Purpose Clauses in 2 Corinthians: Why Does God Allow His Children to Suffer?

Christian suffering is a vital component of theological anthropology. Second Corinthians displays a pattern of purpose (often ἵνα) clauses (in addition to a handful of other syntactical markers) that connect with God’s permission in contexts about suffering. These markers draw out common purposes for which God allows suffering in the lives of his children. Attention to these markers supports a primarily biblical (rather than philosophical) entrée into the crucial question of why God permits suffering for his people.

For example, following these markers in 2 Corinthians, God sometimes allows suffering so that Christians will: comfort others who suffer (1:3-4), trust in God who raises the dead (1:8-11), acknowledge that the power is from God, not themselves (4:7), display the life of Jesus in their weak bodies (4:8-11), respond in gratitude to God’s grace (4:15), yearn for resurrected bodies (5:1-5), repent when repentance is needed (7:8-10), support each other during times of hardship (8:13-15), counteract conceit (12:7), and embrace weakness for spiritual strength (12:8-10).

I will expose a pattern that is prominent in 2 Corinthians, a pattern that has not yet adequately been highlighted in 2 Corinthians scholarship, and one that holds profound implications for how Christians should think about and personally walk through suffering.

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