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Paul writes this letter to the church in Corinth. He started this church, and, in a previous letter scolded them harshly for their inappropriate behavior. Some scholars think this might be the third letter in a series, and that this letter might actually be a combination of one or two letters. We can’t really know for sure. We do know that Paul wrote before and the people were shaken by his letter.
Paul’s movement from Ephesus to Macedonia seemed to contradict what he told them he would do. The seeds of doubt are planted in their minds.
Paul responds by acknowledging his fear of how they might receive him after his harsh letter.
Titus, one of Paul’s friends and disciple, meets Paul in Macedonia to tell him that the church in Corinth actually handled themselves well.
Titus also tells Paul that a group of teachers had come into Corinth who told the church that Paul is a fraud. They questioned his story of meeting Jesus, and they questioned his authority to teach.
Some of these new teachers claimed to have all the right credentials. Paul mockingly calls them “super-apostles” because they seem so perfect and self-promoting.
Paul urges the church to not get sucked in to the flash and fame of the super-apostles. They are not preaching the Gospel of Jesus.
The bulk of this letter can be understood as a “Resume of a Loser for Jesus.” The people want to know how they can trust Paul. What are his credentials. How does he compare to the super-apostles?
Chapters 1-7 explain how Paul is nothing but a broken, messed up man like everyone else. He is bold and brash, often hurting people’s feelings. He is usually beaten up, arrested, or left for dead after he enters a new city. He is a simple, ugly jar of clay. But, he argues, this is the only way that the true light of new life in Jesus can actually shine through. He asks the church to forgive him, and he asks them to forgive the man that he had told them to discipline in his previous letter. The point of the Gospel is reconciliation and health through the death and resurrection of Jesus, NOT the punishment of the Law.
Chapters 8-9 seem to take a left turn (that’s why some scholars think it might be a separate letter) and talk about Paul’s intention to collect money for the church in Jerusalem. The first church, back in the holy city of Jerusalem had fallen into hard times because of a famine. Most of those believers didn’t really like Paul. They thought he was a liberal who spent too much time with Gentiles. He wanted to show them that we are all on the same team, so he was collecting money from the Gentile churches to help them.
Chapters 10-13 pick up the main theme of the first part of the letter. Paul’s “credentials” are not in his wisdom, strength, or power. It is only in weakness that the light and power of God can shine through us.
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