The Epistles Analyzed: 2 Corinthians

The Circumstances which Occasioned it

Much has been written about the background to this epistle. There are those who think that Paul wrote four letters (1Cor 5:9, and the “painful letter” mentioned in 2Cor 7:8) and made three visits to Corinth (based on 2Cor 13:1); there are others who feel that there were three letters (the first being mentioned in 1Cor 5:9) and only two visits. Some of the references which follow will deal with this problem. Arguments can be mustered for both views. It is not merely academic, as it bears about the man who is restored in chapter 2.

What can be said is that there was a brief time lapse between First and Second Corinthians. It was written from somewhere in Macedonia. It may be that only six months intervened, and certainly no more than a year (1Cor 8 and 2Cor 2:1-2, with Acts 20:6).

Several matters had to be dealt with in his letter, not the least was the attack upon Paul’s apostleship being made by false brethren at Corinth.

The Stated Objectives

The Vindication of his Apostleship – It is critical to see that Paul is only defending his apostleship because the authority for the truth he taught was at stake. The defamers were attacking his authority as an apostle and thus the authority of his teaching.

The Explanation for his Movements

The Communication of his Joy at their Repentance

The Exhortation concerning their Giving

The Fierceness of the Opposition

Throughout the epistle there are direct attacks on Paul as to his:

Reliability (ch 1:17)
Honesty (2)
Authority (3:1)
Frailty (4:7)
Sanity (5:13)
Severity (6:11)
Integrity (7:3)
Carnality (10:1-3)
Bravery (11:20)
Duplicity (12:16)
Reality (ch 13:3-4)

The Matter of the Offering

Some of the most detailed and lengthy teaching on the subject of “giving” is found in chapters 8 and 9. It will repay the student to trace the different expressions used for material giving and the varied reasons and results. The reminder of the Savior Who gave to the point of poverty, and the giving God Who gave His very best, bracket the section as motivating and measuring principles.

Words to be Observed

Look at the expression “of Christ” found perhaps 11 times in the epistle.

Find the mentions of the words “commend” and “commendation.”

Trace how God ministers to His servant throughout the experiences of the letter.

“Glory” is found 20 times in the letter.

Trace the expression “death and life” and notice the order of the words and their context.

Trace the mentions and means of “comfort” throughout the letter.

Look up the Greek word enopion and its usage.

Trace the many direct and indirect references to Genesis seen throughout the letter.

Paul’s Openness

Trace the openness and transparency of Paul’s life and labors as seen in ch 2:10, 17; 4:2; 7:12; 8:21; 12:19. This is divulged to counter the many charges of his opponents who impugned his motives, manner, and movements.

The Epistle Outlined

A. Ch 1-7 Apostle’s Movements and Ministry – The Character of the Servant of God

1. His Movements

Ch 1:1-18 His Resources – The God of Peace, of Comfort, of Resurrection, and of Truth
Ch 1:19-2:11 His Reasons for Not Coming

2. His Ministry

Ch 2:12-17 His Consciousness of God’s Direction
Ch 3:1-18 The Covenant that he Ministered
Ch 4:1-18 His Confidence from the Message
Ch 5:1-21 The Constraint he Felt
Ch 6:1-10 The Catalogue of his Sufferings
Ch 6:11-18 The Call to Separation
Ch 7:1-4 The Comfort Received from God through Titus

3. His Motives

Ch 7:5-7 The Return of Titus and The Comfort he Received
Ch 7:8-12 Their Repentance for which he Longed
Ch 7:13-16 The Rejoicing he Knew

B. Ch 8-9 The Appeal for Giving – The Collection for the Saints

1. Ch 8:1-6 The Grace of God in the Macedonians
2. Ch 8:7-15 The Growth Paul Longed for in Them
3. Ch 8:16-24 The Genuineness of Titus’ Care
4. Ch 9:1-5 The Gentleness of Paul’s Ways
5. Ch 9:6-11 Giving and Getting from the Lord
6. Ch 9:12-15 The Glory God Receives from Giving

C. Ch 10-13 The Apologetics of the Apostle – The Credentials of the Servant

1. Ch 10:1-17 The Divine Commendation on his Apostleship
2. Ch 11:1-33 The Arduous Circumstances through which he Passed
3. Ch 12:1-13 The Secret of his Competence
4. Ch 12:14-13:2 His Transparent Character
5. Ch 13:3-14 His Sincere Concern for Them

Suggested Lines of Study:

The verses of 2 Corinthians 5 have been termed a “Reverse Pilgrims Progress” since it begins with our new bodies and ends by going back to our conversion. Trace the steps.

Grasp the teaching of one of the three great sections on separation. Compare Hebrews 13:13, 14; and then Revelation 18:4, and notice the difference in the calls.

The subject of giving as taught in chapters 8 and 9.

Insights into Paul’s life and labors as seen in chapters 10-13.

Suggested References

Davies, J. M. Letters to the Corinthians, J. M Davies, 1982.

McShane, Albert, 2 Corinthians, What the Bible Teaches, 1986.

Tasker, R. V. G., The Second Epistle of Paul to the CorinthiansTyndale NT Commentary 1977.