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Introduction to Second Corinthians

The second Letter to the Church at Corinth is the supplement of the first. It is due to the same circumstances which called out the first, and to the effects that were produced in the church at Corinth by the receipt of the first letter. We can almost be thankful for the disorders which occasioned these two letters, not only on account of the rich fund of practical instruction which they contain, but on account of the picture which they present of a Gentile Church, composed of those who had so recently been heathen, in the first century of Christianity. They recall us to the immorality which had to be overcome, the obstacles in the way of a Christian life, and the mighty triumph which the gospel achieved over human nature itself in establishing the spiritual reign of Christ where the sensuality of heathen worship had before prevailed.

The first letter was written at Ephesus in the spring of a.d. 57; the second was written a few months later at some point in Macedonia where Paul had journeyed to visit the churches of that province before extending his tour to Corinth. We learn from the nineteenth and twentieth chapters of Acts that not long after the first letter was written, Demetrius and his fellow-craftsman aroused the terrible riot at Ephesus in which Paul so nearly lost his life (2 Cor. 1:8–10), and that immediately after, at the urgency of the brethren, he started on his long contemplated journey to visit the churches of Europe. He had expected to meet Titus at Troas with word from Corinth concerning the effect of his first letter and was greatly disappointed when he did not find him there (2 Cor. 2:13). Hence, although a fine opening for planting the gospel was presented, he pressed on to Macedonia. Here he met Titus, who was on his way to him, and was greatly rejoiced when he learned that his letter had been well received and his commands obeyed (2 Cor. 7:5–7). Still the circumstances required another letter before his coming and the second letter was written, not only to express his joy over the better state of things in the church, but in order to convey further counsels.

This Epistle naturally divides itself into three parts. In the first part, embracing chapters 1–7, the Apostle portrays his feelings over the condition of matters in Corinth, his anxiety, and his relief after the coming of Titus; in chapters 8, 9, the second part, he takes up the great collection of the Gentile churches for the poor at Jerusalem on which he had so deeply set his heart; in the third part, chapters 10–13, he repels the insinuations of Judaizing teachers who were seeking, not only in Corinth but everywhere, to destroy Paul's influence so as to bring the churches under the bondage of the Jewish law. In this section he presents those wonderful details concerning what his service of Christ had cost him in earthly sufferings. The whole letter is written in the expectation of soon being at Corinth, an expectation which we know from Acts, chapter 20 was realized. 130

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