The apostle Paul is the writer of this epistle as is shown by his words of greeting in Ch.1:1-2. Some think that because of his reference to suffering in his Gospel ministry that the letter might have been written shortly after the uproar in Ephesus, and other persecution which followed it, See Acts 19:23 to 20:1-3.
The epistle is in three parts:
1. Chs. 1 to 7. Paul’s testing in his ministry.
2. Chs. 8 and 9. Paul’s teaching on the grace of giving.
3. Chs. 10 to 13. Paul’s defense of his apostolic authority.
PAUL’S TESTINGS IN HIS MINISTRY.
To really be a witness of the Gospel of Christ one must needs suffer, for the Lord Jesus learned obedience by the things which he suffered. God is the great Comforter, and to a suffering world we must be able to go with certainty and give the comfort wherewith we ourselves are comforted of God, Ch.1:4. Like Paul, we must learn that we should not trust in ourselves, but in God which raiseth the dead, v.9. Supernatural help is promised and is given to the tried minister, that he might encourage the tried saints.
All the promises of God in Christ are yea, and Amen, and if we will believe, God will fulfill them and get the glory, vs.19-20. We learn from vs.21-22 that a believer is anointed and also sealed with the Spirit. In other words, one can be blessed but not necessarily receive the baptism but we should not stop short, but tarry until God finishes the work according to Acts 2:4.
We mentioned in the study of the first epistle that Paul had extended his pardon to the church member who had so grievously sinned. In Ch.2:4 we see how solicitous he was that the offending brother might not be discouraged by the devil. It would pay us all to learn how to wound and how to heal, that the Lord’s sheep be properly cared for. For the encouragement of every Christian worker we should frequently read vs.14-17. We always triumph in Christ no matter how we may fail at times to see visible results.
The Gospel is God’s message to a rebellious world. Jesus said, “He that believeth...shall be saved, and he that believeth not shall be damned.” To the one who believes we are the savior of life, and to the unbeliever the savior of death, therefore, let us go forth in faith and give the message to all.
In Ch.3 we have a comparison of the glory which accompanied the giving of the law, and that which is manifested in the ministry of the Gospel. That was power displayed, and which the spectators feared. This is power which fills, and enables one to know the love of God and do His will. Through this Spirit-given liberty we are changed into the likeness of the Lord as we abide in His presence, vs.17-18.
A good thing for every Christian to remember is that in witnessing for the Lord “we preach not ourselves, but Christ Jesus the Lord; and ourselves your servants for Jesus sake”, Ch. 4:5. Our message need never depend on our feelings, but our success will be greatly helped by our humility. Suffering in ministry is not at all uncommon. Let us, however, learn the wonderful secret which was known to the apostle Paul. In the time of physical need, life will be manifested in our mortal flesh, as we bear about “in the body the dying of the Lord Jesus,” vs.8-11. The facts of Calvary are the basis of faith. To the one who appropriates deliverance through the broken body and dying of the Lord Jesus, life will be given by the Spirit, and one can go forward in that strength and do the work of the Lord. The afflictions which are so real and troublesome will even work for us so that we may obtain the glory and life of the Spirit, while we look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen, vs.17-18.
Since Christ died and rose again, death has no terrors for the child of God. Our bodies are but the tabernacles of our spirits, so that we can regard physical death as our being “absent from the body, and...present with the Lord”, Ch.5:8. Our great concern should be not to fear death, but to prepare for the judgment seat of Christ, that we may not be ashamed before Him in that day, vs.9-10.
The death of Christ so completely met the demands of the broken law, that it was as though the sinner literally died. Because of His substitutionary death we can say, “we thus judge that if One died for all, then were all dead...therefore, if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature,” vs.14,17.
The new birth is a work wrought by the Creator in each believer, so that all things become new. Christ the sinless One was made SIN for us, that we might be made the RIGHTEOUSNESS OF GOD in Him, v.21.
Paul besought the Corinthians to receive not the grace of God in vain. This is the day of salvation when all can enter the open door of acceptance with god through Christ, Ch.6:1-2. He then told of the hardships he had borne for the sake of the Gospel, vs.3-8, and exhorted them to shun ungodly alliances, for God is calling His children into a separated walk, that He may prove Himself to be a real Father to them, vs.14-18.
The apostle felt keenly a growing opposition to his ministry, Ch.7:2-5. The teacher from other parts, who insisted that Gentile believers should be commanded to keep the law of Moses, had so worked that some began to doubt his apostolic authority. This was a source of concern to Paul, not that he cared for himself, but for the new converts to believe it would mean that his teaching of the grace of God would be questioned, and they would become an easy prey to false doctrine. In this chapter Paul speaks out his heart. His previous letter had sternly judged the Corinthian church, v.8, but now he was greatly comforted because they had truly repented, and his confidence in them could be restored, vs.9-11,16.
PAUL’S TEACHING ON THE GRACE OF GIVING.
Giving of our means to the Lord for the care of the church, and for the advancements of His kingdom is a grace that we would do well to develop. It is evident from other parts of the Word that this method of laboring for the Lord is an established principle. Both Abraham and Jacob are on record as seeing the privilege of tithing, and the Israelites were instructed to follow the same rule, and in addition bring in their free-will offerings. To make it possible that we be able to give, Christ bore the curse of poverty for us that we might be rich, Ch.8:9. The matter is evidently vital, for Paul is moved to devote two entire chapters to the subject. A promise which is in accord with Luke 6:38, is also given in Ch.9:8, 10, the Weymouth translation of which reads, “And God is able to bestow every blessing on you in abundance, so that richly enjoying all sufficiency at all times, you may have ample means for all good works...and God Who continually supplies seed for the sower and bread for eating, will supply you with seed and multiply it, and will cause your almsgiving to yield a plentiful harvest.” The chapter ends with thanks to God for His unspeakable gift, and truly it is such. When one takes time to analyze all that redemption includes he indeed feels very wealthy.
PAUL’S DEFENSE OF HIS APOSTOLIC AUTHORITY.
The only reason why Paul wrote at length about himself was because of his concern for his converts. He spoke first of all about his method of warfare as being mighty through God to the pulling down of strongholds, Ch.10:3-6. Some among the Corinthian believers were inclined to reject the teaching of the apostle, and gloried in the fact that they looked to Christ alone, v.7. Even today we have such. Paul was concerned, for he had espoused them to Christ, and now they were heeding others who were preaching another Jesus, Ch.11:2-4. Such are false apostles, inspired by Satan who can at will pose as an angel of light, vs.13-15. To prove his sincerity as a minister of the Gospel, the apostle enumerated the many kinds of suffering he had undergone, vs.23-33. Surely no man would bear such if he had a double motive in his mind.
As further proof of his divine appointment, Paul referred to the very many revelations God had given to him. In fact, so numerous were they, that in order that he should not be puffed up, God allowed a messenger of Satan to buffet him. No deliverance came through prayer, but more grace was given that the apostle might be steadied and kept useful, Ch.12:1-9. Paul also referred to the signs and wonders which followed his preaching, not to excuse himself unto them, but that they might be informed of his standing in the church, and have somewhat to say to those who tried to defame the apostle, vs.12,19.
In closing, Paul promised them a third visit, and that he would not spare those of their number who were guilty of sin, Ch.13:1-2. They were exhorted to examine themselves to see if they were in the faith, v.5. Many would do well to heed this. Outward religious observance often veils the barrenness of the heart, and an occasional spiritual house cleaning would be very beneficial. The epistle closes with a benediction breathing the love of God to His children, in spite of their many imperfections.