When people receive the gospel, they are made a new creation (2 Cor. 5:17) with a new direction. From the point of our conversion on, we are moving more and more toward Christlikeness, though that does not mean sinlessness in this life. Sometimes we experience setbacks. Sometimes we find ourselves being conformed more to the world than to Jesus. After all, we are never wholly without sin until we are glorified (1 John 1:8–10). God will surely finish the good work He has begun in us (Phil. 1:6), but sometimes the progress of that work seems unbearably slow.
As we saw in our study of 1 Corinthians, the first-century church at Corinth was living proof that sanctification can be slow going and that professing believers can fall into serious sin. The wealthy, influential, and cosmopolitan city of Corinth presented all manner of temptations to sexual sin, pride, belief in vain philosophies, and more, and the Corinthian believers had succumbed to them. So, Paul wrote 1 Corinthians to correct the problem.
The Apostle’s first canonical letter to the Corinthians, however, did not turn things around in Corinth. Timothy, whom Paul had dispatched to Corinth to teach and to help address the church’s problems there (1 Cor. 4:17; 16:10–11), brought news that troubles continued. So, Paul abandoned his initial plans to visit Corinth again only after traveling through Macedonia (1 Cor. 16:5–9). Instead, he went straight to Corinth to deal with the church directly. This visit did not go well, for Paul faced much opposition from false apostles and a stubborn Corinthian congregation. The Apostle calls this his “painful visit” (2 Cor. 2:1). Returning to Ephesus, where he wrote 1 Corinthians, Paul then wrote a letter of rebuke, which Titus carried to Corinth. We do not have a copy of this letter, but when Paul was reunited with Titus, he learned that the letter had the intended effect. Many in the Corinthian church had repented and wanted reconciliation with the Apostle (7:5–9). Paul wrote 2 Corinthians in response to this good news. As our study progresses, we will look in more detail at the background of this epistle.
Paul’s opening greetings include a blessing of grace and peace from God the Father and God the Son (2 Cor. 1:1–2). The grace—unmerited favor—that our Creator has shown by sending the Lord Jesus Christ to save His people creates everlasting peace between God and all who trust in Jesus alone for salvation (Rom. 5:1).