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- 2 Corinthians
by Paul E. Kretzmann
The Second Epistle Of Paul The Apostle To The Corinthians
After Paul had sent his first letter to the Corinthians, either with Timothy and his companions, or by Stephanas, Fortunatus, and Achaicus, the delegates of the Corinthian congregation, he stayed on in Ephesus for some time. Timothy and Erastus were in Macedonia, intending to go to Corinth as soon as possible; they must, in fact, have made the journey and accomplished its purpose in a very short time, since Timothy was with Paul when he wrote the second letter, 2 Corinthians 1:1. Titus had also been sent by the apostle, 2 Corinthians 7:13-14; 2 Corinthians 12:18, and for his return Paul had waited with great anxiety. At the appointed time, 1 Corinthians 16:5-8, the apostle had departed from Ephesus to go into Macedonia, Acts 20:1. When Titus did not meet him at Ephesus, he continued his journey to Macedonia, where his faithful pupil brought him the news regarding the effect of the first epistle, supplementing the report made by Timothy which had probably been concerned with the affairs of the congregation in general, 2 Corinthians 7:5-6.
The news brought by Titus was both good and bad. The presumptuous, malicious sinner had been excommunicated, 2 Corinthians 2:6-7, and the necessary steps had been taken to collect a sum of money for the needy brethren in Judea, 2 Corinthians 8:1-24; 2 Corinthians 9:1-15, although not with the energy that should have been apparent. On the other hand, some unfavorable conditions continued to prevail: Some of the members continued to be prejudiced against Paul, 2 Corinthians 3:1-2; others felt hurt on account of his apostolic censure, 2 Corinthians 2:1-4; 2 Corinthians 7:8-12; the Judaizing opponents were filled with great bitterness against him, heaping abuse and reproaches upon him and rebelling against his authority, chaps. 10-13. And, as is often the case when laxness in church discipline is found, the tendency toward heathen customs and immorality and the participation in worldly, sinful conduct had not yet been removed, 2 Corinthians 6:14-18; 2 Corinthians 7:1; 2 Corinthians 12:20-21. Therefore Paul sent Titus a second time, accompanied by several brethren, in order to stir up a little more interest for the matter of the collection, 2 Corinthians 8:16-24. And so deeply was he moved by the various reports and the deductions which he could well make that he, before setting out from Macedonia, wrote a second letter, probably from Philippi, 2 Corinthians 8:1; 2 Corinthians 9:4,in the late summer of the year 57, 2 Corinthians 8:10; 2 Corinthians 9:2; Acts 19:21-22.
The letter may be divided into three unequal parts. The first part discusses chiefly the ministry of the apostle, which had been attacked by his opponents. He refers to his deliverance out of a great danger, gives the reason for his delay in coming, admonishes the congregation to forgive and readmit the repentant sinner, and then, in a magnificent and touching section, portrays the essence and the glory of the evangelical ministry, with special reference to his apostolic office. He continues with the admonition to accept the proffered grace of God and to give evidence of its power in Christian conduct. In the second part the apostle urges the energetic continuation of the collection for the poor, with a reference to the willingness of the congregations in Macedonia, to the blessings which attend the voluntary exercise of charity, and to the example of Christ. The third part of the letter is devoted entirely to his malicious detractors. Paul justifies his behavior and his ministry against all false accusations, brings out the value of his services, and threatens the calumniators with excommunication. The letter closes with a few general words of admonition and the customary greetings. On the whole, this epistle is the most affecting and personal of all the writings of the apostle, portraying also, as no other, the personal greatness of the apostle and the divine power of the Gospel.
the Second Week of Advent