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Thursday, June 13th, 2024
the Week of Proper 5 / Ordinary 10
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Bible Commentaries
2 Corinthians 2

Gray's Concise Bible CommentaryGray's Concise Commentary

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Verses 1-13


Paul had left Ephesus where his first epistle had been written to this church, had crossed into Macedonia, and was now in Philippi (see Acts 19:23 to Acts 20:3 with 2 Corinthians 8:1 to 2 Corinthians 9:2 of this epistle.) The reception given his first letter had been generally favorable, but all had not submitted to his rebuke, and the adversaries who opposed his teachings before were more virulent than ever, now seeking to undermine his authority as an apostle. It was therefore with a two-fold purpose he wrote this second letter, to comfort some whom he had “made sorry,” by his previous one, and to defend his character and authority against those who impugned both. For this reason, as Alford says, “we find consolation and rebuke, gentleness and severity, earnestness and irony succeeding one another at short intervals and without notice.” To quote the Scofield Bible, his spiritual burdens were of two kinds, solicitude for the maintenance of the churches in grace as against the law-teachers, and anguish over the distrust felt towards him by Jews and Jewish Christians. The latter rejected the revelation through Paul of the doctrines of grace, grounding themselves, probably, on the kingdom teachings of our Lord (Romans 15:8 ), seemingly oblivious that a new dispensation had been introduced by Christ’s death. It was this that made necessary a defense of the origin and extent of his apostolic authority.

The first seven chapters are taken up with an account of his principles of action; chapters 8-9 are an appeal for the collection for the poor saints at Jerusalem; and the remaining chapters are a straight-out defense of his apostolic authority.

The particular part assigned for this lesson is the writers explanation of his conduct with respect to his promised visit (see the close of the first epistle), and with respect to the case of incest (see chap. 5 of the same).

The customary salutation, or greeting, (2 Corinthians 1:1-2 ), is followed by the usual thanksgiving (2 Corinthians 1:3-7 ), in which the apostle mentions his sufferings for Christ’s sake, and the relation they bear to this church as an example of patient endurance and Divine consolation. He enlarges on his sufferings, going into detail as to one particular, to magnify the power of God in his deliverance as from the dead (2 Corinthians 1:8-10 ). Tactfully he mentions his confidence in their interest in him (2 Corinthians 1:11 ), arising, as it must, out of his faithful service on their behalf (2 Corinthians 1:12-13 ), which they for the most part were ready to acknowledge (2 Corinthians 1:14 ). Note the exception in this last verse, and its indirect allusion to his enemies, (“in part”).

At this point he begins his explanation of his change of mind about visiting them, of which his enemies had taken advantage. His first thought had been to go to Corinth direct from Ephesus, then north into Macedonia where he now was, and returning to Corinth proceed thence into Judea (2 Corinthians 1:16 ). Passing by Corinth and going into Macedonia instead, was not a mere whim of his carnal nature, not an indication of trifling indecision or fear, but to spare them the further rebuke which must have fallen on them (2 Corinthians 1:17 to 2 Corinthians 2:4 ).

He next refers to his previous directions about the incestuous person, whom he now recommends to be forgiven and restored (2 Corinthians 2:5-11 ).

Perhaps the last two verses (2 Corinthians 2:12-13 ); suggest a further reason for his going into Macedonia before visiting Corinth.


1. Have you examined the scripture passages referred to in this lesson?

2. For what two-fold purpose was this epistle written?

3. What is peculiar as to its literary style?

4. What was the nature of Paul’s spiritual burden?

5. Give the general outline of the whole epistle?

6. What is the particular theme of this lesson?

7. Analyze the lesson by verses.

Verses 14-17


Pursuing the consideration of his principles of action, Paul now shows his ministry to have been a triumphant one, notwithstanding the opposition of his enemies (2 Corinthians 2:14-17 ). The triumph however, was of God’s power and grace, and not in himself. Note the comparison between himself and the false teachers (2 Corinthians 2:17 ).

It was not only a triumphant ministry but one fully accredited by themselves (2 Corinthians 3:1-5 ).

It was a spiritual ministry as distinguished from one of legalism (2 Corinthians 3:6-18 ). This is the meaning of “the letter killeth, but the spirit giveth life” (2 Corinthians 3:6 ), the first referring to Judaism and the latter to the Gospel of grace. Not that Paul would disparage the former which was glorious in its revelation (2 Corinthians 3:7 ), but the latter more so (2 Corinthians 3:8-15 ). Prof. Robertson in The Glory of the Ministry gives a beautiful exposition of the last-named verses. The glory of Moses was:

1. A Real Glory “the ministration of death written and engraven in stones, was glorious”; 2. A Hidden Glory “Moses put a veil over his face; 3. A Temporary Glory “Israel could not stedfastly look to the end of that which is abolished”; 4. An Overshadowed Glory “if the ministration of condemnation be glory, much more doth the ministration of righteousness exceed in glory”; 5. A Defective Glory “who hath made us able ministers of the New Testament; not of the letter but of the spirit” 6. An Ineffective Glory “their minds were blinded.”

Verses 13-14 referring to Exodus 34:33-35 , are rather obscure because of a wrong rendering of the Old Testament passage. The Revised Version indicates that the Israelites saw the glory on Moses’ face as he spake; but when he had ceased, the veil was put on that they might not look on the end, i.e., the fading of that transitory glory. They were permitted to see it as long as it was necessary to be seen as a credential of his ministry but then it was withdrawn. Thus the declaration of God’s will to them was not in openness of speech, but interrupted and broken by intervals of concealment. This was not the case in the Christian dispensation of which Paul was a minister.

It was an honest ministry (2 Corinthians 4:1-7 ), for the reason that the apostle’s life harmonized with the truth he preached (2 Corinthians 4:1-2 ); because it was Jesus Christ he preached and not himself (2 Corinthians 4:3-6 ); and because the power in which he preached was of God (2 Corinthians 4:7 ).


1. What four points concerning Paul’s ministry are here named?

2. How do you understand the distinction between the “letter” and the “spirit”?

3. Give an analysis of 2 Corinthians 3:8-15 .

4. How does the Revised Version throw light on Exodus 34:35 ?

5. On what grounds was Paul’s ministry honest?

Bibliographical Information
Gray, James. "Commentary on 2 Corinthians 2". Gray's Concise Bible Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/jgc/2-corinthians-2.html. 1897-1910.
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