Second Corinthians is the most autobiographical of Paul’s letters and probably the most difficult letter that Paul had to write. In previous letters, Paul had exhorted the Corinthian church to correct some abuses that were occurring in the congregation. However, some false teachers in the congregation were antagonized by Paul’s rebuke and rejected his warnings. As a result, in this letter Paul was forced to defend his character, and more importantly his apostolic authority, in the face of slanderous accusations. His defense reveals the trials and tribulations, the problems and the pressures of his itinerant ministry more than any other book in the Bible. Yet like the rest of Paul’s letters, 2 Corinthians points past Paul’s sweat and tears to the power that lay behind his actions and words: the Lord Jesus Christ. (from the NKJV Study Bible)
The Author (vs 1a)
- Clearly Paul is the author of 2 Corinthians. What does verse 1 tell us about Paul?
a. What is an apostle?
b. Why might Paul have included these credentials?
- Who is included as a co-author?
a. How is he described?
b. What do you know about him from other scriptures?
The Recipients (vs 1b)
- This letter was written to whom?
- Its recipients also included those in a region called what?
(Today this is southern Greece.)
The Date of the Writing
Paul wrote 1st Corinthians in the spring of A.D. 56 during his third missionary journey, toward the end of his time in Ephesus. 2 Corinthians was written shortly after this, probably in the fall of A.D. 56.
The City of Corinth
Corinth was an important city in ancient Greece located on an isthmus between the Saronic Gulf and the Ionian Sea, making it an ideal hub for commerce between Italy and Asia. Travelers from both the east and the west passed through Corinth making it a place of ethnic diversity as well a place of diverse beliefs and values. It was also the home to the temple of Aphrodite which in earlier times was served by more than 1,000 pagan priestess-prostitutes.
The Church at Corinth
Paul visited Corinth during his 2nd missionary journey. He was there for 18 months and established the church. Like the city of Corinth, the church had a mixture of nationalities, and though some Jews had received Jesus as Savior, the majority of the believers were Gentiles.
Read Acts 18:1-18 to review the founding of the church at Corinth. What things stand out to you?
The Circumstances of the Writing
We learn from 1 Corinthians that the Corinthian church was knowledgeable and gifted, yet divided and tolerant of sinful behavior. What do we learn from the following verses?
1 Cor. 1:5,6
1 Cor. 1:7
1 Cor. 1:11
1 Cor. 3:3
1 Cor. 5:1
1 Cor. 6:6
Paul’s corrections regarding these things were not received well by some and his character was severely attacked by them. Paul wrote 2 Corinthians out of his concern for the church, but also to defend his ministry. He wrote this letter to prove that his ministry was sincere and genuine, and to reassert his authority as an apostle of Christ. (NKJV Study Bible)
- It is unfortunate that at times Paul was forced to defend himself. The armor of God from Eph. 6:10-20 lists mostly defensive items of armor. Consider this. What do you see?
- In what circumstances might we need to defend ourselves or our ministry?
- Ultimately, God is our defense. See Psalms 7:10, 59:9, 59:17, 62:2, 94:22