The second letter to Corinth deals with more personal matters, compared to the first letter, which addressed many doctrinal issues. This letter reveals something of Paul's own feelings and desires, and his humility and character shine through.
v1-2: Paul opens his letter in the normal way, with a greeting and a blessing. The intention was that the letter be passed to other Christians in Achaia.
v3-7: Paul addresses the issue of suffering, trouble, and distress, and how we as Christians show Christ's character through such things. This is a strikingly different opening compared to the first letter.
v3: Our God is the Father of mercies, the God of all comfort, and we know Him through the Lord Jesus Christ. Thus, all compassion and mercy comes from God our Father. The mercy of God is not a reflection of our goodness, but of His goodness.
v4: The normal Christian experience is trouble, or tribulation. In all these things we know the comforts (plural) of God. The immediate blessing of such experience is that we can bring comfort to others.
v5: We share in "the sufferings of Christ", since we have identified with Him. Where these sufferings flow into our lives, the comfort from Christ overflows into us. Again we see that God's grace is far greater than the tribulation we experience.
v6: Paul's confidence was that, whatever his experience, it was for the blessing and comfort of the Corinthian Christians. Where they had begun to suffer, God gave them "patient endurance".
v7: The Corinthians had suffered, and Paul shared with them in those sufferings. There is no doubt that they would share in God's comforts. Such is God's faithfulness that the suffering servants receive the comforts of Christ.
v8: Paul wanted them to recognise the difficulties that Paul and his colleagues had faced in Asia. So severe was their suffering that they despaired even of life itself.
It may be that Paul wanted to put the Corinthians' own suffering in context. They had been enriched by God in everything (1 Cor 1.5), and had perhaps begun to think that they were immune from suffering. When suffering came, their faith had begun to waver, as they struggled to understand God's ways.
v9: Our experience of sufferings helps us to trust more in God. If He has raised the dead, and the first letter insists on this, then anything else is 'easier' for Him – our confidence is in the God who has defeated the final enemy.
v10: Since God has delivered us from the final enemy, death, He is well able to deliver us from anything and everything. Our part is simply to put our trust in Him. He has done the greatest thing, Rom 8.32, and He will give us so much more.
v11: A commitment to pray in difficult times. Paul valued the prayers of the Corinthians, and he therefore encourages them to pray for him.
v12: Our conduct and our relations; according to the way of holiness, not according to worldly wisdom. See also v17, where Paul's plans were made in the same way. The Scriptures promote simplicity and sincerity, 11.3. Here is Paul's willingness to be accountable to the Corinthians. Here too is a reminder that the Christian faith is something practical, and must affect every aspect of our lives.
v13-14: Paul had a deep concern for the Corinthians. He was careful to communicate clearly to them. His concern was that they would share a mutual respect, and grow in spiritual maturity.
v15-17: Paul's plans to visit Corinth were not just from human wisdom, but he sought to will of God. He wanted to be clear about his visit, and not keep changing his mind, as the world does.
v18-20: God is faithful, and His promises are fulfilled in Christ. He is not changeable; the argument here is that we should be like God, and not be changeable.
v21-22: Establishing, anointing, sealing; the work of the Godhead (the Trinity) in our lives. He is at work in each one of us.
- He has anointed us, setting us apart as His servants;
- He has set His seal of ownership on us, that we might address God as Father;
- He has put His Spirit in our hearts, the guarantee of eternity.
We share the same precious faith; Paul is no different from any other Christian in this regard.
v23-24: Paul could have returned to Corinth with criticism; he seems to refer to such a possibility here.
His encouragement is that they stand by faith, trusting in the work of God in their lives.
We do not have dominion over the faith of others, and we should not act as if we did. Dominion (Gk: KURIOTES), lordship (Gk: KURIOS); each from KURIOS, meaning lord; these words speak of power and authority; Christ rightly has such dominion, we do not. Rather than exercising dominion over others, we must work together, and seek to encourage each other.