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Lange's Commentary on the Holy Scriptures: Critical, Doctrinal and Homiletical Lange's Commentary
2 Corinthians 2
These files are a derivative of an electronic edition available at BibleSupport.com. Public Domain.
These files are a derivative of an electronic edition available at BibleSupport.com. Public Domain.
Lange, Johann Peter. "Commentary on 2 Corinthians 2". "Commentary on the Holy Scriptures: Critical, Doctrinal, and Homiletical". https://www.studylight.org/
commentaries/ eng/ lcc/ 2-corinthians-2.html. 1857-84.
Lange, Johann Peter. "Commentary on 2 Corinthians 2". "Commentary on the Holy Scriptures: Critical, Doctrinal, and Homiletical". https://www.studylight.org/
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IV.—MORE PARTICULAR EXPLANATIONS OF HIS REASONS FOR NOT VISITING THEM; THAT HE MIGHT SPARE THEM AND HIMSELF NEEDLESS PAIN. DIRECTIONS WITH RESPECT TO THOSE WHO HAD ESPECIALLY CAUSED TROUBLE
2 Corinthians 2:1-11
1But I determined this with [for] myself, that I would not come again to you in heaviness [in sorrow come again to you].1 2For if I make you sorry, who is he then2 that maketh me glad, but the same which is made sorry by me? 3And I wrote this same [om. unto you3], lest when I came I should have sorrow from them of whom I ought to rejoice; having confidence in you all, that my joy is the joy of you all. 4For out of much affliction and anguish of heart I wrote unto you with many tears; not that ye should be grieved [have sorrow], but that ye might know the love which I have more abundantly unto you. 5But if any have caused grief [sorrow], he hath not grieved [caused sorrow to] me, but in part, (that I may not overcharge [him]) you all. 6Sufficient to such a man is this punishment, which was inflicted of many. 7So that contrariwise ye ought rather [om. rather4] to forgive him and comfort him, 8lest perhaps such a one should be swallowed up with overmuch sorrow. Wherefore I beseech you that ye would confirm your love toward him. 9For to this end also did I 10write, that I might know the proof of you, whether5 ye be obedient in all things. To whom ye forgive any thing, I forgive also6: for if I forgave any thing, to whom [whatever] I forgave it [om. it], for your sakes forgave I it, in the person [presence] of Christ; 11lest Satan should get an advantage of us: for we are not ignorant of his devices.
EXEGETICAL AND CRITICAL
2 Corinthians 2:1-4. Having given the reason which had prevented his visit to the Corinthians (viz.: that he might spare them, φειδόμενος ὑμῶν, 2 Corinthians 1:23), the Apostle now proceeds to inform them that one reason for thus sparing them was for his own sake.—But I determined this for my own sake.—The δέ indicates simply an advance in the course of the argument. Κρίνειν is here used as it is in 1 Corinthians 2:2; 1 Corinthians 7:37 [in the sense of: to determine, to form a decision]. The meaning of ἐμαυτῷ is not here [as in the Luth. and all the Eng. versions]: with myself, for then the words should have been παῤ ἐμαυτῷ; but it is rather the dat. commodi: for my own sake; “a thoughtful, affectionate turn of expression” Meyer. Τοῦτο is emphatic and anticipates that which immediately follows, and which is epexegetical or explanatory of it (comp. Romans 14:13 et. al.—That I would not again come to you in sorrow).—The πάλιν belongs to the whole phrase: in sorrow come to you, and not merely to the verb to come independently of the words in sorrow. Critics have been led to this violent removal of the word from its natural connection by their unwillingness to concede that the Apostle had made a second journey to Corinth before writing this Epistle (comp. 2 Corinthians 1:15). Neander: “Paul intended to say that he would not a second time in sorrow come to them. But when had he been with them the first time in sorrow? Such a phrase could hardly be applicable to his first residence at Corinth. We must therefore believe that Paul had been a second time in that city, and that many sad things had then taken place there. We shall be obliged to accept of Bleek’s explanation, that Paul had made one journey to Corinth not only before the Epistle to the Corinthians, which stands first in our canon, but another before writing our Epistle, which must have been actually first written, but which has been lost.” [Comp. what is said of this second visit in the Introd., § 6]. We must also conclude from what follows, in the second verse, “for if I make you sorrowful”—that the sorrow here referred to must have been a sorrow of the Corinthians and not of the Apostle himself nor one shared by both parties. To come in sorrow, then, was to bring with him that which should cause sorrow (comp. Romans 15:29, and ἐν ῥάβδω ἐλθεῖν, 1 Corinthians 4:21).7—Who is he then that maketh me glad but the same who is made sorry by me?—The καί in the beginning of the apodosis or the concluding clause of 2 Corinthians 2:2, is remarkable; and the connection of this sentence with the protasis which precedes it is not easy to be determined. Many have therefore concluded that we have here an aposiopesis, and that the Apostle, led off by his strong emotion, suddenly breaks off from his previous sentence and commences here a new interrogative sentence. The sense then would be: he could not think of giving them pain, for that would be ungrateful and unkind, since he would thus give pain to those who were giving him joy. In such a case, however, the expression ought to have been: καὶ τίς ὁ λυπούμενος ἐξ ἐμοῦ, εἰ μὴ ὁ εὐφραίνωνμε: who is he then that is made sorrowful by me, but the one who makes me glad? We not unfrequently meet with καί before the concluding clause (apodosis) of a conditional proposition in the works of the epic poets, in order to indicate that both transactions mentioned take place at precisely the same time (comp. Passow, sub voce καί, p. 1539 a. [Jelf, § 759, 2]). It might be translated [as in our Eng. vers.], then, and the sense would be: there would be then no one to make me glad, etc. He intends to say that both things could not be at the same time, that he could not be making them sad while they were making him glad. The absurdity of expecting that they would then make him joyful is made still more evident by the phrase, εἰ μὴ ὁ λυπούμενος ἐξ ἐμοῦ: “he must be the very one who is made sad by me.” If I, your spiritual father, make you sorrowful, I thus deprive myself of the joy which you, my children, afford me; and I must be destitute of it entirely, for I cannot expect joy from one who has been saddened by me, The singular ὁ λυπόυμενος is rendered necessary not only by the τίς, but by the abstract form in which the matter is put. The reference is not to the case of the incestuous person (1 Corinthians 5:1). Ἐγώ is contrasted with ὑμᾶς, but it is not otherwise emphatic, and contains no allusion to some other persons who might be occasioning them sorrow. The ἐκ in ἐξ ἐμοῦ indicates the person who was to be the source of sorrow, and the phrase is equivalent to υπ’ ἐμοῦ.—I put in writing this same thing, etc.—In this verse ἕγραψα refers to the first Epistle, and not to the one he was writing (comp. 2 Corinthians 2:4-9). It stands at the commencement of the sentence that it might be emphatic, and it is contrasted with ἐλθών. But is τοῦτο αὐτό equivalent to εἰς τοῦτο αὐτό, as in 2 Peter 1:5, and frequently in the classical authors; or is it the objective accusative to ἕγραψα? The first would be the easier interpretation, but such a construction occurs nowhere else in Paul’s writings (in 2 Corinthians 2:9 it is εἰς τοῦτο). The τοῦτο αὐτο refers to that which forms the theme and object of this section, μὴ ἐν λύπῃ ἐλθεῖν (2 Corinthians 2:7), and respecting which he had already written in 1 Corinthians 4:21. (Osiander). The reference to what had been said in 1 Corinthians 4:21 does not seem very properly indicated, even if we suppose that the following censures have reference to the incestuous person. On the other hand it seems very natural for him to make this reference to the censures contained in his first Epistle (especially those in chap. 5), as matters in which they had a painful interest and which might grieve them, and to assure them that he now wished to avoid a repetition of this unpleasant experience when he should be present with them, and that his course in that matter had sprung from the confidence he had in them all. He therefore goes on to remind them of the frame of mind in which, and the object with which, he had then written (2 Corinthians 2:4). Meyer thus explains it: “This matter (so well known to you that I need not particularize it) I have written and not deferred to speak of until I should be present with you, in order that I might not,” etc.—That when I came I should not receive (suffer) sorrow from those who ought to give me joy.—Ἀφ ὦν is not exactly as if he had written ἀπό τούτων οἶς or ἐφ̓ οἶς, but—from those who ought to be the source of my joy. Ἐδει has reference to the relation of a spiritual father which he sustained toward them.—For I had confidence in you all, that my joy was the joy of you all.—In most other places πεποιθώς is followed by an ἐπί with a dative, but here, as in Matthew 27:43, and 2 Thessalonians 3:4, it is followed by an ἐπί with an accusative, indicating that the confidence extended to them and beyond them. The Apostle would thus make them see that he had written the sharp reproofs contained in his first Epistle not from a disposition distrustfully to draw back from them, but with an assured confidence that they were really and in heart so attached to him that his joy would be the joy of them all. He felt assured that they would, after his written admonition, arrange every difficulty which had troubled him, so that there would be no necessity for any oral reproofs which would be as painful to him as to them. His hove rose entirely above those parties which had apparently become so prominent in the Church, and especially above that portion which had turned away from him; and in the spirit “which believeth all things” (1 Corinthians 12:7), he had fastened upon the then latent power of filial affection, which he was satisfied would soon be strong enough to overcome every hinderance in their hearts (comp. Meyer and the admirable remarks of Osiander). Hence the phrases ἐπι πάντας ὑμᾶς and πάντων ὑμῶν [the first expressing his confidence in them, and the latter their confidence in him]. In 2 Corinthians 2:4 he mentions first of all the spirit which had actuated him when he wrote to them:—For I wrote unto you under great tribulation and oppression of heart, with many tears.—Καρδίας is dependent upon both the preceding nouns. Ευνοχή is stronger than θλῖψις, and signifies restriction, oppression, anguish, as in Luke 21:25; and συνέχομαι in Luke 12:50. The greatness of the inward suffering is made still more evident in διὰ πολλῶν δακρύων, from which it appears to have broken forth “with many tears.” Neander:—The διά designates the accompanying circumstances (comp. Acts 20:19; Acts 20:31). Stanley:—Ἐκ and δια, “out of the heart, through tears.” The connection with 2 Corinthians 2:3, indicated by the γἀρ, is explained by Meyer and Osiander to be, that the Apostle might present the evidence of the confidence he had reposed in them: for if, in writing that Epistle, I had not had this confidence, the Epistle itself would not have been to me the occasion of so much anxiety and so many tears. It was precisely because he had had this confidence, and yet was under the necessity of writing, that the whole thing was so exceedingly painful; and yet it would probably be simpler to refer the remark primarily to the main sentence in 2 Corinthians 2:3. His object in writing to them was, ἵνα μὴ ἐλθὼν λύπην ἔχω (σχῶ), etc. His great anxiety when he wrote was to be spared this affliction when he should visit them. Among the things which had influenced him when writing thus with so much solicitude, he now proceeds more expressly to mention the love which had already been hinted at in πεποίθώς, etc.—Not that ye might be made sorrowful, but that ye might know, etc.—His object had then been not to make them sorrowful, but rather by writing to them to let them see how deep was his affection for them. There is nothing in this οὑχ ἴνα λυπηθῆτε inconsistent with what is said in 2 Corinthians 7:8 ff., for even there the λυπεῖν is not presented as the final aim of the Apostle, but simply as a means indispensable to their recovery.—The love which I have more abundantly toward you.—Την� is put at the commencement of the clause that it may be emphatic. Περισσοτέρως is certainly comparative, and yet his love was not compared with his sorrow, as if in consequence of this, or in connection with this, it became proportionably intense, or with his zeal, as if that zeal became more glowing as his love was greater; but his love to the Corinthians was compared with his love to other churches. It was analogous to the special love which parents bear to those children who are objects of peculiar hope and therefore of peculiar care, or who for any reason stand in need of special attention. What he here says of the spirit which had induced him to write to them, does not seem quite applicable to our present Epistle, in which great calmness and perspicuity are predominant. Some have therefore contended that another Epistle must have been meant. Rückert, however, supposes that “the Apostle had deliberately and prudently put such restraints upon his spirit at that time that his style of writing was no true exhibition of his feelings.” We see no necessity for such an expedient, which seems so inconsistent with the Apostle’s general character, for it is the very spirit of holy love to put restraint upon its own action that the object of its affection may receive no detriment. (Comp. Meyer and Osiander).
2 Corinthians 2:5-11. Digression with respect to the incestuous person. The expressions he had used respecting the λύπῃ, the λυπεῖν and λυπεῖσθαι, naturally led him to speak of the difficulty which had been the occasion of most of his sorrow, and of the severe censures he had been obliged to inflict, i.e., of the incestuous scandal. Neander, on the other hand, asks: “Why was Paul under any necessity of vindicating himself for his anxiety respecting the incestuous person? The matter wears a very different aspect, if we suppose that in the meantime another case had come up, and that some one had made his appearance, who insolently defied Paul’s Apostolical authority, and was likely in this way to produce a division in the Church. Every thing may be naturally explained if we assume that another Epistle had been sent by Titus, in which such a state of affairs had been the topic of discussion.” Ewald concludes from 2Co 2:5-11; 2 Corinthians 7:2; 2 Corinthians 7:12; 2Co 3:1; 2 Corinthians 1:13; 2 Corinthians 1:23, that after a brief and unexpected visit of the Apostle at Corinth, some distinguished individual had made use of every circumstance which could be turned to his disadvantage, and that this calumniator had charged him especially with duplicity in his public discourses and with an attempt to acquire notoriety, power and pecuniary profit among the people. [Comp. Introd. § 6]. The spirit of his address is gentle, in consistency with all the previous proceedings in the case, and the conciliatory strain in which he was writing. As a revocation of the extreme penalty was not excluded by what he had said in 1Co 5:5; 1 Corinthians 5:13, provided the offender should be brought to repentance, the Apostolical authority would not be endangered by his restoration. The fifth verse is connected, not with the third (Olshausen), but with the fourth verse, where he had said that it was not his design to grieve them.—But if any (among you) have caused grief, he hath not grieved me (2 Corinthians 2:5).—Not only is the offence not specifically named, but the terms used to describe it are of the mildest signification, and the εἴ τις is purposely made indefinite, though without necessarily implying that the persons were unknown. There is no contradiction with 2 Corinthians 2:4 when he says: he hath not caused sorrow in me, for by those words he means to say, that it had not been merely a personal (ἐμὲ) grief. He wishes it to be regarded as a calamity to the whole congregation. (οὐκ-αλλά therefore is not equivalent to οὐ μόνον—ἀλλὰ καί). Hence πάντας ὑμᾶς stands in contrast with ἐμέ. The idea of λελύπηκεν πάντας ὑμᾶς is softened still more by the addition of ἀπὸ μέρους: partially, to some extent; an allusion to what he afterwards expresses in 2 Corinthians 2:6 by ὑπὸ τῶν πλειόνων, viz.: that although some of them had taken part in the public condemnation of the criminals with too little seriousness, they could not, after all, be unaffected by its unhappy results. The clause: that I may not overcharge, has reference only to the having caused grief; and the relative αὐτον (him) must be understood as its object [i.e., but in part (that I may not overcharge him) you all].—This is a fine turn, for he thus says: in so saying I would impose no intolerable burden upon him, as if he were one who had injured you more than ἀπὸ μέρονς, in full measure. The word ἐπιβαρεῖν has the sense of: to load, to overburden, as in 1 Thessalonians 2:9; 2 Thessalonians 3:8; Bengel: ne addam onus gravato; not exactly in the sense of: to say too much, or to express himself harshly. Not only because it violently separates the words you all, but on account of the tone of irony or even of keen reproach implied in it, we regard as altogether unsuitable the interpretation which makes the Apostle say: but partially, that I may not throw the burden on all [i.e., may not accuse or grieve you]. Finally, the interpretation which makes the Apostle say: he hath not grieved me (properly speaking, or alone), only in part (for he has grieved you also), that I may not lay upon you all the burden or reproach, as if you were all equally indifferent to the offence; has against it the fact that the ἐμέ which is there so emphatic has no suitable contrast, and it would have been necessary to say: εἰ μὴ�. This last objection would also lie against making the words mean: but by way of general participation, ut membrum ecclesiæ, etc. Neander completes the object of this final sentence thus: “that I may not make the matter too important.”8 In accordance with the mild expression in 2 Corinthians 2:5, the Apostle explains his views still further in 2 Corinthians 2:6 regarding the proceedings against the offending person.—Sufficient unto such a one [one who has such a spirit as this offender now shows] is this very punishment which has been inflicted by the many (2 Corinthians 2:6).—The ἱκανόν stands at the head of the sentence for the sake of emphasis, and is designed to say that nothing farther was needed by way of punishment. It is used substantively like ἀρκετόν in Matthew 6:34, and means that which is satisfactory. The Catholic interpretation makes it refer to the sufficiently long continuance of the excommunication. Both the context (2 Corinthians 2:5, ἀπὸ μέρους, ἵνα μὴ ἐπιβαρῶ and 2 Corinthians 2:7 ff.), and the ἱκανόν lead us to suppose that unlike the same words in 1 Corinthians 5:5, τῷ τοιούτῳ is designed to intimate that the offender had begun to exhibit some signs of penitence. Ἐπιτιμία signifies, not threatening, but punishment, and in this place at least it implies that this consisted in very decided censures (Sir 2:10, where it means punishment generally). Αὕτη has reference to something well known to the Corinthians. The πλείονες by whom the punishment had been inflicted could not have been the eldership, but the majority of the Church at Corinth. Probably the action had been the more severe, possibly amounting to a withdrawal of fellowship with the offender, in consideration of the fact that an antipauline minority refused to take part in his punishment. The πλείονων shows that the excommunication could not have been complete (1 Corinthians 5:3 ff.), and so that ἰκανόν could not have referred merely to the time in which that had continued. But it would be utterly inconsistent with the honesty of Paul’s character to suppose with Rückert and Baur that he was here arresting the proceedings, after they had been commenced, from mere policy, to avoid a rupture with his opponents; and that he was now therefore affecting to be satisfied with the measures which the majority had adopted. The only motive he had for the milder proceeding which he now advises, was simply that which he himself afterwards avowed, viz., that the thorough repentance of the offender had rendered severer measures unnecessary. It would have been altogether unapostolic, not to say unchristian, to drive such a one to despair. The whole object of discipline—that which had been aimed at in the punishment inflicted by the majority—had been attained. (comp. on 1 Corinthians 5:0 and Osiander and Meyer on our passage). As the result of these proceedings, on the one hand, the large majority had shown their cordial disapproval of the offence, the honor of the Church had been vindicated, and their non-participation in the sin and so their purity had been made evident; and on the other, a penitent spirit had been called forth in the bosom of the sinner himself (comp. 2 Corinthians 2:7). These things constitute a sufficient reason for an entire change of proceeding, viz., for his forgiveness.—So that on the contrary ye ought rather to be kind to him and to comfort him (2 Corinthians 2:7).—The ὤστε here implies that what he was about to say, was the essential and necessary result of the ἵκανόν, and it includes the idea of an obligation on their part. Still there is no necessity of supplying a δεῖν, as if the Apostle would say: it is sufficient to show on the contrary your favor (to him); or: so that ye may show, on the contrary, kindness. [Winer’s Gr. N. T., § 45, 2d note]. Τοὐναντίον refers to ἐπιτιμία, but χαρίσασθαι does not imply exactly to give up or to remit the punishment, for it means properly to show favor or kindness. In the present case, however, this must, by its own nature, have involved a forgiveness of the injury done to the congregation, as the word is often used by Paul sometimes with (ἀδικίαν, 2 Corinthians 12:13; παραπτώματα Colossians 2:13), and sometimes without (Ephesians 4:32 and Colossians 3:13) the mention of the object. Παρακαλέσαι denotes here the friendly intercourse and consolation which would correspond with χαρίσασθαι. This is still further enforced by the Apostle when he points out what would be the consequence if this kind treatment were neglected: lest, perhaps, such a one should be swallowed up with an excess of sorrow.—The περισσοτέρα λύπη expresses the greatly increased sorrow which would be the effect of a continuance or an aggravation of the punishment. Of course it is here presumed that a high degree of punishment had already been inflicted, for otherwise all increase of it would not drive the sufferer to despair. It is to this, the renunciation of all hope of salvation and of all efforts to attain eternal life, and so the utter ruin of the man himself, that the swallowing up has reference, and not directly to his apostacy from the faith (being devoured by the Prince of this world), nor to death by his own hands, and still less to his sickness or death. The sorrow is compared to a wild beast (comp. 1 Peter 5:8). By the words: such a one, (ὁ τοιοῦτος), he designates the man as an object of sympathy. As the result of the ἱκανὸν—ὥστε χαρίσασσθαι ὑμᾶς, and the apprehension he had given as a reason for it, the Apostle now urges his exhortation.—Wherefore I exhort you to make good [substantiate by action] your love toward him (2 Corinthians 2:8).—Κυροῦν (as in Galatians 3:15) signifies to establish in a valid manner and by a formal decision, so that the man might be solemnly restored to the communion of the Church. To suppose that the Apostle was here merely going through the form of approving of a decision which the Church had already made, and which would have been valid without his authority (Rückert); is not necessarily implied in the language, and would imply a worldly policy, of which we have no reason to think him capable. In 2 Corinthians 2:9 he probably meets a possible or actual objection against the directions contained in his former Epistle, for he there informs his readers what had been his object in writing so severely.—For to this end I also wrote, that I might know the proof of you.—He means to say that his present request or admonition (2 Corinthians 2:8) was not only reasonable, but entirely consistent with what he had before written. In his earlier Epistle his purpose had been to ascertain their δοκιμή, i.e., whether ye are obedient in all things.—It was not, therefore, a main point with him in what he then had
aid, to carry his apostolical authority to its utmost limits. Or more simply: inasmuch as the punishment which the majority had imposed was not very severe, I propose that ye should now bring your love to bear upon him, for the whole object of my former Epistle, which was to find out whether you would be true and obedient, has been attained by the punishment which the majority have inflicted. [In these words it is not meant that the direct object of his writing had been simply to put the matter to the test whether they would obey him, any more than when God sends afflictions on men that the entire object is to prove them and to know all that is in their hearts, but simply that his great and final aim was thus virtually accomplished (Billroth)]. The καί belongs not to εἰς τοῦτο (as if he had written καὶ γάρ); its object is not to indicate that his aim in his former Epistle was the same with that of his present request, but to suggest a contrast between his writing (ἔγραψα), and what he had arranged (orally) by deputies. The effect of the καὶ is thus to give prominence to ἕγραψα. The whole context also shows that ἕγραψα must have reference to the former and not to the present Epistle. His object was to say that he was anxious to prove whether they would cheerfully comply with his directions in all things, the present mild, as well as the former severer requirements. Εἰς πάντα: in relation to all things, even those rigorous measures which might be somewhat difficult of execution. Δοκιμή here as in Romans 5:4, and Philippians 2:22, means the goodness, or approved quality; i.e. whether they would turn out to be upright Christians, his genuine children in Christ, and obedient to their father in all things (comp. 1 Corinthians 11:2; and Colossians 3:20). [Trench, Synn., 2d Ser. § 24, Ellicott on Philippians 1:10; Philippians 2:22].—Having made this reference to his earlier Epistle, the object of which had now been attained in the course of the recent disciplinary proceedings, the Apostle proceeds (δέ of progress) to a further recommendation of the course implied in κυρῶσαι�, by assuring them that he was willing to be united with them in their public act of forgiveness (2 Corinthians 2:10). This idea he expresses at first thus briefly.—Now to whom ye forgive anything, I forgive it also.—κἀγώ (sc. χαρίζομαι). He afterwards, however, strengthens the thought in the causal sentence—for if I have forgiven anything, whatever I forgave for your sakes I forgive it in the presence of Christ, lest, etc.—According to the common interpretation, he confirms the Κἀγώ (χαρίζομαι) by saying that whatever he had forgiven, he had forgiven it entirely on their account. Κεχάρισμαι is, on any interpretation, to be supplied in connection with δἰ ὑμᾶς. It is not, however, precisely implied that he was induced to do this at their request, for nothing is said of their actual intercession. He wishes in this way to show them that his love was directed to the highest good of the whole congregation. For after every thing necessary to maintain holy order, and the injured honor of the Church had been accomplished, and all necessity for further severity had been removed by the cordial repentance of the offender, his affection for them prompted him to heal the breach which had troubled them by forgiving the sinner, and to recover a member who had been temporarily sundered from them. Thus the confidence of the Church would be raised, and their former love would be revived etc. By the phrase: If I have forgiven anything: he intimates, that in the present instance he leaves it rather doubtful to what extent he had received any injury (2 Corinthians 2:5). He does not say, “if I have anything to forgive,” but simply, “if anything ought to be said in general of my having forgiven any one.” There was no need of repeating the ἐγώ here, for it has been already made sufficiently prominent in the καὶ γὰρ ἐγώ. The addition of ἐν προσώπῳ suggests a still deeper reason why he had delayed his journey. He had been induced to do so in the presence of Christ; from regard to Him who was the Author of all reconciliation to God, to whom he owed his own forgiveness as a sinner, and who had intrusted to him the duty of preaching reconciliation to men (the διακονία δικαιοσύνης opp. κατακρίσεως, comp. 2 Corinthians 5:18 ff; 2 Corinthians 3:9; Ephesians 4:32; 1 Timothy 1:15). This is not a solemn affirmation or oath (for Paul nowhere else swore by Christ), but simply a strong assertion of his uprightness. It merely showed how he had either had Christ and Christ’s cause before his mind in this affair, had acted tanquam inspectore Christo or had virtually done all in the name or in the commission of Christ; though if this had been strictly intended he would probably have used the phrase ἐν ὀνόματι. In the Sept. the phrase here used is employed as a rendering for לִפְנֵי, Proverbs 8:30. If we take the words in the sense first given, we have conveyed to some extent, the idea which Meyer and Rückert find in ὅ κεχάρισμαι. They take the words in a passive sense: that which has been forgiven to me (a construction analagous to ὅ πεπίστευμαι). We meet with the word in this sense in the classical writers, but in the New Testament, at least in Paul’s writings (Galatians 3:18) and in the Acts (Acts 27:24) it is always used in the active sense. Δἰ ὑμᾶς would then signify that the pardon which had been bestowed upon him had been for the advantage of the Gentile, and especially the Corinthian Christians, inasmuch as his forgiveness had been the occasion of bringing them to salvation. In this case, when Paul introduced the words ἔν προσώπῳ Χριστοῦ, he wished to remind them not only that Christ was a witness of his forbearance, but that he was himself nothing but a pardoned sinner before God. Εἵ τι κεχάρισμαι would then be an expression of his humble recollection of the great guilt which continually oppressed him and made him a perpetual suitor for pardon (Meyer). In favor of this general interpretation may be urged the καὶ γὰρ ἐγώ, which certainly creates a difficulty in the way of the ordinary explanation, inasmuch as it seems to lay a special emphasis upon the perf: κεχάρισμαι, rather than upon the ἐγώ, which otherwise seems so prominent. Osiander endeavors to remove this difficulty by suggesting that Paul aims to represent his own act of forgiveness (ἐγώ) as something quite distinct from and independent of that which they were to exercise, and that he here passes from their forgiveness, as one which was then in process and incomplete, to his own, which was complete and already certain (ἐν προσώπῳ Χριστοῦ). But is not this rather a concealment than a removal of the difficulty? Having previously taken it for granted that they were disposed to forgive, and having conceded to them the initiative in the affair, in the full confidence that they continued of the same mind, and in order that their act might be complete having given to them his own authorization and consent (κᾁγώ), what call was there for the following sentence as a reason and confirmation of the same thing (καὶ γὰρ ἐγώ)? Then if we take the clause passively, how can we explain the doubt implied in εἴ τι κεχάρισμαι, when everywhere else we find Paul expressing himself so confidently as to his own forgiveness? But if Meyer’s interpretation must therefore be regarded as unsatisfactory, we are still less prepared to regard Paul as here referring to some opponents who had denied his forgiveness through Christ. Even if we allow of his explanation of δἰ ὑμᾶς, and urge nothing further in opposition to ἐν προσώπῳ on the ground that it is a mode of expression altogether unusual with Paul on such a subject (everywhere else the phrase is ἐν Χριστῷ, or διὰ χριστοῦ), we must certainly regard the way in which Meyer endeavors to connect it with ἴνα μὴ πλεονεκτηθῶμεν (2 Corinthians 2:11) as altogether too artificial. The idea would then be that it had been God’s will that Paul should be pardoned in the presence of Christ [—“God is said to forgive for Christ’s sake, and Christ is said to forgive, but Christ is never represented as the mere witness or spectator of our forgiveness”—Hodge], simply for the sake of the Corinthians, that they might be aroused to resist the wiles of Satan, i.e., that they might not be tempted to act inconsistently with the design of God and of Christ by refusing to pardon the offender, and so overwhelming him with an excess of sorrow (2 Corinthians 2:7). The way in which Rückert connects this clause (ἵνα μὴ πλεονεκτ.) with the first half of 2 Corinthians 2:10, i.e., by passing over the whole last part of 2 Corinthians 2:10, is even yet more violent. Osiander has probably hit upon the correct explanation, although the train of thought needs to be more particularly developed, when a slight modification of his view will become indispensable. The Corinthians had no reason to doubt that he would unite with them in their act of forgiveness, for he had already forgiven the man for their sake (the remainder as above).9 But that he might present in a clearer light the importance of their granting, or of the man’s possessing, this forgiveness, the Apostle adds (2 Corinthians 2:11), lest Satan should get an advantage of us (of you and me)—i.e. lest the great adversary of God’s Church should get an advantage at our expense. Should any person be driven to despair by our long continued severity, not only would they themselves be lost to us and be gained by Satan, but in the Church itself we should be exposed to increased bitterness and alienation on the part of the members, and many would become estranged from an Apostle who seemed inclined to such extreme measures. Neander:—“If the utmost severity should be exercised, it would be used for an occasion for all kinds of evil in the congregation.”—Inasmuch as Paul here speaks throughout not of Divine forgiveness, but only of his own and the Church’s forgiveness; and inasmuch as neither Paul nor the Church could have pardoned an offence like that of incest, Neander has here found an argument for his opinion that some member of the Church had risen up against the Apostle personally (and of course against the whole Church). On this interpretation also the objections which Rückert and Baur have derived from 2 Corinthians 2:5-10 against the character of Paul and against a belief in miracles sink into insignificance. The necessity of being on their guard against such overreaching arts is pointed out in the brief causal or final sentence—for we are not ignorant of his devices (thoughts, schemes).—The νοήματα of Satan are those thoughts or plots which he directs to the injury of Christ’s cause, to the recovery of those who had been wrested by grace from his grasp (1 Peter 5:8), to the creation of dissensions, etc. [“The personality and agency of the adversary can hardly be recognized in plainer terms than in both these passages.”—Alford.]
DOCTRINAL AND ETHICAL
It is a mark of admirable wisdom in one who exercises authority in the Church to be able to distinguish clearly between God’s purposes and Satan’s devices, that he may so proceed as to promote the one and give no advantage to the other. God’s thoughts are thoughts of peace, and their aim is to deliver and to cure the souls of men. But the means by which he seeks to accomplish His benevolent designs seem not unfrequently severe, for His medicines are sometimes very bitter. It is often necessary to be harsh, and to decline all ordinary considerations of delicacy. And yet the severity should not be allowed to exceed the proper limits which love prescribes. If the demands of justice are satisfied, if the honor of God and of His Church have been vindicated, if a sense of sin and true repentance have been awakened, if guilt has been openly confessed, and a desire for forgiveness and restoration has been decidedly expressed, it is time to exercise gentleness and to restore the offender, and to open to him a heart of love and to extend toward him the hand of support. In this way the government and discipline of a congregation is directed to the same end with Christ’s own purposes, and are the means of fulfilling His designs. Satan’s arts, on the other hand, are all with a view to thwart God’s plans of mercy, to unsettle the peace of a Church, to destroy faith, hope and love in the hearts of its members, to turn away as many as possible from the Lord and from His grace, and, in a word, to produce general corruption. Every one gives his aid to these arts, who for any reason, from defective zeal, from selfish convenience, the fear of men, or party spirit, takes so little notice of sins and offences, or resists them with so little earnestness, that full opportunity is given to the diffusion of the corrupting leaven. But quite as great advantage is given to Satan’s schemes, when the proper limit of severity is exceeded, when discipline is carried to an extreme, when no forgiveness is exercised, and in order to maintain apparent firmness and consistency, every offence is rigidly dealt with, without regard to consequences. It is always bad policy to allow any occasion for suspecting that we are selfishly maintaining our own authority by recklessly pressing forward to an extreme. By such means the hearts of many will be embittered or driven to despair, and increased division and irritation will be sure to ensue. Satan, too, will thus accomplish what he most wishes. That which had the semblance of prudence and holy earnestness, turns out to be foolishness and a severity very unlike that of heaven. The result is that God’s plans of mercy are dishonored, and the character and influence of those who pursued such a mistaken policy is seriously impaired.
HOMILETICAL AND PRACTICAL
Luther, 2 Corinthians 2:7 :—It is much harder to comfort a troubled conscience than to raise the dead.—While, therefore, ministers ought doubtless to reprove and punish with some severity those who have fallen into sin, they ought by all means to comfort and restore those whom they discover to be penitent and anxious to reform; especially when we remember that God spared not His own Son, but delivered Him up for us all, and that His mercy had been made to exceed all our sins, that those who have fallen may not be swallowed up by too much sorrow.
Starke, 2 Corinthians 2:1 :—A pastor who has the salvation of his people supremely at heart will be careful to show great indulgence to the weak, to avoid every needless occasion for punishment, and to do nothing likely to produce ill-will or injury to any one, without the prospect of a greater ultimate benefit. Eccles. 20:1; 22:6.
2 Corinthians 2:3. A true minister of Christ rejoices over nothing so much as the spiritual prosperity of his people, and nothing will trouble him more than their spiritual declension. In like manner, an honest and upright hearer may be known, by the joy which his minister feels and the praises which his minister renders to God, on his account, and by the readiness with which he removes by a speedy amendment all occasion of disquietude which he may have given to the heart of his pastor (Hebrews 13:17; Romans 16:19). The real motive for carnal zeal in the infliction of punishment is hatred, and we need not be surprised to find those who possess it, restless in disposition and followed by continual opposition. True spiritual zeal, on the other hand, may be equally earnest, but it will be moved and pervaded by love, it will be always calm, and it will remain loving and beloved unto the end.—Hedinger:—How much sorrow and how many tears Paul gave to the case of one offender! how many hast thou bestowed upon the many wandering and lost ones of thy flock? The Lord have mercy on the poor sheep of such a shepherd!
2 Corinthians 2:7. Unseasonable comfort is like a new piece of cloth upon an old garment (Matthew 9:16), but excessive severity will probably throw the sinner into despair and drive him farther away. Much wisdom is needed to apply both law and Gospel in an appropriate manner.—God alone can forgive sin (Psalms 130:4); the Church can only point out the conditions on which God forgives, administer consolation to the penitent, and absolve those who confess their faults in the presence of such as have been scandalized by their offences.
2 Corinthians 2:8. Hedinger:—The penitent should be received to full public favor, and never afterward upbraided for his offence. Our Lord Himself never broke a bruised reed nor quenched the smoking flax (Isaiah 42:3).
2 Corinthians 2:11. Satan is exceedingly crafty, and watches every opportunity to do an injury (Ephesians 6:11). We should therefore be always forecasting how we may deprive him of every such opportunity (Acts 20:28).
Berlenb. Bible, 2 Corinthians 2:1 :—Our absence on certain occasions may be as important as our presence on others.
2 Corinthians 2:4. It ought to touch our hearts to be told: I wrote this unto you with many tears; and we should instantly inquire: Have I really given occasion for this?—We should never hesitate to lay hold of and deliver those who have fallen into error before it is too late, and yet we must not expect that they will readily regard our reproofs as kind and loving acts.
2 Corinthians 2:7. Our love to our neighbor should be like our Lord’s, whose long suffering is our salvation. He can hold the balance so accurately that the sinner is allowed to sink neither into despair nor into false security,
2 Corinthians 2:8. How seldom do we meet with that loving spirit which shrinks not from the fallen, but goes to them, and seeks to save even the lost. Such a one, however, knows how to lay the iron so gently on the wound that the patient bears even a deep incision.
Rieger, 2 Corinthians 2:1-2. Suspicion can sometimes enter the heart so deeply, that it can give off a web of dark thoughts for many years. It is better to crush the heads of such serpents as soon as possible.—Many are too tenacious of their own freedom. They follow simply their own convenience and advantage without reference to the consciences or the suspicions of their brethren; while others freely exercise their right of judgment upon everything they see, and when they find nothing to censure in the outward conduct, they fasten upon some trifling thing to be impeached in the inward spirit. Thus the hearts of men are thrown continually further and further apart, and there can be no such thing in life or death as mutual confidence or assistance. Those who are grieved for the affliction of Joseph (Amos 6:6), will feel disposed to save as much as possible the reputation of a servant of Christ whose character is suffering.—Nothing can more cheer us under the trials of our work, than to find that those afflictions which spring from a man’s own or others’ faults, have become the seed of a saving repentance.
2 Corinthians 2:3-4. It is never well when those who watch for souls are compelled to labor in the midst of perpetual sighs and discouragements. On the other hand, when they are cheerful, their joy will be the joy of all, and every plant of grace will be revived.—In the kingdom of Christ truth should never be spoken with a simpering and trifling manner, but an imperious and a lordly style of address is quite as inappropriate. Those discourses, whose object is to reprove others and to bring offenders to repentance, should be the offspring of the preacher’s own sorrow, and be brought forth with much anguish of soul. He must himself know what it is to confess his sins before the Lord with many tears.—Love makes us zealous, and zeal will admonish and reprove our best friends and brethren
2 Corinthians 2:5 ff. Precious fruit of the righteousness revealed in the Gospel! While we justify the condemnation of the sin, we sympathize with, and long to save the sinner! When the conscience of a child of God has been awakened, and his heart has been softened by discipline, he should have not only a gradual restoration of individual love, but an assurance of the common fellowship he once enjoyed.—What a difference there is between dealing with a sin which is concealed, justified or praised, and one which is recognized, confessed, and already put away with godly sorrow.
2 Corinthians 2:11. Satan has always further trials and temptations for those who have no meekness or tenderness of heart. Ministers must continually take precautions against these.—Lord, how many things are done on our account by our enemies, and by Thee as our Advocate, of which we have no conception! Thy faithfulness alone can save us!
Heubner, 2 Corinthians 2:1-4 :—Painful as it may be, we are often bound to grieve others, that we may do them good. We must not always be giving sweet meats.—The highest enjoyments of a minister are those which he feels with reference to his people. Between him and them there should be the most intimate communion.—A faithful pastor should have a very tender heart, and he must know what it is to weep in solitude over his people. Such tears have their source in the spirit of God. None but faithful shepherds know what such distress is; for those corruptions which allow him no peace, make the hireling indifferent and cold.
2 Corinthians 2:5. Public scandals are a disgrace which the whole congregation should deeply feel. And yet how little of this public spirit is there in most of our communities.
2 Corinthians 2:6. There is great power when many are united to remove offences. The discipline which needs no outward force is the most effective.
2 Corinthians 2:7. The moment we perceive that an offender has submitted to his punishment, and become penitent, we should change our conduct toward him.—The discipline of the Church should always be directed to the reformation, and not to the mere punishment of the offender. Whatever makes him worse, is opposed to its true object.
2 Corinthians 2:8. The same spirit which once caused sorrow, now comforts.
2 Corinthians 2:9. A genuine Christian spirit may always be known from its readiness to comply with Apostolic direction.
2 Corinthians 2:10. Ministers should never disregard the united voice of their people. Its utterances are a great consolation when they speak forgiveness to those who have fallen.
2 Corinthians 2:11. It is the business of the Wicked One to injure, and, if possible, break up the spiritual association of God’s people (the Church). He therefore tempts them, sometimes, to be slack, but sometimes to be excessively severe in discipline, and thus to drive souls into despair. Force, intolerance and persecution, have been his favorite arts by which to rend and destroy the Church; and unfortunately ecclesiastical history is principally occupied with accounts of them.—The Christian should never forget that this evil spirit knows of no rest, and he should ever be on his guard against Satanic wiles. Those who have been enlightened from above, are not ignorant of these devices, and know well how to thwart such schemes. Only those who are short-sighted and simple will look upon warnings against them as vain fancies, and hence be taken by surprise.
W. F. Besser, 2 Corinthians 2:4. A mother’s love will be seen in the most delicate attentions to her invalid child, and no better test of a shepherd’s love can be given than when he hastens with especial earnestness after the sheep which has gone astray.
2 Corinthians 2:10. The rock on which all true comfort is founded, when we are absolved from our offences, is the great truth, that whoever the public minister may be, the absolution is not man’s but God’s.
[Here is an example of the difficult duty and right of blame, or of correcting our fellowmen. I. Every one has something of this kind to do. A more than common share of it falls upon ministers and those in public stations, but there are occasions when every one is called to it. Society should not be turned into an arena of distrust, where each one is zealously watching over others’ conduct, nor yet should it be one of cold indifference towards each others’ sufferings and welfare. Where another’s faults are forced upon our attention, it may be our duty to attempt their correction, 1. for the offender’s own sake (2 Corinthians 2:6-8); 2. for society’s sake (2 Corinthians 2:4); and 3. even for our own sake (2 Corinthians 2:1), since we may be misunderstood if we show no interest in the case. II. But much depends upon the way in which it is performed; as, 1. by the right person; 2. at the right time (Paul declined even to be present at one time); 3. by the right means (by a visit or by Epistle); 4. in the right spirit (not from love of censuring, love of dominion, personal pique or jealousy, but from love to the offender and to Christ’s cause.—We have here (2 Corinthians 2:6-11): I. The Christian idea of punishment; When it should be inflicted? 1, when the good of the offender demands it, for even if he has forfeited all rights, he has claims upon our benevolence; 2, when society is threatened with injury, and 3, when a righteous indignation at crime calls for an expression. When it should be dispensed with or remitted? When the ends of punishment are secured, 1, by the private sufferings or repentance of the offender, 2, by his partial punishment, which corrects the offender and vindicates public sentiment. II. The Christian idea of absolution: Man’s declaration of God’s forgiveness—man speaking in God’s stead; 1, its use to save from remorse and despair; 2, its representative character (2 Corinthians 2:10). After Robertson and Lisco].
2 Corinthians 2:1; 2 Corinthians 2:1.—The arrangement of the words, should be, according to the best MSS.: ἐν λύπῃ ἐλθεῖν. The Rec. on less [Meyer: “almost no”] authority has ἐλθεῖν ἐν λύπῃ. The best authorities also put πρὸς ὑμᾶς before ἐλθεῖν. Tisch. still adheres to: ἐν λύπῃ ἐλθεῖν πρὸς ὑμᾶς, and he is sustained by D. E. F. G. the Ital. Vulg. Syr. and Goth. vss., Chrys. and Theophyl. and most of the Lat. fathers. Nearly every recent critic has adopted the order: ἐν λύπη ἐλθεῖν πρὸς ὑμᾶς. [There appears to be no sufficient reason why λύπη and λυπεῖν should not be rendered into English uniformly by the same generic words, as is contended for by Stanley (p. XXI.) and the editors of the Bible Union. In the eight times in which those words occur in our section, our A. V. has the different English words “in heaviness,” “sorrow,” grief, etc.]
2 Corinthians 2:2; 2 Corinthians 2:2.—The best authorities have no ἐστιν after τίς. It was added by a later hand. [Only Bloomfield, among later critics defends it both on documentary and internal evidence. He contends that the idiom and the interrogative use of καὶ demands a verb or its equivalent.]
2 Corinthians 2:3; 2 Corinthians 2:3.—The best authorities have also cancelled ὑμῖν after ἔγραψα [but Bloomfield defends it as less likely to have been interpolated where it is found, than to have fallen out where it is wanting.]
2 Corinthians 2:7; 2 Corinthians 2:7.—In the best MSS. μᾶλλον is wanting, and in others it stands after ὑμᾶς. It is a gloss upon τοὐναντίον. [And yet it is found in C. K. L. and Sinait. the Vulg. the Peschito Syr. Chrys. Theodt. Damasc. Theophyl. Oecum. and other MSS.; and it is inserted by Tisch., Stanley, and Meyer. The latter thinks it was omitted on account of its apparent superfluity.]
2 Corinthians 2:9; 2 Corinthians 2:9.—Lachmann following A. B. has ἧ instead of εἰ. The εἰ might easily have fallen out before εἰς (both are wanting in one MS. [of the 11th cent.]) and was then supplied in various ways. (One MS. [also of the 11th cent.] has ὡς.)
2 Corinthians 2:10; 2 Corinthians 2:10.—The best authorities have ὁ κεχάρισμαι, εἴ τι κεχάρισμαι. Rec. has εἴ τι κεχάρισμαι, ᾧ κεχάρισμαι. Meyer thinks that εἴ τι κεχάρ. was left out on account of the occurrence of κεχάρ. twice (in several MSS. it is found wanting), and then that it was reinserted in different positions.
[Although our author’s construction of λύπη actively (:causing grief) is sanctioned by a number of ancient (especially Chrysostom) and modern critics, it is certainly not the natural meaning of the word, and is utterly inappropriate in the remainder of this section, and in other parts of Paul’s writings. We much prefer that of the majority of interpreters, which makes the sense of 2 Corinthians 2:2-3 to be: “I determined not to come to you again in sorrow; and therefore I refrained from visiting you at a time in which I should have been obliged to inflict on you a chastisement which would have been painful to me. I therefore then wrote an admonition to you. that ye might correct the evil, and that when I should actually come to you I might have joy in you. In this way, though my letter caused some sorrow, it was like the process of healing which finally gives joy to both patient and physician, and did not subject me to a personal intercourse of sorrow. For ye are the only sources of my joy when I come in person to Corinth, and if ye are thrown into permanent sorrow, who will there be to give me any satisfaction ? See our interpretation further defended in Hodge’s Com.].
[To understand the author’s criticisms we need to have the several ways in which this passage has been punctuated and rendered distinctly before us. All that are important may be reduced to three: 1. That of Chrysostom, and advocated generally, especially by de Wette, Meyer, Osiander, Bloomfield, Neander, Alford, Stanley and Hodge, viz.: Εί δέ τις λελύπ., οὐκ ἐμἐ λελύπ., ἀλλὰ� (ἵνα μὴ ἐπιβαρῶ) πάντας ὑμᾶς, i.e., If any have caused grief, he hath grieved not me, but more or less (that I be not too heavy on him) all of you. Theophylact says: the Apostle skilfully brings them all in as partakers of the injury, that he may have them partakers in the absolution.” 2. That of Theodoret, the Vulgate, Luther’s translation, and the A. V., and advocated by Bengel and Wordsworth, viz.: ἀλλ’ ἀπὸ μέρους, (ἵνα μὴ ἐπιβαρῶ πάντας ὑμᾶς), i.e., He hath not grieved me, (i. e., not so much me personally), but in part, (i.e., only as a part of the whole Church, and hence on account of the share I have in your griefs), that I may not lay the load of guilt on all of you. 3. That of Mosheim, Olshausen, Billroth and Conybeare, viz.: ἀλλ’ ἀπὸ μέρους (ἵνα μὴ ἐπιβαρῶ πάντας) ὑμᾶς, i.e., he hath not grieved me, but in part (that I may not accuse all) you. Billroth: “Whether he has caused grief to me is not a matter for present consideration: it is not I that must suffer for him, but you, at least a part of you, for I will not be unjust and charge you all with having been indifferent concerning his offence.”]
[Paul, in this case, assumes that man had been sinned against by this offender, and so man might forgive for this offence. He denies that he alone would either feel aggrieved (ἀπὸ μέρόυς) or grant pardon. He refuses to absolve the man until the Church nad acted. He was ready, however, to forgive any one (ᾦ) or any thing (ὅ the better reading), when the Church had forgiven. If they had forgiven (and he speaks of this as if it were past, χαρίζεσθε, open perf.), he had done so (and for their sakes), if they had not forgiven, he had not (he makes his action hypothetical on theirs, εἴ τι κεχάρισμαι, Hodge), and yet he seems to regard his action as equally indispensable to the completeness of theirs. If ἐν προζώπῳ χριςτοῦ be translated “in the name,” or “by the authority of Christ,” the Apostle acted as Christ’s representative; but if, as is more likely, it means “in Christ’s presence, as if Christ were looking on” (Stanley). Paul assumes that he was acting for the Church and himself, so far as each had been sinned against. From this we get the Apostle’s true idea of absolution. First, there was repentance and Divine forgiveness, then confession in some way so as to satisfy the congregation, and finally, the forgiveness and formal announcement (absolution) on the part of the Church or its representatives. Nothing is said of “ecclesiastical satisfactions” in the Roman sense. Comp. W. F. Besser, Bibelstunden; and F. W. Robertson, Ser. V., 3d series, Lect. 37th, 4th series.]
V. AN ADDITIONAL EXPRESSION OF HIS FORMER ANXIETY RESPECTING THEM (2 Corinthians 2:12 f.), BUT OF HIS JOYFUL ELEVATION OF MIND WHEN HE HEARD FROM THEM BY TITUS, 2 Corinthians 2:14 ff.
2 Corinthians 2:12-17
12Furthermore when I came to Troas [the Troad] to preach Christ’s gospel10, and a door was opened to me of [in] the Lord, 13I had no rest in my spirit because I found11 not Titus my brother; but taking my leave of them, I went from them into Macedonia. 14Now [But] thanks be unto God, which always causeth us to triumph in Christ, and maketh manifest the savour of his knowledge by us in every place. 15For we are unto God a sweet savour of Christ, in them that are saved and in them that perish: 16To the one we are the savour of 12death unto death; and to the other the savour of3 life unto life. And who is sufficient for these things? 17For we are not as many,13 which corrupt the word of God; but as of sincerity, but as of God, as in the sight of God14 speak we in Christ.
EXEGETICAL AND CRITICAL
2 Corinthians 2:12-13. The Apostle’s anxiety for intelligence from Corinth.—But having come to the Troad to preach Christ’s Gospel.—The δέ implies that the former subject is here resumed after the digression. (2 Corinthians 2:5-11). That which follows is not to be connected with 2 Corinthians 2:11 (οὐ γάρ—ἀγνοοῦμεν) so as to make δὲ equivalent to ἀλλά, for that would not correspond with the tenor of the discourse. Nor is it to be referred back to 2 Corinthians 1:16, nor to 2 Corinthians 1:23, but to 2 Corinthians 2:4. In this latter passage he had spoken of the anguish with which he had written his first Epistle, and he here says that when he was going from Ephesus to Macedonia he could not throw off his anxiety for the Corinthians. [He had not intended to make a direct journey to Corinth, but to make a missionary tour in the interest of Christ’s Gospel (εἰς τὸ εὐαγ.τ. Χριστοῦ), Tyndale: for Christ’s Gospel’s sake]. Though he had doubtless intended to preach the Gospel at Troas, he now lost the opportunity on account of his solicitude for the Corinthians.—[The Troad was the region of the country, of which Troas was the principal city.15 The article, which was generally used in the New Testament with names of countries (Jelf. § 450 5), Stanley thinks may possibly indicate that only the country of the Troad was meant here. It can hardly be possible that Paul did not visit the city. The same expression (εἰς τὴν Τρωάδα) is used in Acts 20:6. Paul had been there once before (Acts 16:8), and he was there a longer time on his return from Greece to Jerusalem (Acts 20:6-13), and once after the close of the Apostolic history, (2 Timothy 4:13). It was the usual port at which those passing from Greece to Asia landed. A church must have been established there at least on Paul’s second visit, [comp. the word ἀποταξάμενος with Acts 20:6 ff.)]. He had tarried there with the express design of preaching the Gospel of salvation. Τοῦ χριστοῦ is the genitive of the object: Neander: “the Gospel which proceeded from Christ.” He intends to say that with such a design he would have felt bound to remain for some time, inasmuch as he found there a fair prospect of an unusual success in his work.—And a door was opened to me in the Lord.—(comp. 1 Corinthians 16:9). The καί also is equivalent to καίπερ. Ἐν κυρίῳ has the same meaning as Χριστῷ, and it is added to define more particularly, the sphere or element of activity for which an occasion had then been presented; the department in which a door had been opened for him, and not the Agent by whose power the door had been opened.—I had no rest in my spirit when I found not Titus my brother.—Ἔσχηκα is used here, as in 2 Corinthians 1:9, and frequently in an aoristic sense (Meyer: as was the frequent practice of the Greek orators in order to bring the past before the mind with greater vividness). Ἄνεσις (used also in 2 Corinthians 7:5; 2 Corinthians 8:13) means properly relaxation or relief, and it is here contrasted with the intense strain which had been put upon his feelings, by his solicitude on their account. He could not perform his ordinary duties as in other places, until this anxiety should be removed. The meaning of to τῷ πνεύματι in this connection is: for my mind. (dat. comm.). The expression is more suggestive than τῇ ψυχῇ μου would have been. (comp. Beck, Seelenl. p. 45). The Apostle means to say that it was “one of those violent assaults upon his vital energies which come upon us in certain states of the mind and body when we have been acted upon for a long time by terrors and a want of rest, etc.—those powerful agitations which affect the very seat of life.” In τῷ μὴ εὑρεῖν κ. τ. λ. he gives the reason for οὑκ ἕσχηκα ἄνεσιν. [Winer, Gr. § 45, 5.] He had expected to meet at Troas, or at least in Macedonia, his assistant Titus, to let him know what effect his first Epistle had produced at Corinth. Not finding Titus, his anxiety was so great that he could remain there no longer, but he hastened to Macedonia, where we know Titus soon met him (2 Corinthians 7:6 ff.)—But taking leave of them I went forth into Macedonia.—Ἀποτάσσεσθαι τινι is an Alexandrian form of expression for ἀσπάζεσθαι, and occurs also in Luke 9:61, and Acts 17:18-21. It signifies to separate one’s self, to take leave of some one. [The expression is peculiar, however, since it is taken from the effort usually made by those taking their departure, to put every thing in order, and to give their last directions. (Osiander)]. Αὐτοῖς has reference to the people, and especially to believers in Troas.16
Vers.14–17. [“All that follows, until the writer returns to his historical statement in 2 Corinthians 7:5, is on the subject of the Christian or rather Apostolical ministry as exemplified in Paul’s special relations to the Corinthian Church. This apparent digression is really the main topic of the Epistle. It was the Apostle’s object to set forth and maintain the importance of his office and work and his personal claim to spiritual authority. This object is kept in view throughout, and after the instructions in matters of business which follow the recurrence of the mention of Titus (2 Corinthians 7:5), it is continuously and openly pursued to the end of the Epistle.” Webster and Wilkinson.].—But thanks be unto God, who always causes us to triumph in Christ.—By a sudden transition the Apostle now turns aside to render thanks to God, not for the results of his visit at Troas, where he could not have remained long enough to accomplish any thing worthy of being thus mentioned; but either for the accounts brought from Corinth by Titus, of which he makes no express mention until 2 Corinthians 7:6; or for the blessing upon his Apostolic labors during his journey, especially in Macedonia (Osiander). The context rather favors the first of these, since thanks seem quite appropriate after his liberation from the distress and uneasiness of which he had given such a picture (Meyer). That he makes no direct mention of this, and expresses himself only in general terms, is accounted for by the fact that he was anxious to make no unpleasant impression by a more obvious allusion to the state of things at Corinth at this point of his discourse. The view which seems best to correspond with both the context and the form of expression, would seem to be, that he had been much delighted with the good account from Corinth, to which he had slightly alluded in 2 Corinthians 2:6 (ἐπιτιμία ἡ ὑπὸ τῶν πλειόνων), and he now pours forth his thanks for the triumph of which he always and everywhere was a partaker. The favorable turn of affairs at Corinth and the accomplishment of his main objects there were of course involved in the πάντοτε and the ἐν παντὶ τόπῳ, but they are so concealed in the general expression that nothing offensive would be noticed in his triumphal exultation. It is questionable whether θριαμβεύοντι is to be taken according to the usage of the word in other places (also in Colossians 2:15), in the sense of triumphat (de nobis), or according to the analogy of βασιλεύειν, 1 Samuel 8:22; μαθητεύειν, Matthew 28:19, and some other words, in the transitive sense of triumphare facit. As the result of the first method, Meyer presents the idea of the passage thus: who never ceases to exhibit us (the Apostolic teachers) in all the world as those whom He has overcome. God had overcome them in their conversion, and He was continually triumphing in the results which they as His servants were accomplishing in His kingdom, and especially in the happy results of his first Epistle at Corinth. With Paul, such an idea would naturally be expressed when he remembered with sorrow his earlier persecution of the Church, and it would accord with his humble desire to give God the honor of all that he had done. Although this explanation is rather artificial, it has better ground for itself than others, which represent this leading about in triumph as fulfilled when they journeyed from place to place according to the good pleasure and will of God (Wetstein); or as a triumphal exhibition of them, not as conquered persons, but as servants taking part in God’s triumph; or as a Divine triumph over Paul by showing the folly of all his cares and anxieties when all things came to a fortunate result; or as a leading him about in triumph in the persecutions he was made to endure. On the whole we feel compelled to decide in favor of the transitive signification of the word, which makes Paul a leader appointed by God to struggle in the spiritual conflict, and by the success of his preaching and the confusion of all his opponents making him a uniform conqueror before the world. (Comp. Osiander).17 Ἐν τῷ Χριστῷ defines the sphere in which the victory and the triumph takes place. This is Christ, in whose service they are employed and whose Gospel they preached with such triumphant success. What is here intended by θριαμβεύειν will be made more evident under the figure of the succeeding metaphor:—and maketh manifest the savour of His knowledge by us in every place.—In this sentence αὐτοῦ has reference, not to God, as has sometimes been concluded on account of 2 Corinthians 5:5, but to Christ on account of ἐν τῷ Χριστῷ and ἐυωδία Χριστοῦ in 2 Corinthians 2:15. This knowledge of Christ is set forth under the figure of an odor which God diffused in every place by the ministry of the Apostles. Such a figure well illustrates the pungent nature of this knowledge, the facility with which it is usually diffused, and perhaps also the refreshment it affords. Neander: “ὀσμή signifies any thing which has a pungent odor, an essence; it may correspond with the later Jewish סַם which is just as applicable to a refreshing aromatic essence as to a fatal poison.” It is hardly probable that the Apostle was led to use this figure by the idea of a triumph in which the air was filled sometimes with the fragrance of incense (Meyer, comp. Osiander). Still less did he intend to remind us of the custom of anointing with oil. Even the idea of the fragrance given forth in the sacrifices seems inappropriate, since God himself is represented as active in diffusing it (φανεροῦντι). As an illustration of an internal experience the figure of an odor would seem no more appropriate than something presented to the sight. Τῆς γνώσεως is in apposition with τῆς ὀσμῆς. Ἔν παντὶ τόπῳ corresponds with πάντοτε. God is evidently the one who “always caused him and his fellow-laborers to triumph in Christ, and made manifest the savor of his knowledge by them in every place,” for Paul represents them as the instruments by which God acted (δἰ ἡμῶν), and the promulgators of this knowledge. He also describes them as acceptable to God, and so not to be depreciated, though the result of their labors was sometimes the reverse of what they aimed at. This acceptableness in God’s sight is expressed in the words—For we are unto God a sweet savour of Christ—in which the figure of a sacrifice (Ephesians 5:2; Philippians 4:18; Leviticus 1:9-17) probably begins to be discernible. Those who possess and diffuse the knowledge of Christ are a sweet savor unto God, not because they are properly prepared or offered to God, but because they are themselves filled by Him and made to diffuse the savor of Christ. For the sake of emphasis Christ is mentioned first, and is represented as the substance of the sacrifice, i. e., a service consecrated to God and pleasing in His sight. Bengel says: “The savor of Christ is made to pervade us as that of aromatics pervade garments.”—In them that are saved and in them that perish, introduces the sphere in which they were moving or the object of their preaching. The correlatives of σωζόμενοι and ἀπολλύμενοι (comp. on 1 Corinthians 1:18) are πιστεύοντες and ἄπιστοι. The whole idea became more impressive by this reference to the final destiny of each, when the redeemed shall be saved and the lost shall be cast away. He speaks further of the effect of this ὀσμή upon both these classes in 2 Corinthians 2:16. He there commences with those last mentioned.—To the one indeed we are an odour arising from death and tending to death.—(οἶς μὲν—οἶς σὲ, are equivalent to what was in the later usage τοῖς μὲν—τοῖς δέ). The point at which the influence commences, or the source from which it springs, is indicated by ἐκ, and the end toward which it tends, or the effect produced by it, is pointed out by εἰς. It begins in death and must lead to and terminate in death. In like manner the expression—to the other we are the odor arising from life and tending to life.—In the words from death and from life, we have death (θάνατος) and life (ζωή) set forth as the principle or power in which corruption or salvation has its origin, and in the words unto death and unto life (εἰς θάνατον, εἰς ζωήν) we have the corresponding result which each of these powers produces. But neither in ἐκ θανάτου nor in ἐκ ζωὴς is it exactly intended that Christ is in such a sense the efficient agent, that in ἐκ θανάτου He is the direct source of death (Meyer). The idea rather is, that those who presented Christ, or made known His Gospel to their fellow-men, are to one class like those who convey an odor which is deadly in its origin and deadly in its result. The meaning is thus the same with that conveyed by the words, the savor of death and the savor of life (ὀσμῆ θανάτου—ζωής), in the Rec., where both genitives should be taken as genitives of quality. This contrast between the fatal and quickening effects of preaching has an analogy in the physical world. So far as relates to the lost, the result is accidental, i. e., it is not caused by anything in the Gospel itself, but must be ascribed to the peculiar spirit of those who hear it. [“We convey to all the sweet odor of Christ, though all who participate in it do not attain salvation. Thus the light is noxious to diseased eyes, and yet it is not the sun which produces the injury. It is said that vultures avoid the fragrance of myrrh, and yet the myrrh is no less myrrh for being shunned by vultures. Even so the preaching of salvation tends to save those who believe, though it brings perdition to such as believe not.”—Theodoret]. Where the word is pressed upon an unsusceptible and perverse heart, it provokes opposition to the truth, just as in other cases it brings into activity whatever is susceptible of Divine life and engenders faith (comp. Matthew 21:42 ff.; Luke 2:34; Job 9:39). The same figure has been used by the Rabbins for illustrating the different effects of the law. This strong contrast between the different effects of evangelical preaching suggests to the Apostle’s mind the various dispositions of those who proclaim the Gospel. No one can produce such an influence upon these two classes of hearers and be acceptable to God whatever may be the result of his preaching, unless he proclaims the Gospel in a right manner and with a right spirit. This idea he introduces in a sudden and striking manner (και) by a question—And who is sufficient for these things?—In this sentence πρὸς ταῦτα is put first because it is emphatic. He meant to say, that among those who acted as teachers, all were by no means sufficiently qualified for such a part, for he was obliged to place himself and his companions, who honestly presented God’s truth, in strong contrast with the many who presented it in an adulterated form. The answer to the Apostle’s question is in 2 Corinthians 2:17, and is presupposed in the γάρ. Such are not the ones who adulterate God’s word, but they are myself and those who are like me.—For we are not like the many who adulterate God’s word.—οἱ πολλοί does not mean the majority of all teachers of the Gospel, for this would either exhibit the Apostolic Church in a very unfavorable light, or (with Rückert) would make Paul guilty of a passionate extravagance. The article is demonstrative, and is intended to point to those who were well known. Those Judaizing teachers are meant who had set themselves up against Paul, and whose number must have been considerable at Corinth (comp. 2 Corinthians 11:13; Philippians 3:18). With respect to the reading λοιποί, comp. Osiander, who regards it as more feebly sustained by documentary evidence but as easier to explain, inasmuch as it simply designates a number of persons to whom the Apostle wished to be considered an exception; and he explains οἱ πολλοί by saying that Paul had set up a very high standard for the purity of Christian doctrine.18 The participal sentence commencing with καπηλεύοντες should be connected, not with οἱ πολλοί, although the character of these is indirectly given in it, but with ἐσμέν. The word designates the business of a κάπηλος, a huckster or a trader, but especially of a wine merchant; and it was used with an accusative to signify one who traded by retail or in small articles (more particularly to obtain a living). In accordance with the usual habits of such people, the word finally attained the meaning of practising usury or bartering with anything (as with σοφίαν, μαθήματα). It therefore signifies here—to deal dishonorably and deceitfully with the word of God, adulterating it by mingling together men’s opinions with the Divine word (Chrysostom), [probably with the additional thought of making a trade of the Gospel from mercenary and corrupt motives], as the κάπηλοι were accustomed to mingle water with their wine (com. Isaiah 1:22). It is implied that the Gospel had been vilified and adulterated by being mingled with Judaistic opinions, and that too with the sordid design of obtaining some personal profit, applause or authority (comp. Romans 16:17 f.; Philippians 3:19; Galatians 6:12 f.; 2 Peter 2:1-13). [Comp. Adam Clarke and also Bentley and Trench, Synn. 2d ser. pp. 52 ff.]. In contrast with such impure motives the Apostle says—but as of (from) sincerity, but as of (from) God we speak before God in Christ.—Our discourse is such as might be expected from men who speak from pure motives and under Divine inspiration, i.e., moved by God and inspired by His Spirit [Trench, Synn. 2d ser. p. 72 ff.]. Ὡς is here used as in John 1:14, to express conformity. The repetition of ἀλλ’ ὡς forms a powerful climax (comp. 1 Corinthians 6:11). He rises, from the hearty sincerity which is in strong contrast with all corrupt and selfish aims, to the Divine Source of Christian truth, with which no mingling of selfish or human elements was conceivable (comp. Osiander). The holy awe which those feel who act under the recollection that God judges and knows all things, and under a consciousness of the Divine presence, is pointed out in the phrase κατέναντι θεοῦ. The words ἐν Χριστῷ denote the element in which the discourse of such a one is supposed to move. Comp. 2 Corinthians 12:19. Neander:—“Probably the Apostle intended also to imply by this phrase that he held himself entirely aloof from everything which did not come from Christ.”
DOCTRINAL AND ETHICAL
The word of God, not only in the individual heart (Hebrews 4:12-13), but in the world, exerts a separating and judicial power. Its influence upon different individuals is not unfrequently very different—for while it enlightens and warms some, gives them a clear, tranquilizing and sanctifying knowledge of divine things, and raises them to a life of true light and love, it blinds and hardens others; just as the sun’s light warms, makes fruitful, and quickens some things, while it blinds and destroys others. This decisive influence which must always accompany the full revelation of God in Christ, may be preceded by many divine announcements and influences, whether internally through the conscience, or externally by means of natural objects, or striking providences; but among those who enjoy a special revelation, it is principally through the presentation of the law and promises of God with all those influences of the Divine Word and dealings, which are usually so administered as to aid and bless, or punish and discipline the children of men. It is by such means that men become more or less receptive of God’s word, and it is by the Gospel, by the presentation of the highest truths of revelation, that this susceptibility for good, or evil will be most rapidly brought to perfection; since Under its power they will speedily surrender themselves to the truth, or they will soon reject that truth and revile the way of salvation. This, however, can be the result only when the truth is presented properly, and in its purity. 1. It must come from a heart thoroughly pervaded by Christ himself, honestly directed to the glory of God, and regardless of personal and temporal advantages. 2. It should hold forth God’s word and nothing but God’s word, mingled with no human speculations. God will recognize as his own, only what flows from a heart which is pure and filled with Christ. But this will always and everywhere be attended with glorious results. Its preachers will soon show that they are the organs of a divine power which can penetrate through all obstacles, and that their proclamations of Christ’s truth and their spirit are acceptable to God, whether those who hear them are saved or lost. But when those who speak are not upright, if they mix up with divine revelations the doctrines and opinions of men, and if they are governed by every kind of selfish and inconsistent ends, the proper influence of the Word will be hindered and enfeebled; men will be undecided and half-hearted; there will be no evidence that God is at work and of course no Divine victories, and old things will not pass away; or, things will sink down into a stupid and lukewarm state, in which none will be disturbed in their spiritual slumbers, or learn with any distinctness the true state and wants of their souls; real peace will be unknown, and no firm support will be found for human confidence. In such a state, men will make all kinds of efforts to satisfy themselves with dead works, and will fondly seek support in the authority of their fellow men. Nothing could be more opposed than such a state of things is, to that manly maturity which is to be found in Christ (Ephesians 4:13), and that establishment of the heart which true grace affords (Hebrews 13:9); and it will not be difficult therefore to distinguish between those who are Christ’s true shepherds, and those who are miserable hirelings.
[“In this statement of St. Paul, we have an inspired declaration of the freedom of the human will. As Jerome says (ad Hedib. iv. p. 183): ‘The name of Christ is ever fragrant; but men are left to their own freedom of will.’ So Christ himself was set for the fall of some and for the rising up of others in Israel. Indeed it is a solemn truth that in the Christian scheme nothing that God has done, is indifferent. Everything is as a two-edged sword. All Christian privileges, and all the means of grace are according as they are used, either blessings or banes, either physic or poison. Comp. August. Serm. 4, and Serm. 273.” Wordsworth.]
HOMILETICAL AND PRACTICAL
2 Corinthians 2:12. None but those who are Christ’s, who have been anointed by Him and have fellowship with Him, know what it is to have doors opened to them in the Lord and by the Lord. 2 Corinthians 2:13. When the Church is suffering some great affliction, we should each one in our proper place, cheerfully give her our utmost aid, that Satan may not overthrow in a few days what has been built up with the toil of years. 2 Corinthians 2:14. It is the mark of a true minister to labor faithfully and with all his might and soul, and then ascribe nothing to himself but everything to God (1 Corinthians 15:10). It is one of the mysteries of the cross and of Christ’s kingdom, that those who preach the gospel may have never so much opposition, and yet may always be sure of final triumph.
2 Corinthians 2:15-16 : Hedinger: We are a sweet savor of Christ, though our preaching results only in the perdition of our hearers. True, if none are converted to Christ, they must be perverted to Satan; yet such is the natural effect of God’s word; for if the wicked are hardened and the blind become yet more blind, it is God’s righteous judgment upon their own wickedness (Isaiah 6:9-10). Spener:—When the world is displeased with the word, and those who will not become sincere Christians become worse, and become more opposed to the truth, we may be sure that the word preached is genuine, and like that which the Apostles preached: for men feel its power, and are obliged to receive a fragrance which they abhor. But when wicked men like to hear and praise our sermons, when everything is dull and no one grows in grace under our ministry, it is a sign that what-ever savor we have had has lost its power. The gospel may not convert all who hear it, but it will produce excitement—and wicked men will proportionably hate it. 2 Corinthians 2:17. Hedinger:—Take care that you do not corrupt God’s word! Even those who hear, must attend to this. How many thousand streams are daily flowing to refresh and sustain those who are secure in their own vain fancies and in the way of the world. Maxims to keep alive the old Adam are in every one’s mouth. Alas! that so many must repent only when it is too late (1 Peter 4:11). Four things at least should ever be on the heart of the true minister: that he speaks, 1, in all purity, with respect to his motives, his doctrine and his manner; 2, as from God, as if anointed and born of God; 3, as in the presence of God, with all reverence and zeal, feeling that God is always present and is the greatest of all his hearers; and 4, as in Christ.
Berlenb. Bible, 2 Corinthians 2:14 :—He must be a happy man, with whom everything, even the greatest perils, work for him only a perpetual triumph. Whenever truth and falsehood are most exposed, Christianity has its greatest triumphs; and this usually takes place when she is most severely afflicted. All Christians should diffuse around them wherever they go the fragrance of divine knowledge—and if they are the Lord’s anointed, how can they fail to do so?
2 Corinthians 2:15-16. The sweetest words of the Gospel become a savor of death unto death to those who resist the Holy Ghost. Such will have it so; they lay hold on death, and cast eternal life away. If this powerful odor of divine knowledge had not been diffused around them and arrested general attention, they had not had sin; but now they have no one but themselves to blame, for they have only the due reward of their own doings. Not every one who intellectually possesses the truth and has the form of knowledge (Romans 2:20), is prepared to present it profitably to his fellowmen; but only he who has himself put on the Lord Jesus Christ, is familiar with the mysterious cross of self-subjugation, and has obeyed the form of doctrine he has received. The spirit of God alone can prepare us for doing His work. 2 Corinthians 2:17.—True repentance, death, and pure truth will seem but trifling matters to hypocritical teachers; a good conscience, repentance, and a knowledge of Jesus Christ may fare as they may, if such men can only retain a hold upon the world’s favor, and have Christ in peace without his cross and with their pleasures. Those who handle God’s word should themselves be holy.
2 Corinthians 2:12-14. Even afflictions are sweetened when we are enabled by them to promote the cause of Christ and share in his victories. When God opens such doors for the preaching of the Gospel that all its adversaries are ashamed, and we present such evidence that we have the truth that it sets men free and awakens them to activity, reflection and admiration, it should be looked upon as a triumph to the cause of Christ. Such results commonly take place especially in the place where the word is preached, but sometimes the odor of them extends to a distance, and induces multitudes to inquire after Christ. 2 Corinthians 2:15-16.—Our Lord sometimes allows his beloved ones to know that he is about to use them, more especially as the light of the world and the salt of the earth. The Apostle therefore could say that the whole work and calling of himself and his companions, had an influence upon every department of society, and was an honor and a pleasure to God himself. But it was according to the way in which men met the proposals of the Gospel, that it became to them at every step an omen of either salvation or perdition. Those who heard that the way to glory must be through suffering, might assume such an attitude toward it that it might seem to them worse than death—and hence, they might foolishly remain under death. But where the Gospel meets with no such opposition it tends only to life. The very first inclination toward the truth is produced by this savor unto life, and from that moment the course is from life to life, and from one degree of power to another.
2 Corinthians 2:12. The Lord only has the key to the heart, and if he does not open it we may rattle around it as we please, it will remain closed against us.
2 Corinthians 2:14. The triumphs of the Gospel are unlike every other (Psalms 84:7-8), for in them both victor and vanquished rejoice together. When the Apostles preached, the whole infected atmosphere of this world was purified by a balmy fragrance, and an acceptable incense mounted up to heaven. Why is it not always so, when the same Gospel is professedly preached?
2 Corinthians 2:16. How can Christianity be a deadly poison? Only by being resisted, until the last spark of spiritual life is quenched in men’s own wickedness. To refuse all direction from the word of the cross, is to harden ourselves against everything else. The same odor or medicine may kill or cure in different cases, and Christianity shows its real power when it arouses the opposition of wicked men.
W. F. Besser:
2 Corinthians 2:15-16. When the sweet fragrance of Jesus’ name is shed forth upon all men, without respect of persons, and in its full power, if any are saved, it is because they inhale it by a faith which the fragrance itself produces; and if any are still lost, it is not merely because they fail of receiving it (Acts 13:46), but because the fragrance itself becomes fatal, and avenges itself upon those who despise it. The power of God’s word and the accompanying influence of God’s Spirit are demonstrated, when that word leaves no one as it found him; but when its despisers become more wicked, and the indifferent become furious and abusive. God is not responsible for men’s unbelief, but when they fatally injure themselves and sin against the word of life (Proverbs 8:36), we may regard it as a retributive judgment upon their own malicious and spiteful treatment of his mercy.
[2 Corinthians 2:12.—Instead of είς τὸ εὐαγγέλιον the two kindred codd. F. G. and Damasc. have διὰ τὸ εὐαγγ., and the Italic and Vulg. verss. and the Lat. fathers have propter evang. Two other affiliated codd. D. E. have δια τοῦ εὐαγγελὶον. Most of our Old English verss. have “for Christ’s gospel’s sake.”]
2 Corinthians 2:13; 2 Corinthians 2:13.—In place of τῷ μὴ εὑρεῖν, Sin. has τοῦ μὴ εὑρ. (though the 3d cor. has τῷ μὴ εὑρ.). It also has Μακαιδονίαν (as throughout the New Testament, except 2 Corinthians 9:2, and 1 Thessalonians 4:10)].
2 Corinthians 2:16; 2 Corinthians 2:16.—Rec. omits ἐκ before both θανάτου and ζωῆς. And yet the word has the best authorities [A. B. C. Sin. et al.] in its favor, and was probably thrown out on account of its difficult construction. [It does not appear in D. E. F. G. K. L., and the omission is confirmed by the Vulg., Syr., Goth, and Aeth. verss., and by very many of the ancient interpreters. All the more recent critics, except Reiche and Wordsworth, insert it.]
2 Corinthians 2:17; 2 Corinthians 2:17.—The reading λοιποί instead of πολλοὶ has the best authorities [A. B. C. K. Sin. et al.] against it. [Πολλοὶ was probably thought too strong an expression. But Didymus of Alex. (A. D. 370) takes much pains to justify the Apostle in the use of πολλοῖ in this passage. See note on p. 41.]
2 Corinthians 2:17; 2 Corinthians 2:17.—Rec. has κατενώπιον, and it is strongly sustained by authority; but Lachmann following the best MSS. gives us κατέναντι (without τοῦ). [Alford and Bloomfield think the article was left out to correspond with the previous ἐκ θεοῦ, but that the Apostle’s solemn assertion here needs it. It is however omitted in A. B. C. D. Sin. and 12 cursives.]
[The city was called by its original founder, Antigonia Troas, and by Lysimachus, who much improved it, Alexandria Troas, frequently simply Alexandria. It was on the great Roman road, by which it had an extensive trade into the interior and the South. It was a Roman colony, with the jus Italicum, or right of Roman citizenship, and was much favored by the Romans, from a conceit that their ancestors came from Troy, the site of which was close by. Gibbon says that Constantine once thought of making it the seat of his empire. Its modern name, Eski Stamboul (Old Constantinople), seems to commemorate this thought, Conybeare and Howson’s Life of St. Paul, Vol. I. p. 279–81, and Howson in Smith’s Dict.]
[Stanley suggests a vivid picture of Paul in this anxious state of mind, “on the wooded shores of that classic region under the heights of Ida.” All associations connected with its ancient history had but “slight effect upon the mind of the Apostle,” which was either upon the open door to preach Christ’s Gospel, or “vainly expecting the white sail of the ship which was to bring back his friend from Corinth.” If the love of Christ had not dispossessed Paul’s heart of every other interest, such scenes would have had a peculiar charm for him. See also Conyb. and Howson, Introduction, Vol. I. p. 16 and p. 362. Such conflicting emotions and changes of purpose are not inconsistent with Paul’s being under the guidance of the Holy Ghost (Webster and Wilkinson), inasmuch as that divine agent works out his own guidance of wisdom by means of, and in consistency with, the purely human feelings of the subject.]
[The word θριαμβεύοντι has been explained in: (1), a neuter sense, triumphare de nobis, to triumph over us: (2), a transitive sense, triumphare nos, to lead us in triumph; (3), a causative sense, triumphantes nos facere, to make us triumph. Ancient Greek usage among the classics is probably uniform in favor of the first, and the only other instance in the N. T. where the word is used (Colossians 2:15) looks in the same direction. But though it is adopted in the Vulgate, and is given as the first definition by several Latin expositors, it seems hard to make good sense with such a meaning in our passage, where the idea certainly is not that of a subdued and captive enemy led about in humiliation and finally to death. Even with this idea eliminated, and remembering that Paul sometimes speaks of himself as a subdued and willing captive to Christ, we never find him thus speaking of himself with others (plural). His object here seems rather to be, to show how he and his companions, and not merely Christ, were triumphing. If this makes us inclined to favor the second signification, with Calvin (in his comments, not in his translation), Bengel, de Wette and Wordsworth, we are met by the fact that neither early nor late Greek usage is in favor of such a construction. Some Greek fathers, indeed, whose opinions on a question of N. T. language or Roman usage is entitled to great consideration, give it this meaning. Though their definitions favor No. 1, they usually interpret it simply of a triumph over afflictions and persecutions, and leading the Apostles about the world in a triumphant victory over every kind of endurance Thus Chrysostom (and after him substantially Theophyl. and Oecum.): τῷ πᾶσι ποιοῦντι περιφανεῖς, “Who maketh us conspicuous to all;” and Theodoret: σοφῶς τὰ καθ’ ἡμᾶς πρυτανεύων, τῆδε κακεῖζε περιάγει, δήλους ἡμᾶς ἅπασιν�, “Who manages all our affairs in wisdom, leading us about so as to make us manifest to all;” Damasc: ὁ γαρ θρίαμβος, τοῦτό ἐστι, τὸ πᾶσι γενέσθαι περιφανή, “For evidently he has triumphed, who has been made illustrious and conspicuous to all men.” If, however, we depart from the simple No. 1, we must prefer No. 3, which has some ancient authority in its favor. Thus Jerome (comm.): Deum per Apostolos triumphare in Christo, victores illos facere in fide Christi; and Ambrose: Triumphare facit nos per Christum, vel in nobis ipse triumphat. In Alexandrian usage (Sept. and N. T.) neuter verbs often acquired a causative meaning (see Winer, Idd. § 40, n. 2, and many instances in Alford and Meyer). This gives an idea suitable to the connection. It was adopted by Luther, Beza and Grotius, and is defended by Osiander, Neander and Hodge. The majority of recent commentators (as Meyer, Alford, Conybeare, Ellicott, Stanley) favor the first meaning, but it very easily runs into the second.]
[Tischendorf quotes here a remarkable passage from Didymus Alex to prove the genuineness of the reading οἱ πολλοὶ, but which is equally striking as a comment: “Paul calls these deceivers many (πολλοὺς) on account of their abundance. For when instead of naming: them he designates them by this word, he intimates that they were more numerous, as when our Lord uses it instead of τινές: Many (πολλοὶ) shall say unto me in that day, etc. (Matthew 7:22). But this word informs us that they are not a few, as when our Lord says, Many (πολλοὶ) are called, but few (ὀλίγοι) are chosen. It is evident that the word sometimes even signifies all, as when the Apostle says in Romans 5:19 : “The many (οἱ πολλοί) were constituted (κατεστάθησαν) sinners,” for it is evident that all men are under sin in consequence of Adam’s disobedience. Clearly then the word signifies a great number, not only in the passage before us but in another, where it is said, “Be not many masters” (James 3:1.) Damascene adds in paraphrase: “We are not like those false apostles who claim to be so numerous (τὰ πολλοί). For then we should have to adulterate the Gospel, like some who corrupt or who sell for money the wine they have been employed to distribute freely.”—Migne’s Patrol. Græc. T. xxxix. p. 1691, and xcv. p. 719.]