After more than 40 years as a Christian, I’ve noticed a strange thing about 2 Corinthians. On the one hand, I’ve rarely seen people go through all of it in a Bible study or sermon series. On the other hand, I constantly see people drop into favorite verses or sections or themes. “We walk by faith and not by sight,” “We have this treasure in jars of clay,” “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness,” are familiar and beloved phrases from this letter.
Many of us turn instinctively to chapters 8-9 to think about generous giving, or to the theme of suffering and hope that is woven through the letter. These are wonderful habits. May the beloved themes and chapters and verses of this letter be like that favorite drawer in the kitchen with the best snacks to dip into after a long day.
In addition, I encourage you to also seek to read and master the whole letter. Sure, it’s complicated at points as we try to track Paul’s whereabouts and difficult relationship with this church. But the more we master the letter as a whole, the greater joy and help we’ll find from its verses and themes.
To help this letter be a blessing for your road, here’s a “cheat sheet” with 5 key themes, such as suffering and leadership, and pointers to key chapters and verses. If you’d like to print it out, you can download it here. As you return to this letter again and again, may the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ and the love of God and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all.
2 Corinthians “Cheat Sheet”
Theme: gospel. The gospel is good news to you and through you.
1:2 Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.
1:20 For all the promises of God find their Yes in [Christ].
3:18 And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another.
5:15 and he died for all, that those who live might no longer live for themselves but for him who for their sake died and was raised.
5:17 …if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold the new has come.
5:18 All this is from God, who through Christ reconciled us to himself and gave us the ministry of reconciliation…
5:20 …we are ambassadors for Christ…
13:4 For [Christ] was crucified in weakness, but lives by the power of God.
For the road: How is the gospel promoting joy in you? Concern for others?
Theme: repentance. Genuine repentance leads to real change.
7:10 For godly grief produces a repentance that leads to salvation without regret, whereas worldly grief produces death.
For the road: Why do some people express sorrow, but fail to change, while others express sorrow that leads to deep change?
Theme: generosity. Give freely and cheerfully to God’s work.
8:9 For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sake he became poor, so that you, by his poverty might become rich.
8:7 But as you excel in everything…see that you excel in this act of grace also.
9:7 Each one must give as he has decided in his heart, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver.
For the road: What is one step you could take to become more generous in the next year?
Theme: leadership. Godly leaders exercise authority with meekness and gentleness.
11:4 …if someone comes and proclaims another Jesus…you put up with it…
1:24 Not that we lord it over your faith, but we work with you for your joy…
7:3 …you are in our hearts…
10:1 I, Paul, myself entreat you by the meekness and gentleness of Christ…
11:30 If I must boast, I will boast of the things that show my weakness
12:15 I will most gladly spend and be spent for your souls.
For the road: How do these chapters shape our view of the kind of leadership we seek in our church?
Theme: suffering. God comforts us in all our sufferings and afflictions so we can comfort others.
1:3-4 …God…comforts us in all our affliction so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction…
4:7 we have this treasure in jars of clay…
4:16 Though our outer nature is wasting away, our inner nature is being renewed day by day.
5:1 …if the tent which is our earthly home is destroyed, we have a building from God…
12:9-10 “My grace is sufficient for you for my power is made perfect in weakness.”
For the road: How does this letter widen our view of suffering and affliction beyond “avoid it at all costs” or “just be tough and deal with it” to “a place where we meet God”?
P.S. Got comments or questions about this post, or ideas for another one? Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.