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1So I made up my mind not to make you another painful visit. 2For if I cause you pain, who is there to make me glad but the one whom I have pained? 3And I wrote as I did, so that when I came, I might not suffer pain from those who should have made me rejoice; for I am confident about all of you, that my joy would be the joy of all of you. 4For I wrote you out of much distress and anguish of heart and with many tears, not to cause you pain, but to let you know the abundant love that I have for you.

Forgiveness for the Offender

5 But if anyone has caused pain, he has caused it not to me, but to some extent—not to exaggerate it—to all of you. 6This punishment by the majority is enough for such a person; 7so now instead you should forgive and console him, so that he may not be overwhelmed by excessive sorrow. 8So I urge you to reaffirm your love for him. 9I wrote for this reason: to test you and to know whether you are obedient in everything. 10Anyone whom you forgive, I also forgive. What I have forgiven, if I have forgiven anything, has been for your sake in the presence of Christ. 11And we do this so that we may not be outwitted by Satan; for we are not ignorant of his designs.

Paul’s Anxiety in Troas

12 When I came to Troas to proclaim the good news of Christ, a door was opened for me in the Lord; 13but my mind could not rest because I did not find my brother Titus there. So I said farewell to them and went on to Macedonia.

14 But thanks be to God, who in Christ always leads us in triumphal procession, and through us spreads in every place the fragrance that comes from knowing him. 15For we are the aroma of Christ to God among those who are being saved and among those who are perishing; 16to the one a fragrance from death to death, to the other a fragrance from life to life. Who is sufficient for these things? 17For we are not peddlers of God’s word like so many; but in Christ we speak as persons of sincerity, as persons sent from God and standing in his presence.

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.

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