Paul established the church in Corinth on his second missionary journey, staying there a full year and a half to help build up the church (Acts 18:1-22). After he left, he stayed in touch, writing letters to the church and making periodic visits. While the two letters of his we have are called First and Second Corinthians, they are more likely the second and fourth letters he wrote to them. Below is a brief outline of Paul’s relationship with this church:
Paul plants the church in Corinth (Acts 18).
Paul writes an original letter to the Corinthians, telling them “not to associate with sexually immoral people” (1 Corinthians 5:9).
Paul writes his second letter to the Corinthians (what we call 1 Corinthians) and announces plans to visit them (1 Corinthians 16:5-9).
Paul’s visit ended up being a “painful” one (2 Corinthians 2:1). He had a serious confrontation there with someone and left abruptly (2 Corinthians 2:1-2, 5-11). The church may have also become frustrated with Paul changing the travel plans he had laid out for them in 1 Corinthians (see 2 Corinthians 1:12-2:4).
After his painful visit, Paul returns to Ephesus and writes a third, sorrowful letter (2 Corinthians 2:3-4; 7:8). Titus delivers this letter to Corinth.
Paul and Titus meet up in Macedonia (2 Corinthians 7:5-9; 2:12-13). Titus tells Paul that his letter had been warmly received. Though it had been a sorrowful letter, it had led them to repent. They had also disciplined the one who had the encounter with Paul (2 Corinthians 2:5-11).
Paul sends Titus back to Corinth with a fourth letter (our 2 Corinthians). In this fourth letter, Paul assures the Corinthians of his love for them, defends his authority as an apostle (against some “super-apostles” who had come against him), and urges them to have a collection ready for the impoverished church in Jerusalem.
2 Corinthians: Forgiveness and Reconciliation in the Church
Click here to read this helpful overview of the book of 2 Corinthians.