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Bible Commentaries

Calvin's Commentary on the Bible

2 Corinthians 7

Verse 1

1. These promises, therefore. God, it is true, anticipates us in his promises by his pure favor; but when he has, of his own accord, conferred upon us his favor, he immediately afterwards requires from us gratitude in return. Thus what he said to Abraham, I am thy God, (Genesis 17:7,) was an offer of his undeserved goodness, yet he at the same time added what he required from him — Walk before me, and be thou perfect As, however, this second clause is not always expressed, Paul instructs us that in all the promises this condition is implied, (624) that they must be incitements to us to promote the glory of God. For from what does he deduce an argument to stimulate us? It is from this, that God confers upon us such a distinguished honor. Such, then, is the nature of the promises, that they call us to sanctification, as if God had interposed by an implied agreement. We know, too, what the Scripture teaches in various passages in reference to the design of redemption, and the same thing must be viewed as applying to every token of his favor.

From all filthiness of flesh and spirit. Having already shown, that we are called to purity, (625) he now adds, that it ought to be seen in the body, as well as in the soul; for that the term flesh is taken here to mean the body, and the term spirit to mean the soul, is manifest from this, that if the term spirit meant the grace of regeneration, Paul’s statement in reference to the pollution of the spirit would be absurd. He would have us, therefore, pure from defilements, not merely inward, such as have God alone as their witness; but also outward, such as fall under the observation of men. “Let us not merely have chaste consciences in the sight of God. We must also consecrate to him our whole body and all its members, that no impurity may be seen in any part of us.” (626)

Now if we consider what is the point that he handles, we shall readily perceive, that those act with excessive impudence, (627) who excuse outward idolatry on I know not what pretexts. (628) For as inward impiety, and superstition, of whatever kind, is a defilement of the spirit, what will they understand by defilement of the flesh, but an outward profession of impiety, whether it be pretended, or uttered from the heart? They boast of a pure conscience; that, indeed, is on false grounds, but granting them what they falsely boast of, they have only the half of what Paul requires from believers. Hence they have no ground to think, that they have given satisfaction to God by that half; for let a person show any appearance of idolatry at all, or any indication of it, or take part in wicked or superstitious rites, even though he were — what he cannot be — perfectly upright in his own mind, he would, nevertheless, not be exempt from the guilt of polluting his body.

Perfecting holiness. As the verb ἐπιτελεῖν in Greek sometimes means, to perfect, and sometimes to perform sacred rites, (629) it is elegantly made use of here by Paul in the former signification, which is the more frequent one — in such a way, however, as to allude to sanctification, of which he is now treating. For while it denotes perfection, it seems to have been intentionally transferred to sacred offices, because there ought to be nothing defective in the service of God, but everything complete. Hence, in order that you may sanctify yourself to God aright, you must dedicate both body and soul entirely to him.

In the fear of God. For if the fear of God influences us, we will not be so much disposed to indulge ourselves, nor will there be a bursting forth of that audacity of wantonness, which showed itself among the Corinthians. For how does it happen, that many delight themselves so much in outward idolatry, and haughtily defend so gross a vice, unless it be, that they think that they mock God with impunity? If the fear of God had dominion over them, they would immediately, on the first moment, leave off all cavils, without requiring to be constrained to it by any disputations.

(624) “ Ceste condition est tacitement attachee a toutes les promesses;” — “This condition is tacitly appended to all the promises.”

(625) “ Appelez àpurete et sainctete;” — “Called to purity and holiness.”

(626) “ Afin qu’il n’apparoisse en nul endroit de nous ancune macule ou souillure;” — “That there may not appear in any part of us any spot or filth.”

(627) “ Combien sont impudens et deshontez;” — “How impudent they are and unabashed.”

(628) Calvin manifestly refers here, as in a variety of other instances, to the temporizing conduct of the Nicodemites. See Calvin on the Corinthians, vol. 1, pp. 286, 384. — Ed.

(629) It is employed by Herodotus in the sense of perfecting or completing, (see Herod. 1:51,) while in various instances it is made use of by him to mean — discharging a religious service — in connection with θρησκείας, (ceremonies,) εὐχωλας , (vows,) and θυσίας, (sacrifices.) See Herod. 2:37, 63, 4:26. — Ed.

Verse 2

2. Make room for us. Again he returns from a statement of doctrine to treat of what more especially concerns himself, but simply with this intention — that he may not lose his pains in admonishing the Corinthians. Nay more, he closes the preceding admonition with the same statement, which he had made use of by way of preface. For what is meant by the expressions Receive us, or Make room for us? It is equivalent to, Be ye enlarged, (2 Corinthians 6:13;) that is, “Do not allow corrupt affections, or unfavorable apprehensions, to prevent this doctrine from making its way into your minds, and obtaining a place within you. For as I lay myself out for your salvation with a fatherly zeal, it were unseemly that you should turn a deaf ear (630) upon me.” (631)

We have done injury to no man. He declares that there is no reason why they should have their minds alienated, (632) inasmuch as he had not given them occasion of offense in any thing. Now he mentions three kinds of offenses, as to which he declares himself to be guiltless. The first is, manifest hurt or injury. The second is, the corruption that springs from false doctrine. The third is, defrauding or cheating in worldly goods. These are three things by which, for the most part, pastors (633) are wont to alienate the minds of the people from them — when they conduct themselves in an overbearing manner, and, making their authority their pretext, break forth into tyrannical cruelty or unreasonableness, — or when they draw aside from the right path those to whom they ought to have been guides, and infect them with the corruption of false doctrine, — or when they manifest an insatiable covetousness, by eagerly desiring what belongs to another. Should any one wish to have it in shorter compass-the first is, fierceness and an abuse of power by excessive insolence (634) the second, unfaithfulness in teaching. the third, avarice.

(630) “ Indignum esset me surdis fabulam canere;” — “It were unseemly that I should be like one that tells a story to the deaf.” A similar expression is made use of by Horace, ( Ep. 2, 1, 200,) — “ Scriptores autem narrare putaret asello fabellam surdo;” — “But he would think that the writers were telling a story to a deaf ass.” — Ed.

(631) “ Que ie perdisse mon temps en vous admonestant;” — “That I should lose my time in admonishing you.”

(632) “ De luy ou de sa doctrine;” — “From him or from his doctrine.”

(633) “ Les ministres et pasteurs;” — “Ministers and pastors.”

(634) “ Quand on est arrogant, et on abuse de la puissance en se desbordant et vsurpant plus qu’il ne faut;” — “When one is presumptuous, and abuses his power by going beyond bounds and assuming more than he ought.”

Verse 3

3. I say not this to condemn you. As the foregoing apology was a sort of expostulation, and we can scarcely avoid reproaching when we expostulate, he softens on this account what he had said. “I clear myself,” says he, “ in such a way as to be desirous to avoid, what would tend to your dishonor.” The Corinthians, it is true, were unkind, and they deserved that, on Paul’s being acquitted from blame, they should be substituted in his place as the guilty party; nay more, that they should be held guilty in two respects — in respect of ingratitude, and on the ground of their having calumniated the innocent. Such, however, is the Apostle’s moderation, that he refrains from recrimination, contenting himself with standing simply on the defensive.

For I have before said. Those that love do not assail; (635) nay more, if any fault has been committed, they either cover it over by taking no notice of it, or soften it by kindness. For a disposition to reproach is a sign of hatred. Hence Paul, with the view of showing that he has no inclination to distress the Corinthians, declares his affection towards them. At the same time, he undoubtedly in a manner condemns them, while he says that he does not do so. As, however, there is a great difference between gall and vinegar, so there is also between that condemnation, by which we harass a man in a spirit of hatred, with the view of blasting him with infamy, and, on the other hand, that, by which we endeavor to bring back an offender into the right way, that, along with safety, he may in addition to this regain his honors unimpaired.

Ye are in our hearts — that is, “I carry you about with me inclosed in my heart.” To die and live with you — that is, “So that no change can loosen our attachment, for I am prepared not merely to live with you, but also to be associated with you in death, if necessary, and to endure anything rather than renounce your friendship.” Mark well, in what manner all pastors. (636) ought to be affected.

(635) “ Ceux qui aiment vn autre, ne prenent point plaisir ale poursuyure et picquer;” — “Those who love another take no pleasure in pursuing and stinging him.”

(636) “ Pasteurs et ministres;” — “Pastors and ministers.”

Verse 4

4. Great is my boldness. Now, as if he had obtained the enlargement of heart that he had desired on the part of the Corinthians, he leaves off complaining, and pours out his heart with cheerfulness. “What need is there that I should expend so much labor upon a matter already accomplished? For I think I have already what I asked. For the things that Titus has reported to me respecting you are not merely sufficient for quieting my mind, but afford me also ground of glorying confidently on your account (637) Nay more, they have effectually dispelled the grief, which many great and heavy afflictions had occasioned me.” He goes on step by step, by way of climax; for glorying is more than being of an easy and quiet mind; and being freed from grief occasioned by many afflictions, is greater than either of those. Chrysostom explains this boldness somewhat differently, in this manner — “If I deal with you the more freely, it is on this account, that, relying on the assurance of your good will towards me, I think I may take so much liberty with you.” I have stated, however, what appeared to me to be the more probable meaning — that the report given by Titus had removed the unfavorable impression, which had previously racked his mind. (638)

(637) “Timothy is despatched” (by Paul) “to Corinth, and after him Titus is sent. In the mean time, ‘a door is opened of the Lord’ to the Apostles to preach Christ’s gospel at Troas; but, strange to relate! he who panted so earnestly for such opportunities, had neither heart nor tongue to improve the present. The expected messenger from Corinth had not arrived — he had ‘no rest in his spirit,’ and abandoning the rich harvest which invited his labors, he wandered into Macedonia. Nor yet did he find ease: ‘For when we were come into Macedonia, our flesh had no rest, but we were troubled on every side — without were fightings; within were fears.’ At last Titus arrives with tidings from Corinth. The Apostle’s letter had been well received; it had produced the intended effects; a spirit of repentance had fallen upon the Church; they had applied themselves vigorously to the correction of abuses; the love which they bore to their spiritual father had revived with additional strength. ‘Now! thanks be unto God, who always causeth us to triumph in Christ, and maketh manifest the savour of his knowledge by us in every place!’ ‘Great is my boldness of speech towards you, great is my glorying of you; I am filled with comfort, I am exceeding joyful in all our tribulation.’ (2 Corinthians 2:14; 2 Corinthians 7:4.) What a sudden change! what a wonderful transformation! Formerly we saw him like a soldier, wounded, weak, disabled, dispirited, fallen to the ground; now he is lifted up, victorious, and borne on the triumphant car. ” — M’Crie’s Sermons, p. 39. — Ed.

(638) “ La mauuaise opinion ou le souspecon qu’il auoit d’eux, et dont il estoit tourmente en son coeur;” — “The bad opinion or suspicion that he had of them, and with which he had been tormented in his heart.”

Verse 5

5. For when we had come into Macedonia The heaviness of his grief tends to show, how efficacious the consolation was. “I was pressed on every side,” says he, “by afflictions both internal and external. All this, however, has not prevented the joy that you have afforded me from prevailing over it, and even overflowing.” (639) When he says that he had no rest in his flesh, it is as if he had said — “As a man, I had no relief.” (640) For he excepts spiritual consolations, by which he was in the mean time sustained. He was afflicted, therefore, not merely in body, but also in mind, so that, as a man, he experienced nothing but great bitterness of afflictions.

Without were fightings By fightings he means outward assaults, with which his enemies molested him: fears he means the anxieties, that he endured on account of the internal maladies of the Church, for it was not so much by personal as by public evils, that he was disquieted. What he means, then, to say is this — that there were not merely avowed enemies that were hostile to him, but that he endured, nevertheless, much distress in consequence of domestic evils. For he saw how great was the infirmity of many, nay of almost all, and in the mean time what, and how diversified, were the machinations, by which Satan attempted to throw every thing into confusion — how few were wise, how few were sincere, how few were steadfast, and how many, on the other hand, were either mere pretenders, and worthless, or ambitious, or turbulent. Amidst these difficulties, the servants of God must of necessity feel alarmed, and be racked with anxieties; and so much the more on this account — that they are constrained to bear many things silently, that they may consult the peace of the Churches. Hence he expressed himself with propriety when he said — Without were fightings; within were fears. For faithful pastors openly set themselves in opposition to those enemies that avowedly attack Christ’s kingdom, but they are inwardly tormented, and endure secret tortures, when they see the Church afflicted with internal evils, for the exterminating of which they dare not openly sound the trumpet. (641) But although he had almost incessant conflicts, it is probable that he was at that time more severely pressed than usual. The servants of Christ, undoubtedly, have scarcely at any time exemption from fears, and Paul was seldom free from outward fightings; but as he was at that time more violently oppressed, he makes use of the plural number — fightings and fears, meaning that he required to fight in many ways, and against various enemies, and that he had at the same time many kinds of fear.

(639) Calvin here has manifestly in his eye the singularly emphatic word made use of by Paul in the preceding verse — ὑπερπερισσεύομαι, I am exceeding joyful. “The word here used occurs nowhere else in the New Testament except in Romans 5:20. It is not found in the classic writers, and is a word which Paul evidently compounded, (from ὑπὲρ and περισσεύω,) and means to superabound over, to superabound greatly, or exceedingly. It is a word which would be used only when the heart was full, and when it would be difficult to find words to express its conceptions. Paul’s heart was full of joy, and he pours forth his feelings in the most fervid and glowing language — ‘I have joy which cannot be expressed.’” — Barnes. — Ed.

(640) “ Je n’ay point eu de relasche ou soulagement;” — “I had no relief or alleviation.”

(641) “ Pour les quelles chasser et y remedier, ils n’osent pas sonner la trompette tout haut, comme on dit :” — “For putting down which evils, and remedying them, they dare not sound the trumpet aloud, as they say.”

Verse 6

6. Who comforteth the lowly. This is mentioned as a reason; for he means that consolation had been offered to him, because he was borne down with evils, and almost overwhelmed, inasmuch as God is wont to comfort the lowly, that is, those that are cast down. Hence a most profitable doctrine may be inferred — that the more we have been afflicted, so much the greater consolation has been prepared for us by God. Hence, in the epithet here applied to God, there is a choice promise contained, as though he had said, that it is peculiarly the part of God to comfort those that are miserable and are abased to the dust.

Verse 7

7. And not by his coming only. Lest the Corinthians should object in these terms — “What is it to us if Titus has cheered you by his coming? No doubt, as you loved him, you would feel delighted to see him;” he declares, that the occasion of his joy was, that Titus had, on returning from them, communicated the most joyful intelligence. Accordingly he declares, that it was not so much the presence of one individual, as the prosperous condition of the Corinthians, that had cheered him.

Your desire Mark, what joyful tidings were communicated to Paul respecting the Corinthians. Their desire originated in the circumstance, that they held Paul’s doctrine in high estimation. Their tears were a token of respect; because, being affected with his reproof, they mourned over their sins. Their zeal was an evidence of good will. From these three things he inferred that they were penitent. This afforded him full satisfaction, because he had no other intention or anxiety, than the consulting of their welfare.

So that I rejoiced the more — that is, “So that all my griefs and distresses gave way to joy.” Hence we see, not merely with what fervor of mind he desired the public good of the Church, but also how mild and gentle a disposition he possessed, as being one that could suddenly bury in oblivion offenses of so serious a nature. At the same time, this may rather be taken in another way, so as to be viewed in connection with what follows, and I am not sure but that this meaning would correspond better with Paul’s intention. As, however, it is a matter of no great moment, I pass over it slightly.

Verse 8

8. For though I grieved you. He now begins to apologize to the Corinthians for having handle them somewhat roughly in the former Epistle. Now we must observe, in what a variety of ways he deals with them, so that it might appear as though he sustained different characters. The reason is that his discourse was directed to the whole of the Church. There were some there, that entertained an unfavorable view of him — there were others that held him, as he deserved, in the highest esteem — some were doubtful: others were confident — some were docile: others were obstinate. (642) In consequence of this diversity, he required to direct his discourse now in one way, then in another, in order to suit himself to all. Now he lessens, or rather he takes away altogether any occasion of offense, on account of the severity that he had employed, on the ground of its having turned out to the promotion of their welfare. “Your welfare,” says he, “is so much an object of desire to me, that I am delighted to see that I have done you good.” This softening-down is admissible only when the teacher (643) has done good so far as was needed, by means of his reproofs; for if he had found, that the minds of the Corinthians still remained obstinate, and had he perceived an advantage arising from the discipline that he had attempted, he would, undoubtedly, have abated nothing from his former severity. It is to be observed, however, that he rejoices to have been an occasion of grief to those whom he loved; for he was more desirous to profit, than to please them.

But what does he mean when he adds — though I did repent? For if we admit, that Paul had felt dissatisfied with what he had written, there would follow an inconsistency of no slight character — that the former Epistle had been written under a rash impulse, rather than under the guidance of the Spirit. I answer, that the word repent is used here in a loose sense for being grieved. For while he made the Corinthians sad, he himself also participated in the grief, and in a manner inflicted grief at the same time upon himself. “Though I gave you pain against my inclination, and it grieved me to be under the necessity of being harsh to you, I am grieved no longer on that account, when I see that it has been of advantage to you.” Let us take an instance from the case of a father; for a father feels grief in connection with his severity, when at any time he chastises his son, but approves of it, notwithstanding, because he sees that it is conducive to his son’s advantage. In like manner Paul could feel no pleasure in irritating the minds of the Corinthians; but, being conscious of the motive that influenced his conduct, he preferred duty to inclination.

For I see. The transition is abrupt; but that does not at all impair the distinctness of the sense. In the first place, he says, that he had fully ascertained by the effect, that the former Epistle, though for a time unwelcome, had nevertheless at length been of advantage, and secondly, that he rejoiced on account of that advantage.

(642) “ Obstinez et endurcis;” — ”Obstinate and obdurate.”

(643) “ Le Docteur et Ministre;” — “The Teacher and Minister.”

Verse 9

9. Not because you have been made sorry. He means, that he feels no pleasure whatever in their sorrow — nay more, had he his choice, he would endeavor to promote equally their welfare and their joy, by the same means; but that as he could not do otherwise, their welfare was of so much importance in his view, that he rejoiced that they had been made sorry unto repentance. For there are instances of physicians, who are, indeed, in other respects good and faithful, but are at the same time harsh, and do not spare their patients. Paul declares, that he is not of such a disposition as to employ harsh cures, when not constrained by necessity. As, however, it had turned out well, that he had made trial of that kind of cure, he congratulates himself on his success. He makes use of a similar form of expression in 2 Corinthians 5:4,

We in this tabernacle groan, being burdened, because we are desirous not to be unclothed, but clothed upon.

Verse 10

10. Sorrow according to God (644) In the first place, in order to understand what is meant by this clause according to God, we must observe the contrast, for the sorrow that is according to God he contrasts with the sorrow of the world Let us now take, also, the contrast between two kinds of joy. The joy of the world is, when men foolishly, and without the fear of the Lord, exult in vanity, that is, in the world, and, intoxicated with a transient felicity, look no higher than the earth. The joy that is according to God is, when men place all their happiness in God, and take satisfaction in His grace, and show this by contempt of the world, using earthly prosperity as if they used it not, and joyful in the midst of adversity. Accordingly, the sorrow of the world is, when men despond in consequence of earthly afflictions, and are overwhelmed with grief; while sorrow according to God is that which has an eye to God, while they reckon it the one misery — to have lost the favor of God; when, impressed with fear of His judgment, they mourn over their sins. This sorrow Paul makes the cause and origin of repentance. This is carefully to be observed, for unless the sinner be dissatisfied with himself, detest his manner of life, and be thoroughly grieved from an apprehension of sin, he will never betake himself to the Lord. (645) On the other hand, it is impossible for a man to experience a sorrow of this kind, without its giving birth to a new heart. Hence repentance takes its rise in grief, for the reason that I have mentioned — because no one can return to the right way, but the man who hates sin; but where hatred of sin is, there is self-dissatisfaction and grief.

There is, however, a beautiful allusion here to the term repentance, when he says — not to be repented of; for however unpleasant the thing is at first taste, it renders itself desirable by its usefulness. The epithet, it is true, might apply to the term salvation, equally as to that of repentance; but it appears to me to suit better with the term repentance “We are taught by the result itself, that grief ought not to be painful to us, or distressing. In like manner, although repentance contains in it some degree of bitterness, if, is spoken of as not to be repented of on account of the precious and pleasant fruit which it produces.”

To salvation Paul seems to make repentance the ground of salvation. Were it so, it would follow, that we are justified by works. I answer, that we must observe what Paul here treats of, for he is not inquiring as to the ground of salvation, but simply commending repentance from the fruit which it produces, he says that it is like a way by which we arrive at salvation. Nor is it without good reason; for Christ calls us by way of free favor, but it is to repentance. (Matthew 9:13.) God by way of free favor pardons our sins, but only when we renounce them. Nay more, God accomplishes in us at one and the same time two things: being renewed by repentance, we are delivered from the bondage of our sins; and, being justified by faith, we are delivered also from the curse of our sins. They are, therefore, inseparable fruits of grace, and, in consequence of their invariable connection, repentance may with fitness and propriety be represented as an introduction to salvation, but in this way of speaking of it, it is represented as an effect rather than as a cause. These are not refinements for the purpose of evasion, but a true and simple solution, for, while Scripture teaches us that we never obtain forgiveness of sins without repentance, it represents at the same time, in a variety of passages, the mercy of God alone as the ground of our obtaining it.

(644) “ Tristitia secundum Deum;” — “ La tristesse qui est selon Dieu;” — “The sorrow which is according to God.” “ Κατὰ Θεὸν, in such a way as God requires — with reference to his will and glory, i.e., as Rosenm. explains, ‘arising from causes out of which he would have it arise, and producing effects such as he would approve.’” — Bloomfield. —.Ed.

(645) “ Ne pensons pas que iamais il se convertisse au Seigneur;” — “Let us not think that ever he will turn to the Lord.”

Verse 11

11. What earnest desire it produced in you I shall not enter into any dispute as to whether the things that Paul enumerates are effects of repentance, or belong to it, or are preparatory to it, as all this is unnecessary for understanding Paul’s design, for he simply proves the repentance of the Corinthians from its signs, or accompaniments. At the same time he makes sorrow according to God to be the source of all these things, inasmuch as they spring from it — which is assuredly the case; for when we have begun to feel self-dissatisfaction, we are afterwards stirred up to seek after the other things.

What is meant by earnest desire, we may understand from what is opposed to it; for so long as there is no apprehension of sin, we lie drowsy and inactive. Hence drowsiness or carelessness, or unconcern, (646) stands opposed to that earnest desire, that he makes mention of. Accordingly, earnest desire means simply an eager and active assiduity in the correcting of what is amiss, and in the amendment of life.

Yea, what clearing of yourselves Erasmus having rendered it satisfaction, ignorant persons, misled by the ambiguity of the term, have applied it to popish satisfactions, whereas Paul employs the term ἀπολογίαν , ( defense.) It is on this account that I have preferred to retain the word defensionem , which the Old Interpreter had made use of. (647) It is, however, to be observed, that it is a kind of defense that consists rather in supplication for pardon, than in extenuation of sin. As a son, who is desirous to clear himself to his father, does not enter upon a regular pleading of his cause, but by acknowledging his fault excuses himself, rather in the spirit of a suppliant, than in a tone of confidence, hypocrites, also, excuse themselves — nay more, they haughtily defend themselves, but it is rather in the way of disputing with God, than of returning to favor with him; and should any one prefer the word excusationem , ( excuse,) I do not object to it; because the meaning will amount to the same thing, that the Corinthians were prompted to clear themselves, whereas previously they cared not what Paul thought of them.

Yea, what indignation (648) This disposition, also, is attendant on sacred sorrow — that the sinner is indignant against his vices, and even against himself, as also all that are actuated by a right zeal (649) are indignant, as often as they see that God is offended. This disposition, however, is more intense than sorrow. For the first step is, that evil be displeasing to us. The second is, that, being inflamed with anger, we press hard upon ourselves, so that our consciences may be touched to the quick. It may, however, be taken here to mean the indignation, with which the Corinthians had been inflamed against the sins of one or a few, whom they had previously spared. Thus they repented of their concurrence or connivance.

Fear is what arises from an apprehension of divine judgment, while the offender thinks — “Mark it well, an account must be rendered by thee, and what wilt thou advance in the presence of so great a judge?” For, alarmed by such a consideration, he begins to tremble.

As, however, the wicked themselves are sometimes touched with an alarm of this nature, he adds desire This disposition we know to be more of a voluntary nature than fear, for we are often afraid against our will, but we never desire but from inclination. Hence, as they had dreaded punishment on receiving Paul’s admonition, so they eagerly aimed at amendment.

But what are we to understand by zeal? There can be no doubt that he intended a climax. Hence it means more than desire Now we may understand by it, that they stirred up each other in a spirit of mutual rivalry. It is simpler, however, to understand it as meaning, that every one, with great fervor of zeal, aimed to give evidence of his repentance. Thus zeal is intensity of desire.

Yea, what revenge What we have said as to indignation, must be applied also to revenge; for the wickedness which they had countenanced by their connivance and indulgence, they had afterwards shown themselves rigorous in avenging. They had for some time tolerated incest; but, on being admonished by Paul, they had not merely ceased to countenance him, but had been strict reprovers in chastening him, — this was the revenge that was meant. As, however, we ought to punish sins wherever they are, (650) and not only so, but should begin more especially with ourselves, there is something farther meant in what the Apostle says here, for he speaks of the signs of repentance. There is, among others, this more particularly — that, by punishing sins, we anticipate, in a manner, the judgment of God, as he teaches elsewhere, If we would judge ourselves, we would not be judged by the Lord. (1 Corinthians 11:31.) We are not, however, to infer from this, that mankind, by taking vengeance upon themselves, compensate to God for the punishment due to him, (651) so that they redeem themselves from his hand. The case stands thus — that, as it is the design of God by chastising us, to arouse us from our carelessness, that, being reminded of his displeasure, we may be on our guard for the future, when the sinner himself is beforehand in inflicting punishment of his own accord, the effect is, that he no longer stands in need of such an admonition from God.

But it is asked, whether the Corinthians had an eye to Paul, or to God, in this revenge, as well as in the zeal, and desire, and the rest. (652) I answer, that all these things are, under all circumstances, attendant upon repentance, but there is a difference in the case of an individual sinning secretly before God, or openly before the world. If a person’s sin is secret, it is enough if he has this disposition in the sight of God; on the other hand, where the sin is open, there is required besides an open manifestation of repentance. Thus the Corinthians, who had sinned openly and to the great offense of the good, required to give evidence of their repentance by these tokens.

(646) “ Nonchalance, ou paresse, ou asseurance qui procede de stupidite;” — “Carelessness or indolence, or confidence arising from stupidity.”

(647) Wiclif, (1380,) following the Vulgate, reads, defendynge. — Ed.

(648) “ Voire marrissement. Il y a proprement au Grec, Indignation ou courroux;” — “ Yea what concern. It is properly in the Greek, Indignation or wrath.”

(649) “ Qui ont vn bon et sainct zele;” — “Who have a good and holy zeal.”

(650) “ En quelque personne qu’ils soyent trouuez;” — “In any person in whom they are found.”

(651) “ La peine qu’il leur pourroit iustement imposer;” — “The punishment which he could justly have inflicted upon them.”

(652) “ Et autres affections yci nominees;” — “And other dispositions here mentioned.”

Verse 12

11. ] Ye have approved yourselves to be clear. The Old Interpreter reads, “Ye have shown yourselves.” Erasmus renders it, “Ye have commended yourselves.” I have preferred a third rendering, which appeared to me to suit better — that the Corinthians showed by clear evidences, that they were in no degree participants in the crime, with which they had appeared, from their connivance, to have had some connection. What those evidences were, we have already seen. At the same time, Paul does not altogether clear them, but palliates their offense. For the undue forbearance, which they had exercised, was not altogether free from blame. He acquits them, however, from the charge of concurrence. (653) We must farther observe, that he does not acquit all of them without exception, but merely the body of the Church. For it may readily be believed, that some were concerned in it, and countenanced it; but, while all of them together were involved in disgrace, it afterwards appeared that only a few were in fault.

12. Wherefore if I wrote. He acts as persons are wont to do, that are desirous of a reconciliation. He wishes all past things to be buried, he does not any more reproach them, he does not reprove them for any thing, he does not expostulate as to any thing; in fine, he forgets every thing, inasmuch as he was satisfied with their simply repenting. And, certainly, this is the right way — not to press offenders farther, when they have been brought to repentance. For if we still

call their sins to remembrance, (Genesis 17:18,)

it is certain that we are actuated by malevolence, rather than by pious affection, or a desire for their welfare. These things, however, are said by Paul by way of concession, for, unquestionably, he had followed up the offense that he had taken, and had felt desirous that the author of this offense should be chastised, but now he puts his foot upon what had been in some degree offensive. “I am now desirous, that whatever I have written may be looked upon as having been written with no other view, than that you might perceive your affection towards me. As to all other things, let us now leave them as they are.” Others explain it in this way, — that he had not regard to one individual in particular, but consulted the common advantage of all. The former interpretation, however, is the more natural one.

Your concern for us. As this reading occurs very generally in the Greek versions, I have not ventured to go so far as to erase it, though at the same time in one ancient manuscript the reading is ἡμων, ( of us,) (654) and it appears from Chrysostom s Commentaries, that the Latin rendering (655) was more commonly received in his times even among the Greeks — that our concern for you might become manifest to you, that is, that it might be manifest to the Corinthians, how much concerned Paul was in regard to them. The other rendering, however, in which the greater part of the Greek manuscripts concur, is, notwithstanding, a probable one. For Paul congratulates the Corinthians on their having learned at length, through means of this test, how they stood affected towards him. “You were not yourselves aware of the attachment that you felt towards me, until you had trial of it in this matter.” Others explain it as referring to the particular disposition of an individual, in this way: “That it might be manifest among you, how much respect each of you entertained for me, and that, through the occurrence of this opportunity, each of you might discover what had previously been concealed in his heart.” As this is not of great moment, my readers are at liberty, so far as I am concerned, to make choice of either; but, as he adds at the same time, in the sight of God, I rather think that he meant this — that each of them, having made a thorough search, as if he had come into the presence of God, (656) had come to know himself better than before.

(653) “ Il les absout quant a ce qu’on lent pouuoit obiecter qu’ils auoyent consenti a ce mesfait;” — “He acquits them in so far as it might be alleged that they had concurred in that crime.”

(654) “Some (as Newcome and Wakefield) would read, from several MSS., and Versions, Fathers, and early editions, including that of R. Stephens τὴν σπονδὴν ὑπερ ἡμῶν, (your care for us) But though produces a sense, yet it is one far-fetched and jejune, which does not arise naturally from the subject, and is not so agreeable to the context. The external authority for the reading in question is but slender; the Ed. Princ., and the great bulk of the MSS., having ἡμῶν ὑπερ ὑμῶν, — our (care) for you. ” — Bloomfield. — Ed.

(655) The rendering of the Vulgate is as follows: “ Solicitudinem nostrum quam habemus pro vobis;” — “Our anxiety which we have for you.” Wiclif, (1380,) following, as usual, the Vulgate, renders it thus: “Our busynesse which we haw for you bifor God.” — Ed.

(656) “ Ne plus ne moins que s’il eust este deuant Dieu;” — “Neither more nor less than if he had been in the presence of God.”

Verse 13

13. We received consolation. Paul was wholly intent upon persuading the Corinthians, that nothing was more eagerly desired by him than their advantage. Hence he says, that he had shared with them in their consolation. Now their consolation had been this — that, acknowledging their fault, they did not merely take the reproof in good part, but had received it joyfully. For the bitterness of a reproof is easily sweetened, so soon as we begin to taste the profitableness of it to us.

What he adds — that he rejoiced more abundantly on account of the consolation of Titus, is by way of congratulation. Titus had been overjoyed in finding them more obedient and compliant than could have been expected — nay more, in his finding a sudden change for the better. Hence we may infer, that Paul’s gentleness was anything but flattery, inasmuch as he rejoiced in their joy, so as to be, at the same time, chiefly taken up with their repentance.

Verse 14

14. But if I have boasted any thing to him. He shows indirectly, how friendly a disposition he had always exercised towards the Corinthians, and with what sincerity and kindness he had judged of them; for at the very time that they seemed to be unworthy of commendation, he still promised much that was honorable on their behalf. Here truly we have a signal evidence of a rightly constituted and candid mind, — reproving to their face those that you love, and yet hoping well, and giving others good hopes respecting them. Such sincerity ought to have induced them not to take amiss any thing that proceeded from him. In the mean time, he takes this opportunity of setting before them again, in passing, his fidelity in all other matters. “You have hitherto had opportunity of knowing my candor, so that I have shown myself to be truthful, and not by any means fickle. I rejoice, therefore, that I have now also been found truthful, when boasting of you before others.”

Verse 15

15. His bowels more abundantly. As the bowels are the seat of the affections, the term is on that account employed to denote compassion, love, and every pious affection. (657) He wished, however, to express emphatically the idea, that while Titus had loved the Corinthians previously, he had been, at that time, more vehemently stirred up to love them; and that, from the innermost affections of his heart. Now, by these words he insinuates Titus into the affections of the Corinthians, as it is of advantage that the servants of Christ should be loved, that they may have it in their power to do the more good. He at the same time encourages them to go on well, that they may render themselves beloved by all the good.

With fear and trembling. By these two words he sometimes expresses simply respect, (Ephesians 6:5,) and this perhaps would not suit ill with this passage, though I should have no objection to view the trembling as mentioned particularly to mean, that, being conscious of having acted amiss, they were afraid to face him. It is true that even those, that are resolute in their iniquities, tremble at the sight of the judge, but voluntary trembling, that proceeds from ingenuous shame, is a sign of repentance. Whichever exposition you may choose, this passage teaches, what is a right reception for the ministers of Christ. Assuredly, it is not sumptuous banquets, it is not splendid apparel, it is not courteous and honorable salutations, it is not the plaudits of the multitude, that gratify the upright and faithful pastor. He experiences, on the other hand, an overflowing of delight, when the doctrine of salvation is received with reverence from his mouth, when he retains the authority that belongs to him for the edification of the Church, when the people give themselves up to his direction, to be regulated by his ministry under Christ’s banners. An example of this we see here in Titus. He at length, in the close, confirms again, what he had previously stated — that he had never been offended to such a degree, as altogether to distrust the Corinthians.

(657) “The word σπλάγχνα, ” as is observed by Barnes in his Notes on 2 Corinthians 6:12, “commonly means in the Bible the tender affections. The Greek word properly denotes the upper viscera — the heart, the lungs, the liver. It is applied by Greek writers to denote those parts of victims which were eaten during or after the sacrifice. Hence it is applied to the heart, as the seat of the emotions and passions; and especially the tender affections — compassion, pity, love, etc. Our word bowels is applied usually to the lower viscera, and by no means expresses the idea of the word which is used in Greek. ” — Ed.

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Bibliographical Information
Calvin, John. "Commentary on 2 Corinthians 7". "Calvin's Commentary on the Bible". 1840-57.