A popular theory claims that chaps. 10-13 are part of that lost “sorrowful letter.” Although some features of those chapters correspond to what must have been the contents of the lost letter, the principal subject of that letter (the offender of 2 Cor. 2:5) is nowhere mentioned in these chapters. Further, there is no evidence for so partitioning 2 Corinthians.fn45
To distinguish this letter from the First Epistle to the Corinthians, this letter received the title, Pros Corinthians B. The B represents the Greek letter beta, the second letter of the Greek alphabet.
DATE: A.D. 56
A careful study of Acts and the Epistles reveals the following summary of Paul’s involvement with the Corinthian church:
(1) there was the first visit to Corinth followed by,
(2) the first letter to Corinth (now lost). This was then followed by
(3) the second letter to Corinth (1 Cor.).
(4) This was then followed by a second visit to Corinth (the “painful visit,” 2 Cor. 2:1).
(5) Then there was a third letter to Corinth (now also lost).
(6) This was followed by 2 Corinthians, the fourth letter to Corinth.
(7) Finally, there was a third visit to Corinth (Acts 20:2-3). It should be pointed out that the two lost letters were lost only because they were not intended by God to be part of the biblical canon.
Because of the riot caused by silversmiths (Acts 19:23-41) Paul departed from Ephesus for Macedonia (Acts 20:1) in the spring of A.D. 56. In the process, he made a preliminary stop at Troas hoping to rendezvous with Titus (2 Cor. 2:13) and receive news about conditions in Corinth. Not finding Titus there, he pushed on to Macedonia, undoubtedly with concern about Titus’ safety (7:5-6). There he met Titus, who brought good news about the general well-being of the Corinthian church but bad news about a group who were standing in opposition to Paul and his apostleship. From Macedonia Paul wrote a fourth letter, 2 Corinthians. Paul then made his third visit to Corinth during the winter of A.D. 56-57 (Acts 20:2-3).
THEME AND PURPOSE:
Of all Paul’s letters, 2 Corinthians is the most personal and intimate. In it he bared his heart and declared his steadfast love for the Corinthians even though some had been extremely critical and very fickle in their affection for him.
The major theme is summoned by James K. Lowery in the Bible Knowledge Commentary.
What concerned Paul preeminently was the presence of false teachers, claiming to be apostles, who had entered the church. They promoted their own ideas and at the same time sought to discredit both the person and message of the apostle.
Second Corinthians was written to defend the authenticity of both his apostleship and his message. This was not carried out in a self-protecting spirit but because Paul knew that acceptance of his ministry and message were intimately bound with the Corinthian church’s own spiritual well-being.fn46
In the process of Paul’s defense, three key purposes emerge:
(1) Paul expressed his joy at the favorable response of the church to Paul’s ministry (chaps. 1-7);
(2) he sought to remind the believers of their commitment to the offering for the Christians in Judea (chaps. 8-9); and
(3) he sought to defend his apostolic authority (chaps. 10-13).
While the general focus of this epistle is Paul’s “defense” of his ministry and authority,
A key word that surfaces is:
- “comfort” (occurring 11 times in 9 verses).
As we face the various dilemmas of life, we must all learn to find our comfort in God who is the God of all comfort.
4:5-6. 5 For we do not proclaim ourselves, but Jesus Christ as Lord, and ourselves as your slaves for Jesus’ sake. 6 For God, who said “Let light shine out of darkness,” is the one who shined in our hearts to give us the light of the glorious knowledge of God in the face of Jesus Christ.
4:16-18. 16 Therefore we do not despair, but even if our physical body is wearing away, our inner person is being renewed day by day. 17 For our momentary light suffering is producing for us an eternal weight of glory far beyond all comparison, 18 because we are not looking at what can be seen but at what cannot be seen; for what can be seen is temporary, but what cannot be seen is eternal.
5:17-19. 17 So then, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; what is old has passed away, see, what is new has come! 18 And all these things are from God who reconciled us to himself through Christ, and who has given us the ministry of reconciliation. 19 In other words, in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting people’s trespasses against them, and he has given us the message of reconciliation.
Chapters 8–9 are really one unit and comprise the most complete revelation of God’s plan for giving found anywhere in the Scriptures. Contained therein are the principles for giving (8:1-6), the purposes for giving (8:7-15), the policies to be followed in giving (8:16-9:5), and the promises to be realized in giving (9:6-15).fn47
CHRIST AS SEEN IN 2 CORINTHIANS:
In a later epistle, Paul will stress how we are:“complete in Christ” (Col. 2:10).
All we need for life is found in Him. In this epistle, we see Him as our:
- I. Primarily Apologetic: Explanation of Paul’s Conduct and Apostolic Ministry (chs.1–7)
- A. Salutation (1:1-2)
- B. Thanksgiving for Divine Comfort in Affliction (1:3-11)
- C. The Integrity of Paul’s Motives and Conduct (1:12-2:4)
- D. Forgiving the Offender at Corinth (2:5-11)
- E. God’s Direction in the Ministry (2:12-17)
- F. The Corinthian Believers—a Letter From Christ (3:1-11)
- G. Seeing the Glory of God With Unveiled Faces (3:12-4:6)
- H. Treasure in Clay Jars (4:7-16a)
- I. The Prospect of Death and What It Means for the Christian (4:16b-5:10)
- J. The Ministry of Reconciliation (5:11-6:10)
- K. A Spiritual Father’s Appeal to His Children (6:11-7:4)
- L. The Meeting With Titus (7:5-16)
- II. Hortatory: The Collection for the Christians at Jerusalem (chs. 8-9)
- A. Generosity Encouraged (8:1-15)
- B. Titus and His Companions Sent to Corinth (8:16-9:5)
- C. Results of Generous Giving (9:6-15)
- III. Polemical: Paul’s Vindication of His Apostolic Authority (chs. 10-13)
- A. Paul’s Defense of His Apostolic Authority and the Area of His Mission (ch10)
- B. Paul Forced Into Foolish Boasting (chs. 11-12)
- C. Final Warnings (13:1-10)
- D. Conclusion (13:11-14)