Speaking for free. Traveling speakers and teachers were a common sight in Paul’s day. Some of them openly used their speaking skills to seek fame and fortune. Others claimed to despise materialism while privately pocketing large sums of money. Paul distinguished himself from such dishonest people by earning his own living through manual labor (1 Cor. 9:18; compare 1 Thess. 4:11).
The right way to observe the Lord’s Supper. Wealthy Corinthians in the church were apparently treating the Lord’s Supper as an opportunity to display their elite social status (1 Cor. 11:21–23). Paul reminds them of the true meaning of this important Christian observance (vv. 24–34).
The greatest is love. Jesus said that Christians should be famous for their love for each other (John 13:34–35), but the Corinthian church was becoming known for its divisions and arguments (see 1 Cor. 3:3; 6:1; 11:18). Paul tells them what Christian love should look like (1 Cor. ch. 13).
When the church meets, it should be to worship the Lord and to “build up” the church (1 Cor. 14:12, 16). “Building up” includes using words and actions to edify and instruct others, or to make others stronger and more mature in Christ.
Speaking the truth in an understandable way. When Paul said, “Bad company ruins good morals” (1 Cor. 15:33), he was probably quoting the words of a famous Athenian playwright. This is similar to Paul’s sermon in Athens (Acts 17:22–31), where he quotes from non-Christian writers. Christians can often share God’s truth with nonbelievers by relating it to ideas with which they are familiar.
Paul typically used a scribe or secretary to write down his letters as he dictated them. However, in order to remove any doubt that the letter reflected his actual thoughts and words, Paul would often sign his own name at the end (1 Cor. 16:21).
Amen is the Greek form of the Hebrew word meaning “to confirm.” The word is used throughout the Bible to affirm the truth of important statements (2 Cor. 1:20). Paul often ends his letters with “Amen” (see Rom. 16:27), but here in 2 Corinthians he says it near the beginning of his letter.
A new covenant. God wrote the first covenant, the law, on stone tablets (Ex. 24:12). The new covenant is “written” on hearts (2 Cor. 3:2–3; see Jer. 31:31–34; Ezek. 11:19). In other words, the Spirit changes believers’ hearts to enable them to obey God.
Treasure in jars of clay (2 Cor. 4:7). Paul used this word picture to contrast believers’ knowledge of the gospel (“treasure”) with the hardships and weaknesses believers experience daily (see Ps. 30:12; Isa. 30:14).
What does it mean to be “reconciled”?
To be reconciled means to be reunited with someone from whom one has been alienated. Forgiveness can lead to restored fellowship. Sin leads to alienation from God, but through Christ we can be forgiven and reconciled to God. “Be reconciled to God” (2 Cor. 5:20) is thus a wonderful invitation to the gospel (see also Rom. 5:11).
Titus (2 Cor. 7:6) was Paul’s coworker (2 Cor. 8:23). He had the unenviable task of delivering a severe letter from Paul to the Corinthians. Thankfully, the majority of the Corinthians repented of the sins that had prompted Paul’s letter (2 Cor. 7:7). Paul later wrote to Titus in Crete, where he was establishing churches.
Doing your fair share.
In 2 Cor. chs. 8–9, Paul asked the Corinthians to contribute money to his collection for poor Christians in Jerusalem. Paul did not expect them to give so much that they would be “burdened”; he only asked that they do their fair share (2 Cor. 8:13–14).
More than simple charity.
From the Jerusalem church, the good news about Christ had spread to the Gentile world. Paul’s collection (2 Cor. chs. 8–9) was an opportunity for Gentile believers to show gratitude to their Jewish brothers and sisters in Christ (see Rom. 15:27).
Problems in Corinth.
Paul’s second visit to Corinth was a painful one. The Corinthians had accepted false teachers, and they openly rebelled against Paul and the gospel. Grieved, he left and sent them a severe letter (now lost). Paul now warns them that during his third visit he will be forced to judge those who have not repented from their sins (2 Cor. 10:2; 12:20–21; 13:10).
Preaching for free.
Some traveling teachers in Paul’s day accepted money from their listeners, but Paul worked as a tentmaker to support himself (Acts 18:3; see 1 Cor. 9:4–18). Churches also supported his missions financially (2 Cor. 11:9).
Paul’s letter to the Galatians was likely written to the churches he established in the southern part of Galatia during his first missionary journey (Acts 13:1–14:28). He probably sent the letter from his home church in Antioch, sometime before the Jerusalem council (see Acts 15:1–31).
Justification by faith alone.
False teachers were trying to persuade the Galatians that they needed to practice circumcision and other outward ceremonies of the Mosaic law in order to be right with God. But Paul explains that only through faith in Christ can one be right with God (Gal. 2:16).
God’s promises to Abraham.
When Abraham believed God’s promises to him, God counted his faith as righteousness (Gen. 15:6). Paul uses this precedent to show that God’s promises to Abraham are for all who “hear with faith,” not just the people of Israel (Gal. 3:1–29).
“They” in Gal. 4:17 refers to the false teachers who were trying to persuade the Galatian believers that Paul was wrong about certain important issues. They avoided persecution and gained favor from the Jews by requiring circumcision (Gal. 6:12–13).
To walk by the Spirit means making decisions and choices based on the Holy Spirit’s guidance (Gal. 5:16, 25). It also involves relying on the Spirit’s power to conquer sinful desires (Gal. 5:17–18). The Spirit will produce “fruits” of godliness in the believer’s life (Gal. 5:22–23).