1-2: Paul's second letter to the Corinthians opens with a greeting from himself and Timothy.
3-7: God mercifully comforts us in our afflictions so we can know how to comfort others. This comfort comes in the form of a deep understanding that God is sovereign and "all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose" (Romans 8:28). When God strengthens us through pain and uses us to help others, we grow spiritually.
8-13: When Paul faced suffering and persecution in Asia, he thought he was going to die (verse 9). This experience taught Paul to rely on God rather than himself.
12-14: Paul and Timothy boasted about their simple conduct, message, and discipleship of the Corinthians because it didn't rely on worldly wisdom. Their boast wasn't sinful because it was "in the Lord", meaning they credited God with their success. This is indicated by the phrase "by the grace of God" (1 Corinthians 1:31). They knew they could do nothing without God and boasted only of God's work.
15-20: Because the Corinthian church was so dear to Paul, he wanted to see them a second time on his way to Macedonia. When he decided it was best not to come, his critics in Corinth accused him of wavering in his promises. Paul defended himself by pointing out his track record of faithfulness—that it was uncharacteristic for him of backpedal in his promises (for example: saying "yes", then "no" when it came time to fulfill the promise). He even compared his steadfastness in promise keeping to God's, who never breaks his promises.
21-22: A prime example of God fulfilling his promises is that he "established" us with other believers in Christ, guaranteeing our salvation since it is no longer based on our performance. We're given a seal as sons and daughters of Christ, along with the Holy Spirit as a guarantee that we are His children.
23-24: Paul began explaining why he decided it was best not to come to Corinth.
1-4: These verses continue Paul's explanation; he wanted to spare them of the pain that would result from rebuking them in person rather than in writing. And though it was a tough decision that brought him much grief, he decided that their mutual joy and encouragement was more important at the moment.
5-11: This is likely instruction on dealing with the incestuous man mentioned in 1 Corinthians 5:1, but Paul keeps it general. Sin causes pain in the church. There's no doubt that the incestuous man brought relational pain and shame to his family and friends. However, Paul was sensitive to the "excessive sorrow" faced by the sinner going through church discipline. This was sufficient to lead the guilty man to repentance. Paul pleaded with them to reaffirm their love for him. Verse 10 shows that Paul handed his authority to the leaders in Corinth to carry about church discipline. These verses are a great example of how church discipline should be practiced today.
12-13: God opened an opportunity for Paul's evangelistic efforts in Troas. Neither Paul or anyone else can have success in ministry unless God sovereignly creates opportunities. Despite God's blessing on Paul's ministry, he was anxious because he couldn't find Titus there.
14-17: God uses his followers to share the Gospel throughout the world. The aroma metaphor captures how people who accept the Gospel see God's grace as an appealing aroma, while those who reject it see it as a revolting aroma. It reminds them of their mortality and the coming judgement, so they despise both the message and messenger.
1-3: Paul's ministry and apostleship was challenged by some in the Corinthian church who wanted "letters of recommendation". However, to prove he was faithful in sharing the gospel, Paul simply pointed to the existence of the Corinthian believers. This validated his ministry more than any letter of recommendation could have.
4-6: Paul humbly admitted that his competence as a minister of the new covenant came completely from God. The "letter" is a way of referring to God's laws in the Old Testament. It can be said that the law kills because it convicts us of sin, bringing about God's judgment. The "Spirit" gives life because if we receive Christ, we'll receive the Holy Spirit and be raised to eternal life as Jesus was.
7-11: The old covenant brought God glory even though it was temporary and condemned lawbreakers. But with it, God provided a solution to the sin problem by setting up a sacrificial system, which would one day be validated through Christ. It brought God glory by demonstrating both his justice and mercy. The New Covenant, on the other hand, brings God more glory by giving us a fuller picture of His grace. It is permanent and offers us righteousness rather than condemnation and death.
12-13: Moses tried hiding God's glory by putting a veil over his face. By contrast, Paul and Timothy boldly magnified God's glory by telling others about the grace offered through Jesus and the permanent new covenant.
14-18: The veil is used as an illustration for our inability to see God's glory. When those in the Jewish religion read the old covenant they can't see God's glory since they reject Christ. Ultimately, the old covenant only makes sense in light of it's fulfillment in the new covenant. When we turn to Christ the veil is removed and we receive the Holy Spirit, who transforms us.
1-6: Paul and his fellow teachers refused to use dishonest tactics or twist scripture, to "sell" God and convert people. They told the truth openly and trusted the outcome their sovereign God. Paul figured that even if some were veiled from seeing God's glory in their message, it was only because they were destined to perish. In verse 4, "The "god of this world" is a reference to Satan. Those who reject Christ and follow other "gods" are unwittingly following Satan, the author of deception and false religion (1 Corinthians 10:20-21). In this way, he is the god of this world and blinds his followers from spiritual realities.
7-12: The treasure in this metaphor is the Gospel and the Jars of clay are Paul and those with him. God uses humble means to spread the Gospel so there's no mistake as to the source of it's power.
13-15: As Christians we all have the same Holy Spirit and will be raised together with Jesus. The more people are saved by God's grace, the more glory he receives from their thanksgiving.
16: Due to the fall and sin, we are all wasting away as we age. But the person who has received forgiveness and the Holy Spirit through Jesus is being renewed each day though the process of sanctification. We are not merely wasting away, God is using our life experiences, failures, and His word to help us grow spiritually.
17-18: No matter how horrible the Christian's earthly life is, it's temporary and we will one day have a perfect, eternal existence when God makes the new heavens and new earth". The evil and suffering in this world can't even compare to the greatness of being in heaven with God.
1-5: Our earthly bodies are described as tents because they're temporary. This is in contrast to a house or building, which describes the permanent resurrected bodies that God promised us. The Holy Spirit is our deposit, guaranteeing that we will be resurrected.
6-9: When we die and leave our earthly body, we dwell with God until the resurrection. But either way, we should serve God wether our soul is in our earthly bodies or with the Lord.
10: There will be a judgment for believers based on what we did while in our earthly bodies. This is separate from the great white throne judgment, which is for those who rejected Christ's gift of forgiveness (Revelation 20:11–15). The judgement seat of Christ won't be about salvation since all who partake in it are already forgiven by Christ. Instead, it's likely to determine our role when God sets up his eternal kingdom on earth.
11-13: In light of the eternal consequences of our actions, Paul and his followers tried to persuade others into receiving Christ. Unlike the rival Corinthian teachers who sought to impress their peers, Paul and the apostles sought to please God.
14-15: The love of Christ controls Christians because it compels us to respond by living our lives for him rather than ourselves. When Jesus absorbed the wrath of God that we deserved, we all "died" with him—meaning he was our representative who died on our behalf.
16-17: When we receive purification through Christ we are considered a new creation. It's a life changing even that transforms us from condemned sinners to redeemed servants of God.
18-20: God receives all glory for our salvation since it's not by works of the law but by God reconciling us through Jesus. We who receive Christ are entrusted to the ministry of sharing this message with others, that they too could be reconciled to God. God makes his appeal to unbelievers through us. We are ambassadors who represent God, so we should live in such a way as to represent him accurately.
21: This verse describes the great exchange that took place when Jesus died on the cross. Though Jesus never sinned, God used the sacrificial system to place our sin on Jesus and give us his righteousness. Though we still sin, we are legally righteous in God's sight.
1-2: This is a warning against receiving the message of grace (through Jesus) in a vain, superficial way. It's likely a message for those who find the Gospel appealing but want to live in sin awhile longer before fully committing their lives to Christ. Verse 2 is a paraphrase of Isaiah 49:8, which Jesus fulfilled by atoning for our sins making now the "favorable time" and "day of salvation".
3-10: Paul and his fellow missionaries endured suffering in order that their ministry would be faultless. The following list of hardships was a direct result of faithfully sharing the Gospel in hostile pagan regions.
11-13: Paul wanted the Corinthians to follow their example of candid openness with one another.
14-18: The imagery of yoked animals implies that we shouldn't link ourselves with unbelievers in a way that would causes us to sin and compromise in our relationship with God. We're often influenced by those closest to us such as spouses, best friends, and business partners. We can and should have close, loving friendships with unbelievers, but should never "yoke" ourselves to them and emulate their lifestyles. To reinforce this point Paul asks several hypothetical questions illustrating the absurdity of God uniting with pagan idols. When we engage in sin with unbelievers we are uniting God's temple (our bodies) with their idols (sinful behaviors). He also paraphrases several Old Testament passages, calling Israel to be separate from "unclean" and sinful things. And though the covenant situation is different in the New Testament, the example still applies.
1: The promise in the previous verses were about God making us his children and dwelling among us. We are his children through Jesus' atonement and upon Jesus' return he'll "walk among us". In light of this news we should cleanse ourselves (repent) of our sins. Although Jesus paid for our sins and we're already considered Holy, our holiness is "complete" when we repent, because we are acting in accordance with our position in God's sight.
2-4: Paul countered his critics' accusations against him by pointing out his innocence in the way he treated others. Because he was so close with the church, he was able to speak candidly with them. But he also wanted them to understand that he wasn't condemning them as he did with bold words in his first letter.
5-7: Paul was facing dark times of fear, anxiety, exhaustion, and many other obstacles. However, Paul found comfort in his fellowship with Titus, who spent time with the Corinthians and reported their positive response to Paul. God is the source of comfort when we feel depressed (verse 6). In His divine providence He even orchestrated Titus' visit to lift Paul out of a difficult time.
8-12: The Corinthians were grieved by Paul's convicting first letter, but it served the purpose of leading them to repentance. "Godly grief" is when we are crushed by the weight of our sin, yet turn to Christ for forgiveness. "Worldly grief" is when our guilt and sorrow lead us away from God. It's a hopeless state that ultimately leads to spiritual death (judgement in Hell) since rejection of Jesus is a rejection of our only source of forgiveness.
13-16: Titus was refreshed and encouraged at the obedience of some in the Corinthian church, and Paul rejoiced because they lived up to his boasting about them.
1-7: Although the Macedonian Christians were poor, they gave generously to other Christians in need. They even "begged for the favor" of taking part in providing for the relief of their brothers and sisters in Christ. Paul wanted the Corinthians to follow their example.
8-9: Paul didn't command them to give to other believers, but wanted them to do so out of appreciation for what Jesus did for them. He then describes the great exchange in terms of material wealth. Jesus was rich (in righteousness) but we were poor (sinful, deserving judgment). On the cross he became poor (our sin was laid upon him) for our sake, so we could become rich (righteous).
10-15: Paul further encouraged the Corinthians to give to other believers because they would also benefit as they had before. The idea was that the churches would help each other in financially tough situations.
16-24: Titus and the other teachers cared deeply for the Corinthians as Paul did, so they were sent to visit the church. Paul made sure to make the Corinthians aware of this so they would treat them with love.
1-5: The Macedonians were inspired by the Corinthians' new willingness to help fellow Christians in need. Titus was sent to ensure that the Corinthians followed through with their promise to give.
6-9: The harvest principle of sowing and reaping applies when we give to help others and advance God's kingdom. This means you receive according to what you give; it may be in the form of financial or spiritual blessings. We should never give out pressure or coercion, this doesn't please God. Instead, we should only give what we are cheerful and willing to give.
10-11: If we sow generously (giving resources to others and God), God will multiply our seed for sowing (increase our ability to give). He will make us rich in every way (materially and spiritually) so we can bless others, which causes us to thank God. It's important to note that this divine prosperity cannot be exploited. If you're giving in order to get rich for personal gain, it won't work. Verse 11 is clear that we are only enriched in order to be generous, for the purpose of producing thanksgiving to God. In his omniscience, God knows our intentions.
12-14: Paul reiterates the purpose of our giving to those in need. It not only supplies material needs for fellow believers, but causes them to thank and praise God for providing through us.
1-2: Some in the Corinthian church accused Paul of living a carnal lifestyle rather than that of an apostle. Paul gave them an opportunity in this letter to repent so he didn't have to confront them when he came to visit.
3-6: The "weapons" of Christian "warfare" are not guns and swords but a divine power (the Holy Spirit) to destroy arguments raised against God. In addition, we should submit our thoughts to Christ that we may obey Him.
7-11: Although Paul used his authority to write strong letters of rebuke, they were in the best interest of the disobedient church. It's what some of them needed to hear in order to progress in their Christian walk.
13-16: Paul shifts the topic to "boasting" about ministry. This was not to brag (as we'll see in the next chapter he finds this foolish), it was only because false apostles came into Corinth boasting bout their credentials and accomplishments. They also made accusations that Paul wasn't a true apostle. Unlike these false "super apostles", Paul only boasted about the fruits of his own ministry (area of influence). The false apostles tried to "reconvert" the new believers to their way of thinking and took credit for others' area of ministry influence.
17: After bringing up the topic of boasting, and before listing his accomplishments, Paul wanted to make one thing very clear: we should only boast "in the Lord". He only listed his ministry accomplishments to validate that God was working through him and his ministry.
1-6: Paul gave the disclaimer that what he was about to engage in was foolish (boasting about his ministry and suffering for the Lord). However, his motive for doing so was justified. He saw that the Christians in Corinth were being led astray by Because the false apostles were leading the Corinthians astray, he had to re-establish their trust in him through listing his credentials. By proving he was a legitimate authority, Paul could undo the work of false teachers and lead them back to the true Jesus and Gospel.
7-12: Other churches funded Paul's missionary trip to Corinth. Paul didn't accept money from the new Corinthian believers so it wouldn't seem as if they were paying for the Gospel. It also differentiated him from the false apostles who sought financial gain.
13-15: The false teachers who lead the Corinthians astray disguised themselves as Christ followers. In doing so they mimicked their true leader, Satan, who disguises himself as an angel of light.
16-21: Again, Paul acknowledged that the boasting he was about to engage in was foolish. But he wanted to show that he was more qualified than the' "super apostles" even by their own foolish standard.
22-29: Paul's boasting focused on 3 main points. He was qualified according to the Jewish religion, he faithfully served Christ through immense suffering, and anxiously, yet faithfully guided all the churches.
30-33: He then shifted focus to demonstrate his weaknesses with the story about how he ran from danger. This highlights that God doesn't need strong men to do great things.
1-6: The man spoken of here is Paul himself. We know this because he received a "thorn in the flesh" from God to maintain his humility despite receiving such a great revelation. The "third heaven" is where God dwells; the place where Christians will spend eternity. It's called the third heaven because the first heaven is the atmosphere, the second heaven is space. He didn't know if this were simply a vision of heaven or if he was physically transported there.
7-10: We don't know what Paul's "thorn in the flesh" was but it could have been a physical ailment or sin that he struggled with (Romans 7:14-25). Either way, the purpose was clear—God wanted His power to be demonstrated through Paul's weakness. Spectators saw how Paul, an unremarkable man who faced many struggles, relied solely on God and was used powerfully. That way, it was clear that God deserved the glory.
11-13: The Corinthians were responsible for Paul's foolish boasting because they challenged his apostleship and he had to prove himself. Yet when Paul was with them he performed the "signs, wonders, and mighty works of a true apostle" which probably consisted of healing others. He pointed out that he gave the Corinthians special treatment in comparison to the other churches by not burdening them financially. He made his point at the end of verse 13 with a sarcastic comment.
14-19: Paul is responding to the accusation by false teachers that he was serving the Corinthians for personal gain. He pointed out the absurdity of their charge and used Titus and himself as examples of how he looked out for the Corinthian church's best interest in building them up spiritually.
20-21: Paul feared he would find his readers in an unrepentant state upon his third visit to Corinth.
1-4: Paul gave a warning during his second visit and promised to deal with the unrepentant Corinthians in his third visit. Just as Jesus was weak in death but raised by the power of God, Paul was weak as a leader but when dealing with their sin, he exercised his authority as God's appointed leader.
5-6: Because the Corinthians seemed unrepentant, Paul suggested they examine their commitment to Christ to make sure they were true converts. We too should examine ourselves to make sure we've truly repented of our sins and trusted in Jesus' finished work on the cross.
7-9: Even if Paul was perceived as a failed teacher, the most important thing to him was that the Corinthians were repentant and restored. He saw their spiritual well being as more important than his reputation.
10: His main reason for writing this letter was to avoid using his authority to "tear them down" by rebuking them for their sins. He wanted it to lead them to repentance in order to build them up during his next visit.
11-14: Paul signed off with a command to live in unity, peace, love, and restoration.