Join us as we study through 2 Corinthians verse by verse. Our discussion questions, teaching points, and applications can help you or your small group get the most out of this book as you grow in understanding and obedience.

2 Corinthians 1:1-11 Inductive Bible Study Guide

Intro and Background

Corinth was an important economic and cultural city in the ancient world. It had prospered due to nearby overland trade routes, which were used by ship merchants to haul their ships by land instead of sailing the long way around. But the city was so corrupt that an idiom was coined “like a Corinthian,” which meant someone who was extremely immoral. A famous temple of Aphrodite was built honoring the goddess. The temple employed over 1000 sex slaves.

It was in this toxic atmosphere that Paul helped to plant a church. However, he then left to do ministry elsewhere. More than perhaps any other New Testament church, the church at Corinth struggled mightily. Sinful culture was creeping in and influencing church members. Immorality and division were taking over. False apostles were also infiltrating the church, attacking Paul’s character. If they could get the people of the church to rebel against Paul, then they had hope of misleading them with their false doctrines.

So Paul went to visit them (2:1) and it didn’t go well. He was publicly insulted (2:5-10) and the church at large did not rise up to his defense. So he left and sent them a “severe letter” (2:4)

Eventually they repented and Paul was very comforted in their reconciliation with him (7:7)

History

  • A major city at that time on the isthmus connecting the two parts of Greece.
  • Major in trade as land and sea travel passed through.
  • Entertainment center and host of the Isthmus games.
  • Capital of a Roman province.
  • A center of pagan worship and the temple to Aphrodite, 1000 or more temple prostitutes.
  • A city with gross immorality such that behaving like a Corinthian became an idiom for gross immorality.

Founding of the church

  • First leader of the Corinthian church, Paul.
  • Traveled there on his second missionary journey (Acts 18:11)
  • Met Aquila and Priscilla.
  • Worked in Corinth preaching and tent-making one and a half years.
  • Was joined by Timothy and Silas.
  • Met much resistance and was charged by the Jews before the court. Case thrown out.
  • After Paul left Apollos became the next pastor (Acts 18:24-19:1)
  • Paul wrote another letter before 1st Corinthians to correct them in some areas (1 Corinthians 5:9, but it was lost).

Outline

I. Greeting (1-2)
II. The God of all comfort (3-7)
III. Testimony of God sustaining through suffering (8-11)

I. Greeting (1-2)

Discussion Questions

  • Why does Paul always emphasize his apostleship in his greeting?
  • Why was this especially important as he wrote to the church at Corinth?
  • Why did Paul mention Timothy here?

Teaching Points

1. Paul an apostle – Paul starts off introducing himself. As he normally does, he reminds his readers of his credentials. He is an apostle. Therefore they should listen. This is always true, but especially important for the Corinthian church. On a previous visit, there were some in the church who openly challenged his authority and argued with him. False teachers tried to lead them astray. Paul cared for them and knew that when they rebelled against him they went into the danger zone and risked falling away from the true faith.

Application: At times, you may need to establish your God-given authority. It should not be done pridefully, but out of a sincere desire for others’ well being. For example, parents need to remind their children that they are the authority established by God. This is for their children’s own good.

II. The God of all comfort (3-7)

Discussion Questions

  • What does this passage show us about Paul’s focus and foundation?
  • What character quality of God does he emphasize?
  • Why might he have emphasized this?
  • Why is it important for us to know that God is a God of comfort?
  • What specific ways does He comfort people in affliction?
  • Can you share any examples of ways God has comforted you during trials?
  • What is one reason God may allow you to go through suffering based on this passage?
  • How exactly do believers “share abundantly in comfort?”
  • How could Paul’s affliction help the Corinthians?
  • What kind of sufferings might the Corinthians have had to share in?

Cross-References

Psalm 23:4 – Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me.

Psalm 119:76 – Let your steadfast love comfort me according to your promise to your servant.

Psalm 119:50 – This is my comfort in my affliction, that your promise gives me life.

Matthew 5:4 – Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.

Teaching Points

1. Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ – Paul often starts and ends his epistles with praise for God. These bookends enclose more comments of praise for God in the middle. Praising God is central to Paul’s books and his theology. This is an important reminder that Christ should be at the center of our thoughts. When He is at the center this will show in our conversations.

Application: When you talk with others, do you always end up talking about Jesus? If so, that is a good thing and reveals what you are thinking about.

2. God of all comfort – Paul describes God as the “God of all comfort.” Then he expounds on this thought for the rest of this passage. It is not a character quality that people often think about in relation to God. However, Paul had been thinking about it since he himself had recently experienced God’s comfort in the midst of an affliction that he faced (8-11).

However, when you think about this statement it is clearly true that God is God of all comfort. There is no real comfort apart from God. The Bible tells us that every person is a sinner and will face judgment for that sin. Apart from Christ, each person will face an eternity in hell. What comfort can be shared with a person who is on their way to hell? Or what comfort can be shared with a person who lost a relative who went to hell?

There is none. If a person is dying with cancer and doesn’t know the Lord, there is no real comfort for that person. If a person has lost a parent who doesn’t know the Lord, there is no real comfort for that person.

Now certainly in this world people would try to offer comfort to others. A person loses his job. “Don’t worry, you will find another one.” Someone gets a bad case of the flue, “It will pass.” But this is only temporal comfort. It doesn’t address a person’s real issues.

Think of it in this way. If a mother with cancer stubs her toe is it comforting to tell her that her stubbed toe will feel better soon? This isn’t her real problem.

So some also try to hide the facts. In Asian countries, when elderly people get cancer or other terminal illnesses their family will often cover it up and lie to them that “everything will be OK.” Again, it is temporal comfort. But it isn’t real. It’s a lie. It’s a facade. That illusion of comfort will at some point be taken away.

In a similar way, many live in “ignorant bliss” about their spiritual destiny. They try to comfort themselves by ignoring the spiritual reality and repeating to themselves over and over, “everything will be OK.” But it won’t be OK.

There is no comfort for a person who is still living in sin. Often times when people die others will say “RIP.” Rest in Peace. And they will say, “at least he is not in pain anymore.” But you can’t say this about an unbeliever. They are not resting in peace. There is no comfort for them. And there is no comfort for their family.

Apart from God, nothing will be OK. There is no real and lasting comfort apart from what God can give. And it is given only to those who experience salvation and have a relationship with Him.

If a person comes to God for comfort, he will receive it.

Matthew 5:4 – Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.

If you mourn over sin, you will receive comfort.

God promises forgiveness of sins. There will be a final comfort for believers when every tear is washed away, every pain gone, every sadness turned to joy, and every sin confirmed to be paid for as we are made perfect forever in God’s presence. But there is also a comfort now to those who mourn for sin.

God does not hold your sin against you. When you confess, He removes it as far as the East is from the West. There is comfort in the promise of forgiveness.

If a loved one passes away who is saved, we don’t grieve as those who have no hope. Knowing that person is in heaven with Christ is a comfort (1 Thessalonians 4:13).

God gives real comfort to those who repent of their sin. And though they may face temporary afflictions, these pale in comparison to the eternal blessings in store for them.

If you are facing trials or pain today and you are in God’s kingdom already, be comforted by this verse. And use it to comfort others.

Reflect: Share various ways God comforts believers.

2. Who comforts us in our affliction –

Here are some of the ways He comforts us in affliction:

  • He promises that our pain and tears will be wiped away.
  • He promises that our sins are forgiven if we confess.
  • He promises that He will cause everything to work together for good if we love Him.
  • He promises that He will never leave us or forsake it.
  • He promises that He will strengthen us to be overwhelming conquerors.

3. So that we comfort those who are in any affliction with the comfort we have received –

Paul says explicitly that one reason God comforts us is so that we can comfort others. It is difficult to pass on something you don’t have and have never experienced. While it is not impossible for a single person to teach on marriage (by expounding on God’s Word), it is more difficult than if that person has been married and has been able to apply firsthand the lessons in the Bible on marriage.

It is also easier for a person who has experience applying biblical principles to raising children to teach others how to do the same.

One common sentence people use to comfort others is, “I know how you feel.” And the normal response is , “You don’t know how I feel!” But when you have received comfort in God’s promises, answered prayer, intimate friendship, and Spirit giving power to overcome, you will have something real and vibrant to share with others who have faced similar afflictions to you. You can honestly tell them, “When I faced the biggest trial of my life, this is how God comforted me.”

Reflect: Share specific ways He has comforted you in the midst of affliction or difficulty.

4. As we share in Christ’s sufferings – Paul refers to persecution. Believers who desire to live a godly life in Christ will be persecuted (2 Timothy 3:12). Though believers in different places at different times will experience persecution to different levels, all will experience it in at least some form.

5. Through Christ we share abundantly in comfort too – Throughout the Bible, we learn that God expects us to pass on what we have received. The man who was possessed by a legion of demons was saved and the demons were cast out. He was commanded to go and tell others what God had done for Him (Mark 5).

As believers, we should speak in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs (Ephesians 5:19). We are to actively seek to encourage each other by sharing testimonies and passing on what we learn from Scripture. And to unbelievers, we share the gospel.

In this verse, we are reminded to comfort other believers. We have to be sensitive and observant. When we see those hurting, we should take initiative to reach out. It could start as simply as making a friend and listening. And when someone tells us of a difficult thing in their life, then you can stop right there and say, “Let me pray for you.” Do it right away.

Application: How can you comfort other believers? Is there a specific person who is in the middle of a trial whom you can reach out to?

6. If we are afflicted it is for your comfort and salvation – The afflictions Paul and his team faced were because of his efforts in sharing the gospel. If he did not make these efforts he would not be afflicted. And if he did not make these efforts they would not have received the gospel and experienced ultimate comfort or salvation.

7. As you share in our sufferings, you will share in our comfort – When people suffer for Christ and stand firm in the faith it is evidence that their faith is real and that they are real believers. So by faithfully sharing in the sufferings of Paul, the Corinthians proved their faith. Paul knew that when they persevered in their walk with the Lord that they too would share in the comfort that God gives to believers.

III. Testimony of God sustaining through suffering (8-11)

Discussion Questions

  • What had Paul and his team recently gone through?
  • How did they feel during that time?
  • What did Paul realize the purpose for this affliction was in his life?
  • Can you share a testimony of a similar experience and how a trial helped you depend on God?
  • How did this experience change their outlook?
  • What could the Corinthians do on their behalf as they faced affliction?
  • What are some specific ways you can support other believers who are going through suffering?

Cross-References

1 Peter 5:10 – And after you have suffered a little while, the God of all grace, who has called you to his eternal glory in Christ, will himself restore, confirm, strengthen, and establish you.

Romans 8:18 – For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us.

Romans 5:3-5 – More than that, we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.

Romans 8:28 – And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.

Teaching Points

1. Of the affliction we experienced in Asia – Paul was not talking in hypotheticals. He himself had received this comfort. He had experienced it in the midst of grave troubles and this helped him to be able to pass it on to them.

Paul and his team experienced a serious affliction. It is not clear what this is, but it was almost certainly persecution that came about due to their preaching of the gospel. He experienced all kinds of trials including shipwrecks, beatings, whippings, and stoning.

And this specific affliction appears to be one of the most difficult. He says that they were “utterly burdened beyond our strength” and “despaired of life itself” and “we felt that we had received the sentence of death.”

Application: Have you ever felt like this? In moments like this the only thing to do is to turn to God, pour out your heart to Him, and seek the comfort that only He can give.

2. That was to make us rely not on ourselves but on God – Paul realized that the trial itself was beneficial for them. The severity of it forced them to rely on God. It made them humble. It made them seek God’s help.

We are commanded not to “lean on our own understanding” (Proverbs 3:5). We are not to rely on ourselves in any way, our intelligence, our strength, our logic, our skill, or our connections. But this can be harder said than done! So sometimes God helps us to reach the point of total dependency on Him. And He may do this by allowing us to experience a trial so difficult that we come face to face with the knowledge that we are completely inadequate to handle it and turn to God out of complete desperation.

3. On Him we have set our hope – Paul’s team rightly decided to set their hope on God alone.

Reflect: What about you? Do you set your hope on God? What are some other things that you may be tempted to rely on or hope in?

4. You must help us by prayer – One of the most important lessons we get in this passage is that we should help each other! In Jesus we are one family. And a family is supposed to be there for each other. We can help to carry one another’s burdens. Weep with those who weep (Romans 12:15).

Compassion may not naturally be your strong suit. If that is true, God wants you to grow in that area! Brothers and sisters are struggling. Do not let them face it alone. Reach out. Show your care. Make a friend. Listen. Pray. Practice simple acts of love and kindness. And finally, use the truth of God’s Word to comfort believers with the promises of God and remind them of the ultimate comfort He gives to His children.

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