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Bible Commentaries

Matthew Poole's English Annotations
on the Holy Bible
2 Corinthians 2

 

 


Verse 1

2 CORINTHIANS CHAPTER 2

2 Corinthians 2:1-5 Paul, having shown a motive of tenderness for not

coming to Corinth, as also for writing his former Epistle,

2 Corinthians 2:6-9 declareth himself satisfied with the censure inflicted

on the incestuous person, and desireth them to forgive

and comfort him,

2 Corinthians 2:10,11 as he himself had forgiven him in Christ’s name.

2 Corinthians 2:12,13 His uneasiness for not finding Titus at Troas had

caused him to go forthwith into Macedonia.

2 Corinthians 2:14-16 He blesseth God for the successfulness of his labours

every where,

2 Corinthians 2:17 professing his sincerity and disinterestedness before God.

One reason why I put off my formerly intended journey to you, was, that I might give you time to repent, and reform those disorders that were amongst you, that my coming to you might neither cause heaviness in you, seeing me come with a rod, to chide and reprove you; nor yet in myself, who do not delight in censures and chidings, but must myself have been sad to have seen such errors and disorders amongst you, as I must by my paternal and apostolical authority have corrected.


Verse 2

When I am there, I have no refreshment or joy in that part of the citizens who are pagans, all my joy is in that part which are Christians, and constitute the church of God in that city: so as I could have had no pleasure or joy in my being there, if I had had nothing but occasion of sadness and heaviness from you, in whom was all my expectation of any joy or refreshing.


Verse 3

This hath been the cause of my writing this Second Epistle to you, before I myself came in person, that you might have a time more fully and perfectly to reform such things as are amiss amongst you, and I have formerly given you notice of; lest when I come, instead of rejoicing in you, as I ought to do, or having any just occasion so to do, I might meet with what would give me nothing but trouble and sadness; which would not only be grievous to me, but would be contrary to your duty, for

I ought to rejoice in you, and you ought so to behave yourselves, that I may have cause to rejoice in you. And I have confidence in the most of you, or in all you who are sincere, that you would all be glad to see me glad and cheerful, rejoicing in my society with you.


Verse 4

Every man that deriveth from God, is in this made partaker of the Divine nature, that like as God doth not grieve willingly, nor willingly afflict the children of men, so neither will he; but if, by reason of his office or trust reposed in him, he be under an obligation sometimes to speak smartly, or to chastise and punish others for their errors, yet he will so do it as one that hath no pleasure and delight in it. Thus the good judge weepeth, or at least showeth sorrow and compassion, when he giveth sentence against malefactors. So, this great apostle, to whom God had committed a care over all the Christian churches, saw a necessity of reproving this church that was at Corinth, for enduring the incestuous person in their communion, and not casting him out; for their errors about the resurrection, for their divisions, schisms, and contentions, &c.: but he professeth that he did this

with many tears; and those not shed in hypocrisy, but forced from the anguish and affliction of his heart; that he had nothing less in his design, than to put them to any excessive grief or trouble, but what he wrote was out of a principle of love and good will, both to the welfare of their whole church, and to the good of the particular souls of those that were the members of that church. Ministers or others do no good by their censures or reproofs, if they do not so dispense them, as people may see that what they do, or say, is out of their abundant love to their souls.


Verse 5

The particle if doth not here signify any doubting or uncertainty (for the incestuous person, of whom the apostle here, and in the following verses, speaks, had certainly caused grief both to the apostle, and also the church whereof he was a member). It is as much as although; or the apostle speaketh in this form, because by his repentance his grief was much allayed. But how doth the apostle say, that he had grieved him

but in part? Some think he saith so, because the apostle’s grief for his sin was now turned into joy by his repentance: others think, that those words, in part, signify that it was not the whole church that had grieved him, but only a part of it, viz. this incestuous person, and those who took part with him. Others say, the apostle saith, in part, to let us know, that it was not a grief to him only, but to them also. The last would bid very fair for the sense of the place, if the apostle had not in his First Epistle, 1 Corinthians 5:2, said that they were puffed up, and had not mourned. So as I judge the second more like to be the sense of the apostle; viz. that it was not the whole church that had grieved him, but a part of it only: and therefore the next words are added, that

I may not overcharge you all, that is, that I might not load you all with that imputation, as if you were all involved in it.


Verse 6

This verse maketh it clear, that by any, 2 Corinthians 2:5, he means the incestuous person, mentioned in 1 Corinthians 5:1-13, whom he had ordered to be cast out, and delivered to Satan; which (as appeareth from this verse) they had done, which is the punishment mentioned in this verse. They who think, that the punishment here mentioned was not excommunication, but another being delivered to Satan, and vexed by him:

1. Beg a grave question, viz. Whether delivering to Satan in this place signifieth any more than a casting of the person out of Christ’s kingdom on earth, (which is his church), and making him one of the world again, of which Satan is the god?

2. They seem not to consider, that if this church had delivered him to Satan, they could have done no more: so as the apostle would not have said:

Sufficient is this punishment, when it was the greatest that they could inflict.

Some object, that it is not probable that the apostle (had he been cast out of the communion of the church, for so notorious a crime) would have given order for his being restored in so short a time, as was that between his writing the First and this his Second Epistle.

1. Some think, that he was as yet only under a suspension, and the church had not proceeded to excommunication: this opinion is favoured by the Greek word here used, which is epitimia, the gentlest of all the words in use in that language to express punishment by.

2. Though in the times following the apostles’, a longer time was set after excommunication, for testifying the repentance of sinners notoriously scandalous, before the church did again admit them into her fellowship: yet that it was so in the apostles’ time, is more than appears. Possibly it might be so ordered afterwards, when, as the church multiplied, so sin more abounded; and they might, from many experiences of relapses, be quickened to make such orders.

3. The gift of discerning spirits was more usual in the apostles’ times than afterward; so that though in following times, when the apostles were dead, and the extraordinary gift of discerning spirits was failed or abeted, the church being not able any other way to judge of the truth of sinners’ repentance, than from their changed life and conversation, which asked time, might set a longer time for suck penitents; yet there might not be the same reason for the apostles doing it.

4. Notwithstanding any thing that appears, there might be the distance of a year or two between Paul’s writing these two Epistles.

Which was inflicted of many: who these many were, by whom the apostle saith this punishment was inflicted, is a little disputed; whether the presbytery, or the community. Their opinion seemeth (to me) best, who think that the officers of the church of Corinth heard and judged of matters of faith, and reported it to the community; but he was not cast out without the consent and approbation of the community.


Verse 7

So that contrariwise ye ought rather to forgive him, and comfort him: forgiveness in this place doth not signify the taking away or remitting of the guilt of sin, (that is God’s work, not man’s), but remitting of the punishment. And this maketh that probable, that they had not as yet proceeded with this person to excommunication, only kept him (like a suspected leper, without the camp) out of a communion with the church: or if they had actually cast him out, forgiving here can signify nothing but restoring him again to a full communion with them; which is also the comforting which is here mentioned.

Lest perhaps such a one should be swallowed up with overmuch sorrow: it is plain from hence, that the apostle had intelligence that this person expressed abundant sorrow; otherwise he would not have expressed his fear of his being drowned in his own tears. Though the condition of such, at this day, is sad enough, who are regularly cast out of the communion of any true church of Christ, for crimes which deserve such a punishment, yet we must imagine it much sadder then. Now churches are multiplied, whole cities and nations are Christianized, and though a person be cast outof a church, yet it is not so taken notice of, but he may yet have converse with other Christians, &c.: but there, the greater part of the city being heathens, and the whole countries of Achaia and Greece (contiguous to it) being heathens; one cast out of the communion of the church (if he had the least sense of religion) could not but be deeply afflicted to be in such a case, as none but heathens and professed idolaters would keep him company, or have any intimacy with him.


Verse 8

That you would restore him to a communion with you in your church assemblies, and take him into the bosom of your church again, and be (as before) friendly towards him. The word which we translate

confirm; is kurwsai, which signifieth authoritatively to establish or confirm. Some observe, that the apostle speaks to them as judges, to gain their good opinion, and make them more pliable, whereas he might authoritatively have absolved him. It is hard: to say what authority the apostles had, or had not, to excommunicate; but we want a precedent in holy writ of the apostles, or any of them, exercising such a power, as being absent, and so in no capacity to hear the proof of any fact against scandalous persons. Paul {1 Corinthians 5:1-13} writes to the church of Corinth to do it, and doth only himself command them to do their duty; and here again he writeth to them to forgive him, and restore him. There being no mention, either in the former Epistle, or here, of any command that the incestuous person should put away his wife taken unlawfully, or that he did any such thing in testification of his repentance, makes it very probable, that his crime was not using his father’s wife as his wife, but as his harlot; had it been otherwise, we should, very probably, have read of something in the one or the other place, signifying such a command of the apostle, or the thing done by him.


Verse 9

As for other ends, so for this also I wrote my former Epistle to you, and I now write this Second Epistle to you also, that I might have an experiment of you, what regard you would show to that apostolical authority wherewith God hath invested me.


Verse 10

The word so often repeated in this verse, and translated

forgive, is carizomai, which signifies to give, or gratify, or do a kindness, as well as to forgive; so as it needeth not always to be interpreted of any judicial act of absolution. If you see reason to remit any thing of the punishment inflicted upon the incestuous person, I am satisfied with what you do, I shall take no offence at you for it. If I have showed any favour to any person amongst you that hath fallen under my reproof and chastisement, it hath been for your sake, for the good and advantage of your church, or upon their motion and intercession; and I have done it sincerely in the sight of Christ (the Greek is, in the face of Christ).


Verse 11

As I have done it in kindness to you, so I have also done it for the advantage both of that person, who is so forgiven, and of your whole church, which is concerned in the welfare or miscarriage of every individual member.

Lest Satan should get an advantage of us: the Greek is: That we be not overcome by Satan: pleonektein properly signifies to get again, or to gain a superiority, to get the upper hand. The advantage Satan was like to get by their continuing severity to this offender, was either by his over much grief, or by the hardening of his heart; so as he, seeing no probability to be restored again to his communion with the church, should be exposed, either to temptations to some desperate courses, (which are often the effects of minds full of sorrow and discontent), or else to courses of idolatry or looseness, in giving up himself to the devil’s kingdom in the world, because he could not be admitted into the church, which is the kingdom of Christ.

For (saith the apostle) we are not ignorant of his devices, nohmata, his thoughts and counsels, how he continually walketh about both like a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour; and like an old serpent, seeking whom and how he may deceive. This lets us know, with how much prudence those who are trusted with the souls of others, ought to manage their reproofs, or severe dealings with others: the end of all these is the amendment and reformation of such persons, not their spiritual ruin and destruction; and all reproofs and censures must be given, and made, and managed with reference to that end. We have not only the concern of God’s glory (which is the main) to be looked at, but the good also of their souls, whom we so reprove, censure, or alienate ourselves from: and indeed, without consulting this, we cannot consult God’s glory; who hath told us, that he desireth not the death of a sinner, but rather that he should turn from his wickedness and live: and therefore we must have an eye about us, and beneath us, to the devil, as well as above us, to God; and prudently judge how such afflictive and harsh actions may be so done by us, that in the mean time Satan get no advantage, and we lose the souls of those with whom we so deal, instead of gaining them to God; which is the main and principal end we ought in all those actions to aim at, 1 Corinthians 5:5; so 1 Timothy 1:20.


Verse 12

This Troas was either the city, or the whole country, called Troy or Ilium, or the lesser Phrygia. We read of Paul’s going thither by sea from Philippi, Acts 20:6, and of his having been there, 2 Timothy 4:13. He tells us, that the business why he went thither, was to preach the gospel; for it was not the apostles’ business to stay, as fixed ministers, in any one place, but to carry the gospel up and down the world to several places; which they did by virtue of their general commission to go, preach, and baptize all nations; though sometimes they had a more special call and commission, as Paul had to go into Macedonia. The

door opened, either signifieth the free liberty he had there to preach, or the great success which God gave him in his work; which he elsewhere calleth an effectual door.


Verse 13

He tells us, that when he came there, he was much troubled because he did not find his brother Titus; where the humility of this great apostle is considerable, in that he disdained not to call

Titus (a person, though a minister, yet much inferior to him as an apostle) brother. Several reasons are given of Paul’s trouble. That which is most probable is, that he did expect at Troas to have met with Titus come from Corinth, from whom he might more perfectly have understood the affairs of that church: not finding him there, he tells us he went forward into Macedonia; whither, after the uproar at Ephesus, he designed to go, (as we read, Acts 20:1), but went first into Greece, and stayed there three months, intending to come to Macedonia in his return, 2 Corinthians 2:3.


Verse 14

Now thanks be unto God, which always causeth us to triumph in Christ: the translation of the Greek here is not certain; for to translate it word for word, it is: But thanks be to God always, triumphing us in Christ; which makes it uncertain, whether there be not a defect of a preposition, upon the supply of which it would be, who triumpheth over us in Christ, having subdued our hearts to the kingdom and obedience of Christ. But the most interpreters rather agree with our translators, and think the sense of the apostle is who maketh us to triumph. In the Hebrew there is a conjugation, where the active verb signifieth to make another to do a thing; and there are several instances brought by learned men out of the Septuagint, where the active verb in the Greek also hath that sense; that which cometh nearest it in the original in holy writ, is that, Romans 8:26, where the Spirit is said to make intercession for us, because it causeth us to make intercession. According to this, the sense is: Blessed be God, who though we meet with many enemies, yet through Christ he maketh us more than conquerors, Romans 8:37, so that we are not overcome by any of them, but, on the contrary, we triumph over them as conquered by us.

And maketh manifest the savour of his knowledge by us in every place; and this by manifesting by us in every place

the savour of the knowledge of Christ; that is, of the gospel. He calleth it a savour, either with allusion to that sweet perfumed ointment, with which the high priest, under the law, was anointed, Exodus 30:23 Psalms 133:2; or with reference to the incense used also under the law; or with relation to Solomon’s expression, Song of Solomon 1:3, where we read of the savour of Christ’s good ointments, and that his name is as an ointment poured forth. By the savour of the knowledge of Christ here mentioned, the apostle plainly meaneth the reputation or good report that the gospel had in every place: see Hosea 14:7.


Verse 15

For the God whom we serve doth not judge of us, nor will reward us, according to our success, but according to our faithfulness and diligence in his work. We give unto all a good savour by our doctrine; and our labours are a sweet savour in the nostrils of God, whatever effects they have upon souls. God accepteth of our labours as to good men, to whom we are instruments of eternal life and salvation; and though others despise the gospel, and refuse the sweet sound of it, yet as to them also we are a sweet savour in the nostrils of God: Though Israel be not saved, (saith the prophet, Isaiah 49:5), yet I shall be glorified. It is not for any neglect in us, as to our duty, if any perish, but from their own wilfulness and perverseness.


Verse 16

As sweet smells, which are to some pleasant and comfortable, are to others pernicious and deadly; so it is with the sweet savour of the gospel. The report which we in all places make of Christ, to some, through their unbelief and hardness of heart, and fondness of their lusts, proveth but

the savour of death unto death, hardening their hearts to their eternal ruin and destruction; but to such who, being ordained to eternal life, believe our reports, and embrace the gospel, and live up to the precepts and rule of it, our preaching proves a cause of spiritual and of eternal life, to which that leadeth.

And who is sufficient for these things? And oh how great a work is this! What man, what angel, is sufficient for it? It is a mighty work to preach the gospel as we ought to preach it.


Verse 17

Lest the false apostles and teachers in this church should slight this exclamation of the apostle’s, and the pretended difficulty he made of the ministerial work, the apostle adds these words: I confess (saith he) it is no very difficult thing to speak of Christ, and pretend to preach and do as much as I do; but there are many kaphleuontev, we translate it, corrupt the word; the Greek word signifies, to sell wine or victuals for money; and because such kind of people make no conscience to deceive, cheat, and deal fraudulently with their customers, it is sometimes used to signify corrupting or deceiving. We are not (saith the apostle) of the number of those who in preaching merely serve their own bellies, and turn the church into a tavern or victualling house, making a gain of the gospel, and discoursing a little while in a pulpit for gain; and so making no conscience, either what they speak, or how they speak. But we speak by authority from Christ, and in Christ’s name; clothed with his authority, and as his ambassadors; and so dare not say any thing unto people, and deliver to his people what he never gave us any commission to speak, nor yet to speak whatever cometh at our tongue’s end; but we must remember that we are

in the sight of God, and speak as from God of God; and that not fraudulently, but sincerely; sincerely aiming at the glory of God in what we do, and the salvation of the souls of them to whom we speak. This is a great work, first to consult the mind and will of God, and find it out by study and meditation; then faithfully to communicate it unto people, without any vain or corrupt mixtures (which do but adulterate the word preached); then to apply it to the consciences of those that hear us.

Who is sufficient for these things? That is, to discharge the office of the ministry in the preaching of the gospel, as men ought to preach it.

 


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Bibliography Information
Poole, Matthew, "Commentary on 2 Corinthians 2:4". Matthew Poole's English Annotations on the Holy Bible. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/mpc/2-corinthians-2.html. 1685.

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