This letter, like Paul's First Epistle to the Corinthians, was written by the apostle to the church he had recently organized in the southern Greek port city of Corinth. Paul knew in writing this later letter that his earlier correspondence had not fully resolved the issues he had there addressed. And he knew that certain persons had since come to the congregation questioning Paul's authority and right to be called an apostle. These itinerant preachers may have remembered Paul's past as a persecutor of Christians (Acts 8.1-3) and been unable to trust him. Paul refers to them as “false apostles” (11.13), and judging by what had been reported to him, he declares that they are preaching “another Jesus, whom we have not preached” (11.4). These opponents of Paul had come with “epistles of commendation” (3.1) and boasted of the wonders they had performed. Defending himself against this opposition was a difficult challenge for Paul, but in doing so in this letter he is able to articulate some of his deepest theological guidance. He contends here that the true credentials of apostolic ministry are linked to the cross of Christ, and that it is in an apostle's weakness that Christ's power is made evident: “For though he was crucified through weakness, yet he liveth by the power of God. For we also are weak in him, but we shall live with him by the power of God toward you” (13.4).
Second Corinthians was sent from Macedonia (northern Greece) at some point around a.d. 55. It is somewhat disjointed in structure, as its topics and tone are subject to sudden shifts. It may thus be that this letter actually contains parts of several letters of Paul to the Corinthian church that were simply brought together in the process of preserving Paul's important correspondence. In the first section of this letter, Paul reviews the relationship he shares with the Corinthian church as its founder, and he seeks to make peace with his opponents. He describes his joy in learning that his earlier anguished, tear-filled letter (2.4) had produced good results—repentance and reconciliation in the church. In chapters 8–9, on grounds of a solidarity shared everywhere by those who are Christ's followers, Paul appeals to the Corinthians for help in a collection for needy Christians in Judea. In the final section Paul vigorously defends his apostolic credentials and authority.
Greetings and Prayers of Thanks (1.1-11)
Paul Desires Reconciliation with His Opponents (1.12—7.16)
Paul Encourages the Corinthians to Be Generous in Helping the Needy (8.1—9.15)
Paul Defends His Authority and Standing as a True Apostle of Christ (10.1—12.13)
Paul's Plans and Final Warnings and Greetings (12.14—13.14)