For our introduction to the Corinthian letters, see here.
1:12-7:16 Paul’s Apostolic Ministry and the Crisis with Corinth
2:14-5:19 Comments on Apostleship Paul contrasts the glory of message with the imperfection of the messengers in multiple ways from 2:14 through 7:4.
4:1-18 True Treasure, Mortal Ministry:
5:1-10 Confidence facing Death: Paul mixes metaphors. First writing about an “earthly tent” and a “building from God” and then changing to the image of clothing. While we are alive in this world, there is a sense in which we are separated from God. (Although we are never absolutely separated.) Christians, never the less, live knowing the reality of God, guided by faith.
5:11- 15 Living for Christ: Paul again defends his ministry against the ministry of “those who boast in outward appearance”.
5:16-19 The Ministry of Reconciliation: A “human point of view” refers to worldly standards. Once Paul viewed Christ as the world does, but now Paul realizes Christ has transformed the creation, reconciling the world to Christ’s self.
5:20-7:3 Appeals about Reconciliation
5:20-6:2 Be Reconciled to God: Christ gives us, as his ambassadors, his ministry of reconciliation.
6:3-10 Paul’s “Resume”: Paul’s work as an apostle has not been glamorous or heroic. It has been honest and faithful.
6:11-7:3 Be Reconciled to Your Apostle: This section begins and ends with Paul defending his ministry and urging reconciliation. Some commentators think that 6:14-7:1 may be a fragment from another letter, since there is an abrupt change of subject. v15 Beliar was an evil spirit found in writings from the time between the writing of the Old and New Testaments. Verses 16,17,18 quote various Old Testament passages, Lev 26:12, Ezek 37:27, Isa 52:11, 2 Sam 7:14.
7:4-16 Paul’s Joy at Restored Relations: Some believe that in verse 5, Paul picks up his discussion of his meeting in Macedonia from 2:13. In that case 7:4 belongs with 7:2-3. But 7:4 can also be understood as the topic sentence for the rest of chapter 7. In chapter 6 and 7, we can begin to appreciate the difficulties commentators have with the organization of this letter! In chapter 7 Paul expresses his joy at the improved relationship with the Corinthians, even though there were difficult times.
8:1-9:15 The Collection for the Relief of the Jerusalem Church
Paul refers to his fundraising for the Jerusalem church in several of his letters, Rom 15:25-29; 1 Cor 16:1-4; Gal 2:10. There was real need in the Jerusalem church and Paul also wants to reconcile the gentile churches with the church in Jerusalem. His efforts to fund raise in Corinth began before the writing of 1 Corinthians (1 Cor 16:1-4). It seems Paul’s fundraising did not help the relationship between Paul and the Corinthian church. They had questions about Paul’s motives and his authority to collect funds.
8:1-6 Titus’ Return: Titus returns to collect contributions and the Macedonian churches are cited as an example of generous giving.
8:7-15 A Matter of Equality: The Corinthians are urged to finish what they started (v10,11). Paul reminds the Corinthians of what Christ has done for them. And also advised them to give out of their abundance to help others in need.
8:16-24 Commendation of Titus and the Brothers: Titus is returning, not just because Paul has sent him, but also because he wants to return. With Titus are two men. One is a well known man- well known to Corinth, but not to us as his name is lost to us- sent by the churches as a sort of independent auditor.
A prayer from early Church father, Gregory of Nazianus (329-389) for your use this week.
Read More About It
Furnish, Victor Paul “2 Corinthians” in HarperCollins Bible Commentary, rev. ed.James L Mays, ed. (New York: Society of Bible Literature) 2000.
Johnson, Luke Timothy, The Writings of the New Testament: An Interpretation, rev. ed. (Minneapolis:Fortress Press) 1999. Chapter 12 “The Corinthian Correspondence” and Chapter 16 “The Letter to Philemon”.
Knox, John, John Reumann “2 Corinthians” in The New Oxford Annotated Bible, Bruce M. Metzger, Roland E. Murphy eds. (New York: Oxford University Press) 1994.