Complete Study Of 2 Corinthians


Probable Chronology

1. Paul comes to Corinth during 2nd missionary journey. Stays 18 months. Acts 18:11. About 48 A.D.

2. Leaves for Judea. Acts 18.18. Spring-Summer A.D.52.

3. Returns to Ephesus, ‘Asia to Ephesus’. Acts 19:1. Autumn A.D 52-53.

4. 1 Corinthians written from Ephesus following report from ‘Chloe’s people’. Carried to Corinth by Timothy l Corinthians 16:10. Spring 54 A.D.

5. The ‘painful’ visit to Corinth from Ephesus. 2 Corinthians 2:2. Summer-Autumn 54 A.D.

6. Titus sent to Corinth with the ‘painful’ letter 2 Corinthians 2:4. Early 55 A.D.

7. Paul in Troas restlessly awaits the return of Titus. 2 Corinthians 1:12. Autumn 55 A.D.

8. Decides to go to Macedonia and Illyricum where he hopes to meet Titus. 2 Corinthians 2:13. Winter 55 A.D.

9. Overjoyed by the report of Titus he writes 2 Corinthians. Probably from Philippi. 56 A.D.

10. Visits Corinth again. Third visit. Winter 56-57 A.D. 2 Corinthians 13:1.


1. Explanation.

Paul’s account of his ministry. 2 Corinthians 1-5.

a. The range of his activities: 2 Corinthians 1:8. Asia. 2 Corinthians 1:16. Macedonia. 2 Corinthians 2:12. Troas. Commissioned and sealed.

b. Terms describing his ministry: 2 Corinthians 1:21. An anointing by God. 2 Corinthians 4:1. Mercy is received from God. 2 Corinthians 5:20. An ambassador for Christ. Summed up in 2 Corinthians 7:1. ‘Working together with Christ’.

2. Exhortation.

Paul’s appeal to the Church. 2 Corinthians 6-9. 2 Corinthians 6:1. ‘We entreat you’. 2 Corinthians 6-7. Spiritually, for their understanding. 2 Corinthians 6:11-12. Materially. ‘The grace of giving’. 2 Corinthians 8-9.

3. Vindication of his apostleship.

His critics. 2 Corinthians 10-12. 2 Corinthians 10:10-11. The criticism. Also 2 Corinthians 11:16.

His response. His ancestry. 2 Corinthians 11:22. His experience. 2 Corinthians 11:23-33. His inspiration and authority. 2 Corinthians 12:1-5ff. The proof of his authority. 2 Corinthians 11:14-21.

4. Closing exhortation.

2 Corinthians 13:11-14. ‘Become complete!’

The letter

Generally regarded as a difficult book to analyse, with the result that we search in vain in many commentaries for anything that resembles a clear outline! One highly regarded scholar, Plumtre, says, ‘An analysis is not an east matter’, and that is certainly an understatement! Theologians are generally agreed that the form of the letter is ‘not as systematic or orderly as other letters’.

The reason for this is not hard to find. 2 Corinthians is the most personal letter written by Paul which has been left to us, because in it he reveals his innermost feelings and emotions in a way found nowhere else in the New Testament.

2 Corinthians is not an analytical exposition of Christian doctrine such as we have, for example, in the Roman letter, nor is it a letter of instruction sent to a problem-beset congregation, by one who speaks with the assurance and authority of an inspired apostle. Instead, it is the outpouring of his heart, as he waits to learn how the Corinthians have reacted to his earlier letter.

Consider The Circumstances

1. The letter was written whilst Paul was still in Macedonia probably written from Philippi. See 2 Corinthians 9:2-4 and 2 Corinthians 11:9. Compare 2 Corinthians 11:9 with Philippians 4:15-16, where we see him anxiously awaiting the result of Titus with news from Corinth.

2. Consider also, that it seems that he had been very sick about this time, and his weakened physical condition would undoubtedly affect his attitude of mind. We shall see more of this in 2 Corinthians 1, where he writes of ‘despairing even of life.’

In a word, he was depressed at this time.

But Titus Returns!

And Paul is overjoyed to learn that the situation in Corinth has improved greatly. The emotionally excitable, unpredictable Corinthians have taken his instructions to heart and have embarked on a plan of discipline in the Church.

They have dealt with the man who was guilty of immorality, and he has repented. And they have even done something about the Collection for the poor saints in Judea, according to his instructions, so that the outlook seems altogether more hopeful.

It, seems that only one problem remains, and that is, the lingering influence of certain people in the church who are critical of Paul himself, and who are questioning his authority as an apostle of Christ so that the first part of his letter might be described as:

1st Section

Paul’s account of ministry. 2 Corinthians 1-5.

In this section, he writes to clear himself of their malicious accusations and stresses the sincerity of his motives in all that he has said or done. But, of course, a man may have motives that are above reproach, and still, be mistaken about his message or his authority. Therefore he deals with both issues in this first section.

2nd Section

Paul’s appeal to his brethren. 2 Corinthians 6:1-9:15.

In this letter, we have a clear change of topic. If we look at 2 Corinthians 6:1, we see that his appeal concerns:

1. What he has experienced in his Ministry, 2 Corinthians 6:1-10, and:

2. How he feels about them as ‘children’, 2 Corinthians 6:11-18.

In 2 Corinthians 8 he deals with material matters, and refers to ‘Giving’ as a Christian ‘grace,’ building on the good report of Titus, he appeals to them to ‘abound in this grace also’, 2 Corinthians 8:7, and in 2 Corinthians 8:24, he urges them to show, by their giving, the ‘proof’ of their love.

This theme continues in 2 Corinthians 9, concluding, in 2 Corinthians 9:15 with, ‘Thanks be to God for His indescribable gift’.

3rd Section

Paul answers his critics. 2 Corinthians 10-21.

Again, a change of theme. Paul provides a crushing final response- one might even call it a ‘scathing’ response to his critics. Look at 2 Corinthians 10:2 / 2 Corinthians 10:7 / 2 Corinthians 10:10 / 2 Corinthians 10:12 / 2 Corinthians 10:15-16 / 2 Corinthians 10:18. 2 Corinthians 11:3-5 and 2 Corinthians 12:17, and notice that he launches a devastating onslaught on the pretensions of the people who were criticizing him.

And then notice, in 2 Corinthians 11:16-2 Corinthians 13:10, the contrast, when he sets out his own credentials.


The letter may be summarized in three words.

1. Explanation. 2 Corinthians 1-5.

2. Exhortation. 2 Corinthians 6-9.

3. Vindication. 2 Corinthians 10-13.


Paul’s purpose for writing 1 and 2 Corinthians. Paul wrote 1 Corinthians to test the brethren’s faith, 2 Corinthians 2:9. The Scriptures authorise this kind of test in light of the fact that souls are at stake, 1 John 3:10 / 1 John 4:1 / 1 John 4:6. Paul wrote 2 Corinthians to restore the brethren’s faith in the Lord, 2 Corinthians 13:9-10.

Paul’s preaching and writings of admonition were done due to a love for brethren’s souls, 2 Corinthians 1:6 / 2 Corinthians 2:4 / 2 Corinthians 4:15 / 2 Corinthians 12:14-15. Paul’s desire for the Corinthians is that they would be made sorrowful unto repentance when reading the first epistle, 2 Corinthians 2:2 / 2 Corinthians 7:7ff and be restored, 2 Corinthians 13:9-10.

The only way said reaction from the Gospel was to occur was by authoritative truthful preaching as opposed to ‘worldly wisdom’. 2 Corinthians 1:12 / 2 Corinthians 2:17 / 2 Corinthians 3:5 / 2 Corinthians 4:2 / 2 Corinthians 4:7 / 2 Corinthians 5:12.

Paul’s argument was that his epistles were written by divine authority. The motivation for authoritative living is judgment and eternal life, 2 Corinthians 2:14 / 2 Corinthians 4:14 / 2 Corinthians 5:10-11 / 2 Corinthians 5:14-15.

Further problems with the Corinthian brethren. A battle for souls was taking place in Corinth. Divisive brethren were attempting to delude the Corinthian brethren’s minds into thinking ill of Paul and his preaching companions, 2 Corinthians 11:19-20 / 2 Corinthians 13:3.

Some had charged Paul with being inconsistent and thereby not worthy of listening to, 2 Corinthians 1:17. Some had charged Paul as one who ‘commended’ himself, preaching his own ideas, to brethren 2 Corinthians 3:1 / 2 Corinthians 4:5 / 2 Corinthians 5:12 / 2 Corinthians 10:12 / 2 Corinthians 13:3.

False teachers were teaching Mosaic Law mingled with the Law of Christ, 2 Corinthians 3:7ff / 2 Corinthians 11:13ff. Some had charged Paul and his preaching companions as being ‘beside’ themselves, deranged and self-deluded in madness, 2 Corinthians 5:13.

Some had charged Paul with a lack of courage when in person, his letters were weighty and bold; however, when he was present, he was weak, 2 Corinthians 10:1 / 2 Corinthians 10:10. These brethren confused Paul’s tenderness for cowardice.

These same brethren charged Paul with being ‘rude in speech’, an idiot, 2 Corinthians 11:5. They challenged Paul’s apostleship because he did not take wages from the brethren as did the other apostles, 2 Corinthians 11:7-9 / 2 Corinthians 12:11.

From a logical standpoint, Paul’s critics were guilty of ‘Argumentum ad hominem,’ an argument directed at the man by attacking the person who made the assertion. They called Paul deranged, 2 Corinthians 5:13, cowardly 2 Corinthians 10:10, and an idiot, 2 Corinthians 11:6.

These brethren built themselves up in the minds of the Corinthians and were persuading many of them away from Paul’s divine teaching, 2 Corinthians 11:19-20. Paul exposed these same types of divisive false teachers to the Galatians, Galatians 4:17 / Galatians 5:7ff / Galatians 6:12.

Their boasting led Paul to boast of himself, however, Paul’s glorying was on behalf of the souls that were saved through all that he suffered. Paul found himself in great danger from every aspect of life, cities, wilderness, sea, from Jew, Gentile, and false brethren. Paul suffered at the hands of all in every place he travelled, 2 Corinthians 11:22.

Truly Jesus’ words were correct when he said that the world would hate the disciples because they would expose the world’s evil deeds as did He, John 7:7 / John 17:14. These same critics accused Paul and Titus of trying to perform a scam on the Corinthian brethren that they may have gained, 2 Corinthians 12:16-18.

Paul exposed the doctrine of the devil. Satan has ‘devices’ he uses to gain disciples, 2 Corinthians 2:11. Paul exposed the devices as ‘craft and deceit’, 2 Corinthians 4:2. A battle for souls exists between the God of light and the god of this world, 2 Corinthians 4:3-4.

When godly men expose sin, due to a love for souls, they are hated and persecuted, John 7:7 / 2 Corinthians 1:8ff / 2 Corinthians 4:8-18.

Without fear, Paul called the false teachers in Corinth ‘ministers of Satan,’ ‘false apostles’ and ‘deceitful workers’, 2 Corinthians 11:13-15. Paul’s true fear was that the brethren in Corinth would be ‘beguiled’ by the ministers of Satan, 2 Corinthians 11:1-4 / 2 Corinthians 12:20.

Paul encouraged the Corinthians to have the funds ready for the needy saints in Jerusalem. Paul encouraged the Corinthians to follow the example of the Macedonians who gave with great liberality to help the needy saints in Jerusalem, 2 Corinthians 8:1ff.

Paul made it clear that this was not a command, however, it was a testament to their love for God and brethren, 2 Corinthians 8:8 / 2 Corinthians 9:1ff. The consequence of such actions is that the name of God is glorified and those who are helped will make supplications on behalf of those who helped, 2 Corinthians 9:12-15.

Paul addressed the issue of church autonomy. Individuals in the churches of Paul’s day were communicating with each other, 2 Corinthians 1:1 / 2 Corinthians 7:4 / 2 Corinthians 7:14 / 2 Corinthians 8:18. Said communication was not gossip else the divine record is flawed. The universal brotherhood was united in truth.

Truth enabled Paul to make a judgment about the fornicator of 1 Corinthians 5 without violating the Corinthians’ autonomy. Paul simply gave the principles of truth, and the brethren were at liberty, and autonomy, to make the decision as to when these principles should be applied, 1 Corinthians 5 and 2 Corinthians 2:5-8.

The churches were able to agree, by show of hands, over who to send with the party that would carry the monetary aid back to Jerusalem without violating each other’s autonomy, 2 Corinthians 8:19.

No decision on the amount of money to be sent from the treasury was made by this individual, and he thereby did not violate anyone’s church’s autonomy.


Paul’s second epistle to the Corinthians sets forth the apostle’s great love for the brethren. Everything that Paul did was for the benefit of the Corinthians, 2 Corinthians 1:6 / 2 Corinthians 2:4 / 2 Corinthians 4:15 / 2 Corinthians 12:14-15 / 2 Corinthians 12:19.

Paul’s great desire for these brethren was their spiritual restoration, 2 Corinthians 13:9. The Corinthians; however, needed to clear three major hurdles to achieve restoration.

1. The Corinthians needed to identify and pray for the forgiveness of their sin of being unwilling to forgive one who seeks forgiveness, 2 Corinthians 2:5-9.

2. The Corinthians needed to clear themselves from sharing unlawful affections with unbelievers such as uncleanness, fornication, and lasciviousness, 2 Corinthians 6:11ff / 2 Corinthians 12:21.

3. The Corinthians needed to be restored for being deceived by divisive brethren who were teaching false doctrines and making faulty accusations against Paul, 2 Corinthians 12:19-20 / 2 Corinthians 13:3.

The beauty of reading 2 Corinthians is that one can clearly see God’s expectations for His beloved saints. The saints are those who are obedient in all areas of truth, 2 Corinthians 2:9.

The saint is to be the mirror image of Christ, 2 Corinthians 3:18. The saint is to be cleansed from all defilement of flesh and spirit, perfecting holiness in the fear of God, 2 Corinthians 7:1.

The saint is to be presented to God as a pure virgin with respect to sin, 2 Corinthians 11:2. The saint of God is to ‘do no evil’, 2 Corinthians 13:7.

The Christian today is expected to be no less perfect than these early New Testament Christians, Matthew 5:48. There is no sin that God overlooks or excuses without man seeking justification.

A great ‘device’ of Satan is lies, 2 Corinthians 2:11. There were many ministers of Satan in Corinth who laid claims to being Christian yet their deeds were far from Christ-like, 2 Corinthians 11:13-15.

These divisive brethren sought to destroy Paul’s reputation as an apostle who spoke divine revelation so that the Corinthians would turn away from him.

These men accused Paul of being inconsistent, 2 Corinthians 1:17, preaching his own ideas, 2 Corinthians 3:1 / 2 Corinthians 4:1-6 / 2 Corinthians 5:12, etc., deluded, 2 Corinthians 5:13, a coward, 2 Corinthians 10:1 / 2 Corinthians 10:10, an idiot, 2 Corinthians 11:15, not an apostle, 2 Corinthians 12:11 / 2 Corinthians 13:3, and that he and Titus were participating in a scam of the brethren, 2 Corinthians 12:17-18.

Paul was fearful that the Corinthians would be fully persuaded by these false accusations. Paul wrote, ‘But I am afraid that just as Eve was deceived by the serpent’s cunning, your minds may somehow be led astray from your sincere and pure devotion to Christ.’ 2 Corinthians 11:3.

Again, Paul writes, ‘For I am afraid that when I come I may not find you as I want you to be, and you may not find me as you want me to be. I fear that there may be discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, slander, gossip, arrogance and disorder’. 2 Corinthians 12:20

Paul had great anxiety for the brotherhood of saints, 2 Corinthians 11:28. He would not sit back idly and do nothing while brethren lost their eternal souls. To combat the false accusations by the divisive brethren of Corinth Paul lowers himself to their tactics.

Apparently the divisive were boasting of their ancestry and the need for the Corinthians to continue in the Mosaic system as well as the teachings of Christ, very similar to the Acts 15 Jerusalem Conference and the book of Galatians, 2 Corinthians 3:4-18 / 2 Corinthians 11:22. Paul boasts not only of his sufferings but also his experience of being transported to the third heaven, 2 Corinthians 11:22-12:6.

Paul was in all sense of the word an apostle of Jesus Christ who spoke divine revelation. Paul writes, ‘I have made a fool of myself, but you drove me to it. I ought to have been commended by you, for I am not in the least inferior to the “super-apostles,” even though I am nothing.’ 2 Corinthians 12:11

Having proved his apostleship and the error of the divisive there was only one thing left to do. Paul was coming to Corinth and those who would not repent of their sins would not be spared but rather dealt with sharply, 2 Corinthians 13:1-2 / 2 Corinthians 13:10.

The practical application for the saints today is that we too must ‘do no evil’, 2 Corinthians 13:7. Those who will not be restored to the Lord through teaching, patience, and longsuffering must be dealt with. Paul would not sweep men’s sins under a rug of apathy and pretend to be in favour with God.

One year had passed between the writings of 1 and 2 Corinthians, 2 Corinthians 8:10. Now was the time for the brethren to be either restored or exposed as moving from death unto death, 2 Corinthians 2:16.

Paul concludes by saying, ‘Finally, brothers and sisters, rejoice! Strive for full restoration, encourage one another, be of one mind, live in peace. And the God of love and peace will be with you.’ 2 Corinthians 13:11

Expanded Survey

1. Comfort. 2 Corinthians 1:3-7.

Paul’s description of God. Strengthening and merciful. God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ

2. Concern No. l. 2 Corinthians 2.

His anguish and the reason for them. ‘Caused you pain’.

3. Commendation? 2 Corinthians 3.

Surely not necessary in his case! His critics had come to Corinth with ‘letters of commendation’.

4. Commission. 2 Corinthians 4:7.

His apostleship. The ‘treasure in ‘earthen vessels’ is a text often misunderstood.

5. Confidence. 2 Corinthians 5:1.

If our earthly house, this tent, is dissolved. The believer’s assured future. ‘Absent from the body.’

6. Co-operation. 2 Corinthians 6:1.

‘Workers together with Him’. Fellowship.

7. Concern No. 2. 2 Corinthians 6:14.

Conversely, ‘Do not be mismated with unbelievers’.

8. Cleansing. 2 Corinthians 7:1.

‘Perfecting holiness’. Sanctification.

9. Care. 2 Corinthians 8-9.

The ‘grace; of giving’. The needy saints in Judea.

10. Critics! 2 Corinthians 10:10ff.

The accusations were levelled against him.

11. Credentials. 2 Corinthians 11-12.

His ancestry, service, sufferings and visions.

12. Closing words. 2 Corinthians 13:5.

‘Examine yourselves!’ ‘Test yourselves!’

This letter is remarkable, one might even say unique, in the New Testament, for the number of words it contains relating to the trials and hardships which Paul endured in the course of his ministry.

Words used which reflect the ‘Sufferings of Christ’. Suffering. Affliction. Anguish of heart. Tears. Pain. Sorrow. Perplexity. Persecution. Hardships. Calamities. Beatings. Imprisonments. Tumults. Labours. Hunger. Thirst. Nakedness. Sleepless nights. Fears within. Foes without. Fightings. Grief. Stonings. Shipwreck. Anxiety. Insults. Danger.

These are only some of the words Paul uses in this letter, as he opens his heart and reveals the different ways in which he has personally experienced the suffering in which he has received the ‘strengthening of the God of all Strength.’

He uses at least 30 adjectives to describe suffering of every kind, mental, emotional, physical and even spiritual, in other words, suffering involves the entire Man, body, soul and spirit. And over against them all, he sets the words ‘comfort’ and ‘comforted’, words which occur about 13 times in his letter.


1. Paul’s first letter to the Corinthians deals with problems among the brethren. At the writing of 2 Corinthians Paul had not yet been to Corinth after the first epistle; however, it is apparent that he has gained information regarding the Corinthian’s response to the first epistle.

The apostle begins this second letter by letting the Corinthians know of the great suffering yet comfort, he and his fellow-labourers in Christ were experiencing in Asia.

Paul and the brethren’s suffering was not due to teaching the precepts of men but that of God.

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Complete Study of 2 Corinthians