Study of II Corinthians

Sermons

INTRODUCTION TO II CORINTHIANS

The Background of II Corinthians

The Apostle Paul spent eighteen months in Corinth on his second missionary journey. Acts 18:11 says, And he continued there a year and six months, teaching the word of God among them. He then left Corinth for Jerusalem along with Priscilla and Aquila, with whom he served in Corinth, and stopped in Ephesus. Acts 18:18-19 says,

(18) And Paul after this tarried there yet a good while, and then took his leave of the brethren, and sailed thence into Syria, and with him Priscilla and Aquila; having shorn his head in Cenchrea: for he had a vow.

(19) And he came to Ephesus, and left them there: but he himself entered into the synagogue, and reasoned with the Jews.

After a short stay in Ephesus, Paul left Priscilla and Aquila in Ephesus and continued his trip to Jerusalem.

(20) When they desired him to tarry longer time with them, he consented not;

(21) But bade them farewell, saying, I must by all means keep this feast that cometh in Jerusalem: but I will return again unto you, if God will. And he sailed from Ephesus.

On his third missionary journey, Paul returned to Ephesus and spent about three years there. Acts 19:1 says, And it came to pass, that, while Apollos was at Corinth, Paul having passed through the upper coasts came to Ephesus. . . . It was during his three-year stay in Ephesus that Paul wrote I Corinthians. He had written a previous letter which the Holy Spirit has not preserved because He did not intend it to be a part of the New Testament. I Corinthians 5:9-11 says,

(9) I wrote unto you in an epistle not to company with fornicators:

(10) Yet not altogether with the fornicators of this world, or with the covetous, or extortioners, or with idolaters; for then must ye needs go out of the world.

(11) But now I have written unto you not to keep company, if any man that is called a brother be a fornicator, or covetous, or an idolater, or a railer, or a drunkard, or an extortioner; with such an one no not to eat (emphasis added).

Problems in the church at Corinth brought members of the house of Chloe and Stephanas, Fortunatus, and Achaicus to Paul in Ephesus with information about the church in Corinth and questions from them for Paul. This resulted in his writing I Corinthians, but the problems he dealt with in I Corinthians were not completely resolved. Somewhere after Paul left Corinth, false teachers infiltrated the church. They sowed discord against Paul and attempted to discredit him as an apostle. They may have been the cause of some of the problems dealt with in I Corinthians. In II Corinthians Paul writes to defend his apostleship and integrity and to expose these false teachers for what they really were. Paul apparently made a quick trip to Corinth from Ephesus which is not recorded in Scripture. Apparently, it was a sorrowful or painful visit in which he came to the Corinthians in heaviness. Paul refers to this visit in II Corinthians 2:1, But I determined this with myself, that I would not come again to you in heaviness. This visit in heaviness could hardly refer to his initial visit to Corinth, which is recorded in Acts 18 when he founded the church and spent eighteen months there. In II Corinthians 12:14 and 13:1 Paul mentions a planned third trip to Corinth, which had not yet taken place. II Corinthians 12:14 says,

(14) Behold, the third time I am ready to come to you; and I will not be burdensome to you: for I seek not yours, but you: for the children ought not to lay up for the parents, but the parents for the children (emphasis added).

II Corinthians 13:1 says, This is the third time I am coming to you. In the mouth of two or three witnesses shall every word be established (emphasis added). After this second visit to Corinth, Paul apparently wrote a third letter to the Corinthians, a stern letter which the Holy Spirit has not preserved; and he sent it with Titus, whom he dispatched to Corinth from Ephesus. In II Corinthians 2:2-4; 7:8-9, 12; and II Corinthians 10:9-11. Paul refers to this letter which could hardly refer to I Corinthians. II Corinthians 2:2-4 says,

(2) For if I make you sorry, who is he then that maketh me glad, but the same which is made sorry by me?

(3) And I wrote this same unto you, lest, when I came, I should have sorrow from them of whom I ought to rejoice; having confidence in you all, that my joy is the joy of you all.

(4) For out of much affliction and anguish of heart I wrote unto you with many tears; not that ye should be grieved, but that ye might know the love which I have more abundantly unto you (emphasis added).

II Corinthians 7:8-9 says,

(8) For though I made you sorry with a letter, I do not repent, though I did repent: for I perceive that the same epistle hath made you sorry, though it were but for a season.

(9) Now I rejoice, not that ye were made sorry, but that ye sorrowed to repentance: for ye were made sorry after a godly manner, that ye might receive damage by us in nothing (emphasis added).

II Corinthians 7:12 says,

(12) Wherefore, though I wrote unto you, I did it not for his cause that had done the wrong, nor for his cause that suffered wrong, but that our care for you in the sight of God might appear unto you (emphasis added).

II Corinthians 10:9-11 says,

(9) That I may not seem as if I would terrify you by letters.

(10) For his letters, say they, are weighty and powerful; but his bodily presence is weak, and his speech contemptible.

(11) Let such an one think this, that, such as we are in word by letters when we are absent, such will we be also in deed when we are present.

Before Titus could return, Paul found himself in the center of a riot in Ephesus stirred up by Demetrius and the other silversmiths. After the riot in Ephesus, Paul headed for Macedonia (northern Greece). Acts 20:1 says,

(1) And after the uproar was ceased, Paul called unto him the disciples, and embraced them, and departed for to go into Macedonia.

Somewhere, whether in Ephesus or on his way to Troas while still in Asia, Paul encountered a terrible circumstance. The specifics of what he encountered are not clear, but he apparently thought he was not going to survive this situation. He refers to it in II Corinthians 1:8-11,

(8) For we would not, brethren, have you ignorant of our trouble which came to us in Asia, that we were pressed out of measure, above strength, insomuch that we despaired even of life:

(9) But we had the sentence of death in ourselves, that we should not trust in ourselves, but in God which raiseth the dead:

(10) Who delivered us from so great a death, and doth deliver: in whom we trust that he will yet deliver us;

(11) Ye also helping together by prayer for us, that for the gift bestowed upon us by the means of many persons thanks may be given by many on our behalf.

On his way to Macedonia, Paul stopped in Troas where he expected to meet Titus. Meanwhile, God gave him an open door to proclaim the gospel. When Titus did not meet Paul in Troas, however, Paul, anxious to hear how Titus' visit had gone in Corinth and to learn how the church had received his letter and, upset because he did not find Titus in Troas, hurried to Macedonia to meet him. II Corinthians 2:12-13 says,

(12) Furthermore, when I came to Troas to preach Christ's gospel, and a door was opened unto me of the Lord,

(13) I had no rest in my spirit, because I found not Titus my brother: but taking my leave of them, I went from thence into Macedonia.

When he met Titus in Macedonia, Paul was greatly encouraged to learn that the Corinthian believers had repented and were heading in the right direction in their Christian lives. Paul expresses his delight in the Corinthians' repentance in II Corinthians 7:5-16,

(5) For, when we were come into Macedonia, our flesh had no rest, but we were troubled on every side; without were fightings, within were fears.

(6) Nevertheless God, that comforteth those that are cast down, comforted us by the coming of Titus;

(7) And not by his coming only, but by the consolation wherewith he was comforted in you, when he told us your earnest desire, your mourning, your fervent mind toward me; so that I rejoiced the more.

(8) For though I made you sorry with a letter, I do not repent, though I did repent: for I perceive that the same epistle hath made you sorry, though it were but for a season.

(9) Now I rejoice, not that ye were made sorry, but that ye sorrowed to repentance: for ye were made sorry after a godly manner, that ye might receive damage by us in nothing.

(10) For godly sorrow worketh repentance to salvation not to be repented of: but the sorrow of the world worketh death.

(11) For behold this selfsame thing, that ye sorrowed after a godly sort, what carefulness it wrought in you, yea, what clearing of yourselves, yea, what indignation, yea, what fear, yea, what vehement desire, yea, what zeal, yea, what revenge! In all things ye have approved yourselves to be clear in this matter.

(12) Wherefore, though I wrote unto you, I did it not for his cause that had done the wrong, nor for his cause that suffered wrong, but that our care for you in the sight of God might appear unto you.

(13) Therefore we were comforted in your comfort: yea, and exceedingly the more joyed we for the joy of Titus, because his spirit was refreshed by you all.

(14) For if I have boasted any thing to him of you, I am not ashamed; but as we spake all things to you in truth, even so our boasting, which I made before Titus, is found a truth.

(15) And his inward affection is more abundant toward you, whilst he remembereth the obedience of you all, how with fear and trembling ye received him.

(16) I rejoice therefore that I have confidence in you in all things.

Paul also reminds the Corinthian believers of the collection for the impoverished saints in Jerusalem in chapters 8-9. Titus apparently brought word that, although they had with good intentions made a commitment to the collection for the impoverished saints in Jerusalem, they were not yet prepared with their promised contribution. He urges them to follow through on their commitment.

Unfortunately, although there had been repentance on the part of most in the church, there was still the outspoken group in the church in Corinth which was seeking to undermine Paul's character and authority as an apostle. This was a group of Jews who discounted the reality of Paul's faith in Christ and the genuineness of his ministry and despised his person. They also claimed to be apostles. In II Corinthians 10-13 in a defense of his character and of his apostolic ministry, Paul reveals his innermost feelings in a way not seen in any other existing letter which he wrote. Glimpses of their character and activities in Corinth are found in II Corinthians 10 and 11. II Corinthians 10:1-2 reveals some of their insinuations,

(1) Now I Paul myself beseech you by the meekness and gentleness of Christ, who in presence am base among you, but being absent am bold toward you:

(2) But I beseech you, that I may not be bold when I am present with that confidence, wherewith I think to be bold against some, which think of us as if we walked according to the flesh (emphasis added).

More is seen in II Corinthians 10:8-12,

(8) For though I should boast somewhat more of our authority, which the Lord hath given us for edification, and not for your destruction, I should not be ashamed:

(9) That I may not seem as if I would terrify you by letters.

(10) For his letters, say they, are weighty and powerful; but his bodily presence is weak, and his speech contemptible.

(11) Let such an one think this, that, such as we are in word by letters when we are absent, such will we be also in deed when we are present.

(12) For we dare not make ourselves of the number, or compare ourselves with some that commend themselves: but they measuring themselves by themselves, and comparing themselves among themselves, are not wise (emphasis added).

Still more is seen in II Corinthians 11:1-23,

(1) Would to God ye could bear with me a little in my folly: and indeed bear with me.

(2) For I am jealous over you with godly jealousy: for I have espoused you to one husband, that I may present you as a chaste virgin to Christ.

(3) But I fear, lest by any means, as the serpent beguiled Eve through his subtilty, so your minds should be corrupted from the simplicity that is in Christ.

(4) For if he that cometh preacheth another Jesus, whom we have not preached, or if ye receive another spirit, which ye have not received, or another gospel, which ye have not accepted, ye might well bear with him.

(5) For I suppose I was not a whit behind the very chiefest apostles.

(6) But though I be rude in speech, yet not in knowledge; but we have been throughly made manifest among you in all things.

(7) Have I committed an offence in abasing myself that ye might be exalted, because I have preached to you the gospel of God freely?

(8) I robbed other churches, taking wages of them, to do you service.

(9) And when I was present with you, and wanted, I was chargeable to no man: for that which was lacking to me the brethren which came from Macedonia supplied: and in all things I have kept myself from being burdensome unto you, and so will I keep myself.

(10) As the truth of Christ is in me, no man shall stop me of this boasting in the regions of Achaia.

(11) Wherefore? because I love you not? God knoweth.

(12) But what I do, that I will do, that I may cut off occasion from them which desire occasion; that wherein they glory, they may be found even as we.

(13) For such are false apostles, deceitful workers, transforming themselves into the apostles of Christ.

(14) And no marvel; for Satan himself is transformed into an angel of light.

(15) Therefore it is no great thing if his ministers also be transformed as the ministers of righteousness; whose end shall be according to their works.

(16) I say again, Let no man think me a fool; if otherwise, yet as a fool receive me, that I may boast myself a little.

(17) That which I speak, I speak it not after the Lord, but as it were foolishly, in this confidence of boasting.

(18) Seeing that many glory after the flesh, I will glory also.

(19) For ye suffer fools gladly, seeing ye yourselves are wise.

(20) For ye suffer, if a man bring you into bondage, if a man devour you, if a man take of you, if a man exalt himself, if a man smite you on the face.

(21) I speak as concerning reproach, as though we had been weak. Howbeit whereinsoever any is bold, (I speak foolishly,) I am bold also.

(22) Are they Hebrews? so am I. Are they Israelites? so am I. Are they the seed of Abraham? so am I.

(23) Are they ministers of Christ? (I speak as a fool) I am more; in labours more abundant, in stripes above measure, in prisons more frequent, in deaths oft (emphasis added).

Paul makes it very clear that he will deal with the false apostles when he comes to Corinth. II Corinthians 13:1-2 says,

(1) This is the third time I am coming to you. In the mouth of two or three witnesses shall every word be established.

(2) I told you before, and foretell you, as if I were present, the second time; and being absent now I write to them which heretofore have sinned, and to all other, that, if I come again, I will not spare.

Paul sent the epistle of II Corinthians with Titus and two unnamed believers. He eventually did visit Corinth again to receive the collection for the saints in Jerusalem, but his visit was marred by some Jews who were seeking to kill him. Acts 20:1-3 says,

(1) And after the uproar was ceased, Paul called unto him the disciples, and embraced them, and departed for to go into Macedonia.

(2) And when he had gone over those parts, and had given them much exhortation, he came into Greece,

(3) And there abode three months. And when the Jews laid wait for him, as he was about to sail into Syria, he purposed to return through Macedonia.

Outline of II Corinthians

INTRODUCTION - 1:1-2

I. PAUL'S PRINCIPLES OF ACTION IN HIS MINISTRY - 1:3 - 7:16

A. The ministry of comfort - 1:3-11

1. God has a ministry of comfort - 1:3

2. God comforts believers that they might comfort others - 1:4-7

3. The ministry of comfort is costly - 1:8-9

4. The cost has purpose - 1:10-11

B. An explanation of Paul's change of plans - 1:12 - 2:17

1. Paul's principles of action in his ministry - 1:12-24

2. Paul's attitude - 2:1-11

3. How God used Paul - 2:12-17

C. Paul's credentials for the ministry - 3:1-5

D. The old and new covenants contrasted - 3:6-18

E. Paul's problems as a minister - 4:1-18

1. Unsaved people are spiritually blind - 4:1-6

2. Paul is weak - 4:7-12

3. Paul serves with eternity in view - 4:13-18

F. Paul's motivations as a minister - 5:1-21

1. The goal of the ministry: to please the Lord - 5:1-9

2. The bema seat judgment - 5:10

3. The motives of Paul's ministry - 5:11-18

4. Paul's message: be reconciled to God - 5:19-21

G. Paul's credentials as a minister - 6:1-10

1. Paul's life demonstrates that the gospel works - 6:1-4a

2. Paul's life demonstrates his credentials - 6:4b-10

H. Be ye separate - 6:11 - 7:1

1. Paul's appeal - 6:11-13

2. The negative aspect of separation - 6:14-16

3. The positive aspect of separation - 6:17 - 7:1

I. Paul's joy at the good news from Corinth - 7:2-16

II. PRINCIPLES OF CHRISTIAN GIVING - 8:1 - 9:15

A. Giving is a grace - 8:1

B. Giving is sacrificial - 8:2

C. Giving is to be done willingly - 8:3-4

D. Giving is to be done spiritually - 8:5

E. Giving is to be voluntary - 8:6-8

F. Giving follows the example of Christ - 8:9

G. Giving is to be according to ability - 8:10-15

H. Church monies are to be handled in a manner that is above board - 8:16-24

I. Money was to be set aside in advance - 9:1-5

J. Giving pays dividends - 9:6

K. What Christian giving should be like - 9:7

L. The rewards of giving - 9:8-15

III. PAUL'S DEFENSE OF HIS APOSTOLIC AUTHORITY - 10:1 - 13:10

A. Paul was slandered - 10:1-2

B. Paul did not war after the flesh - 10:3

C. The weapons of Paul's warfare were mighty through God - 10:4-6

D. Paul was Christ's servant - 10:7

E. Paul was to build rather than to destroy believers - 10:8-11

F. Paul dared not commend or compare himself with others - 10:12

G. Paul realized that other servants had different areas of service - 10:13-16

H. Paul's boast was in the Lord - 10:17-18

I. Paul's assertion of his apostleship - 11:1-15

J. Paul's sufferings for Christ support his apostleship - 11:16-33

K. Paul's boast was in what God had done - 12:1-6

L. Paul took pleasure in infirmities - 12:7-10

M. Paul's character was attacked through innuendo - 12:11-21

N. Make sure you are really saved - 13:1-6

O. Do that which is good - 13:7-10

CONCLUSION - 13:11-14