2 Corinthians Bible Study and Commentary

by Jack Wellman · Print Print · Email Email

Here is a brief survey or summary and commentary on 2 Corinthians.

The Second Letter to the Corinthians

There is internal, biblical evidence that this might actually be the third letter to the Corinthian church and that one of Paul’s letters was lost.  Since we know that God is sovereign, it may be that God thought it was too strong of a letter or too “severe” to include in the Bible.  We know that Paul was frustrated with the church at Corinth since they had so many divisions, inherent sin in the church, and jealousies and envies over one another’s spiritual gifts so perhaps Paul’s lost letter was so strong that it might have been best to not include it in the Holy Bible.  We may only know this when we see God face to face and can ask Him about this but for now, let’s focus on the second epistle or letter to the Corinthians and see the reasons that he wrote it, for what purpose it was written, and how we can apply this to our walk with Christ today.

Overview of 2 Corinthians

Second Corinthians was likely written about A.D. 55 and may have been written in response to messengers who had come to Paul while he was in Ephesus.  Paul apparently had heard about some problems in the church at Corinth and not surprisingly he made a quick voyage to the church.  Apparently, this visit didn’t go very well because he was full of sorrow about the church (2:1).  Paul’s apparent “severe letter” which has never been found, was rebuking them and commanding them to repent (2:3, 4:7-8).  This second letter to the Corinthians was filled with depths of emotions because he was seeing the church as judging by sight or according to the flesh, something which he never did.  Paul again had to defend his apostleship as from God and not of men (2:9, 10:8, 13:8-10).

2 Corinthians Bible Study and Commentary

Paul Explains His Ministry

Paul wanted the church to understand that God comforts those who are “in all tribulation” and that they should comfort those who are going through suffering because “we ourselves have been comforted by God” (1:4).  Paul saw that the Corinthian church which had disfellowshipped an unrepentant sinner must now receive him back into the fold because God forgives and restores those who repent and confess their sins (2:5-11) and he expects the church to do the same.

The Ministry of Reconciliation

Because the New Covenant is one of unfading glory (3:4-4:6) it is a glorious ministry because God uses frail, feeble, earthen vessels to display His glory (4:7-5-1).  That’s why he spoke sincerely in proclaiming the gospel, without any internal motives (4:3).  He tells the Corinthians that this gospel had previously been hidden by the “god of this world” which had blinded them so that they wouldn’t believe it (4:4).  Paul expounds on this ministry of reconciliation (5:11-6:13) and why believers are to be separate from the evil ways of the world (6:14-7-4) because they should be “new creatures” in Christ and all of the old things in our life “are passed away” (5:17) which was made possible because “he who knew no sin became sin for us, who knew no sin; that we might be made the righteousness of God in him” (2 Cor 5:21).   Thus, today is the day of salvation and now is the acceptable time for people to repent (2 Cor 6:2).

Collections for the Saints

Paul reveals how the church at Macedonia gave out of their poverty (8:1-7) and displayed the same example of Christ (8:8-9). This is why it is the church’s reasonable service to give because Christ gave all that He had, which included Himself (8:10-9:15) so how could they not do likewise?

Defending Against False Apostle’s Teachings

It seemed that every church that Paul wrote to experienced false teachers and their teachings with some claiming to be Christ’s apostles, which they certainly were not (10:1-13:10).  It seems that this problem is still continuing today so it is nothing that was confined to the first century.  He revealed that true spiritual power was not of human origin (10:1-12) but from God Himself so there was absolutely no reason that anyone should brag or boast about it (10:13-11:21).  They should rather boast in their weaknesses because God’s strength is only displayed in weak vessels and that glorifies Him even more (11:22-33). Paul declared his apostolic authority through the severe persecutions he endured, something that these false apostles had never endured (11:23-28).

To Heaven and Back

Paul was not allowed to write about everything he saw in heaven but he declared that what he saw was indescribable (12:1-10) and boasted about it…not from his own self but to the glory of God. Paul must have been trying to give them hope as Paul was continually caring for them as a father would his own children (12:11-21).

Paul’s Final Warning

Paul seemed to give them notice that when he came, they should deal with the sinners in the church or Paul would “not spare” them when he arrived there (13:2) and that every member of the church at Corinth should better examine themselves “whether [they are] in the faith” thereby proving themselves or provide self-evidence if Christ is in them or not (13:5).  This is something that Christians today ought to do because the human heart is so deceitful and wicked, we cannot even know our own heart or whether our motives are godly or are of the flesh.


Second Corinthians is applicable to all believers today because we must understand that God can use weak vessels or jars of clay because even though they are empty, He can fill us with His Spirit and thus glorify Himself through us.  We must stand firm in the faith that was once delivered to the saints and be able to recognize false teaching when we encounter it.  This problem was not restricted to the first century church.  It is still with us today so we must study the Bible regularly in order to recognize whether those teachings are contrary to the teachings of the apostles which are contained in the New Testament, who themselves referred to the Old Testament, thereby using the whole counsel of God.  That is what Paul told the Corinthians and what he tells the church today through His writings which are the inspired, God-breathed Word.

Related reading: 2 Corinthians Commentary

Resource – Scripture quotations are from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version® (ESV®), copyright © 2001 by Crossway, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

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