Main Themes of 2 Corinthians

2 CorinthiansThe background to 2 Corinthians is complicated by letters from Paul we do not have as well as visits to Corinth by Paul, Timothy and Titus. An additional problem is 2 Corinthians is a compilation of several other letters. Perhaps parts of 2 Corinthians contain other letters sent by Paul (the so-called “tearful letter”). Some suggest chapters 8 and 9 are separate letters dealing with the collection, and chapters 10-12 are yet another letter dealing with the super-apostles. I would recommend any serious commentary on 2 Corinthians for an overview of these suggestions or an introduction to the New Testament such as Raymond Brown. Combining letters around a similar theme is not surprising, but it is also not necessary to understand the overall theme of the whole letter: the need for reconciliation between Paul and the church.

First, Paul must deal with the damage in his relationship the Corinthian church (2 Corinthians 1-7). The church did not receive the letter of 1 Corinthians well and Paul’s attempts to deal with the tensions seem to have created more problems. The reason Paul did not return to Corinth is to spare them from another difficult visit (1:23-2:1). Paul admits he has caused the church a great deal of pain, but (with God as his witness), he did not intend it that way. Although he does admit he may have caused the pain the church felt after 1 Corinthians, the “tearful letter” and the painful visit.

Paul wanted to gladden those he had pained, but the pain was ultimately necessary. His tough letter was written to make it possible for him to have a “joyful visit” the next time he came to Corinth (2:3). Paul was confident the church world respond to his tearful letter, even if there was come fear it might cause them pain. But not all grief and pain is bad, in fact godly grief produces a great deal of positive virtues. If Paul had upset them with his strong challenge, that pain is a positive benefit if they are reconciled to him

Second, Paul must encourage the Corinthian church to make good on their promise to participate in the collection he has made for the poor saints in Jerusalem (2 Corinthians 8-9). Paul’s collection would have looked very suspicious to a resident of a Roman city like Corinth. Public works were not funded through taxation or public fundraising, but through wealthy people who want to gain honor from public benefaction. There is no honor in putting money into general fund and sending it off to distant (non-Roman) city to be used to help poor people. It is no surprise at all the Corinth church was slow to participate in the Collection. But it is remarkable (from a modern Christian perspective) this wealthy Christian church refused to participate in Paul’s collection to help the poor Christians in Jerusalem. But now that Paul and the church have reconciled, it is now time for the church to participate in this important ministry Paul initiated. In fact, for Paul, participating in this gracious gift is an opportunity to render a service to God.

Third, Paul must deal with some competition in the church, the so-called “super-apostles” (2 Corinthians 10-13). Paul probably coined this sarcastic description of his opponents, but it may be based on the attitude of the opponents themselves. They consider themselves to be superior to Paul in terms of honor, use of rhetoric, and perhaps even blessings from God. Some have argued this is a reference to the apostles in Jerusalem, but it seems unlikely Paul would refer the Twelve with this snarky title. More likely the super apostles are Greeks in Corinth who have accepted the Gospel but are now behaving like Greek intellectuals. Like many of the other issues in Corinth, Paul is dealing with a pagan worldview in the church. The opponents appear to be trained communicators (v. 6) and accepted patronage from the church (v. 7-9). This would be consistent with any other Greco-Roman philosopher or teach and more or less expected by the Corinthian congregation. Rather than superior apostles, the opponents are like Satan, masquerading true apostles (11:12-15). Rather than boast in his accomplishments, Paul choose to boast in his suffering as a servant of Jesus Christ. Boasting in beatings and arrests is an outrageous reversal of what the super-apostles consider to be indicators of divine favor. Paul claims in these final chapters of the book that the follower of Christ can expect to suffer as Christ himself did.

12 thoughts on “Main Themes of 2 Corinthians

  1. It is unfortunate for Paul that each of his visits come with a negative aspect with it. It kind of makes the people think negative thoughts every time they would see him because that is all they are use to with him visiting. I do agree that not all pain is bad because I am a firm believer in what doesn’t kill you only makes you stronger. The pain the people of the church in Corinth would go through for Christ I believe would in end strengthen there relationship with Him. I am curious to know why the “super-apostles” seemed to think they were superior to Paul and how they went about validating that to the church in Corinth.

  2. Relationships are filled with ups and downs and are never going to be perfect. Especially if one end had to be done through letters and then delivered by another individual. The tone of voice in the 1 Corinthians letter may not have been the tone in which Paul intended it. That is where people get in trouble. They read more into or make assumptions when that is not actually what was meant. “Paul admits he has caused the church a great deal of pain, but (with God as his witness), he did not intend it that way” (P. Long – Blog). After the initial letter Paul then needs to send encouragement to the people of Corinth. Through all of the ups and downs Paul still stands by the Corinthians. “But not all grief and pain is bad, in fact godly grief produces a great deal of positive virtues” (P. Long – Blog). Paul wants to show people that they are people of God and that even in suffering good things can come from it.

  3. When considering the Corinthian culture back then we can’t put our modern day spin on it and view the Corinthians as “bad guys”. Yes, Paul was being the ancient world Robin Hood and collecting money from the rich to give it to the poor. But unlike this notion being extremely common nowadays and people not really being weary of where their money goes. Back then people were extremely suspicious because who says the money that you’re collecting is actually going where you say its going? Even though people were weary Paul explains in 2 Corinthians 8:1- 9:15 “Paul express his complete confidence that the Corinthian communities of Jesus devotion will partite wholeheartedly in that initiative” (TTP, 157). Unfortunately Paul’s “competitors” try to frame him as a phony through this effort. Stating that Paul will just be using the money for himself. So the question at the end of the day is did this activity help or hurt Paul’s ministry?

  4. 2 Corinthians reminds me a lot of where we are today. Broken and sinful congregation of people who don’t really want to listen to anyone. I think that if anything, 2 Corinthians was written on purpose in parallel to what the world would be like one day. Paul is the one who strives to strengthen the congregation and the entire Corinthian church. Paul, although unorganized and all over the place; his leadership helped to unify the Corinthian church.

  5. The Corinthians were in a hard spot. It is hard to exactly identify this with what is going on today. But I agree with April, we are a very broken society. Sometimes we all need a slap on the wrist. It is not going to be what we want. No one in their right mind likes to be told what they are doing wrong. Paul is not telling these people that they are doing horrible things to make them feel bad. He wants so badly for them to step up to their potential, that he is willing to potentially sacrifice if these people will want to see him again. I firmly believe what he did took courage. No one likes to look back at the work they have done and see it failing once again. He wants to have a friendly relationship with them, but that is the thing. Paul shows us a great example of what tough love looks like. He does not need to do that, but he wants to know that this group of people actually see the light. It is the tough love that we do not want that makes the difference. He is trying to be a leader by example and by witnessing to them. There was not the time to waste with trying to help them. Paul handles the situation exactly how it should have been handled.

  6. 2 Corinthians Theme
    The main theme of 2 Corinthians would in simple terms be Paul’s fight to restore and again, gain the respect and trust of the Corinthian church. I also like how P.Long puts it saying that the main theme is “the need for reconciliation between Paul and the church”. There have been many situations that have happened throughout 1 & 2 Corinthians that have altered the way the people of Corinth view Paul, as well as the way Paul views the people of Corinth. In 2 Corinthians 11:16 Paul states “I repeat, Let no one take me for a fool. But if you do, then tolerate me just as you would a fool, so that I may do a little boasting”(2 Cor. 11:16). This verse is important to address for people who think that Paul is a fool in accordance with his collection strategy as well as his comparison to the “super apostles”. The Corinthians have questioned his credibility so they turned to “super apostles” for guidance, which resulted in Paul feeling some type of way ultimately changing his plans and commands for Corinth. Overall, Paul’s main theme in 2 Corinthians is broken down into two parts which are separated by 2 Cor. 1-9 and 2 Cor. 10-13. It was in 2 Corinthians 1-9 where Paul expresses his feelings and attitude toward the Corinthians which ultimately lead to 2 Corinthians 10-13 which “gave way to a stage in which he began to enjoy a fragile but hopeful reconciliation with them” (TTP 147)

  7. 2 Corinthians is a complicated letter due to the fact that it is a compilation of several letters. In this letter, first Paul must deal with the damage in his relationship with the Corinthian church. Due to the Corinthians not receiving the 1 Corinthian letter very well, Paul had to deal with the tensions, but it seemed to have created more problems. Paul caused the Corinth church a great deal of pain, but he did not intend to—which was his reasoning for not returning to Corinth. Paul gave the church a strong challenge, through his tearful letter, that he had hoped would help reconcile him with the Corinthians. The next main theme in 2 Corinthians was Paul’s collection for the poor saints in Jerusalem. What Paul was doing, by collecting money in one city, to bring it to the poor in another city was very abnormal to the Greco-Roman culture—causing his actions to look very suspicious to a resident of a Roman City like Corinth. The wealthy would gain honor through their donation of money; however, no honor is received when the money is sent off to some other distant land. The third main theme is the competition that Paul faced in the church, the super-apostles. These were people who considered themselves to be above Paul in honor, use of rhetoric, and even blessings from God. The super-apostles were Greeks in Corinth who had accepted the Gospel but were now acting like Greek intellectuals.
    It is unfortunate that the Corinthians ended up taking Paul’s tough love the wrong way which ended up causing Paul a great deal of issues, some issues that could have even ruined his reputation.

  8. 2 Corinthians was a complicated letter because of the fact that Paul has to restore his relationship with the Corinthian Church. The view of Paul by the people in Corinth is very skewed and not on the best of terms. Paul is once again having to go back and repair his relationship within the church. In 2 Corinthians Paul states “I repeat, let no one think me foolish. But even if you do, accept me as a fool, so that I too may boast a little” (ESV). This was an important moment for Paul to let the people of Corinth know that he was here to repair what he had left behind. The Corinthians have always questioned Paul and his knowledge because the Greco-Roman way was to base everyone off of their social status. The two main themes of 2 Corinthians are from chapters 1-9 in which Paul was telling the Corinthians how he felt towards them. Considering 2 Corinthians chapters 10-13 is the section of when Paul begins to recreate that relationship with the Corinthians. “chapters 10-13 gave way to a stage in which he began to enjoy a fragile but hopeful reconciliation with them” (TTP, p.147). For Paul to rebuilt his relationship it will allow for the church of Corinth to be steered in a new direction in way that Paul originally intended when he started it there.

  9. Paul and his relationship with the church is not ideal but it has substance. Paul was personal on a heart to heart level with Corinth when he explains himself openly to them. Paul was seeking the best for the Corinthian believers. Paul was motivated the desire to spread or to extend Gods grace upon them. I feel as if we extended Grace and held our Christian brothers and sisters accountable. People will still be upset because they were exposed. God did not call us to be comfortable or to do super easy tasks. As a church I feel as if we should be a raw and real as we can be because we need to be honest with people being aware of what we are doing holds us accountable and you will never know if people are watching you.
    Paul loves God and when we love God so much, we care and love for others the same. We love as Jesus loves us and died for us. By Paul trying to rekindle the relationship it allowed the Corinthians to be steered into the right directions that Paul wanted them to go in.

  10. The book of 2nd Corinthians contains a complicated background that requires inquiry to the reason Paul wrote the church in Corinth and the text himself. Many scholars suggest that 2nd Corinthians is potentially a few letters combined into one collection, either combined by the church itself or future compilers. As Long notes, some suggest that chapters 8 and 9 were originally separate letters, while others will argue that chapters 10-12 were also separate letters at one point. Regardless of if the book is a collection of separate letters are not, the contents of what Paul attends to should be the focus of any discussion.
    In the first seven chapters, Paul addresses the damaged nature of his relationship with the Corinthians. The previous letter, 1st Corinthians, was not received kindly by the church of Corinth, with his actions unintentionally leading to more issues that needed to be dealt with. However, Paul, while saddened, decided to write a “tearful letter” in hopes of clearing up the problems so he could return for a happier visit. He understood that not all grief or pain is bad, it is caused by necessary challenges to the believer’s way of life, it will lead to reconciliation. A second issue addressed is whether or not the church in Corinth would follow through on their contribution to the collection, which was aimed at providing funds to be used by the poor saints in Jerusalem. The third issue worthy of mention is the “super-apostles” who challenged Paul’s authority in the church. These figures were believed to be superior to Paul in their use of rhetoric, language, and speech skills, being similar to the Greek intellectuals of the day. Overall, these three topics dominate the text and display Paul’s need to continue to work on the hearts of the believers in Corinth.

  11. Reading through this blog I have conclude that 2 Corinthians is written by Paul. The church of Corinth was very displeased by Paul after his writing of the letters in 1 Corinthians. In second Corinthians he could see the pain that the church was in. This all leads to good intentions because as we see in our lives today, not every relationship is perfect. Most relationships have ups and downs where we see them sometimes having to end because the situation can not be resolved. Some pain as we see in 2 Corinthians with the Corinth church and Paul can be good in certain ways. When God is in the picture, with all pain we may see good things come from that which Paul may have intended to see. In 2 Corinthians we see many different letters put into one. Most of which are apologies to the Corinth church for the damages he has caused. I believe that Paul meant no harm to the Corinth Church and meant all good things to come out of it.

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