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Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God, and Timothy our brother,
To the church of God that is in Corinth, including all the saints throughout Achaia:
2 Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.
Paul’s Thanksgiving after Affliction
3 Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and the God of all consolation, 4who consoles us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to console those who are in any affliction with the consolation with which we ourselves are consoled by God. 5For just as the sufferings of Christ are abundant for us, so also our consolation is abundant through Christ. 6If we are being afflicted, it is for your consolation and salvation; if we are being consoled, it is for your consolation, which you experience when you patiently endure the same sufferings that we are also suffering. 7Our hope for you is unshaken; for we know that as you share in our sufferings, so also you share in our consolation.
8 We do not want you to be unaware, brothers and sisters, of the affliction we experienced in Asia; for we were so utterly, unbearably crushed that we despaired of life itself. 9Indeed, we felt that we had received the sentence of death so that we would rely not on ourselves but on God who raises the dead. 10He who rescued us from so deadly a peril will continue to rescue us; on him we have set our hope that he will rescue us again, 11as you also join in helping us by your prayers, so that many will give thanks on our behalf for the blessing granted us through the prayers of many.
The Postponement of Paul’s Visit
12 Indeed, this is our boast, the testimony of our conscience: we have behaved in the world with frankness and godly sincerity, not by earthly wisdom but by the grace of God—and all the more toward you. 13For we write you nothing other than what you can read and also understand; I hope you will understand until the end— 14as you have already understood us in part—that on the day of the Lord Jesus we are your boast even as you are our boast.
15 Since I was sure of this, I wanted to come to you first, so that you might have a double favor; 16I wanted to visit you on my way to Macedonia, and to come back to you from Macedonia and have you send me on to Judea. 17Was I vacillating when I wanted to do this? Do I make my plans according to ordinary human standards, ready to say “Yes, yes” and “No, no” at the same time? 18As surely as God is faithful, our word to you has not been “Yes and No.” 19For the Son of God, Jesus Christ, whom we proclaimed among you, Silvanus and Timothy and I, was not “Yes and No”; but in him it is always “Yes.” 20For in him every one of God’s promises is a “Yes.” For this reason it is through him that we say the “Amen,” to the glory of God. 21But it is God who establishes us with you in Christ and has anointed us, 22by putting his seal on us and giving us his Spirit in our hearts as a first installment.
23 But I call on God as witness against me: it was to spare you that I did not come again to Corinth. 24I do not mean to imply that we lord it over your faith; rather, we are workers with you for your joy, because you stand firm in the faith.
2Co 1:1-24. The Heading; Paul's Consolations in Recent Trials in Asia; His Sincerity towards the Corinthians; Explanation of His Not Having Visited Them as He Had Purposed.
1. Timothy our brother—When writing to Timothy himself, he calls him "my son" (1Ti 1:18). Writing of him, "brother," and "my beloved son" (1Co 4:17). He had been sent before to Macedonia, and had met Paul at Philippi, when the apostle passed over from Troas to Macedonia (compare 2Co 2:12, 13; see on 1Co 16:10, 11).
in all Achaia—comprising Hellas and the Peloponnese. The Gentiles themselves, and Annæus Gallio, the proconsul (Ac 18:12-16), strongly testified their disapproval of the accusation brought by the Jews against Paul. Hence, the apostle was enabled to labor in the whole province of Achaia with such success as to establish several churches there (1Th 1:8; 2Th 1:4), where, writing from Corinth, he speaks of the "churches," namely, not only the Corinthian, but others also—Athens, Cenchrea, and, perhaps, Sicyon, Argos, &c. He addresses "the Church in Corinth," directly, and all "the saints" in the province, indirectly. In Ga 1:2 all the "churches" are addressed directly in the same circular Epistle. Hence, here he does not say, all the churches, but "all the saints."
3. This thanksgiving for his late deliverance forms a suitable introduction for conciliating their favorable reception of his reasons for not having fulfilled his promise of visiting them (2Co 1:15-24).
comfort—which flows from His "mercies" experienced. Like a true man of faith, he mentions "mercies" and "comfort," before he proceeds to speak of afflictions (2Co 1:4-6). The "tribulation" of believers is not inconsistent with God's mercy, and does not beget in them suspicion of it; nay, in the end they feel that He is "the God of ALL comfort," that is, who imparts the only true and perfect comfort in every instance (Ps 146:3, 5, 8; Jas 5:11).
4. us—idiomatic for me (1Th 2:18).
that we may … comfort them which are in any trouble—Translate, as the Greek is the same as before, "tribulation." The apostle lived, not to himself, but to the Church; so, whatever graces God conferred on him, he considered granted not for himself alone, but that he might have the greater ability to help others [Calvin]. So participation in all the afflictions of man peculiarly qualified Jesus to be man's comforter in all his various afflictions (Isa 50:4-6; Heb 4:15).
5. sufferings—standing in contrast with "salvation" (2Co 1:6); as "tribulation" (distress of mind), with comfort or "consolation."
of Christ—Compare Col 1:24. The sufferings endured, whether by Himself, or by His Church, with which He considers Himself identified (Mt 25:40, 45; Ac 9:4; 1Jo 4:17-21). Christ calls His people's sufferings His own suffering: (1) because of the sympathy and mystical union between Him and us (Ro 8:17; 1Co 4:10); (2) They are borne for His sake; (3) They tend to His glory (Eph 4:1; 1Pe 4:14, 16).
abound in us—Greek, "abound unto us." The order of the Greek following words is more forcible than in English Version, "Even so through Christ aboundeth also our comfort." The sufferings (plural) are many; but the consolation (though singular) swallows up them all. Comfort preponderates in this Epistle above that in the first Epistle, as now by the effect of the latter most of the Corinthians had been much impressed.
6. we … afflicted … for your consolation—exemplifying the communion of saints. Their hearts were, so to speak, mirrors reflecting the likenesses of each other (Php 2:26, 27) [Bengel]. Alike the afflictions and the consolations of the apostle tend, as in him so in them, as having communion with him, to their consolation (2Co 1:4; 4:15). The Greek for "afflicted" is the same as before, and ought to be translated, "Whether we be in tribulation."
which is effectual—literally, "worketh effectually."
in the enduring, &c.—that is, in enabling you to endure "the same sufferings which we also suffer." Here follows, in the oldest manuscripts (not as English Version in the beginning of 2Co 1:7), the clause, "And our hope is steadfast on your behalf."
7. so shall ye be—rather, "So are ye." He means, there is a community of consolation, as of suffering, between me and you.
8, 9. Referring to the imminent risk of life which he ran in Ephesus (Ac 19:23-41) when the whole multitude were wrought up to fury by Demetrius, on the plea of Paul and his associates having assailed the religion of Diana of Ephesus. The words (2Co 1:9), "we had the sentence of death in ourselves," mean, that he looked upon himself as a man condemned to die [Paley]. Alford thinks the danger at Ephesus was comparatively so slight that it cannot be supposed to be the subject of reference here, without exposing the apostle to a charge of cowardice, very unlike his fearless character; hence, he supposes Paul refers to some deadly sickness which he had suffered under (2Co 1:9, 10). But there is little doubt that, had Paul been found by the mob in the excitement, he would have been torn in pieces; and probably, besides what Luke in Acts records, there were other dangers of an equally distressing kind, such as, "lyings in wait of the Jews" (Ac 20:19), his ceaseless foes. They, doubtless, had incited the multitude at Ephesus (Ac 19:9), and were the chief of the "many adversaries" and "[wild] beasts," which he had to fight with there (1Co 15:32; 16:9). His weak state of health at the time combined with all this to make him regard himself as all but dead (2Co 11:29; 12:10). What makes my supposition probable is, that the very cause of his not having visited Corinth directly as he had intended, and for which he proceeds to apologize (2Co 1:15-23), was, that there might be time to see whether the evils arising there not only from Greek, but from Jewish disturbers of the Church (2Co 11:29), would be checked by his first Epistle; there not being fully so was what entailed on him the need of writing this second Epistle. His not specifying this here expressly is just what we might expect in the outset of this letter; towards the close, when he had won their favorable hearing by a kindly and firm tone, he gives a more distinct reference to Jewish agitators (2Co 11:22).
above strength—that is, ordinary, natural powers of endurance.
despaired—as far as human help or hope from man was concerned. But in respect to help from God we were "not in despair" (2Co 4:8).
in God which raiseth the dead—We had so given up all thoughts of life, that our only hope was fixed on the coming resurrection; so in 1Co 15:32 his hope of the resurrection was what buoyed him up in contending with foes, savage as wild beasts. Here he touches only on the doctrine of the resurrection, taking it for granted that its truth is admitted by the Corinthians, and urging its bearing on their practice.
10. doth deliver—The oldest manuscripts read, "will deliver," namely, as regards immediately imminent dangers. "In whom we trust that He will also (so the Greek) yet deliver us," refers to the continuance of God's delivering help hereafter.
11. helping together by prayer for us—rather, "helping together on our behalf by your supplication"; the words "for us" in the Greek following "helping together," not "prayer."
that for the gift, &c.—literally, "That on the part of many persons the gift (literally, 'gift of grace'; the mercy) bestowed upon us by means of (that is, through the prayers of) many may be offered thanks for (may have thanks offered for it) on our behalf."
12. For—reason why he may confidently look for their prayers for him.
our rejoicing—Greek, "our glorying." Not that he glories in the testimony of his conscience, as something to boast of; nay, this testimony is itself the thing in which his glorying consists.
in simplicity—Most of the oldest manuscripts read, "in holiness." English Version reading is perhaps a gloss from Eph 6:5 [Alford]. Some of the oldest manuscripts and versions, however, support it.
godly sincerity—literally, "sincerity of God"; that is, sincerity as in the presence of God (1Co 5:8). We glory in this in spite of all our adversities. Sincerity in Greek implies the non-admixture of any foreign element. He had no sinister or selfish aims (as some insinuated) in failing to visit them as he had promised: such aims belonged to his adversaries, not to him (2Co 2:17). "Fleshly wisdom" suggests tortuous and insincere courses; but the "grace of God," which influenced him by God's gifts (Ro 12:3; 15:15), suggests holy straightforwardness and sincere faithfulness to promises (2Co 1:17-20), even as God is faithful to His promises. The prudence which subserves selfish interests, or employs unchristian means, or relies on human means more than on the Divine Spirit, is "fleshly wisdom."
in the world—even in relation to the world at large, which is full of disingenuousness.
more abundantly to you-ward—(2Co 2:4). His greater love to them would lead him to manifest, especially to them, proofs of his sincerity, which his less close connection with the world did not admit of his exhibiting towards it.
13. We write none other things (in this Epistle) than what ye read (in my former Epistle [Bengel]; present, because the Epistle continued still to be read in the Church as an apostolic rule). Conybeare and Howson think Paul had been suspected of writing privately to some individuals in the Church in a different strain from that of his public letters; and translates, "I write nothing else to you but what ye read openly (the Greek meaning, 'ye read aloud,' namely, when Paul's Epistles were publicly read in the congregation, 1Th 5:27); yea, and what you acknowledge inwardly."
or acknowledge—Greek, "or even acknowledge." The Greek for "read" and for "acknowledge" are words kindred in sound and root. I would translate, "None other things than what ye know by reading (by comparing my former Epistle with my present Epistle), or even know as a matter of fact (namely, the consistency of my acts with my words)."
14. in part—In contrast to "even to the end": the testimony of his life was not yet completed [Theophylact and Bengel]. Rather, "in part," that is, some of you, not all [Grotius, Alford]. So in 2Co 2:5; Ro 11:25. The majority at Corinth had shown a willing compliance with Paul's directions in the first Epistle: but some were still refractory. Hence arises the difference of tone in different parts of this Epistle. See Introduction.
your rejoicing—your subject of glorying or boast. "Are" (not merely shall be) implies the present recognition of one another as a subject of mutual glorying: that glorying being about to be realized in its fulness "in the day (of the coming) of the Lord Jesus."
15. in this confidence—of my character for sincerity being "acknowledged" by you (2Co 1:12-14).
was minded—I was intending.
before—"to come unto you before" visiting Macedonia (where he now was). Compare Note, see on 1Co 16:5; also see on 1Co 4:18, which, combined with the words here, implies that the insinuation of some at Corinth, that he would not come at all, rested on the fact of his having thus disappointed them. His change of intention, and ultimate resolution of going through Macedonia first, took place before his sending Timothy from Ephesus into Macedonia, and therefore (1Co 4:17) before his writing the first Epistle. Compare Ac 19:21, 22 (the order there is "Macedonia and Achaia," not Achaia, Macedonia); Ac 20:1, 2.
that ye might have a second benefit—one in going to, the other in returning from, Macedonia. The "benefit" of his visits consisted in the grace and spiritual gifts which he was the means of imparting (Ro 1:11, 12).
16. This intention of visiting them on the way to Macedonia, as well as after having passed through it, must have reached the ears of the Corinthians in some way or other—perhaps in the lost Epistle (1Co 4:18; 5:9). The sense comes out more clearly in the Greek order, "By you to pass into Macedonia, and from Macedonia to come again unto you."
17. use lightness—Was I guilty of levity? namely, by promising more than I performed.
or … according to the flesh, that with me there should be yea, yea … nay, nay?—The "or" expresses a different alternative: Did I act with levity, or (on the other hand) do I purpose what I purpose like worldly (fleshly) men, so that my "yea" must at all costs be yea, and my "nay" nay [Bengel, Winer, Calvin], (Mt 14:7, 9)? The repetition of the "yea" and "nay" hardly agrees with Alford's view, "What I purpose do I purpose according to the changeable purposes of the fleshly (worldly) man, that there may be with me the yea yea, and the nay nay (that is, both affirmation and negation concerning the same thing)?" The repetition will thus stand for the single yea and nay, as in Mt 5:37; Jas 5:12. But the latter passage implies that the double "yea" here is not equivalent to the single "yea": Bengel's view, therefore, seems preferable.
18. He adds this lest they might think his DOCTRINE was changeable like his purposes (the change in which he admitted in 2Co 1:17, while denying that it was due to "lightness," and at the same time implying that not to have changed, where there was good reason, would have been to imitate the fleshly-minded who at all costs obstinately hold to their purpose).
true—Greek, "faithful" (1Co 1:9).
our word—the doctrine we preach.
was not—The oldest manuscripts read "is not."
yea and nay—that is, inconsistent with itself.
19. Proof of the unchangeableness of the doctrine from the unchangeableness of the subject of it, namely, Jesus Christ. He is called "the Son of God" to show the impossibility of change in One who is co-equal with God himself (compare 1Sa 15:29; Mal 3:6).
in him was yea—Greek, "is made yea in Him"; that is, our preaching of the Son of God is confirmed as true in Him (that is, through Him; through the miracles wherewith He has confirmed our preaching) [Grotius]; or rather, by the witness of the Spirit which He has given (2Co 1:21, 22) and of which miracles were only one, and that a subordinate manifestation.
20. Rather, How many soever be the promises of God, in Him is the "yea" ("faithfulness in His word": contrasted with the "yea and nay," 2Co 1:19, that is, inconstancy as to one's word).
and in him Amen—The oldest manuscripts read, "Wherefore through Him is the Amen"; that is, In Him is faithfulness ("yea") to His word, "wherefore through Him" is the immutable verification of it ("Amen"). As "yea" is His word, so "Amen" is His oath, which makes our assurance of the fulfilment doubly sure. Compare "two immutable things (namely, His word and His oath) in which it was impossible for God to lie" (Heb 6:18; Re 3:14). The whole range of Old Testament and New Testament promises are secure in their fulfilment for us in Christ.
unto the glory of God by us—Greek, "for glory unto God by us" (compare 2Co 4:15), that is, by our ministerial labors; by us His promises, and His unchangeable faithfulness to them, are proclaimed. Conybeare takes the "Amen" to be the Amen at the close of thanksgiving: but then "by us" would have to mean what it cannot mean here, "by us and you."
21. stablisheth us … in Christ—that is, in the faith of Christ—in believing in Christ.
anointed us—As "Christ" is the "Anointed" (which His name means), so "He hath anointed (Greek, "chrisas") us," ministers and believing people alike, with the Spirit (2Co 1:22; 1Jo 2:20, 27). Hence we become "a sweet savor of Christ" (2Co 2:15).
the earnest of the Spirit—that is, the Spirit as the earnest (that is, money given by a purchaser as a pledge for the full payment of the sum promised). The Holy Spirit is given to the believer now as a first instalment to assure him his full inheritance as a son of God shall be his hereafter (Eph 1:13, 14). "Sealed with that Holy Spirit of promise which is the earnest of our inheritance until the redemption of the purchased possession" (Ro 8:23). The Spirit is the pledge of the fulfilment of "all the promises" (2Co 1:20).
23. Moreover I—Greek, "But I (for my part)," in contrast to God who hath assured us of His promises being hereafter fulfilled certainly (2Co 1:20-22).
call God—the all-knowing One, who avenges wilful unfaithfulness to promises.
for a record upon my soul—As a witness as to the secret purposes of my soul, and a witness against it, if I lie (Mal 3:5).
to spare you—in order not to come in a rebuking spirit, as I should have had to come to you, if I had come then.
I came not as yet—Greek, "no longer"; that is, I gave up my purpose of then visiting Corinth. He wished to give them time for repentance, that he might not have to use severity towards them. Hence he sent Titus before him. Compare 2Co 10:10, 11, which shows that his detractors represented him as threatening what he had not courage to perform (1Co 4:18, 19).
24. Not for that—that is, Not that. "Faith" is here emphatic. He had "dominion" or a right to control them in matters of discipline, but in matters of "faith" he was only a "fellow helper of their joy" (namely, in believing, Ro 15:13; Php 1:25). The Greek is, "Not that we lord it over your faith." This he adds to soften the magisterial tone of 2Co 1:23. His desire is to cause them not sorrow (2Co 2:1, 2), but "joy." The Greek for "helpers" implies a mutual leaning, one on the other, like the mutually supporting buttresses of a sacred building. "By faith (Ro 11:20) ye stand"; therefore it is that I bestow such pains in "helping" your faith, which is the source of all true "joy" (Ro 15:13). I want nothing more, not to lord it over your faith.