2 Corinthians (2 Cor)

Book 8 of the NT, having 13 chapters. Time to read: 40 mins.  Written by Paul to the church about AD 57, some 2 years after the 1st letter to the Corinth fellowship.

Key people: Paul, Timothy, Titus.

Outline: Paul was a humble servant of Christ but felt compelled to give a response to those who were slandering him and trying to get the people to accept a mistaken gospel (2 Cor 10:1-13:14). Many in the Corinthian church had responded in the right spirit to his first letter and amended their ways. However, some were questioning his motives and twisting the truth. Here are some of his statements refuting false teaching and affirming the true believers in their faith: “Now it is God who makes both us and you stand firm in Christ. He anointed us, set His seal of ownership on us, and put His Spirit in our hearts as a deposit, guaranteeing what is to come” (2 Cor 1:21,22, 5:5); “Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom [not to do as we please but free from the yoke of sin so we can live God-honouring lives]” (2 Cor 3:17); “Though He was rich, yet for your sakes He became poor, so that you through His poverty you might become rich” (2 Cor 8:9); “All this is from God, who reconciled us to Himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation” (2 Cor 5:18-21).

Main lesson: “We are being transformed into His likeness” (2 Cor 3:18). This is a process for which we must take personal responsibility, aware that “we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, that each may receive what is due to him for the things done while in the body, whether good or bad” (2 Cor 5:10). Paul writes, “Those who live should no longer live for themselves but for Him who died for them”, because “If anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come!” (2 Cor 5:15,17). The challenge is to “purify ourselves from everything that contaminates body and spirit” (2 Cor 7:1). May you be known as one whose “obedience accompanies your confession” (2 Cor 9:13). A person who not just ‘talks the talk’ but ‘walks the walk’, a changed life originating from a transformed heart, even though “we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all surpassing power is from God and not from us” (2 Cor 4:7-11).

Key verses and thoughts: * “Praise be to...the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves have received from God” (2 Cor 1:3-7, 7:5-7). This wasn’t just a nice sounding ideal – Paul wrote from experience (2 Cor 6:4-10, 11:23-28). “But this happened that we might not rely on ourselves but on God, who raises the dead.  He has delivered us from such deadly peril, and He will deliver us.  On Him, we have set our hope that He will continue to deliver us, as you help us by your prayers.  Then many will give thanks on our behalf for the gracious favour granted us in answer to the prayers of many” (2 Cor 1:9-12). How’s your prayer life on behalf of those facing hardship? “For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all.  Therefore, we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen.  For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal...We live by faith, not by sight” (2 Cor 4:17,18, 5:7) .

* “Do not be joined together with unbelievers” (2 Cor 6:14-18).  He is not saying we’re to not associate with unbelievers (as how else will they see Christianity in action) rather it refers to making major business and binding marriage partnerships with those who don’t know Christ (1 Cor 5:10). On this level, the incompatibility of the Christian’s principles and values with those of the non-Christian will become evident, causing conflicts of interest, with resulting compromise in areas of loyalty and integrity. Jesus said, “No-one can serve two masters...You cannot serve God and the world” (Mt 6:24). We are to have a single focus and dedication to Him, which is outworked through involvement in the lives of the lost, with our ‘light’ shining to attract them to the real source of light and life. 

* The churches in other cities, even though they too were poor, had given sacrificially to a collection of money for the improvised Christians in Jerusalem and the challenge was for these believers to do what they said they would do. However, “They gave themselves first to the Lord” (2 Cor 8:2-5). Note the order of priority – giving themselves before their resources. Paul points out that one day the tables may turn (2 Cor 8:13,14). Thus we should “do as we would like others to do for us” (Lk 6:31). “Whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows generously will also reap generously” (2 Cor 9:6-12).  We will receive back according to the quantity of sowing. Am I outward focused and supportive of other ministries and Christians outside my own church?

* “We are taking pains to do what is right, not only in the eyes of the Lord but also in the eyes of men” (2 Cor 8:21). Paul was aware of the traps that can easily trip people up. We should also take measures to protect others and ourselves from the destructive power of misconstrued motives, unwise actions and gossip that can quickly ruin a person’s reputation. Ensure you maintain integrity, honesty and accountability in each of the three main areas of temptation – gold, glory, gals (money, pride, sex) – which have ruined many people.

* “For though we live in the world, we do not wage war as the world does. The weapons we fight with are not the weapons of the world.  Of the contrary, they have divine power to demolish strongholds.  We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captivity every thought to make it obedient to Christ” (2 Cor 10:3-5; Eph 6:12). In the unseen spiritual realm, there is continual conflict as the forces of evil that are opposed to God and His Kingdom try to keep us in ignorance of our inheritance in Christ – the power that is at our disposal and victory over all the consequences of mankind’s fall in the Garden of Eden. Satan is endeavouring to diminish the humiliating defeat he experienced at Calvary. Although he is cunning and more powerful than we are on our own, he is no match when we are walking in close relationship with Christ, who defeated our spiritual enemy for us (1 Jn 3:8). While wickedness and sin may seem to be in control at the present, the day is coming when God will step in and totally annihilate all evil, proving to all He is God. As Christians, we are to use the powerful spiritual weapons to take authority over the works of Satan now, by advancing and enforcing the rule of God on earth. These weapons include: prayer, faith, hope, love, God’s Word, the Holy Spirit, our verbal confession of faith in Christ, the name of Jesus and the victory gained through His blood (Eph 6:13-18; Rev 12:11). These are effective because of our Father/son relationship with God though Jesus Christ. By far the most important battle is within – our mind, the control centre for all we do. It is more important to have a disciplined mind obedient to the Holy Spirit than to accomplish great external victories (Prov 16:32). How is the battle in my mind?  In Christ’s name, am I taking ground back from the enemy, walking into greater freedom and purity of thought?

See also: accountability, 1 Corinthians, gifts and giving, mind, spiritual warfare, temptation.