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Analysis and Annotations
I. TRUE MINISTRY AS MANIFESTED IN THE LIFE AND CHARACTER OF THE APOSTLE. Chapters 1-7
1. The Introduction
1. The Salutation. (2 Corinthians 1:1-2 )
2. The Thanksgiving. (2 Corinthians 1:3-7 .)
After the opening words of salutation, the Apostle blesses God, the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and the God of all comfort. The Apostle had many trials and testings, as well as much suffering, and in all these depressing experiences, God had graciously ministered unto him. Therefore he blessed God in this outburst of praise. We can only bless God as we know Him. Trials, afflictions, sorrows and sufferings make God a greater reality to the believer and display His gracious favor towards His beloved people. The Apostle had made this experience, “Who comforteth (or encourageth) us in all our tribulation that we may be able to comfort them which are in any trouble, by the comfort wherewith we ourselves are comforted of God.” In all his distress and tribulation he had drawn near to God, and God had not failed him, but ministered to his need. The blessing and encouragement he had received from God fitted him to comfort those who are in trouble.
An important principle concerning true ministry in the body of Christ is made known in these words of thanksgiving. God must minister to our hearts first, and, through what we receive, we can minister to others. And so all true ministry is of Him. He knew the sufferings of Christ in an abundant measure, but while the sufferings of Christ abounded toward him, so did his consolation abound through Christ also. All he passed through and suffered as a devoted servant of Christ in an antagonistic world, were the sufferings of Christ. Of these sufferings he speaks more fully elsewhere in this Epistle. And both, the trouble and the comfort, were not exclusively for him, but for all Christians likewise. All was for their benefit and blessing. The Apostle states, that whether afflicted or comforted, it is for their consolation and salvation, and that the same result is wrought in” them by their own participation in a like experience. The Lord in His gracious dealing would turn affliction to their blessing as well as the consolation. His heart had been encouraged by what he had heard from Titus about their godly sorrow and therefore he could express his confidence “and our hope of you is stedfast, knowing that as ye are partakers of the sufferings, so are ye also of the consolation.”
2. Paul’s Experience and Explanations.
1. His Experience. (2 Corinthians 1:8-14 )
2. His Explanations. (2 Corinthians 1:15-24 )
The Apostle speaks, first of all, of the trouble he had when he was pressed out of measure (or “weighed down exceedingly, beyond our power”), in so much that he despaired of his life. What experience did he mean? The question cannot be positively answered. It may have been the trouble in Ephesus (Acts 19:1-41 ) to which he refers in 1 Corinthians 15:32 , “If after the manner of men I have fought with beasts in Ephesus .” Others think that it was some severe attack of sickness or a powerful assault upon his life from some other source. Whatever it was, he had been in such a peril that he almost lost his life.
“But we had the sentence of death within ourselves, that we should not trust in ourselves, but in God who raiseth the dead: who delivered us from so great a death and doth deliver; in whom we trust that He will yet deliver us.”
It was all permitted to come upon him for his own good. He learned by it his own utter helplessness; it destroyed in him all self-reliance; he had to cast himself upon God, whose power and faithfulness as a deliverer were blessedly manifested in this experience. It showed him his nothingness and God’s power in deliverance. Every true believer will welcome any affliction or tribulation which produces such precious results. In the tenth verse, he groups together the fact of God’s deliverance past, present and future. “Who delivered us from so great a death.” This undoubtedly refers to the danger he was exposed to and out of which He had been delivered, but it may also be applied in a more general way. We are as believers delivered from so great a death, that is, eternal death. Then there is a present deliverance “who doth deliver.” These are the trials and testings in the way, in which the believer learns anew that He is the God of our salvation.
“Salvation through a work wrought already for eternity is the daily lesson of a growing faith. Sickness, privation and trouble Of any kind are, with outward persecution, permitted as occasions of sustaining and delivering love. Grace knows how to deliver even from those snares in which our own folly or carelessness may have entangled our feet.” (Pridham.)
And the Apostle expressed his confidence in a future deliverance. He who has delivered His people, saved them by Grace, who constantly delivers and keeps, will do so in the future till the final great deliverance comes and all His redeemed people will be gathered home.
But while the Apostle trusted in God for all this, as all true believers do, he also recognized the value of the prayers of others. God’s children can be fellow-helpers in prayer for the servants of God “helping together by prayer for us.” Prayer is therefore a very important part of true ministry in the body of Christ. And what had been bestowed upon him, would lead many to praise God in giving thanks on his behalf. He was rejoicing in the testimony of his own conscience, that in holiness (not “simplicity” as in the authorized version) and sincerity before God he had acted in the world and more abundantly towards them. (The word rejoicing is “glorying” or “boasting.” As mentioned in the introduction this word is found thirty-one times in this epistle.) Only partly had they recognized him. He mentions “the day of our Lord Jesus.” In that day the Corinthian saints would be the Apostle’s glorying, and the Apostle was their glorying. The day of the Lord Jesus is not the Old Testament day of God. The day of the Lord will bring the visible manifestation of the Lord in great power and glory. Judgment for this earth follows as well as mercy in bringing righteousness, peace and the Kingdom. The day of the lord Jesus is for the Saints of God and is celebrated not on earth but in glory. Often the Apostle refers to that blessed coming day when the Saints shall be gathered home. As a doctrine it is impressed continually on the memory of the church, while as a moral power it is a constant endeavor of the Spirit to bring it to bear directly on the daily walk of the believer, both as a regulator of conscience, an argument of patience, and an efficient stimulant of all true spiritual affection (Romans 13:12-13 ; 1 Peter 1:7 ; 1 John 3:1-3 ).
His explanations follow. He intended to come to them long before this. His plan was to pass by them into Macedonia, and to come again out of Macedonia unto them, so that they might bring him on his way toward Judea. He had not done so. They might accuse him therefore of having failed. The word “lightness” in 2 Corinthians 1:17 means fickleness. Was he fickle-minded? Was it merely the lightness and fickleness, a changing yea, yea, followed by nay, nay? He had stayed away from Corinth for other reasons; it was to spare them that he did not go there. Therefore, it was not fickleness on his part at all.
He did not purpose according to the flesh. What he earnestly desired was from love for them, and all his plans were under the guidance of the Lord. “But as God is true, our word toward you is not yea and nay. For the Son of God, Jesus Christ, who was preached among you by us, even by me and Silvanus and Timotheus, was not yea and nay, but in Him is yea. For whatever may be the promises of God, in Him is the yea, wherefore also through Him is the amen, unto the glory of God through us.” They had been suspicious of him and his motives, and now after having denied the false charge of being fickle-minded he reminds them of his preaching among them which was not yea and nay. He turns from the accusations against him, to what he had preached. The positive doctrines of the Gospel had molded his character and controlled all his motives. He and his companions, Silvanus and Timotheus, had preached among them the Son of God, Jesus Christ, and the blessed truths of salvation and redemption which center in Him and flow forth from His Person. And the preaching of the Son of God has no doubt and uncertainty in it; it is the declaration of positive and final Truth. Men doubt and are fickle-minded about the Person of Christ and the Gospel in our days, but God’s Word speaks in positive terms, which do not permit any uncertainty whatever. It is a wonderfully deep statement that all the promises of God, whatever they may be, are in Christ--in Him is the yea and through Him the amen likewise. All promises are made to Christ and are in Him and those who trust in Christ share them in Him. All came by Him, all is in Him, all will be accomplished through Him. “Whatever promises there had been on God’s part, the yea was in Him, and the amen in Him. God has established--deposited, so to speak--the fulfillment of all His promises in the Person of Christ. Life, glory, righteousness, pardon, the gift of the Spirit, all is in Him: it is in Him that all is true--yea and amen. We cannot have the effect of any promise whatsoever apart from Him. But this is not all: we, believers, are the objects of these counsels of God. They are to the glory of God by us.”(Synopsis.)
But how can we participate in it, if all is “in Christ?” Here is the blessed answer. God Himself establishes the believer in Christ, in whom all the promises subsist, so that the true Christian securely possesses in Him all that is promised. We have it all through God in Christ and can enjoy it in Him. And furthermore, God hath anointed us. We possess in Christ the gift of the Holy Spirit. We are sealed by that Spirit; God has put His seal upon us. And finally the Spirit also is in us the earnest of that which we shall possess with Christ in the coming day of His glory. “In whom ye also, after that Ye heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation; in whom also believing, ye were sealed with the Holy Spirit of promise, which is the earnest of an inheritance until the redemption of the purchased possession, to the praise of His glory” (Ephesians 1:13-14 ).
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Gaebelein, Arno Clemens. "Commentary on 2 Corinthians 1". "Gaebelein's Annotated Bible". https://www.studylight.org/
the Week of Proper 20 / Ordinary 25