Let’s set up a little bit of the background to II Corinthians since we may have forgotten a bit of it 16 chapters ago. It is thought that Paul wrote four letters to the Corinthian church, and this would have been his fourth and last. Of course, we only have two of these letters in hand: I and II Corinthians. You’ll notice that this letter to the church is a lot more stern and you hear a disappointed father writing to the church that he founded. Here is a listing of Paul’s contact with the Corinthian church.
- Paul visits Corinth for the first time, spending about 18 months there (Acts 18:11). He then leaves Corinth and spends about 3 years in Ephesus (Acts 19:8, 19:10, 20:31). (Roughly from AD 53 to 57.)
- Paul writes the “warning letter” in his first year from Ephesus (1 Corinthians 5:9).
- Paul writes 1 Corinthians from his second year at Ephesus.
- Paul visits the Corinthian church a second time, as he indicated he would in 1 Corinthians 16:6. Probably during his last year in Ephesus. 2 Corinthians 2:1 calls this a “painful visit”.
- Paul writes the “letter of tears”.
- Paul writes 2 Corinthians, indicating his desire to visit the Corinthian church a third time (2 Cor 12:14, 2 Cor 13:1). The letter doesn’t indicate where he is writing from, but it is usually dated after Paul left Ephesus for Macedonia (Acts 20), from either Philippi or Thessalonica in Macedonia.
- Paul presumably made the third visit after writing 2 Corinthians, because Acts 20:2–3 indicates he spent 3 months in Greece. In his letter to Rome, written at this time, he sent salutations from some of the principal members of the church to the Romans.
Let’s look at content. Paul addresses the afflictions that he has faced and the persecution that the community as a whole has faced. He states that Jesus “who rescues us from so deadly a peril will continue to rescue us.” What a great statement of hope and consolation for any of us who might be facing those times when we feel as if our bodies and our souls are being persecuted.
Paul gets into a bit of a confusing statement here in regards to people saying what they actually mean and upon which they will eventually act. He criticizes those who say yes and no just to please any who might want either one of those answers. In vs.20 he states very clearly, after a confusing round of nos and yesses, that we are not to be afraid of the repercussions of our words but rather speak in Christ Jesus that which is true. “For this reason it is through him that we say the “amen” to the glory of God”. As you may or may not know “amen” means literally: That’s the truth! So be it! We should never be wary or afraid of saying unpopular things simply because we think it might hurt our standing before people.
In vs.24 Paul gives a rare compliment in this letter to the people of Corinth. He tells them very simply: “you stand firm in your faith.” We will see that he does not consistently compliment them on this aspect of their life in Christ. But at least for the time being he is giving them something upon which they can rely. Things will quickly change over the next few chapters.