The church in Corinthians had lots of problems. 2 Corinthians is actually the fourth letter Paul wrote to the church at Corinth. His second letter to them is our 1 Corinthians. Some of Paul’s opponents had invaded the church and stirred up rebellion. A previous visit by Paul to deal with the issues had not gone well. Paul left and then sent by Titus a “severe” letter. He rejoiced that many in Corinth repented. So in this letter, Paul wanted to encourage those who had repented but warn those who had not.
He also had to defend his apostleship from various charges.
Plus, the Corinthians had promised some time before to send an offering for the poor in Jerusalem, but had not done so yet. Paul planned to pick up their donations to take along with what he had collected from other churches, so he encouraged them to give and give cheerfully. The offering would not only help meet material needs, but would help unite the Jewish and Gentile congregations.
Dr. Warren W. Wiersbe’s short commentary on 1 Corinthians is Be Encouraged (2 Corinthians): God Can Turn Your Trials Into Triumphs.
In the first chapter, Wiersbe writes:
One of the key words in this letter is comfort or encouragement. The Greek word means “called to one’s side to help.” The verb is used eighteen times in this letter, and the noun eleven times. In spite of all the trials he experienced, Paul was able (by the grace of God) to write a letter saturated with encouragement.
What was Paul’s secret of victory when he was experiencing pressures and trials? His secret was God. When you find yourself discouraged and ready to quit, get your attention off of yourself and focus it on God. Out of his own difficult experience, Paul tells us how we can find encouragement in God (p. 18).
Wiersbe also points out:
The words comfort or consolation (same root word in the Greek) are repeated ten times in 2 Corinthians 1: 1–11. We must not think of comfort in terms of “sympathy,” because sympathy can weaken us instead of strengthen us. God does not pat us on the head and give us a piece of candy or a toy to distract our attention from our troubles. No, He puts strength into our hearts so we can face our trials and triumph over them. Our English word comfort comes from two Latin words meaning “with strength.” The Greek word means “to come alongside and help.” It is the same word used for the Holy Spirit (“ the Comforter”) in John 14—16.
God can encourage us by His Word and through His Spirit, but sometimes He uses other believers to give us the encouragement we need (2 Cor. 2: 7–8; 7: 6–7) (p. 20).
Dr. Wiersbe also shares that “There are ten basic words for suffering in the Greek language, and Paul uses five of them in this letter” (p. 20).
I won’t go point by point through Corinthians–Wiersbe includes an outline as well as discussion. But some of the most well-known passages in this book of the Bible are these: God comforts us in all our affliction and we comfort others (1:2-7); when we behold God, we become more like Him (3:18), “we have this treasure in jars of clay, to show that the surpassing power belongs to God and not to us” (4:7-12), though outwardly we’re wasting away, inwardly we’re renewed day by day, and our “light momentary affliction” prepares for us “an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison” (4:16-18), the ministry of reconciliation (5), Now is the day of salvation (6:2), we’re God’s temple and shouldn’t be yoked up with darkness (6:14-18), godly grief vs. worldly grief (7:5-12), grace giving (8:1-15), the cheerful giver, sowing and reaping (9:1-15), “God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that having all sufficiency in all things at all times, you may abound in every good work” (9:8), Paul’s thorn in the flesh, God’s strength in our weakness, (12:7-10), “Examine yourselves, to see whether you are in the faith” (13:5).
Some other quotes from Wiersbe that stood out to me:
The word sufficiency means “adequate resources within” (see Phil. 4: 11). Through Jesus Christ, we can have the adequacy to meet the demands of life. As Christians, we do need to help and encourage one another; but we must not depend on one another. Our dependence must be on the Lord. He alone can give us that “well of water” in the heart that makes us sufficient for life (John 4: 14) (p. 117).
God did not give Paul any explanations; instead, He gave him a promise: “My grace is sufficient for thee.” We do not live on explanations; we live on promises. Our feelings change, but God’s promises never change. Promises generate faith, and faith strengthens hope (p. 160).
How do people measure the ministry today? By powerful oratory or by biblical content? By what the media says or by Christian character? (p. 169).
Paul prayed for their perfection, which does not mean absolute sinless perfection, but “spiritual maturity.” The word is part of a word family in the Greek that means “to be fitted out, to be equipped.” As a medical term, it means “to set a broken bone, to adjust a twisted limb.” It also means “to outfit a ship for a voyage” and “to equip an army for battle.” In Matthew 4: 21, it is translated “mending nets.”
One of the ministries of our risen Lord is that of perfecting His people (Heb. 13: 20–21). He uses the Word of God (2 Tim. 3: 16–17) in the fellowship of the local church (Eph. 4: 11–16) to equip His people for life and service. He also uses suffering as a tool to equip us (1 Peter 5: 10). As Christians pray for one another (1 Thess. 3: 10) and personally assist one another (Gal. 6: 1, where “restore” is this same word perfect), the exalted Lord ministers to His church an makes them fit for ministry (pp. 170-171).
Sometimes the minister of the Word must tear down before he can build up (see Jer. 1: 7–10). The farmer must pull up the weeds before he can plant the seeds and get a good crop. Paul had to tear down the wrong thinking in the minds of the Corinthians (2 Cor. 10: 4–6) before he could build up the truth in their hearts and minds. The negative attitude of the Corinthians made it necessary for Paul to destroy, but his great desire was to build (pp. 171-172).
2 Corinthians closes with a well-known benediction: “The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ and the love of God and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all” (13:14).
Wiersbe says of this verse:
If each believer is depending on the grace of God, walking in the love of God, and participating in the fellowship of the Spirit, not walking in the flesh, then he will be a part of the answer and not a part of the problem. He will be living this benediction—and being a benediction to others! (p. 174).