Preparation Prior to the study session, participants should read :
2 Corinthians 4: 7 to 5:6: The Clay Pots and our bodies as tents
2 Corinthians 9:6-15: the attitude of giving
2 Corinthians 10: Paul defends his ministry
2 Corinthians 11:16 - 12:23:The 'Fool's Speech'
Orientation 2 Corinthians is book #8 of 27 in the New Testament, and and is one of Paul's letters. For more information see the Bible Overview page.
Synopsis Paul started the church in Corinth, and stayed two years nurturing it. Then he moved on, but soon after troubles begin. Shortly after the church receives his second letter (1 Corinthians), outsiders show up, who have different beliefs.
In the first part, Paul writes that our human bodies are only temporary homes, like tents (5:1). Paul writes of his relationship with the church at Corinth, explaining why he responded so severely to opposition, and expressing joy that this brought about repentance (7:4).
He appeals to the church for money to help needy Christians in Judea (8 and 9).
In the last part (ch. 10 on), Paul defends his position against a few in the church who say they are the true apostles, and Paul is the false one. Paul calls them the false pretenders (11:13). The new intruders at the church make various charges against Paul: that he is self-appointed (defended in 12:12), that he wants their money (defended in 12:14). Paul makes what is called the 'Fool's Speech' (11:16-12:23), reminding us of his sufferings on behalf of the church - including his dramatic escape from Damascus in a basket (11:33); and how Jesus also suffered for the sake of the church. He mentions his struggle with a thorn in his flesh, some type of physical ailment (12:7).
Discussion points Consider the "clay pots" speech (4:7-12). At the time, common clay pots were used to conceal valuables, since they are so ordinary...here they may represent Paul's human frailty. In what ways do common containers conceal something wonderful and valuable?
Paul mentions, vaguely, his 'thorn in the flesh' (12:7), some physical ailment which keeps troubling him. Do we have a hint about it in Galatians 6:11? Do we have these? How do we cope? Read 12:9 for God's response to it.
Connections This is the second of two extant letters from Paul to the church at Corinth (the first letter did not survive - see 1 Cor. 5:9). What we know as 1 Corinthians is really the second letter, and 2nd Corinthians is really the third.
For source citations see the home page. Revised April 11 2014
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