2 Corinthians 1:1-11
- After a formal greeting and introduction Paul opens his letter on a note of praise. What particular aspects of God’s character does Paul give praise for? Why do you think these should be particularly singled out in this letter? Can we learn from Paul’s experiences any new lessons about the Christian in his personal relationship with God?
- What reasons does Paul give in this passage for wanting the Corinthians to be fully aware of the extent of his sufferings? What spiritual gain would they get from his suffering (verse 6)? What part are they to play, and with what result (verse 11)? How faithful are we in our support of those whose Christian lives entail more than a usual amount of suffering?
- Compare the formal greeting of this letter with similar ones in other epistles (e.g., Gal. 1:1). On what ground does Paul rest his claim to apostleship? How does he describe the church in Corinth in spite of its defects? What blessings does he ask for its members? How far are these blessings real to you?
Note. Verses 8-10. ‘To be uninformed’: in the sense of ‘to underrate’. The Corinthians knew of the affliction, but not of its gravity ‘I absolutely despaired of life. Yes, and when I asked, what shall be the end? The whispered answer of my heart was, Death. This taught me to rely no more on my own strength, but upon God alone, for He can raise up men actually dead’ (way).
2 Corinthians 1:12-22
- To what does Paul’s conscience bear witness regarding his relations: (a) with the world, and (b) with fellow believers? Can you say the same?
- Paul makes the remarkable claim that his reliability is to be compared with the remarkable claim that his reliability is to be compared with the eternal faithfulness of God. What does he tell us here about God’s faithfulness? What three special functions of the Holy Spirit are referred to in verses 21, 22?
2 Corinthians 1:23-2:17
There had been a gross case of immorality in the church at Corinth (1 Cor. 5:1) and Paul had written strongly about it. This was the reason for altering his plans. He did not wish to come with a rod (1:23; 2:1), and had postponed his visit in the hope that his letter would achieve its purpose. This had been the case, and Paul now counselled that the offender be forgiven (2:5-11).
- What can we learn from the spirit in which Paul administered discipline? What can we learn from his attitude to the situation in Corinth (1:24; 2:4), and from the instructions he gave t the Corinthian Christians, regarding discipline and forgiveness? In what ways can a scandal in church life give Satan an advantage?
- Does the Word of God promise that faithful preaching of the gospel will win all who hear it? How does Paul describe his own experience in this regard? Cf. 4:4.
- 2:5. ‘As for him who was the cause of all this grief, it is not I whom he has grieved, but all of you- in some measure, that is, for I do not wish to be too server’ (Way).
- Verse 14. ‘Leads us in triumphal procession’: in an ancient Roman triumphal procession the captives used to carry censers of incense that diffused their scent far and wide on either side. Paul likens himself to a captive in Christ’s train, diffusing the fragrance of the knowledge of him.
2 Corinthians 3:1-4:6
The intruders at Corinth (see Introduction) made much, we may gather, of letters of recommendation that they carried (cf. Acts 18:27), and may have said, or implied, that Paul did not possess such, though he was very ready to commend himself (3:1).
- In 3:6-11, the old and new covenants are contrasted (see Note below). List the ways in which the new covenant is shown to be superior to the old.
- In this passage Paul describes his own confidence in the work he is doing. What grounds for confidence does he find: (a) in the effects of preaching, and (b) in the nature of his gospel? See 3:1-5; 4:1-6.
Note. 3:6 ‘The letter kills, but the Spirit gives life’: Paul has condensed into these few words the teaching about the law and the gospel which is expounded fully in Rom. 7 and 8.
2 Corinthians 4:7-5:10
- Why has God placed the ‘treasure’ of 4:6 in a weak vessel- the earthen vessel of man’s frail human nature? How does this arrangement work out in actual experience? See 4:7- 12. How do present afflictions appear to the eye of faith, and what prospect is see at the end? See 4:13-18.
- In 5:1-4 Paul defines one aspect of the future prospect more closely. What awaits him after death? Or, if Christ should come first, as would be Paul’s desire (verse 4), what awaits him at his coming? How Is Paul sure that this prospect is no mirage, and what effect has it on his present aim? See verses 5-10.