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Bible Commentaries

Expository Notes of Dr. Thomas Constable

2 Corinthians

- 2 Corinthians

by Thomas Constable

Introduction

HISTORICAL BACKGROUND

First Corinthians did not dispel the problems in the church at Corinth completely. While it resolved some of them, opposition to the Apostle Paul persisted and Paul’s critics continued to speak out against him in the church. One man in particular seems to have been the ringleader of the opposition (2Co_10:7). He had rallied the support of a significant minority. The issue was Paul’s apostolic authority. His critics were claiming authority equal with Paul’s. This was in effect a claim to apostolic authority on their part and or a denial of the full apostolic authority of Paul.

News of continuing problems in Corinth reached Paul in Ephesus during his prolonged stay there during his third missionary journey. He then made a brief visit to Corinth. However his efforts to resolve the conflicts proved unsuccessful (2Co_2:1; 2Co_12:14; 2Co_13:1-2). Paul apparently suffered insult and lost face during that visit (2Co_2:5-8; 2Co_7:12). Consequently this was a painful visit for Paul. He then returned to Ephesus.

Paul’s next step in dealing with the situation in Corinth was to send a severe letter from Ephesus by the hand of Titus and another unnamed brother (2Co_2:3-4; 2Co_7:8-12; 2Co_12:18). He apparently directed this letter, now lost, at the party opposed to him and particularly its leader. Some commentators believe that 2 Corinthians 10-13 contains part of this letter, but the evidence for this is not convincing. [Note: See Richard Batey, "Paul’s Interaction with the Corinthians," Journal of Biblical Literature 84 (1985):139-43.]

Paul evidently intended to receive Titus’ report concerning the effects of this severe letter in Ephesus. However, persecution there made it expedient for Paul to leave that city earlier than he had anticipated (Act_20:1). He found an open door for the gospel to the north in Troas. Eager to meet Titus, who was taking the land route from Corinth back to Ephesus, Paul moved west into Macedonia (2Co_2:12-13). There Titus met him and gave him an encouraging report (2Co_7:6-16). Most of the church had responded to Paul’s directives, and the church had disciplined the troublemakers (2Co_2:5-11). Unfortunately some in the congregation still refused to acknowledge Paul’s authority over them (2Co_10:1 to 2Co_13:10).

Many scholars have tried to explain the different subject matter and tone of chapters 10-13, compared with chapters 1-9. Some believe chapters 10-13 were a separate letter, specifically, Paul’s "severe letter." Others argue that it was originally part of 2 Corinthians, and that Paul wrote the whole book at one time. Most believe chapters 10-13 were originally a different letter from chapters 1-9 and the "severe letter:" a fifth letter from Paul to the Corinthians. Perhaps the best explanation is that chapters 10-13 were originally part of 2 Corinthians, but Paul wrote these chapters after he had written chapters 1-9 and after he had met Titus. [Note: See Donald A. Carson and Douglas J. Moo, An Introduction to the New Testament, pp. 430-36.]

In chapters 10-13, Paul rejoiced at the repentance of the majority in the church. However his concern for the unrepentant minority and his desire to pick up the money the Corinthians had begun to collect for their poorer brethren in Jerusalem led him to write 2 Corinthians. Along with these primary motives Paul also felt compelled to refute the charge of fickleness leveled at him by his critics. He had changed his travel plans and had not come to see them as he had said he would. The whole situation provided him an opportunity to clarify the nature of Christian ministry. Like 1 Corinthians, 2 Corinthians is an "occasional" letter: one occasioned by concrete issues.

Paul wrote the Second Epistle to the Corinthians from Macedonia, perhaps Philippi, Thessalonica, or Berea, probably in the fall or winter of A.D. 56. A date a year earlier or later is possible.

Some commentators believe Paul wrote 1 Corinthians after his painful visit and after he wrote the severe letter. [Note: E.g., Alford, Bernard, Denney, Hughes, Lenski, Lightfoot, Sanday, Zahn, et al.] Others, and I, believe it is more probable that he wrote 1 Corinthians before these two events. [Note: E.g., Allo, Bachmann, Barnett, Barrett, Bruce, Guthrie, Harris, Kent, Lowery, Plummer, Tasker, Windisch, et al.] It is very difficult to reconstruct the details of Paul’s activities since the data available to us is incomplete.

Paul’s Corinthian Contacts
Paul’s founding visitHis "former letter"The Corinthians’ letter to himFirst CorinthiansPaul’s "painful visit"His "severe letter"Second CorinthiansPaul’s anticipated visit

CHARACTERISTICS

"2 Corinthians is very different from the letters between which it was written, 1 Corinthians and Romans. Whereas each of those letters is, in its own way, systematic and orderly, 2 Corinthians is, on the face of it, uneven and digressive. It is no surprise, therefore, that many scholars have suggested that 2 Corinthians is really a collection of letters put together later as a single letter." [Note: Paul Barnett, The Second Epistle to the Corinthians, p. 15.]

"Second Corinthians presents many inspiring texts and passages to the reader and teacher of God’s Word. A quick survey reveals approximately eighty individual verses lending themselves to extended meditation and exposition, apart from the sixty or so constituent paragraphs of the letter. This letter is a rich lode for the edification of God’s people." [Note: Ibid., p. 47.]

OUTLINE

I.    Introduction 2Co_1:1-11

A.    Salutation 2Co_1:1-2

B.    Thanksgiving for comfort in affliction 2Co_1:3-11

1.    Thanksgiving for comfort 2Co_1:3-7

2.    Thanksgiving for deliverance 2Co_1:8-11

II.    Answers to insinuations about the sincerity of Paul’s commitment to the Corinthians and to the ministry 2Co_1:12 to 2Co_7:16

A.    Defense of Paul’s conduct with regard to his promised visit and the offender 2Co_1:12 to 2Co_2:17

1.    The postponement of the intended visit 2Co_1:12 to 2Co_2:4

2.    The treatment of the offender and the result of the severe letter 2Co_2:5-17

B.    Exposition of Paul’s view of the ministry 2Co_3:1 to 2Co_6:10

1.    The superiority of Christian ministry to Mosaic ministry 2Co_3:1-11

2.    The great boldness of the new ministers 2Co_3:12 to 2Co_4:6

3.    The sufferings and supports of a minister of the gospel 2Co_4:7 to 2Co_5:10

4.    The life of a minister of Christ 2Co_5:11 to 2Co_6:10

C.    Appeal for restoration of the Corinthians’ confidence in Paul 2Co_6:11 to 2Co_7:16

1.    An appeal for large-heartedness and consistency 2Co_6:11 to 2Co_7:4

2.    The encouraging response of the Corinthians so far 2Co_7:5-16

III.    Instructions concerning the collection for the poor saints in Judea 2Co_8:1 to 2Co_9:15

A.    The example of the Macedonians 2Co_8:1-7

B.    The supreme motive for giving 2Co_8:8-15

C.    The delegates of the churches 2Co_8:16-24

D.    The anticipated visit of Paul 2Co_9:1-5

E.    The benefits of generous giving 2Co_9:6-15

IV.    Appeals concerning Paul’s apostolic authority 2Co_10:1 to 2Co_13:10

A.    Replies to charges made against Paul 2Co_10:1-18

1.    Reply to the charge of cowardice 2Co_10:1-6

2.    Reply to the charge of weakness 2Co_10:7-11

3.    Reply to the charge of intrusion 2Co_10:12-18

B.    Claims made by Paul 2Co_11:1 to 2Co_12:18

1.    Paul’s reasons for making these claims 2Co_11:1-6

2.    Freedom to minister without charge 2Co_11:7-15

3.    Paul’s service and sufferings 2Co_11:16-33

4.    Special revelations Paul received 2Co_12:1-10

5.    Paul’s supernatural miracles and paternal love 2Co_12:11-18

C.    Exhortations in view of Paul’s approaching visit 2Co_12:19 to 2Co_13:10

1.    Paul’s concerns 2Co_12:19-21

2.    Paul’s warnings 2Co_13:1-10

V.    Conclusion 2Co_13:11-14

A.    The exhortation 2Co_13:11-12

B.    The salutation 2Co_13:13

The benediction 2Co_13:14

Brommall’s simple, memorable outline is worth noting. [Note: Wick Broomall, "The Second Epistle to the Corinthians," in The Wycliffe Bible Commentary, p. 1262-63.]

The conciliation 2Co_1:1 to 2Co_7:16

The collection 2Co_8:1 to 2Co_9:15

The credentials 2Co_10:1 to 2Co_13:14

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