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This chapter 2 Corinthians 1:0 consists of the following parts, or subjects:
1. The usual salutation and benediction in the introduction of the Epistle, 2 Corinthians 1:1-2. This is found in all the epistles of Paul, and was at once an affectionate salutation and an appropriate expression of his interest in their welfare, and also an appropriate mode of commencing an address to them by one who claimed to be inspired and sent from God.
2. He refers to the consolation which he had had in his heavy trials, and praises God for that consolation, and declares that the reason for which he was comforted was, that he might be qualified to administer consolation to others in the same or in similar circumstances, 2 Corinthians 1:3-7.
3. He informs them of the heavy trials which he was called to experience when he was in Ephesus, and of his merciful deliverance from those trials, 2 Corinthians 1:8-12. He had been exposed to death, and had despaired of life, 2 Corinthians 1:8-9; yet he had been delivered 2 Corinthians 1:10; he desired them to unite with him in thanksgiving on account of it 2 Corinthians 1:11; and in all this he had endeavored to keep a good conscience, and had that testimony that he had endeavored to maintain such a conscience toward all, and especially toward them, 2 Corinthians 1:12.
4. He refers to the design which he had in writing the former letter to them, 2 Corinthians 1:13-14. He had written to them only such things as they admitted to be true and proper; and such as he was persuaded they would always admit. They had always received his instructions favorably and kindly; and he had always sought their welfare.
5. In this state of mind, Paul had designed to have paid them a second visit, 2 Corinthians 1:15-16. But he had not done it yet, and it appears that his enemies had taken occasion from this to say that he was inconstant and fickle-minded. He, therefore, takes occasion to vindicate himself, and to convince them that he was not faithless to his word and purposes, and to show them the true reason why he had not visited them, 2 Corinthians 1:17-24. He states, therefore, that his real intentions had been to visit them 2 Corinthians 1:15-16; that his failure to do so had not proceeded from either levity or falsehood 2 Corinthians 1:17; as they might have known from the uniform doctrine which he had taught them, in which he had inculcated the necessity of a strict adherence to promises, from the veracity of Jesus Christ his great example 2 Corinthians 1:18-20; and from the fact that God had given to him the Holy Spirit, and anointed him 2 Corinthians 1:21-22; and he states, therefore, that the true reason why he had not come to them was, that he wished to spare them 2 Corinthians 1:23-24; he was willing to remain away from them until they should have time to correct the evils which existed in their church, and prevent the necessity of severe discipline when he should come.
Paul an apostle ... - ; see the Romans 1:1 note, and 1 Corinthians 1:1 note.
By the will of God - Through, or agreeably to the will of God; note, 1 Corinthians 1:1.
And Timothy our brother - Paul was accustomed to associate some other person or persons with him in writing his epistles. Thus, in the First Epistle to the Corinthians, Sosthenes was associated with him. For the reasons of this, see the note on 1 Corinthians 1:1. The name of Timothy is associated with his in the Epistles to the Philippians and Colossians. From the former Epistle to the Corinthians 1 Corinthians 16:10, we learn that Paul had sent Timothy to the church at Corinth, or that he expected that he would visit them. Paul had sent him into Macedonia in company with Erastus Acts 19:21-22, intending himself to follow them, and expecting that they would visit Achaia. From the passage before us, it appears that Timothy had returned from this expedition, and was now with Paul. The reason why Paul joined Timothy with him in writing this Epistle may have been the following:
(1) Timothy had been recently with them, and they had become acquainted with him, and it was not only natural that he should express his friendly salutations, but his name and influence among them might serve in some degree to confirm what Paul wished to say to them; compare note, 1 Corinthians 1:1.
(2) Paul may have wished to give as much influence as possible to Timothy. he designed that he should be his fellow-laborer; and as Timothy was much younger than himself, he doubtless expected that he would survive him, and that he would in some sense succeed him in the care of the churches. He was desirous, therefore, of securing for him all the authority which he could, and of letting it be known that he regarded him as abundantly qualified for the great work with which he was entrusted.
(3) The influence and name of Timothy might be supposed to have weight with the party in the church that had slandered Paul, by accusing him of insincerity or instability in regard to his purposed visit to them. Paul had designed to go to them directly from Ephesus, but he had changed his mind, and the testimony of Timothy might be important to prove that it was done from motives purely conscientious. Timothy was doubtless acquainted with the reasons; and his testimony might meet and rebut a part of the charges against him; see 2 Corinthians 1:13-16.
Unto the church of God ... - see the note, 1 Corinthians 1:2.
With all the saints which are in all Achaia - Achaia, in the largest sense, included the whole of Greece. Achaia proper, however, was the district or province of which Corinth was the capital. It comprehended the part of Greece lying between Thessaly and the southern part of the Peloponnesus, embracing the whole western part of the Peloponnesus. It is probable that there were not a few Christians scattered in Achaia, and not improbably some small churches that had been established by the labors of Paul or of others. From Romans 16:1, we know that there was a church at Cenchrea, the eastern port of Corinth, and it is by no means improbable that there were other churches in that region. Paul doubtless designed that copies of this Epistle should be circulated among them.
Grace be to you ... - This is the usual Christian salutation; see the Romans 1:7 note; 1 Corinthians 1:3 note.
Blessed be God - This is the commencement properly of the Epistle, and it is the language of a heart that is full of joy, and that bursts forth with gratitude in view of mercy. It may have been excited by the recollection that he had formerly written to them, and that during the interval which had elapsed between the time when the former Epistle was written and when this was penned, he had been called to a most severe trial, and that from that trial he had been mercifully delivered. With a heart full of gratitude and joy for this merciful interposition, he commences this Epistle. It is remarked by Doddridge, that 11 out of the 13 epistles of Paul, begin with exclamations of praise, joy, and thanksgiving. Paul had been afflicted, but he had also been favored with remarkable consolations, and it was not unnatural that he should allow himself to give expression to his joy and praise in view of all the mercies which God had conferred on him. This entire passage is one that is exceedingly valuable, as showing that there may be elevated joy in the midst of deep affliction, and as showing what is the reason why God visits his servants with trials. The phrase “blessed be God,” is equivalent to “praised be God;” or is an expression of thanksgiving. It is the usual formula of praise (compare Ephesians 1:3); and shows his entire confidence in God, and his joy in him, and his gratitude for his mercies. it is one of innumerable instances which show that it is possible and proper to bless God in view of the trials with which he visits his people, and of the consolations which he causes to abound.
The Father of our Lord Jesus Christ - God is mentioned here in the relation of the “Father of the Lord Jesus,” doubtless because it was through the Lord Jesus, and him alone, that He had imparted the consolation which he had experienced, 2 Corinthians 1:5. Paul knew no other God than the “Father of the Lord Jesus;” he knew no other source of consolation than the gospel; he knew of no way in which God imparted comfort except through his Son. That is genuine Christian consolation which acknowledges the Lord Jesus as the medium by whom it is imparted; that is proper thanksgiving to God which is offered through the Redeemer; that only is the proper acknowledgment of God which recognizes him as the “Father of the Lord Jesus.”
The Father of mercies - This is a Hebrew mode of expression, where a noun performs the place of an adjective. and the phrase is synonymous nearly with “merciful Father.” The expression has however somewhat more energy and spirit than the simple phrase “merciful Father.” The Hebrews used the word “father” often to denote the author, or source of anything; and the idea in phraseology like this is, that mercy proceeds from God, that he is the source of it, and that it is his nature to impart mercy and compassion, as if he originated it; or was the source and fountain of it - sustaining a relation to all true consolation analogous to that which a father sustains to his offspring. God has the paternity of all true joy. It is one of his special and glorious attributes that he thus produces consolation and mercy.
And the God of all comfort - The source of all consolation. Paul delighted, as all should do, to trace all his comforts to God; and Paul, as all Christians have, had sufficient reason to regard God as the source of true consolation. There is no other real source of happiness but God; and he is able abundantly, and willing to impart consolation to his people.
Who comforteth us - Paul here doubtless refers primarily to himself and his fellow apostles as having been filled with comfort in their trials; to the support which the promises of God gave; to the influences of the Holy Spirit, the Comforter; and to the hopes of eternal life through the gospel of the Redeemer.
That we may be able to comfort ... - Paul does not say that this was the only design which God had in comforting them that they might be able to impart comfort to others; but he does say that this is an important and main purpose. It is an object which he seeks, that his people in their afflictions should be supported and comforted; and for this purpose he fills the hearts of his ministers with consolation; gives them personal experience of the sustaining power of graco in their trials; and enables them to speak of what they have felt in regard to the consolations of the gospel of the Lord Jesus.
By the comfort ... - By the same topics of consolation; by the same sources of joy which have sustained us. They would have experience; and by that experience they would be able to minister consolation to those who were in any manner afflicted. It is only by personal experience that we are able to impart consolation to others. Paul refers here undoubtedly to the consolations which are produced by the evidence of the pardon of sin, and of acceptance with God, and the hope of eternal life. These consolations abounded in him and his fellow apostles richly; and sustained by them he was able also to impart like consolation to others who were in similar circumstances of trial.
For as the sufferings of Christ abound in us - As we are called to experience the same sufferings which Christ endured; as we are called to suffer in his cause, and in the promotion of the same object. The sufferings which they endured were in the cause of Christ and his gospel; were endured in endeavoring to advance the same object which Christ sought to promote; and were substantially of the same nature. They arose from opposition, contempt, persecution, trial, and want, and were the same as the Lord Jesus was himself subjected to during the whole of his public life; compare Colossians 1:24. Thus, Peter says 1 Peter 4:13 of Christians that they were “partakers of Christ’s sufferings.”
So our consolation also aboundeth by Christ - By means of Christ, or through Christ, consolation is abundantly imparted to us. Paul regarded the Lord Jesus as the source of consolation, and felt that the comfort which he imparted, or which was imparted through him, was more than sufficient to overbalance all the trials which he endured in this cause. The comforts which he derived from Christ were those, doubtless, which arose from his presence, his supporting grace, from his love shed abroad in the heart; from the success which he gave to his gospel, and from the hope of reward which was held out to him by the Redeemer, as the result of all his sufferings. And it may he observed as an universal truth, that if we suffer in the cause of Christ, if we are persecuted, oppressed, and calumniated on his account, he will take care that cur hearts shall be filled with consolation.
And whether we be afflicted - If we are afflicted; or, our affliction is for this purpose. This verse is designed to show one of the reasons of the sufferings which the apostles had endured; and it is a happy specimen of Paul’s skill in his epistles. He shows that all his trials were for their welfare and would turn to their benefit. He suffered that they might be comforted; he was afflicted for their advantage. This assurance would tend to conciliate their favor, and strengthen their affection for him, as it would show them that he was disinterested. We are under the deepest obligations of gratitude to one who suffers for us; and there is nothing that will bind us more tenderly to anyone than the fact that he has been subjected to great calamity and trial on our account. This is one of the reasons why the Christian feels so tenderly his obligation to the Lord Jesus Christ.
It is for your consolation and salvation - It will be useful for your consolation; or it is endured in order to secure your com fort, and promote your salvation. Paul had suffered in Ephesus, and it is to this that he here particularly refers. He does not mean to say that his sufferings there were particularly for the comfort of the Corinthians; but that they had been endured in the general purpose of promoting the salvation of people, and that they, together with others, would reap the benefit of his trials. He endured them in order to spread the true religion, and they would be benefitted by that, and be sides, he would be the better able by his trials to administer to them the true consolations of the gospel in their sufferings; and his example, and experience, and counsel, would enable them to bear up under their own trials in a proper manner.
Which is effectual ... - Margin, “wrought.” The Greek word ἐνεργουμένης energoumenēs denotes here “efficacious, operating to, producing;” and the phrase denotes that their salvation would be effected, worked out, or secured by the patient endurance of such sufferings. Those sufferings were necessary; and a patient endurance of them would tend to promote their salvation. The doctrine that the patient endurance of affliction tends to promote salvation, is every where taught in the Bible; see the notes on Romans 5:3-5.
In the enduring - By your enduring; or by your patience in such sufferings. You are called to endure the same kind of sufferings; and patience in such trials will tend to promote your salvation.
Or whether we be comforted ... - One design of our being comforted is, that we may be able to impart consolation to you in the times of similar trial and calamity; see 2 Corinthians 1:4. The sentiment of the whole passage is, that their eternal welfare would be promoted by the example of the apostles in their trials, and by the consolations which they would be able to impart as the result of their afflictions.
And our hope of you is steadfast - We have a firm and unshaken hope in regard to you; we have a confident expectation that you will be saved. We believe that you will be enabled so to bear trial as to show that you are sustained by the Christian hope; and so as to advance your own piety, and confirm your prospect of heaven.
As ye are partakers of the sufferings - It is evident from this, that the Corinthians had been subjected to trials similar to those which the apostle had endured. It is not known to what afflictions they were then subjected; but it is not improbable that they were exposed to some kind of persecution and opposition. Such trials were common in all the early churches; and they served to unite all the friends of the Redeemer in common bonds, and to make them feel that they were one. They had united sorrows; and they had united joys; and they felt they were tending to the same heaven of glory. United sorrows and united consolations tend more than anything else to bind people together. We always have a “brotherly” feeling for one who suffers as we do; or who has the same kind of joy which we have.
For we would not have you ignorant - We wish you to be fully informed; see the notes, 1 Corinthians 10:1; 1 Corinthians 12:1. The object of Paul here is, to give a full explanation of the nature of his trials, to which he had referred in 2 Corinthians 1:4. He presumed that the Corinthians would feel a deep interest in him and in his trials; that they would sympathize with him, and would pray that those sufferings, and that this deliverance might be attended with a blessing 2 Corinthians 1:11; and perhaps he wished also to conciliate their kindness toward himself by mentioning more at length the nature of the trials which he had been called to endure on account of the Christian religion, of which they were reaping so material benefits.
Of our trouble which came to us in Asia - The term “Asia” is often used to denote that part of Asia Minor of which Ephesus was the capital; see the note, Acts 2:9. There has been considerable diversity of opinion as to the “troubles” to which Paul here refers. Some have supposed that he refers to the persecutions at Lystra Acts 14:6, Acts 14:19-20, from which he had been recovered as it were by miracle; but as that happened so long before this, it seems improbable that he should here refer to it. There is every mark of freshness and recentness about this event; and Paul evidently referred to some danger from which he had been lately delivered, and which made a deep impression on his mind when he wrote this Epistle. Semler supposes that he refers to the lying in wait of the Jews for him when he was about to go to Macedonia, mentioned in Acts 20:3. Most commentators have supposed that be refers to the disturbances which were made at Ephesus by Demetrius and his friends, mentioned in Acts 19:0, and by reason of which he was compelled to leave the city.
The only objection to this is, that which is mentioned by Whitby and Macknight, that as Paul did not go into the theater there Acts 19:31, he incurred no such risk of his life as to justify the strong expressions mentioned in 2 Corinthians 1:9-10. They suppose, therefore, that he refers to the danger to which he was exposed in Ephesus on another occasion, when he was compelled to fight there with wild beasts; see 1 Corinthians 15:32. But nearly all these opinions may be reconciled, perhaps, by supposing that he refers to the group of calamities to which he had been exposed in Asia, and from which he had just escaped by going to Macedonia - referring perhaps more particularly to the conflict which he had been compelled to have with the wild beasts there. There was the riot excited by Demetrius Acts 19:0, in which his life had been endangered, and from which he had just escaped; and there had been the conflict with the wild beasts at Ephesus (see the note, 1 Corinthians 15:32), which perhaps had occurred but just before; and there were the plots of the Jews against him Acts 20:3, from which, also, he had just been delivered. By these trials, his life had been endangered, perhaps, more than once, and he had been called to look death calmly in the face, and to anticipate the probability that he might soon die. Of these trials; of all these trials, he would not have the Corinthians ignorant; but desired that they should be fully apprized of them, that they might sympathize with him, and that through their prayers they might be turned to his benefit.
That we were pressed out of measure - see Acts 19:0. We were borne down, or weighed down by calamity (ἐβαρηθεμεν ebarēthemen) exceedingly καθ ̓ ὑπερβολὴς kath' huperbolēs, supereminently. The expression denotes excess, eminence, or intensity. It is one of Paul’s common and very strong expressions to denote anything that is intensive or great; see Romans 7:13; Galatians 1:13; 2 Corinthians 4:17.
Above strength - Beyond our strength. More than in ourselves we were able to bear.
Insomuch that we despaired even of life - Either expecting to be destroyed by the wild beasts with which he had to contend, or to be destroyed by the people. This was one of the instances undoubtedly, to which he refers in 2 Corinthians 11:23, where he says he had been “in death oft.” And this was one of the many cases in which Paul was called on to contemplate death as near. It was doubtless one cause of his fidelity, and of his great success in his work, that he was thus called to regard death as near at hand, and that, to use the somewhat unpoetical, but deeply affecting lines of Baxter, expressing a sentiment which guided all his ministry, and which was one source of his eminent success,
He preach’d as though he ne’er would preach again,
As a dying man to dying men.
But we had the sentence of death in ourselves - Margin, “answer.” The word rendered “sentence” (ἀπόκριμα apokrima) means properly an answer, judicial response, or sentence; and is here synonymous with verdict. It means that Paul felt that he was condemned to die; that he felt as if he were under sentence of death and with no hope of acquittal; he was called to contemplate the hour of death as just before him. The words “in ourselves,” mean, against ourselves; or, we expected certainly to die. This seems as if he had been condemned to die, and may either refer to some instance when the popular fury was so great that he felt it was determined he should die; or more probably to a judicial sentence that he should be cast to the wild beasts, with the certain expectation that he would be destroyed, as was always the case with those who were subjected to the execution of such a sentence.
That we should not trust in ourselves - This is an exceedingly beautiful and important sentiment. It teaches that in the time to which Paul refers, he was in so great danger, and had so certain a prospect of death, that he could put no reliance on himself. He felt that he must die; and that human aid was vain. According to every probability he would die; and all that he could do was to cast himself on the protection of that God who had power to save him even then, if he chose, and who, if he did it, would exert power similar to that which is put forth when the dead are raised. The effect, therefore, of the near prospect of death was to lead him to put increased confidence in God. He felt that God only could save him; or that God only could sustain him if he should die. Perhaps also he means to say that the effect of this was to lead him to put increased confidence in God after his deliverance; not to trust in his own plans, or to confide in his own strength; but to feel that all that he had was entirely in the hands of God. This is a common, and a happy effect of the near prospect of death to a Christian; and it is well to contemplate the effect on such a mind as that of Paul in the near prospect of dying, and to see how instinctively then it clings to God. A true Christian in such circumstances will rush to His arms and feel that there he is safe.
But in God which raiseth the dead - Intimating that a rescue in such circumstances would be like raising the dead. It is probable that on this occasion Paul was near dying; that he had given up all hope of life - perhaps, as at Lystra Acts 14:19, he was supposed to be dead. He felt, therefore, that he was raised up by the immediate power of God, and regarded it as an exertion of the same power by which the dead are raised. Paul means to intimate that so far as depended on any power of his own, he was dead. He had no power to recover himself, and but for the gracious interposition of God he would have died.
Who delivered us from so great a death - From a death so terrible, and from a prospect so alarming. It is intimated here by the word which Paul uses, that the death which he apprehended was one of a character especially terrific - probably a death by wild beasts; note, 2 Corinthians 1:8. He was near to death; he had no hope of rescue; and the manner of the death which was threatened was especially frightful. Paul regarded rescue from such a death as a kind of resurrection: and felt that he owed his life to God as if he had raised him from the dead. All deliverance from imminent peril, and from dangerous sickness, whether of ourselves or our friends, should be regarded as a kind of resurrection from the dead. God could with infinite ease have taken away our breath, and it is only by his merciful interposition that we live.
And doth deliver - Continues yet to deliver us; or preserve us - intimating perhaps that danger had continued to follow him after the signal deliverance to which he particularly refers, and that he had continued to be in similar peril of his life. Paul was daily exposed to danger; and was constantly preserved by the good providence of God. In what manner he was rescued from the peril to which he was exposed he has no where intimated. It is implied, however, that it was by a remarkable divine interposition; but whether by miracle, or by the ordinary course of providence, he no where intimates. Whatever was the mode, however, Paul regarded God as the source of the deliverance, and felt that his obligations were due to him as his kind Preserver.
In whom we trust that he will yet deliver us - That he will continue to preserve us. We hope; we are accustomed to cherish the expectation that he will continue to defend us in the perils which we shall yet encounter. Paul felt that he was still exposed to danger. Everywhere he was liable to be persecuted (compare note, Acts 20:23), and everywhere he felt that his life was in peril. Yet he had been thus far preserved in a most remarkable manner; and he felt assured that God would continue to interpose in his behalf, until his great purpose in regard to him should be fully accomplished, so that at the close of life he could look to God as his Deliverer, and feel that all along his perilous journey he had been his great Protector.
Ye also helping together by prayer for us - Tyndale renders this in connection with the close of the previous verse; “we trust that yet hereafter he will deliver us, by the help of your prayer for us.” The word rendered “helping together,” means cooperating, aiding, assisting; and the idea is, that Paul felt that his trials might be turned to good account, and give occasion for thanksgiving; and that this was to be accomplished by the aid of the prayers of his fellow Christians. He felt that the church was one, and that Christians should sympathize with one another. He evinced deep humility and tender regard for the Corinthians when he called on them to aid him by their prayers. Nothing would be better calculated to excite their tender affection and regard than thus to call on them to sympathize with him in his trials, and to pray that those trials might result in thanksgiving throughout the churches.
That for the gift bestowed upon us - The sentence which occurs here is very perplexing in the original, and the construction is difficult. But the main idea is not difficult to he seen. The “gift” here referred to (τὸ χάρισμα to charisma) means doubtless the favor shown to him in his rescue from so imminent a peril; and he felt that this was owing to the prayers of many persons on his behalf He believed that he had been remembered in the petitions of his friends and fellow Christians, and that his deliverance was owing to their supplications.
By the means of many persons - Probably meaning that the favor referred to had been imparted by means of the prayers of many individuals who had taken a deep interest in his welfare. But it may also imply perhaps that he had been directly assisted, and had been rescued from the impending danger by the interposition of many friends who had come to his relief. The usual interpretation is, however, that it was by the prayers of many in his behalf.
Thanks may be given by many on our behalf - Many may be induced also to render thanks for my deliverance. The idea is, that as he had been delivered from great peril by the prayers of many persons, it was proper also that thanksgiving should be offered by as many in his behalf, or on account of his deliverance. “Mercies that have been obtained by prayer should be acknowledged by praise” - Doddridge. God had mercifully interposed in answer to the prayers of his people; and it was proper that his mercy should be as extensively acknowledged. Paul was desirous that God should not be forgotten: and that those who had sought his deliverance should render praise to God, perhaps intimating here that those who had obtained mercies by prayer are prone to forget their obligation to return thanks to God for his gracious and merciful interposition.
For our rejoicing is this - The source or cause of our rejoicing. “I have a just cause of rejoicing, and it is, that I have endeavored to live a life of simplicity and godly sincerity, and have not been actuated by the principles of worldly wisdom.” The connection here is not very obvious, and it is not quite easy to trace it. Most expositors, as Doddridge, Locke, Macknight, Bloomfield, etc., suppose that he mentions the purity of his life as a reason why he had a right to expect their prayers, as he had requested in 2 Corinthians 1:11. They would not doubt, it is supposed, that his life had been characterized by great simplicity and sincerity, and would feel, therefore, a deep interest in his welfare, and be disposed to render thanks that be had been preserved in the day of peril. But the whole context and the scope of the passage is rather to be taken into view. Paul had been exposed to death.
He had no hope of life. Then the ground of his rejoicing, and of his confidence, was that he had lived a holy life. He had not been actuated by “fleshly wisdom,” but he had been animated and guided by “the grace of God.” His aim had been simple, his purpose holy, and he had the testimony of his conscience that his motives had been right, and he had, therefore, no concern about the result. A good conscience, a holy life through Jesus Christ, will enable a man always to look calmly on death. What has a Christian to fear in death? Paul had kept a good conscience toward all; but he says that he had special and unique joy that he had done it toward the Corinthians. This he says, because many there had accused him of fickleness, and of disregard for their interests. He declares, therefore, that even in the prospect of death he had a consciousness of rectitude toward them, and proceeds to show 2 Corinthians 1:13-23 that the charge against him was not well founded. I regard this passage, therefore, as designed to express the fact that Paul, in view of sudden death, had a consciousness of a life of piety, and was comforted with the reflection that he had not been actuated by the “fleshly wisdom” of the world.
The testimony of our conscience - An approving conscience. It does not condemn me on the subject. Though others might accuse him, though his name might be calumniated, yet he had comfort in the approval which his own conscience gave to his course. Paul’s conscience was enlightened, and its decisions were correct. Whatever others might charge him with he knew what had been the aim and purpose of his life; and the consciousness of upright aims, and of such plans as the “grace of God” would prompt to, sustained him. An approving conscience is of inestimable value when we are calumniated; and when we draw near to death.
That in simplicity - (ἐν ἁπλότητι en haplotēti.) Tyndale renders this forcibly “without doubleness.” The word means sincerity, candor, probity, plain-heartedness, Christian simplicity, frankness, integrity; see 2 Corinthians 11:3. It stands opposed to double-dealings and purposes; to deceitful appearances, and crafty plans; to mere policy, and craftiness in accomplishing an object. A man under the influence of this, is straightforward, candid, open, frank; and he expects to accomplish his purpose by integrity and fair-dealing, and not by stratagem and cunning. Policy, craft, artful plans, and deep-laid schemes of deceit belong to the world; simplicity of aim and purpose are the true characteristics of a real Christian.
And godly sincerity - Greek “sincerity of God.” This may be a Hebrew idiom, by which the superlative degree is indicated, when, in order to express the highest degree, they added the name of God, as in the phrases “mountains of God,” signifying the highest mountains, or “cedars of God,” denoting lofty cedars. Or it may mean such sincerity as God manifests and approves such as he, by his grace, would produce in the heart; such as the religion of the gospel is suited to produce. The word used here, εἱλικρινεία heilikrineia, and rendered sincerity, denotes. properly, clearness, such as is judged of or discerned in sunshine (from εἵλη heilē and κρίνω krinō), and thence pureness, integrity. It is most probable that the phrase here denotes that sincerity which God produces and approves; and the sentiment is, that pure religion, the religion of God, produces entire sincerity in the heart. Its purposes and aims are open and manifest, as if seen in the sunshine. The plans of the world are obscure, deceitful, and dark, as if in the night.
Not with fleshly wisdom - Not with the wisdom which is manifested by the people of this world; not by the principles of cunning, and mere policy, and expediency, which often characterize them. The phrase here stands opposed to simplicity and sincerity, to openness and straightforwardness. And Paul means to disclaim for himself, and for his fellow-laborers, all that carnal policy which distinguishes the mere people of the world. And if Paul deemed such policy improper for him, we should deem it improper for us; if he had no plans which he wished to advance by it, we should have none; if he would not employ it in the promotion of good plans, neither should we. It has been the curse of the church and the bane of religion; and it is to this day exerting a withering and blighting influence on the church. The moment that such plans are resorted to, it is proof that the vitality of religion is gone, and any man who feels that his purposes cannot be accomplished but by such carnal policy, should set it down as full demonstration that his plans are wrong, and that his purpose should be abandoned.
But by the grace of God - This phrase stands opposed, evidently, to “fleshly wisdom.” It means that Paul had been influenced by such sentiments and principles as would be suggested or prompted by the influence of his grace. Locke renders it, “by the favor of God directing me.” God had shown him favor; God had directed him; and he had kept him from the crooked and devious ways of mere worldly policy. The idea seems to be not merely that he had pursued a correct and upright course of life, but that he was indebted for this to the mere grace and favor of God, an idea which Paul omitted no opportunity of acknowledging.
We have had our conversation - We have conducted ourselves ἀναστράφημεν anastraphēmen. The word used here means literally, “to turn up, to overturn”; then “to turn back, to return,” and in the middle voice, “to turn oneself around, to turn oneself to anything, and, also, to move about in, to live in, to be conversant with, to conduct oneself.” In this sense it seems to be used here; compare Hebrews 10:33; Heb 13:18; 1 Timothy 3:15; 1 Peter 1:17. The word “conversation,” we usually apply to oral discourse, but in the Scriptures, it means “conduct,” and the sense of the passage is, that Paul had conducted himself in accordance with the principles of the grace of God, and had been influenced by that.
In the world - Everywhere; whereever I have been. This does not mean in the world as contradistinguished from the church, but in the world at large, or wherever he had been, as contradistinguished from the church at Corinth. It had been his common and universal practice.
And more abundantly to you-ward - Especially toward you. This was added doubtless because there had been charges against him in Corinth, that he had been crafty, cunning, deceitful, and especially that he had deceived them (see 2 Corinthians 1:17), in not visiting them as he had promised. He affirms, therefore, that in all things he had acted in the manner to which the grace of God prompted, and that his conduct, in all respects, had been that of entire simplicity and sincerity.
For we write none other things ... - There has been much variety in the interpretation of this passage; and much difficulty felt in determining what it means. The sense seems to me to be this. Paul had just declared that he had been actuated by pure intentions and by entire sincerity, and had in all things been influenced by the grace of God. This he had shown everywhere, but more particularly among them at Corinth. That they fully knew. In making this affirmation they had full evidence from what they had known of him in former times that such had been his course of life; and he trusted that they would be able to acknowledge the same thing to the end, and that they would never have any occasion to form a different opinion of him. It will be recollected that it is probable that some at Corinth had charged him with insincerity; and some had accused him of fickleness in having promised to come to Corinth and then changing his mind, or had charged him with never having intended to come to them.
His object in this verse is to refute such slanders, and he says, therefore, that all that he affirmed in his writings about the sincerity and simplicity of his aims, were such as they knew from their past acquaintance with him to be true; and that they knew that he was a man who would keep his promises. It is an instance of a minister who was able to appeal to the people among whom he had lived and labored in regard to the general sincerity and uprightness of his character - such an appeal as every minister ought to be able to make to refute all slanders; and such as he will be able to make successfully, if his life, like that of Paul, is such as to warrant it. Such seems to me to be the sense of the passage. Beza, however, renders it,” I write no other things than what ye read, or may understand,” and so Rosenmuller, Wetstein, Macknight, and some others interpret it; and they explain it as meaning, “I write nothing secretly, nothing ambiguously, but I express myself clearly, openly, plainly, so that I may be read and understood by all.”
Macknight supposes that they had charged him with using ambiguous language, that he might afterward interpret it to suit his own purpose. The objection to this is, that Paul never adverts to the obscurity or perspicuity of his own language. It was his conduct that was the main subject on which he was writing, and the connection seems to demand that we understand him as affirming that they had abundant evidence that what he affirmed of his simplicity of aim, and integrity of life, was true. Than what ye read (ἀναγινώσκετε anaginōskete). This word properly means to know accurately; to distinguish; and in the New Testament usually to know by reading. Doddridge remarks, that the word is ambiguous, and may signify either to acknowledge, to know, or to read. He regards it as used here in the sense of knowing. It is probably used here in the sense of knowing accurately, or surely; of recognizing from their former acquaintance with him. They would see that the sentiments which he now expressed were such as accorded with his character and uniform course of life. “Or acknowledge” (ἐπιγινώσκετε epiginōskete). The preposition ἐπί epi in composition here is intensive, and the word denotes to know fully; to receive full knowledge of; to know well; or to recognize. It here means that they would fully recognize, or know entirely to their satisfaction, that the sentiments which he here expressed were such as accorded with his general manner of life. From what they knew of him, they could not but admit that he had been influenced by the principles stated.
And I trust ye shall acknowledge - I trust that my conduct will be such as to convince you always that I am actuated by such principles. I trust you will never witness any departure from them - the language of a man of settled principle, and of fixed aims and honesty of life. An honest man can always use such language respecting himself.
Even to the end - To the end of life; always. “We trust that you will never have occasion to think dishonorably of us; or to reflect on any inconsistency in our behavior” - Doddridge.
As also ye have acknowledged us - You have had occasion to admit my singleness of aim, and purity of intention and of life by your former acquaintance with me; and you have cheerfully done it. “In part” (ἀπὸ μέρους apo merous). Tyndale renders this: “as ye have found us partly.” The sense seems to be, “as part of you acknowledge;” meaning that a portion of the church was ready to concede to him the praise of consistency and uprightness, though there was a faction, or a part that denied it.
That we are your rejoicing - That we are your joy, and your boasting. That is, you admit me to be an apostle. You regard me as your teacher, and guide. You recognize my authority, and acknowledge the benefits which you have received through me.
Even as ye also are ours - Or, as you will be our rejoicing in the day when the Lord Jesus shall come to gather his people to himself. Then it will be seen that you were saved by our ministry; and then it will be an occasion of abundant and eternal thanksgiving to God that you were converted by our labors. And as you now regard it as a matter of congratulation and thanksgiving that you have such teachers as we are, so shall we regard it as a matter of congratulation and thanksgiving - as our chief joy - that we were the instruments of saving such a people. The expression implies that there was mutual confidence, mutual love, and mutual cause of rejoicing. It is well when ministers and people have such confidence in each other, and have occasion to regard their connection as a mutual cause of rejoicing and of καύχημα kauchēma or boasting.
And in his confidence - In this confidence of my integrity, and that you had this favorable opinion of me, and appreciated the principles of my conduct. I did not doubt that you would receive me kindly, and would give me again the tokens of your affection and regard. In this Paul shows that however some of them might regard him, yet that he had no doubt that the majority of the church there would receive him kindly.
I was minded - I willed (ἐβουλόμην eboulomēn); it was my intention.
To come unto you before - Tyndale renders this: “the other time.” Paul refers doubtless to the time when he wrote his former Epistle, and when it was his serious purpose, as it was his earnest wish, to visit them again; see 1 Corinthians 16:5. In this purpose he had been disappointed, and he now proceeds to state the reasons why he had not visited them as he had purposed, and to show that it did not arise from any fickleness of mind. His purpose had been at first to pass through Corinth on his way to Macedonia, and to remain some time with them; see 2 Corinthians 1:16. Compare 1 Corinthians 16:5-6. This purpose he had now changed; and instead of passing through Corinth on his way to Macedonia, he had gone to Macedonia by the way of Troas 2 Corinthians 2:12; and the Corinthians having, as it would seem, become acquainted with this fact, had charged him with insincerity in the promise, or fickleness in regard to his plans. Probably it had been said by some of his enemies that he had never intended to visit them.
That ye might have a second benefit - Margin, grace. The word used here χάρις charis is that which is commonly rendered grace, and means probably favor, kindness, good-will, beneficence; and especially favor to the undeserving. Here it is evidently used in the sense of gratification, or pleasure. And the idea is, that they had been formerly gratified and benefitted by his residence among them; he had been the means of conferring important favors on them, and he was desirous of being again with them, in order to gratify them by his presence, and that he might be the means of imparting to them other favors. Paul presumed that his presence with them would be to them a source of pleasure, and that his coming would do them good. It is the language of a man who felt assured that he enjoyed, after all, the confidence of the mass of the church there, and that they would regard his being with them as a favor. He had been with them formerly almost two years. His residence there had been pleasant to them and to him; and had been the occasion of important benefits to them. He did not doubt that it would be so again. Tyndale renders this: “that ye might have had a double pleasure.” It may be remarked here that several mss. instead of χάριν charin, “grace,” read χαράν charan, “joy.”
And to pass by you - Through δι ̓ di' you; that is, through your city, or province; or to take them, as we say, in his way. His design was to pass through Corinth and Achaia on his journey. This was not the direct way from Ephesus to Macedonia. An inspection of a map will show at one view that the direct way was that which he concluded finally to take - that by Troas. Yet he had designed to go out of his way in order to make them a visit; and intended also, perhaps, to make them also a longer visit on his return. The former part of the plan he had been induced to abandon.
Into Macedonia - A part of Greece having Thrace on the north, Thessaly south, Epirus west and the AEgean Sea east; see the note, Acts 16:9.
And of you to be brought on my way - By you; see the note, 1 Corinthians 16:6.
Toward Judea - His object in going to Judea was to convey the collection for the poor saints which he had been at so much pains to collect throughout the churches of the Gentiles; see the notes, Romans 15:25-26; compare 1 Corinthians 16:3-4.
When I therefore was thus minded - When I formed this purpose; when I willed this, and expressed this intention.
Did I use lightness? - The word ἐλαφρια elaphria (from ἐλαφρός elaphros) means properly lightness in weight. Here it is used in reference to the mind; and in a sense similar to our word levity, as denoting lightness of temper or conduct; inconstancy, changeableness, or fickleness. This charge had been probably made that he had made the promise without any due consideration, or without any real purpose of performing, it; or that he had made it in a trifling and thoughtless manner. By the interrogative form here, he sharply denies that it was a purpose formed in a light and trifling manner.
Do I purpose according to the flesh - In such a manner, as may suit my own convenience and carnal interest. Do I form plans adapted only to promote my own ease and gratification, and to be abandoned when they are attended with inconvenience? The phrase “according to the flesh” here seems to mean “in such a way as to promote my own ease and gratification; in a manner such as the people of the world form; such as would be formed under the influence of earthly passions and desires, and to be forsaken when those plans would interfere with such gratifications.” Paul denies in a positive manner that he formed such plans; and they should have known enough of his manner of life to be assured that that was not the nature of the schemes which he had devised? Probably no man ever lived who formed his plans of life less for the gratification of the flesh than Paul.
That with me there should be yea, yea, and nay, nay? - There has been a great variety in the interpretation of this passage; see Bloomfield, Critical Digest in loco. The meaning seems to be, “that there should be such inconstancy and uncertainty in my counsels and actions, that no one could depend on me, or know what they had to expect from me.” Bloomfield supposes that the phrase is a proverbial one, and denotes a headstrong, self-willed spirit which will either do things, or not do them as pleases, without giving any reasons. He supposes that the repetition of the words “yea and nay” is designed to denote positiveness of assertion - such positiveness as is commonly shown by such persons, as in the phrases, “what I have written I have written,” “what I have done I have done.” It seems more probable, however, that the phrase is designed to denote the ready compliance which an inconstant and unsettled man is accustomed to make with the wishes of others; his expressing a ready assent to what they propose; falling in with their views; readily making promises; and instantly, through some whim, or caprice, or wish of others, saying “yea, nay,” to the same thing; that is, changing his mind, and altering his purpose without any good reason, or in accordance with any fixed principle or settled rule of action. Paul says that this was not his character. He did not affirm a thing at one time and deny it at another; he did not promise to do a thing one moment and refuse to do it the next.
But as God is true - Tyndale renders this in accordance more literally with the Greek, “God is faithful; for our preaching unto you was not yea and nay.” The phrase seems to have the form of an oath, or to be a solemn appeal to God as a Witness, and to be equivalent to the expression “the Lord liveth,” or “as the Lord liveth.” The idea is,” God is faithful and true. He never deceives; never promises that which he does not perform. So true is it that I am not fickle and changing in my purposes.” This idea of the faithfulness of God is the argument which Paul urges why he felt himself bound to be faithful also. That faithful God he regarded as a witness, and to that God he could appeal on the occasion.
Our word - Margin, “preaching” (ὁ λόγος ho logos. This may refer either to his preaching, to his promises of visiting them, or his declarations to them in general on any subject. The particular subject under discussion was the promise which he had made to visit them. But he here seems to make his affirmation general, and to say universally of his promises, and his teaching, and of all his communications to them, whether orally or in writing, that they were not characterized by inconstancy and changeableness. It was not his character to be fickle, unsettled, and vacillating.
For the Son of God - In this verse, and the following, Paul states that he felt himself bound to maintain the strictest veracity for two reasons; the one, that Jesus Christ always evinced the strictest veracity 2 Corinthians 1:19; the other, God was always true to all the promises that He made 2 Corinthians 1:20; and as he felt himself to be the servant of the Saviour and of God, he was bound by the most sacred obligations also to maintain a character irreproachable in regard to veracity on the meaning of the phrase “Son of God,” see the note, Romans 1:4.
Jesus Christ - It is agreed, says Bloomfield, by the best commentators, ancient and modern, that by Jesus Christ is here meant his doctrine. The sense is, that the preaching respecting Jesus Christ, did not represent him as fickle, and changeable; as unsettled, and as unfaithful; but as true, consistent, and faithful. As that had been the regular and constant representation of Paul and his fellow-laborers in regard to the Master whom they served, it was to be inferred that they felt themselves bound sacredly to observe the strictest constancy and veracity.
By us ... - Silvanus, mentioned here, is the same person who in the Acts of the Apostles is called Silas. He was with Paul at Philippi, and was imprisoned there with him Acts 16:0, and was afterward with Paul and Timothy at Corinth when he first visited that city; Acts 18:5. Paul was so much attached to him, and had so much confidence in him, that he joined his name with his own in several of his epistles; 1 Thessalonians 1:1; 2 Thessalonians 1:1.
Was not yea and nay - Our representation of him was not that he was fickle and changeable.
But in him was yea - Was not one thing at one time, and another at another. He is the same, yesterday, today, and forever. All that he says is true; all the promises that he makes are firm; all his declarations are faithful. Paul may refer to the fact that the Lord Jesus when on earth was eminently characterized by truth. Nothing was more striking than his veracity. He called himself “the truth,” as being eminently true in all his declarations. “I am the way, and the truth, and the life;” John 14:6; compare Revelation 3:7. And thus Revelation 3:14 he is called “the faithful and true witness.” In all his life he was eminently distinguished for that. His declarations were simple truth; his narratives were simple, unvarnished, uncolored, unexaggerated statements of what actually occurred. He never disguised the truth; never prevaricated; never had any mental reservation; never deceived; never used any word, or threw in any circumstance, that was suited to lead the mind astray. He himself said that this was the great object which he had in view in coming into the world. “To this end was I born and for this cause came I into the world, that I should bear witness unto the truth;” John 18:37. As Jesus Christ was thus distinguished for simple truth, Paul felt that he was under sacred obligations to imitate him, and always to evince the same inviolable fidelity. The most deeply felt obligation on earth is that which the Christian feels to imitate the Redeemer.
For all the promises of God in him - All the promises which God has made through him. This is another reason why Paul felt himself bound to maintain a character of the strictest veracity. The reason was, that God always evinced that; and that since none of His promises failed, he felt himself sacredly bound to imitate Him, and to adhere to all His. The promises of God which are made through Christ, relate to the pardon of sin to the penitent; the sanctification of his people: support in temptation and trial; guidance in perplexity; peace in death, and eternal glory beyond the grave. All of these are made through a Redeemer, and none of these shall fail.
Are yea - Shall all be certainly fulfilled. There shall be no vacillation on the part of God; no fickleness; no abandoning of his gracious intention.
And in him amen - In Revelation 3:14, the Lord Jesus is called the “Amen.” The word means true, faithful, certain. And the expression here means that all the promises which are made to people through a Redeemer shall be certainly fulfilled. They are promises which are confirmed and established, and which shall by no means fail.
Unto the glory of God by us - Either by us ministers and apostles; or by us who are Christians. The latter, I think, is the meaning; and Paul means to say, that the fulfillment of all the promises which God has made to His people shall result in His glory and praise as a God of condescension and veracity. The fact that He has made such promises is an act that tends to His own glory - since it was of His mere grace that they were made; and the fulfillment of these promises in and through the church, shall also tend to produce elevated views of His fidelity and goodness.
Now he which stablisheth us - He who makes us firm (ὁ βέβαιῶν ἡμᾶς ho bebaiōn hēmas); that is, he who has confirmed us in the hopes of the gospel, and who gives us grace to be faithful, and firm in our promises. The object of this is to trace all to God, and to prevent the appearance of self-confidence, or of boasting. Paul had dwelt at length on his own fidelity and veracity. He had taken pains to prove that he was not inconstant and fickle-minded. Here he says, that this was not to be traced to himself, or to any native goodness, but was all to be traced to God. It was God who had given them all confident hope in Christ; and it was God who had given him grace to adhere to His promises, and to maintain a character for veracity. The first “us,” in this verse refers probably to Paul himself; the second includes also the Corinthians, as being also anointed and sealed.
And hath anointed us - Us who are Christians. It was customary to anoint kings, prophets, and priests on their entering on their office as a part of the ceremony of inauguration. The word “anoint” is applied to a priest, Exodus 28:41; Exodus 40:15; to a prophet, 1 Kings 19:16; Isaiah 61:1; to a king, 1Sa 10:1; 1 Samuel 15:1; 2Sa 2:4; 1 Kings 1:34. It is applied often to the Messiah as being set apart, or consecrated to his office as prophet, priest, and king - that is, as appointed by God to the highest office ever held in the world. It is applied also to Christians as being consecrated, or set apart to the service of God by the Holy Spirit - a use of the word which is derived from the sense of consecrating, or setting apart to the service of God. Thus, in 1 John 2:20, it is said, “But ye have an unction from the Holy One and know all things.” So in 1 John 2:27, “But the anointing which ye have received abideth in you,” etc. The anointing which was used in the consecration of prophets, priests, and kings, seems to have been designed to be emblematic of the influences of the Holy Spirit, who is often represented as poured upon those who are under his influence Proverbs 1:23; Isaiah 43:4; Joel 2:28-29; Zechariah 12:10; Acts 10:45, in the same way as water or oil is poured out. And as Christians are everywhere represented as being under the influence of the Holy Spirit, as being those on whom the Holy Spirit is poured, they are represented as “anointed.” They are in this manner solemnly set apart, and consecrated to the service of God.
Is God - God has done it. All is to be traced to him. It is not by any native goodness which we have, or any inclination which we have by nature to his service. This is one of the instances which abound so much in the writings of Paul, where he delights to trace all good influences to God.
Who hath also sealed us - The word used here (from σφραγίζω sphragizō) means to seal up; to close and make fast with a seal, or signet; as, e. g., books, letters, etc. that they may not be read. It is also used in the sense of setting a mark on anything, or a seal, to denote that it is genuine, authentic, confirmed, or approved, as when a deed, compact, or agreement is sealed. it is thus made sure; and is confirmed or established. Hence, it is applied to persons, as denoting that they are approved, as in Revelation 7:3; “Hurt not the earth, neither the sea, nor the trees, until we have sealed the servants of our God in their foreheads;” compare Ezekiel 9:4; see the note, John 6:27, were it is said of the Saviour, “for him hath God the Father sealed;” compare John 3:33. In a similar manner Christians are said to be sealed; to be sealed by the Holy Spirit Ephesians 1:13; Ephesians 4:30; that is, the Holy Spirit is given to them to confirm them as belonging to God. He grants them His Spirit. He renews and sanctifies them. He produces in their hearts those feelings, hopes, and desires which are an evidence that they are approved by God; that they are regarded as his adopted children; that their hope is genuine, and that their redemption and salvation are sure - in the same way as a seal makes a will or an agreement sure. God grants to them His Holy Spirit as the certain pledge that they are His, and shall be approved and saved in the last day. In this there is nothing miraculous, or in the nature of direct revelation. It consists of the ordinary operations of the Spirit on the heart, producing repentance, faith, hope, joy, conformity to God, the love of prayer and praise, and the Christian virtues generally; and these things are the evidences that the Holy Spirit has renewed the heart, and that the Christian is sealed for the day of redemption.
And given the earnest of the Spirit - The word used here (ἀῤῥαβών arrabōn from the Hebrew צרבון ‛arabown means properly a pledge given to ratify a contract; a part of the price, or purchase money; a first payment; that which confirms the bargain, and which is regarded as a pledge that all the price will be paid. The word occurs in the Septuagint and Hebrew, in Genesis 38:17-18; Genesis 38:20. In the New Testament it occurs only in this place, and in 2 Corinthians 5:5, and Ephesians 1:14, in each place in the same connection as applied to the Holy Spirit, and his influences on the heart. It refers to those influences as a pledge of the future glories which await Christians in heaven. In regard to the “earnest,” or the part of a price which was paid in a contract, it may be remarked:
- That it was of the same nature as the full price, being regarded as a part of it;
- It was regarded as a pledge or assurance that the full price would be paid. So the “earnest of the Spirit,” denotes that God gives to his people the influences of his Spirit: his operation on the heart as a part or pledge that all the blessings of the covenant of redemption shall be given to them.
And it implies:
(1) That the comforts of the Christian here are of the same nature as they will be in heaven. Heaven will consist of like comforts; of love, and peace, and joy, and purity begun here, and simply expanded there to complete and eternal perfection. The joys of heaven differ only in degree, not in kind, from those of the Christian on earth. That which is begun here is perfected there; and the feelings and views which the Christian has here, if expanded and carried out, would constitute heaven.
(2) These comforts, these influences of the Spirit, are a pledge of heaven. They are the security which God gives us that we shall be saved. If we are brought under the renewing influences of the Spirit here; if we are made meek, and humble, and prayerful by his agency; if we are made to partake of the joys which result from pardoned sin; if we are filled with the hope of heaven, it is all produced by the Holy Spirit, and is a pledge, or earnest of our future inheritance; as the first sheaves of a harvest are a pledge of a harvest; or the first payment under a contract a pledge that all will be payed. God thus gives to his people the assurance that they shall be saved; and by this “pledge” makes their title to eternal life sure.
Moreover, I call God for a record upon my soul - It is well remarked by Rosenmuller, that the second chapter should have commenced here, since there is here a transition in the subject more distinct than where the second chapter is actually made to begin. Here Tyndale commences the second chapter. This verse, with the subsequent statements, is designed to show them the true reason why he had changed his purpose, and had not visited them according to his first proposal. And that reason was not that he was fickle and inconstant; but it was that he apprehended that if he should go to them in their irregular and disorderly state, he would be under a necessity of resorting to harsh measures, and to a severity of discipline that would be alike painful to them and to him. Dr. Paley has shown with great plausibility, if not with moral certainty, that Paul’s change of purpose about visiting them was made before he wrote his First Epistle; that he had at first resolved to visit them, but that on subsequent reflection, he thought it would be better to try the effect of a faithful letter to them, admonishing them of their errors, and entreating them to exercise proper discipline themselves on the principal offender; that with this feeling he wrote his First Epistle, in which he does not state to them as yet his change of purpose, or the reason of it; but that now after he had written that letter, and after it had had all the effect which he desired, he states the true reason why he had not visited them.
It was now proper to do it; and that reason was, that he desired to spare them the severity of discipline, and had resorted to the more mild and affectionate measure of sending them a letter, and thus not making it necessary personally to administer discipline; see Paley’s Horae Paulinae, on 2 Corinthians, Numbers 4:0 and 5. The phrase, “I call God for a record upon my soul,” is in the Greek, “I call God for a witness against my soul.” It is a solemn oath, or appeal to God; and implies, that if he did not in that case declare the truth, he desired that God would be a witness against him, and would punish him accordingly. The reason why he made this solemn appeal to God was, the importance of his vindicating his own character before the church, from the charges which had been brought against him.
That to spare you - To avoid the necessity of inflicting punishment on you; of exercising severe and painful discipline. If he went among them in the state of irregularity and disorder which prevailed there, he would feel it to be necessary to exert his authority as an apostle, and remove at once the offending members from the church. He expected to avoid the necessity of these painful acts of discipline, by sending to them a faithful and affectionate epistle, and thus inducing them to reform, and to avoid the necessity of a resort to that which would have been so trying to him and to them. It was not, then, a disregard for them, or a lack of attachment to them, which had led him to change his purpose, but it was the result of tender affection. This cause of the change of his propose, of course, he would not make known to them in his First Epistle, but now that that letter had accomplished all he had desired, it was proper that they should be apprized of the reason why he had resorted to this instead of visiting them personally.
Not for that we have dominion ... - The sense of this passage I take to be this: “The course which we have pursued has been chosen not because we wish to lord it over your faith, to control your belief, but because we desired to promote your happiness. Had the former been our object, had we wished to set up a lordship or dominion over you, we should have come to you with our apostolical authority, and in the severity of apostolic discipline. We had power to command obedience, and to control your faith. But we chose not to do it. Our object was to promote your highest happiness. We, therefore, chose the mildest and gentlest manner possible; we did not exercise authority in discipline, we sent an affectionate and tender letter.” While the apostles had the right to prescribe the articles of belief, and to propound the doctrines of God, yet they would not do even that in such a manner as to seem to “lord it over God’s heritage” (οὐκ κυριευομεν ouk kurieuomen); they did not set up absolute authority, or prescribe the things to be believed in a lordly and imperative manner; nor would they make use of the severity of power to enforce what they taught. They appealed to reason; they employed persuasion; they made use of light and love to accomplish their desires.
Are helpers of your joy - This is our main object, to promote your joy. This object we have pursued in our plans, and in order to secure this. we forbore to come to you, when, if we did come at that time, we should have given occasion perhaps to the charge that we sought to lord it over your faith.
For by faith ye stand - see the note, 1 Corinthians 15:1. This seems to be a kind of proverbial expression, stating a general truth, that it was by faith that Christians were to be established or confirmed. The connection here requires us to understand this as a reason why he would not attempt to lord it over their faith; or to exercise dominion over them. That reason was, that thus far they had stood firm, in the main, in the faith 1 Corinthians 15:1; they had adhered to the truths of the gospel, and in a special manner now, in yielding obedience to the commands and entreaties of Paul in the First Epistle, they had showed that they were in the faith, and firm in faith. It was not necessary or proper, therefore, for him to attempt to exercise lordship over their belief, but all that was needful was to help forward their joy, for they were firm in the faith. We may observe:
(1) That it is a part of the duty of ministers to help forward the joy of Christians.
(2) This should be the object even in administering discipline and reproof.
(3) If even Paul would not attempt to lord it over the faith of Christians, to establish a domination over their belief, how absurd and wicked is it for uninspired ministers now, for individual ministers, for conferences, conventions, presbyteries, synods, councils, or for the pope, to attempt to establish a spiritual dominion in controlling the faith of people. The great evils in the church have arisen from their attempting to do what Paul would not do; from attempting to establish a dominion which Paul never sought, and which Paul would have abhorred. Faith must be free, and religion must be free, or they cannot exist at all.
In view of this chapter we may remark:
1. God is the only true and real Source of comfort in times of trial, 2 Corinthians 1:3. It is from Him that all real consolation must come, and he only can meet and sustain the soul when it is borne down with calamity. All persons are subjected to trial, and at some periods of their lives, to severe trial. Sickness is a trial; the death of a friend is a trial; the loss of property or health, disappointment, and reproach, and slander, and poverty, and want, are trials to which we are all more or less exposed. In these trials, it is natural to look to some source of consolation; some way in which they may be borne. Some seek consolation in philosophy, and endeavor to blunt their feelings and destroy their sensibilities, as the ancient stoics did. But “to destroy sensibility is not to produce comfort” - Dr. Mason. Some plunge deep into pleasures, and endeavor to drown their sorrows in the intoxicating draught; but this is not to produce comfort to the soul, even were it possible in such pleasures to forget their sorrows. Such were the ancient Epicureans. Some seek consolation in their surviving friends, and look to them to comfort and sustain the sinking heart. But the arm of an earthly friend is feeble, when God lays His hand upon us. It is only the hand that smites that can heal; only the God that sends the affliction, that can bind up the broken spirit. He is the “Father of mercies,” and He is “the God of all consolation;” and in affliction there is no true comfort except in Him.
2. This consolation in God is derived from many sources:
- He is the “Father of mercies,” and we may be assured, therefore, that He does nothing inconsistent with mercy.
- We may be assured that He is right - always right, and that He does nothing but right. We may not be able to see the reason of His actions, but we may have the assurance that it is all right, and will yet be seen to be right.
- There is comfort in the fact, that our afflictions are ordered by an intelligent Being, by One who is all-wise, and all-knowing.
They are not the result of blind chance; but they are ordered by One who is wise to know what ought to be done; and who is so fair that he will do nothing wrong. There could be no consolation in the feeling that mere chance directed our trials; nor can there be consolation except in the feeling that a being of intelligence and goodness directs and orders all. The true comfort, therefore, is to be found in religion, not in atheism and philosophy.
3. It is possible to bless God in the midst of trials, and as the result of trial. It is possible so clearly to see His hand, and to be so fully satisfied with His wisdom and goodness of His dealings even when we are severely afflicted, as to see that He is worthy of our highest confidence and most exalted praise, 2 Corinthians 1:3. God may be seen, then, to be the “Father of mercies;” and He may impart, even then, a consolation which we never experience in the days of prosperity. Some of the purest and most elevated joys known upon earth, are experienced in the very midst of outward calamities, and the most sincere and elevated thanksgivings which are offered to God, are often those which are the result of sanctified afflictions. It is when we are brought out from such trials, where we have experienced the rich consolations and the sustaining power of the gospel, that we are most disposed to say with Paul, “Blessed be God;” and can most clearly see that he is the “Father of mercies.” No Christian will ever have occasion to regret the trials through which God has brought him. I never knew a sincere Christian who was not finally benefitted by trials.
4. Christian joy is not apathy, it is comfort; 2 Corinthians 1:4-5. It is not insensibility to suffering; it is not stoical indifference. The Christian feels his sufferings as keenly as others. The Lord Jesus was as sensitive to suffering as any one of the human family ever was; he was as susceptible of emotion from reproach, contempt, and scorn, and he as keenly felt the pain of the scourge, the nails, and the cross, as any one could. But there is positive joy, there is true and solid comfort. There is substantial, pure, and elevated happiness. Religion does not blunt the feelings, or destroy the sensibility, but it brings in consolations which enable us to bear our pains, and to endure persecution without complaining. In this, religion differs from all systems of philosophy. The one attempts to blunt and destroy our sensibilities to suffering; the other, while it makes us more delicate and tender in our feelings, gives consolation adapted to that delicate sensibility, and suited to sustain the soul, notwithstanding the acuteness of its sufferings.
5. Ministers of the gospel may expect to be especially tried and afflicted; 2 Corinthians 1:5. So it was with Paul and his fellow-apostles; and so it has been since. They are the special objects of the hatred of sinners, as they stand in the way of the sinful pursuits and pleasures of the world; and they are, like their Master, especially hated by the enemy of souls. Besides, they are, by their office, required to minister consolation to others who are afflicted; and it is so ordered in the providence of God, that they are subjected to special trials often, in order that they may be able to impart special consolations. They are to be the examples and the guides of the church of God; and God takes care that they shall be permitted to show by their example, as well as by their preaching, the supporting power of the gospel in times of trial.
6. If we suffer much in the cause of the Redeemer, we may also expect much consolation; 2 Corinthians 1:5. Christ will take care that our hearts shall be filled with joy and peace. As our trials in his cause are, so shall our consolations be. If we suffer much, we shall enjoy much; if we are persecuted much, we shall have much support; if our names are cast out among people for his sake, we shall have increasing evidence that they are written in his Book of Life. There are things in the Christian religion which can be learned only in the furnace of affliction; and he who has never been afflicted on account of his attachment to Christ, is a stranger yet to much, very much of the fullness and beauty of that system of religion which has been appointed by the Redeemer, and to much, very much, of the beauty and power of the promises of the Bible. No one will ever understand all the Bible who is not favored with much persecution and many trials.
7. We should be willing to suffer; 2 Corinthians 1:3-5. If we are willing to be happy, we should also be willing to suffer. If we desire to be happy in religion, we should be willing to suffer. If we expect to be happy, we should also be willing to endure much. Trials suit us for enjoyment here, as well as for heaven hereafter.
8. One great design of the consolation which is imparted to Christians in the time of affliction is, that they may be able to impart consolation also to others; 2 Corinthians 1:4, 2 Corinthians 1:6-7. God designs that we should thus be mutual aids. And He comforts a minister in his trials, that he may, by his own experience, be able to minister consolation to the people of his charge he comforts a parent, that he may administer consolation to his children; a friend, that he may comfort a friend. He who attempts to administer consolation should be able to speak from experience: and God, therefore, afflicts and comforts all His people, that they may know how to administer consolation to those with whom they are connected.
9. If we have experienced special consolations ourselves in times of trial, we are under obligations to seek out and comfort others who are afflicted. So Paul felt. We should feel that God has qualified us for this work; and having qualified us for it, that He calls on us to do it. The consolation which God gives in affliction is a rich treasure which we are bound to impart to others; the experience which we have of the true sources of consolation is an inestimable talent which we are to use for the promotion of his glory. No man has a talent for doing more direct good than he who can go to the afflicted, and bear testimony, from his own experience, to the goodness of God. And every one who can testify that God is good, and is able to support the soul in times of trial - and what Christian cannot do it who has ever been afflicted? - should regard himself as favored with a special talent for doing good, and should rejoice in the privilege of using it to the glory of God. For there is no talent more honorable than that of being able to promote the divine glory, to comfort the afflicted, or to be able from personal experience, to testify that God is good - always good. “The power of doing good, always implies an obligation to do it” - Cotton Mather.
10. In this chapter, we have a case of a near contemplation of death. 2 Corinthians 1:8-9. Paul expected soon to die. He had the sentence of death in himself. He saw no human probability of escape. He was called, therefore, calmly to look death in the face, and to contemplate it as an event certain and near. Such a condition is deeply interesting, it is the important crisis of life. And yet it is an event which all must soon contemplate. We all, in a short period, each one for himself, must look upon death as certain. and as near to us; as an event in which we are personally interested, and from which we cannot escape. Much as we may turn away from it in health, and unanxious as we may be then in regard to it, yet by no possibility can we long avert our minds from the subject. It is interesting, then, to inquire how Paul felt when he looked at death; how we should feel; and how we actually shall feel when we come to die.
11. A contemplation of death as near and certain, is suited to lead us to trust in God. This was the effect in the case of Paul; 2 Corinthians 1:9. He had learned in health to put his trust in Him, and now, when the trial was apparently near, he had no where else to go, and he confided in him alone. He felt that if he was rescued, it could be only by the interposition of God; and that there was none but God who could sustain him if he should die. And what event can there be that is so well fitted to lead us to trust in God as death? And where else can we go in view of that dark hour? For:
(a) We know not what death is. We have not tried it; nor do we know what grace may be necessary for us in those unknown pangs and sufferings; in that deep darkness, and that sad gloom.
(b) Our friends cannot help us then. They will, they must, then, give us the parting hand; and as we enter the shades of the dark valley, they must bid us farewell. The skill of the physician will fall then. Our worldly friends will forsake us when we come to die. They do not love to be in the room of death, and they can give us no consolation if they are there. Our pious friends cannot attend us far in the dark valley. They may pray, and commend us to God, but even they must leave us to die alone. Who but God can attend us? Who but He can support us then?
(c) Only God knows what is beyond death. How do we know the way to His bar, to His presence, to His heaven? How can we direct our own steps in that dark and unknown world? None but God our Saviour can guide us there; no one else can conduct us to His abode.
(d) None but God can sustain us in the pain, the anguish, the feebleness, the sinking of the powers of body and of mind in that distressing hour. He can uphold us then; and it is an unspeakable privilege to be permitted then, “when heart and flesh faint,” to say of him, “God is the strength of” our “heart, and” our “portion forever;” Psalms 73:26.
12. We should regard a restoration from dangerous sickness, and from imminent peril of death as a kind of resurrection. So Paul regarded it; 2 Corinthians 1:9. We should remember how easy it would have been for God to have removed us; how rapidly we were tending to the grave; how certainly we should have descended there but for his interposition. We should feel, therefore, that we owe our lives to Him as really and entirely as though we had been raised up from the dead; and that the same kind of power and goodness have been evinced as would have been had God given us life anew. Life is God’s gift; and every instance of recovery from peril, or from dangerous illness, is as really an interposition of his mercy as though we had been raised up from the dead.
13. We should, in like manner, regard a restoration of our friends from dangerous sickness, or peril of any kind, as a species of resurrection from the dead. When a parent, a husband, a wife or a child has been dangerously ill, Or exposed to some imminent danger, and has been recovered, we cannot but feel that the recovery is entirely owing to the interposition of God. With infinite ease He could have consigned them to the grave; and had He not mercifully interposed, they would have died. As they were originally his gift to us, so we should regard each interposition of that kind as new gift, and receive the recovered and restored friend as a fresh gift from His hand,
14. We should feel that lives thus preserved and thus recovered from danger, belong to God. He has preserved them. In the most absolute sense they belong to Him, and to Him they should be consecrated. So Paul felt; and his whole life shows how entirely he regarded himself as bound to devote a life often preserved in the midst of peril, to the service of his kind Benefactor. There is no claim more absolute than that which God has on those whom He has preserved from dangerous situations, or whom He has raised up from the borders of the grave. All the strength which He has imparted, all the talent, learning, skill, which He has thus preserved, should be regarded in the most absolute sense as His, and should be honestly and entirely consecrated to Him. But for Him we should have died; and He has a right to our services and obedience which is entire, and which should be felt to be perpetual. And it may be added, that the right is not less clear and strong to the service of those whom He keeps without their being exposed to such peril, or raised up from such beds of sickness. Only a very few of the interventions of God on our behalf are seen by us. A small part of the perils to which we may be really exposed are seen. And it is no less owing to His preserving care that we are kept in health, and strength, and in the enjoyment of reason, than it is that we are raised up from dangerous sickness. Man is as much bound to devote himself to God for preserving him from sickness and danger as He is for raising him up when he has been sick, and defending him in danger.
15. We have here an instance of the principle on which Paul acted, 2 Corinthians 1:12. In his aims, and in the manner of accomplishing his aims, He was guided only by the principles of simplicity and sincerity, and by the grace of God. He had no sinister and worldly purpose; he had no crooked and subtle policy by which to accomplish his purposes. He sought simply the glory of God and the salvation of man; and he sought this in a manner plain, direct, honest, and straightforward. He admitted none of the principles of worldly policy which have been so often acted on since in the church; he knew nothing of “pious frauds,” which have so often disgraced the professed friends of the Redeemer; he admitted no form of deception and delusion, even for the promotion of objects which were great, and good, and desirable. He knew that all that ought to be done could be accomplished by straightforward and simple-hearted purposes; and that a cause which depended on the carnal and crooked policy of the world was a bad cause; and that such policy would ultimately ruin the best of causes. How happy would it have been if these views had always prevailed in the church!
16. We see the value of a good conscience, 2 Corinthians 1:12. Paul had the testimony of an enlightened conscience to the correctness and uprightness of his course of life everywhere. He felt assured that his aims had been right; and that he had endeavored in all simplicity and sincerity to pursue a course of life which such a conscience would approve. Such a testimony, such an approving conscience is of inestimable value. It is worth more than gold, and crowns, and all that the earth can give. When like Paul we are exposed to peril, or trial, or calamity, it matters little, if we have an approving conscience. When like him we are persecuted, it matters little if we have the testimony of our own minds that we have pursued an upright and an honest course of life. When like him we look death in the face, and feel that we “have the sentence of death in ourselves,” of what inestimable value then will be an approving conscience! How unspeakable the consolation if we can look back then on a life spent in conscious integrity; a life spent in endeavoring to promote the glory of God and the salvation of the world!
17. Every Christian should feel himself sacredly bound to maintain a character of veracity, 2 Corinthians 1:19-20. Christ was always true to his word; and all that God has promised shall be certainly fulfilled. And as a Christian is a professed follower of him who was “the Amen and the true Witness,” he should feel himself bound by the most sacred obligations to adhere to all his promises, and to fulfill all His word. No man can do any good who is not a man of truth; and in no way can Christians more dishonor their profession, and injure the cause of the Redeemer, than by a lack of character for unimpeachable veracity. If they make promises which are never fulfilled; if they state that as true which is not true; if they overload their narratives with circumstances which had no existence; if they deceive, and defraud others; and if they are so loose in their statements that no one believes them, it is impossible for them to do good in their Christian profession. Every Christian should have - as he easily may have - such a character for veracity that every person shall put implicit confidence in all His promises and statements; so implicit that they shall deem his word as good as an oath; and His promise as certain as though it were secured by notes and bonds in the most solemn manner. The word of a Christian should need no strengthening by oaths and bonds; it should be such that it could really not be strengthened by anything that notes and bonds could add to it.
18. All Christians should regard themselves as consecrated to God, 2 Corinthians 1:21. They have been anointed, or set apart to his service. They should feel that they are as really set apart to His service as the ancient prophets, priests, and kings were to their appropriate offices by the ceremony of anointing. They belong to God, and are under every sacred and solemn obligation to live to Him, and Him alone.
19. It is an inestimable privilege to be a Christian, 2 Corinthians 1:21-22. It is regarded as a privilege to be an heir to an estate, and to have an assurance that it will be ours. But the Christian has an “earnest,” a pledge that heaven is his. He is anointed by God; he is sealed for heaven. Heaven is his home; and God is giving to him daily evidence in his own experience that he will soon be admitted to its pure and blissful abodes.
20. The joys of the Christian on earth are of the same nature as the joys of heaven. These comforts are an “earnest’ of the future inheritance; a part of that which the Christian is to enjoy forever. His joys on earth are “heaven begun;” and all that is needful to constitute heaven is that these joys should he expanded and perpetuated. There will be no other heaven than that which would be constituted by the expanded joys of a Christian.
21. No one is a Christian, no one is suited for heaven, who has not such principles and joys as being fully expanded and developed would constitute heaven. The joys of heaven are not to be created for us as some new thing; they are not to be such as we have had no foretaste, no conception of; but they are to be such as will be produced of necessity by removing imperfection from the joys and feelings of the believer, and carrying them out without alloy, and without interruption, and without end. The man, therefore, who has such a character, that if fairly developed would not constitute the joys of heaven, is not a Christian. He has no evidence that he has been born again; and all his joys are fancied and delusive.
22. Christians should be careful not to grieve the Holy Spirit; compare Ephesians 4:30. It is by that Spirit that they are “anointed” and “sealed,” and it is by his influences that they have the “earnest” of their future inheritance. All good influences on their minds proceed from that Spirit; and it should be their high and constant aim not to grieve him. By no course of conduct, by no conversation, by no impure thought, should they drive that Spirit from their minds. All their peace and joy is dependent on their cherishing his sacred influences; and by all the means in their power they should strive to secure his constant agency on their souls.
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Barnes, Albert. "Commentary on 2 Corinthians 1". "Barnes' Notes on the Whole Bible". https://www.studylight.org/
the Week of Proper 19 / Ordinary 24