2 Corinthians contains my favourite section of the bible. That one section I would take if I were asked a question “what one part of the bible would you take with you if you were stranded on a desert island?”
It’s worth knowing that scholars believe that 2 Corinthians is unlikely to actually be the second piece of communication Paul ever sent to the Corinthians but it is the second letter we have in scripture.
The first seven chapters of this letter contain Paul reconciling himself to the Corinthians, to assure them of his love for them, after he made a “painful visit” to see them (2 Corinthians 2.1). Within these chapters is a beautiful section of Paul’s theology of the contrasts of the old and new covenant but he majors on his defence of being an apostle and leader. He shows that leadership, and the cross, is upside down in the new covenant. That by being a slave to King Jesus he shows true leadership, not seeking his own glory but the glory of the King. Within this section he inserts (3.12-4.6 – my favourite section of the bible) the difference between the old covenant and the new covenant and what our response to it should be.
Paul then moves on to talk about generousity in the gospel and what he wants them to do. He had previously asked the Corinthians to contribute to the church in Jerusalem that was going through hard times due to famine. They hadn’t done so due to the Corinthians previous falling out with Paul (painful visit in chapter 2) and so he is reminding them that because of this upside down gospel where we see generousity poured out through Jesus so we are generous in response. However for Paul this isn’t about them not giving money, it’s that they haven’t worked out the true meaning and implications of the gospel.
In the final few chapters Paul again comes back to his credentials as an apostle and how he is not like the sarcastically titled “super-apostles” who came to Corinth and bad-mouthed Paul. He gives a whole list of reasons why he is better but he then mentions how he doesn’t want to brag about these things as they don’t really matter in the gospel. He says that it is in weakness God shows up and reveals himself, most poignantly in the cross and resurrection. And this is what he wants to point to. He wants the Corinthians to know that God’s power is made perfect through weakness.
This is a fantastic book where we understand more of this upside down way of the gospel, and how we should follow Jesus in response to it.