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Students of Paul’s epistles have suggested various explanations of why the apostle preferred to use his name Paul rather than his name Saul. Some say he did so to mark the spiritual conquest of Sergius Paulus (Acts 13:9). Others claim he did so to show himself the least of the apostles since "Paul" means "little" (cf. Ephesians 3:8; 1 Timothy 1:15). Another suggestion is that he was small in physical stature. Perhaps he did so because the Greek form of the Hebrew name "Saul" was objectionable since it was identical with an adjective that meant "effeminate." He may have done so simply because it was customary for Roman citizens to bear a Roman name as well as one that reflected their own nationality. [Note: See Philip E. Hughes, Paul’s Second Epistle to the Corinthians, pp. 1-2.]
Paul’s use of the term "apostle" (lit. "one sent forth with orders") so early in his salutation sets the tone for the entire epistle. It is mainly a vindication of his apostleship. He claimed apostolic authority at once.
The Lord’s title is also significant though not unusual. Paul called Him Christ (God’s "Anointed One" sent forth as the apostle from heaven; 2 Corinthians 1:20; cf. Hebrews 3:1; John 20:21) and Jesus (God in action delivering His people from their sins, Savior; 2 Corinthians 5:19; cf. Matthew 1:21).
Paul claimed that his apostleship came to him "by the will of God," not by his own or the church’s initiative (cf. John 1:13; Galatians 1:1; Ephesians 2:8). The gift and office of apostle were special in the early church. Only 12 individuals plus Paul possessed them (1 Corinthians 15:8; Acts 1:21-22; Acts 9:15). However "apostle" occurs elsewhere in the non-technical sense of anyone sent on God’s great mission of spreading the gospel (cf. 2 Corinthians 8:23; Acts 14:4; Acts 14:14; Philippians 2:25; et al.).
The recipients of this epistle knew Timothy well (v.19, Acts 18:5). He had come to faith in Christ evidently through Paul’s ministry in Lystra in Asia Minor (Acts 14:8-20; 1 Timothy 1:2; 2 Timothy 1:2). He had accompanied Paul on his journeys from the second missionary journey on (Acts 16:1-3) and had gone to Corinth as the apostle’s emissary (1 Corinthians 4:17; 1 Corinthians 16:10). Paul called Timothy simply a "brother."
Paul noted in passing that the church (Greek ekklesia, lit. "called out ones," the company of Christians) belongs to God. Even though it was "at Corinth" it was God’s church. It did not belong to the Corinthians or their teachers. Therefore its primary allegiance had to be to Him.
Corinth was an important commercial center. The city may have contained over a half-million inhabitants at this time. [Note: Homer Kent Jr., A Heart Opened Wide, p. 27.] It stood on the narrow land bridge (isthmus) that connected the southern part of Greece (the Peloponnesus) with the northern part. The southern part and some of the northern part comprised the Roman province of Achaia while the province of Macedonia lay immediately to its north. Corinth was not only the chief city through which land commerce passed north and south, but it was the center for sea commerce and travelers east and west. To the east the Saronic Gulf of the Aegean Sea brought ships to Corinth. From there stevedores transferred their cargoes overland a few miles to ships in the Corinthian Gulf of the Ionian Sea. This shortcut saved merchants the long trip around the southern coastline of Greece. Corinth was the capital of the province of Achaia and the headquarters of a Roman proconsul (governor). It had been the notorious center for the immoral worship of the goddess Aphrodite, and its population was cosmopolitan, consisting of Romans, Greeks, Orientals, and Jews.
Paul and his missionary band had established a church in Corinth on his second missionary journey (Acts 18). Jews and Gentiles composed it. Paul labored in Corinth a year and a half then. Due to the influence of its culture, as well as that of false teachers, the church experienced many temptations and difficulties. I outlined Paul’s dealings with this church following its founding in the introduction to this exposition above. In summary, Paul seems to have visited Corinth three times, and the New Testament refers to four letters he wrote to this church. [Note: See Donald Guthrie, New Testament Introduction, 2:48-61; International Standard Bible Encyclopedia, "Corinthians, Second Epistle to the," by R. Dykes Shaw; Dictionary of the Apostolic Church, s.v. "Corinthians, Epistle to the," by G. H. Clayton; Dictionary of the Bible, s.v. "Corinthians, Second Epistle to the," by A. Robertson; Plummer, xiii-xix; Hughes, xvi-xix; and Batey, pp. 143-6.]
Paul called the addressees "saints" (Gr. hagioi, lit. "holy ones," those set apart for God, cf. 1 Corinthians 1:2).
"All Christians are ’holy’ in virtue, not of their lives, but of their calling; they are set apart in a holy Society as servants and sons of the Holy God." [Note: Plummer, p. 3.]
Paul intended that the Corinthian Christians would read this epistle in the church, but he also wanted all the Christians in the province of Achaia to read it. We know that at this time there was another Achaian church in Cenchrea (Romans 16:1) and perhaps one in nearby Athens (Acts 17:34).
A. Salutation 1:1-2
This salutation contains the three elements common in all of Paul’s epistles and other correspondence of his day: the writer, the addressees, and a greeting.
"This salutation exhibits undoubted resemblances in form to secular letters that have come down to us from the same period. But the differences are greater, and that in three respects. There is the firm assertion of Apostolic authority, the clear indication that those whom he addresses are not ordinary people but a consecrated society, and the spiritual character of the good wishes he sends them." [Note: Alfred Plummer, A Critical and Exegetical Commentary on the Second Epistle of St. Paul to the Corinthians, p. 5. See also W. G. Doty, Letters in Primitive Christianity, pp. 21-47.]
I. INTRODUCTION 1:1-11
Like most of Paul’s epistles, this one begins with a salutation to the recipients and than words of thanksgiving to God for His encouraging comfort.
This greeting expresses Paul’s wish that God’s grace and peace would be his readers’ portion. He named these benefits in the introductions to each one of his epistles. He meant sustaining grace rather than saving grace and the peace of God compared to peace with God.
"In the protocol of salvation, recognized even in a salutation, grace always precedes peace. The former is the basis and foundation of the latter; therefore, the order cannot be changed. No man can have peace who has not previously experienced divine grace (cf. 2 Corinthians 8:9)." [Note: Broomall, p. 1261.]
"Grace and peace, the favour of God and its fruits, comprehend all the benefits of redemption." [Note: Charles Hodge, An Exposition of the Second Epistle to the Corinthians, p. 4.]
The combination of grace and peace in Paul’s greeting here and elsewhere unites Greek and Semitic terms to form an unconventional greeting (cf. Romans 1:7; 1 Corinthians 1:3; Galatians 1:3; Ephesians 1:2; Philippians 1:2; Colossians 1:2; 1 Thessalonians 1:1; 2 Thessalonians 1:2; Philemon 1:3; 1 Peter 1:2; 2 Peter 1:2). Though the general structure of the salutation was typical of the day, the terms Paul used were uniquely Christian. [Note: See Judith Lieu, "’Grace to You and Peace’: The Apostolic Greeting," Bulletin of the John Rylands University Library of Manchester 68:1 (Autumn 1985):161-78.]
The familiar language of this verse implies the deity of Jesus Christ. He is, along with God the Father, the source of grace and peace.
"This could not be so were He a created entity and not the co-eternal and consubstantial Son." [Note: Hughes, p. 7.]
Furthermore He is "Lord." The Septuagint, which uses this title to translate the name "Yahweh" in the Old Testament, may have influenced Paul to use it of Jesus Christ. The contemporary religious terminology of oriental Hellenism also used this title to denote deity. Whatever the influences on Paul may have been, the term "Lord" undoubtedly implied the deity of Christ. [Note: See J. Greshem Machen, The Origin of Paul’s Religion, p. 198.]
The Greek word translated "blessed" (eulogetos) occurs eight times in the New Testament, mostly in Paul’s writings. It always occurs with the person of God. It expresses both gratitude and adoration (cf. Ephesians 1:3; 1 Peter 1:3).
"Adored be God! is the expression of the highest veneration and thankfulness." [Note: Hodge, p. 4.]
To Jesus Christ, God is both God and Father (cf. John 20:17). In His humiliation as a man, Jesus related to God as His God (cf. Mark 15:34). However within the Godhead, God was Jesus’ Father (cf. Hebrews 10:7). In other words, God was the God of the dependent Jesus in His human nature, but He was the Father of the infinite Christ in His divine nature (cf. 2 Corinthians 11:31).
"In His eternal being, God was always His Father; in His incarnation as the Messiah, God was His God." [Note: Kent, p. 30.]
God is the "Father of mercies" in two senses. He is their source; all mercies we enjoy come from Him. Moreover He is the Father characterized by mercy, the merciful Father. The Greek construction permits both senses, and Paul probably intended both.
"Comfort" (Gr. paraklesis) is the key word in this section (2 Corinthians 1:3-7) occurring 10 times as a noun or a verb. It also appears in 2 Corinthians 2:7-8; 2 Corinthians 5:20; 2 Corinthians 6:1; 2 Corinthians 7:4; 2 Corinthians 7:6-7; 2 Corinthians 7:13; 2 Corinthians 8:4; 2 Corinthians 8:6; 2 Corinthians 8:17; 2 Corinthians 9:5; 2 Corinthians 10:1; 2 Corinthians 12:8; 2 Corinthians 12:18; and 2 Corinthians 13:11. Thus 2 Corinthians is truly a letter of encouragement. This Greek word means much more than mere sympathy. It communicates the idea of one person standing alongside another to encourage and support his friend. The same word describes the Holy Spirit ("Paraclete") who strengthens and guides us (John 14:16; John 14:26; John 15:26; John 16:7). Christ, too, provides encouragement and support as our Advocate (1 John 2:1) and Helper (Hebrews 2:18). Here it is the Father who comforts and consoles the afflicted.
"There are two things of which God is said to have the monopoly: He is ’the God of all grace’ and He is ’the God of all comfort.’ All grace comes from Him, all lasting comfort comes from Him." [Note: Harry Ironside, Addresses on the Second Epistle to the Corinthians, p. 17.]
The double designation of God as the "Father of mercies" and the "God of all comfort" was very appropriate to Paul’s situation. This description really sets the tone for the first nine chapters of this epistle. This verse has a chiastic structure.
"The effect of this rhetorical device is to emphasize that the God who is here ’praised’ is both (1) Father of his Son, our Lord Jesus Christ, and (2) Father (= source) of mercies." [Note: Barnett, p. 69.]
1. Thanksgiving for comfort 1:3-7
B. Thanksgiving for comfort in affliction 1:3-11
In this pericope Paul gave thanks to God for the comfort (2 Corinthians 1:3-7) and deliverance (2 Corinthians 1:8-11) that he had experienced recently. He wanted to enable his readers to appreciate what he as an apostle had endured for Christ and the super-abounding comfort God supplies to compensate for all afflictions suffered for His sake.
"It [this section] is no mere amiable preamble intended only to cushion the sterner matters which the Apostle is shortly to broach. On the contrary, it is very much of a piece with the major theme of the opening portion of this epistle, namely, Paul’s vindication of his own integrity." [Note: Hughes, p. 9.]
Paul’s main concern in this section was that his readers learn the values of his experiences, not just the facts concerning what had happened to him. Consequently he dealt with these first. He shared the effects of his experiences (2 Corinthians 1:3-7), and then told them of one experience (2 Corinthians 1:8-11).
Paul’s almost invariable practice of following salutation with thanksgiving in his epistles was a common feature of secular letters in his day. [Note: Plummer, p. 5.] Compared with his other epistles, however, there is some difference in this thanksgiving.
"St. Paul usually thanks God for some grace bestowed on those whom he addresses, and hence his omission of the Thanksgiving in the stern letter to the Galatians; here and in 1 Timothy 1:12 he gives thanks for benefits bestowed on himself. But his readers are not forgotten (2 Corinthians 1:6-7); it is largely on their account that he is so thankful." [Note: Ibid.]
Paul’s idea here seems to be as follows. No matter what variety of affliction we may be experiencing, and no matter what its intensity, God will provide strength and encouragement (comfort) that is adequate for our need (cf. 2 Corinthians 12:9). He will bestow more comfort than we have affliction.
"The present tense of the verb shows that this God of ours comforts us constantly and unfailingly, not spasmodically and intermittently; and He does so in all our affliction, not just in certain kinds of affliction." [Note: Hughes, p. 12.]
Nevertheless God does not intend this encouragement and strength to end with our personal benefit. Its further purpose is to enable us to become God’s agents in extending God’s comfort to others in their afflictions. As God comforts us in all our afflictions, we are to comfort others in any and every one of theirs.
"There is no exception on God’s side (Ps. xciv. 19), and there must be none on ours." [Note: Plummer, p. 10.]
"That is the very genius of Christianity. Everything received is received on trust. Everything that you and I have from God we have on behalf of others-the comfort of God, the strengthening of God, the upholding of God, the revelation that God is able to make alive from the dead, and then presently salvation from that death which he had feared, on which he had looked with so much trembling." [Note: G. Campbell Morgan, The Corinthian Letters of Paul, p. 228.]
"A life of ease is commonly stagnant. It is only those who suffer much and who experience much of the comfort of the Holy Ghost, who live much. Their life is rich in experience and in resources." [Note: Hodge, p. 5.]
Similar experiences enable us to sympathize with others and thus be effective encouragers and comforters. Yet we would be exaggerating to say that only those who have suffered greatly know how to comfort the afflicted.
Paul personally experienced many afflictions and sorrows, to which he began to refer here. However note that it is a particular kind of suffering to which he referred: the sufferings of Christ (cf. 1 Peter 2:20). These were the sufferings Paul was experiencing because he belonged to Christ and stood up for Christ in a hostile environment.
"Suffering which is the consequence of disobedience and selfishness has no blessing in it and cannot possibly be described as ’of Christ.’" [Note: Hughes, p. 14. Cf. 1 Peter 2:20.]
"Samuel Rutherford wrote to one of his friends, ’God has called you to Christ’s side, and the wind is now in Christ’s face in this land: and seeing ye are with Him ye cannot expect the lee-side or the sunny side of the brae [hill].’" [Note: William Barclay, The Letters to the Corinthians, p. 190.]
Paul’s point in this verse was this. Regardless of how great our sufferings for Christ may be, God will not only match them but exceed them with His comfort, strength, and encouragement.
Later in this letter we shall see that the Corinthian Christians lacked appreciation for the afflictions Paul had been enduring in his ministry for them. Some of them had even concluded that such experiences were not appropriate for one who was an apostle. They believed that by participating in them Paul’s apostleship was open to question. Therefore Paul began to deal with this unsympathetic attitude and the incorrect thinking behind it.
Paul had endured sufferings for the "comfort and salvation [deliverance]" of his brethren in Corinth. These sufferings enabled him to comfort them better so they would patiently bear up under their afflictions for Christ’s sake. They could do so until God would grant them deliverance. He absorbed as many sufferings as he did so the Corinthians might not have to endure them.
The attitude of the Christians in Corinth could have caused Paul to despair, but he said he was confident that they would continue to function and grow as genuine fruits of God’s grace (cf. Philippians 1:6). The basis for his confidence was the fact that they were suffering for Christ as he was. They were representing Christ in the world. More than that they would flourish because God’s super-abounding comfort (strength, encouragement) would cause them to stand and withstand the affliction they were experiencing.
We cannot identify certainly the precise affliction to which Paul referred. This text and others in the New Testament do not give us enough information. The fact that Paul did not explain exactly what caused his affliction is significant. Evidently he wanted the Corinthians and us to focus on the intensity of the affliction as he felt it. This is what he emphasized here rather than the specific cause of his suffering. He spoke of his affliction as though the Corinthians knew about it, so probably they had more information about it than we do.
Commentators have conjectured what the specific problem may have been and have come up with many different possibilities. Perhaps Paul referred to fighting wild beasts at Ephesus, the uproar at Ephesus instigated by Demetrius, or a later outbreak of hostility against Paul at Ephesus. He may have had in mind various unspecified trials and plots against Paul’s life, a succession of persecutions in Asia, or an attempt to lynch Paul. Perhaps he referred to shipwreck followed by a night and a day in the sea, anxiety over the state of the Corinthian church, a deadly sickness, or Paul’s thorn in the flesh. [Note: See Hughes, pp. 17-18, for evaluation of some of these theories.] What we can say certainly about Paul’s affliction is that the Corinthians failed to appreciate its intensity.
"Hence Paul writes to tell them not what it was, but how it had oppressed him beyond endurance." [Note: Ibid., p. 16.]
It occurred in the Roman province of Asia (the western part of modern Turkey), and it would have been a fatal affliction had God not intervened. Furthermore it was a suffering "of Christ" (2 Corinthians 1:5), connected somehow with Paul’s ministry to the Corinthians (2 Corinthians 1:6).
"Whatever this thlipsis [affliction] may have been, he hints that it was far worse than what the Corinthians had to endure." [Note: Plummer, p. 17.]
2. Thanksgiving for deliverance 1:8-11
Paul’s thanksgiving continues, but its focus shifts from the reason for thanksgiving to details of the situation that provided the occasion for it.
The "sentence of death" was the assurance Paul had that he was going to die as a result of this affliction.
"The great lesson of this overwhelming affliction which had befallen him was that he (and all who are Christ’s) should trust, not in self, but in God, ’the Raiser of the dead.’
". . . in the wake of this trying experience that was tantamount to death there followed a further experience that was tantamount to resurrection." [Note: Murray J. Harris, "2 Corinthians," in Romans-Galatians, vol. 10 of The Expositor’s Bible Commentary, p. 322.]
"This is, indeed, a theme which provides a key to the whole epistle. Is Paul assailed by anguish of spirit? It is God who always leads him in triumph in Christ (2 Corinthians 3:13 ff.). Do we have the treasure of divine glory in earthen vessels? It is that it may be seen that the exceeding greatness of the power is of God, and not of self (2 Corinthians 4:7 ff.). Is the Apostle always delivered unto death for Jesus’ sake? It is that the life also of Jesus may be manifested in his mortal flesh (2 Corinthians 4:10 ff.). Is the outward man decaying? Yet the inward man is renewed day by day (2 Corinthians 4:16). . . . The climax is reached in the twelfth chapter where Paul explains how through the endurance of a ’thorn in the flesh’ he was taught that God’s grace is all-sufficient and that His power is made perfect in weakness (2 Corinthians 12:7 ff.). This was a principle to which even our Lord submitted in providing our salvation, for He was crucified through weakness, but is alive through the power of God (2 Corinthians 13:4). It is a theme, therefore, which points to the unity of the epistle, and which in particular links the concluding to the opening chapter." [Note: Hughes, pp. 20-21.]
Some translations (e.g., AV) render 2 Corinthians 1:10, "delivered . . . does deliver . . . will deliver" (past, present, future). The better rendering (e.g., NASB, NIV) is, "delivered . . . will deliver . . . will yet deliver" (past, future, more distant future). In either case the meaning is clear. God delivered Paul from this past affliction, would continue to deliver him from the same or similar afflictions in the future, and would always deliver him.
"He says ’death’ rather than ’peril of death,’ because he had regarded himself as a dead man." [Note: Plummer, p. 19.]
"When God puts His children into the furnace, He keeps His hand on the thermostat and His eye on the thermometer (1 Corinthians 10:13; 1 Peter 1:6-7)." [Note: Warren W. Wiersbe, The Bible Exposition Commentary, 1:630.]
Paul teaches us then that affliction does four things for us. It makes us more sympathetic. It gives us a greater appreciation for God’s super-abounding comfort and encouragement, which He brings to us with the affliction. It causes us to trust in God more, and it gives us greater confidence in God’s power and greater hope for the future.
Paul seems to have had no doubt that his brothers and sisters in Corinth would continue to pray for him.
". . . the Apostle is as secure of the intercession of the Corinthians as he is of God’s protection, and the one will contribute to the other." [Note: Plummer, p. 20.]
"Joining in helping" is the translation of a Greek word used only here in the New Testament: synypourgounton. It consists of three words meaning "with," "under," and "work." It paints a picture of laborers bowed down under some heavy burden that they are working hard together to lift.
"Intercessory prayer has great power, otherwise Paul would not so often solicit it on his own behalf, and enjoin the duty on his readers." [Note: Hodge, p. 12.]
"There is no limit to the power of intercessory prayer; and though the display of God’s mercy does not depend on it, we may be sure that He desires nothing more than that His people should be united in mutual intercession offered in the name of His Son. When such prayer is answered, it results in an outburst of praise and thanksgiving which redounds greatly to God’s glory." [Note: R. V. G. Tasker, The Second Epistle of Paul to the Corinthians, p. 44.]
"In prayer, human impotence casts itself at the feet of divine omnipotence." [Note: Hughes, p. 23.]
"My heart always rejoices when anyone writes or says to me, ’I am praying for you,’ for I need to be prayed for. I am so forgetful about prayer myself; so many times when I should be praying I am busy at something else, and often if there is any power at all in my messages I know it is because somebody at home or in the audience is praying for me. One owes so much to the prayers of God’s beloved people." [Note: Ironside, pp. 33-34.]
"Persons" (Gr. prosopon) is literally "faces." A literal rendering presents the attractive picture of many faces turned upward toward heaven offering thanks to God for His answers to the united prayers of Paul and his readers. This is doubtless the figure Paul wanted us to visualize in this verse.
From this introduction hopefully we have learned a greater appreciation of the comfort of God and the afflictions He allows us to experience in our service for Him.
"The Arabs have a proverb, ’All sunshine makes a desert.’" [Note: Barclay, p. 192.]
"In this beautiful introduction Paul found occasion to be thankful in the most trying circumstances. Even suffering has benefits. It provides the occasion to experience God’s comfort, to watch Him answer prayer, and to observe how believers can be strengthened in their Christian walk and witness by another’s circumstances." [Note: Kent, p. 34.]
"Comfort is the great word, comfort from God, comfort for others. So he prepared for whatever he had to say presently of rebuke, by a revelation of great tenderness. He called them to sympathize with him, and he assured them that God had sympathized with him, and that He would sympathize with them as they are asked to sympathize with him. It is the sympathy of sharing the activity of God, Who is the God of all comfort." [Note: Morgan, p. 229.]
1. The postponement of the intended visit 1:12-2:4
In the present section (2 Corinthians 1:12 to 2 Corinthians 2:4) Paul sought to clarify the motives that led him to change his plans to visit the Corinthians. He did so to refute false accusations concerning him that were circulating in Corinth.
He first claimed, generally, that his actions did not arise from the motives that drive unbelievers, namely, self-serving ambition. This motivation seems wise to the carnal mind, but Paul’s motives resulted from God’s grace at work in his life. He viewed all of life from the perspective of God’s grace, seeking not to advance self but the cause of Christ. He could say what he did unashamedly (with "proud confidence") and with a clear conscience. His motives had been holy and sincere (not a mixture of proper and improper motives). Some feel there is better support here for "simplicity in the sense of singlemindedness." [Note: David K. Lowery, "2 Corinthians," in The Bible Knowledge Commentary: New Testament, p. 556.] The reason for this preference is that this is the only occurrence of hagiotes (sanctity, holiness) in Paul’s epistles (cf. Hebrews 12:10). Such had been his motivation toward all people and especially toward the Corinthians.
"The derivation of the word eilikrinia [sic], translated here and in ii. 17 by sincerity, is uncertain. It may refer to the cleansing process of rolling and shaking in a sieve, so that what is purged and winnowed in this way may be regarded as unadulterated (cf. the only other mention of the word by Paul in 1 Cor. 2 Corinthians 1:8). Or it may denote what is found to be unstained when examined in the sunlight. This latter connotation would convey the suggestion in this passage that Paul’s character would stand the test of the searching gaze of God." [Note: Tasker, p. 45.]
"What Paul means here to say is, that the virtues which distinguished his deportment in Corinth were not merely forms of his own excellence, but forms of the divine life; modes in which the Spirit of God which dwelt in him manifested itself." [Note: Hodge, p. 14.]
"We might well add a new beatitude to the list, ’Blessed is the man who has nothing to hide.’" [Note: Barclay, p. 194.]
The sincerity of Paul’s conduct 1:12-14
In this first sub-section, which is transitional, Paul’s intention was to convince the Corinthians that his recent actions arose from sincere motives.
II. ANSWERS TO INSINUATIONS ABOUT THE SINCERITY OF PAUL’S COMMITMENT TO THE CORINTHIANS AND TO THE MINISTRY 1:12-7:16
Second Corinthians is a rather difficult book to outline because it is a very personal letter that flowed from Paul’s heart.
"Traditionally, Paul’s two letters to Timothy and one to Titus are called ’the Pastorals.’ But 2 Corinthians has a strong claim to be recognized as the Pastoral Epistle par excellence, because it contains not ’pure’ but ’applied’ pastoralia." [Note: Harris, p. 314.]
The same has been said of 1 Thessalonians. Paul’s purpose in writing was not to teach doctrine primarily, though he did so to a considerable extent. It was primarily to answer the criticisms of opponents who were seeking to undermine his ministry, especially in Corinth.
"Here it is his strong feeling rather than any deliberate arrangement that suggests the order of his utterances. Nevertheless, although exact analysis is seldom possible owing to digressions and repetitions, yet some divisions are fairly clear, and the letter becomes more intelligible when they are noted." [Note: Plummer, p. 22.]
A. Defense of Paul’s conduct with regard to his promised visit and the offender 1:12-2:17
In 2 Corinthians Paul was addressing a situation in which his own children in the faith doubted his sincerity and motives. He, too, had doubts about their commitment to Jesus Christ and to himself as the Lord’s apostle. Nevertheless Paul also voiced some strong convictions in this epistle and sought to move his doubting readers to a condition of greater faith. This section of the epistle introduces this tension.
"Part of the achievement of effective communicators lies in their persuading their audiences that stepping-stones (warrants) do exist by which they can move from doubt to conviction." [Note: David M. Hay, "The Shaping of Theology in 2 Corinthians: Convictions, Doubts, Warrants," in Pauline Theology. Vol. II: 1 & 2 Corinthians, p. 137.]
Paul seems to have alluded to a criticism of himself here too. Evidently some were saying that to understand Paul’s letters to them, his readers had to read between the lines. They implied he really intended something other than what he had written, or he was being deliberately obscure. [Note: Ralph P. Martin, 2 Corinthians, p. 19.] The apostle’s claim here was that what he had intended was self-evident in his correspondence. There were no hidden meanings or messages. Paul wrote some things that were hard to understand (2 Peter 3:15-16), and sometimes he was ironical, but he did not write one thing and mean another.
The second part of this verse probably goes with 2 Corinthians 1:14 rather than 13. Put a semicolon in the middle of 2 Corinthians 1:13 after "understand" and a comma at the end. There was no punctuation in the original Greek text. "The end" refers to the end of the Corinthians’ lives.
Even though Paul’s correspondence with them had been straightforward, they had not grasped the greatness of his love for them and how proud he was of them (1 Corinthians 4:14; cf. 1 Thessalonians 2:19-20). They had a legitimate right to be proud of Paul as their spiritual father, as he had a right to be proud of them as his spiritual children (1 Corinthians 4:15).
"This affirmation of affection not only corroborates the complete genuineness of his own attitude towards them, but attests his confidence regarding the authenticity of their profession of faith in the Gospel." [Note: Hughes, p. 29.]
"The day of our Lord Jesus" is the day when their joy would be complete, namely, when they saw the Lord and stood before Him (2 Corinthians 5:10-11; cf. Philippians 2:16).
In 1 Corinthians 16:5 Paul had told the Corinthians he planned to visit them after he had passed through Macedonia. Evidently he was not able to make that trip. There is no evidence in the New Testament that he ever followed this itinerary.
Here we have another plan that Paul evidently sent the Corinthians after he wrote 1 Corinthians. He says he intended to visit Corinth on his way to Macedonia, probably from Ephesus, his headquarters during this period of his ministry. He then planned to come back through Corinth as he traveled from Macedonia to Judea. This would enable him to see the Corinthians twice, a double visit and a double blessing. Paul referred to this plan as his original intention, not counting what he had written in 1 Corinthians. In 1 Corinthians 16:2-8 his projected itinerary had been Ephesus, Macedonia, Corinth, and then possibly Jerusalem. However, Paul was at this time in Macedonia having traveled there from Ephesus by way of Troas, not Corinth (2 Corinthians 2:13; 2 Corinthians 7:5; 2 Corinthians 8:1; 2 Corinthians 9:2; 2 Corinthians 9:4).
We can see why some in Corinth had concluded that since Paul had not followed through with his plans they could not count on his word and doubted his love for them.
The consistency of Paul’s conduct 1:15-22
Having claimed singleness of purpose in his dealings with the Corinthians, Paul proceeded to help them appreciate the fact that his behavior had been consistent with his Spirit-led purposes.
"Long-range plans may need to be modified as time goes by. In Paul’s case, his original plans were made in good faith with the best information he had at the time. Circumstances had altered, however, and it was necessary to revise those plans." [Note: Kent, p. 37.]
Both rhetorical questions in this verse expect a negative answer, as the Greek text makes clear.
"Paul finds it incredible that any at Corinth could really have thought that a change in plan pointed to a change in character." [Note: Hughes, p. 34.]
In making his plans Paul claimed not to have vacillated or to have followed his flesh (his sinful human nature) rather than the Holy Spirit.
"Ancient literature regularly condemns fickleness and unreliability while praising those who keep their word even under duress." [Note: Craig S. Keener, 1-2 Corinthians, p. 159.]
"The charge that he is rebutting is probably that of blowing hot and cold with the same breath, and always having a retraction of what he says in reserve. . . . St. Paul contends that, though his plans changed, yet his principles did not; he was always loyal to the Gospel and to his converts." [Note: Plummer, p. 34.]
"There is a strong likelihood that Paul was actually quoting some of the phrases used against him. The articles with ’lightness’ ["vacillating" in NASB], ’yes, yes,’ and ’no, no’ can be understood as ’the lightness of which I am accused,’ and ’the contradictory yesses and nos which you fault me for.’" [Note: Kent, p. 41.]
"Preaching is always ’truth through personality.’ And if a man cannot trust the preacher he is not likely to trust the preacher’s message. Amongst the Jewish regulations regarding the conduct and character of a teacher, it is laid down that a teacher must never promise anything to a class which he cannot or will not do. To do so is to accustom the class to falsehood." [Note: Barclay, p. 197.]
Paul associated himself with God to reinforce his argument.
"The argument is one from ’ethical congruity.’ God is faithful in the fact that the Gospel which is proclaimed by His messengers is not a Gospel of duplicity, full of misleading statements and of promises which are not fulfilled." [Note: Plummer, p. 35.]
"When God speaks His positive does not carry a hidden negative. And so it is also with His chosen Apostle: his word to the Corinthians is not a mixture of yea and nay at the same time, but a faithful yea-sincere, honest, unambiguous." [Note: Hughes, p. 35.]
"Apparent inconsistency or fickleness may be consistency on the highest level." [Note: Morgan, p. 230.]
Consistency is not only a mark of God the Father but also of God the Son.
"The truth asserted is that Christ, the Son of God, had not been manifested among them, or experienced by them to be unsatisfying or uncertain; but in him was yea. That is, he was simple truth. In him, i.e., in Christ, was truth. He proved himself to be all that was affirmed of him." [Note: Hodge, p. 21.]
"Nothing could be more incongruous than to suspect of insincerity the Apostle whose entire being was dedicated to the service and proclamation of Him who is the Truth and the Same yesterday, today, and forever." [Note: Hughes, p. 35.]
Silvanus was Silas who with Timothy joined Paul in Corinth shortly after his arrival there and helped him found the church along with Priscilla and Aquila (Acts 17:14-15; Acts 18:1-2; Acts 18:5).
The promises referred to here are evidently the ones that have found their fulfillment in Christ. God was completely trustworthy, not 90 percent or 95 percent reliable in fulfilling these promises. Therefore the promises of God (2 Corinthians 1:18) as well as the Son of God (2 Corinthians 1:19) demonstrate consistency.
In view of the faithfulness of God, the only proper response is "Amen!" ("Let it be so!"). The early Christians commonly spoke this word in unison in their meetings to affirm the truthfulness of what someone had said (1 Corinthians 14:16). They addressed God through (in the name of) Jesus Christ.
"How illogical, then, while by their ’Amen’ attesting the trustworthiness of God, to suspect the trustworthiness of the apostle who taught them to do so! Any charge of inconsistency must be leveled at them, not him." [Note: Ibid., p. 38.]
"In short, Paul has argued in 2 Corinthians 1:18-20 that as God is faithful, so, too, is Paul’s ’word.’ His personal ’word’ is subsumed within his kerygmatic ’word.’ God’s faithfulness is to be seen (1) in the Son of God preached in Corinth as God’s unambiguous, unretracted, and now-eternal ’Yes,’ and (2) in the fact of all the promises of God having been kept in the Son of God, as proclaimed by the apostles. Likewise ’faithful’ is the ’word’ of Paul, the minister of the God who speaks unambiguously (cf. 2 Corinthians 1:13) and who keeps his promises. Their very existence is predicated on it." [Note: Barnett, p. 110.]
The corporate vocal "Amen" draws attention to the unity of believers with one another as well as with God. Paul had developed this idea of sharing with the Corinthians to help them appreciate God’s consistency and his own consistency in harmony with God’s. Now he did so also to stimulate their own consistency in harmony with his and God’s consistency.
God had established them together in Christ. Paul cited three evidences of their spiritual unity. First, they had experienced anointing, as had Christ (the "Anointed One"). This took place when they trusted Christ as their Savior. God poured out the Holy Spirit on them equipping them to serve acceptably to the glory of God (1 Corinthians 12:13; 1 John 2:20; 1 John 2:27).
Second, they had all experienced sealing. A seal in the Roman world signified ownership, authentication, and security. God stamps His own invisible mark on every believer (i.e., the Holy Spirit) and guarantees his or her preservation as God’s child and servant (Ephesians 1:13; Ephesians 4:30; cf. John 6:27). Thus the seal of God, in addition to the promise of God, guarantees the believer’s eternal security. [Note: See Eldon Woodcock, "The Seal of the Holy Spirit," Bibliotheca Sacra 155:618 (April-June 1998):139-63.]
Third, they had received the Holy Spirit as a down payment of the inheritance God has promised. The "pledge" was earnest money put down as a deposit that guaranteed the consummation of the contract (cf. Genesis 38:17-18). The Greek word (arrabona) also occurs in the Greek papyri (all kinds of common contemporary non-biblical writings in New Testament Greek) of an engagement ring. Such a pledge guarantees that the marriage will take place. [Note: Tasker, p. 49. See also Barclay, p. 197.]
These three acts of God uniting us in Christ build to an emotional climax and reinforce the solidarity that we believers have with our consistent God.
"We should not overlook the references to the Trinity in 2 Corinthians 1:18-22: (1) the certainty given by God (2 Corinthians 1:18); (2) the centrality found in Christ (2 Corinthians 1:18-20); (3) the certification established by the Spirit (2 Corinthians 1:21-22)." [Note: Broomall, p. 1265.]
By way of review, Paul’s point in this section (2 Corinthians 1:15-22) was that Christians normally behave like Christ. Yet we all know Christians who do not behave consistently. Why did Paul think that this appeal would make the Corinthians conclude that he had been consistent? He was not relying on this argument alone but was simply affirming his consistency and proving it consistent with the character of the One who had appointed him as an apostle.
"Paul has been showing how the accusation of insincerity and fickleness is entirely incompatible with the Corinthians’ own personal knowledge of him and his word, as well as with the character of one to whom God has given stability, anointing, sealing, and the earnest of the Spirit. Now he explains why it was that he had found it desirable to make an alteration in his plans: it was to spare them-and the explanation is fortified by a solemn oath." [Note: Hughes, p. 46.]
The loving motivation of Paul’s conduct 1:23-2:4
Paul’s use of an oath should not disturb us.
"Our Lord’s prohibition of swearing in Matthew 5:33 ff. is directed against the casuistry that was prevalent among the Jews of His time, in accordance with which not only was swearing frequent in ordinary speech, but also oaths were regarded as not binding provided the Divine Name had not been invoked and even lies were condoned if unaccompanied by an oath. Such a situation was a grave scandal in the name of religion and truth." [Note: Ibid.]
Swearing refers to using an oath, not to using "dirty" words. Paul staked his soul on the truthfulness of his claim here. He made his decision to postpone his visit because he believed a visit then would not be in the Corinthians’ best interests.
"The gravity of his words indicates that Paul’s absence from Corinth remained a matter of deep hurt." [Note: Barnett, p. 114.]
The preceding statement indicates that Paul took much responsibility for the Corinthians’ welfare on himself. He hastened to clarify that it was as an apostle, not their lord, that he regarded himself and behaved toward them as he did (cf. 1 Peter 5:1; 1 Peter 5:3). Furthermore Paul recognized that they needed no human lord since they were comparatively solid in their faith. The word "joy" (Gr. chara) occurs as often in this epistle (2 Corinthians 1:24; 2 Corinthians 2:3; 2 Corinthians 7:4; 2 Corinthians 7:13; 2 Corinthians 8:2) as it does in Philippians (Philippians 1:4; Philippians 1:25; Philippians 2:2; Philippians 2:29; Philippians 4:1).
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Constable, Thomas. DD. "Commentary on 2 Corinthians 1". "Expository Notes of Dr. Thomas Constable". https://www.studylight.org/
the Week of Proper 25 / Ordinary 30