1 Paul, an apostle of Jesus Christ by the will of God, and Timothy our brother, To the church of God which is at Corinth, with all the saints who are in all Achaia:
As we launch this study of 2 Corinthians, I encourage you to read the “Introduction to 2 Corinthians” by clicking on the hyperlink above. This will give you the context and background of the two canonical Corinthian correspondences.
Second Corinthians is one of two of the most autobiographical books that Paul wrote (Philemon the other). We see his attitudes about people and things throughout the epistle.
Paul founded the Corinthian church about AD 51 and ministered there for 18 months. From Corinth, he continued his missionary work and eventually began a major work in Ephesus. While ministering in Ephesus, across the Aegean Sea, Paul received word about the wretched condition of the church at Corinth.
Instead of visiting Corinth via Macedonia, as he had planned (1 Co 16:5-9; 2 Co 1:16), he went straight to Corinth from Ephesus. This was a disastrous meeting. He called it a “painful” meeting. Because of this, he wrote a tough letter to the church (2 Co 2:1-5; 7:12; we do not possess this non-canonical letter). When he heard that the church responded well to this severe letter, he wrote 2 Corinthians.
Paul wrote a total of 29 canonical chapters to the church at Corinth. His relationship with this church was a troubled one.
The first two verses comprise the salutation to 2 Corinthians.
We learn more about the person of Paul in 2 Corinthians than in any other book he wrote. He significantly laid bare who he was and what he was. This is the most personal of all his epistles. He also revealed what others negatively thought about him.
an apostle of Jesus Christ
Paul was “an apostle of Jesus Christ.” He never spoke of himself as an apostle of the church.
Paul became a believer and an apostle at the same time. He was on his way to Damascus to persecute Christians, but God stopped him in his tracks. He believed in Jesus and was appointed an apostle, with the right to write Scripture and lay the foundation for the church, among other rights that no other leaders have. Paul claimed apostleship because he met the requirement of having seen Jesus personally and received the commission of apostleship from Him (1 Co 9:1; 15:8; Ga 1:11-17).
Paul did not hesitate to remind people of his authority to write Scripture. That is why he indicated that he was an “apostle.”
Paul had many detractors who claimed that he was not a true apostle. They minimized his ministry and militated against his message. This was a big issue. If we understand the importance of the apostle, we see why it was such a big issue. Paul made a major point of this in 2 Corinthians.
The word “apostle” means sent one. In Greek history, “apostle” was used as an admiral of a fleet of ships who was sent by a monarch to represent his kingdom. It was a military word. In the New Testament, the idea is of someone who had the highest authority in the church to write Scripture, among other things. The office of the apostle ceased with the writing of the New Testament.
The Holy Spirit gave this gift to a handful of men to launch the economy of the church. There are no apostles in this sense today. Sometimes Scripture uses the word “apostle” with the idea of a missionary; this is a proper use of the term today. However, it is not valid to use the term in the sense it was used for the apostles of the New Testament. The authority of the pastor today is not as an apostle; his authenticity comes from expounding Scripture.
Christian leadership requires authority to minister.
It is essential to understand the meaning of the biblical “apostle.” An apostle had the highest gift and role in Christianity. Only a few in the first century possessed the gift of apostleship. By claiming his role, Paul differentiated himself from people with lesser gifting, such as prophets or preachers. There were preachers in Paul’s day who were not sent from God but peddled their own message (2 Co 2:17).
There is another category of apostle that is not the same category as held by Paul, John, Mark, Matthew and Luke. These are apostles or delegates of church congregations. A local church, in this case, would commission them for a specific task. The Philippian church commissioned Epaphroditus to minister to Paul (Php 2:25). Titus and others carried a collection for Jerusalem from Corinth (2 Co 8:23).