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Bible Commentaries

Sermon Bible Commentary

2 Corinthians 1

Verse 4

2 Corinthians 1:4

Affliction, a School of Comfort.

I. Sometimes we look with pleasure on those who have never been afflicted. We look with a smile of interest upon the smooth brow and open countenance, and our hearts thrill within us at the ready laugh or the piercing glance. There is a buoyancy and freshness of mind in those who have never suffered which, beautiful as it is, is perhaps scarcely suitable and safe in sinful man. It befits an angel; it befits very young persons and children, who have never been delivered over to their three great enemies. I will not dare to deny that there are those whose white garments and unfading chaplets show that they have a right to rejoice always, even till God takes them. But this is not the case of many, whom earth soils, and who lose their right to be merry-hearted. God brings His saints into pain, that they may be like what Christ was, and may be led to think of Him, not of themselves.

II. Taught by our own pain, our own sorrow, nay, by our own sin, we shall have hearts and minds exercised for every service of love towards those who need it. We shall in our measure be comforters after the image of the Almighty Paraclete, and that in all senses of the word advocates, assistants, soothing aids. Our words of advice, our very manner, voice, and look, will be gentle and tranquillizing, as of those who have borne their cross after Christ. We shall not pass by His little ones rudely, as the world does. The voices of the widow and the orphan, the poor and the destitute, will at once reach our ears, however low they speak. Our hearts will open towards them, our words and deeds befriend them. The ruder passions of man's nature, pride and anger, envy and strife, which so disorder the Church, these will be quelled and brought under in others by the earnestness and kindness of our admonition. Thus, instead of being the selfish creatures that we were by nature, grace, acting through suffering, tends to make us ready teachers and witnesses of truth to all men.

J. H. Newman, Parochial and Plain Sermons, vol. v., p. 300.

References: 2 Corinthians 1:5 . Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. i., No. 13; Ibid., Morning by Morning, p. 43; Preacher's Monthly, vol. i., p. 249. 2 Corinthians 1:6 . E. M. Goulburn, Occasional Sermons, p. 327. 2 Corinthians 1:6-7 . S. Martin, Comfort in Trouble, p. 66. 2 Corinthians 1:9 . Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. xxvi., No. 1536.

Verse 11

2 Corinthians 1:11

I. We must take care we do not hinder. We may hinder by indifference. People who hinder are often people who live at ease. Take care you do not hinder any good work, do not dishearten any workers; if you do not agree with their methods, do your best not to injure their work.

II. Nerve yourself to triumph over hindrances. Your life and mine ought to mean conquest. We want victory everywhere, Christ glorified in all our life. The service of Christ never wearies. There is no service in the world you would not be tired with, if you had to live and work for humanity alone.

III. Let us approach the subject along the line of variety of work. There is a great deal to be said for the numerous ways in which we may help. Some people in the world have a faculty for helping, though not dowered with rich gifts. Where the spirit of helping together is, it is not only the result that is attained, but in this moulding process we lose our angularities and divisions.

IV. This helping together will be rewarded in ways we little think of. First try to realise the world's great misery of selfishness by listening to its sob and sigh and broken song. As Christians we are happy in helping. We are all disciplined by it. There is a reflex influence in all we do upon ourselves. Idleness is the parent of all sins that is, the cradle in which they are born; and one good result of helping others is this, that to help others I must have strength myself. It drives me to Christ for grace of forbearance and strength to overcome obstacles in my way. Happy if, when evening comes, we can feel that we have been thrown together for great and loyal purposes for Christ's work.

W. M. Statham, Christian World Pulpit, vol. xxiv., p. 365.

Reference: 2 Corinthians 1:11 , 2 Corinthians 1:12 . Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. ix., No. 507.

Verse 12

2 Corinthians 1:12

Simplicity and Sincerity.

I. Simplicity. The word means singleness singleness of mind, purpose, character, life. The opposite of this is duplicity doubleness in speech, behaviour, heart. And the world is full of that, as every one knows. There is a Divine simplicity which we ought to preserve in every part of our life. Most of all should we keep this pure simplicity in the highest part of it in the religious sphere; avoiding, on the one hand, the high phraseology which expresses far more than we believe and mean, and, on the other, the compromising silence, or brief and hesitating speech, which expresses less than we believe and feel and are. To be far more anxious to stand well with our own conscience than in the opinions of others about us, and to be supremely anxious to please God and to live in his love and according to His laws such is Christian simplicity.

II. Sincerity is the next word, and the two are much akin. They are almost as twin sisters. The word "sincerity" means literally translucence or clearness of mind. It is called godly sincerity, either because it is like His own, like the openness and honesty of all His procedure before men and angels, or because it comes directly from Him into the heart and life of its possessor. The sincere have their sincerity from Him. They cannot but be sincere when they yield to His gracious nurture. He who draws the water, pure, from the filtering earth, and holds it there a little gem of beauty, a little specimen of His handiwork in the deep translucent well where you may see your image, clarifies the souls that yield to Him, as He takes them through the strain of circumstances, and through the cleansing atmosphere of atonement, and through the vivifying spirit-air, until they become sincere and without offence, fit for Divine preservation unto the day of Christ.

A. Raleigh, The Little Sanctuary, p. 66.

References: 2 Corinthians 1:12 . Clergyman's Magazine, vol. iii., p. 93; H. Crosby, Christian World Pulpit, vol. xxxiii., p. 27. 2 Corinthians 1:15-22 . F. W. Robertson, Lectures on Corinthians, p. 269. 2 Corinthians 1:17 . J. Kennedy, Christian World Pulpit, vol. iii., p. 289; J. P. Gledstone, Ibid., vol. xviii., p. 393. 2 Corinthians 1:18-20 . S. Holl, Ibid., vol. xxxiv., p. 161.

Verse 19

2 Corinthians 1:19

I. There is a cry of the soul after certainty and satisfaction. Christ solves the problem of nature. The soul cries in nature. The soul lifts up its painful wail, its note of grief. "In Him is yea." He was and is the brightness of the Father's glory and the express image of His person. As light paints likenesses, so that I may have the express image of a person I have never seen, so Christ is the portrait of God. He suits the personality of God; the octaves of eternity run along and through the whole architrave of nature. Light streams through all things when we believe in Him.

II. "In Him is yea." He reconciles the contradictions of Scripture not less than the contradictions of nature, for unbelief grows out of contradiction. We do not believe in the unity presiding over our life, because of its contradiction; we do not believe in the unity of Scripture, because it seems to be laden with contradictions: they startle and appal us. Christ is the synthesis of being, and by Him all things subsist. I advise thee to carry all thy difficulties to Christ, and those which loom like threatening clouds over the pages of Scripture, carry all to Christ. From ever of old, God has been fostering spirits to whom to speak; giving, in all ages, as much as the consciousness, that is, knowledge or conscience, that is, the moral susceptibility, could bear. Men from the more distant periods and ages felt that there was reserved some better thing. Since the birth of Christ, there is a capacity for new truth, new light.

III. In life "In Him was yea." Our Joseph is yet alive. The gathering, accumulated sorrows and sins of the world brought him to it, incarnated Him in the fulness of time. Yet once again, the yearning cry of the world's painful consciousness shall, in the fulness of time, bring Him without sin in the Second Advent hour, when He shall come with clouds and every eye shall see Him.

E. Paxton Hood, Dark Sayings, p. 135.

Reference: 2 Corinthians 1:19 . S. Martin, Sermons, p. 219.

Verse 20

2 Corinthians 1:20 (R.V.)

God's Certainties and Man's Certitudes.

I. Note first God's certainties in Christ. (1) There is the certainty about God's heart. The hopes and shadowy fore-revelations of the loving heart of God are confirmed by the fact of Christ's life and death. (2) In Him we have the certainty of pardon. (3) Again, we have in Christ Divine certainties in regard to life. We have certainties for life in the matter of protection, guidance, supply of all necessity, and the like, treasured and garnered in Jesus Christ. (4) Lastly, in Christ we have the Divine certainties as to the future, over which, apart from Him, lie cloud and darkness.

II. Note, secondly, man's certitudes, which answer to God's certainties. The latter are in Christ, the former are through Christ. Now it is clear that the only fitting attitude for professing Christians in reference to these certainties of God is the attitude of unhesitating affirmation and joyful assent. Certitude is the fitting response to certainty. If we keep near Christ our faith will bring us the present experience and fulfilment of the promises, and we shall be sure of them, because we have them already.

A. Maclaren, The Unchanging Christ, p. 82.

References: 2 Corinthians 1:20 . S. D. Thomas, Christian World Pulpit, vol. xxvi., p. 200; Preacher's Monthly, vol. ii., p. 234; Sermons on the Catechism, p. 135; F. Temple, Rugby Sermons, 1st series, p. 235.

Verse 21

2 Corinthians 1:21

The Anointing which Establishes.

I. Notice the deep source of Christian steadfastness. The language of the original, carefully considered, seems to me to bear this interpretation, that the "anointing" of the second clause is the means of the "establishing" of the first, that is to say, that God confers Christian steadfastness of character by the bestowment of the unction of His Divine Spirit. No man will be surely bound to the truth and person of Christ with bonds that cannot be snapped except he who in his heart has the knowledge which is possession by the gift of that Divine Spirit to knit him to Jesus Christ.

II. In the next place, notice the aim or purpose of this Christian steadfastness. The words "in Christ" seem to me to imply (1) that our steadfastness, made possible by our possession of that Divine Spirit, is steadfastness in our relations to Jesus Christ; (2) that such steadfastness as we have been trying to describe has for its result a deeper penetration into Jesus Christ and a fuller possession of Him.

III. Notice the very humble and commonplace sphere in which the Christian steadfastness manifests itself. It was nothing of more importance than that Paul had said he was going to Corinth, and did not, on which he brings all this array of great principles to bear. From which I gather just this thought, that the highest gifts of God's grace and the greatest truths of God's word are meant to regulate the tiniest things in our daily life.

A. Maclaren, The Unchanging Christ, p. 93.

Verse 22

2 Corinthians 1:22

The Seal of Earnest.

I. The first metaphor in the text, the "seal" of the Spirit. A seal is impressed upon a recipient material made soft by warmth, in order to leave there a copy of itself. The Spirit of God comes into our spirits, and by gentle contact impresses upon material, which was intractable until it was melted by the genial warmth of faith and love, the likeness of itself; but yet so as that prominences correspond to the hollows, and what is in relief in the one is sunk in the other.

II. Note the "earnest" which consists in like manner "of the Spirit." The "earnest," of course, is a small portion of purchase-money, or wages, or contract-money, which is given at the completion of the bargain as an assurance that the whole amount will be paid in due time. "And," says the Apostle, "this seal is also an earnest." It not only makes certain God's ownership and guarantees the security of those on whom it is impressed, but it also points onwards to the future, and at once guarantees that and to a certain extent reveals the nature of it. You have but to take the faith, the love, the obedience, the communion, of the highest moments of the Christian life on earth, and take from them all their limitations, subtract all their imperfections, and stretch them out to absolute eternity, and you get heaven. The earnest is of a piece with the inheritance.

A. Maclaren, The Unchanging Christ, p. 104.

Verse 24

2 Corinthians 1:24

Ministerial Helpfulness.

This declaration divides itself very naturally into two parts the negative and the positive; what is disclaimed, and what is professed; what the Apostle is not and will not, cannot be to them, and what he aspires to be and is.

I. First, then, observe with how much distinctness and definiteness he repudiates and disclaims the position of supreme religious authority over them and their faith. If he, who was a chosen and well-adapted instrument for the full revelation of gospel truth to the Gentile world, in a particular instance like this in Corinth, when he has revealed it, draws back and seems to stand apart in serious and reverential contemplation of the stupendous problem that must be wrought out between the Saviour and the sinner, between God and the individual soul, how foolish and impious must it be for others so far inferior to him to make pretension to priestly power, to assert sacramental efficacy concerning what they do, to legislate and decide for others concerning those high and deep and far-reaching things comprised under the phrase "faith and morals."

II. "We are helpers of your joy." (1) In these times there is a great deal of intellectual hindrance to religious decision and life. While boastful cries are heard that the battle is lost, that our main positions are taken, and that we must immediately retire, we are seen keeping well in rank, and still advancing on the high field of conflict, and in the long battle of the ages, as looking for the victory in the fulness of time. And this cannot but have a reassuring effect upon those whose minds have been troubled. Thus in our very position and work, when they are honestly maintained, we become helpers of others' joy. (2) Then again, there is the continual shortcoming of the Christian life, making the helpfulness of the Christian ministry very necessary and very welcome. We are sent as repairers of all the breaches we may find, and restorers of the most desolate paths to dwell in. (3) Wherever we go we find sorrow and trouble in their various forms and measures. Christians only, and especially Christian teachers, are helpers of immortal joy joy that will become glory everlasting in the great future world. (4) The grave is not the end of all but to each there is a grave. To help the wearied soldier in fighting his last battle, the storm-tossed mariner into the haven of eternal rest and safety this is to have harvest indeed. Triumphs won in life may be lost. Triumph won in death is something sealed and gained for ever. To help in this is to be a helper towards your eternal joy.

A. Raleigh, Christian World Pulpit, vol. viii., p. 241.

References: 2 Corinthians 1:24 . Preacher's Monthly, vol. ii., p. 96; Ibid., vol. iv., p. 154; F. W. Robertson, Lectures on Corinthians, p. 274. 2 Corinthians 2:6-11 . Ibid., p. 280. 2 Corinthians 2:10 , 2 Corinthians 2:11 . C. J. Vaughan, Words from the Cross, p. 126; F. W. Robertson, Lectures on Corinthians, p. 70.

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Bibliographical Information
Nicoll, William R. "Commentary on 2 Corinthians 1". "Sermon Bible Commentary".