As with past studies, I thought I would post an introduction week commentary to get you started. The entire guide is provided via a link below, and I encourage everyone to read through this great letter.
INTRODUCTION & Chapter 1 of 2 Corinthians
Running Theme: I've thought about this passage of coming alongside through suffering, as that moment that you connect with someone around mile 20 and make that often non-verbal, but yet very real, pact to stay together and help each other to the finish!
Read Chapter 1 Here / Find Sermon Guide Here
In Acts 9:15, the Lord pronounces Paul to be “a chosen vessel of Mine to bear My name before the Gentiles.” And that is exactly what Paul became. In fact, check out Acts 13:42-48 for an example of the early work of Paul among the Gentiles, and consider what a great privilege it was to hear God’s Word preached (can you imagine if we were as excited about being exposed to God’s Word as these early Gentiles?
Fast-forward to the writing of 2 Corinthians in what is believed to be circa AD 56. A lot has occurred between the Corinthian Church and Paul since these early conversions some four years prior—much of it not very good at all. There are accusations and slander against Paul, there were outsiders misrepresenting the ‘Good News’, there was disunity in the church, and there were ungodly cultural influences everywhere the Corinthians looked. Paul had addressed much of this in 1 Corinthians, but now he was preparing to visit Corinth himself and decided to spill out his heart in letter form before he arrived on the scene.
Speaking of visits and letters; one additional point of historical context is something that many of us are not that familiar with, but it gives us insight into Paul’s concern for the Corinthians and his determination to disciple these young Christians. That is, the letter we refer to 2 Corinthians is most likely Paul’s fourth letter to the Corinthian Church, not his second. Why do most biblical scholars come to this conclusion, and how do they know that? Good questions. So, when in doubt, go to Scripture (actually, when not in doubt, go to Scripture!)
The following is a taken from Burges’ book The New Testament in Antiquity. It highlights Paul's trips and letters to Corinth, according to Scriptural references.
- 1st Visit: AD 50 – 52 (as discussed above) / Acts 18:18
- 1st Letter: ca. AD 52 (lost to history) / 1 Cor. 5:9; also 1 Cor. 7:1, the Corinthians write back
- 2nd Letter: AD 54 (known as 1st Corinthians) written from Ephesus / 1 Cor. 16:8
- 2nd Visit: AD 54 / “a painful visit” 2 Cor. 2:1
- 3rd Letter: AD 55 (lost to history) / “a letter of tears” 2 Cor. 2:3-4
- 4th Letter: AD 56 (known as 2nd Corinthians) written from Macedonia / 2 Cor. 7:5-7
- 3rd Visit: AD 56 or 57/ 2 Cor. 13 (Note: Paul warns them that although he is weak, he is coming in God’s power; uh-oh!)
Question: When we give comfort to someone, is it a passing relief, a sympathetic word, or is it the standing alongside to weather the storm as one?