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Bible Commentaries
2 Corinthians 1

Godbey's Commentary on the New TestamentGodbey's NT Commentary

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Verses 1-2

1. Paul, an apostle of Jesus Christ through the will of God, and brother Timothy, to the church of God being at Corinth, with all the saints who are in Achaia.” Corinth was the great commercial, literary and idolatrous metropolis of Southern Greece, called Achaia. Its semi-tropical climate enriched not only the continent, but the innumerable islands all around with a vast variety of delicious and valuable fruits; meanwhile the agricultural resources were immense, and the mercantile facilities really put Corinth at the very front of the world, as the city stood on the isthmus between the Aegean Sea on the east, commanding the commerce of Asia, and the Ionian Sea on the west, commanding the commerce of Rome.

2. This is the salutation found in nearly all the apostolical letters, full of love and inspiration.

Verses 3-7


3-7. This paragraph is replete with the grandest hyperbole, in which he derives comfort from everything, adversity, prosperity, indiscriminately. “Knowing that as you are the participants of the sufferings, so also of the consolation,” i. e., there is a blessing incident to every state of adversity which more than compensates the suffering, sorrow and loss.

Verses 8-11


2 Corinthians 1:8-11 .

8. “For we do not wish you to be ignorant, brethren, concerning our affliction which occurred in Asia, that we were burthened above our power, so that we despaired even of life.

9. But we had the answer of death in ourselves, in order that we may not have confidence in ourselves, but in God, who delivered us from so great a death and will deliver.” Exegetes are much at sea in reference to what this affliction was, as it is not specified. The presumption is that it was an exceedingly severe spell of sickness, which utterly prostrated and brought him to the very verge of death, when the last vestige of hope took its flight and God said to him, “Will you die or will you live?” He decided, “I will die,” thus taking it as his choice to depart from labor to rest. The English does not clearly bring out this fact, which is the great, salient point in the matter. It is believed that this is the terrible ordeal alluded to (1 Corinthians 15:32), where he says that he fought with the wild beasts at Ephesus, symbolizing the awful disease that preyed on him by the figure of a wild beast, as the law did not allow them to cast a Roman citizen to a wild beast.

Verses 12-15


2 Corinthians 1:12-14 .

12. For our boasting is this, the testimony of our conscience, that in holiness and purity of God, not in carnal wisdom, but in the grace of God, were we in the world, and especially toward you.

13. For I write not other things, but those things which you read and acknowledge: and I hope that you will acknowledge them to the end, because ye are our boasting as we are yours in the day of our Lord Jesus.” This paragraph, like so many others, is grand and conclusive on both entire sanctification and the Coming of the Lord, the two grand hemispheres of the Pauline gospel, which roll before us through his writings in a constant glowing flame of inspired verity and beauty. It is to be regretted that the E.V., in 2 Corinthians 1:12, signally fails to bring out this clear and bold profession of the personal experience of entire sanctification by the apostle. The Greek word which I translated “holiness” is the very same word we find in Hebrews 12:10, where he says that we are partakers of His holiness, i. e., the holiness of God. It is simply a form of the same word translated sanctification throughout the New Testament. Hence there is no evasion of the issue. Paul makes the profession there clear and straight in that word.

Where the E.V. has “godly sincerity,” I translated it “the purity of God,” which is literal; the Greek is eilikrinia from eilee, “a sun-beam” and krinoo, “judge.” It is a word whose force is too strong for any word in the English language to translate it. We can only reach it by circumlocution. It is taken from the ancient custom to hold up a substance before the sun for his rays to interpenetrate, in order to reveal impurities in it. Hence the import in the Scripture is that God proposes to make your heart so clean that when illuminated by the infallible Sun of Righteousness the Omniscient Eye will discover no impurities in it. Hence Paul made the boldest profession of entire sanctification I ever heard. The English word “sincerity” here occurring is much stronger than generally apprehended. It is from sine, “without,” and cera, “wax.” Hence it means “strained honey.” You get plenty of honey when born from above, but you have to pick it out from among the wax, dead bees and trash. Sanctification strains out everything else and leaves the pure, unadulterated deliciously sweet honey, which the Lord’s bees love so well, but the devil’s hornets do not appreciate. This passage is exceedingly valuable as a confirmation of Paul’s bold profession of entire sanctification.


1. And with the same confidence I wished to come unto you hitherto, in order that you may have a second grace.” (See R. V.) This word charis occurs one hundred and twenty times in the New Testament, and only in this one instance is translated “benefit,” for which there is simply no apology, unless we conceive on the part of the translators an effort to defend their own unsanctified experiences. You must remember that John Wesley preached in that same church ten years before he was converted. It is hardly probable the translators were all clear in the experience of justification, while there is no probability that any of them enjoyed sanctification. Hence they have signally, in many instances, as you here see, failed to bring out in their translation the second work of grace, which in the original is clear as the meridian sun. This is obvious from the fact that we do not see clearly in the Bible experiences which we do not enjoy in our hearts, though we may have some vague apprehensions of them. There is a world within and a world without, corresponding either with other. I have heard many men possessing fine intelligence and scholarship preach powerfully against spiritual regeneration, laboring to convince the people that there was no such thing. They do the same in reference to sanctification, when personally ignorant of the experience. The doctrine of holiness so literally floods the Bible from beginning to end that it is impossible to translate it out or explain it away. Hence it is the great fundamental and overwhelming truth in every translation. But I find the Bible doctrine of holiness one hundred per cent. stronger in the version of the Holy Ghost Himself than in any human translation. We are assured that many of these Corinthians had gloriously entered Beulah land by a blessed second work of grace, before Paul bade them adieu for his Asiatic tour three years previously, yet in that great church of Jews and Gentiles there were dozens, scores, and perhaps hundreds, destitute of this experience and imperatively needing it. Hence he states to hem his anxiety to come unto them that they may receive a “second grace,” i. e., the second work of grace.

Verses 16-24


2 Corinthians 1:16-24 .

16. He traveled from Asia across the sea to Northern Greece, and then through Macedonia down into Achaia, spending the winter of A. D. 57-58 at Corinth, and writing the epistle to the Romans, leaving early in the spring for Jerusalem again, to visit the dear saints and bear to them the benefactions of the Gentile churches.

17. Then wishing this, whether then did I use lightness a purpose or whatsoever things I wish, whether do I wish according to the flesh, in order that it may be with me yea, yea, and nay, nay.

18. But God is faithful, because our word toward you is not yea and nay.

19. For Christ Jesus, the Son of God, who is among you, having been preached by us, through me and Silas and Timothy, was not yea and nay, but in Him it was yea.

20. For so many promises of God in Him are yea: therefore indeed through Him it is amen unto God for glory through us.

21. He that strengthened us along with you, and anointeth us, is God,

22. Who also having sealed us, and given us the earnest of the Spirit in our hearts.” This paragraph is regarded as very obscure. I realize the light shining through it clear and cloudless, and feel that you will not only be enabled to receive it, but find a blessing in it. Paul’s original plan while over in Asia was to sail into Achaia first and then proceed on into Macedonia. This plan had been communicated to them by Timothy while Paul was still at Ephesus. He afterward changed his plan, in order to give them more time to repent, wheel into line, and straighten up all their irregularities before his arrival, lest he find it necessary severely to administer the disciplinary rod. This change of plan on the part of Paul should be profitable to you and me, illustrating the difference between the human and the Divine leadership. Paul had been preaching in Asia three years, finally getting around to Europe again. I have appointments out now for the next three years. That is a human program, which is innocent within itself, but final in no case, because it is liable to be changed anywhere and everywhere by the Divine leadership, which is not anticipatory at long range like human plans, but is in the present tense. Hence, responding to calls in all parts of the continent, and giving dates far out in the future, I constantly insert “ D. V.,” which means “God willing,” giving me all needed latitude and longitude to go anywhere in this world or up to Heaven, instead of fulfilling the list of appointments. Some of the people at Corinth were charging Paul with instability because he changed his program and went to Macedonia first. Of course, God knew all the time that He was going to lead him into Macedonia first and from there down into Achaia; but we see that Paul, like the rest of us, had a human program which was every day and hour liable to be interrupted by the Divine leadership, bringing to him no disappointment whatever, because his will was lost in God, and, while we do not feel free to ignore the adumbrations of our future pilgrimage, yet we recognize the perpetual Divine leadership in the present tense, Jesus walking by my side and leading me with His hand. Here Paul castigates the Corinthians for imputing to him human motives involving personal instability. Hence he assures them that it is not with him “yea and nay,” like the worldly people who talk about “luck” and “failure,” and “good luck” and “bad luck.” That is the language of the card-table and the horserace. So he corrects it by referring to our Savior, with whom it was not “yea and nay,” but in Him all things are “yea.” What is the meaning of that? Worldly people are tossed amid ambiguities, and have haphazardous adventures all the time. Everything with them is a matter of “luck” and “failure,” “success” and “disappointment.” With God’s holy people, who are lost in His will, there is no such a thing as “bad luck,” “failure” or “disappointment”. Because

“all things work together for good to them who love God, who are the elect according to His purpose” (Romans 8:29).

Since “my will is the will of my God,” and if I am true to Him I know that His will is carried out in my behalf all the time, therefore there is no such a thing as disappointment, because the Lord’s will is constantly verified if I am true and obedient. Hence everything is “good luck” to me. It is all “yea,” and there is no “nay” about it. My whole life is made up of positives and no negatives; victories and no defeats. The blessed indwelling Holy Spirit is to us the Earnest, i. e., the prelibation, of Heaven.

23. I call God to witness to my soul that sparing you I came not into Corinth.” If he had come at the time they were looking for him, he would have been under the necessity of enforcing severe discipline and turning a lot of them out of the church. As it was he had judiciously delayed, at the same time sending to them these powerful letters in which all the heresies, abuses, disorders and irregularities were corrected, and sending to them first Timothy and then Silas to preach to them and lead them into repentance necessary to satisfy the demands of God’s Word. The whole scheme worked out in perfect harmony, so that when he came they had nothing to do but meet him with a shout, and sit down and enjoy his powerful preaching.

24. Not that we domineer over your faith, but we are fellow-partakers of your joy: for by faith you stand.” Paul was far from the attitude of an ecclesiastical autocrat, demanding of them loyalty and obedience to a lot of ecclesiastical institutions. There was nothing of that kind. All he asked of them was to be true to God, taking His precious Word as their only authority, and he was ready to shout with them. Faith is the great fundamental grace underlying all others, and holding up the superstructure of Christian character. Yet faith must have standing ground, which is in case of the sinner a radical and complete repentance and in case of the Christian a thorough and unequivocal consecration.

Bibliographical Information
Godbey, William. "Commentary on 2 Corinthians 1". "Godbey's Commentary on the New Testament". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/ges/2-corinthians-1.html.
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