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It is again with apostolic authority that Paul writes, the will of God, a predominant matter in the epistle. While Paul uses his authority in lowliness, yet he must assert God's authority in writing. Here, however, instead of Sosthenes, he links Timothy with him, a young man well known for his genuine care for souls, a true minister of God; and who had recently visited the Corinthians, possibly having carried Paul's First Epistle to them.
While the assembly of God at Corinth is addressed, yet rather than all saints in every place being added (as in 1 Cor.), only all the saints in Achaia are included here. We know, of course, that it is the truth of the First Epistle that many would like to disown, and God has plainly anticipated this. Generally, however, there is no difficulty in saints everywhere owning the value of 2 Corinthians, though we too easily acknowledge it without following it. But Achaia means "wailing," and denotes for us the character of the sphere in which ministry is required; for all around us in the world is hopeless misery, and ministry must make its way through suffering, the vessel brought low to the extremity of the sentence of death in himself, in order for others to be blessed.
But again they are wished "grace" first, that which lifts above circumstances; then "peace," which is tranquillity in spite of circumstances - from the eternal God, who is Father, and revealed in His beloved Son.
And verse 3 shows the heart of Paul full of responsive appreciation of the faithfulness of the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, not, as in Ephesians, for the unspeakable blessings in the heavenlies eternally secured for every saint of God, but for abounding grace and encouragement given of God amid stern tribulation. In practice, he has found Him "the Father of compassions, and the God of all encouragement." And the encouragement He gives not only eases their burden, but arms them with ability to encourage others who may be in any trouble, by communicating the same comfort by which God encourages them. This is not merely passive, but active faith.
Verse 5 refers to the sufferings of Christ in His earthly service (not on the cross), and such sufferings abounded in the apostles. They suffered because devoted to the ministry of Christ; and so truly felt for His interests in souls that everything contrary to this meant suffering. But this being so, their encouragement also abounded by Christ: He could not fail them in such service. The word for comfort or consolation here is more rightly translated "encouragement," for it is that which stirs one to active ministry.
One reason, therefore, for the sufferings of the apostles, was that it might work for the encouragement and salvation of the saints (a salvation in practical experience, of course). For the endurance of the apostles in suffering would be effectual in encouraging the saints to willingly endure the same sufferings. And the encouragement enjoyed by the apostles would have the same precious effect.
Verse 7, too, shows the confidence Paul had in the reality of God's work in the Corinthians: he and Timothy did not waver as to this. Though no doubt it was not in great measure that the Corinthians were partakers of their sufferings, yet the fact of their identification with them did involve this in some real way; and they counted upon the Corinthians being encouraged, too, along with them.
In 1 Corinthians 16:9 he had spoken of "many adversaries," in the area of Ephesus, and after this the enmity increased, so that verse 8 evidently refers particularly to the culmination of the persecution at the time of the uproar caused by Demetrius (Acts 19:23-41). The pressure became intense, beyond Paul's strength to naturally endure, so that he despaired even of life. Thus, sometimes the vessel is brought down to a point where there is, naturally speaking, no hope of survival: God is the only resource. The sentence of death was so deeply imprinted upon their souls that all self-confidence melted away: they were cast utterly upon God. But He is a God who raises the dead.
God's divine power had intervened to deliver them from so great a death. Moreover, it is a constantly active delivering power: through whatever circumstances they passed, this was true, and no doubt often they sensed and knew it. Indeed, every child of God may count upon this, for it is a fact, however little or much we realize it at any given time. And future deliverance is assured, too, whatever form that deliverance may take. In its fullest sense, of course, this will be when we are taken out of this world to be with Christ.
In such deliverance, too, the prayers of saints have a precious part. For prayer is a ministry we must not lightly regard. God sees fit, by means of this, to bestow grace for the help of His beloved servants, and this itself increases thanksgiving to God on the part of many, on behalf of the encouraged servants. Thus, hearts are drawn out in affection for each other, true service is encouraged, and God is glorified by much thanksgiving.
Verse 12, though touching on delicate ground, is a statement confirmed by the Spirit of God as to the character and conduct of the apostles in relation to the Corinthians. An upright and clear conscience gave them the liberty of genuine rejoicing as to their manner of life before the world, and even more manifestly before the Corinthians. For this had been in simplicity (in contrast to duplicity), and in godly sincerity: it was the honor of God and the pure blessing of souls that moved them. This lowly moral integrity should have certainly had great weight, but evidently the Corinthians were forgetting this. For they knew it well, as verse 13 indicates; and how important that they should also consider it well! For Paul was writing only what they well knew and recognized (see F. W. Grant's Numerical Bible), trusting that they would continue to honestly recognize. For this would be only consistent with their original recognition of these servants of the Lord, at least in part. He does not insist that this recognition was unmeasured, but whatever the measure they did have true rejoicing in Paul and his fellow workers, with "the day of the Lord Jesus" in view, just as the servants had joy in them in view of "that day." It was not something to be lost before the day of manifestation. Honesty could never dismiss all recognition of the apostles' honesty.
It was in the confidence of this that Paul had desired to come on a second occasion to Corinth, the reason being their own benefit, a necessary reminder for them. However, he did not do this, but apparently went north through the Aegean Sea to Macedonia first, and no doubt writes this epistle from there (Cf. Acts 20:1).
Had he changed his mind for no sufficient reason? Or had his first plans been insincere? Was he indifferent as to what plans he made and changed? No, he had genuinely desired to go very soon to Corinth, and he appeals even to the very nature of God in this matter: as He is true, so their first word had been dependable, not "yea and nay."
In verses 19 to 22 he leaves aside his own defence, while giving a beautiful statement of the solid, dependable, unchanging character of the pure truth of God as revealed in His beloved Son, and confirmed in the power of the Holy Spirit. Verse 23 gives the reasons for Paul's delaying his visit to Corinth.
They knew there was no duplicity in the preaching of Paul, Silas, and Timothy: it was direct and unequivocal: Jesus Christ the Son of God was declared in positive reality, as the One in whom all the promises of God have been fulfilled perfectly. "Yea" would speak of this as affirmed by God as positively true. "Amen" is the proper response of faith in the subject hearer. This was ministered "by us," the servants, but to the glory of God, who had sent them.
The work by which they and the Corinthians had been established together in Christ, had been done by God. It was no mere agreement among themselves, as though they were at liberty to handle the whole matter as they pleased. They were now the workmanship of God, and in unity established by Him. In demonstration of this, He had anointed them. This speaks of the dignity and power (or capacity) conferred on them by the gift of the Holy Spirit. Precious indeed it is, but not given to be used in independency. Two additional benefits of having the Spirit are also included here; the sealing and the earnest of the Spirit. As the Seal, He is the indelible mark of God's ownership, set upon the believers. As the Earnest, He is the pledge and foretaste of eternal glory with Christ. Observe here again that it is the pure, positive reality of all this that is here emphasized, for it is God who is the source of all.
Now Paul is prepared to give his honest reason, as in the presence of God, for having delayed in coming to Corinth. It had been simply to spare them. This may be compared with Chapter 12:20,21. He deeply desired that before he came they might have learned to judge themselves in respect to disorders among them, so that he would not have to use his stern, apostolic authority. This Second Epistle is an effort to awaken them to a more serious sense of responsibility as to this, before his coming. It is sad that the Corinthians had allowed themselves to become so suspicious of Paul's motives that he has to call God for a witness upon his soul, to confirm the truth of what he writes.
For though he was an apostle, he insists that he has no dominion over their faith; he was exercised rather to use his authority in helping them in rejoicing in the Lord. For it was by personal, vital faith that they stood. If he were required to use his authority sharply, it would be to attack and destroy that which was not faith on their part, so that faith would be free to enable them to stand. But he wanted them now to learn to act in faith, without his presence there, so that his coming to them later might be with no need of censuring them. This would be true joy for them, faith being in active operation.
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Grant, L. M. "Commentary on 2 Corinthians 1". L.M. Grant's Commentary on the Bible. https://www.studylight.org/
the Week of Proper 20 / Ordinary 25