SOURCE FOR QUESTIONS
2 Corinthians 1:1 through 13:14
KEY VERSE FOR MEMORIZATION
“For out of much affliction and anguish of heart I wrote unto you with many tears; not that ye should be grieved, but that ye might know the love which I have more abundantly unto you.” (2 Corinthians 2:4)
The church at Corinth was founded by Paul on his second missionary journey (see Acts 18:1-11). He ministered to this assembly for about a year and a half, but after his departure, problems emerged in the infant congregation. The church at Corinth was weak and its members struggled with their Christian faith and lifestyle. They were surrounded by idolatry and immorality, and false teachers were a constant threat. Paul wrote 1 Corinthians from Ephesus during his third missionary journey, in order to deal with moral problems in the church and to answer specific questions on several issues. That letter, however, did not produce the desired results.
Paul made a brief and painful visit to Corinth to confront some who were creating division in the church. Upon his return to Ephesus, Paul was so distressed that he wrote a severe letter (which is now lost) to the assembly, urging discipline for those who had risen up in arrogant defiance of Paul. This letter was delivered by his associate Titus.
It was with relief that Paul, while on his third missionary journey, received the report from Titus that the majority of the Corinthians had been genuinely grieved by his letter. Yet, there were still issues to deal with. The challenges against Paul’s apostolic authority had increased and attempts were being made to discredit him. Paul wrote the Book of 2 Corinthians to express his relief at hearing Titus’ message, but also to set forth his credentials as a true Apostle of Jesus Christ and to denounce those who were attacking his integrity.
The Book of 2 Corinthians is the least methodical and most personal of Paul’s epistles. One of the key words in this letter is comfort, or encouragement. The Greek translation of this word means “called to one’s side to help.” The verb form, “to comfort,” is used eighteen times in this letter, and the noun form, eleven times. In spite of all the trials Paul had experienced and was still experiencing with this church, he was able by God’s grace to write a letter threaded through with encouragement.
SUGGESTED RESPONSES TO QUESTIONS
- What was Paul’s secret for victory in the midst of tribulations? (2 Corinthians 1:3-5) What truths are revealed about God in these verses?
Paul’s secret for victory was to experience the comfort of God. The truths revealed about God are: He is the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, He is merciful and His character is to show compassion, and as “the God of all comfort,” His consolations meet every need.
Your students may enjoy sharing specific examples of times when God’s comfort has met a personal need for them. The point should be made that when God comforts us, our experience becomes a rich resource for ministering to others. England-born pastor and theologian John Henry Jowett (1864 – 1923) once said, “God does not comfort us to make us comfortable, but to make us comforters.”
- In 2 Corinthians 2:5-11, Paul began to address the specific problems that were troubling the Corinthian church. Seemingly, an individual in the assembly had undergone discipline by the Church for his sinful actions, and had subsequently repented. How did Paul instruct the Corinthians to treat this individual, and what godly principle is brought out through Paul’s instructions?
Paul instructed the Corinthians to accept once again the repentant sinner. (This offender is generally thought to have been the man Paul referred to in 1 Corinthians 5:1-5.) While sin does have consequences, the saints were to forgive and comfort the wrongdoer, and to reaffirm their love for him. The principle brought out is that of forgiveness.
Discuss the fact that church discipline, like proper parental discipline, is designed to correct and bring about an alteration in behavior. The goal should always be to restore, not to damage or destroy. Paul was leading these believers to understand that there is a time to confront, but there is also a time to comfort and encourage.
- Legalists who had already created problems in Antioch and Jerusalem (see Acts 15) had infiltrated the believers in Corinth and persuaded some to live by the Law of Moses. Paul refuted these false teachings by contrasting the New Covenant ministry to the Old Covenant Law. Name at least three differences between the old Law and the New Covenant. 2 Corinthians 3:3-18
A number of points could be brought out based on this portion of text.
• The Law was graven in stone; the New Covenant is written in the heart (verse 3).
• The Law revealed sin, which resulted in death; the Spirit changes the heart, which results in life (verse 6).
• The glory of the Law is gone — the Temple, the priesthood, the ceremonies — but the glory of God’s grace grows more and more glorious (verses 7-8).
• The rituals and ceremonies of the Law represented bondage; under the New Covenant, “where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty” (verse 17).
- We all face problems in our Christian lives. Paul had learned that the secret of endurance was inner strength from the Holy Spirit. He said, “Our light affliction, which is but for a moment, worketh for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory” (2 Corinthians 4:17). What are some ways that affliction can bring about “glory” or blessing in our lives?
Discussion could bring out a variety of answers. These may include: We learn through affliction that God gives us strength and grace according to our daily needs. The believer can rejoice that he has a life within, which increases in vitality with every passing day. Affliction may cause us to ponder Heaven and our eternal reward. Trials give us an opportunity to prove God in new ways. Affliction often opens a door of compassionate ministry toward others who also suffer. You may want to ask a student to share a personal testimony.
- Paul appealed to the Corinthians to separate themselves for God, and not to form binding relationships with nonbelievers. What three arguments did he present to try to convince these believers that they must separate from that which is contrary to the will of God? 2 Corinthians 6:14-18
The three points could be summarized as follows: (1) The nature of the believer determines his associations (verses 14-16). The Christian possesses a divine nature and should want to associate himself only with that which pleases the Lord. When we try to walk with the world and with the Lord at the same time, we break our spiritual fellowship with God. (2) Separation from unbelievers is a command from God (verse 17). “Come out” implies a definite act on one’s part. Separation is a positive act of dedication to God. We must separate from sin and unto God. (3) God will bless those who separate themselves from the world of sin (verse 18). He longs to receive us in love and treat us as His precious sons and daughters.
Discussion should bring out that as long as we live in the world, there will be a necessary amount of association with unbelievers on some level. However, when God has transformed a person through salvation, there should be an inward caution regarding a willful, close alliance with those who are not Christians. There is danger in choosing to put ourselves in positions where our relationships could cause us to compromise our principles.
- Chapters 8 and 9 deal primarily with benevolent giving. Paul saw the members of the Gentile congregation as debtors to the Jews for sharing the Gospel of Jesus Christ with them, and he encouraged the Corinthians to help the Jerusalem Christians financially in their time of need. What principles regarding giving did he establish?
Some responses could be: Unselfish giving is commended. We want to give because Jesus gave to us. We give willingly, according to what we have — a person with much should give much; a person with little should give what is possible. When we give in faith, we receive God’s spiritual blessings in our lives. What we do or give comes from our desire to serve and honor God. Giving to our brothers and sisters in need will glorify God. We should give cheerfully. The inner attitude is more important to God than the outward gift.
- Certain members of the Corinthian church had resorted to discrediting Paul, while boasting of their own qualifications. Paul boldly rejected the idea that he was inferior to these men, who claimed divine authority but whose claims were false. He intentionally mimicked them by providing details of his own “résumé,” which was far superior in the Gospel. What personal experiences did Paul list that proved his authority? 2 Corinthians 11:23-33
Compile a list with your class. It will include: imprisonment, severe beatings, being shipwrecked, being attacked by robbers, enduring dangers from false brothers, sleeplessness, hunger, thirst, cold, nakedness, pressure from the care of the churches, etc.
Most of us will not undergo the types of trials that Paul faced. Follow-up discussion could include the credentials of a true servant of Christ in our day. Discussion should bring out that while the specifics will differ from those in Paul’s experience, Christians will face trials, learn to lean on God for daily strength, prove God in multiple circumstances, be willing to undergo deprivation and loss for the sake of the Gospel, will have a burden for the work of the Lord, etc.
- Paul was planning another trip to Corinth, and he was concerned he might find that ungodly practices had infiltrated the Corinthian congregation. He wrote sternly to the group, hoping they would deal with such issues before he arrived. What particular problems did he name? How can we guard against such problems creeping into the church today? 2 Corinthians 12:20-21
The sins Paul mentioned were: debates (quarrels), envyings (jealousy), wraths (outbursts of temper), strifes (contention), backbitings (slander), whisperings (gossip), swellings (those who have an inflated opinion of themselves), tumults (out-of-control situations caused by people acting without thought of the common good), uncleanness (impurity), fornication (sexual relationships between unmarried individuals), and lasciviousness (lust and debauchery).
As Christians, we must guard carefully against the infiltration of any of these types of behavior into our personal lives. The church is only as pure and godly as the people who make up the church! The ministry has a God-given responsibility to instruct, encourage, and discipline us if necessary, in order to help us align our lives to God’s standards. However, the ultimate responsibility is ours. We must desire holiness of heart and life, and ask God to help us to please Him in every area of our lives. When those in the church make this their highest personal priority, the church will thrive.
In Paul’s closing words to the believers at Corinth, he gave a parting plea in the form of a series of exhortations. He encouraged them to seek reconciliation, to share a common purpose, and to live in harmony with one another. His admonition is still fitting for the church today. Like the Corinthians, we must apply the principles of God’s Word in order to have God’s blessing upon our fellowship!