Welcome to the resources and study page
for the women’s Bible study on 2 Corinthians
Here is your single-source browsing location for all things 2 Corinthians (study groups met fall 2017 through spring 2018).
For Week 13 (B: April 17; A: April 23):
Please start by reading 1 Corinthians 1:10-2:16, then read 2 Corinthians 12:11-13:14. Keep Paul’s words from the earlier letter in mind as you read the second.
We will follow the lesson from Week 11 in the Ortlund text.
This final section of the letter could be divided into these sections:
12:11-21 Paul’s love for the Corinthians drives his concern for them.
13:1-10 Paul’s concern for the Corinthians expressed in warnings.
13:11-14 Paul’s vision for the Corinthian church
1. Paul often uses the passive voice in this passage. If you can, identify some examples. Why does he do this?
2. There are repeated warnings and foreshadowing language in this passage. What are some of the words or phrases that are being used to set a mood and what do you think that mood is? What about Paul’s use of the word “fool”? Compare Paul’s use of the word here to its usage in the 1 Corinthians passage. In light of the warnings, how is he using language to keep the attention off of himself and on Christ?
3. As we know from previous passages, love is manifested in proofs and actions. What are the evidences of Paul’s love for the Corinthians in verses 11-18 of chapter 12?
4. From verse 19, what is the goal of Paul’s preaching and exhortation? We have been talking about the contrast between what the false teachers (reflecting the world) boast about and what Paul boasts about and why. How does that contrast continue through Paul’s words in chapter 12?
5. What is Paul fearful of? What is his deeper concern for the Corinthians that is perhaps not expressed here? There is a brief comparison to parents and children in reference to love and sacrifice, but how do parents also have this same kind of fear that Paul is expressing here?
6. Paul also talks of God humbling him before the Corinthians, and of being fearful of that. Why? How has God humbled him in the past and how did he respond to it? What do you think would be God’s reason for humbling him now?
7. Paul mentions repentance in verse 21. Where does he previously write to them about repentance and how might that inform what we are to understand he is saying to the Corinthians here?
8. What do we learn about Christ’s humiliation and his exaltation in the first few verses of chapter 13?
9. Verses 5-10 begin with an exhortation (with an underlying warning) and end with Paul looking forward to “building up and not …tearing down”. What might be the danger of misreading or misapplying verse 5? What is the objective foundation to our lives that is revealed this passage to keep us from going “off the line” into the danger zones?
10. What is distinctive about the use of the word “yourselves”? How does this exhortation speak first to the corporate body of Christ first and the individual second?
11. The letter to the Hebrews contains five warning passages (2:1-4; 3:7-4:12; 5:11-6:12; 10:19-39; 12:14-29). Read in particular Hebrews 3:14 and compare it to 2 Corinthians 13:5 and be prepared to discuss how this does not undermine the doctrine of perseverance of the saints.
12. How does the section continue to build up toward the building up of the Corinthians? After the exhortation to “examine” and “test yourselves”, Paul moves on to what expressions on behalf of the Corinthians?
13. How is the closing section, verses 11-13, a vision for the church? What part does verse 14 play in that? What is unique about the closing in this letter compared to others Paul has written that are included in the New Testament?
14. What parallels do you see between the opening chapters of the first letter to the Corinthians (which is surmised to actually be the second) and this second letter (which is thought to actually be the fourth)?
For Week 12 (B: April 3; A: April 9):
Please read 2 Corinthians 11:16-12:10. We will follow the lesson from Week 10 in the Ortlund text.
1. Keeping in mind our previous discussions about the Corinthian culture and the proclivity to self-promotion, why would Paul now engage in boasting? He even refers to himself as a fool for doing so (11:16-21), and yet says he will do it and says, in verse 17, that he is speaking “not as the Lord would but as a fool.” What does he mean by this? Look at the way he describes how the Corinthians are treated by the false teachers in verses 19-20, even referring to them as slaves. What are they slaves to? These verses reflect ironies in Paul’s discourse. An irony is defined: “As a literary device, irony is a contrast or incongruity between expectations for a situation and what is reality. This can be a difference between the surface meaning of something that is said and the underlying meaning. It can also be a difference between what might be expected to happen and what actually occurs.” What other ironies do you see in these verses — in verse 21, for example?
2. Paul makes a point of identifying himself as similar to his opponents in what way? Why is it important for Paul to state that he has these distinctions as they do? In the fourth category, however, he says he is more of — or a better — what? What word in this phrase would be offensive to the false teachers? How does that word connect Paul with the following several verses, which he indicates are his credentials?
3. The list of trials and hardships in 11:22-29 could be divided into three categories. What would those categories be? What variables characterize the ministry of his opponents (thinking through our past studies)? How does this description of Paul’s ministry contrast with that?
4. What Old Testament passages can you think of where God has used the weakest link to put to shame the powerful opponents of his people? How do all of these incidents support and further the gospel? That God’s means of salvation is antithetical to the nature of man but consistent with how God reveals himself in relationship to man?
5. In 11:28-30, Paul concludes with a perspective as to what is his greatest concern, despite the litany of sufferings. What is that which “keeps him awake at night”? Knowing what you have learned about Paul, do you think Paul would be more bothered about the Corinthians experiencing great trials and suffering, or receiving acclaim and exaltation for their successes and influence? What is his reason for his boasting? What is Paul’s strategy toward the Corinthians here?
6. Paul concludes chapter 11 by mentioning an experience in which he was ingloriously brought down (To learn about this incident, read Acts 9:19-25). He then goes on in chapter 12 to describe an experience in which he was gloriously brought up. What was this glorious experience? What are some interesting things to note about the way Paul reveals this event? Why do you think Paul (being led by the Holy Spirit) chose to lay those two incidents side by side? What are Christians tempted to do when great miraculous events are put before them?
7. Why was a “thorn” given to Paul? Notice that the reason is given twice, at both the beginning and the end of verse 7. Paul says that this thorn was from Satan, yet, given the reason for the thorn, what do you think is the ultimate source? It is easy when discussing suffering to get into a habit of considering it as a preferred or even enjoyable experience, but what does this passage tell us about how Paul approached his suffering? Is there encouragement for you in this passage?
8. It is easy when discussing suffering to get into a habit of considering it as a preferred or even enjoyable experience, but what does this passage tell us about how Paul approached his suffering? What is revealed about how the Lord responds to such approaches? If the Lord chooses to respond to our pleas for relief similarly (which is the much more common response), what great reality will support us, according to 12:9? What was the result of this reality for Paul in 12:9-10? How does this reality strengthen the body of Christ as we observe others praying and how they respond to God’s answers, regardless of where the answer lies on the spectrum between “yes” and “no”?
9. How would you answer this application of 12:10 (“When I am weak, then I am strong”): There is hope for the weak Christian, the one who struggles in their daily walk, who struggles with temptation, who struggles with his witness.
For Week 11 (B: March 20; A: March 26):
Please read 2 Corinthians 10:1-11:15. We will follow the lesson from Week 9 in the Ortlund text, focusing primarily on these themes:
1. What is the source of Paul’s authority and how does that contrast with what his opponents considered more legitimate and valid authority? How does this continue the theme of strength in weakness as Paul’s arguments become more firm and focused through this passage?
2. Contrast Paul’s opening words in this section of the letter and the force of his accusations toward the end of this section. Discuss how and why they stem from the same source.
3. In verses 3-5, Paul launches into a description of the Christian life as spiritual warfare. What are the weapons of this divine warfare? (Read Eph 6:11-18) How does this differ from the weapons employed by his opponents? Where was the ultimate place and time of righteousness versus evil? How does thinking about that help us to focus on the weightiness of this spiritual battle?
4. In verse 5, Paul says, “take every thought captive to obey Christ”, drawing us to consider another kind of battleground. What falls under the umbrella of thoughts that might prove to be battlegrounds in our lives? How could Isaiah 2:11-12 help us understand what kind of battle this is?
5. In verse 7, Paul returns to the talk of boasting: his and his opponents’. What does our boasting reveal about us? He returns to the topic of authority. What does he say here (again) is the source and reason for the authority he has? What does he say about the way his opponents establish their credibility?
6. 2 Corinthians 10:13–14 says: “But we will not boast beyond limits, but will boast only with regard to the area of influence God assigned to us, to reach even to you. For we are not overextending ourselves, as though we did not reach you. For we were the first to come all the way to you with the gospel of Christ.” Sometimes we feel perhaps the life we live is not the call we were supposed to get, that there’s nothing we can get done here in this little space with this little task. But Paul speaks here to the beauty of the call to unimpressive tasks. What kind of attitudes can “proper boasting” within and not “beyond limits” guard us from?
7. How do the final verses of this chapter (verses 15-18) give us a theology of missions?
8. Follow Paul’s analogy in 11:1-3. Who, spiritually speaking, is the father, the daughter, the husband, and the one leading the daughter astray? What does this say about Paul’s motivations in this letter? Does it seem to provide good cause for the severity of his words? What story from the Old Testament does this analogy seem to parallel?
9. In 11:7-11, we get the message that the Corinthians offended — why? What was Paul’s reasoning for his actions and what prevailing theme does it reflect?
10. The final verses of this section of our reading seems to contrast sharply with Paul’s opening words. He seems to be taking off the gloves now … why now? Read Galatians 1:6-9 for a perspective of why this is crucial and cannot be ignored.
For Week 10 (B: March 6; A: March 12):
Please read 2 Corinthians 9. Since in both groups we didn’t spend much time on the opening verses of chapter 9, we will do that in our study this week. Therefore, the section from the weekly lesson in the Ortlund text we will cover is the bottom of page 61 through 62 (as well as the reading from Lesson in the text, Where Real Generosity Comes From).
1. We discussed previously both the motivation of the Corinthians that Paul is trying to tease into action. He is doing this based upon what is action that is consistent with Christian character. From what we’ve read in chapter 8 and in these preliminary verses in chapter 9, what Christian motivations is Paul reminding the Corinthians they ought to be showing? What is the method or strategy he is using to get them to think about this?
2. Another aspect of chapter 8 that continues into this chapter is the administration of the collection and delivery of the gift. In chapter 8, why did Paul say he was sending the three brothers to do this work? In this chapter he is revealing another very different reason. What is it?
3. Paul uses the language of “ready/readiness” in these opening verses. How does that connect with what we’ve been talking about to this point in 2 Corinthians?
4. In verse 6, Paul gives an illustration to reinforce the motive for giving which has been abused by false teachers in the prosperity gospel movement. We know that thinking is heresy. Consider Job’s life. What might be the conclusion a prosperity gospel speaker draw on the experiences of Job? Does Job not experience the generous hand of God? What is the principle of the lesson of Job and behind Paul’s words here? The key is to whom we are being compared and why. Read Deuteronomy 10:17-19. What word or words would you use to describe the character of God (if you need help, try these passages: Deuteronomy 8:18; Psalm 41:1-3; Psalm 112:9; John 3:16; Ephesians 1:3; Philippians 4:19; 1 Timothy 6:17-19; James 2:1-26;1 John 3:16-18)?
5. The word of God uses many agricultural illustrations. Read John 12:24. What fruit and blessing comes from the seed referenced in this passage? How does that make us look differently at our “blessings”, “fruit”, “possessions”? What is the promise of this passage? If material wealth is not the result, then how might our cultural (and human-sinful) expectations of what reaping means be confusing us?
6. Who provides the sufficiency for our good works? (verse 8) How? How does this set the tone for a right heart about giving?
7. In a biblical marriage, the two parties do not enter into the marriage because there is an exchange — I bring this and you bring that and the failure of either of us to do so will determine what will happen next — but because of a different motivation. Discuss what that motivation is and how it could encourage believers in a community to a more Christlike perspective on giving.
8. What have been God’s greatest gifts to you? Is it because of an exchange?
For Week 9 (B: February 20; A: February 26):
Please read 2 Corinthians 8 through 9:5. Note that the weekly lesson in the Ortlund text covers all of chapters 8 and 9. We will only read and discuss Chapter 8, so for Lesson 8 from the text, Where Real Generosity Comes From, we will only cover the questions on page 60 and through the fourth question on page 61 and those provided below.
1. Before we begin, let’s recall the history of Corinth and the relationship the Corinthians had with wealth. How does their history and the display of money play into their self-identity? How has this self-identity influenced their attitude toward what Paul is preaching? (Remember, Paul connected their attitude toward him with their attitude toward the gospel because his life reflected what the Lord wanted them to learn about the gospel — strength in weakness.)
2. Paul begins with a report about the churches in Macedonia, but to understand the background information to this narrative, read Romans 15:25-27 and 1 Corinthians 16:1-4. This is known as the Jerusalem Collection. Now, based on the opening verses of 2 Corinthians 8, what have the believers of Macedonia been experiencing? How are they responding to this?
3. What is the primary force behind their actions? Have they received a financial windfall that makes their generosity possible? Have they seen and assessed the need and found the goodness within their own hearts?
4. There are many verses in the Bible, in the Old and New Testaments, that warn against the love of money (1 Sam 8:3; Ecc. 5:10; Matt 6:24, Luke 16:13-14; 1 Timothy 6:10; 2 Timothy 3:2; Hebrews 13:5), clearly a great temptation to men and women. What could cause the Macedonians to cast off that temptation? What are some of the words being used to describe their actions that are similar to those Titus used when reporting on the Corinthians’ response to Paul’s previous letter (see 7:10-11)? The suffering and afflicted nonbeliever may respond in any number of ways to a need such as what was before the Macedonians, including what appears to be generosity and joy in giving, but what is distinctive about this reaction from the believers in Macedonia? The question is, will the Corinthians, with their nature and history, respond similarly? How might it reflect on Christ and the church?
5. When God is involved, is the response all emotive? In verse 7, the phrase used is “act of grace”. This grace caused them to be joyful, but as we noted in the last chapter, this joy always results in evidence that is beyond expression of feeling but in action. Discuss the concept of grace being an action, how grace has been active in all of their outward manifestations of the inward change of heart, and how that fits in with the counter-intuitive, counter-cultural “strength in weakness” theme of the letter.
6. In verse 8, Paul says he is not giving a command … but he goes on to do just that in verse 11. He has just been addressing the grace that moves the Macedonians to generosity and that he knows has moved the Corinthians to obedience in other areas. Does Paul say this is not a command because he doesn’t want to take the spotlight off of grace? Read the whole section of 8-11. What is Paul saying about what should be motivating the Corinthians — and us — to be generous, and consider if that is the motivation, is a command necessary? Let’s discuss the tension between commands that can only be obeyed with the Spirit of Christ in our hearts and the Spirit of Christ that makes the heart willing and yet still the command has merit.
7. How does generosity in giving demonstrate the genuineness of love?
8. What is the purpose of Paul referencing the example of Christ in verse 9? (Remember his command in 1 Corinthians 11:1 to “be imitators of me as I am of Christ.”) What can we learn about Christ from this passage? In what sense was Christ rich? (See Isa. 6:1-5; John 17:5; Phil. 2:6) What is the form of poverty Christ experienced? (See Isa. 53; Phil. 2:6-8.) How do we become rich by his poverty? (See 5:21)
9. What does our response to need say about where our treasure lies (see Matthew 6:19:21.)?
10. According to verse 15, what is the final reason Paul offers, in the way of a reference to an Old Testament event, for being generous in giving? (See Exodus 16:13:21.)
11. How might our personal views or biases about money affect how we read this passage? What episodes in the gospel reflect Christ’s view of money, richness, and poverty? (See Luke 21:1-4; Luke 18:17-25; and Acts 5:1-11)
12. Verses 16-24 and 9:1-5 deal with the administration of the gift collected from the Corinthians for the Jerusalem church. Although it seems dry, there are still many things we can learn about Christ and the church. Let’s start with who has been chosen to be the collectors and couriers of the gift — and who will not do so. Why is it significant that Paul will not do this work? Who is chosen? How have these three been chosen? According to 9:3-5, what reason is Paul giving for the sending of the brothers to do the collection now?
13. What benefit does this narrative in God’s word provide us in understanding the role of other believers to rebuke, nudge, exhort, and encourage to do what we know is the right thing to do?
For Week 8 (B: February 6; A: February 12):
Please read 2 Corinthians 7:2-16. Note that the weekly lesson in the Ortlund text covers all of chapters 6 and 7. We went through 6:1-7:1 last meeting, so this week we will pick up with verse 2 of chapter 7. With this in mind, for Week 7: True Relationships and True Repentance, we will cover the remaining questions in the text.
1. Paul returns to the “heart” language that he used in chapter 6. Recall the significance of the “yoke” imagery as well as the OT references he uses in 6:14-18. In 6:13, Paul is encouraging the Corinthians to let only the word of God guide their affections and loyalties. What does his phrase “make room in your hearts” mean at this point in his letter (following 6:14-7:1)? (Note: Don’t be “restricted” by an individualistic view in your thoughts about this; Paul is writing to a specific church and his letter is included here as an exhortation to the whole (true) church.)
2. The order of the phrases in verse 3 is different than we might be accustomed to. Is this simply cultural syntax, or how might this reflect Paul’s prevailing focus of his ministry? How does Paul’s appeal to the Corinthians that they examine to whom they are yoked (in chapter 6) press through now in this reference to dying together and living together? Why is he proud of the Corinthians? What is the source of his comfort and joy, and how does that drive his manner and attitude toward even this group of believers who have maligned and opposed him?
3. Have you ever anticipated much needed good news? How did you respond when you finally heard what you were waiting for? Read through verses 5-7, and then back through 3-4, and consider what Paul is saying about how he felt … and whether he let his feelings determine how he would act.
4. Think about the 4 letters that we discussed at the beginning of this study, and what is thought the “missing” letters were about. The Corinthians’ response to the missing 3rd letter is likely what Paul is referring to in verses 8-12. What is the difference between worldly sorrow and godly sorrow? Can you give any examples of either from scripture, from history, from contemporary events, your life? When someone sins, they often damage human relationships, but when they expresses godly sorrow, what is it they are saying about who is the real offended party? How does addressing the true offended party also lead to improving upon the broken human relationships?
5. Why is Titus so excited? What does this scenario (Paul anticipating Titus’s report, Titus’s joy, and Paul’s response to it) say about the body of Christ, the fellowship of believers, and the variables of discipline, rebuke, and reconciliation in the life of the church?
For Week 7 (B: January 2; A: January 22. **NOTE the groups have switched order for the remainder of the study**):
Please read 2 Corinthians 6:1-7:1. Note that the weekly lesson in the Ortlund text covers all of chapters 6 and 7, however we will only go through chapter 6 and the first verse of chapter 7. With this in mind, for Week 7: True Relationships and True Repentance, we will cover the first 5 questions in the text.
The Old Testament passages have a great deal of significance to this chapter, so we will spend some time in Isaiah 49, Leviticus 26, Exodus 29, Ezekiel 37, Isaiah 52, Ezekiel 20, and 2 Samuel 7 in order to understand why Paul feels these passages carry meaning for the Corinthians (and us!).
1. Consider chapter 5’s meditation on the believer’s heavenly dwelling and the act that makes that possible, and the ministry of reconciliation that Paul (and we) now have available to us. Why does Paul appeal that the grace of God not be received in vain? Verse 2 begins with “for”, which indicates the OT quote is related to this warning. How so?
2. In reading through Isaiah 49, what specific language does God use that carries over as a specific fulfillment of the church at Corinth — and of us? What does Paul mean when he says “now is the favorable time; behold, now is the day of salvation”? What has occurred that this is “now” like no other time in history previous? How does that affect the individual believer? How is the church’s ministry of proclamation and reconciliation at the time of Paul’s writing and now a fulfillment of prophecy?
3. Paul refers to himself and his co-laborers as servants in verse 4. What are other ways in which he has described his role of ministry to the Corinthians? How might verses 4-10 be further reinforcement of those descriptions? What other list has Paul previously given that is similar to this? How might the Corinthians need to practice walking by faith and not by sight as they read through this list? Read Phil 4:11-13; 1 Tim 6:6-7; Luke 12:15) In what way could this be causing the restriction Paul refers to in verses 11-13?
4. Verses 14-16a have been quoted often in certain contexts. What contexts or lessons are you familiar with associating with these verses? It doesn’t mean that the more familiar lessons are not valid, but it’s important not to lose sight of the purpose these verses appear at this particular place in this chapter. First, we will look at the Old Testament passages quoted or referenced in verses 16b-18 and at the overarching message Paul is putting together with this particular selection of verses. Ultimately, this section is about the identity of God’s people and how they are distinguished from the world — the key concept will be what characterizes a dwelling place of God.
5. Now do you see why 7:1 belongs to this passage?
For Week 6 (A: December 11; B: December 19):
Please read 2 Corinthians 5. If you have the Ortlund text, please read Week 5: Reconciliation with God.
We will stick mostly with the progression of the chapter and the questions provided in the study guide. For those who don’t have the book, here are some of the things I hope we will go over:
1. What does Paul mean by the “tent that is our earthly home” and a “building from God . . . eternal in the heavens”? We will discuss why might Paul have used this analogy… what are the similarities and differences between tents and buildings? What is the point of Paul’s message here and how is it a continuance of the previous chapter, in particular the passage on “jars of clay”? Read also 1 Corinthians 15:35-56; Phil 3:10-11, 20-21. Based on verses 2-4 and 8, what does Paul consider the preferred state of existence?
2. In verse 5, Paul calls the Spirit out “guarantee”. Read 1:22 and Eph. 1:14. In the context of verses 1-10, what is the significance of the Spirit as our down payment or first installment? What is Paul saying?
3. In previous chapters, we are encouraged not to lose heart. What does Paul say in verse 6, and how is his argument related to those references? What, practically speaking, does Paul see in verses 6-7 as the result of the promise of future resurrection?
4. What does it mean to “walk by faith, not by sight”? Read Acts 20:17-24 for an example of Paul walking by faith. What did he do to demonstrate walking by faith, how might he have behaved if he had been acting by sight? Consider the context of all that we’ve covered so far in 2 Corinthians and what you know about the whole letter; the confidence Paul had in what is to come shaped everything about he lived in the present. How does your hope for the future shape an ordinary week for you?
5. In verses 9-10, Paul speaks of pleasing God before he speaks of appearing before the judgment seat of Christ. Why was this a priority for him? Does this contradict his teaching on justification by faith? How do the teachings on justification by faith and appearing before the judgment seat of Christ cohere? Read Matthew 25:31-40 and 1 Corinthians 3:12-15.
6. List all the reasons Paul gives in verses 11-21 for sharing with others the gospel of reconciliation with God. How is living as a disciple of Christ described here? What role does that play in your witness to the gospel of reconciliation?
7. In verse 11, Paul says he knows “the fear of the Lord”. Read Psalms 19:9; 25:14; 111:10 and Proverbs 14:27. What does it mean to fear the Lord?
8. What is Paul’s meaning in verse 16 where he says he regards no one according to the flesh? How does that fit in with this chapter and the whole letter?
9. In verse 17, Paul says, literally, “Therefore, if anyone in Christ, new creation.” He seems to be saying that if you have been united to Christ, you are swept into the new creation that dawned with the first coming of Christ. Read Isaiah 43:18-19; 65:17-23; 66:22-23 and reflect on what Paul may have had in mind when he spoke of this new creation. How does this newness manifest in the life of a disciple of Christ? Give examples from Scripture and your own life as well.
10. Reflect on the language of reconciliation in verses 18-21. In every day speech, what do we mean by “reconciling” two people? What change does this bring? According to this passage, what is done and not done in reconciliation? What is Paul saying God was doing in Christ? How are we ambassadors? What is the final message given in this chapter that we as ambassadors are to proclaim to the world?
For Week 5 (A: November 13; B: December 5):
1. Please read 2 Corinthians 4. If you have the Ortlund text, please read Week 5: Life Through Death.
We will stick mostly with the progression of the chapter and the questions provided in the study guide. For those who don’t have the book, here are some of the things I hope we will go over:
The antidote to losing heart. Read 1 John 4:4 and Galatians 1:10; consider the resistance to God’s ministry and whom or what we are up against. Read Matthew 4:8-11; Luke 22:53; and Ephesians 2:1-5.
Veiled hearts versus Light shining into hearts. How does the “god of this world” keep people from believing? How does the true God undo that blindness? What familiar passage does the proclamation by God in verse 6 come from? How might that be related to this passage (verses 4-6; see also 5:17; John 8:12; Colossians 1:12-14; and 1 Peter 2:19)?
Treasure in jars of clay. Go back to 1:3-11: What characterizes the Christian life? Would the world characterize this life as “treasure”? Yet, Paul does. Look at the experiences described as part of the Christian life in verses 8-9 and consider why it is that these are inevitable, and yet will not finally overcome us? What very crucial element sustains us eternally?
Proclaiming his death. How does speaking the gospel lead to more grace? to whom, under what circumstances?
For Week 4 (A: October 23; B: November 7):
1. Please read 2 Corinthians 3. If you have the Ortlund text, please read Week 4: The New Covenant.
We will stick mostly with the progression of the chapter and the questions provided in the study guide. For those who don’t have the book, here are some of the things I hope we will go over:
- The passage begins again with talk about sufficiency, whether Paul is sufficient, and how he proves his sufficiency. This time he refers to letters of recommendation and what are the letters of recommendation Paul counts on as his confidence that he is a sufficient minister of God. We’ll talk about what is essential about these letters.
- One of the most magnificent doctrines of the Bible is that of the New Covenant, so anticipate diving into the Old and New Testaments to find out what Paul means in verses 4-11 when he segues from the letters of recommendation to the letters of stone and the ministry of the Spirit. Not only will we read from Exodus 32-34, but also from Jeremiah 31 and Hebrews 7-10.
- Another lovely biblical theme is approached in this chapter, and that is the ministry of glory, what is different about how God reveals his glory in the New Testament and how this relates to freedom. Some passages to preview: Romans 6:6-14; Galatians 3:23-25; and 1 Peter 2:16-17.
For Week 3 (A: October 9; B: October 17):
1. Please read 2 Corinthians 1:12-2:17. If you have the Ortlund text, please read Week 3: Paul’s Pastoral Strategy.
- The passage begins with a boast. What is the essence of Paul’s boast? What does he contrast here in verse 12? Much of human dialogue is either outright or implicit boasting, and it is said we boast about (talk about) that in which we find our identity. Does this reflect your speech/dialogue with others? What do you boast in/find your identity in? (children; stuff; jobs; people we know, experiences we’ve had or places we’ve been; accolades or awards; politics, movements or causes) Paul exhorts the Corinthians elsewhere not to boast; how is his boasting here allowed?
- In verse 15, Paul is criticized for changing his travel plans and charged with being weak and vacillating. Recall Paul’s purpose in his interactions with the Corinthians (as with all the churches) — to bring the word of God with its message of grace to the people there. Can strategies change and yet the purpose remain unmoved?
- In verses 15-22, trace the theme from Paul’s explanation and defense to the fullness of Christ and the steadfastness of God’s character. What would you say is central in all of Paul’s thinking and motivations?
- In verse 20, What is Paul saying? How would you explain the role of Jesus as he relates to the entire Bible? How might this be a challenge to the Corinthians? (See Isaiah 53:2)
- In Hebrew culture and OT traditions, who received anointing, who did the anointing? How does this reinforce Paul’s message about his authority? Whose steps is he following in — and what does that mean for him and for all believers?
- How does Paul’s language in verses 23-24 and 2 Corinthians 2:1-4 indicate his feelings for the Corinthians? How might even his spirit being not at rest, as he describes it in verses 12-13, also reflect his feelings?
- On what validation does Paul base his decision not to visit them? This speaks to how we are guided by the Lord. How can he be so sure about this? How can we find assurance in knowing the decisions we make would withstand the witness of God?
- What is the relationship between biblical discipline and the unity of the body?
- In the procession described in verse 14, who is leading and who is being led? Who is the victor and whom the defeated enemy? How were defeated foes often treated at the end of the triumphal procession? How is this in keeping with Paul’s continued message to see weakness and sacrifice as the posture of the believer?
- What does Paul mean when he refers to “fragrance” and “aroma” in this passage?
- How does this posture authenticate Paul’s ministry?
For Week 2 (A: September 25; B: October 3):
1. Please read 2 Corinthians 1:1-11. If you have the Ortlund text, please read the Week 2: The Strange Path of Comfort.
2. Themes/Questions for discussion (from the Ortlund book and other sources)
- Paul opens his letter by immediately designating himself as an apostle, literally “one who is sent”. Skim through 2 Corinthians and note places where Paul returns to the theme of his legitimacy as a true apostle. What appears to have been the problem Paul is addressing regarding his own apostleship?
- What does it mean for Paul to call the Christians of Achaia “saints” (1:1)? Are you a saint? Why or why not?
- Reflect on Paul’s description of God the Father in verse 3. What are the words he uses? If you have time to look them up, what do they mean or what are synonyms for these words? From Isaiah 61:1-3 and John 14:16-17, what are some ways in which God comforts us? How have you experienced God in these ways? How did doing so change your relationship with him?
- According to verses 4 and 6, why do we experience affliction or suffering?
- How does 1:5 provide hope? What does it mean to “share … in Christ’s sufferings”? Does it mean Christ’s sufferings were not enough to atone for our sins, so we need to help with our own suffering? Consider Philippians 3:8-11 and Romans 8:31-38 as you reflect on the relationship between Christ’s sufferings and our own.
- “Comfort” used here and “helper” used in the passage from John 14 come from different forms of the same Greek word. What does that say to the comfort that is promised to us in this passage?
- How has suffering in your life helped you comfort or encourage another? What “death-like” experience have you had that makes this verse a solid rock of hope and comfort? How does intense suffering shift our reliance off ourselves?
- Read Psalm 23:1-6; 119:76; and Isaiah 61:1-7 with Luke 4:16-21. From these verses, how would you describe the ways God comforts his people?
- How does Paul integrate Christian prayer into his delivery from death (v. 11)? What role has prayer played in times of hardship in your life?
- What role does gratitude and praise play in Paul’s perspective on suffering?
For Week 1 (A: September 11; B: September 19):
If you have the Ortlund text, please read the Week 1 Overview. For an excellent accounting of the complete history of Paul’s relationship and interactions with the Corinthians, I highly recommend Sam Storms’ introduction here. It would also be helpful if you have some familiarity with 1 Corinthians, which most of you probably have because it is the more popular of the two letters. Either way, if you have time, read 1 Corinthians.
2. Expectations and Impressions
- What are some of the things you already know about the second letter to the Corinthians? Key passages or themes?
- From the background provided, what is your impression of Paul and why?
- What themes from 1 Corinthians do you expect will be carried over or to influence the themes of 2 Corinthians?
- Read 2 Corinthians 1:1-11. How does this passage align with your assessment of the themes and intentions of 1 Corinthians? Does the tone surprise you?
Links to websites and media that will supplement your preparation for each week’s study.
Online Bibles (read, search, cross-reference), commentaries, concordances, dictionaries:
Bible Study Tools
Blue Letter Bible
(Or get it all at Berean Wannabe)
Sites specific to the 2 Corinthians study with articles or sermons:
Carl Trueman’s sermon series on 2 Corinthians
Sam Storms on 2 Corinthians
John Gill’s Exposition of the Bible
Matthew Henry’s Complete Commentary on 2 Corinthians
Matthew Henry’s Concise Commentary on 2 Corinthians
John MacArthur/Grace to You sermons on 2 Corinthians
Kevin DeYoung, sermons on 2 Corinthians
Geoff Thomas, sermons on 2 Corinthians
This Bible study is a ministry of Three Rivers Grace Church.