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Contending for the Faith Contending for the Faith
- 2 Corinthians
CONTENDING FOR THE FAITH
A Commentary On
THE BOOK OF SECOND CORINTHIANS
By WM. MARK BAILEY
Publisher Charles Allen Bailey
Executive Editor - Joe L. Norton, Ph.D.
Copyright © 2021
Contending for the Faith Publications
4216 Abigale Drive, Yukon, OK 73099
All Rights Reserved
All scripture quotations,
unless otherwise indicated, are taken from
The King James Version, KJV
This volume is dedicated to the late Ronny F. Wade, my brother in Christ and fellow gospel preacher. Brother Wade was asked and he accepted the invitation to write this commentary; however, because of a serious illness, he was unable to do so. He called me requesting that I write it in his place since I had written the volume on 1 Corinthians. The Lord called Brother Wade home January 7, 2020; he was born April 4, 1936.
His preaching thrilled audiences of the faithful of the Church of Christ for more than sixty-five years, and his numerous writings during that time gave inspiration and instruction to literally thousands of the Lord’s people.
Brother Wade was a great source of encouragement to me for many years. He was a skilled debater, and I was thankful that he agreed to moderate for me in a public discussion in Kansas City, KS, in 1988. Because of his masterful preaching and writing, he will be remembered for many generations to come if the world stands.
It is with great excitement that we present to you the twelfth volume of "Contending for the Faith" commentaries, the New Testament book of 2 Corinthians. The writer of this volume is the same as the writer of the commentaries on 1 Corinthians and Hebrews. Brother William Mark Bailey (Mark) has spent countless hours in doing research for this volume as well as for the other two volumes.
Brother Ronny F. Wade initially expressed an interest in writing the volume on 2 Corinthians. Because of his illness and subsequent death, he was not able to execute the project. Prior to his death, he asked if Brother Mark could write this commentary since he wrote the one on 1 Corinthians.
This volume on 2 Corinthians is encouraging because it demonstrates how the congregation at Corinth corrected problems that Paul, an inspired apostle, had identified in 1 Corinthians. We all should benefit from the content of this volume because it illustrates the fact that mistakes we have made can be corrected scripturally.
The writers of each of the volumes of the Contending for the Faith commentaries are providing a "labor of love." Brother Mark, my brother in the flesh, plus my brother in Christ, has demonstrated his love for research. His writings are easy to understand, and people have complimented the clarity with which he explains difficult passages.
The Executive Editor, Joe L. Norton, Ph.D., has edited every page of every volume. As writers have expressed, Dr. Joe has made all of us look good by his professional editing. All who read and use these volumes in their Bible studies owe Brother Joe Norton a great debt of gratitude.
Contending for the Faith commentaries owes a deep debt of gratitude to Sister Martha Morris. She has spent hours upon hours in proofreading each volume. She loves the Lord and His word and is instrumental in assisting the editor in making sure each volume is readable and easy to understand. As well, she is fastidious in checking details, quotes, and scriptural references. The Bible mentions many great women who performed significant works for the Lord. Sister Martha Morris is like "Phoebe, a servant of the church" (Romans 16:1).
We introduce to you a new team player, Brother Noah Howard, who has served as the graphics editor for this volume. He is an articulate young brother who preaches with clarity and conviction. In addition to his preaching abilities, he has computer skills that are amazing, and he is a talented writer in his own right. Even though he has been responsible for formatting this volume for the printer, he has also been an editor for other books and articles. I especially appreciate his willingness to donate his time.
As publisher of these commentaries, it is my heartfelt desire to provide material to those who love the Lord and are willing to submit to His will. Answers to many of the questions that you have on spiritual matters will be found in the "Contending for the Faith" commentaries. May the Lord bless you as you read, study, and obey the inspired word of God.
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To comprehend the teaching of letters of the inspired writers, it is necessary to know the circumstances leading up to the author’s decision to write the letter. For an understanding of 2 Corinthians, it is crucial to know the background of the relationship that exists between the Apostle Paul and the church at Corinth. J.H. Bernard says:
In the case of no book of the New Testament is it more essential to a true understanding of its language, that we should have a clear view of the circumstances under which it was composed, than in the case of 2 Corinthians. It is the most autobiographical of all St. Paul’s letters, and it abounds in personal allusions, which it is difficult, at this distance of time, to appreciate, and of which some will probably always remain obscure. It glows with the heat of fervid life, and was evidently written under the influence of strong emotion. And, if we do not assign it to its true place in St. Paul’s life, we are likely to miss a good deal of the force of its earnest and eager words (3).
The Corinthian church seems to absorb much of Paul’s attention during the three years he lives in Ephesus. This congregation is one newly planted by Paul. Soon after he establishes it, however, sin creeps in. Since the city of Corinth is notorious for excessive immorality, it begins to show itself in the lives of the Christian converts. As long as Paul is in Corinth, he is able to keep these sinful actions out of the church; however, soon after he goes to Ephesus, he receives the bad news from Corinth about the morals of his converts. He mentions a few of these immoral sins when he says:
For I fear, lest, when I come, I shall not find you such as I would, and that I shall be found unto you such as ye would not: lest there be debates, envyings, wraths, strifes, backbitings, whisperings, swellings, tumults: And lest, when I come again, my God will humble me among you, and that I shall bewail many which have sinned already, and have not repented of the uncleanness and fornication and lasciviousness which they have committed (12:20-21).
Because of the report of these and other sins within the Corinthian church, Paul begins dealing with each of the problems by writing letters to them.
The Apostle Paul’s Letters to the Corinthians
A student of the scriptures should always remember that the title of each letter in the New Testament is not part of the original text. Most translations refer to Paul’s "First Epistle" or "Second Epistle" when referring to First Corinthians or Second Corinthians. These titles, however, were given by man, and, as here, may be misleading because the first recorded letter to the Corinthians—First Corinthians—is not Paul’s first letter to the Corinthians and neither is his second recorded letter to them—Second Corinthians—his second letter. Paul writes at least three letters to the church at Corinth. In A.D. 53, during his second missionary journey, Paul establishes the church in Corinth. Approximately four years later, he writes his first recorded letter—First Corinthians—to the Christians there; however, in what is called First Corinthians, he mentions a previous letter—possibly his first letter written near the end of A.D. 56 or early in A.D. 57. Paul writes instructions regarding the dangers of associating with fornicators, saying, "I wrote unto you in an epistle not to company with fornicators" (1 Corinthians 5:9). Therefore, the first recorded letter—First Corinthians—was, at least, his second letter written near the end of his stay in Ephesus in the early spring of A.D. 57. After having his first recorded letter delivered to the Corinthians by Stephanas, Fortunatus, and Achaicus (1 Corinthians 16:17), he anxiously awaits news from Titus to see what effect his message has on them. In order to receive the news earlier, he travels from Ephesus to Troas, which is situated on the shore of the Aegean Sea. Since Titus has not made his journey to Troas, Paul continues his journey through Troas and into Macedonia:
Furthermore, when I came to Troas to preach Christ’s gospel, and a door was opened unto me of the Lord, I had no rest in my spirit, because I found not Titus my brother: but taking my leave of them, I went from thence into Macedonia (2:12- 13).
While in Macedonia, near Philippi, Paul meets Titus and receives the Corinthians’ response to his letter. It is in Philippi, in the fall of A.D. 57 (8:1-14; 9:1-5), that he writes, at least, his third letter to them—Second Corinthians. Paul entrusts Second Corinthians to the care of Titus who is returning to Corinth to forward the collection intended for the poor Christians in Judea (8:16-24).
Some writers assume that Paul also writes another letter, often called a "painful letter" or "the severe letter" between what is known as First Corinthians and Second Corinthians. This "painful letter" assumption is based on Paul’s words as he says:
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 (2:4).
There is no evidence to substantiate a separate "painful letter." The writing of which Paul is speaking—written out of "anguish of heart"—could easily be describing his words of rebuke found in either of his first two known letters; therefore, there is not enough evidence to assume that Paul wrote a fourth letter that was lost.
Another theory is that this "painful letter" was not lost, but that it was accidentally mixed with what we call Second Corinthians. This view suggests that Second Corinthians chapter ten through chapter
thirteen is the "painful letter." James Burton Coffman, speaking of this theory, is correct when he says:
How foolish is the notion that "some leaves of one letter got mixed up with another"; when, as a matter of fact, Paul’s letters were written on parchment in the form of a roll; and there were no "leaves"! (300).
Because of Paul’s love for the Corinthians, his concern for them and their reaction to his letter apparently grow stronger each day. He says, "For, when we were come into Macedonia, our flesh had no rest, but we were troubled on every side; without were fightings, within were fears" (7:5). Paul’s concerns are quieted by the encouraging report he receives from Titus. Titus reports that while a few of the Christians in Corinth did oppose Paul and his apostleship, the majority accept him as an apostle of Jesus Christ.
S. T. Bloomfield says:
Having heard that his first Epistle had produced much good among the Corinthians, and considerably broken the strength of faction against him, he wrote this, to confirm them in the doctrine he had preached, to vindicate himself against the calumnies of his enemies, and so to pave the way for the third visit to them, which he meditated (204).
Furthermore, Titus’ report indicates that their fear that Paul would rebuke them causes many of the Corinthians to repent of their sins. Since receiving Paul’s letter, many of them are diligently seeking to obey his instructions:
Nevertheless God, that comforteth those that are cast down, comforted us by the coming of Titus; And not by his coming only, but by the consolation wherewith he was comforted in you, when he told us your earnest desire, your mourning, your fervent mind toward me; so that I rejoiced the more. For though I made you sorry with a letter, I do not repent, though I did repent: for I perceive that the same epistle hath made you sorry, though it were but for a season. Now I rejoice, not that ye were made sorry, but that ye sorrowed to repentance: for ye were made sorry after a godly manner, that ye might receive damage by us in nothing. For godly sorrow worketh repentance to salvation not to be repented of: but the sorrow of the world worketh death. For behold this selfsame thing, that ye sorrowed after a godly sort, what carefulness it wrought in you, yea, what clearing of yourselves, yea, what indignation, yea, what fear, yea, what vehement desire, yea, what zeal, yea, what revenge! In all things ye have approved yourselves to be clear in this matter. Wherefore, though I wrote unto you, I did it not for his cause that had done the wrong, nor for his cause that suffered wrong, but that our care for you in the sight of God might appear unto you. Therefore we were comforted in your comfort: yea, and exceedingly the more joyed we for the joy of Titus, because his spirit was refreshed by you all. For if I have boasted any thing to him of you, I am not ashamed; but as we spake all things to you in truth, even so our boasting, which I made before Titus, is found a truth (7:6-14).
To Whom Is Second Corinthians Written?
While Second Corinthians is written to all faithful Christians in Corinth, as well as those living throughout Achaia (1:1), it is also written to people who are denying Paul’s apostleship. This letter maintains a dual tone throughout. Sometimes Paul writes with warm affection and thankfulness for the penitent majority. On other occasions within the same letter, he writes with harsh words, warning the rebellious minority about their arrogance and sinful conduct.
What Is the Purpose of the Writing of Second Corinthians?
Paul’s intention in Second Corinthians is to reiterate some of the points he had discussed in First Corinthians. The same subject matters are addressed again in light of Titus’ report. Paul also addresses several new subjects that he thinks will be conducive to their edification. Furthermore, he rebukes the leaders of the minority group that accuses him of cowardliness for not personally coming to Corinth. They insinuate he insists upon keeping a distance from them because he is weak and contemptible in their presence. Again, Paul writes a portion of this letter to rebuke this minority group because they attack his apostolic authority and proclaim that he is not a true apostle of Jesus (chapter one through chapter seven). Thomas Hartwell Horne writes of both Paul’s difficulties and boldness in this letter, saying:
The most remarkable circumstance in this Epistle is, the confidence of the apostle in the goodness of his cause, and in the power of God to bear him out in it. Opposed as he then was by a powerful and sagacious party, whose authority, reputation, and interest were deeply concerned, and who were ready to seize on everything that could discredit him, it is wonderful to hear him so firmly insist upon his apostolical authority, and so unreservedly appeal to the miraculous powers which he had exercised and conferred at Corinth. So far from shrinking from the contest, as afraid of some discovery being made, unfavourable to himself or to the common cause, he, with great modesty and meekness indeed, but with equal boldness and decision, expressly declares that his opposers and despisers were the ministers of Satan, and menaces them with miraculous judgments, when as many of their deluded hearers had been brought to repentance, and re-established in the faith, as proper means could in a reasonable time effect. It is inconceivable that a stronger internal testimony, not only of integrity, but of divine inspiration, can exist (351).
Many of the Christians in Corinth drift away from Paul and his teachings. First, they drift from him because they are convinced by the minority that he cannot be an apostle of Jesus because he is untrustworthy (12:12). He is accused of lying to them when he tells them that he is planning to visit them again, but then changes his plans and postpones his visit (1:12-18). Therefore, the main purpose of writing Second Corinthians is to reconfirm his apostleship. Heinrich August Wilhelm Meyer says, "With the establishment of his apostolic character and reputation he is therefore chiefly occupied in the whole Epistle" (411). Persuading the Corinthians that he is in fact an apostle will regain their assurance that the teaching he shares with them is from God.
Second, Paul is accused of arrogance in not accepting financial support from them (12:13). Third, Paul is charged with cruelty because of the harshness toward the incestuous person he writes about in 1 Corinthians chapter five. Regarding these charges, Bloomfield says:
The chief scope, therefore, of the epistle is to rebut these charges; wherein he,
1. satisfactorily accounts for his not having come to them as soon as he had proposed;
2. he shows that his sentence against the incestuous person was not harsh or severe, but necessary, and, as it appears by the effects, salutary. Accordingly, he authorizes them to absolve him from that sentence, and restore him to communion with the Church:
3. he adverts to his great success in preaching the Gospel, and shows that he dwells not upon it for his own glory, but for that of the Gospel, in preaching which he used all diligence and faithfulness, notwithstanding the sore tribulations it brought upon him, and of which he gives a most affecting detail;
4. he excites them to lead a holy life; and, in order thereto, to avoid all communion with idolaters;
5. he desires them to complete their contributions for the poor saints in Judaea;
6. he enters into a long defence of himself against the charge of timidity and personal insignificance (204).
Paul writes some of this letter to express his delight in the effects of his last letter—that is, that his letter led most of the Corinthian Christians to repentance. Paul says:
I rejoice, not that ye were made sorry, but that ye sorrowed to repentance: for ye were made sorry after a godly manner, that ye might receive damage by us in nothing (7:9).
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