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DIVISION I. REVIEW OF RECENT EVENTS CHAPTERS 1-7.
SECTION 1. — SALUTATION, PRAISE TO GOD FOR ENCOURAGEMENT AND DELIVERANCE IN GREAT PERIL. CH. 1:1-11.
Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus through the will of God, and Timothy our brother, to the church of God which there is at Corinth, with all the saints which there are in the whole of Achaia. Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.
Blessed be God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of the compassions and God of every encouragement, who encourages us about all our affliction, that we may be able to encourage those in every affliction, by means of the encouragement with which ourselves are encouraged by God: because, according as the sufferings of Christ abound toward us, so through Christ abounds also our encouragement. And, both if we are afflicted, it is on behalf of your encouragement and salvation: and, if we are encouraged, it is on behalf of your encouragement, which is effective in endurance of the same sufferings which we also suffer. And our hope is firm on your behalf: knowing that as you are sharers of the sufferings so also of the encouragement.
For we do not wish you to be ignorant, brothers, about our affliction which took place in Asia, that exceedingly beyond our power we were burdened, so that we came to be without way of escape even for life. But ourselves within ourselves we have had the sentence of death, that we should not be trusting upon ourselves but upon God who raises the dead ones; who out of so great a death rescued us, and will rescue, in whom we have set our hope that He will also still rescue, while you also are working together with us on our behalf by prayer, that from many faces for the gift of grace to us by means of many, thanks may be given on our behalf.
Paul’s salutation, 2 Corinthians 1:1-2 : an outburst of praise amid affliction, 2 Corinthians 1:3-7; prompted by recent peril and deliverance, 2 Corinthians 1:8-11.
2 Corinthians 1:1-2. Cp. 1 Corinthians 1:1 f. The movements of Timothy during the three months between the writing of the First and Second Epistles are uncertain. Not later (see 1 Corinthians 4:17) and perhaps rather earlier than he wrote the First Epistle, Paul sent (Acts 19:22) Timothy to Macedonia; with instructions to go on to Corinth if he could, of which however (1 Corinthians 16:10) Paul was uncertain. We now find Timothy with Paul in Macedonia. But Paul’s anxiety (2 Corinthians 1:13; 2 Corinthians 7:5) makes us quite certain that before his own arrival in Macedonia and his meeting with Titus, Timothy had not brought him tidings about the reception of the First Epistle by the church at Corinth. Now the warmth of the Second Epistle suggests that it was written very soon after the arrival of Titus: and its silence about the coming of Timothy makes it unlikely that he arrived from Corinth with Titus or between the arrival of Titus and the writing of this letter. Consequently, either, contrary to Paul’s expectation, Timothy arrived at and left Corinth before the First Epistle; or he was, for reasons unknown to us but easily conceivable, unable to go there. In either case, we have no certain indication whether Timothy remained in Macedonia till Paul’s arrival; or returned to Paul before he left Ephesus, was with him there during the tumult, and went with him to Troas and to Macedonia. But the latter supposition would more easily account for the absence (except 2 Corinthians 1:19) of any further reference to Timothy in this Epistle. Doubtless he was with Paul when Titus arrived. And his close connection with the founding of the church at Corinth (2 Corinthians 1:19; Acts 18:5) accounts sufficiently for the presence of his name here, supporting the apostle’s earnest pleading.
The church: see 1 Corinthians 1:2.
Of the saints which there are etc.; asserts the existence of Christians in various parts of Achaia. See Romans 15:26.
In the whole of Achaia: parallel with “every place belonging to them and to us,” 1 Corinthians 1:2.
Grace, etc.: Romans 1:7.
2 Corinthians 1:3-4. This Epistle, which more than any other bears marks of heavy trial, begins (cp. Ephesians 1:3; 1 Peter 1:3) with an outburst of praise. For the trials did but reveal the compassions of God. Moreover, Paul writes under influence of the good tidings which had just relieved his anxieties about his readers.
God, the Father etc.: Romans 15:6.
The compassions: as in Romans 12:1. Instead of speaking, as we should, of “the compassion of God” as an abstract principle, Paul speaks of its various concrete manifestations. These reveal the essential nature of the great Father and are therefore taken up into His Name. So also the encouragement (see under Romans 12:1) which God ever gives. Cp. Romans 15:5.
Every encouragement: meeting us whenever our hearts would sink or our ardor flag. Touching every element of our affliction God speaks to us from time to time words of exhortation and comfort, with the definite purpose that we may have words of encouragement even for those weighed down by every kind of affliction. Cp. “in everything afflicted,” 2 Corinthians 4:8; 2 Corinthians 7:5.
By means of etc.; states in full, for emphasis, a truth already implied in the foregoing words, viz. that the comfort we receive from God is specially designed to be in our lips a means of comfort to others.
2 Corinthians 1:5. Cause of the encouragement, and of the affliction which made it needful. The latter is in essential relation to the agony of Christ on the cross; and the former comes through Christ.
Abound: Romans 3:7. In consequence of the sufferings of Christ similar sufferings fall in abundance upon Paul and his companions, arising from the same causes and working out the same glorious purposes. Cp. Philippians 3:10; Colossians 1:24; Mark 10:38. Had not Christ died, Paul would not now be in constant deadly peril.
Us: Paul, Timothy, and perhaps others. In his sufferings Paul was not alone.
Through Christ: Romans 1:5. This remarkable verse teaches emphatically that the pain inflicted upon Christ’s people for His sake is a natural and necessary outflow of His own painful death. And this mysterious relation of us and Him implies that through Christ comes our encouragement also. Our sorrow and our joy have thus their cause in His death and resurrection.
2 Corinthians 1:6. Not only is encouragement given to Paul in order that thus he may be able to encourage others; but for this very end, and for the consequent salvation of those whom he encourages, come both his affliction and his encouragement.
On behalf of your encouragement: “in order that by suffering we may learn, as none but sufferers can, the worth of that consolation which God provides for all who suffer; and may convey this consolation to you.” This implies that Paul’s hardships were not mere inevitable results of blind forces or of the malice of bad men, but were sent by God with a definite purpose of blessing. Cp. John 11:4. All Christian encouragement is designed to lead to the salvation (Romans 5:9) of those encouraged, by prompting them to persevere to the end. Without such encouragement they might fall and perish. This reveals the greatness of the purpose, viz. his readers’ eternal life, for which the afflictions were sent to the apostle and his companions.
2 Corinthians 1:6 b repeats the teaching of 2 Corinthians 1:4, to develop it.
On behalf of your encouragement: exactly as above.
Which is effective: literally “which inworks itself.” It produces results.
In endurance etc.] The encouragement works out perseverance, (see under Romans 2:7), and amid this produces the further result of salvation.
The same sufferings: and therefore needing the same encouragement. They suffered, or were exposed to, persecution and other hardships arising from the same causes and working out the same purposes as the sufferings of Paul. Cp. 1 Thessalonians 3:3; 2 Thessalonians 1:4. And, in order that he might prepare them to endure these afflictions, Paul received encouragement from God. Ability to encourage and thus save others, though not the only purpose, is a real and definite and very glorious purpose, of suffering. By it we become, through the encouragement God gives, able to bless and perhaps to save others.
2 Corinthians 1:7. A result of Paul’s affliction and consolation. He is quite sure that his good hope of his readers’ final salvation will be realized.
Knowing that etc.: Romans 5:3 : good reason for this confidence.
As… so: cp. 2 Corinthians 1:5 : sufferings and encouragement go together. Paul’s readers suffer, as he does, for Christ’s sake: accordingly, the encouragement he has, belongs equally to them. For them as for him are all the truths which lift him above the hardships of his lot and give him courage and perseverance in Christian enterprise. And knowing this, he has a firm hope that they, supported by the encouragement which gives him daily victory, will themselves persevere and be finally saved.
Thus Paul explains 2 Corinthians 1:4, which prompted the shout of praise in 2 Corinthians 1:3. Both his sufferings and his consolation come through Christ, who Himself suffered. His affliction is designed to enable him to comfort and save others: his encouragement is designed not only for himself but for others who suffer as he does. And a result of his affliction and consolation is that he has a firm hope that his readers will, in spite of all enemies, obtain final victory. For, though they suffer as he does they have the help in suffering which he has proved to be sufficient. Thus, as in Romans 5:3 f, affliction works out endurance and hope.
2 Corinthians 1:8-9. Paul now accounts for his exultant praise and for the mention of his affliction, by telling of a deadly peril from which he has been lately rescued. It is to sympathizing brothers that he tells the story.
Asia: the Roman province of which Ephesus was capital, 1 Corinthians 16:19; Romans 16:5. A burden was crushing them immeasurably beyond their power to bear.
So that we etc.: measure of the greatness of the burden. They were brought into a position in which their path was so completely hedged up that there was, to human sight, no way of escape even for life. 2 Corinthians 1:9 is the very opposite of having a way of escape. [The perfect tense, poorly rendered we have had, recalls the abiding effect of the inward sentence.]
The sentence: more correctly the answer. Contemplating their circumstances they asked themselves whether life or death stood before them. And the answer they were compelled to give in the inmost chamber of their hearts the sentence touching their own prospects which in that inner court they were themselves compelled to pronounce, was that death was before them.
That we should not be etc.: purpose of God in bringing them into this position of utter helplessness, viz. that they should have no confidence in themselves, but should put their trust in Him. And so terrible was their position that no power could save them but that of Him (cp. Romans 4:17) who raises the dead. Henceforth they were to lean only upon the arm of omnipotence.
2 Corinthians 1:10-11. Out of the hand of death: who stood before them in so great power. Cp. 2 Corinthians 11:23.
Rescued us: by some human instrumentality, or concurrence of events, unknown to us.
And will rescue: confident hope in face of many perils still threatening them.
In whom etc.; dwells upon and develops will rescue. Paul’s expectation of a deliverance is trust in God.
Will still rescue: all future deliverance being a continuation of that already experienced.
While you also etc.: ground of Paul’s hope, and a condition of future rescue, viz. that his readers pray for him. “by joining with us in our prayer for our deliverance, you are working both with us and for us. And while you do this, we expect deliverance.”
You also; suggests that others are doing the same.
That from many etc.: purpose to be attained by rescue in answer to these many prayers. From many upturned faces of those who have prayed for Paul’s deliverance and whose prayer has been answered, will praise be given to God.
Faces: a graphic picture of men in prayer looking up to God.
Gift-of-grace: Romans 1:11. Paul will be rescued by the undeserved favor of God, by means of the many of whose prayers his rescue is the answer. Consequently, from many upturned faces of those who have prayed, will thanks be given on behalf of Paul. “God will save us because you are praying for us. and He makes our deliverance conditional on your prayers in order that the favor shown to a few men may call forth gratitude and thanks from many by whose prayers this favor has been obtained.”
This is a courteous acknowledgement that the Corinthian Christians are praying for Paul, that their prayers have power with God, and that his deliverance will evoke their praise to God. It is also a covert request for their prayers. Cp. Romans 15:30; Ephesians 6:19; Colossians 4:3; Philippians 1:19; 2 Thessalonians 3:2. All this is the more appropriate because of the reproof in the First Epistle.
These verses reveal not only the terrible peril to which Paul had been exposed but its very deep impression upon him. In them we trace a dark shadow of death cast over him, a strong natural recoil from death, and firm confidence in God for future deliverance developed by this unexpected deliverance. It would seem that even in a life of peril this peril in Asia had marked an era.
It is impossible now to determine the connection between the tumult of Acts 19, and the peril recorded here: nor are we quite sure that the latter was at Ephesus. But each account confirms the other. For the selfish hostility of Demetrius and his companions, prompted as it was by monetary interests at stake, and the ease with which the mob was collected, are enough to account for the deadly peril referred to here. This hostility would be not appeased but exasperated by the dispersal of the mob. And we can well conceive it prompting some immediate and desperate and well-planned attempt to kill the apostle and his colleagues. That Paul felt his danger, is proved by his sudden departure (Acts 20:1) from Ephesus; whereas, a short time earlier, the number of his opponents had been (1 Corinthians 16:9) a reason for remaining.
We have seen that it is not unlikely that Timothy was at this time with Paul, and shared his peril. If so, the word us would (cp. 2 Corinthians 1:1) include him; and possibly other companions of Paul. It reminds us that in these perils the apostle was not alone. Possibly it was at this time that Aquila and Priscilla (1 Corinthians 16:19; Romans 16:4) saved his life at the risk of their own.
SECTION 2. — PAUL’S REASON FOR NOT COMING TO CORINTH CH. 1:12-2:4.
For this our exultation is the witness of our conscience that in holiness and sincerity of God, not in fleshly wisdom but in the grace of God, we have behaved ourselves in the world and especially towards you. For no other things are we writing to you except what you read, or indeed acknowledge, and I hope that to the end you will acknowledge, according as also you have acknowledged us in part; because a ground of exultation to you we are, as also you to us, in the day of our Lord Jesus.
And with this confidence I wished to come first to you, that you might have a second grace; and through you to pass on into Macedonia, and again from Macedonia to come to you, and by you to be sent forward to Judaea. While wishing this then, do you infer that I acted at all with levity? Or, the things which I purpose, is it according to flesh that I purpose them, that there may be with me the Yes yes and the No no? But faithful is God that our word to you is not Yes and No. For, God’s Son, Christ Jesus, who among you through us was proclaimed, through me and Silvanus and Timothy, did not become Yes and No, but in Him there has come to be Yes. For, so many promises as there are, in Him is the Yes, for which cause also through Him is the Amen, for glory to God through us. And He who confirms us with you for Christ, and has anointed us, is God, who also sealed us, and gave the earnest of the Spirit in our hearts.
And for my part I call upon God as witness upon my soul that it was to spare you that I did not come again to Corinth. Not that we are lords of your faith: but we are joint-workers of your joy. For by faith you stand. But I determined this with myself not again with sorrow to come to you. For, if it is I that make you sorrowful, who then is it that makes me glad, except he that is made sorrowful through me? And I wrote this very thing, lest having come I should receive sorrow from those from whom I must needs rejoice; being confident about all of you that my joy is that of you all. For out of much affliction and constraint of heart I wrote to you amid many tears, not that you may be made sorrowful, but that you may know the love which I have the more abundantly towards you.
From (2 we learn that at first Paul intended to go direct by sea from Ephesus to Corinth, then to Macedonia and back to Corinth, and then to Judaea. This purpose he had already abandoned when he wrote 1 Corinthians 16:5 ff. And the earnestness of his self-defence in 2 Corinthians 1:23 suggests that its abandonment had been quoted against him by enemies at Corinth as a mark of levity or guile. For his defence against this charge, he prepares the way by appealing in 2 Corinthians 1:12-14 to his conduct at Corinth: he then meets it expressly by appealing in 2 Corinthians 1:15-22 to the Gospel he preached; and by explaining in 2 Corinthians 1:23 to 2 Corinthians 2:4 his real motive.
2 Corinthians 1:12. Ground of Paul’s confidence that he shall have the effective prayers of his readers, viz. his conduct towards them.
This our exultation: the joyful expectation just expressed.
Is the witness etc.: the strongest possible way of saying that Paul’s joyful confidence is an immediate outflow of his consciousness (see 1 Corinthians 8:7 and Romans 2:15) of having lived a holy and pure life at Corinth. 2 Corinthians 1:11, in which this confidence found utterance, is a voice of his conscience bearing witness.
In holiness: with a constant aim to work out the purposes of God. See note, Romans 1:7.
Sincerity: as in 1 Corinthians 5:8.
Of God: wrought and given by God. Cp. “peace of God,” Philippians 4:7.
Fleshly wisdom: a faculty of choosing the ends and means best fitted to satisfy the desires, and supply the needs, of the body. Cp. James 3:15. See note, 1 Corinthians 3:4. Such wisdom takes into account only those ends and means which the eye can see and the hand can grasp.
In the grace of God; expounds of God above. Paul’s heart tells him that he has acted with pure loyalty to God, not on principles which are wise from the limited point of view of the present bodily life: but he remembers that his holiness and sincerity are gifts to him of the undeserved favor of God. Cp. 1 Corinthians 15:10. And he has acted thus even in the present wicked world.
Especially to you: giving them during his long intercourse (Acts 18:11) abundant proof of the principles which guide him.
2 Corinthians 1:13-14. No other things: in writing 2 Corinthians 1:12 he means nothing more than they read in the plain meaning of his words, or than they already acknowledge to be true. His words have no hidden meaning.
To the end: as in 1 Corinthians 1:8.
As also etc.: courteous acknowledgment that all the recognition Paul hopes for in the future he already has.
In part: either a partial recognition by the whole church, or a recognition by a part of the church. Probably the latter, in accordance with the severe censure of DIV. III.
Because a-ground-of-exultation to you etc.: a fact justifying the foregoing words. Just as the Corinthian Christians, who are a result of Paul’s toil and a proof of the power of the Gospel, call forth in him joyful confidence in God, so Paul, as a great monument of the grace of God, calls forth in their hearts a similar confidence.
In the day etc.: 1 Corinthians 1:8 : suggested probably by you to us, (Philippians 2:16; 1 Thessalonians 2:19,) but embracing also we are to you. They who save a soul from death lay up for themselves joy in that Day when the light of eternity will reveal the true value of a soul. And the same light will reveal the true grandeur of the heroes of the church, and thus increase the joy of those who have been associated with them on earth. Paul declares that, just as he already possessed in his readers that which would be a joy to him in the day of Christ, so they regarded him.
This justified him in saying that they had already recognized the truth of his words about himself in 2 Corinthians 1:11. Thus 2 Corinthians 1:12-13 support 2 Corinthians 1:11.
Notice how wisely and lovingly Paul approaches his defence of himself in 2 Corinthians 1:15-22. He appeals to his readers’ sympathy, by speaking of his great peril and its effect upon him. He wins their confidence by saying that he expects to be saved from future peril because they are praying for him. This reliance upon their prayers he justifies by saying that it is the voice of his conscience, of that faculty in man which knows the secrets of man’s heart, declaring that he has acted towards the Corinthians as a man of God. For such a one, and one intimately associated with themselves, they cannot but pray. This testimony about himself Paul supports by saying that he means only what he says, and that his readers’ exultation about him, an exultation which looks forward to eternity, is a proof that they recognize the truth of his words.
2 Corinthians 1:15-16. The change from “we,” “us,” to I (to be noted carefully throughout the Epistle) marks a transition to matters pertaining only to Paul after matters pertaining to his helpers, especially Timothy who joins in this letter and who shared his labors at Corinth and his perils in Asia.
First to you: before going to Macedonia. 2 Corinthians 1:17 suggests that the apostle’s change of purpose had brought against him a charge of carelessness or vacillation, against which in 2 Corinthians 1:15 he begins to defend himself.
Grace, or favour, i.e. from God: cp. “gift-of-grace,” Romans 1:11; also Romans 15:29. Through Paul’s visit God’s favor will reach and bless his readers.
A second grace: a second visit, i.e. one visit on the way to Macedonia and one on the return journey.
And through you etc.: continuation of Paul’s wish.
To be sent forward etc.: the same wish is expressed in 1 Corinthians 16:6. This purpose to go to Judaea agrees with Acts 21:15. To this plan of travel Paul was prompted by his confidence that he is to his readers a ground of exultation and that to the end they will recognize the godliness and purity of his conduct. He wished to see them as often as possible, and to have their assistance for his journey to Judaea.
2 Corinthians 1:17. Paul comes now to the charge against himself based on the foregoing purpose. Consequently, this purpose, afterwards abandoned must have been in some way, possibly in the lost letter, (1 Corinthians 5:9,) made known to the Corinthians.
With levity: hastily forming a purpose, and caring little whether it was accomplished.
Or etc.: another possible supposition. Paul answers his first question touching one special case in the past, I acted, by asking a second question about an abiding principle of his life, I purpose.
The Yes, yes and the No, no: emphatic assertion and emphatic denial of the same thing, of which one or other must necessarily be deliberate falsehood.
According to flesh: see Romans 1:4. If Paul makes directly contrary statements about his own purposes, his purposes must, since the Spirit of God is the Spirit of the Truth, be prompted by considerations drawn from the present bodily life. But, of such considerations, his whole career of hardship and peril was an evident and utter trampling under foot. It was therefore impossible for him to say one thing and mean another; and equally impossible to form a careless purpose.
May be with me: graphic picture of the inconsistency of Yes and No dwelling together in a man like Paul. This inconsistency is represented as an aim which Paul is supposed deliberately to set before himself, and for which he sinks down to worldly motives. For without such motives he could not be guilty of the insincerity with which he was charged.
2 Corinthians 1:18-20. Solemn answer to the foregoing questions, followed by proof.
Our word: of Paul and his colleagues, for all whom holds good Paul’s reply to a charge made against himself alone. Our word, not “words”; puts together in one category all they say and write, including the Gospel. This all-embracing word is not contradiction, but harmony. Of this, the trustworthiness of God is a pledge. Cp. 1 Corinthians 1:9. For we cannot conceive that God who claims implicit belief would send, and attest by miraculous powers, untruthful ambassadors. Of 2 Corinthians 1:18; 2 Corinthians 1:19 is proof. See under 2 Corinthians 1:22.
God: placed before Son for emphasis, and taking up faithful is God. The full title of Christ is emphatic.
Among you through us: by the agency of Paul and his colleagues the incarnate Son of God was first proclaimed at Corinth.
Through me etc.: exact specification of us. Notice the agreement with Acts 18:5.
Silvanus: in Acts, Silas: a prophet, and leading man in the church at Jerusalem, sent by that church to Antioch as bearer, in company with Paul and Barnabas, of the decree. After preaching for a time at Antioch and then returning to Jerusalem, he went with Paul on his second missionary journey. He and Timothy remained behind when Paul left Berea suddenly, but rejoined him at Corinth. See Acts 15:22; Acts 15:32; Acts 15:40; Acts 18:5. With this last verse agrees 1 Thessalonians 1:1; 2 Thessalonians 1:1.
Whether 1 Peter 5:12 refers to the same man, we do not know: or why he disappears so suddenly and at the same time both from the Book of Acts and from the Epistles of Paul.
Did not become; i.e. prove itself to be.
The Son of God, whose advent as Jesus, the anointed King, Paul proclaimed at Corinth, and who is Himself the Word of God, did not prove Himself to be a self-contradictory word.
In Him there has come to be, in a sense unknown before, assertion; viz. the unwavering promise of God. This is explained and proved in 2 Corinthians 1:20.
In Him is the Yes. Christ incarnate was a solemn and costly declaration by God that He will fulfill every one of the ancient promises, a declaration not admitting denial of doubt.
The Amen: Romans 1:25 : the expression of man’s faith that the promise will be fulfilled. Since in Christ God reasserts the old promises, also through Christ men believe them, and shout Amen.
Through us: by whose preaching the Amen has risen from the lips of many who never spoke it before. And this has been in order that glory may come to God, i.e. that His grandeur may shine forth and thus elicit admiration for men. Cp. Romans 15:7; Romans 15:9.
Through us; keeps up the connection between the Gospel and Paul, and it thus parallel to the same words in 2 Corinthians 1:19.
2 Corinthians 1:21-22. The source in God of that stability of Paul’s character which excludes the possibility of levity or deception. We are thus led back to the faithfulness of God (2 Corinthians 1:18) with which the argument began.
Confirms us: gives to us an immovable Christian character. So 1 Corinthians 1:8; Colossians 2:7; Hebrews 13:9. Of such character trustworthiness is an essential element.
With you: courteous recognition that the readers have or may have the same stability.
For Christ; who is the aim of all Christian excellence. In all our relations to Christ God makes us stable.
And has anointed us: formal installation into a sacred office. So Luke 4:18; Exodus 28:41; 1 Samuel 10:1; 1 Samuel 16:13; 1 Kings 19:16. It recalls the divine authority of these heralds of Christ. With you is not repeated: for the readers did not hold the same sacred office.
Sealed us. See Romans 4:11; 1 Corinthians 9:2; Revelation 7:3; John 6:27. God had not only formally installed them in the office of herald but had also put a visible mark upon or in them as specially His own. What the seal was, he need not say. The following words sufficiently suggest it. Cp. Ephesians 1:13; Ephesians 4:30. The Holy Spirit given to Paul and his colleagues was a divine mark, visible to himself and in some measure to those who knew him, that they belonged to God. Nay more. The Spirit in their hearts was an earnest of the good things for which they were sealed.
Earnest: English rendering of a Hebrew word (used in Genesis 38:17) which through Phoenician sailors passed into Greek and Latin, denoting a sum of money paid at the time of purchase as a pledge of the whole price. The Spirit in the hearts of believers is the beginning and pledge of future blessedness. Cp. “first-fruit of the Spirit,” Romans 8:23. Day by day God confirms them, ever increasing their firmness: once for all He anointed and sealed them, and gave to them the Spirit.
Review of 2 Corinthians 1:18-22. The questions of 2 Corinthians 1:17 were their own answers. For, evidently, Paul’s purposes were not prompted by the present bodily life. But he thinks it fit to record an emphatic denial followed by proof. And his denial covers everything said to his readers from time to time by himself and his colleagues. In proof that their word was not contradictory Paul reminds his readers that Jesus Christ, the Son of God, who had become known to them through the agency of himself and his helpers, was Himself the solemn and unwavering voice of God to man, and had proved Himself to be such to the Corinthians. In Him every one of the old promises was reaffirmed, in a manner which called forth the response of faith. And at Corinth this response had been elicited by Paul’s agency, for the glory of God. To the office of herald he and his companions had been anointed by God and in their hearts they bore the proof and pledge that they belong to Him and are heirs of infinite blessing. And Paul acknowledged that the unwavering stability which gave them a right to claim the confidence of their converts was God’s work in them day by day. Now, could it be supposed that heralds, to whom had been committed the proclamation of this unfailing word of God, could themselves be guilty of vacillation and deception? The dignity of the office in which God has placed them forbids the thought.
This argument warns us not readily to charge with frivolous or selfish motives those who bear, in the success of their Christian work a visible mark of God’s approval and support. And it is a warning to all engaged in such work, to speak and act, by exact truthfulness and by fulfilling all their promises as far as they can, worthily of Him whose sure word they proclaim as the ground of all our hope and the source of our life.
2 Corinthians 1:23. After showing in 2 Corinthians 1:18-22 how inconsistent with the Gospel he preached amid God’s evident approval and help would be a worldly change of purpose, Paul will explain in 2 Corinthians 1:23 to 2 Corinthians 2:4 his real motive for the change.
I for my part: about Paul alone, in contrast to the foregoing general statements. See 2 Corinthians 1:15. The solemn earnestness of the appeal implies that on the ground of his delay in coming to Corinth a serious charge had been brought against the Apostle. Cp. 2 Corinthians 1:17; 1 Corinthians 4:18.
Upon my soul: as in Romans 2:9. Laying open the seat of life to be smitten if he speak falsely, Paul appeals to God. In delaying his visit he was sparing them the punishment which, had he come, he would have been compelled to inflict. Cp. 1 Corinthians 4:21. Instead of punishing, he wrote (2 Corinthians 2:3) the First Epistle.
Come again; implies, taken with 2 Corinthians 2:1, that between the departure recorded in Acts 18:18 and the writing of the First Epistle Paul had visited Corinth; and places the unrecorded visit in some relation to that which Paul now proposes. See under 2 Corinthians 2:1.
2 Corinthians 1:24. A corrective to 2 Corinthians 1:23. By using the word “spare,” which implies authority to punish, Paul does not mean that he can control their faith, and thus cut them off from Christ. In spite of all he can do, his readers may still take hold of Christ by faith and thus obtain eternal life. This ought never to be forgotten by those who pronounce an ecclesiastical sentence.
But joint-workers etc.: Paul’s true relation to his readers and a reason for “sparing” them. He was working with them and was thus working out joy for them. For all growth in the Christian life in both individuals and communities, is an increase of joy. Only as a means of greater joy ought Christ’s servants to inflict pain; and therefore as little pain as possible to attain this end. This being Paul’s mission, he delayed his visit to Corinth. For, had he come sooner, he would have been a messenger of sorrow. And he preferred to give pain by a letter rather than by a personal visit.
By faith you stand; justifies not lords etc. Open as they were to censure, they yet maintained, though imperfectly, their Christian position; and this by their belief of the words of Christ. And the dignity of their position he cannot forget, even while using words of authority.
2 Corinthians 2:1-2. Paul will now show how his delay was designed to spare his readers.
I determined: as in 1 Corinthians 2:2.
For myself: i.e. saving himself sorrow by sparing them.
With sorrow: which he will inflict, as proved by 2 Corinthians 2:2.
Again with sorrow; can only mean a second painful visit. For this only will account for the prominent and emphatic position of again. Otherwise this word is quite needless. For, since Paul has already been at Corinth, to go there now is necessarily to go again. Whereas again with sorrow has almost tragic force. Paul remembers a former sad visit, and fears that his next will be the same. This former visit cannot have been his first, recorded in Acts 18:1 : for then there was no church at Corinth to whom or from whom he could give or receive sorrow. It must therefore have been a visit not mentioned in the Book of Acts. See further under 2 Corinthians 13:2. For the foregoing decision 2 Corinthians 2:2 is a reason, betraying Paul’s earnest love for his readers. To give them sorrow, is to inflict sadness upon the only persons who are a joy to himself. In other words, he has no human joy except the fellowship and love of his converts; and therefore cannot lightly make them sad.
2 Corinthians 2:3-4. To Paul’s resolve (2 Corinthians 2:1) 2 Corinthians 2:3 a adds what he actually did to accomplish it.
This very thing: his First Epistle, which in thought now lies before him.
Lest having come: he wrote instead of coming.
I should have sorrow: in contrast to “makes you glad” in 2 Corinthians 2:2.
I must needs etc.] To rejoice in his converts was to Paul an absolute necessity. Cp. 1 Thessalonians 3:8, “we live if you stand in the Lord.”
Being confident etc.: a confidence which moved him to write instead of incurring the risk of a painful visit. To avoid what his confidence in his readers tells him would be sorrow to them as well as to himself, he wrote instead of coming.
All of you: even the erring ones, who in their heart of hearts loved Paul.
Out of much affliction etc.: state of mind which moved him to write, given in support of the just mentioned aim of his letter. His sorrow and tears prove the purity of his motive.
Constraint: cognate with “holds fast” in 2 Corinthians 2:14. A great burden resting upon his heart, and holding him as if in bonds, forced him to write. There is nothing to suggest a reference here to anything except the First Epistle. For its tone is condemnatory almost throughout. Would that all Christian reproof had a similar motive!
Amid many tears: interesting mark of the intensity of the apostle’s feelings, and a close coincidence with Acts 20:19; Acts 20:31.
That you may be made sorrowful: an evitable and foreseen result of the letter, but not its aim. Love to the Corinthians moved him to write and guided his pen. And he wrote that his love might reveal itself to them.
Specially towards you: as in 2 Corinthians 1:12. As he writes to, and thinks of, them, he feels how specially dear to him are his converts at Corinth.
With 2 Corinthians 2:1-4 agrees 1 Corinthians 16:5, which shows that while writing the letter Paul had already given up his purpose of coming direct to Corinth.
From 2 Corinthians 1:23 to 2 Corinthians 2:4, and from this whole epistle more than any other, we gain an insight into the inner life of Paul. Little did we think as we read his former letter and felt the severity of its indignant reproofs that it was prompted by deep sorrow and moistened with tears.
While purposing to come direct to Corinth Paul received bad news about the state of the church. Perceiving that to come now would be a visit of sorrow, not to himself only but to them, he resolved to delay his visit. And, while thinking of punishment, he remembers that, apart from anything he can do, his converts at Corinth can and do take hold of Christ by faith, and thus maintain, in spite of many imperfections, their place in the family of God. His work is simply to increase their joy. Already he has come once to Corinth as a bearer of sorrow; and he does not wish to do so again. And for this he has a personal motive. To grieve them is to cast a shadow on the only earthly source of joy to himself. To avoid this he wrote to them, moved by an assurance that in writing he was seeking the joy both of himself and them. The burden of heart which moved him to write and the tears which fell as he wrote testify that he had no other motive, and that his letter was an outflow of his special love to his converts at Corinth.
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Beet, Joseph. "Commentary on 2 Corinthians 1". Joseph Beet's Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/
the Week of Proper 21 / Ordinary 26