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Bible Commentaries

Albert Barnes' Notes on the Whole Bible

2 Corinthians Overview



Introduction to 2Corinthians

Section 1. The Design of the Second Epistle to the Corinthians

In the Introduction to the First Epistle to the Corinthians, the situation and character of the city of Corinth, the history of the church there, and the design which Paul had in view in writing to them at first, have been fully stated. In order to a full understanding of the design of this Epistle, those facts should be borne in distinct remembrance, and the reader is referred to the statement there made as material to a correct understanding of this Epistle. It was shown there that an important part of Paul‘s design at that time was to reprove the irregularities which existed in the church at Corinth. This he had done with great fidelity. He had not only answered the inquiries which they proposed to him, but he had gone with great particularity into an examination of the gross disorders of which he had learned by some members of the family of Chloe. A large part of the Epistle, therefore, was the language of severe reproof. Paul felt its necessity; and he had employed that language with unwavering fidelity to his Master.

Yet it was natural that he should feel great solicitude in regard to the reception of that letter, and to its influence in accomplishing what he wished. That letter had been sent from Ephesus, where Paul proposed to remain until after the succeeding Pentecost 1 Corinthians 16:8; evidently hoping by that time to hear from them, and to learn what had been the manner of the reception of his Epistle. He proposed then to go to Macedonia, and from that place to go again to Corinth 1 Corinthians 16:5-7; but he was evidently desirous to learn in what manner his First Epistle had been received, and what was its effect, before he visited them. He sent Timothy and Erastus before him to Macedonia and Achaia Acts 19:22; 1 Corinthians 16:10, intending that they should visit Corinth, and commissioned Timothy to regulate the disordered affairs in the church there. It would appear also that he sent Titus to the church there in order to observe the effect which his Epistle would produce, and to return and report to him, 2 Corinthians 2:13; 2 Corinthians 7:6-16.

Evidently, Paul felt much solicitude on the subject; and the manner in which they received his admonitions would do much to regulate his own future movements. An important case of discipline; his authority as an apostle; and the interests of religion in an important city, and in a church which he had himself founded, were all at stake. In this state of mind he himself left Ephesus, and went to Troas on his way to Macedonia, where it appears he had appointed Titus to meet him, and to report to him the manner in which his First Epistle had been received; see the note at 2 Corinthians 2:13. Then his mind was greatly agitated and distressed because he did not meet Titus as he had expected, and in this state of mind he went forward to Macedonia. There he had a direct interview with Titus 2 Corinthians 7:5-6, and learned from him that his First Epistle had accomplished all which he had desired, 2 Corinthians 7:7-16. The act of discipline which he had directed had been performed; the abuses had been in a great measure corrected, and the Corinthians had been brought to a state of true repentance for their former irregularities and disorders. The heart of Paul was greatly comforted by this intelligence, and by the signal success which had attended this effort to produce reform. In this state of mind, he wrote to them this second letter.

Titus had spent some time in Corinth. He had had an opportunity of learning the views of the parties, and of ascertaining the true condition of the church. This Epistle is designed to meet some of the prevailing views of the party which was opposed to him there, and to refute some of the prevailing slanders in regard to himself. The Epistle, therefore, is occupied to a considerable extent in refuting the slanders which bad been heaped upon him, and in vindicating his own character. This letter also he sent by the hands of Titus, by whom the former had been sent, and he designed doubtless that the presence of Titus should aid in accomplishing the objects which he had in view in the Epistle; see 2 Corinthians 8:17-18.

Section 8:17-18.

2. The Subjects Treated in this Epistle

It has been generally admitted that this Epistle is written without much definite arrangement or plan. It treats on a variety of topics mainly as they occurred to the mind of the apostle at the time, and perhaps without having formed any definite arrangement before he commenced writing it. Those subjects are all important, and are all treated in the usual manner of Paul, and are all useful and interesting to the church at large; but we shall not find in this Epistle the same systematic arrangement which is apparent in the Epistle to the Romans, or which occurs in the First Epistle to the Corinthians. Some of the subjects of which it treats are the following:

(1) He mentions his own sufferings, and particularly his late trials in Asia. For deliverance from these trials, he expresses his gratitude to God; and states the design for which God called him to endure such trials to have been, that he might be better qualified to comfort others who might be afflicted in a similar manner. 2 Corinthians 1:1-12.

(2) he vindicates himself from one of the accusations which his enemies had brought against him, that he was unstable and fickle-minded. He had promised to visit them; and he had not yet fulfilled his promise. They took occasion, therefore, to say that he was unstable, and that he was afraid to visit them. He shows to them, in reply, the true reason why he had not come to them, and that his real object; in not doing it, had been “to spare” them, 2 Corinthians 1:13-24.

(3) the case of the unhappy individual who had been guilty of incest, had deeply affected his mind. In the First Epistle, he had treated of this case at large, and had directed that discipline should be exercised. He had felt deep solicitude in regard to the manner in which his commands on that subject should be received, and had judged it best not to visit them until he should be informed of the manner in which they had complied with his directions. Since they had obeyed him, and had inflicted discipline on him, he now exhorts them to forgive the unhappy man, and to receive him again to their fellowship, 2 Corinthians 2:1-11.

(4) he mentions the deep solicitude which he had on this subject, and his disappointment when he came to Troas and did not meet with Titus as he had expected, and had not been informed as he hoped to have been of the manner in which his former Epistle had been received, 2 Corinthians 2:12-17. In view of the manner in which they had received his former Epistle, and of the success of his efforts, which he learned when he reached Macedonia, he gives thanks to God that all his efforts to promote the welfare of the church had been successful, 2 Corinthians 2:14-17.

(5) Paul vindicates his character, and his claims to be regarded as an apostle. he assures them that he does not need letters of commendation to them, since they were fully acquainted with his character, 2 Corinthians 3:1-6. This subject leads him into an examination of the nature of the ministry and its importance, which he illustrates by showing the comparative obscurity of the Mosaic ministrations, and the greater dignity, and permanency of the gospel, 2 Corinthians 3:7-18.

(6) in 2 Corinthians 6:1-10.

(8) having in this manner pursued a course of remark that was calculated to conciliate their regard, and to show his affection for them, he exhorts them 2 Corinthians 6:11-18, to avoid those connections which would injure their piety, and which were inconsistent with the gospel which they professed to love. The connections to which he particularly referred were, improper marriages and ruinous alliances with idolaters, to which they were particularly exposed.

(9) in 2 Corinthians 8:1-14; 2 Corinthians 9:2), and was sent by Titus to the church at Corinth. If so, it was written probably about a year after the former Epistle. Paul was on his way to Corinth, and was expecting to go there soon. He had left Ephesus, where he was when he wrote the First Epistle, and had gone to Troas, and from thence to Macedonia, where he had met with Titus, and had from him learned what was the effect of his First Epistle. In the overflowing of his heart with gratitude for the success of that letter, and with a desire to carry forward the work of reformation in the church, and completely to remove all the objections which had been made to his apostolic authority, and to prepare for his own welcome reception when he went there, he wrote this letter - a letter which we cannot doubt was as kindly received as the former, and which Like that accomplished the objects which he had in view.


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Bibliography Information
Barnes, Albert. "Commentary on 2 Corinthians:4 Overview". "Barnes' Notes on the Whole Bible". 1870.

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