Paul wrote 4 letters to the church in Corinth (described below as A, B, C, D). The second letter is 1 Corinthians and the fourth letter is 2 Corinthians.
Quick Overview of the Correspondence
- Paul’s first visit to Corinth lasting 18 months (c. AD 51-his 2nd
Missionary Journey- Acts 18:1-7; 1 Corinthians 2:30)
- He goes to Jerusalem, then travels to Ephesus to begin a three-
year stay (c. AD 53-55)
- He writes the "previous letter" [Corinthians A-it was lost, we do not
have a copy] (c. AD 53-54, 1 Corinthians 5:9)
- The Corinthians write to Paul with disturbing news and questions of
- Paul writes "1 Corinthians" [Corinthians B] (c. AD 54-55, 1
Corinthians 16:8)...he told them that he planned to go to Corinth
after leaving Macedonia, but will remain in Ephesus until Pentecost
- Paul sends Timothy to Corinth (1 Corinthians 16:10)
- Second visit...Paul made a brief visit to Corinth since the
problems had not been resolved (2 Corinthians 2:1; 12:14; 13:1-2)
- The "severe letter" [Corinthians C-it was lost, we do not have a
copy, 2 Corinthians 2:4]
- Titus meets Paul in Macedonia and tells him that the majority of the
church had responded positively to the letter. However, there is still a rebellious element in the church that is undermining Paul’s authority. Paul writes a fourth letter to Corinth to address these matters (this is 2 Corinthians; [Corinthians D] written A.D. 56/57)
- Paul goes to Corinth for the third and final time.
In order to understand 2 Corinthians we must first know why Paul wrote this letter. As seen in the Overview above, before writing 2 Corinthians, Paul had written a “severe letter” to them. Evidently, it was very firm and straightforward in terms of its condemnation of sin that was being practiced and a demand for repentance. Not long after, Titus reported to him that the majority of people in the church had submitted to what he had written. However, not everyone did so (6:14-18; 11:3-18). There was a group of people who were claiming Apostolic authority for themselves...and not only did they not submit to what Paul had said...as time passed, and in Paul’s absence, they sought to attempt to undermine his authority and to take over the church. So, Paul wrote 2 Corinthians in hopes of dealing with this issue. He would rather it be dealt with in this manner than by a direct, personal confrontation.
Purpose of Writing: The church in Corinth began in A.D. 52 when Paul visited there on his second missionary journey. It was then that he stayed one and a half years, the first time he was allowed to stay in one place as long as he wished. A record of this visit and the establishment of the church is found in Acts 18:1-18.
In his second letter to the Corinthians, Paul expresses his relief and joy that the Corinthians had received his “severe” letter (now lost) in a positive manner. That letter addressed issues that were tearing the church apart, primarily the arrival of self-styled (false) apostles (2 Corinthians 11:13) who were assaulting Paul’s character, sowing discord among the believers, and teaching false doctrine. They appear to have questioned his veracity (2 Corinthians 1:15-17), his speaking ability (2 Corinthians 10:10; 11:6), and his unwillingness to accept support from the church at Corinth (2 Corinthians 11:7-9; 12:13). There were also some people who had not repented of their licentious behavior (2 Corinthians 12:20-21).
Positively, Paul found the Corinthians had well received his “severe” letter. Paul was overjoyed to learn from Titus that the majority of Corinthians repented of their rebellion against Paul (2 Corinthians 2:12-13; 7:5-9). The apostle encourages them for this in an expression of his genuine love (2 Corinthians 7:3-16). Paul also sought to vindicate his apostleship, as some in the church had likely questioned his authority (2 Corinthians 13:3). http://www.gotquestions.org/Book-of-2-Corinthians.html
The attack against Paul’s Apostolic authority...
In what ways did these false Apostles create doubt and questions concerning the Apostolic authority of Paul? It could be that...
- They claimed that the reason why Paul had not come to Corinth is because he did not know what to do...he was uncertain.
- They tried to make it appear that he himself doubted his authority to do anything. He was uncertain of his own qualifications to be an Apostle. That is the reason that he had not come back and confronted them.
- He wasn’t sincere in his concern for them. They questioned his love. After all, he kept intentionally putting of coming back to Corinth. If he was really concerned, he would have made them a priority.
Notice that most of 2 Corinthians is a response to this attack on Paul’s Apostolic authority...
Paul’s explanation for not returning to Corinth (1:1-2:16)
Paul’s defense of his Apostolic ministry-part 1 (3:1-6:10)
Paul’s admonition for godly living (6:11-9:15)
Paul’s defense of his Apostolic ministry-part 2 (10:1-13:10) Greetings and prayer (13:11-14)
For an introduction to 2 Corinthians and additional information on Paul’s time in Corinth see:
The Epistles to the Corinthians, https://www.blueletterbible.org/study/intros/corinthi.cfm
Paul’s explanation for not returning to Corinth (1:1-2:16)
2 Corinthians 1:1-11-He had encountered difficulties where he was that he wished to settle before leaving. It could have been the dangers he mentions in 11:23-26. Or, the violence he experienced from the mob in Asia (Acts 19:23-41). Or even a sickness that he was having to overcome.
Whatever the difficulty was, Paul tells them that when we suffer, it gives us the ability to then understand and sympathize with other people who suffer (:4ff). That has been his own experience. In fact, he has suffered to such a degree that at times, in order to secure his faith and not falter, he had literally made the decision that he was willing and perhaps even anticipating to die in that circumstance..."we had the sentence of death within ourselves" (:9). He expresses confidence that despite how bad things may at times appear...God will deliver them. He then encourages the believers in Corinth to pray for them so that when they are delivered they will realize that by joining Paul in prayer they had become a part of the deliverance and will be able to join Paul in giving thanks.
1 Corinthians 1:12-24-He didn’t want to be unnecessarily harsh with them...directly confrontational. So, he had sent them a letter expressing his decision, instead of coming.
Paul establishes the understanding that everything that he does in regard to the church in Corinth is done with a pure conscience (:12). He says that at one point he had intended to come there, but decided it would be better to not do so at the time because it would have caused them great harm...because of the discipline he would have applied to those who were still involved in sin and had not repented.
Macedonia. Roman province in NT times, beginning as a kingdom in the 7th century B.C. Little is known about the first several centuries of its history, but with the coming to power of the Greek king Philip II (359–336 B.C.), and especially his son Alexander III (the Great, 336–323 B.C.), Macedonia became a world power. After Alexander’s death, the empire was divided among his successors into several regions, one of them the original Macedonian kingdom. Instability held sway for the next 150 years, and in 167 B.C. Macedonia came under Roman rule. Initially divided into four districts by the Romans (Acts 16:12 is a possible reference to this division), this territory was made into a Roman province in 14 B.C. with Thessalonica as its capital. Briefly, from A.D. 15–44, Macedonia was combined with Achaia and Moesia (other parts of Greece) into one large province; however, in A.D. 44, the three were again separated. Macedonia’s importance continued through the Roman era, and it remained a separate ...
Baker Encyclopedia of the Bible, Logos Bible Software
Prayer: Lord, please give me the strength that I need to face whatever circumstances life may bring to me. Let me give You glory through them. And, let me be an encouragement to others who struggle, as well.