Paul’s letter to the Corinthians was written after a time of great persecution when Paul and Timothy “despaired even of life.” They were able to overcome their despair through faith in the Lord Jesus Christ.
Elder Neal A. Maxwell said the following:
“When we take Jesus’ yoke upon us, this admits us eventually to what Paul called the ‘fellowship of [Christ’s] sufferings’ (Philippians 3:10). Whether illness or aloneness, injustice or rejection, … our comparatively small-scale sufferings, if we are meek, will sink into the very marrow of the soul. We then better appreciate not only Jesus’ sufferings for us, but also His matchless character, moving us to greater adoration and even emulation.
The Lord knows how to succor us in our adversity. Paul suffered through adversity from the moment of his miraculous conversion, and he considered it part of “the good fight.” He was able to see his trials from an eternal perspective. He knew that from that perspective they would be both brief and insignificant. He counseled the Saints to become reconciled with God in order to gain this perspective through the Holy Spirit.
Even more important than our fair dealings and integrity with other people is being reconciled with God. This means keeping His commandments and repenting when we err. Desiring to be reconciled with God is one of the first steps of the repentance process, and as we go through this reconciliation, we grow closer to Him and become more like Him. When we are reconciled to God, the Holy Ghost can give us the assurance that we are in good standing with Him.
In 2 Corinthians 1 Paul speaks of tribulation, and how we can be comforted in Christ. Christ is our consolation. The most sure consolation we can receive is when God gives us the assurance that we will not only be saved but exalted into His presence after death. In The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, often mistakenly called the Mormon Church, this assurance is called “having one’s calling and election made sure.” It seals a person to glory. Paul and other apostles partook of this assurance, saying,
Who hath also sealed us, and given the earnest of the Spirit in our hearts (1 Cor. 1:22).
In 2 Corinthians 2, Paul preaches love and forgiveness. Late Prophet and President Gordon B. Hinckley said:
“We see the need for [forgiveness] in the homes of the people, where tiny molehills of misunderstanding are fanned into mountains of argument. We see it among neighbors, where insignificant differences lead to undying bitterness. We see it in business associates who quarrel and refuse to compromise and forgive when, in most instances, if there were a willingness to sit down together and speak quietly one to another, the matter could be resolved to the blessing of all. Rather, they spend their days nurturing grudges and planning retribution. …
“If there be any who nurture in their hearts the poisonous brew of enmity toward another, I plead with you to ask the Lord for strength to forgive. This expression of desire will be of the very substance of your repentance. It may not be easy, and it may not come quickly. But if you will seek it with sincerity and cultivate it, it will come. …
“… There is no peace in reflecting on the pain of old wounds. There is peace only in repentance and forgiveness. This is the sweet peace of the Christ, who said, ‘blessed are the peacemakers: for they shall be called the children of God.’ (Matt. 5:9.)” (“Of You It Is Required to Forgive,” Ensign, June 1991, 2, 5).
In Chapter 3 Paul speaks of the gospel written in our hearts. This is the higher law, as preached by the Savior of the World, that the schoolmaster Law of Moses, a law of outward ordinances should be fulfilled. In Chapter 3, verse 4, Paul says, “And such trust have we through Christ to God-ward.” The word for faith in Hebrew means “trust.” If we have faith, we can trust God to do with our lives what we cannot do by ourselves, and we can feel secure in surrendering our will to Him, which is really the only offering we can make, since everything is His. We have been counseled by living prophets not only to believe in Christ, but to believe Christ, when He says He can save us, and that His grace is sufficient to breach the gulf between us and the Father.
Paul says the old law was glorious, but the Law of Christ is even more so. The Israelites of ancient times beheld Moses’ face after he conversed with the Lord, that it glowed. They wanted to veil that face to put off from themselves that glory. Paul says they still beheld the glory of God with a veil over their hearts, refusing to accept Christ as the Messiah. Verse 18 repeats the promise that we can have the glory of God in our own countenances.
For God, who commanded the light to shine out of darkness, hath shined in our hearts, to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ (2 Corinthians 4:6).
God has promised that if we have an eye single to His glory, we will be filled with light. Our tribulations might seem serious, but they are nothing compared to the glory we shall receive if we stay true to the faith.
For our light affliction, which is but for a moment, worketh for us a far more exceeding and eternalweight of glory; While we look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen: for the things which are seen are temporal; but the things which are not seen are eternal (2 Corinthians 4: 17, 18).
In 2 Corinthians 5:10, we see again that we will be partially judged by our works:
For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ; that every one may receive the things done in his body, according to that he hath done, whether it be good or bad.
Through repentance, baptism and enduring to the end in faith, we can become new creatures in Christ. Paul counsels us to choose good company, be around people who will lift and inspire us to do better, and not to find our friends in the world of wickedness and sin.
And what agreement hath the temple of God with idols? for ye are the temple of the living God; as God hath said, I will dwell in them, and walk in them; and I will be their God, and they shall be my people.
Therefore come out from among them, and be ye separate, saith the Lord, and touch not the unclean thing; and I will receive you,
And will be a Father unto you, and ye shall be my sons and daughters, saith the Lord Almighty (2 Corinthians 6:16-18).
In 2 Corinthians 7:10 Paul speaks of “godly sorrow.” This is the kind of sorrow and regret that spurs us to want to be reconciled to God. It is the sorrow that leads to repentance.
For godly sorrow worketh repentance to salvation not to be repented of: but the sorrow of the world worketh death.
Paul then speaks of charity, and the Saints of those times who gave willingly even in their poverty to those in need of help and sustenance. God loves a cheerful giver (2 Cor. 9:7). In 2 Corinthians 10:17 Paul warns us not to glory in ourselves but in the Lord. “But he that glorieth, let him glory in the Lord.”
The apostles in their travels were constantly having to correct tendencies toward apostasy that came either from falling back into old pagan traditions or from being subject to false prophets and priests, which Paul calls false apostles. Many of these deliberately corrupted the gospel for their own gain. In 2 Corinthians 11 Paul talks about how appealing these men may be — even Satan can transform himself into an angel of light in order to deceive.