Paul’s Second Letter to the Corinthians
Often called “the hard letter”, this is an intensely personal letter. It recounts the difficulties and hardships Paul has endured in the service of Christ. The Apostle regards the Corinthians as his children in Christ.
Second Corinthians is a sequel to 1 Corinthians. The church followed some of the earlier advice, but still had some problems, so Paul continues to tell the Corinthians how to live correctly. He also tells Christians what their heavenly bodies will be like.
In his second letter to the Corinthians, Paul expresses his relief and joy that the Corinthians had received his “severe” letter in a positive manner. That letter addressed issues that were tearing the church apart, primarily the arrival of false apostles who were assaulting Paul’s character, sowing discord among the believers, and teaching false doctrine.
Accusations leveled at Paul
The majority of the Corinthian Church had complied and submitted to Paul’s admonitions. Unfortunately a small group continued with their opposition and accusations against the apostle.
The members in Corinth faced many negative influences from the society around them. As the capital of the Roman province of Achaia in the southern part of Greece, Corinth was a large port city. It was the center of extensive commerce and attracted many strangers from all over the world. It was known for its wealth, luxury and licentious living. The worship of Aphrodite formed an important part of the religious life of the inhabitants. It became known as the most corrupt city in Greece.
Paul explained how God comforted him during severe trials.
Paul encouraged the members to forgive and accept the wayward person mentioned in 1 Corinthians 5:3-5.
Paul explained the ministry of the New Covenant and contrasted it with the administration of the Old Covenant.
The Greater Glory of the New Covenant
7 Now if the ministry that brought death, which was engraved in letters on stone, came with glory, so that the Israelites could not look steadily at the face of Moses because of its glory, transitory though it was, 8 will not the ministry of the Spirit be even more glorious? 9 If the ministry that brought condemnation was glorious, how much more glorious is the ministry that brings righteousness! 10 For what was glorious has no glory now in comparison with the surpassing glory. 11 And if what was transitory came with glory, how much greater is the glory of that which lasts!
12 Therefore, since we have such a hope, we are very bold. 13 We are not like Moses, who would put a veil over his face to prevent the Israelites from seeing the end of what was passing away. 14 But their minds were made dull, for to this day the same veil remains when the old covenant is read. It has not been removed, because only in Christ is it taken away. 15 Even to this day when Moses is read, a veil covers their hearts. 16 But whenever anyone turns to the Lord, the veil is taken away. 17 Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom. 18 And we all, who with unveiled faces contemplate[a] the Lord’s glory, are being transformed into his image with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit.
Paul explained how Satan has blinded the minds of unbelievers.
He continued to illustrate what true conversion is and how Christians are brought into harmony (reconciled) with Christ: “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is [let him be] a new creation; old things have passed away; behold all things have become new” (5:17).
Paul provided proof that he was a minister of Jesus Christ, a fact that had been called into question by the would-be teachers.
He warned the members against compromising with society, since they were now children of God.
Paul was overjoyed by the genuine repentance of the members of the Church of God at Corinth. He explained the difference between a worldly sorrow that “leads to death” and godly sorrow that leads to eternal life. He listed the qualities of godly sorrow to reassure them they were “clear in this matter” (7:9-12).
These chapters contain instruction on the importance of developing a giving attitude, “for God loves a cheerful giver”.
7 Each of you should give what you have decided in your heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver. 2 Corinthians 9:7
Paul warned the Corinthians against the deceptive devices of Satan and the daily spiritual warfare Christians are engaged in (2 Corinthians 10:1-6). He then turned his attention to his critics who had attacked him on a number of fronts. He categorically proved that he was not lacking in any of the qualities of a true apostle of Jesus Christ and answered the charges leveled against him (10:7-11).
As further proof that he was not a second-rate apostle, he listed the many incidents of suffering and hardships he had endured in order to serve the churches and preach the gospel (11:22-33).
Paul described “visions and revelations of the Lord” when one (Paul) was “caught up to the third heaven” (12:1-6). But he was given “a thorn in the flesh” in order to keep him humble. He asked God to remove it, but instead God said He would give Paul the strength to endure the trial (12:7-10). Despite the affliction, God would demonstrate His power in his life.
Here Paul takes a slightly different approach to those questioning his authority. Paul’s accusers questioned his legitimacy as an apostle, but he admonished them to examine themselves: “Examine [put to the test] yourselves [not Paul] as to whether you are in the faith. Test yourselves” (13:5). They were to take stock of their own (not others’) spiritual condition. The likely result of this examination was that his accusers would then understand that he, Paul, and his fellow ministers were “not disqualified” (13:6).
Christ said that “unless you repent you will all likewise perish” (Luke 13:3, 5)
Repentance is a vital part of our Christian growth, and it is a requirement in order for us to receive the power of the Holy Spirit—and ultimately eternal life. During the process of repentance, we come to understand how much we have lived contrary to the will and the laws of God. That is when the true Christian life really begins. It is the goodness of God that leads us to repentance (Romans 2:4).