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Wednesday, July 17th, 2024
the Week of Proper 10 / Ordinary 15
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Bible Commentaries
2 Corinthians 1

Layman's Bible CommentaryLayman's Bible Commentary

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Verses 1-2

Greetings (1:1-2)

This is a typical Pauline opening. He gives himself the familiar and important title, "apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God." He names Timothy as co-author, though Timothy may have had as little to do with writing Second Corinthians as Sosthenes did with First Corinthians. The letter is sent not only to Corinth but also to the Christians of Achaia, a province of the Roman Empire, in which Corinth was an important city.

Verses 3-7

The God of Comfort (1:3-7)

Once the greeting and the signature are down on papyrus, or whatever material he used, Paul, as is natural to him, begins with a prayer of thanks to God. The word "bless" has at least two meanings in the Bible. One refers to God’s kind mercies to man, as when we pray that God will bless us. It also means "praise," as it does here. The sentence (vs. 3) means "Praised be the God and Father ..." God is described in three ways: he is the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, he is the Father of mercies, and he is the God of all comfort. These are not definitions. No writer in the Bible ever gives a dictionary definition of God. The Bible writers all knew God, and they no more tried to argue that he really exists than people would argue that they are breathing real air. There is a place and time for discussing the reality of God, but Paul knows this is not that time and place.

Paul thinks of God as his own Father, but always first of all God is the Father of Christ. The word "father" can easily be misunderstood. Christian teachers in slum districts have found that it is a little risky to use the word "father" for God, since some children are afraid of their drunken and brutal fathers. Paul here as always finds Christ the clue to truth. To say that God is Father of Paul, or Peter, or the members of your church, or you, might suggest that he is most like Paul, or Peter, or some unpromising church member. No, God is most like Christ. A good deal of harm has been done by forgetting this, and by proclaiming a "God" who is really made in our own image. The true family resemblance is between God and his Son Jesus Christ.

That word "comfort" is repeated till some readers tire of it. Paul must have known he was repeating, but he did not care. He wanted that thought of God’s comfort to get into his friends’ minds so they could not forget it, like a tune played many times. Paul uses the word as either noun or verb not less than ten times in four sentences. He makes it plain, too, that God’s comfort is not given us to be enjoyed but to be passed on.

Verses 8-11

Paul in Trouble (1:8-11)

Here we wish again that we had Paul with us to ask him what he means. What was that affliction in Asia? This is one of the places where his readers understood what he meant, so he does not try to make himself clearer for our benefit. This affliction might have been illness, or severe persecution, or a trial in which everything seemed to go against him. All that is clear is that Paul had been so depressed by whatever it was that he had not ex­pected to live. When rescue came, it seemed as astounding as Christ’s resurrection; it was like being raised from the dead. Paul’s faith came out clearer and stronger than before; he will not give up hope the next time. John Bunyan, centuries after this, was to write some verses that included the words, "He that is down need fear no fall." Paul had been down, and now he feared no fall.

Paul believed not only in praying for himself; he wanted the help of his friends in prayer. Now that is a very remarkable thing. We know from reading First Corinthians what kind of people those Corinthians were. Say the best of them you could, they were a long distance below Paul in the Christian life. Yet this great saint and Apostle can say, "You also must help us by prayer" (vs. 11). So the weakest of Christians may help the greatest, at the throne of grace.

Verses 12-14

Mutual Confidence of Paul and the Corinthians (1:12-14)

The skeleton of verse 12 is: "Our boast is . . . the testimony of our conscience that we have behaved . . . toward you ... with holiness and godly sincerity." This is a hint of the much larger and more elaborate "boasting" which is found in later chapters. Those who believe Second Corinthians is all one single letter, though admitting as all readers must that Paul does not stay on one track very long, nevertheless point out that the theme of boasting is found here as well as after chapter 10, and may indi­cate that all of Second Corinthians was written at one time. The background of Paul’s anxiety to certify himself as a genuine Apostle is that his authority had been questioned by rival "apos­tles" not only at Corinth but everywhere he went. Verse 13 indi­cates that Paul thought that plain people could understand what he was saying. Verse 14 brings out an idea which is more than a "mutual admiration society"; it is a relation of confidence—Paul’s confidence in the Corinthians, and theirs in him.

Verses 15-22

Christ Is "Yes" (1:15-22)

Apparently some change had been made in Paul’s original plan to visit Corinth twice; and his enemies had taken this as evidence that he was wishy-washy, not knowing what he really wanted to do. This sets Paul off on his own defense: he is a Christian, he means to say, and as Christ’s man he is not double-minded. He comes back to this point more than once. Just here he is reminded that Christ himself is not "Yes and No" but only "Yes." What Paul means is that you always know where Jesus stands. In small things and in great, Jesus is not—and Paul does not wish to be—of two minds. Paul does not mean that he is a "yes man"; that is the last thing he would wish to be. But he does mean to be posi­tive, so that no one could mistake what he was standing for. The fact that he can write as he does in this paragraph about Christ and God, starting from a simple remark someone had made about him (Paul), shows how his mind is centered in God. No matter what the problem or the incident, no matter how small, Paul in­stinctively asks: What has this to do with Christ?

Painful Letter Versus Painful Visit (1:23-2:4)

Paul now comes back to the reason why he had not visited the Corinthian church a third time. One painful visit was enough! So, instead of another tense and unpleasant visit, he had put all the unpleasant things he had found it necessary to say into a letter.

(This was the "painful letter," and either it has been lost entirely or a good part of it is preserved in 2 Corinthians 10-13.)

The reason the visit was painful was that the church at Corinth was torn by quarrels and factions. Not only so, but some in the church had refused to acknowledge the authority of Paul. Just exactly what went on during that visit we do not know, but from other references as well as this one, it would appear to have been largely a matter of discipline—what to do with some person who had committed some serious sin. Who the person was and what the offense was, Paul does not say. Possibly he did say, but before these letters were released to the public, the name of the person and the details were edited out. This is just as well; at this distance personalities matter little. Paul’s principles are not "dated" but are still sound.

Bibliographical Information
"Commentary on 2 Corinthians 1". "Layman's Bible Commentary". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/lbc/2-corinthians-1.html.
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