By Bruce Green
Any way you care to look at it, Corinth was Paul’s most challenging church.
We have more writing from him to this congregation than any other (by quite a bit)—and we know of at least two more letters he wrote that haven’t been preserved for us (1 Cor. 5:9; 2:2:1-4).
1 Corinthians deals primarily with doctrinal issues and understandings (speaking in tongues, the resurrection of the dead, eating meat sacrificed to idols, etc.) and behavioral correctives (their divisiveness/lack of love, failure to exercise church discipline, behavior while taking the Lord’s Supper, etc.).
2 Corinthians is quite different in subject and tone. It is much more personal—it has as its background the Corinthians’ lack of regard for Paul as a true apostle of Jesus. After all, he wasn’t one of the original twelve, he didn’t accept any money from them (as they thought a true apostle should), he wasn’t credentialed and he was possibly without a sponsoring church.
They had other complaints as well.
• He was fickle and undependable (1:17).
• He was heavy handed and lorded his authority over them (1:24).
• He didn’t really care for them (11:7-11).
• His ministry didn’t seem all that glorious and successful. There was too much suffering and hardship for him to be a true apostle (this is everywhere in the letter but especially in sections like 4:11-15, 6:3-10, 11:23-33, 12:1-10).
• He was unimpressive in appearance and not a good speaker (10:10, 11:16).
• He was timid when with them and bold when away (10:1) and
• He was an inferior apostle—if one at all (11:5).
Paul responds to these personal attacks in a personal way. He opens up his heart to them and shares his pain, sorrow, suffering and joy. We see a side of Paul in this letter that we see only bits and pieces of in his other correspondence.
What does 2 Corinthians offer us today? It is rich, deep and rewarding. Paul speaks of God as the God of all comfort, tells us we are comforted in our troubles so that we might comfort others in theirs, talks about what it means to set our hope on God—and that’s all in just the first ten verses of chapter one! He goes on to unequivocally show us that suffering and hardship are not incompatible with following God. In fact, they are very much to be expected and God works through them to reveal the life of Jesus and strengthen us (4:7-15, 12:1-10). There is also a rich section on the ministry of reconciliation (2:14-6:13). And so much more!
Allow God to bless you through this book!
You can find more of Bruce’s writings at his website: atasteofgracewithbrucegreen.com.