Introduction and Overview of Paul’s 2nd Letter to the Corinthians

by Jeff Dominguez

Key Passage: 2 Corinthians 2:1-4

“For I made up my mind not to make another painful visit to you. For if I cause you pain, who is there to make me glad but the one whom I have pained? And I wrote as I did, so that when I came I might not suffer pain from those who should have made me rejoice, for I felt sure of all of you, that my joy would be the joy of you all. For I wrote to you out of much affliction and anguish of heart and with many tears, not to cause you pain but to let you know the abundant love that I have for you.”

2nd Corinthians concludes the issues that Paul addressed in his first letter. However, to understand this letter, one must learn that there are actually 2 other letters to the Corinthians.

Before Paul wrote what we now know as 1st Corinthians, it is revealed that he actually wrote another letter prior to this (Paul mentioned it in 1 Corinthians 5:9). Therefore, 1st Corinthians is technically the 2nd letter. Regardless, both letters contain almost the same message which is about Paul’s rebuke of their unrighteous acts.

Now, it is revealed in 2 Corinthians 2:3-4 that Paul wrote another letter in between 1st and 2nd Corinthians which he refers to as the “Painful Visit.” Therefore, 2nd Corinthians is actually Paul’s 4th letter to the Corinthians.

In the missing 3rd letter, Paul hinted that it was a letter of confrontation and heartbreak. But at the same time, it is also the letter that made the Corinthians realize their mistakes. That is why in his 4th letter, Paul reconciled with the Corinthians. He shared insights about sufferings, hardships, reconciliation and defended his apostolic credentials and ministry for the last time. This is what 2nd Corinthians is all about (2 Cor. 2:1-14). Paul emphasized the major theme of suffering and how the Spirit of God can help us triumph over this.

Here are a few details about this letter:
– Written around 55-56 AD (That is approximately 1 year after he wrote 1st Corinthians)
– Although we call it “2nd Corinthians,” this is actually the 4th letter that Paul wrote to the Corinthians
– There is a 3rd letter prior to this one called, “The Painful Visit”

MAIN THEME (According to ESV Student Study Bible):
“The central theme of 2 Corinthians is the relationship between suffering and the power of the Spirit in Paul’s apostolic life, ministry, and message. Paul’s opponents had questioned his motives and his personal courage. They argued that he had suffered too much to be a Spirit-filled apostle of the risen Christ. But Paul argues that his suffering is the means God uses to reveal His glory (1:3-4, 11, 20).”

I.) Paul’s Defense of His Ministry as an Apostle (1-7:16)
II.) Paul‘s Appeal to the Repentant Church Regarding the Collection (8:-9:15)
III.) Paul’s Appeal to the Rebellious Minority in Corinth (10-13:10)IV.) Closing Greetings (13:11-14)


Chapters 1 to 7 are addressed to the Corinthians who reconciled with Paul:
1) The God of all Comfort (Ch.1)
2) Forgiving those who Sinned Against You (Ch.2:1-11)
3) The Aroma of Christ (Ch.2:12-17)
4) Ministers of the New Covenant (Ch.3)
5) The Light of the Gospel vs Satan who Blinds the Unbelievers (Ch.4:1-6)
6) The Treasures in Jars of Clay (Ch.4:7-18)
7) Our Heavenly Dwelling (Ch.5:1-10)
8) The Ministry of Reconciliation (Ch.5:11-21)
9) The Sufferings of the Apostles (Ch.6:1-13)
10) The Temple of the Living God (Ch.6:14-18) + (Do not be equally yoked with unbelievers)
11) Paul’s Joy + The Godly Grief (Ch.7)

Chapters 8 and 9 are a reminder regarding their responsibility to give to the church. It also serves as a kind of “wall” to separate the first section (1-7) from the second section (10-13):
12) Encouragement to Give Generously (Ch.8)
13) The Cheerful Giver (Ch.9)

(Ch.10-13 is for the Rebellious Christians in Corinth):
14) Paul Defends His Ministry (Ch.10)
15) Paul vs The Super-Apostles (Ch.11)
16) Paul’s Visions and His Thorn + His Concern for the Corinthian Church (Ch.12)
17) Paul’s Final Greetings and Warnings (Ch.13)

– End –

God Bless!! 🙂

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