the Week of Proper 4 / Ordinary 9
McGarvey's Commentaries on Selected Books McGarvey'S Commentaries
- 2 Corinthians
by John McGarvey
INTRODUCTION TO THE EPISTLE
Having despatched his first Epistle to the Corinthians by their returning messengers (1 Corinthians 16:17-18), and having, as it appears, sent Titus with them as his own messenger (comp. 1 Corinthians 16:1-2 and 2 Corinthians 8:6), Paul became exceedingly anxious as to the effect which his letter would have, and, to get earlier news from it, he advanced from Ephesus to the seacoast at Troas, where he expected to meet Titus. But when Titus did not come, though Paul found ""a door opened to him"" in Troas, his spirits were so intolerably oppressed by forebodings of evil as to the situation at Corinth, that he crossed over the sea into Macedonia to learn what had occurred there. Here, possibly at Philippi, he meets with Titus, and this second Epistle is called forth by the report which Titus brought (2 Corinthians 2:12; 2 Corinthians 2:13; 2 Corinthians 7:5-7). The first Epistle was written from Ephesus in the spring of A. D. 57, and this one from Macedonia, probably in September or October of the same year. It shows that Titus reported that the majority of the church was with Paul, accepted him as an apostle, read his message with fear and trembling, received his rebukes with grief, and sought to obey his instructions with holy zeal, promptly excommunicating the incestuous man (2 Corinthians 7:7-14). But there was still a dangerous and defiant minority for Paul to subdue, an evil influence for him to break down, and this second Epistle is written because of this party. This minority, which existed when the first Epistle was written, had apparently been re-enforced by Judaizers, who came from Jerusalem bearing what purported to be letters of commendation from some high authority. This minority denounced Paul with unscrupulous boldness. They accused him of cowardice, in that he had not come to Corinth, insinuating that he preferred to keep at a distance and thunder in his letters, because he knew that he was weak and contemptible if present. With wanton brazenness they struck at his apostolic authority, asserting that he had no authentic commission, and not even commendatory letters from Jerusalem. They accused him of lying in regard to his journeys and visits, and being so vacillating in his statements and purposes as to be wholly untrustworthy. These, and other charges and innuendoes, were so bold in their character, so gross in their nature and so dangerous in their significance that, for the good of the cause, Paul felt impelled to write this defense. Being strongly emotional from end to end, it is in style the most difficult of all Paul’s Epistles, and it is also the least systematic; but the following analysis is fairly satisfactory. Part I. The maintenance of his genuine apostleship (chs. 1-7). This part is addressed more particularly to that section of the church which was loyal, or even friendly, in its attitude toward him. It is divisible into two subdivisions: (1) Defense against the charge of being unreliable because he had changed his plans as to the time and direction of his journey to visit them, and had apparently contradicted himself (chs. 1, 2). (2) A discussion of his apostolic office (chs. 3-7). Part II. Exhortations as to the offerings for the Judæan poor (chs. 8, 9). Part III. A measurement of his life, powers, ability, etc., with those who opposed and defamed him (chs. 10-13). This part is addressed more particularly to those who held him in doubt, and those who openly defied him, and may be subdivided as follows: (1) Preliminary suggestions as to the measurement (ch. 10- 2 Corinthians 11:21). (2) The measurement in detail (ch. 2 Corinthians 11:22 -13). The Epistle differs very greatly in its tone, passing from the warmest affection to the most startling menace, because the apostle is sometimes addressing the penitent majority, and sometimes the refractory minority.