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2 Corinthians 2:12-17

12. Furthermore, when I came to Troas to preach Christ’s gospel, and a door was opened unto me of the Lord,

12. Porro quum venissem Troadem in Evangelium Christi; etiam ostio mihi aperto in Domino,

13. I had no rest in my spirit, because I found not Titus my brother: but taking my leave of them, I went from thence into Macedonia.

13. Non habui relaxationem spiritui meo, eo quod non inveneram Titum fratrem meum; sed illis valedicens profectus sum in Macedoniam.

14. Now thanks be unto God, which always causeth us to triumph in Christ, and maketh manifest the savour of his knowledge by us in every place.

14. Deo autem gratia, qui semper triumphare nos facit in Christo; et odorem cognitionis eius manifestat per nos in omni loco.

15. For we are unto God a sweet savour of Christ, in them that are saved, and in them that perish:

15. Quia Christi suavis odor sumus Deo, in iis qui salvi fiunt, et in iis qui pereunt.

16. To the one we are the savour of death unto death; and to the other the savour of life unto life. And who is sufficient for these things?

16. Aliis quidem odor mortis in mortem, illis vero odor vitae in vitam; et ad haec quis idoneus?

17. For we are not as many, which corrupt the word of God: but as of sincerity, but as of God, in the sight of God speak we in Christ.

17. Non enim sumus quemadmodum multi, adulterantes sermonem Dei: sed tanquam ex sinceritate, tanquam ex Deo, in conspectu Dei in Christo loquimur. 333333     “Car nous ne sommes point comme plusieurs, corrompans la parolle de Dieu: ains nous parlons comme en purete, et comme de par Dieu, deuant Dieu en Christ, ou, Car nous ne faisons pas traffique de la parolle de Dieu, comme font plusieurs, ains nous parlons touchant Christ, ou selon Christ, comme en integrite, et comme de par Dieu, deuant Dieu;” — “For we are not as many, corrupting the word of God; but we speak, as in purity, and as from God, before God in Christ; or, For we do not make traffic of the word of God, as many do; but we speak concerning Christ, or according to Christ, as in integrity, and as from God, before God.”


12. When I had come to Troas By now mentioning what he had been doing in the mean time, in what places he had been, and what route he had pursued in his journeyings, he more and more confirms what he had said previously as to his coming to the Corinthians. He says that he had come to Troas from Ephesus for the sake of the gospel, for he would not have proceeded in that direction, when going into Achaia, had he not been desirous to pass through Macedonia. As, however, he did not find Titus there, whom he had sent to Corinth, and by whom he ought to have been informed respecting the state of that Church, though he might have done much good there, and though he had an opportunity presented to him, yet, he says, setting everything aside, he came to Macedonia, desirous to see Titus. Here is an evidence of a singular degree of attachment to the Corinthians, that he was so anxious respecting them, that he had no rest anywhere, even when a large prospect of usefulness presented itself, until he had learned the state of their affairs. Hence it appears why it was that he delayed his coming. He did not wish to come to them until he had learned the state of their affairs. Hence it appears, why it was that he delayed his coming. He did not wish to come to them, until he had first had a conversation with Titus. He afterwards learned from the report brought him by Titus, that matters were at that time not yet ripe for his coming to them. Hence it is evident, that Paul loved the Corinthians so much, that he accommodated all his journeyings and long circuits to their welfare, and that he had accordingly come to them later than he had promised — not from having, in forgetfulness of his promise, rashly changed his plan, or from having been carried away by some degree of fickleness, (2 Corinthians 1:17,) but because delay was more profitable for them.

A door also having been opened to me. We have spoken of this metaphor when commenting on the last chapter of the First Epistle. (1 Corinthians 16:9.) Its meaning is, that an opportunity of promoting the gospel had presented itself. 334334     Elsner, when commenting on 1 Corinthains 16:9, “a great door and effectual is opened,” after quoting a variety of passages from Latin and Greek authors, in which a corresponding metaphor is employed, observes that Rabbinical writers employ in the same sense the term פתח, (phethach,) a gate. Thus Raschi, when speaking of the question proposed to Hagar by the angel, (Whence camest thou? Genesis 16:8,) remarks: “Noverat id (angelus) sed (interrogavit) ut פתח, januam, ei daret colloquendi;” — “He (the angel) knew this, but (he proposed the question) that he might afford her an opportunity of speaking to him.” — Ed. For as an opportunity of entering is furnished when the door is opened, so the servants of the Lord make advances when an opportunity is presented. The door is shut, when no prospect of usefulness is held out. Now as, on the door being shut, it becomes us to enter upon a new course, rather than by farther efforts to weary ourselves to no purpose by useless labor, so where an opportunity presents itself of edifying, let us consider that by the hand of God a door is opened to us for introducing Christ there, and let us not withhold compliance with so kind an indication from God. 335335     “Ne refusons point de nous employer en ce que nous pourrons seruir, quand nous voyons que Dieu nous y inuite si liberalement;” — “Let us not refuse to employ ourselves in rendering what service we can, when we see that God invites us so kindly.”

It may seem, however, as if Paul had erred in this — that disregarding, or at least leaving unimproved, an opportunity that was placed within his reach, he betook himself to Macedonia. “Ought he not rather to have applied himself to the work that he had in hand, than, after making little more than a commencement, break away all on a sudden in another direction?” We have also observed already, that the opening of a door is an evidence of a divine call, and this is undoubtedly true. I answer, that, as Paul was not by any means restricted to one Church, but was bound to many at the same time, it was not his duty, in consequence of the present aspect of one of them, to leave off concern as to the others. Farther, the more connection he had with the Corinthian Church, it was his duty to be so much the more inclined to aid it; for we must consider it to be reasonable, that a Church, which he had founded by his ministry, should be regarded by him with a singular affection 336336     “Fust aimee de luy d’vne affection singuliere et speciale;” — “Should be loved by him with a singular and special affection.” — just as at this day it is our duty, indeed, to promote the welfare of the whole Church, and to be concerned for the entire body of it; and yet, every one has, nevertheless, a closer and holier connection with his own Church, to whose interests he is more particularly devoted. Matters were in an unhappy state at Corinth, so that Paul was in no ordinary degree anxious as to the issue. It is not, therefore, to be wondered, if, under the influence of this motive, he left unimproved an opportunity that in other circumstances was not to be neglected; as it was not in his power to occupy every post of duty at one and the same time. It is not, however, at all likely that he left Troas, till he had first introduced some one in his place to improve the opening that had occurred. 337337     “L’ouuerture que Dieu auoit faite;” — “The opening that God had made.”

14. But thanks be to God Here he again glories in the success of his ministry, and shows that he had been far from idle in the various places he had visited; but that he may do this in no invidious way, he sets out with a thanksgiving, which we shall find him afterwards repeating. Now he does not, in a spirit of ambition, extol his own actions, that his name may be held in renown, nor does he, in mere pretense, give thanks to God in the manner of the Pharisee, while lifted up, in the mean time, with pride and arrogance. (Luke 18:11.) Instead of this, he desires from his heart, that whatever is worthy of praise, be recognised as the work of God alone, that his power alone may be extolled. Farther, he recounts his own praises with a view to the advantage of the Corinthians, that, on hearing that he had served the Lord with so much fruit in other places, they may not allow his labor to be unproductive among themselves, and may learn to respect his ministry, which God everywhere rendered so glorious and fruitful. For what God so illustriously honors, it is criminal to despise, or lightly esteem. Nothing was more injurious to the Corinthians, than to have an unfavorable view of Paul’s Apostleship and doctrine: nothing, on the other hand, was more advantageous, than to hold both in esteem. Now he had begun to be held in contempt by many, and hence, it was not his duty to be silent. In addition to this, he sets this holy boasting in opposition to the revilings of the wicked.

Who causeth us to triumph If you render the word literally, it will be, Qui nos triumphatWho triumpheth over us. 338338     “Qui triomphe tousiours de nous;” — “Who always triumpheth over us.” Paul, however, means something different from what this form of expression denotes among the Latins. 339339     “Θριαμβεύειν with the accusative is used here like the hiphil of the Hebrew in the same way as μαθητεύειν (to make a disciple) (Matthew 13:52.) βασιλεύειν (to make a king) (1 Samuel 8:22) and others.” — Billroth on the Corinthians. — Bib. Cab. No. 23, p. 181 The meaning is — “maketh us to triumph.” — Ed. For captives are said to be triumphed over, when, by way of disgrace, they are bound with chains and dragged before the chariot of the conqueror. Paul’s meaning, on the other hand, is, that he was also a sharer in the triumph enjoyed by God, because it had been gained by his instrumentality, just as the lieutenants accompanied on horseback the chariot of the chief general, as sharers in the honor. 340340     On such occasions the legati (lieutenants) of the general, and military tribunes, commonly rode by his side. (See Cic. Pis. 25.) — Ed. As, accordingly, all the ministers of the gospel fight under God’s auspices, so they also procure for him the victory and the honor of the triumph; 341341     “A triumph among the Romans, to which the Apostle here alludes, was a public and solemn honor conferred by them on a victorious general, by allowing him a magnificent procession through the city. This was not granted by the senate unless the general had gained a very signal and decisive victory; conquered a province, etc. [...] The people at Corinth were sufficiently acquainted with the nature of a triumph: about two hundred years before this, Lucius Mummius, the Roman consul, had conquered all Achaia, destroyed Corinth, Thebes, and Chalcis; and, by order of the senate, had a grand triumph, and was surnamed Achaicus.” — Dr. A. Clarke. — Ed. but, at the same time, he honors each of them with a share of the triumph, according to the station assigned him in the army, and proportioned to the exertions made by him. Thus they enjoy, as it were, a triumph, but it is God’s rather than theirs. 342342     “C’est plustot au nom de Dieu, que en leur propre nom;” — “It is in God’s name, rather than in their own.”

He adds, in Christ, in whose person God himself triumphs, inasmuch as he has conferred upon him all the glory of empire. Should any one prefer to render it thus: “Who triumphs by means of us,” even in that way a sufficiently consistent meaning will be made out.

The odor of his knowledge. The triumph consisted in this, that God, through his instrumentality, wrought powerfully and gloriously, perfuming the world with the health-giving odor of his grace, while, by means of his doctrine, he brought some to the knowledge of Christ. He carries out, however, the metaphor of odor, by which he expresses both the delectable sweetness of the gospel, and its power and efficacy for inspiring life. In the mean time, Paul instructs them, that his preaching is so far from being savourless, that it quickens souls by its very odor. Let us, however, learn from this, that those alone make right proficiency in the gospel, who, by the sweet fragrance of Christ, are stirred up to desire him, so as to bid farewell to the allurements of the world.

He says in every place, intimating by these words, that he went to no place in which he did not gain some fruit, and that, wherever he went, there was to be seen some reward of his labor. The Corinthians were aware, in how many places he had previously sowed the seed of Christ’s gospel. He now says, that the last corresponded with the first. 343343     “La benediction de Dieu continue sur son ministere comme on l’y auoit apperceue au commencement;” — “The blessing of God continues upon his ministry, as they had seen it do at the beginning.”

15. A sweet odor of Christ The metaphor which he had applied to the knowledge of Christ, he now transfers to the persons of the Apostles, but it is for the same reason. For as they are called the light of the world, (Matthew 5:14,) because they enlighten men by holding forth the torch of the gospel, and not as if they shone forth upon them with their own lustre; so they have the name of odor, not as if they emitted any fragrance of themselves, but because the doctrine which they bring is odoriferous, so that it can imbue the whole world with its delectable fragrance. 344344     “Elsner and many other commentators think, with sufficient reason, that there is here an allusion to the perfumes that were usually censed during the triumphal processions of Roman conquerors. Plutarch, on an occasion of this kind, describes the streets and temples as being θυμιαματων πληρει” — ‘full of incense,’ which might not improperly be called an odour of death to the vanquished, and of life to the conquerors. It is possible that in the following verses the Apostle further alludes to the different effects of strong perfumes, to cheer some, and to throw others into various disorders, according to the different dispositions they may be in to receive them. There is, perhaps, not equal foundation for another conjecture which has been offered, that the expression, causeth us to triumph in Christ, contains an allusion to the custom of victorious generals, who, in their triumphal processions, were wont to carry some of their relations with them in their chariot.” — Illustrated Commentary. — Ed. It is certain, however, that this commendation is applicable to all the ministers of the gospel, because wherever there is a pure and unvarnished proclamation of the gospel, there will be found there the influence of that odor, of which Paul here speaks. At the same time, there is no doubt, that he speaks particularly of himself, and those that were like him, turning to his own commendation what slanderers imputed to him as a fault. For his being opposed by many, and exposed to the hatred of many, was the reason why they despised him. He, accordingly, replies, that faithful and upright ministers of the gospel have a sweet odor before God, not merely when they quicken souls by a wholesome savour, but also, when they bring destruction to unbelievers. Hence the gospel ought not to be less esteemed on that account. “Both odors,” says he, “are grateful to God — that by which the elect are refreshed unto salvation, and that from which the wicked receive a deadly shock.”

Here we have a remarkable passage, by which we are taught, that, whatever may be the issue of our preaching, it is, notwithstanding, well-pleasing to God, if the Gospel is preached, and our service will be acceptable to him; and also, that it does not detract in any degree from the dignity of the Gospel, that it does not do good to all; for God is glorified even in this, that the Gospel becomes an occasion of ruin to the wicked, nay, it must turn out so. If, however, this is a sweet odor to God, it ought to be so to us also, or in other words, it does not become us to be offended, if the preaching of the Gospel is not salutary to all; but on the contrary, let us reckon, that it is quite enough, if it advance the glory of God by bringing just condemnation upon the wicked. If, however, the heralds of the Gospel are in bad odor in the world, because their success does not in all respects come up to their desires, they have this choice consolation, that they waft to God the perfume of a sweet fragrance, and what is to the world an offensive smell, is a sweet odor to God and angels. 345345     “‘We are unto God a sweet savor (or odour, rather, as the word ὀσμὴ more properly signifies) of Christ in them that are saved and in them that perish. To the one we are the odour of death unto death; to the other, the odour of life unto life.’ And this lay with a mighty weight upon his spirit. O that ever we should be the savor of death unto death to any! Who is sufficient for these things! But whether of life or death, we are a sweet odour to God in Christ, as to both; when he sees the sincerity of our hearts, and how fain we would fetch souls out of the state of death into this life. So grateful and pleasant to him is the work effected of saving souls, that the attempt and desire of it is not ungrateful.“ — Howe’s Works, (Lond. 1834,) p.999.

The term odor is very emphatic. “Such is the influence of the Gospel in both respects, that it either quickens or kills, not merely by its taste, but by its very smell. Whatever it may be, it is never preached in vain, but has invariably an effect, either for life, or for death.” 346346     “We are the savor of death unto death. It is probable that the language here used is borrowed from similar expressions which were common among the Jews. Thus in Debarim Rabba, section. 1. fol. 248, it is said, ‘As the bee brings some honey to the owner, but stings others; so it is with the words of the law.’ ‘They (the words of the law) are a savor of life to Israel, but savor of death to the people of this world.’ Thus in Taarieth, fol. 7:1, ‘Whoever gives attention to the law on account of the law itself, to him it becomes an aromatic of life, סם חיים (sam chiim); but to him who does not attend to the law on account of the law itself, to him it becomes an aromatic of death, סם מות,(sam maveth)’ — the idea of which is, that as medicines skilfully applied will heal, but if unskilfully applied will aggravate a disease, so it is with the words of the law. Again, ‘The word of the law which proceeds out of the mouth of God is an odour of life to the Israelites, but an odour of death to the Gentiles.’” — Barnes. — Ed. But it is asked, how this accords with the nature of the Gospel, which we shall find him, a little afterwards, calling the ministry of life? (2 Corinthians 3:6.) The answer is easy: The Gospel is preached for salvation: this is what properly belongs to it; but believers alone are partakers of that salvation. In the mean time, its being an occasion of condemnation to unbelievers — that arises from their own fault. Thus

Christ came not into the world to condemn the world,
(John 3:17,)

for what need was there of this, inasmuch as without him we are all condemned? Yet he sends his apostles to bind, as well as to loose, and to retain sins, as well as remit them. (Matthew 18:18; John 20:23.) He is the light of the world, (John 8:12,) but he blinds unbelievers. (John 9:39.) He is a Rock, for a foundation, but he is also to many a stone of stumbling. 347347     “De scandale et achoppement;” — “Of offense and stumbling.” (Isaiah 8:14.) We must always, therefore, distinguish between the proper office of the Gospel, 348348     “Le propre et naturel office de l’Euangile;” — “The proper and natural office of the Gospel.” and the accidental one (so to speak) which must be imputed to the depravity of mankind, to which it is owing, that life to them is turned into death.

16. And who is sufficient for these things? This exclamation is thought by some 349349     Among these is Chrysostom, who, when commenting upon this passage, says: ᾿Επειδὴ μεγάλα ἐφθέγξατο, ὃτι θυσία ἐσμὲν τοῦ῎῝8217; Χριστοῦ῎῝8217; καὶ εὐωδία, καὶ θριαμβευόμεθα πανταχοῦ πάλιν μετριάζει τῷ῎῝8217; θεῷ῎῝8217; πάντα ἀνατίθει διὸ καὶ φησὶ, καὶ πρὸς” ταῦτα τίς” ἱκανός; τὸ γὰρ πᾶν τοῦ῎῝8217; Χριστοῦ, φησιν, εστιν οὐδὲν ἡμέτερον ὁρᾶς’”ἐπεναντίας” ψευδαποστόλοις” φθεγγόμενον οἱ μὲν γὰρ καυχῶνται ὡς” παρ ᾿ ἑαυτῶν εἰσφέροντές” τι εἰς” τὸ κήρυγμα οὗτος” δὲ διὰ τοῦτό φησι καυχᾶσθαι, ἐπειδὴ οὐδὲν αὐτοῦ῎῝8217;φησιν εἶναι. — “Having uttered great things — that we are an offering, and a sweet savor of Christ, and that we are made to triumph everywhere, he again qualifies this by ascribing everything to God. Accordingly he says: And who is sufficient for these things? For everything, says he, is Christ’s — nothing is ours: you see that he expresses himself in a manner directly opposite to that of the false apostles. For these, indeed, boast, as if they of themselves contributed something towards their preaching, while he, on the other hand, says, that he boasts on this ground — because nothing, he says, is his.” — Ed. to be introduced by way of guarding against arrogance, for he confesses, that to discharge the office of a good Apostle 350350     “Loyale et fidele Apostre;” — “A loyal and faithful Apostle.” to Christ is a thing that exceeds all human power, and thus he ascribes the praise to God. Others think, that he takes notice of the small number of good ministers. I am of opinion, that there is an implied contrast that is shortly afterwards expressed. “Profession, it is true, is common, and many confidently boast; but to have the reality, is indicative of a rare and distinguished excellence. 351351     “C’est vne vertu excellente, et bien clair semee;” — “It is a distinguished excellence, and very thin sown.” I claim nothing for myself, but what will be discovered to be in me, if trial is made.” Accordingly, as those, who hold in common the office of instructor, claim to themselves indiscriminately the title, Paul, by claiming to himself a peculiar excellence, separates himself from the herd of those, who had little or no experience of the influence of the Spirit.

17. For we are not. He now contrasts himself more openly with the false apostles, and that by way of amplifying, and at the same time, with the view of excluding them from the praise that he had claimed to himself. “It is on good grounds,” says he, “that I speak in honorable terms of my apostleship, for I am not afraid of being convicted of vanity, if proof is demanded. But many on false grounds arrogate the same thing to themselves, who will be found to have nothing in common with me. For they adulterate the word of the Lord, which I dispense with the greatest faithfulness and sincerity for the edification of the Church.” I do not think it likely, however, that those, who are here reproved, preached openly wicked or false doctrines; but am rather of opinion, that they corrupted the right use of doctrine, for the sake either of gain or of ambition, so as utterly to deprive it of energy. This he terms adulterating. Erasmus prefers to render itcauponarihuckstering 352352     “Erasme l’a traduit par vn autre mot Latin que moy, qui vient d’vn mot qui signifie tauernier;” — “Erasmus has rendered it by a Latin word different from what I have used — derived from a word that signifies a tavern — keeper.” The Greek word καπηλεύειν, is taken from retailers, or tavern-keepers, who are accustomed to adulterate their commodities, that they may fetch a higher price. I do not know whether the word cauponari is used in that sense among the Latins. 353353     Raphelius adduces a passage from Herodotus, (lib. in. page 225,) in which, when speaking of Darius Hystaspes, who first exacted tribute from the Persians, he says that the Persians said, “ὠς Δαρειος μεςν ἠν καςπηλος, ὃτι εκαπελευε παντα τὰ πραςγματα,” — “that Darius was a huckster, for he made gain of everything.” Herodian (lib. 6, cap. 11) uses the expression, “Εἰρήνην χρύιου καπηλευοντες,” — “Making peace for money.” The phrase, Cauponari bellum, is employed in a similar sense by Cicero (Off 1:12) as meaning, “to make war for money.” In Isaiah 1:22, the Septuagint version reads as follows: “Οἱ κάπηλοί σου μισγοῦσι’τον οἰνον ὕδατι;” — “Thy vintners mix the wine with water.” Kaphlo, as Dr. Bloomfield shows by two passages from Plato, properly means a retail-dealer, one who deals at second hand. “The κάπηλοι,” he observes, “were petty chapmen, (and that chiefly in eatables or drinkables,) exactly corresponding to our hucksters.” — Ed.

It is, indeed, certain from the corresponding clause, that Paul intended to express here — corruption of doctrine — not as though they had revolted from the truth, but because they presented it under disguise, and not in its genuine purity. For the doctrine of God is corrupted in two ways. It is corrupted in a direct way, when it is mixed up with falsehood and lies, so as to be no longer the pure and genuine doctrine of God, but is falsely commended under that title. It is corrupted indirectly, when, although retaining its purity, it is turned hither and thither to please men, and is disfigured by unseemly disguises, by way of hunting after favor. Thus there will be found some, in whose doctrine there will be no impiety detected, but as they hunt after the applauses of the world by making a display of their acuteness and eloquence, or are ambitious of some place, or gape for filthy lucre, (1 Timothy 3:8,) or are desirous by some means or other to rise, they, nevertheless, corrupt the doctrine itself by wrongfully abusing it, or making it subservient to their depraved inclinations. I am, therefore, inclined to retain the word adulterate, as it expresses better what ordinarily happens in the case of all that play with the sacred word of God, as with a ball, and transform it according to their own convenience. 354354     The reader will find this class of persons referred to at greater length by Calvin, when commenting on 2 Corinthians 1:19. — Ed. For it must necessarily be, that they degenerate from the truth, and preach a sort of artificial and spurious Gospel.

But as of sincerity. The word as here is superfluous, as in many other places. 355355     Thus in Acts 17:14, we read that the brethren sent away Paul to go (ὡς” ἐπὶ την θαλασσαν) as to the sea, where ὡς (as) is redundant, in accordance with various instances cited by Wetstein from Pausanias and Arrian of the very same expression. — Ed. In contrast with the corruption that he had made mention of, he makes use, first of all, of the term sincerity, which may be taken as referring to the manner of preaching, as well as to the disposition of the mind. I approve rather of the latter. Secondly, he places in contrast with it a faithful and conscientious dispensation of it, inasmuch as he faithfully delivers to the Church from hand to hand, 356356     See Calvin on the Corinthians, vol. 1, pp. 150, 373, and vol. 2, p. 9. as they say, the Gospel which God had committed to him, and had given him in charge. Thirdly, he subjoins to this a regard to the Divine presence. For whoever has the three following things, is in no danger of forming the purpose of corrupting the word of God. The first is — that we be actuated by a true zeal for God. The second is — that we bear in mind that it is his business that we are transacting, and bring forward nothing but what has come from him. The third is — that we consider, that we do nothing of which he is not the witness and spectator, and thus learn to refer every thing to his judgment.

In Christ means according to Christ. For the rendering of Erasmus, By Christ, is foreign to Paul’s intention. 357357     The expression is rendered by Dr. Bloomfield, “In the name of Christ, as his legates.” — Ed.

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