Lesson 113

2 Corinthians 1–3

“Lesson 113: 2 Corinthians 1–3,” New Testament Seminary Teacher Manual (2016)


Introduction

Paul wrote to the Saints in Corinth and explained how they would be able to comfort others. He also exhorted them to forgive a sinner who had been in their congregation. Paul taught the Saints that if they turned to the Lord, they would become more like God.

Suggestions for Teaching

2 Corinthians 1

Paul teaches the Corinthian Saints how to comfort others

Invite students to think of a time when someone they know experienced a difficult trial or affliction.

  • What did you do to help him or her?

  • Have you ever wanted to comfort someone during a trial but didn’t know how?

Invite students to look for a truth as they study 2 Corinthians 1 that can help them know how to comfort others in their trials and afflictions.

Explain that after Paul wrote 1 Corinthians, a riot broke out in Ephesus in response to his teachings. (See Acts 19:23–41. Note: Asia was a Roman province in modern-day Turkey.) Paul left Ephesus and went to Macedonia, where Titus brought him news that Paul’s earlier letter had been well received by the Saints in Corinth. Paul also learned that the Saints were experiencing tribulations and that some false teachers in Corinth were corrupting the true doctrine of Christ. Paul wrote 2 Corinthians to comfort the Saints and to address the problems these unwelcome teachers had caused.

Invite several students to take turns reading aloud from 2 Corinthians 1:1–5. Ask the class to follow along, looking for what Paul told the Saints about their tribulations.

  • What did Paul tell the Saints about God in verse 3 that might have comforted them in their tribulations?

  • What truth can we learn from verse 4 about what we can do as we receive Heavenly Father’s comfort? (Students should identify a truth similar to the following: When Heavenly Father comforts us in our tribulations, we are able to help others receive His comfort.)

  • How has receiving God’s comfort during a trial helped you help someone else receive His comfort? (Consider sharing one of your experiences while students think of their own experiences.)

Summarize 2 Corinthians 1:6–8 by explaining that Paul told the Saints in Corinth about the severe and life-threatening tribulations he and his companions had experienced while preaching the gospel in Ephesus.

Invite a student to read 2 Corinthians 1:9–11 aloud. Ask the class to follow along, looking for what helped Paul and his companions during their trials.

  • What helped Paul and his companions during their trials?

  • What truth can you identify in verse 11 about how we can help people who are experiencing trials? (Students may use different words, but make sure they identify the following truth: Our prayers can help those who are experiencing trials.)

  • How can our prayers help someone who is experiencing trials?

  • How have the prayers of others helped you during a trial you experienced?

Summarize 2 Corinthians 1:12–24 by explaining that Paul rejoiced in those who had received the counsel he gave in his first epistle. In verses 15–20 Paul responded to those who found fault with him when he changed his plans to visit them. Some of Paul’s critics seemed to say that because Paul changed his travel plans they could no longer trust him or his teachings. Paul declared that the message of the gospel was true, regardless of his change in plans.

2 Corinthians 2

Paul exhorts the Saints in Corinth to forgive a sinner

Invite students to think of a time when a person hurt or offended them or someone they love.

  • Why might it be difficult to forgive that person?

Invite students to look for truths as they study 2 Corinthians 2 that will help them know why it is important to forgive all people.

Remind students that in Paul’s first letter to the Corinthians he had chastened them for their disobedience and lack of faith. Invite a student to read 2 Corinthians 2:1–4 aloud. Ask the class to follow along, looking for what Paul hoped the Saints in Corinth would know about his chastening.

  • According to verse 4, what did Paul want the Saints to know about his motive for chastening them?

  • How can chastening or correction be evidence of someone’s love for us?

Summarize 2 Corinthians 2:5–6 by explaining that Paul wrote about a Church member who had sinned against other Church members and had caused them grief. As a result, the Church had disciplined this man.

Invite a student to read 2 Corinthians 2:7–8 aloud. Ask the class to follow along, looking for what Paul said about how the Saints should treat this man.

  • How were the Saints supposed to treat this man who had caused so much grief?

Explain that even though this man had sinned, the worth of his soul is great in the sight of God (see D&C 18:10). Paul exhorted the Saints to forgive, comfort, and love this man to help him repent.

Invite students to read 2 Corinthians 2:9–11 silently, looking for another reason why Paul said the Saints should forgive others.

  • According to what Paul taught the Saints in verse 11, what is another reason we should forgive others? (Using their own words, students should identify the following truth: If we do not forgive others, Satan will have an advantage over us. You may want to suggest that students mark this truth in verse 11.)

Point out that forgiving others does not mean that the sinner should not be held accountable for his or her actions. Nor does it mean putting ourselves in situations in which people can continue to mistreat us. Rather, forgiving others means treating with love those who have mistreated us and harboring no resentment or anger toward them. We are commanded to forgive all men. (See Guide to the Scriptures, “Forgive,” scriptures.lds.org; D&C 64:9–11.)

  • How do you think Satan has an advantage over us when we do not forgive others?

Testify of the importance of forgiving others. Ask students to think about someone they may need to forgive. Invite them to set a goal to forgive this person so that Satan won’t have an advantage over them.

Explain that we read in 2 Corinthians 2:14 that Paul wrote that he thanked God, who always “cause[d him] to triumph in Christ,” even during difficult times.

2 Corinthians 3

Paul teaches the Saints in Corinth that as they turn to the Lord, they will become more like God

Explain that during Paul’s absence from Corinth, some false teachers began to oppose Paul’s teachings and tried to discredit Paul by telling the converts that they still needed to follow the law of Moses. Summarize 2 Corinthians 3:1 by explaining that in response to those who tried to discredit him, Paul asked the members of Corinth rhetorically if he needed to provide them with a “[letter] of commendation” that testified of his character and his legitimacy as a true Apostle of Jesus Christ. (Explain that in Paul’s time, newcomers to a community would carry letters of commendation with them. These letters introduced the newcomers and attested to their good character.)

Invite a student to read 2 Corinthians 3:2–3 aloud. Ask the class to follow along, looking for what Paul said served as his letter of commendation.

  • What served as Paul’s letter of commendation? (The Saints’ changed lives were like an epistle from Christ Himself.)

  • What does the phrase “known and read of all men” in verse 2 mean? (Many people would first come to know the Church and judge its truthfulness through the personal conduct and examples of Church members.)

Point out the phrase “not in tables of stone, but in fleshy tables of the heart” in verse 3 and explain that during Moses’s day, the commandments had been written on stone tablets. Paul taught the Corinthian Saints that, through the power of the Holy Ghost, the commandments had been written in their hearts.

Summarize 2 Corinthians 3:5–13 by explaining that Paul reasoned that if the old law of Moses, which was to be done away with, was itself glorious, then the glory of the everlasting gospel covenant is even greater. Paul reminded the Saints in Corinth that Moses wore a veil over his face when he came down from talking with the Lord on Mount Sinai because the children of Israel were afraid of the glory that emanated from his face.

Invite a student to read 2 Corinthians 3:14–15 aloud, and ask the class to follow along, looking for how Paul compared the Israelites who were afraid of the glory that emanated from Moses’s face to the Jews in his day.

  • How did Paul compare the Israelites who demanded Moses wear a veil to the Jews in his day?

  • What might the phrases “their minds were blinded” in verse 14 and “[they had a] veil … upon their heart” in verse 15 mean?

Invite a student to read 2 Corinthians 3:16–18 aloud. Ask the class to follow along, looking for what Paul promised would remove the veil of misunderstanding from the hearts and minds of the people. Point out that the Joseph Smith Translation modifies the phrase “when it shall turn to the Lord” in verse 16 to “when the heart shall turn to the Lord” (Joseph Smith Translation, 2 Corinthians 3:16).

  • According to the Joseph Smith Translation of 2 Corinthians 3:16, what did the people have to do to have the veil of misunderstanding removed?

Write on the board: As we turn our hearts to the Lord …

  • According to verse 18, what happens to those who turn to the Lord and have the veil of misunderstanding taken away? (Explain that the phrase “changed into the same image from glory to glory” refers to the gradual change we receive through the Spirit that helps us become more like God.)

Complete the statement on the board so that it reads, “As we turn our hearts to the Lord, we will have the Spirit, which will gradually help us become more like God.”

  • What do you think it means to turn our hearts to Jesus Christ?

Invite students to take one minute to list in their class notebooks or scripture study journals ways people can turn their hearts to Jesus Christ. Invite a few students to share their lists with the class.

Invite students to ponder how the Spirit has changed them or someone they know. Ask a few students to share their experiences with the class.

Invite students to think about what they could do to better turn to the Lord. Ask them to set a goal to turn to the Lord so they can receive the Spirit and become more like God.

Commentary and Background Information

2 Corinthians 2:1–4. Church leaders chasten Church members out of love

President Brigham Young explained the reason he chastened Church members:

“At times I may to many of the brethren appear to be severe. I sometimes chasten them; but it is because I wish them to live so that the power of God, like a flame of fire, will dwell within them and be around about them” (Discourses of Brigham Young, sel. John A. Widtsoe [1954], 115).

2 Corinthians 2:5–11. The importance of forgiving others

We gain an insight into Paul’s love and compassion from 2 Corinthians 2:5–11. We do not know whether the transgressor Paul referred to is the one mentioned in 1 Corinthians 5:1 or another offender—perhaps one of the false teachers in Corinth who had opposed Paul and his teachings. Paul encouraged Church members to forgive the man and comfort him so that he would not be “swallowed up with overmuch sorrow” (2 Corinthians 2:7).

2 Corinthians 3:1–2. Some judge the Church by its members’ examples

“Many people throughout the world have kind feelings toward the Church because of the acts of kindness and service they see manifest in the lives of Church members (see 2 Corinthians 3:2).

“Paul’s declaration that members of the Church are like epistles, ‘read of all men,’ suggests that the personal conduct of Church members is the way many will first come to know the Church and judge its truthfulness. Just as a shopkeeper is judged by the goods he sells, so the Church—and sometimes even Jesus Christ—is judged by the lives we live. Elder Bruce R. McConkie … taught, ‘In the ultimate sense, the gospel is not written on tablets of stone or in books of scripture, but in the bodies of faithful and obedient persons; the Saints are, thus, living epistles of the truth, the books of whose lives are open for all to read’ (Doctrinal New Testament Commentary, 3 vols. [1965–73], 2:414)” (New Testament Student Manual [Church Educational System manual, 2014], 395).