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Saturday, July 20th, 2024
the Week of Proper 10 / Ordinary 15
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Bible Commentaries
2 Corinthians 1

McGarvey's Commentaries on Selected BooksMcGarvey'S Commentaries

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Verse 1

Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus through the will of God, and Timothy our brother, unto the church of God which is at Corinth, with all the saints that are in the whole of Achaia:

Verse 2

Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. [Since Paul’s apostleship was in dispute, and since it seems to have been insinuated that he ought to have had a letter from the apostles or some others, commending him as such (2 Corinthians 3:1), he begins by asserting that he is such through the will of God, and hence needs no human commendation. He joins Timothy with him in the letter, since this young man had assisted in founding the church at Corinth. Anciently Achaia was the northern strip of the Peloponnese, and in this restricted sense Paul appears to have used it at 1 Corinthians 16:15; for he there calls Stephanas the "firstfruits of Achaia." But in the times in which Paul wrote, Achaia was a Roman province embracing all the countries south of Macedonia, and having Corinth as its capital. Since Paul uses the word "whole," it is likely that Paul means this larger Achaia which included Athens, and of which Dionysius the Areopagite, or some other Athenian, was the "firstfruits" (Acts 17:34). As Corinth was the political capital of the region, Paul treated it as the religious headquarters, and addressed all the Achaians through it that any who came to the capital might feel a personal interest in his letter, and read or make copies of it.]

Verse 3

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father [fountain, source-- Psalms 86:15; Ephesians 1:17] of mercies and God of all comfort;

Verse 4

who comforteth us in all our affliction, that we may be able to comfort them that are in any affliction, through the comfort wherewith we ourselves are comforted of God. [Paul regarded affliction as a school wherein one who is comforted of God is thereby instructed and fitted to become a dispenser of comfort unto others. He blesses God for such lofty and blessed instruction.]

Verse 5

For as the sufferings of Christ abound unto us, even so our comfort also aboundeth through Christ. [By "sufferings of Christ" Paul means the persecutions, etc., suffered for Christ’s sake. As Christ himself suffered while on the earth, so the church, his mystical body, must likewise suffer while in the flesh (Philippians 3:17; Galatians 2:20; Hebrews 3:13; 1 Peter 4:13; Acts 9:4). It does this because it lives as he did, and its work is in a sense supplemental to his (Colossians 1:24; John 17:14; John 18:19-20). It is comforted by the Holy Spirit (John 14:16-18), with the sense of the present love of Christ, and assured hope of reward; a sense of increased power to assist and comfort others; a trust that all things are working together for good (2 Corinthians 4:17). The measure of affliction becomes also the measure of comfort.]

Verse 6

But whether we are afflicted, it is for your comfort and salvation; or whether we are comforted, it is for your comfort, which worketh in the patient enduring of the same sufferings which we also suffer [if, therefore, we are afflicted, it is for your comfort and salvation which is accomplished through the influence of our teaching and example; or if we are comforted, the comfort is given to us for your benefit and profit, that you may receive from us that comfort which causes you to endure with patience the same suffering which we also suffer]:

Verse 7

and our hope for you is stedfast; knowing that, as ye are partakers of the sufferings, so also are ye of the comfort. [And we have a firm hope with regard to you, that if Christ has comforted us in our affliction, so will he comfort you, if you partake of our sufferings. The phrases "same sufferings which we also suffer" and "partakers of the sufferings," suggest that Paul may have meant an identity rather than a similarity of suffering. The loyal part of the Corinthian church which he is now addressing, no doubt had in a large measure an identity of suffering, for, by taking part with the apostle, they exposed themselves to the same detraction, contempt, etc., which the pestilential minority were visiting upon him. As the comfort of Christ enabled him to be stedfast, he had an unwavering hope that this same comfort would enable his friends also to be loyal and stedfast. His own stedfastness had been recently tested to the uttermost, but the comforting help of Christ had caused the test to increase his stedfastness. Of this test, and its resulting influence of faith and confidence, he now tells them.]

Verse 8

For we would not have you ignorant, brethren, concerning our affliction which befell us in Asia, that we were weighed down exceedingly, beyond our power, insomuch that we despaired even of life:

Verse 9

yea, we ourselves have had the sentence [or answer] of death within ourselves [i. e., when we asked ourselves, "Can we possibly live?" we were compelled in our hopelessness to answer, "No; we must die"], that we should not trust in ourselves, but in God who raiseth the dead:

Verse 10

who delivered us out of so great a death, and will deliver: on whom we have set our hope that he will also still deliver us;

Verse 11

ye also helping together on our behalf by your supplication; that, for the gift [of special deliverance] bestowed upon us by means of many [who prayed for us], thanks may be given by many persons on our behalf. [Your prayers aided to save our life; and our life, thus saved, may save and bless many, and so cause them to glorify God. The troubles to which the apostle here refers as befalling him in Asia, were evidently those which culminated in the riot at Ephesus (Acts 19:23-41; Acts 20:1). Since Paul was accustomed to make light of ordinary physical danger, and since he did not go into the theater, and since they find nothing on the face of Luke’s record which indicates that Paul suffered any anguish or any other discomfiture at that time, some commentators have sought to find some other danger or distress assailing him, and, failing to find it, they have set about inventing it. This has led to all manner of extravagant and unseemly absurdities, and to assertions that the apostle had cancer, paralysis, epileptic fits, etc. Those learned in books are very often deficient in the knowledge of human nature; but one skilled in the latter knows that no man could pass through Paul’s experience at Ephesus without undergoing immense excitement, constant anxieties and most depressing nervous reaction. If Luke makes no mention of such things as part of the incidents at Ephesus, neither does he mention them elsewhere. He busied himself with the external, not with the consequent distresses of the apostle. One searches his writings in vain for most of that long list of hardships which Paul gives in chapter 11. But Paul himself tells of these anxieties and sufferings (Acts 20:19; Acts 20:27; Acts 20:31; 1 Corinthians 15:32 and note). Had it been any sickness he would likely have mentioned it, and he would hardly in that case have used the expression "so great a death" when referring to it. Death by any natural means was not sufficiently repugnant to Paul for him to use such language (2 Corinthians 5:2; Philippians 1:23). That he contents himself with describing his troubles in this general way is itself significant, for it shows that the apostle thought it would be amply sufficient for the information of the Corinthians. The gossip of merchants and travelers would have acquainted Corinth with the great hubbub which had been raised about Diana and idolatry in Ephesus, and it was prudent in Paul to speak of and commit himself as to his part in it in just such indefinite terms; for his letter would be widely circulated. Having spoken of his life as worth saving, he next takes up that thought, and tells why he dares to speak of himself in this apparently boastful or glorifying manner.]

Verse 12

For our glorying is this, the testimony of our conscience [it is often appealed to by Paul-- Acts 23:1; Acts 24:16; Romans 9:1; 1 Corinthians 4:4], that in holiness and sincerity of God, not in fleshly wisdom but in the grace of God, we behaved ourselves in the world, and more abundantly to you-ward.

Verse 13

For we write no other things unto you, than what ye read [literally, read aloud] or even acknowledge, and I hope ye will acknowledge unto the end:

Verse 14

as also ye did acknowledge us in part, that we are your glorying, even as ye also are ours, in the day of our Lord Jesus. [1 Corinthians 3:13 . If my words sound boastful, my conscience justifies me in using them, since I have manifested the holy and sincere life befitting one who is directed of God, and not the life of one who is moved by worldly policy and wisdom, and is void of principle. Such has been my general conduct, and it has been especially so in my dealings with you. Thus the apostle shows himself conscious of the scrutinizing suspicion with which the Corinthians watched all his actions. He knew that to govern such a people he must walk with more than common circumspection. Therefore, with a careful, guarded spirit he had penned his letters to them so that there was nothing in them of doubtful meaning. If we assume, with Conybeare and Howson, that the apostle had been suspected of sending private letters in which he modified the statements of his public epistles, the reading becomes clear and smooth, and runs thus: "I have written you nothing save what has been read in public and generally acknowledged as authoritatively mine, and I hope you will thus acknowledge my epistles to the end of the world, even as part of you acknowledged me to be an apostle, and gloried in me as your teacher, even as I also gloried in you as disciples, in expectation that I would appear with you before the Lord Jesus (1 Thessalonians 2:19-20; Philippians 2:16). By thus placing himself on a level with his disciples in mutual glorying, the apostle removes every semblance of unseemly self-glorification. But the meaning of the passage is practically the same if we merely understand the apostle as appealing from the false constructions placed upon his letters, to the text of the letters, and as asserting that he wrote no words which justified the ambiguous meaning placed upon them. We shall now be told about these ambiguous words.]

Verse 15

And in this confidence [i. e., that you gloried in me and I in you, and that we mutually loved each other] I was minded to come first unto you, that ye might have a second benefit [this word implies the spiritual gifts which he bestowed on his visits--comp. Romans 1:11; Romans 15:29];

Verse 16

and by you to pass into Macedonia, and again from Macedonia to come unto you, and of you to be set forward on my journey unto Judaea. [i. e., trusting in our mutual love, it was my intention to visit you before visiting the Macedonians, that you might have two visits or benefits, one before I went into Macedonia and one when I came out; and I also, trusting in your love, looked to you, instead of to others, to forward me on my journey. The apostle had evidently told the Corinthians of this plan in the lost letter which has already been mentioned. See Introduction to 1 Corinthians, page 49; also 1 Corinthians 5:9 . And then he had changed his plan, as we see by 1 Corinthians 16:5-7; and note. This change of plan gave Paul’s enemies a chance to accuse him of unprincipled equivocation, as though he said: (1) "Yes, I will come to you first: no, I will come to the Macedonians first." (2) "Yes, I will pay you two visits: no, I will pay you only one visit." (3) "Yes, I am coming soon: no, I am not coming soon."]

Verse 17

When I therefore was thus minded [to come to you first, etc.], did I show fickleness? [in determining to come to you second, etc.] or the things that I purpose, do I purpose according to the flesh, that with me there should be the yea yea and the nay nay? [Do I form and announce my purposes like an unprincipled worldling, who holds his yes and no subservient to his policy or his pleasure; i. e., does as he pleases, without any regard to his pledges or his promises?]

Verse 18

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

Verse 19

For the Son of God, Jesus Christ, who was preached among you by us, even by me and Silvanus and Timothy [Paul’s fellow-laborers in founding the church at Corinth], was not yea and nay, but in him is yea.

Verse 20

For how many soever be the promises of God, in him is the yea: wherefore also through him is the Amen, unto the glory of God through us.

Verse 21

Now he that establisheth us with you in Christ, and anointed us, is God;

Verse 22

who also sealed us, and gave us the earnest of the Spirit in our hearts. ["Every one when he is perfected shall be as his teacher," said Jesus (Luke 6:40). Paul has this truth in mind, and his meaning is as follows: "As God the teacher is a promise-keeper whose yea is absolute, unchangeable and immutable, so also am I, his pupil, a promise-keeper, a yea-man. I showed my approval of promise-keeping, and likewise taught you the value of such a characteristic, in that I, together with my colleagues, preached Christ as he is--a promise-keeper. For God, no matter how varied his promises, is indeed a promise-keeper, so that he has begotten in us that assurance of faith which causes us to say an expectant amen to all his promises, and to glorify him by living as in anticipation of their fulfillment. Such a God could never indorse a promise-breaker, but God has indorsed me. He has established me, with you, in Christ, and by anointing me he has set me apart to the apostolic office, and has sealed me as his own, and has given me the earnest of the Spirit. If I am thus his apostle and still recognized as his, then am I like him, and raised above suspicion of being a pledge-breaker." The seal was then a sign or symbol indicating ownership (Acts 9:15; Ephesians 1:13; Ephesians 4:30; Revelation 7:3; Revelation 9:4). False apostles might attempt to prove their claims by insufficient evidence, such as letters of recommendation, but Paul was truly certified as such by the unction of the Spirit (Acts 9:17; 1 John 2:20). Earnest money was a partial payment given to bind a contract, or given to a servant to encourage and stimulate his faithfulness. As a servant might exhibit such earnest-money in proof of his employment, so Paul pointed to the power of the Spirit in his life as an evidence that he was in the divine service.]

Verse 23

[Having first argued that he could not be guilty of duplicity because of the very nature of his relationships to the true and faithful God, Paul in this section answers the charge more specifically by giving such an explanation of his actions as clearly demonstrated his sincerity in the entire premises.] But I call God for a witness upon my soul, that to spare you I forbare to come unto Corinth.

Verse 24

Not that we have Lordship over your faith, but are helpers of your joy: for in faith ye stand fast.

Bibliographical Information
McGarvey, J. W. "Commentary on 2 Corinthians 1". "J. W. McGarvey's Original Commentary on Acts". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/oca/2-corinthians-1.html. Transylvania Printing and Publishing Co. Lexington, KY. 1872.
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