After a Bible reader has waded through some of the significant issues and controversies of 1 Corinthians, it is easy to treat a letter like 2 Corinthians as a kind of “appendix.” The letter follows no formal outline, and shifts in its tone, so much that there are examiners who think that 2 Corinthians could actually be a compilation of multiple pieces of correspondence. What is the point of 2 Corinthians? That a figure like the Apostle Paul has heard about the much-improved behavior of the Corinthians (2 Corinthians 7:6-16), and that he is preparing this audience to see him again in person (2 Corinthians 12:14; 13:1), are clear enough.
2 Corinthians is an intensely personal letter written by the Apostle Paul to an audience which has some significant spiritual difficulties. All too frequently, it can be forgotten that a good part of Paul’s ministry service was about much more than just providing First Century Believers with good theology; a good part of Paul’s ministry service was demonstrating through his consistent faithfulness a genuine emulation of the Lord Yeshua and a complete reliance upon God. To understand and appreciate a letter like 2 Corinthians, is to not just identify with the Apostle Paul and his legacy of service—but to also enter into a venue where each of us should consider how little or how much various leaders, teachers, and servants in the Body of Messiah throughout history have conformed to his example. As is directed, “Therefore I am well content with weaknesses, with insults, with distresses, with persecutions, with difficulties, for Messiah’s sake; for when I am weak, then I am strong” (2 Corinthians 12:10). While there are bits and pieces of 2 Corinthians which we have all benefited from in our reading of Holy Scripture and personal times of meditation, recognizing the critical place of this letter for understanding the person of the Apostle Paul, and the legitimate strains and stresses of serving God, needs to be better recognized.
As today’s broad Messianic movement enters into the late 2010s, the letter of 2 Corinthians—while surely presenting some important theological discussions—may surprisingly offer us more to consider about our present level of spirituality. There are First Century background issues involving Second Temple Judaism and Greco-Roman classicism to be weighed, but there are more vital questions to be probed about the difficulties faced by an individual person like Paul. How much do we not consider ourselves as beneficiaries of not just Paul’s letters, but his steadfast devotion to the Messiah? What overlooked lessons and necessary corrections, do today’s Messianic people need to take from 2 Corinthians—especially given the new challenges that we will be facing, as salvation history steadily moves toward the return of Israel’s Messiah?