This study notes provide the core content of a group of bible studies on Paul’s second letter to the Corinthian Church. We encourage you to pray before you begin reading that the Lord would open your heart and mind to be receptive and responsive to God’s message contained within this study. There may be times when you find it difficult to reconcile God’s truth to your own opinion or worldview, God’s truth is eternal, it does not change, our understanding of the truth does change as we allow God to work in our hearts and minds.
2 Corinthians 1
Paul’s Second letter to the Corinthian Church Introduction Paul had begun a work at Corinth when he visited there on his second missionary journey in approximately AD53. Over a period of eighteen months he founded and established a church there. Corinth, a busy sea port, was notorious for its love of money, the good life and its loose morals – and people were not safe on the streets. It was a miracle that so many people turned to Christ for salvation, but it meant that the church had many problems. Paul and his fellow workers needed to teach the new Christians how they should be conducting their lives in the light of their new faith. And when serious problems arose after Paul’s departure he wrote a letter (which we know as I Corinthians) and sent it to the church with Timothy. After more correspondence and confrontation the matter was resolved and it was then that Paul wrote his second long letter, which we now call 2 Corinthians. In this letter Paul addresses the themes of apostleship, affliction, encouragement and comfort. In fact the word “comfort” is used nearly thirty times.
Chapter 1 Read verses 1&2 Paul begins by reminding the church of the authority that he has of being an apostle; that is, he was called and commissioned by the will of Jesus Christ. He includes Timothy in the address for obvious reasons (see above). Despite their difficulties in becoming a “Christ-like” church (and reflecting God’s Grace) Paul now includes the Corinthians with “all God’s holy people” in southern Greece when he pronounces the Grace upon them. Note: The Jews greet each other with the word Shalom – Peace. Christians greet one another with Grace and Peace (as a reminder that all they are is through the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ). Read verses 3-7 The Greek word used for comfort is paraklesis and has s similar meaning to paraklete which is the name given to the Holy Spirit. Whether it is God who offers the comfort, or ourselves giving it to others, the word means the same: “drawing alongside, encouraging and consoling” (Strong’s Concordance). Paul begins by affirming that God is the Paraklete – the God of all comfort (v3); he says because God comforts us we can comfort others. All very nice! But he then goes on to say that God allows us to suffer in order that we can comfort others. Q.
When we have troubles, when we are ill – is it by accident? Why would God let us suffer? So we can comfort others? Why did God let Jesus suffer? So he could send the Paraklete?
Read verses 8-11 One effect of suffering is that we throw ourselves on God’s mercy – we get closer to God (v9). Paul says he remembered that God had delivered him in the past and he knew God would deliver him in the future (v10). Our past experiences should grow our faith and trust. Q.
What was a contributory factor in Paul’s deliverance? And what should be the result of prayer and deliverance?(v11)
Read verses 12-14 The mark of a Godly Christian is integrity and the wisdom, sincerity and grace that comes only from God. Q.
What do you think Paul means by ‘boasting’ (in verse 14)?
The Greek word used is kauchesis which also means glorying or rejoicing. Boasting often has negative connotations, but the meaning here is that we should be rejoicing over what God has done in each of our lives – and maybe sharing it as a testimony – is that boasting? 2
Read verses 15-17 Paul now goes on to deal with an ongoing problem. Some time after Paul’s first visit to Corinth some people had made accusations against Paul saying that he did not keep his word (hence the reference to him being fickle). Paul did in fact change his plans about visiting the Corinthian church for good reason. Verse 24 tells us it was because he wanted to spare them his wrath when they were living ungodly lives. But the belligerent trouble makers in Corinth were basically saying, “how can we trust the message if we can’t trust the messenger?” Q.
Do you think they had a point? Consider some of the difficulties leaders might face in responding to differing needs.
Read verses 18-20 The promises of God are “yes” and “Amen” in Christ Jesus. Jesus fulfilled God’s greatest promise of all, the promise of salvation and is therefore able to put his seal on all of God’s promises. When we say the word “Amen” we are agreeing to this – we are saying “so be it”. Unlike man, God never lets us down. Read verses 21-24 GOD’S GUARANTEE: his seal of ownership on us; his Spirit in our hearts as a deposit guaranteeing our future. It’s more than a down payment. It’s more like an engagement ring which brings the certain promise of marriage.
Chapter 2 Read verses 1-4 Corinth was a church with “issues”. Many of the Christians had had dramatic conversions and had come from all sorts of backgrounds, but by the grace of God they were converted and were growing in the faith. However, many still maintained worldly attitudes – they were still in the process of being changed. Some were accusing Paul of deception because he had been forced to change his plans and was unable to visit them a second time as promised (on his way back to Jerusalem). And when he could have visited them another time he decided against it because he felt his message to them would have been difficult to receive. The Christians at Corinth were acting immaturely and feeling “hard done by”; and let down and perhaps a little jealous of other churches. But Paul stresses that he had a clear conscience in the matter and that he always sought the will of God. His greatest aim was to show love and encouragement to them. Q.
How difficult is it for our leaders to obey God’s will and calling when others in the church might think they should be doing other things? Are they right to think this?
Read verses 5-11 There were any number of incidents that Paul could have been alluding to in this passage, but the most obvious may well be found in 1 Corinthians chapter 5v1&2. Paul says (v5) that when one sins it grieves not only the leader but the whole body of Christ. Instead of punishment Paul recommends separation, forgiveness, and restoration for the offender – done in love and encouragement. Always, in the background is Satan who is seeking to destroy God’s work and pull us down. Paul advocates ways of dealing with problems that will strengthen and build up the church. Q.
When we sin, what does Satan tell us? What does the Holy Spirit tell us?
Read verses 12&13 Here we get a glimpse of how much Paul relied on Titus (and in other places we see how useful Timothy was). It suggests that whilst Paul was bold in preaching the gospel of Christ, when it came to personal matters he needed the prayers and support from his brethren – just as our own leaders do!! Leaders have a calling and gifting from God, but they are not all good at everything. 3
Read verses 14-16 But Paul gives praise to God. And he uses for a metaphor the triumphal procession of a victorious soldier: When a Roman General had fought a campaign and gained territory and captured at least 5,000 of the enemy he qualified for a “Triumph”. In a triumphal procession there would be state officials, spoils of war, trumpeters, sacrifices, captives in chains, musicians, priests with incense, and lastly in the place of honour the Roman General himself, followed by his army giving the victory shout, “We have triumphed!” This was the scene in Paul’s mind when he said he was in Christ’s triumphal procession – a part of the victory celebrations. And so he says, God uses us (like the priests with the incense) to spread the aroma of God amongst those who need to know him (v15). We can bring eternal life through God’s message to those who believe. But, sadly for those who reject the message it is the aroma of death. Read verse 17 Paul reminds them that he has never asked for money – he has never “sold” the gospel; and this is another reason why they can trust his message. He was simply speaking sincerely as a messenger of God.
Chapter 3 Read verses 1-3 Paul was once again defensive; the Corinthian church were impressed by credentials rather than what a man was like as a Christian. Paul, of course had plenty of credentials and testimonials he could flaunt if he wanted to, but God had called him to preach and teach the gospel – and to Paul, his credentials were the result of his preaching. And so he says, “By your lives you show that you are our letter from Christ”. Effective preaching and teaching is verified by the results, not by the persons’ qualifications. Q.
What qualifications do you think a pastor/leader should have?
It’s quite a daunting thing to think that our lives are a letter from Christ. In other words, what we say and do is like a letter telling the world about Jesus. It’s a huge responsibility, because although people don’t read the Bible, they are reading us! Q.
How does this make you feel?
Read verses 4-6 We may feel incompetent about portraying Jesus. However, Paul says that he has confidence that we will because our confidence comes from God living in us. He then talks about the letter of the Law and the Spirit of the Law. If we only tried to follow the letter of the law we would not succeed – it would be impossible to fulfil everything. (There were well over 600 points in Mosaic Law.) But we can follow the Spirit of the Law by putting Jesus first and by loving each other. Q.
What is most important?:
a) b) Q.
trying to please God by ‘doing’ church, doing our duty, following the 10 commandments rigidly, being proud of our achievements serving God and one another in love and grace?
What does a) bring? What does b) bring? (See verse 6)
Read verses 7-11 Here Paul makes a comparison. It’s not that The Law was without glory. It was written by God’s hand, it was necessary to point people to their sin; it was necessary to point them to the need for Salvation through Jesus Christ. Paul gives an example of the glory. 4
Read Exodus 34v29-35 Moses testified to the glory of God. But, Paul’s point was, if the Law written on stones could reveal God’s glory, how much more could the gospel of grace written on men’s hearts. The day we realized that God wrote his grace on our hearts was also a day when we understood what is meant by the glory of God. The glory of God is an awareness of his presence; an eternal glory (v11). In the church were still those who were in favour of Law over Grace, rules over love and forgiveness (the Judaisers). It was difficult because Paul had found it necessary to discipline the Corinthian church (see his first letter) and help them know the right way to live for Christ. But he didn’t want them to depend on that for their salvation. He wanted them to be free in Christ. Read verses 12-16 In many ways verses 15 & 16 are still true. The Jews have a veil over their hearts when the Old Testament Scriptures are read. Only in Christ can that veil be lifted. We are called to pray for them, that they might also experience God’s glory – a lifting of the veil that prevents them from seeing. (Romans 10v1) Read verses 17&18 The Lord is Spirit. When we know the Spirit of God in our lives we know his presence (his glory) and we can know the liberty that he brings. “Being transformed” has the same meaning in Greek as metamorphosis – like a caterpillar turning into a butterfly. God is working this miracle in us!! It’s a process, it takes time, but it is surely happening! That is why Paul could say “you are a letter from Christ”.
Chapter 4 Read verses 1-4 Paul said, “We do not lose heart” because he knew how easily that happens. It is so easy to lose heart when we are doing something for the Lord; whether it be making the tea, welcoming people, cleaning, leading the worship, teaching or preaching. Q.
Why is it that we sometimes feel like giving up?
Paul said he couldn’t give up because his ministry was because of God’s mercy. God didn’t give up on him and so he couldn’t give up on what God had called him to. We all get weary and feel unappreciated and even get criticized at times but the desire to serve God should help us rise above these. Continuing with an earlier theme Paul reminds the Corinthians that in him “what they see is what they get”. There is no secrecy or deception, no “front” – Paul had no secret agenda and he wasn’t out to make money from his listeners. But some people said the gospel was “veiled” because they didn’t understand it. Q.
How were they like blind people? What causes the veil of unbelief? (See verse 4)
Read verses 5&6 Jesus is Lord and we are your servants (v5). This was Paul’s attitude to ministry. Some people were putting him on a pedestal (that would go to some people’s heads and spoil their ministry) but Paul sought only to reveal the light of Jesus that he had himself experienced. Q.
How easy is it for flattery to affect a person?
Whether he was thought little of or much of, Paul’s only goal was to preach Jesus. Only the light of Jesus could dispel the darkness and penetrate the veil the hearts of unbelievers. Read verses 7-12 As Christians, we are simply “jars of clay” – the most humble of vessels. But the humblest of vessels is made to contain something. It is the treasure within that gives us value. The treasure that Paul refers to is the life of Christ, the presence of the Holy Spirit. 5
But we can choose how we fill our life – our jar of clay. We each have to accept ourselves and be ourselves, but also have the willingness for God to use us. He calls us clay or earthen vessels so that we might depend on his power within us and not on our own. Paul’s focus was on the treasure and not on the vessel. Q.
What are the results of God’s power in us? (See verses 8&9)
It’s all so that his life may be revealed in our mortal body (v11). Sometimes we feel like giving up or we lose heart (v1) because we forget these things; we only focus on our “clay” vessel which doesn’t always feel nice. We forget to focus on what God has put in it. Read verses 13-15 Paul quotes Psalm 116v10: I believed, and therefore have I spoken. In other words true witness is based on faith in what we know and have experienced. Paul’s faith gave him victory over all things. Jesus conquered death, he can therefore conquer all things. In Jesus Christ there is the assurance that all Christians will one day be reunited in His Presence. Q.
What is the outcome of God’s Grace? (Verse 15)
Read verses 16-18 Paul returns to the theme of this chapter. We must not grow weary and lose heart. Our earthen vessels don’t do so well, but what is in them (the Holy Spirit) is being renewed day by day (v16). It will all be worth it. One day we will get our reward. All the things of the earth will pass away. But spiritual things do not decay – they are eternal; they are the reality. Those are the things we should fix our eyes on.
Chapter 5 Read verses 1-5 As Christians we have 2 birthdays, 2 bodies and 2 homes! We can celebrate the day we were born, but we can also celebrate the day we were born again. On that day our spiritual body came alive and we had the promise of our eternal home in heaven. What this means is that when our earthly body and home is no longer here, we still have the hope of eternal life and a place waiting for us in Heaven. Paul says there are times when we would rather put off this mortal body and be clothed in our new heavenly body. Q.
What do you think Paul’s reference to ‘being found naked’ means (in verse 3)?
If we have no life in the Spirit, when we die we shall stand before God without the covering of the blood of Jesus. This is what God sees and what atones for sin, so that God will see Christians as perfect, through the sacrifice that Jesus made for us on the cross. Without this covering we are naked. (Just like Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden.) Nakedness in the Bible represents shame, and an awareness of our sin. God has fashioned us (v5), or made us, with the capacity to have this spiritual life – and the Holy Spirit (who we receive at conversion) is a deposit, a guarantee, a promise of what is to come. Read verses 6-10 Here, the Christian has 2 ways of living: It’s as if we are on holiday whilst in our mortal bodies - we are just passing through this life. Our real home is in the spiritual realm. We live one life according to our earthly senses, but we also live according to faith. Paul said, “For we live by faith, not by sight” (v7). However, it’s not a “get-out”. We are expected to live both our mortal and our spiritual life pleasing God (v9). Why? Because Paul reminds us that one day we all have to give account of ourselves to God. Q.
Knowing this, what should we be doing? 6
Christians should never fear this judgment, as Christ has taken our punishment upon himself. However, in gratitude, we would naturally want to please God, even though we all make mistakes and have ‘bad’ days. It is important therefore to keep short accounts with God. That is, pray daily; ask for forgiveness daily; examine our hearts and motives; know that we are in God’s will. Each day we add to our legacy of deeds & actions, good and bad. Read verses 11-15 In verse 12 Paul is still thinking of the Judaizers and those who look on the outward appearance. Paul was not motivated by what people think, but his motivation came from the love of Christ which ‘compelled’ him to preach the gospel of Jesus. And here we see we have 2 deaths. “If one died for all, therefore all died” (v14). We symbolize the death of our old way of life when we are baptized in water. We put the old life behind us and start a new life in the Spirit, living for God. Q.
So, why do we still sometimes say/think/do things that we know are not right?
Of necessity, whilst here on earth we still have to live in our earthly body, so there is always a struggle. Paul certainly understood this (see Romans chapter 7). But also read Romans 8v1! Read verses 16-21 Christians have 2 points of view and have been created twice. The unsaved see Jesus merely as an ordinary human being, but we know him in terms of the Spirit – because we have been made new with a different viewpoint, a different, spiritual perspective. It’s never of ourselves. It is God who has done the work of reconciliation. We were the guilty party being separated from God by sin, and yet He was the one to bring reconciliation. Q. As a result, what does Paul say we should be doing (v19)? God wishes to work through us (v20) by his Holy Spirit. We are the channels he has chosen to use. What a responsibility!
Chapter 6 Chapter 5 looked at how we have 2 birthdays, 2 bodies, 2 homes, 2 ways of living and 2 points of view. This chapter now deals with how this should impact us. Read verses 1&2 Isaiah had said: There will be a time of God’s grace and a day appointed for salvation (v2). And Paul points out that that day has come. We are living in the days of God’s grace and mercy and favour (which began when Jesus became the sacrifice for our sins, on the cross at Calvary). Q.
What effect should this have on us?
Read verses 3-13 These verses appear to show that the Corinthian church did not appreciate Paul’s work. Paul thought they should have been defending him, rather than expecting him to defend himself against them (or at least, against the Judaizers)! This is why he had already quoted from Isaiah, because they needed reminding that their salvation was by grace and not by works. Paul demonstrated that he had been willing to voluntarily suffer again and again because of his belief in salvation by grace. That’s how much he valued them and their souls. He had paid a great price to be faithful to the ministry that God had called him to – but they had taken him for granted. Q.
Do we take for granted the sacrificial ministry of our pastors and deacons? 7
But, in spite of the heartache, Paul still loved the Corinthian church (v12) but he felt his love was unreciprocated. They were withholding their love because the Judaizers had introduced rules and regulations and taken love out of the equation. Paul wants them to serve God solely because they love him, not because they have to. Q.
What is our motivation for Christian service?
Read verses 14-16a Paul appeals for separation (not isolation!) from the world. He asks for Christians to consider the difficulties of living with an unsaved partner or working for the Lord alongside those who do not really believe. Christian love must exercise discernment. We need to know what things (or what people) will help us to serve the Lord, and those things or people who will not. This is the way to true harmony of fellowship and agreement of purpose. Consider those who have become Christians since they married, or have converted from another faith – and how difficult it must be for them to be ‘in the world and yet not of the world’. Read verses 16b-18 There are three promises for those who choose to be separated unto God – Paul knew it wasn’t easy and so gives encouragement. And he quoted from the Old Testament (to appease the Judaizers?). The first promise is from Lev. 28v12 – God’s Presence This verse follows Israel making the choice to follow God and his promise is that you can know that God will always be with you and walk with you – as a Christian you belong to him. The second promise is from Isaiah 52v11 – God’s Acceptance If you separate yourself from that which is unclean (ie. Sinful, that which goes against God’s will) I will receive you. Separation is more than just a position (some people cannot literally separate themselves from their circumstances), it is more a devotion to God, a dedication of mind, to be used by him – separated for a purpose. Jesus certainly mixed with all kinds of people, but he was dedicated to his purpose, which he knew would end in victory. The third promise is from 2 Samuel 7v14 – God’s Fatherhood We may lose family ties (or have difficulties) because we have accepted and followed Christ, but we are family in him, our father – praise God! We are called to be separated, not to be alone, but to be a part of the biggest family on earth.
Chapter 7 Read verse 1 Paul’s statement at the end of chapter 6 requires acting upon; he says “therefore” we should live holy lives out of reverence for God. Q. What were the three promises at the end of chapter 6? Those who know God can know his presence, his acceptance and his fatherhood; and this should result in devotion to Him. Read verses 2-4 The background to this part of Paul’s letter: Since leaving Corinth Paul had heard of problems and wrongdoing in the church and consequently wrote them a corrective letter, which he was reluctant to do. In fact, although it was necessary, Paul said he regretted having to do it (v8). But Titus had since visited the church and reported that they had responded well to Paul’s instructions. So this chapter is about Paul’s joy on hearing the news. 8
Paul loved the church at Corinth. Perhaps, of all the converts, their lives had changed the most. And so Paul was proud of them – proud of what Jesus had done in their lives. When we hear stories of what amazing things God has done through people like Jackie Pullinger and David Wilkerson don’t our hearts rejoice in the same way? And we can be proud of those whose lives are changed because they are living testimonies to God’s grace. Paul’s joy knew no bounds (v4). Read verses 5-7 Once again here we see the very human side of Paul; worried and stressed and in conflict – not knowing if he had done the right thing by writing the letter of rebuke to the Corinthian church. (There was no telephone or email or facebook etc. where he could get an immediate update!) He would have anxiously waited weeks for the news. Consequently, when Titus met up with him and reported that the Corinthian church had responded in repentance and in love for Paul. Paul’s joy was greater than ever (v7). Q.
What four things made Paul joyful? (v7)
Read verses 8-12 Paul’s struggles in verses 8 and 9 must reflect something of the conflict that pastors and leaders must have to deal with. Rebuke is sometimes necessary, but never easy. It is very obvious that Paul’s rebuke was made totally in a spirit of love for the church. It’s like when a loving father disciplines his child: “This is going to hurt me more than it will hurt you”. But, as parents, we know that discipline is absolutely necessary for a child’s moral development as well as for their protection. But Paul said he was no longer sorry when he saw the positive outcome of discipline. Once again Paul was made happy by their response: “By this we are all encouraged.” (v13) Q.
What three things were a result of their repentance? (v9-11)
Read verses 13-16 A double delight! Paul was happy because they had made Titus happy! Paul must have been worried for Titus who had to deal with the situation after Paul’s letter, but he needn’t have been. Paul felt vindicated. He had proved his love for the church and they had proved their love and respect for him. A difficult relationship had been rebuilt. Paul and the church were reconciled with Titus as intermediary. Paul’s joy knew no bounds. “I am glad!” (V16) Q.
How was reconciliation brought about? In our homes, in our church and even in ministry there can be rifts and misunderstandings. Should people just leave? Should they try for reconciliation? If so, how can they be reconciled, what is the Biblical key to reconciliation?
Chapters 8&9 To make sense of these chapters we first need to read Acts 11 verses 27-30. These verses explain why Paul was collecting money to take back to Jerusalem. The prophecy of Agabus came true and there was indeed a famine in the years AD 46-47, not only in Israel, but also in Egypt. Read 2 Corinthians 8v1-7 Although themselves suffering from poverty - the churches in Berea, Philippi and Thessalonica had given richly to the offering for their brothers and sisters in Christ who were suffering in Jerusalem. They saw it as a privilege – verse 4. And so, Paul urges the Corinthian church to do likewise – to excel in the grace of giving. 9
What do you think Paul means by “the grace of giving”?
Read verses 10-15 Paul gives Christ as an example of giving sacrificially – this is how he wants them (and us?) to give. It seems they had the desire to give (v 10) but, in proportion to their means, they had not given much. We are to give according to what we have. Q.
Paul knew the requirement of God’s law was to give ten percent – a tithe. Why did he not ask for this?
God allows us all to be in different circumstances and with different means. But his desire is that we are all equal – and he puts the onus on us to share what we have. We are encouraged to bless others and when we are in need God will use them to bless us. In verse 15 Paul cites the example of the Israelites collecting manna in the wilderness. They all had just the right amount. If they got greedy, the extra went off! Read verses 16-24 Paul is sending Titus with the letter and he will be collecting the money. Interestingly we are given an insight into how careful we need to be with the Lord’s money and how we are held to account. Verses 18&19 show how that the money was properly accounted for and looked after (in order to avoid criticism. This was necessary but also proved to be a very sensible thing – because when Paul returned to Jerusalem with the money, there were those (Judaisers) who accused him of fiddling the accounts in order to make trouble for him. The charge was found to be untrue.) Verse 21 is important advice for us all. Another brother also accompanied them with the money – he was zealous; perhaps he was the one who preached and got results! Read 2 Corinthians 9v1-5 In our culture of not talking about how much we give, it seems strange to us that Paul would confront the Corinthians in this way and make them feel guilty if they didn’t give. Q.
Would you think this was acceptable? Perhaps we should think about their culture and background and why they needed such encouragement.
Read verses 6-11 Paul gives us several basic Biblical principles here: Whoever sows sparingly will reap sparingly Whoever sows generously will reap generously God loves a cheerful giver If we give, we will be enriched in every way Q.
Have you ever tried giving what you can barely afford? What was the result? Did you suffer or do you consider it helped you?
Read verses 12-15 Our giving is a way of expressing our thanks to God for the things we do have. Our giving is the means of bring blessing to others, so that they know God cares for them. Paul finished as he started, with the example of Jesus. God gave us everything. Why should we hold back? Q.
What effect should these verses have on us when we know that there are thousands of Christians who are suffering around the world today?
Chapter 10 Read verses 1-6 The Judaisers were trying to impress the Corinthian church with their speaking skills and obedience to the Law by throwing accusations at Paul (v1). But Paul says we are not to live by this world’s standards. We are answerable to God and not man. In verses 3&4 Paul implies that the Judaisers (and this includes any person/ sect/cult/medium/clairvoyant who diverts people’s attention from Jesus Christ) are false prophets - ministers of Satan, who want to destroy the work of God. See ch.11v13&14. In these verses, Paul is not just defending himself, but he is defending his apostolic ministry. Q. Q.
People often mistake meekness for weakness. What verse highlights the divine power that Paul could draw on? What are some of the weapons that we can use in spiritual warfare?
Read verses 7-11 If God has given us spiritual authority by calling us into leadership, we are not to use it by ‘lording it’ over others. We have nothing to prove, but we are answerable to God for our actions. Leaders should lead in love and encouragement to build up the church. But false prophets use their position to boost their authority more. Read verses 12-18 Q.
How can we measure our spiritual growth?
Do we measure ourselves against other Christians that we know and admire? Do we measure ourselves against God’s standards in the Bible? Or do we measure ourself against ourself. In other words, are we closer to God than we were this time last year? Do we spend more/less time with him than we did? Do we know that we are still in his will? Judaisers can measure all the things they have said and done – but what is the outcome? Q.
Is our spiritual growth measured by acts – or by faith? (v17) Are we looking for fruit or results?
Chapter 11 Read verses 1-4 Paul is not afraid to talk about Godly boasting. And he is not afraid to talk about Godly jealousy. He uses the analogy of a husband who is jealous over his wife. The Bible depicts the church as a Bride, engaged to be married to Jesus Christ (Rev 19v1-9). Therefore the church (each Christian) should not to allow anybody or anything to cause her to look away from her betrothed. We should not put up with false preachers or teachers. Q.
What other things might take us away from trusting in Christ alone?
Read verses 5-11 Paul was perhaps the only ‘super apostle’ (v5) but he does not boast of that. He says he came to the Corinthian church in humility, he asked for no money, he was not a burden – and most of all - he came in love. Q. How easy is it to be taken in by rhetoric (speech aimed at pleasing and influencing people)? The Corinthians did not appreciate the sacrifices Paul had made to bring them the gospel and spend time with them. They were taken in by the rhetoric of the Judaisers. Q. Paul gave up financial rights for the sake of the gospel. Often our ministers do the same thing? Do we appreciate it? 11
Unpaid leaders fulfill their roles out of love for God and his people. It is sad when that love and commitment is sometimes taken for granted Read verses 12-15 Satan masquerades (is disguised) as an angel of light, and his followers are the same! They approach people with a “nearly the same” gospel message which looks attractive until the unsuspecting fall into their trap. But Praise God, we have the weapons to demolish their strongholds (ch 10v4). Q.
Who might fall into this category of false apostles?
Read v 16-23a Paul employs a little sarcasm to make a point. As the church were treating him like a fool, then he would speak as a fool! Their immature attitude was causing him to do so. In a way, verse 20 shows it was they who were fools – because they had let the Judaisers manipulate them, and they hadn’t realized what Paul had done for them. And so he says he would boast ‘as a fool’ (to defend himself). He is comparing himself with the Judaisers. And his aim of boasting is to prove that his motivation was love and not a desire to control them. Read verses 23b-27 Paul lists many, many hardships and persecutions he has faced because of his calling: prison, floggings, beatings, whippings, stoning, shipwrecks, bandits, persecution from fellow Jews, sleep deprivation, hunger and thirst. Often Paul knew a miraculous deliverance from troubles, but often he had to endure them as do many Christians today. And if he were not genuine he would not have suffered in such a way. Paul is saying that he endured it all because of his love for Christ and the church. Q.
How willing would we be to suffer for Christ and the gospel? How do persecuted Christians get through their hardships?
Read verses 28-33 Once again we see the humanity of Paul. He confesses he also feels weak; he is also tempted. And he remembers the time when he was humiliated by secretly escaping from the King by being lowered in a basket out of a window in Damascus. Paul was no different to the Corinthian Christians – or us. He had a different calling, but he was subject to the same pain and weakness and hurt feelings as we are. Q.
He was sure of his calling from God. Does that make a difference?
Chapter 12 Read verses 1-5 This is the only place in the Bible where Paul talks about these experiences – but he obviously thought it was the only way to solve the problem of the Judaisers. He used a common and much less presumptious technique (also used by Jewish Rabbis) of speaking about himself in the third person – “I know a man ...”. Paul didn’t have an impressive CV or letters of commendation like the Jews, but he had the closest experience of God possible. He had had many visions and revelations where God taught him and guided him. He had actually visited Heaven – and returned. (He dated it as happening 14 years before; prior to his missionary journeys.) He heard inexpressible things in heaven – things that cannot be expressed in words. All these things give us a clue as to how Paul was so absolutely certain of the gospel message, how to interpret Old Testament scripture, and how he knew the will of God throughout his life. 12
It was, in fact, very unusual that Paul hadn’t spoken of these things before. Why do you think that was? How did God keep Paul humble?
Read verses 6-10 Paul gives the answer clearly in verse 7. Paul doesn’t actually identify his “thorn in the flesh” (it could have been problems with his eyesight or his feet). It was sent by God to keep him from getting conceited! How easy it is for a great person to preach when they have never suffered temptation or pain or problems! God can work through us when we are humble, but not when we are proud. Q.
What was the lesson that Paul learnt? (v.9 and end of v.10)
Read verses 11-18: Paul is talking to the Corinthian church as though they are his children! Firstly, he berates them for bringing him to the point where he has had to boast and remind them of what he has done for them. And then, he rebuked them for their lack of appreciation. Like a father, he had given everything he had for the church; and he was seeking to discipline them with that same love. Once again, Paul resorts to sarcasm to make his point. “Forgive me if I wasn’t a financial burden on you!” (v13) and “I caught you by trickery ... by sending Titus (giving you even more attention)” (v18). The church had failed to see that Paul’s ministry was God’s ministry. Q.
Do we sometimes view our ministers as mere men, or as people called by God, and therefore deserving of our respect?
Read verses 19-21 Everything Paul was writing was for the church’s strengthening (v19). The Corinthian church was guilty of not dealing with those who were still living in sin and this was one reason why they were a bit wary of Paul visiting them again. Things would have to be dealt with and it might be painful, both for Paul and for the church. Things like: DISCORD, JEALOUSY, FITS OF RAGE, SELFISH AMBITION, SLANDER, GOSSIP, ARROGANCE, DISORDER, SEXUAL SINS, PERVERSIONS and DEBAUCHERY. You can see why Paul wanted to first write a letter before he visited! But his love for them was too great to ignore the problems. Q.
When is it right to ignore problems amongst church members (if at all) and when is it right to intervene?
Paul answers this in the next chapter.
Chapter 13 Read verses 1-4 Before we do or say anything we must establish the facts by asking more than one person. We should encourage the individuals to seek a solution. We should not allow anything to fester and grow out of proportion. BUT, we should not be heavy-handed (like the Judaisers) but in humility, be strong in the power of God (v4). Read verses 5-8 The real key is encouraging individuals to examine themselves before God. Paul has already given them this instruction before (see 1 Corinthians 11v28) in his instructions about Communion. We have a responsibility before God and each other to examine ourselves before we break bread each week. And we should not expect to be in communion or fellowship with God, if we are not in fellowship with each other in the church. It is always possible in churches for the truth of matters to be covered up, for sin to be hidden, for people to wear “masks”. We follow Jesus who is the Way, the TRUTH and the Life. Jesus expects us to walk in his way and live in truth if we want to share in his eternal life. 13
What reasons might we have for not addressing the truth, and for our leaders not confronting people about sin?
Read verses 9-14 Paul’s main purpose was to see the church restored – perfected, in other words “made fit for use by Jesus” (stated twice in v9 and v11). By being restored, by loving one another and by living in peace, they would know God’s love and peace with them in their fellowship with each other. Verse 12 could just as easily read, “Be holy enough to greet one another with a kiss in sincerity”. Paul finishes by pronouncing God’s blessing on the church.