As Philippians amazes us with its unveiling of the quality of Paul's commitment as a Christian, 2 Corinthians astounds us by its revelation of the radical caliber of his commitment as a servant and apostle of Christ. Open to view in this letter is the heartthrob of that gospel ministry that belongs to every member of Christ, clergy and laity alike—its life commitment, its divine resources, and its cross/resurrection character. Witness is borne to the inescapable truth that the mission of the church as the body of Christ is to carry on the self-giving, sacrificial, and suffering ministry of Jesus.
To the contemporary church this letter raises questions about the shape of its message and the nature and style of its ministry. The theological dimension of the letter is of crucial significance for the self-understanding of the church in today's world. Frank G. Carver moves verse-by-verse through 2 Corinthians after providing an in-depth introduction.
“At the end of the day we must admit that we do not and cannot know precisely what the apostle meant by his thorn in the flesh. This may be beneficial for those of us in ministry. We learn from Paul that, in spite of his heavenly rapture, God gave him ‘something to keep him weak, and that his weakness … becomes the ‘criterion of ministry’ ’ (Martin 1986, 393). We all know our own particular thorn. Like Paul, we can trust God to grant us a perspective from which to handle whatever plagues our outward nature—whether physical or emotional affliction, the actions of others, or unrelieved circumstances that humiliate us.” (Pages 337–338)
“What Satan was allowed to use against him as an instrument of torture, God in his providence used to serve his divine purpose in Paul’s life: ‘to keep [him] from being too elated’ (NRSV).” (Page 336)
“Whatever we trust for the future has its inevitable impact on how we conduct ourselves in the present” (Page 181)
“It is in the throes of Paul’s weakness that he will know the power of the resurrection. This was true of his Lord, who ‘was crucified in weakness, yet he lives by God’s power’ (13:4). Weakness becomes both ‘a prerequisite and a concomitant of Christ’s power’ (Harris 2005, 864).” (Page 339)
“As always the glory belongs to God (4:6, 15, 17; see 10:17–18), for ‘we live by faith, not by sight’! With John Wesley, ‘They that live by faith, ‘walk by faith’ ’ (1985, 54).” (Page 180)