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2 Corinthians chapter 1

English Standard Version

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What does 2 Corinthians chapter 1 mean?

Second Corinthians is Paul's second biblical letter to the church he helped to establish in the Greek city of Corinth. Much has happened between him and the Corinthians since he wrote 1 Corinthians from the city of Ephesus about a year earlier. He has traveled to Corinth, had a painful and likely confrontational visit there, and has written another letter—now lost—in response to that visit. This letter comes after receiving news from his co-worker Titus about a change of heart among the Corinthians regarding Paul.

Paul often begins his letters by expressing his thanks to God for his readers and God's work in their lives. This time, though, he begins by praising God for His comfort to those who experience affliction. Those comforted by God can respond by giving comfort to each other. Paul connects Christian suffering to Christ's suffering and connects comfort from God in that suffering to the comfort Christ received, as well.

The Corinthians seem to have been aware of Paul's most recent experience of suffering for Christ's sake. Some apparently questioned why an apostle of Jesus should suffer so much. Shouldn't he be protected by his connection to God's power? Paul's response is that his suffering as an apostle made it possible for the Corinthians to receive the gospel. And the comfort he has received from God in his suffering has allowed him to comfort them when they experience suffering as he has (2 Corinthians 1:1–7).

Perhaps the Corinthians did not understand how severe Paul's recent suffering was. He describes himself and his companions as being burdened beyond their own strength, feeling sure they would die, and being forced to rely on the God who raises the dead. God did deliver them, and Paul stood assured that God would continue to deliver them. Paul invites the Corinthians to be part of God's victory by continuing to pray for Paul and his co-workers and to give thanks to God for their deliverance from harm (2 Corinthians 1:8–11).

Paul next defends himself from apparent accusations that he lacks integrity, transparency, and honesty. Some have frivolously charged him with selfishly changing his travel plans. Paul insists that, especially with the Corinthians, he and his team have acted with simple integrity, openness and sincerity, hiding nothing from them either in person or in his letters. He has been upright and straightforward in all circumstances (2 Corinthians 1:12–14).

He made his travel plans to visit Corinth with full intention to follow through, but he changed those plans at the leading of God's Spirit and for the good of the Corinthians themselves. Paul describes himself and his team and the Corinthians as having been established in Christ by God, who also poured out His own Spirit on them as a seal, guaranteeing their place with God in eternity. Just as Christ is the yes to all of God's promises, He has been the yes to the changes in Paul's travel arrangements (2 Corinthians 1:15–22).

More specifically, Paul says that he delayed returning to Corinth most recently to spare them, likely meaning from the discipline he would have had to bring against them for their potential sinfulness. He and his co-workers did not want to lord their authority over the Corinthians. Instead, they preferred to be able to work with them for their joy and continued faithfulness (2 Corinthians 1:23–24).
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