Paul writes again to the church in Corinth. He, along with Timothy, wants to address his ongoing concerns with the situation on the ground there, and so sends a second letter. You can imagine that he will not be as gentle about some issues as before, especially if he is dealing with the same ones again.
The first chapter moves quickly from the typical greeting and introduction into the meat of the matter. Paul is not working to establish communications here, as in Romans, or to remind of the time he had already spent, as in 1 Corinthians.
His introduction here focuses on why he has not been to Corinth yet. Circumstances and situations have prevented Paul from visiting Corinth as he planned in 1 Corinthians 16, but he does not want them to consider him as unreliable because of that.
Let us take Paul’s response to the Corinthian charge of vacillating, saying both “yes” and “no.” He highlights, initially, his reasons for not getting there yet but then turns the conversation to something more important.
His turn, in 2 Corinthians 1:19-20, highlights that the answer in the Gospel is never “yes and no,” but always “yes.” The promises of God are a “yes,” that His grace will come through and meet the needs of His people.
This is the message that was preached by Paul and Silvanus (Silas) and Timothy: the Gospel is a “YES,” that you can be forgiven by the grace of God, that reconciliation between God and humanity is possible.
Practically, then, let us first look to what John Chrysostom said in the fourth century, and keep everything that we say of what we believe as something that we will not “unsay.” Our faith should be solid, not having a wondering mind.
That means we should assert as definite only those things about which we may be absolutely certain. This is why, for example, one should preach clearly every week that Christ is Risen INDEED! and that He will return someday, for certain. Picking a date, though, is far from being of value to the family of faith. It does little but destroy one’s credibility in other matters.
Likewise, as we apply the Gospel to life, we must consider which areas we may absolute on. As the extension of this, I would argue that every parent is charged by God to see to the education of their children. That does not mean, though, that I would certainly demand every Christian homeschool their child (or use private Christian schools). One thing I think is certain, the other is a consideration.
Paul holds that his words are solid, as the Gospel is solid. We should be the same way.
One area of debate in Pauline studies (Pauline studies=the study of the life and writings of Paul, or attributed to Paul, with the goal of determining what that history looks like and what theology it brings to the fore) is whether or not 1 and 2 Corinthians were originally perhaps more letters. Did Paul write to Corinth more than twice? Are there missing letters? Did his original 3 (or 4, or 5…) letters get composited into the 2 books of the Bible?
No matter how you slice that, Paul’s authorship is, to me, inescapable. His use of an amanuensis notwithstanding, it’s his letter.
That’s not really something in the scope of this blog post, but it’s a worthy investigation. Lean hard into a couple of good commentaries to wrestle with this. I’d grab the Baker Exegetical series on 1 & 2 Corinthians, the Pillar Series, Ben Witherington’s Socio-Rhetorical (for an additional viewpoint), and probably the New American Commentary. Some good commentaries are ones like the Preach the Word or the Teach the Text series, but these are more practically minded. If you’re teaching, start with those and work into the others.