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Bible Commentaries
2 Corinthians 2

Benson's Commentary of the Old and New TestamentsBenson's Commentary

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A.M. 4064. A.D. 60.

Here the apostle,

(1,) Suggests that he had delayed his visit to the Corinthians till he should see if, to his great comfort, they would rectify their disorders before he came, 2 Corinthians 2:1-4 .

(2,) He directs them to restore the deeply penitent incestuous person to their church and fellowship, 2 Corinthians 2:5-11 .

(3,) He informs them of his own labours, success, and joys in spreading the gospel of Christ in several places, 2 Corinthians 2:12-17 .

Verses 1-3

2 Corinthians 2:1-3. But I, &c. The apostle proceeds with his apology, begun in the preceding chapter, for delaying his visit to the Corinthians, and signifies that he had deferred it because he had determined with himself not to come among them with sorrow, by punishing the guilty, if he could by any means avoid it; and therefore, instead of coming to punish them, he had written to them, that he might have joy from their repentance: and in excuse for the severity of his first letter, he told them that he wrote it in the deepest affliction; not to make them sorry, but to show the greatness of his love to them. I determined this with myself As if he had said, I will now plainly and faithfully tell you the true reason of that delay of my journey, which has so much surprised many of you, and at which some appear to have taken offence; it was not that I forgot you, or failed in my friendly regards to you; but I resolved, on hearing how things were among you, that if it could by any means be prevented, I would not come again to you with heaviness Εν λυπη , in grief, either on account of the sin of the particular offender, or of the disorders in the church in general, or in circumstances which must have grieved both myself and you; but that I would wait for those fruits which I hoped would be the effect of my endeavours, in my former epistle, to regulate what had been amiss. For if I make you sorry If I should be obliged to grieve you still more by my reproofs and censures, and particularly by punishing the disobedient among you; who is he then that maketh me glad That could give me joy; but the same who is made sorry by me? That is, I cannot be comforted myself till his grief is removed. The apostle, knowing that the sincere part of the church would be made sorry by his punishing their disobedient brethren, wished, if possible, to avoid doing it. And, added to this, the recovery of offenders would give him more sensible joy than any thing else; considerations which, taken together, abundantly justify the language he here uses. And I wrote this same, τουτο αυτο , this very thing, to you About reforming what is amiss, particularly to excommunicate the incestuous person, and to shun all contentions, sinful practices, and confusion in your meetings; lest when I came again to Corinth, as I proposed, I should have sorrow from them Lest I should have occasion to censure and punish any, (to do which would be grievous to me,) of whom In whose repentance; I ought to rejoice, having confidence in you all that my joy is the joy of you all That in general you bear the same affection toward me, as I feel in my heart toward you, and are desirous of giving me cause of joy, rather than of sorrow. It seems either the apostle is speaking here of the sincere part of the Christian Church, or the word all must be taken in a qualified sense.

Verses 4-5

2 Corinthians 2:4-5. For out of much affliction and anguish of heart The word συνοχης , here rendered anguish, “denotes the pain which a person feels, who is pressed on every side, without any possibility of disengaging himself, Luke 21:25. I wrote unto you with many tears So it seems he frequently did: see Philippians 3:18. Not so much that ye should be grieved I did not design, in writing, to cause you to grieve more than was necessary in order to your repentance and reformation; but that ye might know By one of the most genuine tokens which it was possible for me to give, namely, by my faithful admonitions and reproofs, my abundant love toward you. But if any Or if a certain person, have caused grief To me and others; he hath not grieved me but in part Who still rejoice over the greater part of you. That I may not overcharge you all That I may not lay a load of accusation on you all indiscriminately, as having encouraged him in his crime, or having taken part with such an offender in afflicting me. In this and the following verses, the apostle gave a remarkable proof of that love which, in 2 Corinthians 2:4, he had expressed toward the Corinthians. 1st, Making a distinction between the guilty and the innocent; 2d, Forgiving the incestuous person, who, it appears, had repented of his crimes; 2 Corinthians 2:6; and, 3d, Ordering the church likewise to forgive him, and confirm their love to him, that he might not be swallowed up by excessive grief.

Verses 6-11

2 Corinthians 2:6-11. Sufficient to such a man With what remarkable tenderness does the apostle treat this offender! He never once mentions his name, nor does he here so much as mention his crime; but speaks of him in the most indefinite manner that was consistent with giving such directions in his case as love required; is this punishment, inflicted by many Not only by the rulers of the church, the whole congregation acquiesced in the sentence. So that contrariwise Instead of proceeding further against him; ye ought rather to forgive him To release him from the censure, and receive him again into the church; and comfort him This penitent sinner; lest he should be swallowed up with overmuch sorrow Driven to despair by the excessive grief which the continuance of your sentence might occasion. Wherefore confirm your love toward him Assure him of your love by receiving him into your favour, and by all offices of kindness. For to this end did I write Both in my former epistle that you would censure him, and now that you would release him; that I might know the proof of you That I might have experience of you; whether ye would be obedient in all things To my apostolical instructions and decisions; to whom ye forgive He makes no question of their complying with his direction; any thing So mildly does he speak of that heinous sin after it was repented of; I forgive also I also shall be ready to forgive it; if I forgave If heretofore I alone received any to mercy; for your sakes I forgave it To show you an example of lenity as well as severity; in the person of Christ In his name, and by the authority wherewith he has invested me. “St. Paul’s conduct in this affair is worthy of the imitation of the ministers of the gospel. They are to do nothing to grieve their people, unless love require it for their good. And when they are obliged to have recourse to the wholesome discipline which Christ hath instituted in his church, they ought to exercise it, not from resentment, but from a tender regard to the spiritual welfare of the offender. And when he is reclaimed by the censures of the church, they ought, with joy, to restore him to the communion of the faithful, remembering that Satan is ever watchful to turn the hopes and fears, the joys and sorrows of Christians, into an occasion of their ruin.” Macknight. Lest Satan To whom he had been delivered, and who sought to destroy, not only his flesh, but his soul also; should get an advantage of us If the punishment of him be carried to any excess; and should turn that severity into an occasion of mischief to the offender, to his brethren, and to others, either by driving any to despair by too much rigour, or drawing any to profaneness by too much lenity: for the loss of one soul is a common loss. And we are not ignorant of his devices And of the great variety of stratagems which he is continually making use of to injure us, and turn even discipline itself to the reproach of the church, and the destruction of souls.

Verses 12-13

2 Corinthians 2:12-13. Furthermore That ye may know my great concern for you; when I came to Troas After the riot excited by Demetrius. He seems to refer to that passage from Asia to Macedonia, of which a short account is given Acts 20:1-2. To preach Christ’s gospel And found things there so situated; that a door was opened unto me That is, there was free liberty to speak, and many were willing to hear: yet I had no rest in my spirit From an earnest desire to know the state of your affairs, and how my letter had been received: because I found not Titus my brother In his return; whom I had sent to you to bring me the information concerning you which I wished for. Therefore, taking my leave of them Of the church at Troas. The expression here used, αποταξαμενος αυτοις , is literally, having given them commands. But because persons, who are about to leave their friends for some time, give their commands to them, the phrase is used for taking leave of, or bidding farewell to, one’s friends. I went from thence into Macedonia Where being much nearer to Corinth, I might more easily be informed concerning you; and where I had the happiness soon of meeting him, and of receiving such an account of you as has given me much pleasure; and in consequence of which I write to you in this comfortable manner. Here the apostle interrupts the thread of his discourse, interposing an admirable digression concerning what he had done and suffered elsewhere, the profit of which he, by this means, derived to the Corinthians also; and this is a prelude to his apology against false apostles. He resumes the subject, however, chap. 2 Corinthians 7:2.

Verse 14

2 Corinthians 2:14. Now thanks be to God, who In Macedonia, as elsewhere; causeth us to triumph Makes our ministry successful against all opposition; in Christ Namely, by the influence of his truth and grace. To triumph implies not only victory, but an open manifestation of it. And maketh manifest the savour Rather odour; of his knowledge Namely, the knowledge of God and Christ, and his gospel; in every place Where he calls us to labour, or in the course of his providence casts our lot. “As in triumphal processions, especially in the East, fragrant odours and incense were burned near the conquerors, so he seems beautifully to allude to that circumstance in what he says of οσμη , the odour of the gospel, in the following verses. And he seems further to allude to the different effects of strong perfumes to cheer some, and to throw others into violent disorders, according to the different dispositions they are in to receive them.” So Doddridge. Macknight gives rather a different interpretation of the passage, thus: “In triumphs, the streets through which the victorious generals passed were strewed with flowers, Ovid, Trist. 4. eleg. 2, line 29. The people, also, were in use to throw flowers into the triumphal car as it passed along. This, as all the other customs observed in triumphal processions, was derived from the Greeks, who in that manner honoured the conquerors in the games when they entered into their respective cities. Plutarch, ( Emil., p. 272,) tells us, that in triumphal processions, the streets were θυμιαματων πληρεις , full of incense.”

Verses 15-16

2 Corinthians 2:15-16. For we The preachers of the gospel, the apostles especially; are unto God a sweet odour of Christ He is well pleased with this perfume diffused by us, with this incense of his name and gospel, which we spread abroad both in them that believe, love, and obey, and are therefore saved, and in them that obstinately disbelieve, and disobey, and consequently perish. To the one Those that believe not; we are the odour of death unto death The fragrancy, so rich in itself, instead of reviving, destroys them, and is efficacious to bring on death in its most dreadful forms. The gospel, which we preach to them, finds them dead in sin; that Isaiah , 1 st, under guilt, and a sentence of condemnation to the second death; and, 2d, in a state of alienation from the life of God, and carnally minded, which is death, Ephesians 4:18; Romans 8:6. It offers them acquittance from condemnation, and the Holy Spirit to unite them to God, and render them spiritually minded, which is life and peace. But it being disbelieved and rejected by them, they become more guilty, and condemned to greater punishment, and further removed from all union with, and conformity to, God. The expression, therefore, of death unto death, is perfectly just in this point of view; and is still more so if interpreted of the progress of such from spiritual death on earth to eternal death in hell. And to the other, we are the odour of life unto life The gospel revives them; acquits them from condemnation; justifies them; and thereby entitles them to eternal life, Titus 3:7. It also opens an intercourse between God and their souls, communicates to them the life of grace, with a continual increase thereof, John 10:10, and then brings them to the life of glory. This seems an easy exposition of the passage. But Macknight thinks that the apostle alludes here, not to the powerful effects of strong perfumes on different persons, but to another circumstance, namely, that, in the triumphs of the ancients, “the captives of greatest note followed the triumphal chariot in chains, and that some of them had their lives granted to them; but others were put to death immediately after the procession ended. Wherefore to such, the smell of the flowers and of the incense, with which the procession was accompanied, was οσμη θανατου εις θανατον , a deadly smelling, ending in their death. But to those captives who had their lives granted to them, this was οσμη ζωης εις ζωην , a smell of life; a vivifying, refreshing smell, which ended in life to them. In allusion,” he adds, “to the method of a triumph, the apostle represents Christ as a victorious general, riding in a triumphal procession through the world, attended by his apostles, prophets, evangelists, and other ministers of the gospel, and followed by all the idolatrous nations as his captives. Among these, the preachers of the gospel diffused the smell of the knowledge of Christ, which, to those who believed on him, was a vivifying smell ending in life to them. But to the unbelievers the smell of the knowledge of Christ was a smell of death, ending in death if they continued in unbelief.” And who is sufficient for these things So great and weighty as they are? Who is fit to bear such an important charge? Who should undertake it without trembling? Certainly, as the apostle’s question implies, the eternal destruction of those who perish may be sometimes ascribed, in some measure, to the ignorance, unfaithfulness, or negligence of the minister appointed to preach the gospel to them, and watch over their souls; in which case, their blood will be required at his hands. As for instance, 1st, If he does not know the truth, as it is in Jesus himself. 2d, Does not make it fully known to others. 3d, Does not do this with seriousness and deep concern. 4th, Is not diligent in this work, in season and out of season; constant and persevering. 5th, If he does not water the seed sown with his prayers, and watch over the souls committed to his care, as one that must give an account. Who is sufficient? 1st, Not those who do not know God and his gospel themselves, and therefore cannot make them known to others. 2d, Not those who have not God’s honour at heart, and know not the worth of souls and the importance of saving them. 3d, Not those, of whatever denomination they may be, who are pursuing worldly gain, honour, pleasure, or ease. The hireling careth not for the sheep. 4th, Not the careless, negligent, slothful, self-indulgent watchmen. 5th, Not they to whom God has not given just and clear views of the great doctrines of the gospel, and of God’s will and man’s duty, nor has opened to them a door of utterance. 6th, Not those who think themselves sufficient, and engage in this great work depending on their natural abilities, or on the mere aids of human learning. For none are sufficient of themselves, or without the powerful influence of God’s Spirit.

Verse 17

2 Corinthians 2:17 . For we are not as many who corrupt Greek, καπηλευοντες , adulterate, the word of God Like those vintners who mix their wines with baser liquors. Thus Isaiah says, Isaiah 1:22, (as his words are rendered by the LXX.,) Καπηλοι σου μισγουσι τον οινον υδατι , thy vintners mix their wine with water. By this metaphor the best Greek writers represented the arts of sophists, who, to make gain of their lectures, mixed their doctrine with falsehoods, to render it acceptable to their disciples. The apostle uses this metaphor to show that he and his fellow-labourers did not, like the false teachers referred to 2 Corinthians 11:22-23, corrupt the pure truth of the gospel by falsehoods, for the purpose of pleasing the vitiated taste of their hearers; but preached it in sincerity, without mixture of error, as the expression signifies: as of God Transmitting his pure word, and not their own word; in the sight of God As in his presence; remembering that his eye was upon them, and that he marked every word of their tongue; speaking in Christ Words which he gave, approved, and blessed.

Bibliographical Information
Benson, Joseph. "Commentary on 2 Corinthians 2". Benson's Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/rbc/2-corinthians-2.html. 1857.
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