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The Second Epistle to the Corinthians

The Corinthian church consisted of both Jews and Greeks. To be even-handed Paul uses greetings drawn from both languages: grace and peace (Charis and Shalom).

The letter refers to an earlier letter that caused much grief (2 Corinthians 7:8), which has not survived. Therefore this is probably not the second letter that Paul wrote to the Corinthians.

Paul opens by starting to answer accusation concerning his ministry, but from 2:13 to 7:1 he discusses the fundamentals of ministry in general terms before returning to their specific complaints.



The first chapter addresses the age-old problem of why God's people suffer. The answer relates to the "wounded healer" concept. Having found God's strength in our own suffering (verse 4), we are in a position to commend it to others (verse 6).


is about prayer.


Paul is concerned that his failure to visit Corinth as God's representative as he had promised might have made God himself appear unreliable. That is why he speaks of God's guarantee in verse 22.


Paul is trying to contrast God's absolute reliability with human frailty, specifically, his failure to visit Corinth (verse 18). See comment on 1 Peter 3:21, and see also Song of Songs 8:6.


Some translations see in this verse a sign that a previous visit by Paul to Corinth had been an uncomfortable experience, but that is not certain. 2 Corinthians 12:14 says he had made two earlier visits. Commentators up to the 5th Century thought this verse simply meant that Paul was avoiding making another visit which was likely to be painful.[8]


See Appendix 2 Door.


This argument is continued at 2 Corinthians 7:5, after an interjection.


cf. the Transfiguration—​see Matthew 17:2.


Paul is implying that Moses used the veil to cover the fact that the luminosity of his face, which showed his closeness to God, was fading, a falsehood which was only removed when he was with God himself.[1]


"Putting on Christ" makes us all look the same in some sense, so we are all equal before God.


This chapter is a theological reflection by Paul on his struggles in the Gospel. He uses words with familiar connotations in society and turns them on their heads: the Lord becomes a servant and submits to abuse (Philippians 2:8), while those who make themselves his slaves find freedom.[7]


Light shined: cf. Isaiah 9:2, John 1:5.


Light out of darkness: cf. Genesis 1:3.


This verse is the key to the passage; verse 4 speaks of the "Gospel of the Glory of God"—​a strange phrase. Verse 7 shows the good news is the surprising fact that the Glory of God has been made to fit into us despite our weaknesses. Luke records that the angel explained the Gospel as Immanuel—​God with Us.

The reference to clay pots (transalations vary) brings to mind the defeat of Midian under Gideon's command. When the pots were broken (Judges 7:20), the victory was won, and not by human power. As the modern saying goes "blessed are the cracked, for they let out the light". Christians are not meant to be perfectly able, and their weakness allows God's power to be seen. It also echoes the idea that we are made of dust (Genesis 2:7).


This may reveal the unique nature of apostolic ministry, as opposed to other types of ministry, a distinction which we may have lost, though Green[2 p.46] says the apostolic ministry is mobile (like that of a modern Bishop) as opposed to other local ministries.


Looking at things unseen: cf. 2 Kings 6:17.


"Clothed": see comment on Genesis 3:21.


The person stil looks the same after conversion, and probably lives in the same building, does the same job, and meets the same people. So what is it that is entirely new? I suggest: their identity, values, allegiance, and destiny.


This verse contains an interesting definition of the Gospel of salvation: reconciliation with God.


Capon[3] claims that we cannot leave our sins behind when we go to heaven, because without our sins we would only be an unrecognisable shadow. I disagree. The Bible teaches us that the impure believer is saved as through fire. In other words, only what is pure gets through, which might not be much!


Paul quotes Isaiah 61:2.


See Appendix 2: Temple.


This argument continues that of 2 Corinthians 2:13, after an interjection.


This chapter develops the theme of 1 Corinthians 16:3, which recurs again in chapter 9 in what some consider to be a separate letter[5].


The word translated "receive" can mean either "recovering" or "taking upon oneself". The AV regards both as helpful and cleverly uses two phrases to convey both meanings.[6 p.69].


See comment on 8:1.


cf. Ecclesiastes 11:1 and Galatians 6:7–10.


God equips us for the ministry to which we are called. There are three attitudes to wealth apparent from Ephesians 4:28: (1) stealing to be wealthy, (2) working to be wealthy, and (3) working to have enough and then give the rest away. Paul is teaching us to adopt attitude (3).[4]


Meekness: see Appendix 2 Meek.


Paul found those doing "greater works" (John 14:12) a problem; perhaps pride set in.


Fourteen years: see comment on Galatians 2:1.


Perhaps all suffering serves to remind us of our frailty and need. cf. Luke 13:1–5.


This verse resembles the Beatitudes (Matthew 5:3–11); Jesus's message is consistent!


In some translations these two short verses are combined into one verse numbered 12, and verse 14 is renumbered 13; see Wikipedia.


This verse is a trinitarian blessing, but not in the order that we now expect.


  1. Griffith-Jones, Revd Robin (Master of the Temple Church, London) "Dazzling transformation" in Church Times, 13–17 Long Lane, London EC1A 9PN, 20 February 2004 p.11
  2. Green, Michael Freed to Serve London: Word, 1983
  3. Capon, Robert Farrar (American episcopal priest and author)
  4. Piper, John Carnal Cash to Kingdom Currency—​Paul's word to the rich quoted in SU bible reading notes
  5. Fee, G D The First Epistle to the Corinthians Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1987, p.810 footnote 2
  6. Campbell, Gordon Bible—​The Story of the King James Version Oxford: OUP 2010
  7. Rt Revd Jonathan Clark, Bishop of Croydon, speaking at an online Croydon Area Clergy Study Day on 14 July 2018
  8. Stephen C. Carlson "On Paul's Second Visit to Corinth: Παλιν, Parsing, and presuppositions in 2 Corinthians 2:1" in Journal of Biblical Literature Vol 135 no 3 pp 597–615

© David Billin 2002–2024