• Length: 13 chapters
• Author: This is one of the seven undisputed letters by the Apostle Paul
• Recipients: The church at Corinth, the capitol city of the Roman province of Achaia. Paul himself founded the Christian church in Corinth during his missionary journeys. According to Acts 18:1-11, Paul stayed at Corinth for a year and a half after he started the new Christian church there.
• Remember as we read Paul’s letters, we are literally reading 1st century mail between an individual and a Christian community.
• Even though it is referred to as 2 Corinthians, many scholars believe that this writing was not originally a single letter, but rather a compilation of several letters between Paul and the church in Corinth.
• Paul’s relationship with the church in Corinth had apparently deteriorated during the time after 1 Corinthians was written. It seems that during Paul’s second visit to the church in Corinth, something had occurred that caused some strain in his relationship with them. The visit then that was announced back in 1 Cor. 16:5-7 did not happen as planned, and it seems that the Corinthians felt that Paul had vacillated in his plans (2 Cor. 1:15-23). Much of this letter deals with the crisis in confidence between Paul and the Corinthian community.
• Paul was concerned that making another visit to Corinth in person might make the situation worse (2:1). Instead of going to them in person, Paul wrote a rather severe letter written “out of much distress and anguish of heart and with many tears” (2:4). This letter, delivered by Titus, is now lost to us (although some scholars believe that chapters 10-13 may actually include parts of this “severe” letter). Paul was so worried about the effects of this letter (7:8) that he decided to go to Corinth before receiving their reply. On his way to them he met Titus, who delivered a reassuring report from the Corinthian church (7:13). Out of gratitude and in preparation for his third visit to Corinth, Paul wrote the letter we have before us.
• This letter can be broken into several broad sections:
Chapters 1 - 7: Paul defends his ministry against charges that he is bold when writing letters, but weak when speaking face to face. He makes it clear that his boldness and boasting come only from his faith in Jesus Christ, not from self-conceit.
Chapters 8 & 9 concern the topic of the collection for the Christian church in Jerusalem. Paul appeals to the example of Jesus who was willing to sacrifice for the sake of others.
Chapters 10-13 are a vigorous defense of Paul’s ministry against the “super apostles”, rival missionaries who have impressed the Corinthian Christians and are critical of Paul.
• 2 Corinthians reveals to us the complicated and sometimes messy reality of ministry in the infant first century church, as well as Paul’s deep concern for the churches he established.