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From Paul, chosen by God to be an apostle of Jesus Christ, and from Timothy, who is also a follower.

To God’s church in Corinth and to all of God’s people in Achaia.

I pray that God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ will be kind to you and will bless you with peace!

Paul Gives Thanks

Praise God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! The Father is a merciful God, who always gives us comfort. He comforts us when we are in trouble, so that we can share that same comfort with others in trouble. We share in the terrible sufferings of Christ, but also in the wonderful comfort he gives. We suffer in the hope that you will be comforted and saved. And because we are comforted, you will also be comforted, as you patiently endure suffering like ours. You never disappoint us. You suffered as much as we did, and we know that you will be comforted as we were.

My friends, I want you to know what a hard time we had in Asia. Our sufferings were so horrible and so unbearable that death seemed certain. In fact, we felt sure that we were going to die. But this made us stop trusting in ourselves and start trusting God, who raises the dead to life. 10 God saved us from the threat of death,[a] and we are sure that he will do it again and again. 11 Please help us by praying for us. Then many people will give thanks for the blessings we receive in answer to all these prayers.

Paul’s Change of Plans

12 We can be proud of our clear conscience. We have always lived honestly and sincerely, especially when we were with you. And we were guided by God’s wonderful kindness instead of by the wisdom of this world. 13 I am not writing anything you cannot read and understand. I hope you will understand it completely, 14 just as you already partly understand us. Then when our Lord Jesus returns, you can be as proud of us as we are of you.

15 I was so sure of your pride in us that I had planned to visit you first of all. In this way you would have the blessing of two visits from me. 16 Once on my way to Macedonia and again on my return from there. Then you could send me on to Judea. 17 Do you think I couldn’t make up my mind about what to do? Or do I seem like someone who says “Yes” or “No” simply to please others? 18 God can be trusted, and so can I, when I say that our answer to you has always been “Yes” and never “No.” 19 This is because Jesus Christ the Son of God is always “Yes” and never “No.” And he is the one that Silas,[b] Timothy, and I told you about.

20 Christ says “Yes” to all of God’s promises. That’s why we have Christ to say “Amen”[c] for us to the glory of God. 21 And so God makes it possible for you and us to stand firmly together with Christ. God is also the one who chose us 22 and put his Spirit in our hearts to show that we belong only to him.

23 God is my witness that I stayed away from Corinth, just to keep from being hard on you. 24 We are not bosses who tell you what to believe. We are working with you to make you glad, because your faith is strong.

I have decided not to make my next visit with you so painful. If I make you feel bad, who would be left to cheer me up, except the people I had made to feel bad? The reason I want to be happy is to make you happy. I wrote as I did because I didn’t want to visit you and be made to feel bad, when you should make me feel happy. At the time I wrote, I was suffering terribly. My eyes were full of tears, and my heart was broken. But I didn’t want to make you feel bad. I only wanted to let you know how much I cared for you.

Forgiveness

I don’t want to be hard on you. But if one of you has made someone feel bad, I am not really the one who has been made to feel bad. Some of you are the ones. Most of you have already pointed out the wrong that person did, and that is punishment enough for what was done.

When people sin, you should forgive and comfort them, so they won’t give up in despair. You should make them sure of your love for them.

I also wrote because I wanted to test you and find out if you would follow my instructions. 10 I will forgive anyone you forgive. Yes, for your sake and with Christ as my witness, I have forgiven whatever needed to be forgiven. 11 I have done this to keep Satan from getting the better of us. We all know what goes on in his mind.

12 When I went to Troas to preach the good news about Christ, I found that the Lord had already prepared the way. 13 But I was worried when I didn’t find my friend Titus there. So I left the other followers and went on to Macedonia.

14 I am grateful that God always makes it possible for Christ to lead us to victory. God also helps us spread the knowledge about Christ everywhere, and this knowledge is like the smell of perfume. 15-16 In fact, God thinks of us as a perfume that brings Christ to everyone. For people who are being saved, this perfume has a sweet smell and leads them to a better life. But for people who are lost, it has a bad smell and leads them to a horrible death.

No one really has what it takes to do this work. 17 A lot of people try to get rich from preaching God’s message. But we are God’s sincere messengers, and by the power of Christ we speak our message with God as our witness.

God’s New Agreement

Are we once again bragging about ourselves? Do we need letters to you or from you to tell others about us? Some people do need letters that tell about them. But you are our letter, and you are in our[d] hearts for everyone to read and understand. You are like a letter written by Christ and delivered by us. But you are not written with pen and ink or on tablets made of stone. You are written in our hearts by the Spirit of the living God.

We are sure about all this. Christ makes us sure in the very presence of God. We don’t have the right to claim that we have done anything on our own. God gives us what it takes to do all that we do. He makes us worthy to be the servants of his new agreement that comes from the Holy Spirit and not from a written Law. After all, the Law brings death, but the Spirit brings life.

The Law of Moses brought only the promise of death, even though it was carved on stones and given in a wonderful way. Still the Law made Moses' face shine so brightly that the people of Israel could not look at it, even though it was a fading glory. So won’t the agreement that the Spirit brings to us be even more wonderful? If something that brings the death sentence is glorious, won’t something that makes us acceptable to God be even more glorious? 10 In fact, the new agreement is so wonderful that the Law is no longer glorious at all. 11 The Law was given with a glory that faded away. But the glory of the new agreement is much greater, because it will never fade away.

12 This wonderful hope makes us feel like speaking freely. 13 We are not like Moses. His face was shining, but he covered it to keep the people of Israel from seeing the brightness fade away. 14 The people were stubborn, and something still keeps them from seeing the truth when the Law is read. Only Christ can take away the covering that keeps them from seeing.

15 When the Law of Moses is read, they have their minds covered over 16 with a covering that is removed only for those who turn to the Lord. 17 The Lord and the Spirit are one and the same, and the Lord’s Spirit sets us free. 18 So our faces are not covered. They show the bright glory of the Lord, as the Lord’s Spirit makes us more and more like our glorious Lord.

Treasure in Clay Jars

God has been kind enough to trust us with this work. That’s why we never give up. We don’t do shameful things that must be kept secret. And we don’t try to fool anyone or twist God’s message around. God is our witness that we speak only the truth, so others will be sure that we can be trusted. If there is anything hidden about our message, it is hidden only to someone who is lost.

The god who rules this world has blinded the minds of unbelievers. They cannot see the light, which is the good news about our glorious Christ, who shows what God is like. We are not preaching about ourselves. Our message is that Jesus Christ is Lord. He also sent us to be your servants. The Scriptures say, “God commanded light to shine in the dark.” Now God is shining in our hearts to let you know that his glory is seen in Jesus Christ.

We are like clay jars in which this treasure is stored. The real power comes from God and not from us. We often suffer, but we are never crushed. Even when we don’t know what to do, we never give up. In times of trouble, God is with us, and when we are knocked down, we get up again. 10-11 We face death every day because of Jesus. Our bodies show what his death was like, so that his life can also be seen in us. 12 This means that death is working in us, but life is working in you.

13 In the Scriptures it says, “I spoke because I had faith.” We have that same kind of faith. So we speak 14 because we know that God raised the Lord Jesus to life. And just as God raised Jesus, he will also raise us to life. Then he will bring us into his presence together with you. 15 All of this has been done for you, so that more and more people will know how kind God is and will praise and honor him.

Faith in the Lord

16 We never give up. Our bodies are gradually dying, but we ourselves are being made stronger each day. 17 These little troubles are getting us ready for an eternal glory that will make all our troubles seem like nothing. 18 Things that are seen don’t last forever, but things that are not seen are eternal. That’s why we keep our minds on the things that cannot be seen.

Footnotes

  1. 1.10 the threat of death: Some manuscripts have “many threats of death.”
  2. 1.19 Silas: The Greek text has “Silvanus,” which is another form of the name Silas.
  3. 1.20 Amen: The word “amen” is used here with the meaning of “yes.”
  4. 3.2 our: Some manuscripts have “your.”

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