:8-9   He then immediately qualifies this exhortation by stating that he is not giving them ‘a command’ (v8)! Instead, he exhorts them to follow the very example of Jesus himself.

    8:10-12   Then he gives his advice, which is to get on and complete the fundraising project without delay (v10-12), emphasising that what really matters is the ‘willingness’, not the amount that is given (v12).

    8:13-15   Paul then takes three more verses (v13-15) to explain carefully that the motivation throughout is for equality across the churches.

     

    Content:

    V1   ‘Now about…’ is Paul’s usual way of introducing a new section (1 Corinthians 7:1, 8:1, 12:1, 16:1, 1 Thessalonians 4:9, 5:1). The entire section is underpinned by the foundational argument about ‘grace’ (8:1, 8:9, 8:7, 9:14).

    V2-5   The two chapters are constructed in a ‘sandwich’, where the delicate passage explaining why Paul is sending the delegation to arrange for the completion of the fundraising is ‘sandwiched’ by the celebration of the Macedonians (8:2-5), and the celebration of the results of God’s astonishing grace (9:10-15). ‘Joy’ (v2) is a fruit of the Spirit, and as such is an indication of God’s grace and leading in this story. The Macedonians are so full of love for Christ and joy in the Spirit that they willingly participate in exceptional generosity to their mother church.

    V7   No matter how tense and complicated his relationship with the church, the apostle Paul once again takes the opportunity to encourage them at the beginning of this carefully argued section (see 1 Corinthians 1:5-7).

    V8-9   These crucial verses speak to the heart of Pauline motivation in the New Covenant. We are not under law! We are not bound under the tyranny of commands – as was the case with the 614 commands in the Old Covenant. Instead, we voluntarily and willingly submit our lives to follow the very example of Jesus himself and give the riches that we own to relieve the poverty of others, and indeed make them rich. Disciples should note that there is no command to give 10%!

    V12   God looks not for the amount of the gift, but for the motivation in the heart.

    V13-15   These verses are profoundly important for all Christian political philosophy. The aim of all Christian politics should be equality! Paul does not commend poverty and instruct the Corinthians to become poor. Democracy, the right of all individuals to vote, to have equal resources and opportunities, find in these verses the axiomatic Pauline support for their causes. The world should see this modelled in the churches. While of course there are places where we fail, nevertheless I can truly say that I have seen this demonstrated in the churches I have known. This principle of equality is first modelled in the coital relationship between husband and wife, where both have authority over each other’s bodies (1 Corinthians 7:1-5).

     

     

    8:16 – 24   Paul gives his official ‘commendation’ of the three men who he is sending to help the Corinthians ‘finish the arrangements for the generous gift’ they had promised (9:5)

    8:16-17   Paul ‘commends’ Titus, the leader of the delegation.

    8:18-19   Paul ‘commends’ the first (famous) brother.

    8:20-21   He then explains his motivation to handle every aspect of this financial project in a way that ‘honours the Lord’ (v19) and is well beyond any criticism.

    8:22   Paul ‘commends’ the second (zealous) brother.

    8:23   Paul summarises the official status of each of the three men.

    8:24   Paul concludes with a summary appeal that the Corinthians complete this loving act of generosity to the church in Jerusalem.

     

    Content:

    Paul has appointed Titus, his long-term missionary colleague (v23), to lead the delegation of three men who are visiting the Corinthians in order to help them ‘finish the arrangements for the generous gift’ they had promised (9:5). Titus was himself very enthusiastic about the project, no doubt because he remembered the earlier trip he had made with Paul bringing relief to the poor in the church in Jerusalem (Acts 11:30, 12:25 and Galatians 2:1-10, esp. v3, 10). Paul writes in such a way as to exhort both parties: the delegation to continue to honour Christ (v23), and the Corinthian Christians to excel in their giving (v7), and thereby be an impressive example to churches everywhere (v24).

    V18-21   The first “brother” was nominated by the Macedonian churches for this task. He is described as ‘praised by all the churches’.

    V19   Paul is careful to share the responsibility for the project with ‘the churches’ by giving them the task of choosing one of their own to represent them in handling the transportation and distribution of the financial gift. A similar principle operates in the Jerusalem apostles’ delegation of the choice of the deacons to represent them in Acts 6:3. This is an insight into the shared, but different, responsibilities that should operate in church government: the leadership and the body of the church jointly share the responsibility for the church ministry, governance and operations.

    V22   The second “brother” has proved zealous for Christ on many occasions.

    V23   The apostle Paul himself states in writing that these two (unnamed) brothers are ‘an honour to Christ’. Could a disciple receive a higher accolade this side of heaven?

     

     

    9:1 – 5   Paul carefully explains why he is sending the three men, and again urges the Corinthians to complete the project before he arrives

    9:1-2   Paul perhaps fears that the arrival of three men to help the Corinthians finish the collection arrangements could be misinterpreted as Paul meddling in the Corinthians’ affairs, so he then writes with great sensitiveness qualifying his appeal and stating very carefully that he is truly aware of the church’s motivation to participate in this financial project.

    9:3-5   Nevertheless, the project does need to be completed and that is why he is sending the delegation before he himself arrives later with some Macedonian Christians to collect the gift.

     

    Content:

    Paul carefully and graciously explains his reasons for sending the delegation of three men (8:16-24) to Corinth. Having ‘boasted‘ to the Macedonians (v2) of the eagerness of the Corinthians to participate in this collection for the Jerusalem ‘poor’, Paul is anxious that the Corinthians are indeed ready with their financial gift ready and waiting for him (9:3,5). Paul must have feared that the tension between him and the Corinthian church as a result of his ‘severe’ letter to them (2:3-4) may have dampened their earlier enthusiasm (9:2) to raise the sum they had promised (v5). Here we see Paul, the leader, taking great care to explain the reasons for his decisions. Paul knows that communication is crucial because every man and woman is always sensitive about money and how it is used. So he writes in a way that challenges, inspires and motivates all the Christians involved – those in Macedonia, Corinth, Achaia and the delegation – to do their very, very best so that Christ is honoured. We disciples must not miss the point of the whole project: that Paul is uniting the majority Gentile-Christian church in the Eastern Mediterranean with the majority Jewish-Christian church in Jerusalem. Financial gifts speak deeply of love.

    V5   Luke lists the names of the Macedonians who subsequently arrived with Paul to collect the Corinthian church’s gift (Acts 20:2-6).

     

     

    9:6 – 15   The powerful spiritual principles of giving

    Paul then ends his exhortation with a beautiful and moving section teaching about the circle of blessing that flows out through all God’s family when believers give generously to each other.

    9:6-7   The Kingdom principle of generous giving.

    9:8-9   The divine response to generous giving.

    9:10-11   The human result from generous giving.

    9:12-15   The circle of blessing on the whole of God’s family as a result of God’s grace and their obedience in giving this generous financial gift.

     

    Content:

    With the final phrase of v5, Paul turns to teaching about the motivation for giving, and the pattern of blessings that flow to others when money is given. This is Paul at his most relaxed, the experienced teacher writing in a tone that is deeply peaceful and full of loving gratitude to God. Paul describes an ongoing cycle of giving and care that grows deeper and deeper as sacrificial generosity flows out in provision and thanksgiving to many. The prayer of the disciple should be: ‘Lord lead me to take even bigger steps of generous financial giving (percentage, not amount) than I have up to this point’.

    V6   This key principle is developed directly from Jesus’ teaching that ‘the measure you use will be measured to you’ (Mark 4:24). It is one of the axiomatic and foundational operating principles of the Kingdom of Heaven. Above all, this verse is profoundly true! Paul articulates exactly what happens in practice.

    V7   The leader’s task is to teach the Kingdom principle of giving and the blessings that flow when the principle is applied. The disciple’s task is to respond willingly to God. The Greek word can mean ‘hilarious’: ‘God loves a hilarious giver’.

    V10   God is behind the scene providing the seed from the beginning to the bread at the end. Incidentally it is interesting to cross reference this with Jesus’ ‘friend at midnight’ parable (Luke 11:5-8). God has the bread for all his ‘friends’ and we should approach him with ‘importunity’ when we pray for those we love, as a close friend approaches his close friend for help in a moment of crisis.

    V11   If the Bible teaches ‘prosperity’, then this verse supports such a doctrine. However, even here, God supplies our ‘needs’ (v8), not our ‘wants’.

    V12-15   Paul will not finish this section focusing on human gratification. He brings the Corinthians back to focusing on God who has been and is involved behind the scenes in every part of the process. The result of it all is that many, many people return thanks and deep praise to God the great provider. Prayers of thanksgiving and blessing then flow richly in every direction, with the end result that everybody’s focus and gratitude is directed to our generous and loving heavenly Father.

     

    Part 3   Chapters 10 – 13: Paul responds to the challenge to his apostleship. 

     

    Not only is there an abrupt discontinuity in both tone and content between this and the last section, but these four chapters are a well-constructed complete unit in themselves. From beginning to end, 10:1 – 13:14 reads like a separate letter written by Paul immediately after Titus, and the brother (12:18), returned from the visit to Corinth that Paul sent them on, as carefully articulated in chapters 8-9. From this short letter, it is immediately apparent that the relationship between church and apostle has taken a very serious turn for the worse. The pernicious influence of the Judaisers in the Corinthian church seems to have become considerably more serious and has built up to a direct challenge to Paul’s apostleship. Claiming to be “super-apostles”, these men are boasting about the achievements of their ministries and their spiritual experiences, and are claiming the apostolic right to oversee the Corinthian church. They are highly critical of Paul. They diminish his ministry saying that, despite the fact that he boasts of his apostolic authority, he is actually timid, weak and lacks presence.  They claim that he is not a trained speaker, and that he is a financial burden on the church – a reference to Paul’s fundraising through Titus – but conversely because he does not expect regular financial contributions from them that he is inferior to them as “super-apostles”. These men claim they are wise, and state that Paul is a fool. The Corinthian Christians seem to have completely fallen for this rhetoric, and as a result are turning on Paul and demanding proof that Christ is speaking through him (13:3)!

     

    The fact that Paul feels driven to respond to their charges in what, for him, is a most uncharacteristic way – listing his ‘achievements’ and his ‘visions’ – demonstrates that he viewed this challenge to his apostleship and ministry with the utmost seriousness. The implication of 13:7, where he writes that the Corinthians are thinking he has failed the test and prays ‘that they will not do anything wrong’, is that the church is about to reject him as their apostolic overseer, with huge ramifications for Paul’s entire ministry throughout the region, and subsequently throughout the whole of the Eastern Mediterranean.

     

    Paul uses all his godliness and literary skill to rebut this challenge. With strong irony and biting sarcasm, he plays on their accusations of him being ‘foolish’ (11:16) and ‘weak’ (11:30) and turns their argument directly back on them and against the “super-apostles”. He states clearly that these men are not “super-apostles”, but “false apostles” operating as agents of satan himself (11:13-15). His argument throughout is a warning that unless there is genuine repentance when he comes, he will have no alternative but to use his apostolic authority to destroy the satanic stronghold driving these ‘false apostles’ and those aligning themselves with them.

     

    Paul’s summary argument:

    1. The “super-apostles” are ‘false apostles’.
    2. You (Corinthians) ought to reject the “super-apostles” and commend me.
    3. Genuine apostolic ministry is characterised by suffering, by Christ’s power operating through weakness, and by ‘signs wonders and miracles done with great perseverance’ (12:12).
    4. When I come to Corinth, I will demolish the demonic spiritual strong-hold empowering these ‘false apostles’. 
    5. When I come to Corinth, I will use my apostolic authority to discipline all believers at Corinth who have not repented from their serious sin.
    6. I earnestly beg you to correct what is wrong before I arrive.

     

     

    Paul’s detailed argument:

     

    Argument Part 1   10:1 – 11:15   Paul points out the mistakes in the way the Corinthians are viewing the situation and states that the “super-apostles” are actually ‘false apostles’ 

     

    10:1 – 6   Argument Summary: Paul gently but very firmly states that he is coming to visit the Corinthian church. He warns them that he will ‘demolish the stronghold’ (v4-5) that is opposing his ministry, and he ‘begs’ (v2) them stand down before he arrives so that he does not have to take such action. A friend of mine who is a church leader felt led by God to go to a church on the fringe of a city. There for three years he preached the gospel of the Kingdom. But he was vociferously and publicly opposed by three men in the heart of the church’s leadership. He kept being generous to them praying that they would support and not oppose him. Often he was in tears. Then after about three years in the space of two weeks, one of these men dropped dead on the golf course, a few days later one of the other outspoken critics also died, and shortly afterwards the third man left the church. A powerful work of the Spirit then took place and the church grew so strongly that a few years later my friend was asked to lead one of the largest churches in that region. God himself intervened dramatically in order to remove those who for three years worked militantly and consistently to oppose the preaching of the gospel.

     

    Content:

    Paul warns his opponents that if they continue to obstruct and challenge him then he will have no alternative but to use his God-given authority to discipline them. His opponents seem to be thinking and acting in a worldly way (10:2), perhaps using politics, money, status, and power to assert themselves over Paul. Paul begs the church not to leave him no other alternative but to do this (v2). Perhaps his rebuke of the evil spirit empowering the fortune-teller in Acts 16:18 gives an insight into his warning in v4-5, along with the stories of Ananias and Sapphira (Acts 5:1-11), and the story in Acts 13:8-12. Paul is trying to communicate as graciously, but as clearly, as he can (v1) that unless his opponents give way, he will have no alternative but to ask the Lord to directly intervene and prevent them from frustrating the progress of the gospel.

    V2-3   ‘…waging war as the world does’ is probably a reference to the attempts by the group who support the “super-apostles” to get the Corinthian church to disassociate from Paul and break their established partnership with him as their apostolic overseer. This is probably the scenario that Paul prays and warns them against doing in 13:7, and which drives the exceptional and astonishing nature of the whole of Paul’s defence from 11:16-12:13. If so, then in these verses Paul is calling this group a ‘stronghold’, which with his description in 11:13-15, means a satanic stronghold. Paul is directly warning them in the first sentences of this ‘short letter’ that if it does come to the point where he has to ‘pass judgement on them’ (13:1-3), then this stronghold will be demolished by divine power (10:4).

    V5   The incident in Acts 13:8-12 would appear to be an example of Paul’s ability to ‘demolish‘ false arguments. Paul used his authority in this incidence because Elymas had specifically set about stopping the proconsul learning about the knowledge of God.    

    V6   Paul states that once the Corinthian church has obeyed him then he will use his authority to discipline the “super-apostles”. The ‘obedience’ Paul is expecting them to complete is the church’s commendation of his apostolic ministry (12:11), and their public loyalty to him (13:7). Once this is ‘complete’ he will use his apostolic authority to ‘demolish the stronghold’ of the “super-apostles”.

     

     

    10:7 – 11   Argument Summary: The leading “super-apostle” is criticising Paul’s overuse of ‘authority’ (v8), and stating that Paul is actually a ‘timid’ and ‘unimpressive’ man (v10). He claims that he ‘belongs to Christ’ (v7), but questions Paul’s status in Christ. Paul warns that when he arrives he is absolutely ready to use his authority and address the situation.

     

    Content:

    V7   Paul seems to have the leading “super-apostle” in view.

    V8   Paul is at pains to emphasise that the authority that he has been given by Christ exists to build the church, not pull it down (13:10). But he will have no alternative but to take drastic action against those leading the challenge against him. The final sentence in 11:15 is a chilling warning of what awaits them.

     

     

    10:12 – 18   Argument Summary: Paul refuses to assert his apostleship on the grounds of any comparison with another person (the leading “super-apostle”), but states that he has every right to have apostolic oversight over the Corinthians because he was the one who established the Corinthian church, who brought the gospel to Corinth. Paul’s aim is to take the gospel to regions much further away.

     

    Content:

    V12   The “super-apostles” seem to claiming that because of their own progress in ministry – perhaps seeing some miracles happen – they are not only equal to Paul, but actually have a greater ministry because of their ability to speak well in public (11:6). Paul states this openly in 11:12.

    V13   When speaking of boasting beyond ‘proper limits’, Paul probably has in mind: the establishing of churches (v14), the apostolic suffering for the gospel (11:23-29), and the straightforward character assessment of ‘what I do or say’ (12:6).

    V15   The “super-apostles” were taking the credit for work done by others – specifically Paul himself!

    V16   Only months later Paul was to write Romans 15:23-29 from Corinth.

    V18   Our pride and the basis of our trust ought to be in the Lord and his power, not in ourselves.

     

     

    11:1 – 6   Argument Summary: Paul opens his heart and describes his godly motive underlying his ministry for them, which is to encourage and protect their ‘pure devotion to Christ’ (11:3). He then states that the “super-apostles” are preaching a ‘different gospel’ (11:4) and the Corinthians are gullibly receiving it!

     

    Content:

    V2-3   These verses resonate strongly with Paul’s summary statements at the end of his address on immorality in 1 Corinthians 5-7; specifically, 7:35. When viewed alongside Paul’s summary fear of 13:21, we can discern a scenario where those issues have not yet been resolved.

    V5   Paul specifically mentions the “super-apostles”. He states that they are preaching a different gospel. He states that he is jealous for the loyalty of the Corinthians, and he states that they are deceiving the Corinthians. They are claiming to be trained speakers; the implication is that they are accusing Paul of being a very poor speaker (10:10). Paul states he does have knowledge, and that the Corinthians know this perfectly well.

     

     

    11:7 – 12   Argument Summary:  With biting sarcasm, Paul asserts that (unlike the “super-apostles”) he was not a financial burden to the Corinthian church. He absolutely refuses to change his practice of presenting the gospel ‘free of charge’ (1 Corinthians 9) and his ministry without any expense to the recipients.

     

     

    11:13 – 15   Argument Summary: This, finally, is Paul’s judgement on the “super-apostles”. They are ‘false apostles’ operating as agents of Satan. They are deceitful and boastful and they will receive all they fully deserve: ‘Their end will be what their actions deserve’ (11:15).

     

    Content:

    V15   This sentence sums up Paul’s understanding of the judgement that he so desperately does not want to bring on those standing against him. It is entirely in line with Jesus’ axiomatic teaching that ‘the measure you use will be measured to you’ (Matt 7:2). Anyone who works as an agent of Satan will get the punishment that Satan himself will receive. Paul is stating that if the Corinthian Christians do not themselves renounce these “super-apostles”, then when he comes he will use his apostolic authority to invoke the judgement on the “super-apostles” that they are already storing up for themselves. This is in itself “the divine power that demolishes strongholds” (10:4). All Paul will do is to ask the Lord to bring on them the very results of their deceitful ministry that they are continuously storing up for themselves. When this happens, the stronghold working against the gospel will be destroyed (10:3-5).

     

     

     

    Argument Part 2   11:16 – 12:14   Reluctantly, and with penetrating sarcasm, Paul defends his ministry by listing his ‘achievements’ in ministry and his ‘spiritual experiences’. He emphasises that apostolic ministry is characterised by the operating principle of ‘strength in weakness’

     

    11:16 – 21a   Argument Summary:   With strong, biting sarcasm Paul asserts that since the Corinthians are so full of their own wisdom and see Paul as a fool, then yes Paul will behave like a fool to them! He is effectively saying ‘since you are so wise, I’ll play the fool’ and ‘I’ll be as foolish as you are being’.

     

    Content:

    V18   A direct reference to the ‘worldly’ behaviour of the “super-apostles” (10:2).

    V20   Paul’s list of five specific acts by the “super-apostles” – especially the phrase ‘slaps you in the face’ – indicates that Titus and ‘the brother’ (12:18) have informed Paul very carefully about the way these men are bullying and manipulating the Corinthian believers. Compare this with the actions of the rogue leader Diotrephes in Gaius’ church (3 John 10).

     

     

    11:21b – 23a   Argument Summary: Paul compares himself with the credentials that the “super-apostles” are boasting. This is important because we find out that they are Jewish Christians.

     

     

    11:23b – 33   Argument Summary:   Paul now plays the “super-apostles” at their own game and ‘boasts’ about the high points of his ministry achievements – he will follow this with his ‘spiritual revelations’ (12:1-6). But in doing this, he reverses their argument and shames them. Instead of boasting about miracles and ‘worldly ministry successes’ (which he will state with exceptional brevity in 12:12), he gives an astonishing list of the things he has suffered for Christ, culminating (in direct contrast to the highest claim a Roman soldier can make) with a description of how at Damascus he escaped and ran away! Instead this is a list of what he has suffered. It is also another elaboration of the sacrifices of ministry he described first in 1 Corinthians 4:9-13, and then again in 2 Corinthians 6:3-10.

     

    Content:

    V23   One cannot fail to be impressed by the sufferings that Paul had endured. It is astonishing that he was still alive.

    V35   A soldier’s highest achievement was to be the first one to scale the wall of a city and subdue the occupants. Paul builds up the list to this crescendo: he was lowered in a basket outside the city wall of Damascus and ran away into the night!

     

     

    12:1 – 6   Argument Summary: Paul then ‘boasts’ about his spiritual encounters and revelation by describing an experience of heaven itself. We should understand this to be a direct challenge to the boasts of the “super-apostles”. The Corinthians are being deceived by the arrogant boasts of the “super-apostles” and challenging Paul to do the same, so, because no other alternative is open to him, Paul responds with this strong sarcasm. But he emphasises that he actually ‘boasts’ about his weaknesses, implies that the “super-apostles” are liars (v6), and states that people’s ministries should be assessed on what they ‘do and say’ (v6).

     

    Content:

    V4   Was this divine message Paul’s commissioning as the apostle to the Gentiles? We cannot be sure, but the context of the ‘apostolic’ challenge from the “super-apostles” and Paul’s citation of it here may be the gentlest of hints that it was.

    V6   Paul tucks in at the end a brief but devastating axiom: every Christian (especially these “super-apostles”) should be judged by what they ‘do and say’.

     

     

    12:7 – 10   Argument Summary: But Paul will not stop where the “super-apostles” stop. He goes on to describe the profound truth that the Lord not only allows weakness but specifically chooses to work through our weaknesses! Paul ‘delights’ in weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions and difficulties. Christ’s power excels through weak, ‘clay’ (4:7) human vessels.

     

     

    12:11 – 13   Argument Summary: At last, in these three sentences Paul finally gives his straightforward response to the challenges from the Corinthian leaders. He states that he is ‘not in the least inferior to the “super-apostles” (v11); that the genuine evidences of apostleship, ‘signs, wonders and miracles… were done among you with great perseverance’ (v12); and states clearly and emphatically that he has never viewed the Corinthians as an inferior church.

    V11)   The Corinthian Christians should have commended Paul, but instead they allowed themselves to be deceived by the arrogant boasting of the “super-apostles” who were challenging Paul’s apostleship. Their argument seems to have been that Paul was treating the Corinthians as inferior to other churches because he was not expecting financial support from them for his ministry.

     

     

     

    Argument Part 3   12:14 – 13:14   Paul writes pastorally to prepare the Corinthian church for his forthcoming visit to them

     

    12:14 – 18   Argument Summary: Paul now writes to prepare the church for his forthcoming visit. Paul begins to sum up of the letter and introduce his forthcoming visit by verbalising the pain and anger he feels at their choosing to view his motives in the very worst possible light. Again, with biting sarcasm he verbalises the pain of having his sacrificial service to them viewed as pernicious manipulation of their situation for his own benefit. The reference to Titus and the brother indicates this is a reference to his exhortation (as written in chapters 8 and 9) that they fulfil their promise of a financial gift towards the Jerusalem collection.

     

    Content:

    V17   The phrase ‘any of the men’ implies several people, and certainly more than just the two he then mentions: Titus, and ‘the brother’ (v18). This is the clearest piece of evidence that chapters 10-13 are a separate letter, written very soon after Titus took the letter containing ‘2 Corinthians 1-9’ to the Corinthian church when he visited with the ‘famous brother’ and the ‘zealous brother’ (8:18,22) to help the Corinthians ‘finish the arrangements for the generous gift (they) had promised’ (9:5). This perspective also goes a long way to explaining why Paul is so defensive about the way he handles his finances. They seem to be both accusing him of not living as a ‘real’ apostle and charging them for the privilege of having him lord it over them, while at the same time accusing him of being a financial burden to them and asking for money for the Jerusalem collection.

     

     

    12:19 – 21   Argument Summary:  Now Paul the pastor is at last free to address the real issues in the church at Corinth. These are grouped around anger (v20b) and sexual immorality (v21b), and the state of anger and discord arising out from a foundation of sexual immorality.  This continues the subjects addressed in the main sections of 1 Corinthians. The problem at Corinth is anger, accusation and aggression against Paul from those who stubbornly refuse to repent of their sexual sin (v21; 1 Corinthians 6:9-10). Is this not why only a few months later, he framed the content of Romans 1 while staying at Corinth itself? Very typically, Paul frames it as a question, not a statement. But his love for them is explicitly and brilliantly expressed in the turn of tone through the words ‘dear friends’ (v19). This is the root reason why they (actually, only some of them) persist in giving the worst possible interpretation to Paul’s financial protocols.

     

    Content:

    V21   This is just like a situation where I was humbled (into silence) by the Holy Spirit before a congregation in Dublin when I spoke there during a visit in 2001. This is not a joke; the sin that existed in that congregation was not repented from and a few years later the sin was publicly exposed and the pastor was decisively taken out of ministry. That day God publicly identified the sin, but there was no repentance, and so judgement came and the subsequent fall out in that church has been truly, truly terrible.

     

     

    13:1 – 10   Argument Summary: Having identified the areas of sin (12:19-21), Paul now states the criteria for judgement. He warns them yet again (10:6, 11) that when he visits he will use his authority to bring correction to those people who are persisting in sin in the church (12:21, 13:2). Paul urges them not to ‘do anything wrong’ (v7) which probably means to formally reject his apostolic oversight. He again urges them to sort everything out before he arrives (10:2).

     

    Content:

    V1   These terms recall his severe warning about their failure to resolve the dispute in 1 Corinthians 6:1-11.

    V2   Now he repeats his warning (10:2) and states the terms of the “church hearing”. The phrase ‘those who sinned earlier’ may refer to the plaintiff and defendant of 1 Corinthians 6:1-11; the matters listed at the end of 12:21 are of the same category to those in 1 Corinthians 6:9.

    V3   Paul warns them that even though he may appear to be a weak person, on his forthcoming visit he will use his authority in Christ to directly address those who are at fault.

    V5   What sort of test does Paul have in mind? Presumably the three tests listed in 1 John 3:23: Trinitarian faith, expressed in belief, love and obedience. But Paul seems to have the experience of the Spirit in view (Romans 8:8:9, Galatians 3:4-5).

    V7   Paul’s prayer reveals the appalling seriousness of the situation. Some of the leaders are actually considering making the church formally reject Paul’s apostolic oversight because he ‘seems to have failed’. Paul specifically prays that God himself will keep them from such action.

     

     

    13:11 – 14   Argument Summary: Paul closes the letter with a series of short exhortations about community discipleship. The final verse, often referred to as ‘the grace’, is considered to be the best summation of Pauline Trinitarian theology in the whole Pauline corpus. It brilliantly describes our encounter with the three persons of the Trinity.

    V12   The termholy’ is probably significant in the light of the ongoing immorality in the Corinthian church (12:21b).

     

    Chapters 8-9 >
      The Apprentice - Helping apprentices of Jesus think through the applications
    • Overall Message
    • /
    • Chapters 1-7
    • /
    • Chapters 8-9
    • /
    • Chapters 10-13

    The Overall Message:

     

    In this complicated letter, Paul explains his decisions, defends his apostolic ministry to his detractors and exhorts the Corinthians to complete the collection promised for the Jerusalem church. In the final part, he gives a vociferous defence of his apostolic credentials ahead of his visit to them.

    Part 1   Chapters 1 – 7: Paul explains his decisions and what has happened. He defends the integrity of his apostolic ministry, and appeals to the Corinthians to open their hearts to him.  

     

    Leading Imperatives:

     

    5:20     Be reconciled to God.

    6:1      Do not receive the grace of God in vain.

    6:13     Open wide your hearts (to us).

    6:14     Do not be yoked together with unbelievers.

    6:17     Therefore come out from them and be separate’.

    6:18     ‘Touch no unclean thing’.

    7:1        ‘Let us purify ourselves from everything that contaminates body and soul, perfecting holiness out of reverence for God.’

     7:2       Make room for us in your hearts.

     

     

    Implied Imperatives:

     

    1:4   We should comfort other Christians who are in trouble.

    1:6   We should patiently endure suffering.

    1:10   In very difficult ministry, we must rely on God.

    1:11   We must help those in great difficulty by praying for them.

    1:12   In disputes, we must behave with holiness and sincerity.

    2:4    Disciples should address and resolve difficult issues.

    2:5-11  There is a right place for church discipline if it is handled with pastoral wisdom and with the intention of reaching repentance. Be careful about Satan’s schemes in these situations.

    2:17   Do not peddle the word of God for profit.

    4:1   When ministry is difficult, do not lose heart: remember we have been commissioned by God himself.

    4:2   Always maintain the highest integrity when presenting the gospel.

    4:7-11   Understand that Christian ministry is ‘cruciform’.

    4:13-15   We believe, and therefore we speak.

    4:16   We do not lose heart.

    4:18   We should fix our eyes on the eternal realities.

    5:6   We should always maintain our confidence.

    5:7   We should live on the basis of what we believe, not on the basis of what we see.

    5:9   We should always make it our goal to please Christ.

    5:11  We should try to persuade men and women of the truth of Christ.

    5:16   Don’t assess people from a human point of view.

    6:3   Do not put stumbling blocks in the way of the gospel.

    6:4-5   Christian ministry is commended by ‘great endurance’, purity, understanding, patience, kindness, sincere love, truthful speech and the power of God.

     

     

    Applications:

     

    • Disciples of Jesus should plan their financial giving carefully.

     

     

     

    Holy Habits: (Holy Habits are patterns of living and lifestyle practices which we choose to do in our lives.  These can be in order to either withdraw from the dominion of the world, such as silence, secrecy, submission, fasting, watching, simple living, or, practices that plunge us into the life of the Kingdom, such as prayer, worship, celebration, study, serving the poor and deprived, etc. They can be as simple as kneeling by your bed and thanking God at the end of the day, or as substantial as attending an annual Christian festival.)

     

    Since these chapters address several different matters, no single Holy Habit is suggested.

    In general, we should practice: enduring hardship, fixing and maintaining our perspective on the eternal realities of the Spirit, and refusing to lose heart in difficult situations.

     

    Part 2   Chapters 8 – 9:  Paul exhorts the Corinthian church to complete the fundraising they had promised for the church in Jerusalem, and outlines the plans for collecting their gift. 

     

    Leading Imperatives:

     

    8:7   See that you excel in this grace of giving.

    8:11   Now finish the work.

    9:6   Remember this: Whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows generously will also reap generously. This strong imperative from Paul articulates the very heart and essence of the operating principle of the Kingdom of Heaven (Mark 4:24). Disciples must always keep this principle in mind! It comes straight from the very heart of Jesus’ teaching (Luke 6:37-38).

    9:7   Each man should give what he has decided in his heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver. The principle we should meditate on is in 9:6, and its application is expressed in this verse.

     

    Implied Imperatives:

     

    8:5   Every type of giving ought to start with ‘giving ourselves to the Lord’.

    8:8   There is no place for ‘commanding’ disciples to make financial gifts.

    8:12   God looks at the heart: he seeks not the amount of the gift, but the motivation of love, concern and a willingness to give freely.

    8:13   The aim of everything is financial equality. The rich ought always to look after the needs of the poor.

    8:21   We should take pains ‘to do what is right’ in the administration of financial gifts. Our administration of finances in church should always be beyond any suspicion. Transparency and independent auditing should be the minimum.

    8:24   In exhorting the Corinthians to ‘show these men the proof of your love’, Paul is urging the Corinthian church that love is demonstrated not just by words, but by deeds.

    9:3-5   Disciples of Jesus should plan their financial giving responsibly.

    9:11   The disciple of Jesus will look for opportunities ‘on every occasion’ to give generously.

     

     

    Applications:

     

    • Disciples of Jesus should plan their financial giving carefully.
    • First, ‘we should give ourselves to the Lord’ (8:5).
    • If we have promised to give money, then we should do so (9:5), without undue delay (8:11).
    • Our giving should be ‘willingly’ (8:12), freely and ‘cheerfully’ (9:7).
    • The overall direction of the gifts should be from those who have ‘plenty’ to those who are ‘in need’, so that there will be ‘equality’ (8:14).
    • Throughout we should keep in mind that giving is part of a glorious cycle initiated by the grace of God (8:1), demonstrated by the grace of Christ (8:9), actioned by the givers (8:7) and resulting in thanksgiving, praise and prayers to God (9:12-14).  Through this process, every person involved is blessed both physically and spiritually in a glorious ever-widening process that brings true riches to women and men (9:10-11).

     

     

     

    Holy Habits: (Holy Habits are patterns of living and lifestyle practices which we choose to do in our lives.  These can be in order to either withdraw from the dominion of the world, such as silence, secrecy, submission, fasting, watching, simple living, or, practices that plunge us into the life of the Kingdom, such as prayer, worship, celebration, study, serving the poor and deprived, etc. They can be as simple as kneeling by your bed and thanking God at the end of the day, or as substantial as attending an annual Christian festival.)

     

    Practice regular, generous giving.

     

    Part 3   Chapters 10 – 13: Paul responds to the challenge to his apostleship. 

     

    Leading Imperatives:

     

    10:17   Let him who boasts boast in the Lord.

    11:16   Let no one take me (Paul) for a fool.

    13:5   Examine yourselves to see whether you are in the faith; test yourselves.

    13:11   Aim for perfection, listen to my appeal, be of one mind, live in peace.

    13:12   Greet one another with a holy kiss.

     

     

    Implied Imperatives:

     

    10:2   Do not provoke church leaders into situations where they have to take disciplinary action.

    10:5   There is a place in Kingdom ministry for the proper exercise of authority in Christ against everything that ‘sets itself up against the knowledge of God’.

    10:6   There is also a proper place for the disciplining of those who persist in serious disobedience to Christ (13:10).

    10:8   All the authority we have, both in the church and as ‘royal priests’ (1 Peter 2:9) and ‘adopted sons and daughters of God’ (6:18), must always be used for building the church up, and only in the most exceptional issues of disobedience and division should it be used for ‘pulling it down’.

    10:12-18   Don’t compare yourself with other Christians. Study your own progress and give thanks to God for it (Galatians 6:4-5).

    11:18   Believers should never boast in the way that non-believing people of the world boast.

    11:20   We should never put up with bullying in church.

    11:23-33   These are the features of genuine apostolic ministry.

    12:1-6   Never boast about the spiritual experiences the Holy Spirit has given you – keep them to yourself!

    12:9-10   We should ‘boast’ and ‘delight’ in our weaknesses, because Christ’s power works through them.

    12:15   Believers, and especially pastors, should ‘spend and expend themselves’ for those they pastor and oversee.

    12:17   Those who raise money for Christian causes should never ‘exploit’ those who give.

    12:19   Everything a Christian leader does should be towards ‘strengthening’ those they oversee.

    12:20-21   In church the serious sins of anger and sexual immorality, as listed in these verses, must be addressed.

    13:4   The Christian minister, although weak by human standards, seeks the power of God to work through them in order to serve those they oversee.

    13:7   Never reject Paul’s apostolic oversight.

    13:13   Christian believers throughout the world should greet one another.

     

     

    Applications:

     

    • Discern all false apostles and reject them and their false gospels.

     

    • Never reject Paul’s apostolic oversight, or take him to be a fool.

     

    • Support all genuine apostolic Christian ministry, as evidenced by suffering, by Christ’s power operating through weakness, and by ‘signs, wonders and miracles done with great perseverance’ (12:12).

     

    • Serious sin in the Christian community must be addressed and corrected, and this should be done without undue delay.

     

    Holy Habits: (Holy Habits are patterns of living and lifestyle practices which we choose to do in our lives.  These can be in order to either withdraw from the dominion of the world, such as silence, secrecy, submission, fasting, watching, simple living, or, practices that plunge us into the life of the Kingdom, such as prayer, worship, celebration, study, serving the poor and deprived, etc. They can be as simple as kneeling by your bed and thanking God at the end of the day, or as substantial as attending an annual Christian festival.)

     

    Practice addressing things that are wrong, but doing so with forbearance, love, courage and genuine care.

     

    Chapters 1-7 >
    main Questions - Important questions directly from the text

    Question 1 -

    Throughout his disputes with the Corinthians, Paul repeatedly states that his love for them motivates all that he does, and he appeals to them to realise and acknowledge that they love him. Study 2:4, 6:11-12, 7:2-4, 7:7, 7:12, 11:11, 12:15. This example and principle ought to influence the way we handle and resolve the difficulties we have with others, in our friendships, families and marriages. Think of one relationship in your life where there is tension and think of the ways that you can affirm your love and care for that person.


    Question 2 -

    Do you know anyone who has suffered for Christ in ways similar to Paul (11:23-33)?


    watch video

    Question 3 -

    In 5:9, Paul teaches us an overriding maxim for our lives, that we should always ‘make it our goal to please him.’ What pleases Christ? (1 Thessalonians 4:1, Romans 14:18, Ephesians 5:9, 1 Corinthians 10:5).


    Question 4 -

    In 8:9 and 9:6-15, Paul articulates several principles that underlie the way that giving and receiving take place in the community of disciples in the Kingdom of Heaven. List these carefully, and then study the process through which the gift of God’s grace to the Macedonians (8:1) leads through several stages to the whole communities of disciples returning thanks and praise, and prayers to God (9:12-15).


    Question 5 -

    In 8:16-24, Paul describes the men he is sending to Corinth to help them complete the arrangements for the financial gift to Jerusalem. After introducing Titus, who was already well known to the Corinthians, he describes two other men in terms of the effectiveness of their ministries to the churches. The first is ‘praised by all the churches for his service to the gospel’ (8:18) and the second as ‘zealous’ (8:22). Assess yourself ‘with sober judgement’ (Romans 12:3): what service to the church(es) are you known for? What would you like to be known for?


    Question 6 -

    What are ‘the weapons of the world’ (10:2-4)? What are the weapons of the kingdom (6:7)? How should they be used?


    Question 7 -

    What does ‘Christ’s strength working through our weakness’ (12:9-10), look like in your church community in the 21st Century?


    Question 8 -

    Why do the sins Paul lists in 12:20-21 underlie the Corinthian church’s rejection of Paul’s apostleship, and their falling for the rhetoric of ‘false apostles’?


    dessert course

    A prayer

    Commentaries

    Suggested Sermon Series

    Questions

    • A prayer -

    A prayer based on ‘2 Corinthians’:

     

     

    O Lord, we thank you for Paul and his apostolic ministry and pray for all apostolic pioneers throughout the world who are suffering severely for the proclamation of the gospel. Give them grace in all their trials, that through their weakness your power is evidenced. May they uphold the truth and present the gospel with integrity, and honour you by their lives and by all they say and do. For your glory, Amen. 

     

     

     

    Commentary:

    O Lord, we thank you for Paul and his apostolic ministry and pray for all apostolic pioneers throughout the world who are suffering severely for the proclamation of the gospel (1:11). Give them grace in all their trials, that through their weakness your power is evidenced (12:9). May they uphold the truth and present the gospel with integrity (4:2), and honour you by their lives (6:6) and by all they say and do. For your glory, Amen.

     

      Commentaries - Introducing the best commentaries
    Commentary Comment
    Kruse: ‘2 Corinthians

    IVP: Tyndale New Testament Commentaries

    This is a very useful, readable commentary which explains the complexities of ‘2 Corinthians’ clearly and without undue fuss or detail. Nor does the author give the impression that he is trying to be especially clever about everything.
    C.K. Barrett: ‘The Second Epistle to the Corinthians

    Black’s NT Commentaries

    A little dated (1973) but certainly worthwhile for the student seeking a detailed commentary.
    English Standard Version Study Bible This has some useful information, although at places there is a sense that the writers are recording what they think ought to be understood, rather than letting the text actually speak for itself.
      Suggested Sermon Series -

    Sermon Series on 2 Corinthians:

    (Updated: November 2017)

     

    Series Title:   Genuine Apostolic Ministry

     

    Strategy for preaching through 2 Corinthians:

     

    • Regardless of our view on the unity of these 13 chapters, the book’s distinctly sectional nature points towards an exposition that addresses the subjects section by section.

     

    • Nevertheless, a chapter by chapter approach done Sunday by Sunday would also work quite well.

     

    • A shorter sermon series could follow the main topics one by one:

     

    Text Title Theme
    1:1 – 2:5 ‘How to handle a dispute’ Paul addresses and negotiates the way the Corinthians have misunderstood, and given the worst possible interpretation to, his decision to change his travel plans. This complicated situation will take time to explain. Bring out the way Paul stresses his integrity, and gives his true reasons behind his decision. Comment on his handling of the disciplinary issue.
    2:12 – 3:18  ‘The glorious covenant of the Spirit’ This is the first part of Paul’s defence of his apostolic ministry. It focuses on the way the covenant of the Spirit that brings life far exceeds that of the old covenant of the law that brought death.
    4:1 – 5:10 ‘Cruciform ministry’ This is arguably the most profound part of all Paul’s writings. He describes the principle of ‘cruciformity’ (4:7-12), that is, all authentic apostolic ministry is marked by living and ministering on the edge of death. Out from this flows the resurrection power of Kingdom ministry. Our goal should always be to please the Lord.

     

    5:11 – 6:2 The gospel ministry of reconciliation’ A magisterial statement of the gospel of reconciliation.
    6:3 – 7:16 ‘Genuine apostolic ministry’ A remarkable passage in which Paul lists some of the hardships that he and his team endure in order to present the gospel free of charge. Then follows an appeal to turn from everything that ‘contaminates body and spirit’ (7:1).
    8:1 – 9:5 

     

    ‘The principles of giving’   A chance to teach on the principles of giving money. This passage is full of outstanding wisdom and good practice about how (and why) to raise funds and give money to others.
    9:6-15 

     

    ‘The blessing of giving’ This is one of Paul’s finest pieces of writing. These verses describe how the grace of God works through generous giving to multiply the physical and spiritual blessings to those who give and those who receive in an ever-widening circle of outward-flowing blessings.
    10:1 – 11:15 ‘The false apostles’ Chapters 10-13 read as a letter written a few weeks after the letter of chapters 1-9. Paul points out the mistakes in the way the Corinthians are viewing the situation and states that the “super-apostles” are actually ‘false apostles’.
    11:15 – 12:14 ‘Christ’s power is perfected in our weakness’ Reluctantly and with penetrating sarcasm, Paul defends his ministry by listing his ‘achievements’ in ministry and his ‘spiritual experiences’. He emphasises that apostolic ministry is characterised by the great Kingdom operating principle of strength in weakness.
    12:15 – 13:14 ‘Get your house (church) into order’   Paul writes in a pastoral tone to urge the Corinthian believers to prepare carefully and resolve their issues, disputes and arguments before his forthcoming visit to them.
    dessert Questions - Gloves off; hard questions for the Bible student and theologian

    Question 1 -

    Christian churches are soft targets for thieves because of the trusting, well meaning, forgiving relations within our believing communities. I have witnessed outsiders steal handbags while communicants receive communion, and others make direct manipulative requests to vulnerable members, but I have also heard of a church treasurer who pinched a few pounds from the collection each time he counted it, and a church administrator who attempt to steal two years’ salary from her church (she was completely exposed by a visiting prophet.) I have seen high level strategic fraud by two different world-class Christian leaders, as well as powerful requests for financial support in ways that are frankly deceitful. But besides these (fortunately rare) issues of stealing, there are other much more subtle dangers in the ministry of ‘giving and receiving’. What are they, and how does Paul counter them in his management of the collection of the gift for the Jerusalem church (chapters 8-9)?


    Question 2 -

    To what extent does it matter, if at all, if chapters 10-13 are considered to be a separate letter to the Corinthians written by Paul only a few weeks after 2 Corinthians 1-9 (that is, after Titus and the brother have returned to Paul)?


    Question 3 -

    Paul’s specific warning that he will use his apostolic authority to invoke divine power to demolish the stronghold (10:4-5) of the false apostles preaching a deceitful gospel under the demonic power of Satan (11:13-15) is exceptionally strong stuff! Given that very occasionally church leaders may have to take such action in extreme situations, what measures do we see Paul adopting to ‘prevent’ such action having to be taken?


    Waiter's Brief

    Answers to Questions

    Coaching Questions

    Questions

    • Answers to Questions -

     

    Main Course:

     

    QQQ         

    Throughout his disputes with the Corinthians, Paul repeatedly states that his love for them motivates all that he does, and he appeals to them to realise and acknowledge that they love him. Study 2:4, 6:11-12, 7:2-4, 7:7, 7:12, 11:11, 12:15.  This example and principle ought to influence the way we handle and resolve the difficulties we have with others, in our friendships, families and marriages. Think of one relationship in your life where there is tension and think of the ways that you can affirm your love and care for that person.

     

     

    QQQ         

    Do you know anyone who has suffered for Christ in ways similar to Paul (11:23-33)?

     

     

    QQQ

    In 5:9, Paul teaches us an overriding maxim for our lives, that we should always ‘make it our goal to please him.’ What pleases Christ? (1 Thessalonians 4:1, Romans 14:18, Ephesians 5:9, 1 Corinthians 10:5).

     

     

    QQQ         

    In 8:9 and 9:6-15, Paul articulates several principles that underlie the way that giving and receiving take place in the community of disciples in the Kingdom of Heaven. List these carefully, and then study the process through which the gift of God’s grace to the Macedonians (8:1) leads through several stages to the whole communities of disciples returning thanks and praise, and prayers to God (9:12-15).

     

     

    QQQ         

    What are ‘the weapons of the world’ (10:2-4)?  What are the weapons of the kingdom (6:7)? How should they be used?

    Comment: 

    The ‘weapons of the world’ would include: the use of military and civil power and authority; financial influence, coercion and manipulation; bullying; speaking against people, aggression and forcefulness; and every ‘human’ way and means of gaining power and using influence to get what is wanted. In contrast, in the Kingdom we are orientated to Christ and we seek his Kingdom and the fulfilment of his will. Paul stresses that the weapon of God is the presentation, and particularly the preaching, of the gospel. When someone, or a group of people, take a definite stand against the gospel then Paul commits the situation into God’s hands as in Acts 13:9-10, Acts 13:46, Acts 19:9, etc. The ‘weapons of righteousness’ (2 Corinthians 6:7) probably refer to godly behaviour as taught by Peter in 1 Peter 2:15.

     

     

    QQQ

    What does ‘Christ’s strength working through our weakness’ (12:9-10) look like in your church community in the 21st Century?

     

     

    QQQ         

    Why do the sins Paul lists in 12:20-21 underlie the Corinthian church’s rejection of Paul’s apostleship, and their falling for the rhetoric of ‘false apostles’?

    Comment:

    The two groups of sins that Paul lists are each derived from the two leading issues Jesus addresses in the main section of the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5:21-30). The fact that Jesus starts with these two sins almost certainly indicates that they are the two sins that lie at the very heart of all human rebellion against God.

     

     

    Dessert Course:

     

    QQQ         

    Christian churches are soft targets for thieves because of the trusting, well meaning, forgiving relations within our believing communities. I have witnessed outsiders steal handbags while communicants receive communion, and others make direct manipulative requests to vulnerable members, but I have also heard of a church treasurer who pinched a few pounds from the collection each time he counted it, and a church administrator who attempt to steal two years’ salary from her church (she was completely exposed by a visiting prophet.) I have seen high level strategic fraud by two different world-class Christian leaders, as well as powerful requests for financial support in ways that are frankly deceitful. But besides these (fortunately rare) issues of stealing, there are other much more subtle dangers in the ministry of ‘giving and receiving’. What are they, and how does Paul counter them in his management of the collection of the gift for the Jerusalem church (chapters 8-9)?

    Comment:

    First there is the issue of accountability. Financial matters must be handled in a transparent way by at least two individuals, both of whom are trusted by the community for their integrity. Second, there is the much subtler issue that if the recipient knows the identity of the individual donor, then a ‘power dynamic’ is established between the two individuals that can potentially have dangerous future repercussions for the individuals concerned. If possible, it is always better for gifts between church members to be directed anonymously through official church channels, so the recipient is either told ‘Someone in the church who loves you and is concerned about your situation asked if I (the church leader) could pass this anonymously on to you’, or even, ‘the church has a special fund for helping people in your situation and has decided to give you this gift’.  A study of chapters 8:10-9:5 shows Paul carefully explaining the reasons for the fundraising.  He emphasises that their gift must be voluntary, puts the responsibility for the collection and the handling of the money on the church itself, carefully introduces and commends each of the three men in the delegation he is sending, and maintains even the anonymity of the individual churches to the Jerusalem Christians. 

     

     

    QQQ         

    To what extent does it matter, if at all, if chapters 10-13 are considered to be a separate letter the Corinthians written by Paul only a few weeks after 2 Corinthians 1-9 (that is, after Titus and the brother have returned to Paul)?

    Comment:

    In my opinion this view harmonises the situation. Those who view 10-13 as part of one letter spanning 1-13 need to provide a convincing explanation why Paul speaks about the delegation’s visit in the future tense in 8:16-9:5, but in the past tense in 12:17-18. This view also explains why the extremely critical situation of 12:11 and 13:7 is not mentioned in the first nine chapters, and contrasts so sharply with Paul’s high commendation of the church in 7:13-16.

     

     

    QQQ         

    Paul’s specific warning that he will use his apostolic authority to invoke divine power to demolish the stronghold (10:4-5) of the false apostles preaching a deceitful gospel under the demonic power of Satan (11:13-15) is exceptionally strong stuff! Given that very occasionally church leaders may have to take such action in extreme situations, what measures do we see Paul adopting to ‘prevent’ such action having to be taken?

    Comment:

    The letter, chapters 10-13, is in itself a serious – almost desperate – attempt to avert the crisis. Paul’s repeated argument is that he wants the Corinthians to sort out the problems before he arrives. Paul writes with exceptional delicacy, grace and kindness. He makes his points clearly, and even though he uses deep irony and sarcasm, there is a loving tone throughout urging them towards a pure devotion and obedience to Christ. He is never afraid to call a spade a spade, or a false apostle a false apostle. Paul always places the responsibility for obedience on the church and its members.

     

      Coaching Questions -

    Coaching Questions for the 2 Corinthians Pod Sessions

     

    Podder:

     

    Section Point to be noted
    Opening: What’s the key thing happening with you at the moment? What is the best thing that has happened to you last month? What dreams do you have for this year?

     

    At the end of our last pod you said you would be happy for me to ask you this question …How have you got on?

     

    How did you go about engaging with ‘2 Corinthians’?

     

    Are there specific things you want to talk about today from your study of ‘2 Corinthians’?

                …any questions,

               … or things you don’t understand?

     

    What verses made the greatest impression on you?

     

    Substance – Message:

    1.    Section 1 – Chapters 1-7

    List the challenges that Paul faced.

    Where is the ministry of condemnation that brings death in the world today?

    What are the features of genuine apostolic ministry?

    Have you experienced anything that Paul describes in 4:7-12?

    What pleases the Lord (5:9)?

    2.    Section 2 – Chapters 8-9

    What guidance does Paul give for fundraising with integrity?

    3.    Section 3 – Chapters 10-13

    What were the ‘false apostles’ saying and doing?

    Explain the principle of God’s power working through our weakness.

    Your insights:

     

     

    Application:

     

     

    Holy Habit:

    QQQ – What question shall I ask you when we next meet in the light of the application that you have made from our study today?

     

    What Holy Habits will help us to be more faithful in proclaiming the gospel?