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Bible Commentaries

Thomas Coke Commentary on the Holy Bible
2 Corinthians 1

 

 

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Verse 1

2 Corinthians 1:1. Timothy our brother, That is, either in the common faith, (see Romans 1:13 and 1 Corinthians 16:13.) or, brother in the work of the ministry. See Romans 16:21. St. Paul may be supposed to have given Timothy the title of brother here, in this peculiar connection, for dignity's sake, to procure him a reputation above his age among the Corinthians, to whom he had before sent him with some kind of authority to rectify their disorders. Timothy was but a young man when St. Paul wrote his first epistle to him, as appears 1 Timothy 4:12 which epistle, by universal consent, was written to Timothy after he had been at Corinth, and, in the opinion of some very learned men, not less than eight years after; and therefore his calling himbrother here, and joining him with himself in writing his epistle, may be to let the Corinthians see, that, though he who had been sent to them was so young, yet he was one whom St. Paul thought fit to treat as an equal. Achaia was the country in which Corinth stood.


Verse 3

2 Corinthians 1:3. Blessed be God St. Paul begins with justifying his former letter to them which had afflicted them, (see ch. 2 Corinthians 7:7-8.) by telling them that he thanks God for his deliverance out of his afflictions, because it enables him to comfort them, by the exampleboth of his affliction and deliverance, acknowledging the obligation that he had to them and others, for their prayers, and for their thanks for his deliverance; which he presumes they could not but put up for him, since his conscience bears him witness (which was his comfort) that, in his behaviour to all men, and to them more especially, he had been direct and sincere, without any selfish or carnal interest; and that what he wrote to them had no other design than what lay open, and they read in his words,—and did also acknowledge, and he doubted not but they would always acknowledge, (part of them doing so already,) that he was their minister and apostle, in whom they rejoiced; as they would, he trusted, be his rejoicing in the day of the Lord, 2 Corinthians 1:3-14. From what St. Paul says in this passage,—which, if read attentively, will appear to be written with great address,—it may be gathered, that the opposite action endeavoured to evade the force of the former epistle, by suggesting, that whatever he mightpretend, St. Paul was a cunning, artificial, self-interested man, and had some hidden design in it; which accusation appears in other parts also of this epistle. It is observable, that eleven of St. Paul's thirteen epistles begin with exclamations of joy, praise, and thanksgiving. As soon as he thought of a christian church planted in one place or another, thereseems to have been a flow of most lively affection accompanying the idea, in which all sensibility of his or their temporal afflictions was swallowed up, and the fulness of his heart must vent itself in such cheerful, exalted, and devout language.


Verse 4

2 Corinthians 1:4. Who comforteth us It is certain that the mention of these experiences must have had a powerful tendency to conciliate the regard of the Corinthians to St. Paul; and such an introduction to his epistle as the whole of this before us, could not but incline them strongly in his favour. Some think that the last clause of this verse refers plainly to the comfort which the repentance of the incestuous person gave St. Paul, after the affliction that he had endured on his account. See ch. 2 Corinthians 7:7. But it seems more natural to understand it of that general consolation arising from the pardon of sin and interest in God; that his afflictions should co-operate for his advantage; and that a crown of glory, heightened by these trials, would close the scene. He frequently insists on these topics in his epistles; and none surely can be more important and delightful.


Verse 6

2 Corinthians 1:6. Which is effectual or effected. Instead of salvation, Mr. Locke reads relief; as it signifies here only (says he) deliverance from their present sorrow.


Verse 8

2 Corinthians 1:8. Our trouble—in Asia. Some have thought that this may refer to the persecution at Lystra, where St. Paul's danger had been extreme, and he had been recovered by miracle, Acts 14:19-20. But as that happened so long before the visit to Corinth, in which he planted the Church there, Acts 18:1 it seems more probable that he either refers to some opposition which he met with in his journey through Galatia and Phrygia, Acts 18:23 of which no particular account has reached us, or, rather, to the tumult raised against him at Ephesus, by Demetrius, Acts 19:29-30.


Verse 11

2 Corinthians 1:11. Ye also helping together by prayer "I have this confidence in God's continual care; and it is the more cheerful, as I persuade myself you are and will be assisting us by your prayers, that so the favour obtained for us by the importunate prayers of many, may be acknowledged by the thanksgiving of many on our account;—as nothing can be more reasonable than that mercies obtained by prayer, should be owned in praise."


Verse 12

2 Corinthians 1:12. In simplicity Plain-heartedness; not only meaning well on the whole, but declining an over-artful way of prosecuting a good end. What is meant by fleshly wisdom, may be seen, ch. 2 Corinthians 2:5. St. Paul's working with his own hands for his maintenance among the Corinthians, (Acts 18:3. 1 Corinthians 9:15.) which he did not every where, must be a convincing proof of what he observes in the late clause of this verse.


Verse 13

2 Corinthians 1:13. What ye read or acknowledge; What ye know and acknowledge. Doddridge. Than what, when you read, you acknowledge. Wale's Critic, notes. "I take the sense to be," says Dr. Heylin, "that he meant not by his lettersto insinuate any thing more than was plainly expressed, and appeared at the first view of them agreeable to the declaration that he had made in the verse before."


Verse 14

2 Corinthians 1:14. That we are your rejoicing, The Apostle here signifies that part of them who adhered to and owned him as their teacher; in which sense rejoicing, or glorying, is much used in these epistles to the Corinthians, on occasion of the several partisans boasting, some that they were of Paul, and others that they were of Apollos, &c.


Verse 15

2 Corinthians 1:15. And in this confidence I was minded Or, I purposed: So 2 Corinthians 1:17. The next thing which St. Paul justifies, is his not coming to them. He had promised to call on the Corinthians in his way to Macedonia, but failed: this his opposers would have to proceed from levity in him, or a mind regulating itself wholly by carnal interest (ver.

17.). To which he answers,that God himself having confirmed him among them by the unction and earnest of his Spirit, in the ministry of the gospel of his Son,—whom St. Paul had preached to them steadily the same, without any the least variation, or unsaying of any thing that he had at any time delivered,—they could have no ground to suspect him to be an unstable, uncertain man, who could not be depended on in what he said to them, 2 Corinthians 1:15-22. In the next place, with a very solemn asseveration, he professes that it was to spare them that he came not to them, 2 Corinthians 1:23.—ch. 2 Corinthians 2:3. He gives another reason, 2 Corinthians 1:12-13 why he went on to Macedonia, without coming to Corinth, as he had proposed; namely, the uncertainty he was in, by the not coming of Titus, concerning their disposition at Corinth. Having mentioned his journey to Macedonia, he takes notice of the success which God gave to him there and every where, declaring of what consequence his preaching was, both to the salvation and condemnation of those who received or rejected it; professing again his sincerity and disinterestedness, not without a severe reflection on their false apostle, 2 Corinthians 1:14

By the word χαριν, in the verse before us, which our Bibles translate benefit, it is plain the Apostle means his being present among them a second time, without giving them any grief or displeasure. He had been with them before almost two years together, with satisfaction andkindness; he intended them another visit, but it was, he says, that they might have the like gratification; that is, the like satisfaction in his company a second time: which is to the same purport with what he says, ch. ii


Verse 16

2 Corinthians 1:16. And to pass by you into Macedonia, See 1 Corinthians 16:5-8.


Verses 17-20

2 Corinthians 1:17-20. Yea, yea, and nay, nay? The sense of these verses is, "I did not change my design through levity, nor did I purpose first one thing and then the contrary, as selfish views might determine me, 2 Corinthians 1:18. As God is true, we have never prevaricated with you, 2 Corinthians 1:19. For what I, Sylvanus, and Timothy have preached concerning Jesus Christ the Son of God, is not inconsistent, but invariably the same, 2 Corinthians 1:20. For all the promises of God are ratified in and verified by him to the glory of God by our preaching." And besides, in Christ there is such a real evidence of God's conversing with men; and such wonders actually wrought, in the incarnation, life, death, resurrection, and ascension of his Son, (facts in themselves much more wonderful than any of the glorious consequences to follow,) as tend greatly to confirm our faith, and make it easier for us to believe such illustrious promises as those which are given us, the very greatness of which might otherwise have been an impediment to our faith, and have created a suspicion, not whether God would have performed what he had promised, but whether such promises were really given us: and we may add, that God could not have given such promises, except in and through Christ, unless he were unjust, which is impossible.


Verse 21

2 Corinthians 1:21. Now he which stablisheth us Who maketh us steady; in opposition to the charge of inconstancy, which he complains of, 2 Corinthians 1:17. The Greek of anointed is χρισας, that is, hath given us of the same Spirit which renders Jesus the Christ. See Heylin, and the next note.


Verse 22

2 Corinthians 1:22. Who hath also sealed us, &c.— Who, answerable to various uses of a seal among men, has likewise printed his holy image upon us, and assured us of our interest in the Blood of the Covenant: and he has freely given us his Spirit, who dwells in our hearts, and sheds abroad his influences, and a sense of his love there, as a pledge and earnest of the eternal inheritance. See Ephesians 1:13-14. All there are arguments to satisfy the Corinthians, that St. Paul was not, nor could be, a man who minded not what he said, but as it served his turn. His reasoning, 2 Corinthians 1:18-22, wherebyhe would convince the Corinthians that he was neither fickle nor unsteady, being a little difficult to be understood by reason of the brevity of his style, the following summary will set it in a clear light: "God hath set me apart to the ministry of the Gospel by an extraordinary call, has attested my mission by the miraculous gifts of the Holy Ghost, has sealed me with the Holy Spirit of promise, has given me the earnest of eternal life in my heart by his Spirit, and has confirmed me among you in preaching the Gospel, which is all uniform and of a piece;—as I have preached it to you, without varying in the least; and there, to the glory of God, have shewn that all the promises concur, and are in Christ, and are certain to every faithful soul. Having therefore never faultered in any thing which I have said to you, and having all these attestationsofbeingunderthe special direction and guidance of God himself, the great Fountain of truth, I cannot be suspected of dealing doubly with you in any thing relating to my ministry."


Verse 23-24

2 Corinthians 1:23-24. Moreover, I call God for a record Or, to witness. Nothing but the great importance of St. Paul's vindicating his character to such a church, would have justified the solemnity of an oath of this kind. The meaning of these verses is as follows: "With respect to that change in my purpose of coming to you, which some would represent as an instance of a contrary conduct, I call God to witness, and declare to you, even as I have hope that he will have mercy on my soul, that it was not because I slighted my friends, or feared my enemies, but of real tenderness, and with a desire to spare you the uneasiness, which I thought, I must in that case have been obliged to give you,—that I came not as yet to Corinth, 2 Corinthians 1:24. Not that I pretend to have dominion over your faith; for it is by faith you stand; but I forbore to come, as one concerned to preserve and help forward your joy, which I am tender of; and therefore declined coming to you, whilst I thought you in an estate which would require a severity from me that would trouble you." It is plain that St. Paul's doctrine had been opposed by some of them at Corinth; (1 Corinthians 15:12.) his apostleship questioned; (1 Corinthians 9:1-2.) he himself triumphed over, as if he durst not come; (1 Corinthians 4:18.) they saying that his letters were weighty and powerful, but his bodily presence weak, and his speech contemptible; 2 Corinthians 10:10. This being the state in which his reputation was then at Corinth, and he having promised to come to them, 1 Corinthians 16:5 he could not but think it necessary to excuse his failing them at that time, by reasons which should be both convincing and kind; such as are contained in the verses before us.

Inferences.—It is very observable, how often the great Apostle describes and addresses Christians under the appellation of saints. Let the venerable title be ever fixed and retained in our minds; that so we may continually remember the obligations that we are under to answer it, as we would avoid the guilt and infamy of lying to God and men, by falsely and hypocritically professing the best religion, very possibly to the worst, and undoubtedly to the vainest purposes: and that we may be excited to a sanctity becoming this title, let us often think of God, as the Father of mercies, and as the God of all consolation; and especially let us contemplate him, as assuming these titles under the character of the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. So shall we find our hearts more powerfully engaged to love and trust in him, and enter into a more intimate acquaintance and frequent converse with him. From him may we seek consolation in every distress; considering the supports which we so experience, not as given for ourselves alone, but for others also; that we, on the like principles, may console them. Ministers, in particular, should regard them in this view, and rejoice in those tribulations which may render them more capable of comforting such as are in trouble, by those consolations with which they themselves have been comforted by God; that so the church may be edified; and God glorified in all, by the thanksgiving of many, for mercies obtained in answer to united prayers.

Let us particularly remember the support which St. Paul experienced, when he was pressed above measure, and as it seemed, quite beyond his strength, so as to despair of life,—and received the sentence of death in himself, as what was wisely appointed to teach him a firmer confidence in God, who raiseth the dead. Strong as his faith was, it admitted of farther degrees; and the improvement of it was a happy equivalent for all the extremities that he suffered. He therefore glories, as assured of being rescued from future dangers, 2 Corinthians 1:10. Nor was his faith vain, though he afterwards fell by the hand of his enemies, and seemed as helpless a prey to their malice and rage, as any of the multitudes whose blood Nero, or the instruments of his cruelty, poured out like water. Death is itself the grand rescue of a good man, which bears him to a state of everlasting security; and in this sense, every believer may in some sort adopt the Apostle's words; and while he acknowledges past and present, may assuredly, in the confidence of faith, expect future deliverances.

Happy therefore shall we be, if by divine grace we be enabled at all times to maintain the temper and conduct of Christians; and can confidently rejoice in the testimony of our consciences, that our conversation in the world is in simplicity and godly sincerity; that our ends in religion are great and noble; that our conduct is simple and uniform; in a word, that we act as in the sight of a heart-searching God. Then may we look upon the applauses or the censures of men as comparatively a very light matter; and may rest assured, if, as with regard to the Apostle in the instance before us, we suffer a malignant breath for a while to obscure the lustre of our character, but, notwithstanding, continue to cleave to Christ,—the day is near, which will reveal it in unclouded glory.

All the promises of God, are yea and amen in Christ. Let us depend upon it that they will be performed to all the faithful saints of God; and let us make it our great care, that we may be able to say we are interested through Christ in the blessings to which they relate. Let there be a proportionable steadiness and consistency in our obedience; nor let our engagements to God be yea and nay, since his are so faithful to his simple-hearted persevering saints.—Are we established in Christ? Are we sealed with the earnest of the Spirit in our hearts? Let us acknowledge, that it is God who hath imparted it to us; and let Christians of the greatest integrity and experience be proportionably humble, rather than by any means elated on account of their superiority to others.

We see the light in which ministers should always consider themselves, and in which they are to be considered by others;—Not as having dominion over the faith of their people, or a right to dictate, by their own authority, what they should believe, or, on the same principles, what they should do; but as helpers of their joy, in consequence of their being helpers of their piety and obedience. In this view, how amiable and engaging does the ministerial office appear! What a friendly aspect does it wear upon the happiness of mankind! and how little true benevolence do they manifest, who would expose it to ridicule and contempt!

May those who bear that office, be careful that they do not give it the most dangerous wound, and abet the evil works of those who despise and deride it; which yet they will most effectually do, if they once appear to form their purposes according to the flesh. Let them with a single eye direct all their administrations to the glory of God, and the edification of the church; that they may be able to appeal to their hearers, as those who must acknowledge, and bear their testimony to their uprightness. In that case, they may confidently look on them as those, in whom they hope to rejoice in the day of the Lord. And if, while they pursue these ends, they are censured as persons actuated by any mean and less worthy principle, let them not be much surprized or discouraged. They share in exercises, from which the blessed Apostle St. Paul was not exempted; as indeed there is no integrity or caution, which can guard any man from the effects of that malice against Christ and his Gospel, with which some hearts overflow, when they feel themselves condemned by it.

REFLECTIONS.—1st, The Apostle opens the Epistle, 1. With his usual address and salutation. Paul an Apostle of Jesus Christ, by the will of God eminently called to this high office, and Timothy our brother, who joins me in heartiest affection towards you; unto the church of God which is at Corinth, with all the saints which are in all Achaia, who in profession and practice appear to be separated from the world as the Lord's people—Grace be to you, and peace, with all their happy fruits, from God our Father, the Author of all our blessings, and from the Lord Jesus Christ, the meritorious cause of them.

2. He blesseth God for the signal mercies that he had experienced. Blessed be God, even the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who in and through him, as the divine Mediator, is now become to us the Father of mercies, and the God of all comfort, multiplying his pardons, showering down his benefits, and giving us temporal and spiritual consolation through this Son of his love, who comforteth us in all our tribulation, by his word and Spirit bringing home the great and precious promises with power to our souls, and shedding abroad his love in our hearts; that, from experience of the riches of his goodness, we may be able to comfort them which are in any trouble, whether of soul or body, by the comfort wherewith we ourselves are comforted of God, tenderly sympathizing with them, and suggesting those encouraging words of scripture, which, in distress, we have found reviving to our own souls. For as the sufferings of Christ abound in us, to whom we are thus conformed, and who is still afflicted in all the afflictions of his members, so our consolation also aboundeth by Christ, who fails not to minister supports and comforts proportionable to our sufferings. And whether we be afflicted, it is for your consolation and salvation, it is designed for your advantage; that by our examples of patience, fortitude, and perseverance, you may be encouraged to bear up under every trial, and boldly stand fast, till your salvation is completed; which is effectual by persevering in the exercises of faith and patience, in the enduring of the same sufferings which we also suffer: or whether we be comforted by divine supports under our afflictions, or by seasonable deliverances from them, it is also ordered for your consolation and salvation, as the means thereof, if you will but improve them. Note; (1.) All our mercies from God call for perpetual grateful acknowledgments. (2.) They who have been exercised with trials in their own souls and bodies, will be the most able comforters to others under the like troubles. We speak best, when we speak from experience. (3.) Though our afflictions may be at present grievous, the time will come, if we be faithful in the improvement of them, when we shall see peculiar reason to bless God for them, and know that they have been through grace especially conducive to our eternal salvation. (4.) All our comforts flow from God in Christ, as reconciled to us through the Blood of his Son.

2nd, St. Paul,

1. Expresses his confidence in them; and our hope of you is steadfast, that you will never be discouraged by any tribulations which you see us endure, or are called to bear yourselves; knowing that as ye are partakers of the sufferings with us, so shall ye be also of the consolation, rejoicing with us here in the experience of God's love, and, if faithful unto death, shortly to arrive where sorrow shall be for ever banished, and our joys will be perfected.

2. He informs them what a weight of afflictions he had undergone. For we would not, brethren, have you ignorant of our trouble which came to us in Asia, (see Acts 14; Acts 16; Acts 19.) that we were pressed out of measure, above strength, loaded with burdens more than our natural strength could sustain; so that we despaired even of life, not knowing which way to escape, and our case to all appearance desperate. But we had the sentence of death in ourselves, and concluded that we must be destroyed; the Lord in his providence suffering us to be brought to these extremities, that we should not trust in ourselves, feeling by experience our own utter insufficiency to help ourselves, but in God which raiseth the dead, whose wisdom, power, and grace alone could extricate us from our troubles, and save us from the jaws of death. Note; The Lord sometimes suffers his believing people to be reduced as it were to the last gasp in their trials, that he may convince them more deeply of their own helplessness, and magnify his grace and power more signally in their deliverance.

3. He gratefully acknowledges the divine interposition: who delivered us from so great a death, when to human view it appeared inevitable; and doth deliver, in jeopardy as we stand every hour: in whom we trust that he will yet deliver us, content to cast our care upon him, in the fullest confidence of his protection and support: Ye also helping together by prayer for us, and joining in affectionate supplications on our behalf, that we may be still preserved in the midst of danger; that for the gift of so signal a deliverance as we have experienced, bestowed upon us by the means of many persons, in answer to the prayers of those faithful souls, who, ceaseless at a throne of grace, besought the Lord for us, thanks may be given by many on our behalf, and God glorified and praised for the mercy that he has extended towards us. Note; (1.) Past experience of God's interposition should engage us still to hope in his mercy. (2.) None ever trusted God and were confounded. (3.) We owe much to the prayers of those who interest themselves for us in their approaches to God. (4.) The blessings received in answer to prayer, call loud for a due return of praise.

3rdly, The Apostle,

1. Vindicates himself in general from the insinuations of his traducers. For our rejoicing is this, the testimony of our conscience, that in simplicity and godly sincerity, maintaining a single eye to God's glory; not with fleshly wisdom, purposing any mean ends or selfish designs of our own; but by the grace of God, having this for our governing principle, taught by his word, and guided by his Spirit, we have had our conversation in the world, and more abundantly to you ward who cannot but be conscious how holily and unblameably we behaved ourselves among you; and if I have now disappointed you of my intended visit, it was no double-mindedness, but the providence of God, which prevented me. Note; A good conscience affords always matter of real joy.

2. He appeals to themselves for the truth of what he said. For we write none other things unto you than what you read or acknowledge, and I trust ye shall acknowledge even to the end; our future conversation will, we trust, be as exemplary as the past. 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, when we hope to appear with you before him as the seals of our ministry, our joy and crown.

4thly, In answer to the insinuations of his enemies, who accused him of levity and inconstancy:

1. He avers the sincerity of his intentions at he time when he gave them his promise. In the confidence of their affection and esteem he was fully purposed to visit them, in hopes of affording them further spiritual assistance; and not merely to call on them in his way to Macedonia, but to return thence, and make some considerable stay among them, and then to have been helped forward on his journey by them to Jerusalem. When I therefore was thus minded, did I use lightness, promising rashly, and altering my mind without sufficient reason? Or the things that I purpose, do I purpose according to the flesh? Was I influenced by any secular views? Or did I want to flatter you, and tell you what I never intended to perform? That with me there should be yea yea, and nay nay, talking backwards and forwards to serve a turn? No; St. Paul; as every faithful man does, spoke the truth from his heart.

2. He vindicates his doctrine, which the seducers wanted to represent as equally erroneous as his promise was deceitful; and this he does with a solemn appeal to God. But, as God is true, our word toward you was not yea and nay, our doctrine was not various and changeable, but uniformly the same; for the Son of God, Jesus Christ, who was preached among you by us, even by me and Silvanus and Timotheus, was not yea and nay, but in him was yea; the same crucified Jesus was the subject of our ministry, and we taught with perfect harmony all the glorious truths of Gospel grace: for all the promises of God in him are yea, and in him amen, to all his faithful saints; flowing from the favour and love of God, purchased by the obedience to death, and ratified by the blood-shedding of the Redeemer, unto the glory of God by us, who by our ministrations is thus exalted in the highest.

3. He mentions some of the inestimable blessings which God in Christ Jesus had bestowed. (1.) Now he which stablisheth us with you in Christ is God, we are built up in him, and are united together to him as our living Head. (2.) He hath anointed us with the gifts and graces of his Spirit. (3.) He hath also sealed us, stamping his blessed image on our souls. (4.) He hath given the earnest of the Spirit in our hearts, shedding abroad his love, as a pledge of that eternal felicity which he will confer upon all his faithful saints.

4. He gives a weighty reason for not coming at present to Corinth, and solemnly calls God to witness thereto, that it was out of mere tenderness towards them, to spare them, that he might not be obliged to inflict on the offenders condign punishment. But, to prevent mistakes, he adds, Not for that we have dominion over your faith, we assume no tyrannical power, nor pretend to be Lords over your conscience; but are helpers of your joy, desiring to promote your spiritual and eternal consolation; for by faith ye stand—faith grounded not on fallible human testimony, but on the word of God.

 


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Bibliography Information
Coke, Thomas. "Commentary on 2 Corinthians 1:4". Thomas Coke Commentary on the Holy Bible. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/tcc/2-corinthians-1.html. 1801-1803.

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Thursday, December 12th, 2019
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