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The Apostle opens this Second Epistle, with his usual Apostolic Benediction. He blesseth God for the sweet Consolations the whole Church are possessed of, in and through Christ. He speaks of the Exercise of his Ministry among them, as in godly Sincerity; and reminds them, that God's Promises are all Yea, and Amen, in Christ Jesus.
Paul, an apostle of Jesus Christ by the will of God, and Timothy our brother, unto the church of God which is at Corinth, with all the saints which are in all Achaia: (2) Grace be to you and peace from God our Father, and from the Lord Jesus Christ. (3) Blessed be God, even the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies, and the God of all comfort; (4) Who comforteth us in all our tribulation, that we may be able to comfort them which are in any trouble, by the comfort wherewith we ourselves are comforted of God.
I do not detain the Reader, with any particular observation on Paul's salutation of the Church. It is much the same as in the former Epistle. He stiles himself an Apostle, by the will and call of God. And this was highly proper, in proof, that he did not run unsent, Acts 13:1-4 ; Hebrews 5:1-6 . And as with great humility he joined Sosthenes with him, though not an Apostle, in his address to Corinth in his former letter; so here, with the same affection, he joins Timothy. Paul takes in a larger circuit in this Epistle than in the former; for he includes Achaia, which contained a considerable part of Greece. Probably, by this time, the Church of Christ had been extended beyond the city of Corinth. But let it be well noticed, that it is the Church of Christ to whom Paul wrote. Grace and peace, from God in Christ, could be conferred on none but the Church, Luke 10:5-6 .
But I beg to detain the Reader; with an observation or two, on the form of expression with which the Apostle enters on his Epistle, when he saith: blessed be God, even the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and the God of all comfort. In the parallel passage, Ephesians 1:3 , the same word which is here rendered even, is there made and. And everyone knows, who hath the smallest acquaintance with the original language, that both among sacred and profane writers, those Greek Particles are differently used, and not unfrequently.
In the language of the New Testament, we meet with the name and title of God the Father, upon various occasions, to express the glories of his Person, according to the particular subject then in view. God the Father, in the essential glories of the Godhead, is distinguished by this divine title, to distinguish him from the Person of God the Son, and God the Holy Ghost, See 1 John 5:7 . God the Son, is not the Son of God by creation, as angels are for in his divine nature, in point of eternity, as well as in all divine perfections, he is One with the Father, over all God blessed forever. Amen. But, in his human nature, God the Father is the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. For so Christ by the Spirit of prophecy declares, Psalms 40:6-8 with Hebrews 10:5 . But this may be understood also, not to the exclusion of God the Son, taking this human nature, by his own Almighty power, into union with the Godhead: Hebrews 2:16; Hebrews 2:16 , neither to the exclusion of God the Holy Ghost, in his personal agency of the mysterious work, who is expressly said to have overshadowed the womb of the Virgin Mary, at the Incarnation; and, therefore, that holy thing, born of the Virgin, shall be called the Son of God, Luke 1:35 . But God the Father, is also called, the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ by office-character; because Christ, as God-Man-Mediator in all the transactions of the Covenant, as it concerns his Church, stands in his office-character as Jehovah's servant, Isaiah 42:1 ; Matthew 12:18 ; Psalms 89:3-4 . So that it is highly proper, as often as we meet with this glorious Name of God the Father in the New Testament Scripture, and when spoken in reference to God the Son; that we should attend to the particular occasion, and observe; under divine teaching, in what relation it is spoken. Whether in the equality of nature, and essence of the Godhead, by way of distinguishing the distinct Persons of God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Ghost. Or whether to distinguish, the several office-characters of each Person of the Godhead, in the gracious transactions of Covenant-engagements, into which, each glorious Person, from all eternity entered and guaranteed to each other, by which God the Father chose the Church in Christ before the foundation of the world: Ephesians 1:4 . God the Son betrothed the Church to himself forever: Hosea 2:19 ; Isaiah 54:5 , and became the Servant of Jehovah, in the time-state of the Church to redeem her from the ruins of the fall: Isaiah 53:4-6 , and God the Holy Ghost to anoint, both the glorious Head of his body the Church; and all his members; and to regenerate every individual of that body, when dead in trespasses and sins, Acts 10:38 ; 1 John 2:20 ; Ephesians 2:1 .
There is an uncommon sweetness of expression in the title: Father of mercies, and God of all comfort: Not simply the God of all mercies, but the Father of them. As if to teach the Church, that whatever mercy a child of God wants, he will beget it for him. A child of God is, sometimes, from unbelief and temptation, apt to think, that his case is so singular as none ever was before; and as if no mercy could reach or suit it. This title blessedly comes in, to the relief of such a tried soul. God, your Father in Christ, will beget it for you. The mercies you need, shall so come to you from Him, and in so direct and personal a manner, as from the bowels of divine love, as shall manifest that He is the Father of mercies!
Neither is this all. For he is also the God of all comfort! All and every comfort, every sort, and degree of comfort; refreshing, strengthening, sanctifying comfort: yea, the God of all comfort. Reader! Think how blessedly revealed, our Covenant God in Christ, stands related to his people, under those sweet titles! And, what endears the whole is, that it is not only God the Father in his Covenant-office and character which is so represented, but all the persons of the Godhead are the same, John 14:18; John 14:18 .
I need not enlarge on what the Apostle hath observed of himself and his faithful companions in the ministry, in becoming channels for communicating comfort to the Church, by imparting portions of what they themselves received from the Lord. This is indeed among the blessed properties of grace, to diffuse of those streams which we ourselves receive, by watering the thirsty ground of our brother's vineyard. It is blessed to give and to communicate. And it is also in exact conformity to the very appointment of the ministry, Isaiah 40:1-2 ; 1 Thessalonians 2:7 .
(5) For as the sufferings of Christ abound in us, so our consolation also aboundeth by Christ. (6) And whether we be afflicted, it is for your consolation and salvation, which is effectual in the enduring of the same sufferings which we also suffer: or whether we be comforted, it is for your consolation and salvation. (7) And our hope of you is steadfast, knowing, that as ye are partakers of the sufferings, so shall ye be also of the consolation.
The sufferings of Christ, which the Apostle here speaks of, cannot be supposed to mean Christ's personal sufferings when on earth; but rather, the solemn Meditation upon them. While a child of God is receiving the blessed consequences of the Lord's death, grace will cause him to call to mind, the vast purchase from the guilt and tremendous punishment due to sin, by the blood of the cross, and his soul, will in consequence, at times, contemplate with holy sorrow, the wormwood and the gall. And perhaps Paul's expression of the sufferings of Christ, might have respect to the present afflictions in Christ's members. There is a passage in the Apostle's Epistle to the Colossians, which may assist to throw some light upon the subject: Who now rejoice (saith Paul) in my sufferings. for you, and fill up that which is behind of the afflictions of Christ in my flesh, for his body's sake, which is the Church, Colossians 1:24 . By which we seem authorized to conclude, that the sympathy of Christ with his members is such, that what they feel, Jesus knows, and hath affections for them, suited to this relationship. These sufferings of Christ in his members have no relation in point of satisfaction to make amends for offended justice. The most ample retribution hath been made, in the obedience and death of Christ once for all, Hebrews 10:14 . But these sufferings are perfectly distinct from every idea of satisfaction. They are the consequences of the present imperfect state of being in which Christ's members are; therefore, while any of His remain under any of the consequences of imperfection and sorrow, Christ feels for them; and as such, they may be called his sufferings in them. And this explains that sweet Scripture: Whoso toucheth you, toucheth the apple of his eye, Zechariah 2:8 . Hence, Christ called from Heaven on Saul: why persecutest thou me? Acts 9:5 . Reader! what a precious thought! Surely, every child of God ought to encourage it. He may say, Jesus, though at the fountain-head of glory and joy, and complete as he is in his own Person, in everything that is blessed; yet in his members, he enters into all their concerns. He feels for them, participates with them, and hath not only all the mercies of his divine nature, going forth in continual watching over them; but by virtue of his human nature, he doth as much take part with them, as a man pities and feels for his friend. Yea! the child may, and ought to say: my God, my Savoir, my Jesus; might as soon cease to be God, or cease to be man, or the union of both be done away, as cease to enter into all and every concern of his people!
But Paul adds another sweet observation to this subject. He saith, that as the sufferings of Christ abound in his people, so their consolation abounded by Christ. By which I apprehend the Apostle meant, that Christ becomes the source of every consolation to his redeemed. Not his gifts, not his graces, but himself. Christ is the whole consolation of the Church. Hence those of the faithful, who, taught of God the Holy Ghost to be on the lookout for Christ's coming, at the time when the Son of God appeared in substance of our flesh, were said to have been waiting for the consolation of Israel, Luke 2:25 .
(8) For we would not, brethren, have you ignorant of our trouble which came to us in Asia, that we were pressed out of measure, above strength, insomuch that we despaired even of life: (9) But we had the sentence of death in ourselves, that we should not trust in ourselves, but in God which raiseth the dead: (10) Who delivered us from so great a death, and doth deliver: in whom we trust that he will yet deliver us; (11) Ye also helping together by prayer for us, that for the gift bestowed upon us by the means of many persons thanks may be given by many on our behalf.
The imagination can hardly conceive, to what distresses, and exercises, the first Preachers of the Gospel were exposed in those times of the Apostles. Paul hath given some account of it, in a future Chapter (2 Corinthians 11:23 ). But, what I particularly beg the Reader to remark, is the blessed view the Apostle had upon the occasion, when he saith, that he and his companions had the sentence of death in themselves, that their sole confidence might be in the Lord. He doth not mean God's sentence of death, or the sentence of any court of judicature. But their own views of death were such at the time, that they had death so full in prospect, that there seemed, speaking after the manner of men, as if there was no way to escape.
And, how graciously the Apostle ascribes their deliverance to the Lord. And how confidently, in past experience, doth he speak of the sure expectation of future deliverances. He counts the past, and the present, as pledges of all to come. The Lord hath delivered: he doth deliver; and he will deliver. Reader! it is very blessed, when faith, from past proofs of God's faithfulness, finds strength for all future emergencies. Hath God in Christ been faithful to every generation of his people, and shall he not prove so to me? Shall he cease to be Jehovah now? Nay, have I not proved his Covenant-love, and truth, all the way along, to the present hour; and shall I, towards the close of my warfare, begin to question it? Oh! how blessed it is, when a child of God can so live by faith, and cleave to Jesus, when all comforts in flesh and blood, seem to be sinking under the feet.
The Apostle while looking solely to the Lord, doth not despise, but rather invite, the prayer of faithful men. He knew that the Lord had commanded the Church to seek, by prayer the mercies they needed. Thus saith the Lord God; I will yet for this be inquired of by the house of Israel, to do it for them, Ezekiel 36:37 .
(12) For our rejoicing is this, the testimony of our conscience, that in simplicity and godly sincerity, not with fleshly wisdom, but by the grace of God, we have had our conversation in the world, and more abundantly to you-ward. (13) For we write none other things unto you, than what ye read or acknowledge; and I trust ye shall acknowledge even to the end; (14) As also ye have acknowledged us in part, that we are your rejoicing, even as ye also are ours in the day of the Lord Jesus.
I admire this appeal of the Apostle to the Church, concerning the purity of his life, and conversation, among the people. And this includes both his private deportment, and his public ministry. No fleshly wisdom, no self-preaching. Paul's whole Gospel walk, together with those of his companions in the ministry, was, under the grace of God, in simplicity and godly sincerity. Reader! what is the whole Gospel of Christ, but a plain, simple, and easy to be understood, plan of salvation, and of God's own providing for the Church of Christ? Sweet is it, therefore, in the Preachers of it, when, as Paul, they can appeal to their hearers, that in simplicity and godly sincerity, they have gone in, and out, among them. See that solemn Scripture, 2 Corinthians 4:1-4 .
(15) And in this confidence I was minded to come unto you before, that ye might have a second benefit; (16) And to pass by you into Macedonia, and to come again out of Macedonia unto you, and of you to be brought on my way toward Judea. (17) When I therefore was thus minded, did I use lightness? or the things that I purpose, do I purpose according to the flesh, that with me there should be yea yea, and nay nay? (18) But as God is true, our word toward you was not yea and nay. (19) For the Son of God, Jesus Christ, who was preached among you by us, even by me and Silvanus and Timothy, was not yea and nay, but in him was yea. (20) For all the promises of God in him are yea, and in him Amen, unto the glory of God by us.
There are several things contained in these verses, which have a special and particular reference to the Church at Corinth, which will not require to he noticed. I mean such as the Apostle's intention of visiting them, and granting to them a second benefit. But I pass over these considerations, which are of a private nature, to attend to such, as are of a public concern to the whole Church of God, in all ages; and which are of too much importance to be hastily passed over. I pray the Lord to be the Teacher, both of him that writes, and him that reads, on this momentous doctrine.
And, first. I beg the Reader to observe what Paul saith, that his doctrine was not yea, and nay. He almost seems to swear to it. As God is true, saith he. These are solemn words. When Jehovah affirms anything, of more than ordinary solemnity, his words are: As I live, saith the Lord. It is in the form of an oath. It is the Lord's peculiar prerogative of speaking; and therefore highly unsuitable to be used in common conversation. Paul, therefore, is very solemn in what he saith. See Numbers 14:21 ; Isaiah 49:18 ; Jeremiah 22:24 ; Ezekiel 5:11 etc.
Secondly. What Paul preached, was not a Yea and Nay Gospel: that is, not an uncertain, peradventure creed. He did not halt between two opinions. Paul made it not a yea, and nay, whether Jehovah in his threefold character of Persons had, or had not chosen the Church in Christ, before the foundation of the world. He did not preach that Christ so died for the salvation of sinners that it was yea, and nay, how many would be saved, and how many not. He did not compliment man, at the excellence of God's truth; and left it at a peradventure, whether after God the Father's choice of the Church, and Christ's redemption of the Church, any of his little ones should perish! Oh! what a yea and nay doctrine is that, which makes the matter doubtful. As if God the Father had chosen, Christ's death had purchased the salvation of his people, God the Spirit had regenerated his people; and yet it was yea, and nay, whether such should be saved. Well might the Apostle speak with such a vehemency, and appeal to God as true, that his doctrine, his preaching, his word, was of no such doubtful issue.
Thirdly. What Paul preached was, Jesus Christ the Son of God. And this was no yea and nay doctrine. Jesus Christ is the sum and substance of the whole Bible. Jehovah's, that is, Father, Son, and Holy Ghost's one grand and only Ordinance of Heaven for salvation. In Jesus Christ is included all. No moral essays. No covenant of works. No law and Gospel mingled together. Not partly man, and partly God. Not for man to do his best, (for that best would deserve condemnation,) and Christ to do the rest. But Christ all, and in all. This was what Paul preached. And in Christ all was yea, without nay.
Fourthly. All the promises in the Bible are to this amount. There is not a promise out of Christ. There is not a promise but in Christ. Until I have Christ, I have no claim to a single promise. Christ himself is the first Promise, which came in with the fall of man. The seed of the woman shall bruise the serpent's head, Genesis 3:15 . And all the after promises arise out of this. Hence, all the promises of God in him, are yea, and in him, Amen: that is, certain and sure.
This then, was the sum and substance of all Paul's preaching. And the glory of God became manifested by it, in every instance where the Lord confirmed it. Reader! pause over the subject; for it is highly interesting. Ask your own heart, whether the Lord hath given you such precious views, concerning the Yea, and Amen; the fulness, and suitableness, and all-sufficiency, which is in Christ Jesus?
(21) Now he which establisheth us with you in Christ, and hath anointed us, is God; (22) Who hath also sealed us, and given the earnest of the Spirit in our hearts. (23) Moreover I call God for a record upon my soul, that to spare you I came not as yet unto Corinth. (24) Not for that we have dominion over your faith, but are helpers of your joy: for by faith ye stand.
I pray the Reader to attend, with all suitable regard, to what the Apostle hath here said. That the saints of God may be, and indeed are, by grace established in the faith, is a fundamental doctrine of Scripture; and the Apostle brings an additional testimony in this place, in confirmation of it. The everlasting uncertainty, that some poor precious, but weak saints, are at on this ground, doth by no means weaken, or make void, the doctrine. Every child of God desires to be at certainty, on a point of such infinite importance. And here the Apostle by the Holy Ghost, declares, that God's people, when being regenerated, and brought into an apprehension of Christ, and our interest in him, are established and anointed. And He that doth this mighty act, and hath sealed, as well as anointed the Church, is God; who hath also given an earnest of his work by his Spirit in our hearts. Reader! as the point is of such high moment, I do pray you, that you will attend a little somewhat more particularly unto it.
And, first. Here is said to be an establishment of the child of God in grace. And, in confirmation that this is attainable in the present life, it should be observed, that all the Persons of the Godhead concur in it. By electing grace God the Father establisheth them in Christ. They are given to Him, accepted in Him, justified in Him, sanctified in Him; and made everlastingly happy in Him; in time, and to all eternity. They are beheld in Christ as one, and established in this oneness and union with Him: so that because He lives, they must live also. And they are anointed and sealed, as the sweet Scripture saith, by the earnest of the Spirit in their hearts. So that they have the united testimony of the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost, to the great truth of their establishment.
But I cannot call that man established, whose mind is exercised with doubts, and fears, and misgivings! As long as there is a doubt remaining upon the mind; whether Christ hath, or hath not compleated deliverance for his people; and as long as the child of God is at doubts, and fears, and peradventures of his interest in Christ, there will be no solid, substantial joy and comfort in the soul. Oh! how sweet is it then when the soul is established, and is anointed in Christ, and sealed with the earnest of the Spirit in the heart!
I detain not the Reader, to make any further observations on the Apostle's appeal, as to his readiness, to visit the Corinthians. These things are all now passed by. But, I beg the Reader to notice with me, the striking conclusion of the Chapter; that it is by faith the Lord's people stand. Sweet thought! No changeableness of men, no temptations of Satan, no undeservings of the Lord's people destroy the perfection of Christ, which gives strength to faith. And this faith, is not the cause, but the effect: not the motive, for which the Lord established his people; but the result. Oh! how blessed, that our safety, and security, is not founded in, the wisdom of men, but in the power of God.
READER! let you and I seek for grace to do as Paul did; and, looking up with holy faith and love, to a Covenant God in Christ, bless the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, and hail him, as the Father of mercies, and God of all comfort! And oh! how sweet the thought to my soul, that as a Father of mercies, he can, and will beget mercies for me, suited to my wants, and to his glory. I shall have pardoning mercy, and renewing mercy, and refreshing mercy, yea, every mercy, to help in every time of need; for my God can supply all my need according to his riches in glory in Christ Jesus. And, he will not only be my Covenant-God, and Father in mercy; but the God of all comfort. Who then shall want comfort, who hath God for their portion? And who shall question divine love and faithfulness, when God hath given all mercy, and all comfort in his dear Son? Oh! for grace to be everlastingly reading, and enjoying the inscription of the cross: He that spared not his own Son, but delivered him up for us all; how shall he not with him, freely give us all things?
Precious Lord Jesus! the Amen! the faithful, and true witness! Oh! how blessed, and delightful to my soul's joy, that the blessings in thee, and from thee, are not at a yea, and nay uncertainty; but all the promises in thee, are yea, and in thee Amen. Lord grant, that in thee, the testimony of my conscience may be in simplicity and godly sincerity; and that I may thus have my conversation in the world, looking for that blessed hope, and the glorious appearing of thy great day, when I shall see thee as thou art, and dwell with thee forever.
And oh! Almighty Spirit! do thou establish me, and anoint me, and seal me, to the day of redemption; that I may have the earnest of the Spirit in my heart!
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Hawker, Robert, D.D. "Commentary on 2 Corinthians 1". "Hawker's Poor Man's Commentary". https://www.studylight.org/
the Second Week after Epiphany