The Apostle Paul was the writer of this epistle. The epistle was written to the Church at Corinth, but is directed “to all that in every place call upon the name of Jesus Christ our Lord” (see 1 Corinthians 1:2).
The Purpose for Writing
Paul’s first letter caused him much concern and he was anxious to know their reaction. Titus, whom he had met at Macedonia, brought him the news for which he longed. Evidently, the majority in the church received his admonition and corrective ministry and submitted themselves to it. The fact that disorders and abuses had been corrected and many had expressed their love for Paul and Titus constituted a great spiritual victory. Unfortunately, Titus’ report revealed that there were Jewish elements in the church that resented Paul and his message of grace. This accounts for the vehement style of the latter part of the epistle. Chapters 10-13 contain Paul’s rebuke to those who opposed his ministry and questioned his apostolic authority.
This epistle is one of Paul’s most personal.
Chapters 1-7 are a defense of his ministry.
Chapters 8-9 are a plea for them to fulfill their ministry of giving.
Chapters 10-13 are a defense of his apostleship.
The Characteristic Features
There are many enduring doctrinal affirmations in the epistle. They include:
- References to the character and workings of God (2 Cor. 1:3-4, 2 Cor. 2:14, 2 Cor. 4:5-6, 2 Cor. 5:8-21, 2 Cor. 6:14-18, and 2 Cor. 4:7-15).
- The contrast between the old and new covenants (2 Cor. 3).
- The future state (2 Cor. 5:1-10).
- The ministry of reconciliation (2 Cor. 5:10-21).
- The Christian stewardship of money (2 Cor. 8-9).
The general consensus of opinions is that this epistle is almost impossible to analyze. It is the least systematic of all Paul’s epistles.
Robert Lee offers the following outline in his outlined Bible:
I. An Explanation (2 Corinthians 1-7)
He explains the reason for his delay in visiting them and why he spoke so plainly and sternly in his first letter. He gives an explanation as to why he was so concerned about their spiritual state, and he also gives an account of his sufferings.
II. An Exhortation (2 Corinthians 8-9)
He exhorts them to fulfill promptly their promise of relief for the needy saints, especially since he had boasted of them to the Macedonian churches.
III. A Vindication (2 Corinthians 10-13)
A change in the apostle’s tone can easily be detected here – there is sternness and irony as he vindicates his apostleship and proves his right to their love and respect.
Mr. Smart of the Emmaus Bible School gives the following analysis:
I. 2 Corinthians 1-7 deals with the general subject of ministry:
A. Its source
B. Its characteristics
C. Its results
II. 2 Corinthians 8-9 illustrates the divine principle of giving:
A. It should be voluntary
B. It should be generous
C. It should be to the Lord
III. 2 Corinthians 10-13 shows Paul as he refutes his opponents with a record of revelations received, privation endured, and results achieved as an apostle of Christ.
There is no epistle which gives us a more intimate look into the heart of Paul than this one. At the time of writing it could have been Paul’s darkest hour. Disappointment, apprehensiveness, and physical illness had attacked Paul in a cruel way. “For when we were come into Macedonia,” he writes, “our flesh had no rest, but we were troubled on every side; without were fightings, within were fears” (see 2 Corinthians 7:5).
2 Corinthians 1:8-9 reveals an apostle, “pressed out of measure, above strength, in so much that [he] despaired even of life.” He says, “We had the sentence of death in ourselves.” In chapter 4 he tells about the “bearing about in the body the dying of the Lord Jesus.” In 2 Corinthians 4:16, he speaks of “the outward man perishing.”
Despite his great affliction, while waiting for Titus at Troas, he discovers a door of the Lord opened to him. How characteristic! He evidently preached the Gospel effectively in Troas and an assembly was formed. He revisits this local church on his return journey to Palestine. See Acts 20:6-12.
Judaistic teachers were a small, but powerful group at Corinth. They belonged to the Cephas party. Some Judaizing representatives from Jerusalem had visited the assembly at Corinth carrying “letters of commendation” (see 2 Cor. 3:1). This is what they were saying:
He was bold only from a distance (see 2 Cor. 10:1-2).
His outward appearance was base, and his speech was contemptible (see 2 Cor. 10:1, 10).
Compared to them, he was inferior despite his pretensions (see 2 Cor. 10:12, 18).
What he preached was but a poor edition of the gospel (see 2 Cor. 11:4).
The Corinthian church was a poor-grade church in so far as it was Pauline (see 2 Cor. 11:7-9, 12-13).
He was not truly an apostle (see 2 Cor. 11:5, 2 Cor. 12:11-12).
He did not have the qualifications or credentials that they from Jerusalem had (see 2 Cor. 11:22-12:18).
His refusing financial support was only admitting to inferiority (see 2 Cor. 12:16-19).
Points of Interest
- The character of God (see 2 Cor. 1:3-4)
- The triumphant ministry of Christ (see 2 Cor. 2:14)
- Ours is a spiritual ministry, not a legal one (see 2 Cor. 3)
- The power of Satan (see 2 Cor. 4:3-4)
- Our absolute salvation and the judgment seat of Christ (see 2 Cor. 5)
- The transforming power of the Gospel (see 2 Cor. 5)
- Separation from all evil (see 2 Cor. 6)
- The principles of giving (see 2 Cor. 8-9)
- Vindication of apostleship (see 2 Cor. 10-11)
- Exposure of false teachers (see 2 Cor. 10-11)
- The all-sufficient grace of God (see 2 Cor. 12)