Overview of 2 Corinthiams
and Study of 2 Corinthians 1-4
December 3rd

Produced by The Listening for God Ministry
Copyright 2016

Click here for a print- friendly version

2 Corinthians

This letter is a follow up from Paul to the Corinthians, probably sent from Macedonia a few months after the first one. Scholars estimate that this second one was written in the fall of 55 A.D (1). There may have been a series of letters back and forth between Paul and the Corinthians over time, but only two of these were selected to be part of the New Testament.

There is no record of the letters from the Corinthians, so we can only guess what the contents might have been. There is a reference to a very stern one from Paul, but it’s not clear if that one is incorporated into this second letter or if it was lost or deliberately excluded from the New Testament. Whichever the case may be, this second letter to the Corinthians offers us additional principles on proper Christian living and conduct.

In this letter Paul speaks very frankly as he reveals additional details about the Corinthians and himself in order to make his message clear. The problems he had addressed in the first letter were still lingering, and on top of that his credibility had been questioned. Some naysayers were suggesting that Paul was dipping his hand into the jar of money collected for Jerusalem. Look for his response to all these problems in the following sections:

    2 Corinthians 1-4 (Shine On!) - December 3rd
    2 Corinthians 5-9 (Reconcile to God) - December 4th
    2 Corinthians 10-13 (Be Faithful and You Shall Be Commended) - December 5th

References used for the analysis of this book include the following:

  • Foreman, Kenneth J., The Layman’s Bible Commentary, V21, Romans, 1 Corinthians, 2 Corinthians, John Knox Press, Richmond, VA, 1961
  • Holy Bible, New Revised Standard Version , Zondervan Bible Publishers, Grand Rapids, MI; 1993
  • Life Application Study Bible, New International Version, Zondervan Publishing House, Grand Rapids, M; 1991 (with commentary from an inter-denominational team of experts)
  • Men's Devotional Bible, New International Version, Zondervan Publishing House, Grand Rapids, MI; 1993 (with daily devotionals from Godly men)
  • The New American Bible, Sponsored by the Bishop's Committee of the Confraternity of Christian Doctrine, Catholic Bible Publishers, Wichita, KS, 1970
  • Peterson, Eugene, The Message, The Bible in Contemporary Language, NavPress, Colorado Springs, CO, 80920, 2005
  • Peterson, Eugene H, Praying with Paul, A Year of Daily Prayers and Reflections on the Words of Paul, Harper, San Francisco, 1995
  • “Sermon Library,” Noroton Presbyterian Church, Darien, CT www.norotonchurch.org/sermons/min_sermons.html

2 Corinthians 1-4 (Shine On!)

Please refer to one or more Bible versions of your choice to read this section. We recommend that you read at least two versions for added understanding. For your convenience, we have provided six links below, each of which takes you directly to today's chapters in a specific version:

Key Verse

- For God who said, “Let light shine out of darkness,” has shone in our hearts to bring to light the knowledge of the glory of God on the face of [Jesus] Christ.

- 2 Corinthians 4:6 (NAB)

Summary of Chapters

The opening chapter includes an introduction and an explanation from Paul regarding his inability to visit the Corinthians again. The first topic that Paul addresses regarding the Corinthians behavior is forgiveness. In chapter 2 he instructs the leaders of the Corinthian churches to offer forgiveness to someone who had committed a serious sin – perhaps it was the same person that Paul referred to in the first letter. Paul emphasizes that forgiveness is available to anyone – regardless of what they have done.

In chapter 3, Paul encourages the Galatians to shine brightly, explaining to them that their presence represents the Spirit of God and the Gospel shines more brightly through them then it ever could through the law. This chapter closes with a verse that The Noroton Presbyterian church’s men’s group used as the theme for its 2009 retreat:

    And we who with unveiled faces all reflect the Lord’s glory, are being transformed into his likeness with every increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit.

    -2 Galatians 3:18 (NIV)

Chapter 4 is an explanation of a well-known analogy of people as treasures in jars of clay. The treasure is more valuable than the jars and perhaps may be obscured – but will outlast the jar: "Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day (2 Galatians 4:16b - NIV)."

Paul then concludes by giving us a perspective on eternity:

    So we’re not giving up. How could we! Even though on the outside it often looks like things are falling apart on us, on the inside, where God is making new life, not a day goes by without his unfolding grace. These hard times are small potatoes compared to the coming good times, the lavish celebration prepared for us. There’s far more here than meets the eye. The things we see now are here today, gone tomorrow. But the things we can’t see now will last forever.

    - 2 Corinthians 4:16-18 (MSG)

Reflection and Application

Paul had planned to visit Corinth a third time, but God instructed him otherwise. It is not clear how God communicated that message, but it was clear that Paul received it. He says the reason was so that the people of Corinth may not suffer further, but it’s not obvious why his visit would cause suffering.

Would the suffering arise because he would chastise them? Or was it because the “thorn in his side” handicapped him in a way that he would be a burden or was it because it would draw the attention of the Christian persecutors? We don’t know, but we know that Paul listened for God and followed his instruction. We are called to do the same. Participating in a daily Bible study helps us to hear what God has to say to us – often times the messages from God are assignments that go against our own personal plans – just as it was for Paul, but the Bible teaches and encourages us to obey faithfully.

We are not to worry if we are not worthy enough for the task assigned. Remember that any sin that we may have committed can be forgiven and any skill and small contribution can serve the Kingdom of God. We are all treasures in jars of clay, waiting to be discovered and valued.

At the aforementioned men’s retreat in 2009 the leaders and attendees reflected on 2 Corinthians 4:18 with a particular focus on the reflection and transformation. As we commit ourselves to God we reflect his goodness and glory. When we abandon our old ways and old life and accept God’s way through his Spirit then we have allowed ourselves to become transformed.

Questions and Prayers for Further Reflection

    Related Questions
    1. What are some of the long-term letter exchanges (or email exchanges) that you valued more than others?
    2. What assignments do you have from God that seem to be outside of your plans or perceived worthiness?
    3. Are you ready to be transformed (again)?

    Recommended Prayer
    Father in heaven, we know you have the power to transform any one of us. Help us to reflect your goodness and abandon our old ways.

    Prayer Concern


    (1) Holy Bible, New Revised Standard Version , Zondervan Bible Publishers, Grand Rapids, MI; 1993, p.211
    (2) IBID, p.211

    Looking Ahead

    Tomorrow's reading: 2 Corinthians 5-9 (Reconcile to God)

    Comments and Questions
    Please add your thoughts to our Comments page or send your comments and questions to the author at ted@listeningforGod.org or share your comments or question via the Listening for God Twitter account

    Click to follow Listening for God(@listeningforgod)