Pulpit Commentary - 2 Corinthians 1:1 - 1:24

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Pulpit Commentary - 2 Corinthians 1:1 - 1:24

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This Chapter Verse Commentaries:


Address and greeting (2Co_1:1, 2Co_1:2). Thanksgiving for the comfort sent to him by God, wherein, as in his affliction which rendered it necessary, they sympathetically shared (2Co_1:3-11). He has earned a right to their sympathy by his sincerity (2Co_1:12-14). His change of purpose with respect to a visit to Corinth, with digression on the unchangeableness of the gospel (2Co_1:15-22). Explanation of his Reasons (2 Cor. 1:22-2 Cor. 2:4).


By the will of God
(see 1Co_1:1
). In the face of Judaizing opponents, it was essential that he should vindicate his independent apostolate (Act_26:15-18). And Timothy. Timothy had been absent from St. Paul when he wrote the First Epistle, and Sosthenes had taken his place, whether as amanuensis or merely as a sort of joint authenticator. Our brother; literally, the brother, as in 1Co_1:1. The brotherhood applies both to St. Paul and to the Corinthians; there was a special bond of brotherhood between all members of "the household of faith." The saints. Before the name "Christians" had come into general use, "saints" (Act_9:13) and "brethren" were common designations or' those who were "faithful in Christ Jesus" (Eph_1:1). In all Achaia. In its classical sense Achaia means only the northern strip of the Peloponnesus; as a Roman province the name included both Hellas and the Peloponnesus. Hero St. Paul probably uses it in its narrower sense. The only strictly Achaian Church of which we know is Cenchrea, but doubtless there were little Christian communities along the coasts of the Corinthian gulf. To the Church at Athens St. Paul never directly alludes. This letter was not in any sense an encyclical letter; but even if it were not read in other communities, the Corinthians would convey to them the apostle's greeting.


Grace be to you and peace.
On this pregnant synthesis of the Greek and Hebrew greetings, see 1Co_1:3
; Rom_1:7.


Blessed be God
). This outburst of thanksgiving was meant to repress the relief brought to the overcharged feelings of the apostle by the arrival of Titus, with news respecting the mixed, but on the whole good, effect produced at Corinth by the severe remarks of his first letter. It is characteristic of the intense and impetuous rush of emotion which we often notice in the letters of St. Paul, that he does not here state the special grounds for this impassioned thanksgiving; he only touches upon it for a moment in 2Co_2:13, and does not pause to state it fully until 2Co_7:5-16. It is further remarkable that in this Epistle almost alone he utters no thanksgiving for the moral growth and holiness of the Church to which he is writing. This may be due to the fact that there was still so much to blame; but it more probably arose from the tumult of feeling which throughout this letter disturbs the regular flow of his thoughts. The ordinary "thanksgiving" for his readers is practically, though indirectly, involved in the gratitude which he expresses to God for the sympathy and communion which exists between himself and the Church of Corinth. Even the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. The Greek is the same as in Eph_1:3, where, literally rendered, it is, "Blessed be the God and Father." The same phrase is found also in 1Pe_1:3; Co 1Pe_1:3. The meaning is not, "Blessed be the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, and the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ" (although the expression, "the God of our Lord Jesus Christ," occurs in Eph_1:17 : comp. Joh_20:17), but "Blessed be God, who is also the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ," and who is therefore "our Father" by adoption and redemption, as well as our God by creation. The Father of mercies. This corresponds to a Hebrew expression, and means that compassionateness is the most characteristic attribute of God, and emanation from him. He is the Source of all mercy; and mercy

"Is an attribute of God himself."

He is "full of compassion, and gracious, tong-suffering, and plenteous in mercy and truth" (Psa_86:15). "The Law," says the Talmud, "begins and ends with an act of mercy. At its commencement God clothes the naked; at its close be buries the dead" ('Sotah,' f. 14, 1). Thus every chapter but one of the Koran is headed, "In the name of God the Compassionate, the Merciful;" and it is an Eastern expression to say of one that has died that. "he is taken to the mercy of the Merciful." Comp. "Father of glory," Eph_1:17; 1Co_2:8 ("of spirits," Heb_12:9; "of lights," Jas_1:17). The plural, "compassions,'' is perhaps a plural of excellence, "exceeding compassion" (Rom_12:1), and may be influenced by the Hebrew word rachamim, often literally rendered by St. Paul "bowels." The article in the Greek ("the Father of the compassions") specializes the mercy. The God of all comfort. So in 2Co_13:11 God is called "the God of love and peace;" Rom_15:5, "the God of patience and of comfort;" Rom_2:15, "the God of hope." This word "comfort" (unfortunately interchanged with "consolation" in the Authorized Version) and the word "affliction" (varyingly rendered by "trouble" and "tribulation" in the Authorized Version), are the keynotes of this passage; and to some extent of the whole Epistle. St. Paul is haunted as it were and possessed by them. "Comfort," as verb or substantive, occurs ten times in Rom_2:3-7; and "affliction" occurs four times in succession. It is characteristic of St. Paul's style to be thus dominated, as it were, by a single word (comp. notes on 2Co_3:2, 2Co_3:13; 2Co_4:2; see note on 2Co_10:8). The needless variations of the Authorized Version were well intentioned, but arose from a false notion of style, a deficient sense of the precision of special words, and an inadequate conception of the duties of faithful translation, which requires that we should as exactly as possible reflect the peculiarities of the original, and not attempt to improve upon them.


Who comforteth us.
The "us" implies here, not only St. Paul and Timothy, but also the Corinthians, who are one with them in a bond of Christian unity which was hitherto undreamed of, and was a new phenomenon in the world. St. Paul always uses the first person in passages where he is speaking directly of individual feelings and experiences. In other passages he likes to lose himself, as it were, in the Christian community. The delicate play of emotion is often shown by the rapid interchanges of singular and plural (see 2Co_1:13
, 2Co_1:15, 2Co_1:17; 2Co_2:1, 2Co_2:11, 2Co_2:14, etc.). The present, "comforteth," expresses a continuous experience, with which the Christians of the first age were most happily familiar (Joh_14:16-18; 2Th_2:16, 2Th_2:17). In all our affliction. The collective experience of affliction is sustained by the collective experience of comfort. That we may be able to comfort. Thus St. Paul takes "a teleological view of sorrow." It is partly designed as a school of sympathy. It is a part of the training of an apostle, just as suffering is essential to one who is to be a sympathetic high priest (Heb_5:1, Heb_5:2). In any trouble. The original more forcibly repeats the words, "in all affliction." Wherewith we ourselves are comforted. By means of the comfort which God gives us, we can, by the aid of blessed experience, communicate comfort to others.


As the sufferings of Christ abound in us;
rather, unto us. "The sufferings of Christ" are the sufferings which he endured in the days of his flesh, and they were not exhausted by him, but overflow to us who have to suffer as he suffered, bearing about with us his dying, that we may share his life (2Co_4:10
). The idea is, not that he is suffering in us and with us, but that we have "a fellowship in his sufferings" (Php_3:17); Gal_2:20, "I have been crucified with Christ;" Heb_13:13, "Bearing his reproach." Our sufferings are the sufferings of Christ because we suffer as he suffered (1Pe_4:13) and in the same cause. Aboundeth by Christ. If his sufferings, as it were, overflow to us, so too is he the Source of our comfort, in that he sendeth us the Comforter (Joh_14:16-18).


; rather, but. The verse expresses the additional thought that the comfort (i.e. encouragement and strengthening) of the apostle, as well as his affliction, was not only designed for his own spiritual training, but was the source of direct blessing to his converts, because it enabled him, both by example (Php_1:14
) and by the lessons of experience, to strengthen others in affliction, and so to further their salvation by teaching them how to endure (Rom_5:1-21 :34). The affliction brings encouragement, and so works endurance in us, and, by our example and teaching, in you.


And our hope of you is steadfast;
literally, And our hope is steadfast on your behalf. The variations of text and punctuation in the verse do not materially affect the sense. The meaning is "And I have a sure hope that you will reap the benefits of our common fellowship with Christ in his affliction, and of the comfort which he sends, because I know that you have experienced the sufferings, and am therefore sure that he will send you the strength and the endurance. The close connection of tribulation and Divine encouragement are found also in Mat_5:4
; 2Ti_2:12; 1Pe_5:10. The interchange of the two between teacher and taught is part of the true communion of saints (comp. Php_2:26).


For we would not, brethren, have you ignorant.
This is a favourite phrase with St. Paul (Rom_1:13
; Rom_11:25; 1Co_12:1; 1Th_4:13). Of our trouble; rather, about our affliction. He assumes that they are aware what the trouble was, and he does not specially mention it. What he wants them to know is that, by the help of their prayers and sympathy, God had delivered him out of this affliction, crushing as it was. Which came to us in Asia. Most commentators refer this to the tumult at Ephesus (Act_19:1-41.); and since St. Paul's dangers, sicknesses, and troubles are clearly understated throughout the Acts, it is possible that the perils and personal maltreatment which were liable to occur during such a season of excitement may have brought on some violent illness; or, again, be may have suffered from some plots (1Co_16:9, 32; Act_20:19) or shipwreck (2Co_11:25). In Rom_16:4 he alludes again to some extreme peril. But St. Paul seems systematically to have made light of external dangers and sufferings. All his strongest expressions (see Rom_9:1-3, etc.) are reserved for mental anguish and affliction. What he felt most keenly was the pang of lacerated affections. It is, therefore, possible that he is here alluding to the overpowering tumult of feelings which had been aroused by his anxiety as to the reception likely to be accorded to his first letter. To this and the accompanying circumstances he alludes again and again (2Co_2:4, 2Co_2:12; 2Co_7:5, etc.). The sense of "comfort'' resulting from the tidings brought by Titus (2Co_7:6, 2Co_7:7, 2Co_7:13) is as strong as that expressed in these verses, and the allusion to this anguish of heart is specially appropriate here, because he is dwelling on the sympathetic communion between himself and his converts, both in their sorrows and their consolations. That we were pressed cut of measure, above strength; literally, that toe were weighed down exceedingly beyond our power. The trial seemed too heavy for him to bear. The phrase here rendered "out of measure" occurs in 2Co_4:17; Rom_7:13; 1Co_12:31; Gal_1:13; but is only found in this particular group of letters. Insomuch that we despaired even of life. This rendering conveys the meaning. Literally it is, so that we were even in utter perplexity (2Co_4:8) even about life. "I fell into such agony of mind that I hardly hoped to survive." Generally, although he was often in perplexity, he succeeded in resisting despair (2Co_4:8).


But; perhaps rather, yea. The word strengthens the phrase, "were in utter perplexity." We had the sentence of death in ourselves. The original is more emphatic, "Ourselves in our own selves we have had." Not only did all the outer world look dark to me, but the answer which my own spirit returned to the question," What will be the end of it all?" was "Death!" and that doom still seems to echo in my spirit. The sentence; rather, the answer. The word is unique in the LXX. and the New Testament. In ourselves. Because I seemed to myself to be beyond all human possibility of deliverance. That we should not trust in ourselves. There was a divinely intended meaning in my despair. It was meant to teach me, not only submission, but absolute trust in God (see Jer_17:5, Jer_17:7). Which raiseth the dead. Being practically dead—utterly crushed with anguish and despairing of deliverance—I learnt by my deliverance to have faith in God as one who can raise men even from the dead.


From so great a death.
From a state of dejection and despair, which seemed to show death in all its power (see 2Co_4:10-12
). And doth deliver. Perhaps a pious marginal gloss which has crept into the text of some manuscripts. We trust; rather, we have set our hope. That. This word is omitted in some good manuscripts, as also are the words, "and doth deliver." He will yet deliver us. This implies either that the perils alluded to were not yet absolutely at an end, or St. Paul s consciousness that many a peril of equal intensity lay before him in the future.


Ye also helping together by prayer for us.
St. Paul had a deep conviction of the efficacy of intercessory prayer (Rom_15:30
, Rom_15:31; Php_1:19; Phm_1:22). By the means of many persons; literally, from many faces. Probably the word prosopon here has its literal meaning. The verse, then, means "that from many faces the gift to us may be thankfully acknowledged by many on our behalf." God, he implies, will be well pleased when he sees the gratitude beaming from the many countenances of those who thank him for his answer to their prayers on his behalf. The word for "gift" is charisma, which means a gift of grace, a gift of the Spirit (1Co_12:4).


Vindication of his right to their sympathy.


For our rejoicing
; rather, for our boasting is this. My expression of confidence in your sympathy with me may sound like a boast, but my boast merely accords with the testimony of my conscience that I have been sincere and honest to all, and most of all to you. The testimony of our conscience. To this St. Paul frequently appeals (Act_23:1-35
. 1; Act_24:16; Rom_9:1; 1Co_4:4). In simplicity; rather, in holiness. The best reading is ἁγιότητι ( à , A, B, C, K), not ἀπλότητι . "Holiness" seems to have been altered to "simplicity," both on dogmatic grounds and because it is a rare word, only occurring in Heb_12:10. And godly sincerity; literally, sincerity of God; i.e. sincerity which is a gift of Divine grace (comp. "peace of God," Php_4:7; "righteousness of God," Rom_1:17). For the word used for "sincerity," see note on 1Co_5:8. Not with fleshly wisdom, but by the grace of God. The preposition in both clauses is "in." The grace of God was the atmosphere which the apostle breathed, the sphere in which he worked. We have had our conversation. We lived and moved. The word "conversation" originally meant "mode of life," and is used to translate both anastrophe and politeuma, which means properly "citizenship." The exclusive modern sense of "conversation" is not earlier than the last century. In the world; i.e. in my general life as regards all men. More abundantly to you-ward. Sincerity, holiness, the signs of the grace of God, were specially shown by the apostle towards the Corinthians, because they were specially needed to guide his relations towards a Church which inspired him with deep affection, but which required special wisdom to guide and govern. The fact that, in spite of all his exceptional care, such bitter taunts could still be levelled at him, shows that he had not been mistaken in supposing that no Church required from him a more anxious watchfulness over all his conduct.


For we write none other things unto you,
etc. Remarks like these obviously presuppose that the conduct and character of St. Paul had been misrepresented and calumniated. The perpetual recurrence to a strain of self-defence would have been needless if some one—probably Titus—had not told St. Paul that his opponents accused him of insincerity. Here, therefore, he tells them that he is opening out his very heart towards them. What he had to say to them and of them was here set forth without any subterfuges or arrieres pensees. He had nothing esoteric which differed from exoteric teaching. It is a melancholy thought that even such a one as Paul was reduced to the sad necessity of defending himself against such charges as that he intrigued with individual members of his Churches, wrote private letters or sent secret messages which differed in tone from those which were read in the public assembly. Or acknowledge; rather, or even fully know; i.e. from other sources. The paronomasia of the original cannot be preserved in English, but in Latin would be "Quae legitis aut etiam inteltigitis." And I trust… even to the end; rather, but I hope that, even unto the end, ye will fully know—even as ye fully knew us in part—that we are your subject of boast. After telling them that they have in this letter his genuine and inmost thoughts, he adds that "even as some of them (for this seem to be implied by the 'in part') already knew well that the mutual relations between him and them were something wherein to glory, he hopes that they will appreciate this fact, even to the end." He knows that some honour him; he hopes that all will do so; but he can only express this as a hope, for he is aware that there are calumnies abroad respecting him, so that he cannot feel sure of their unbroken allegiance. Such seems to be the meaning; but the state of mind in which St. Paul wrote has evidently troubled his style, and his expressions are less lucid and more difficult to unravel in this Epistle than in any other. To the end. The expression is quite general, like our "to the last." He does not seem definitely to imply either to the end of his life or to the coming of Christ, which they regarded as the end of all things, as in 1Co_1:8
; 1Co_15:24; Heb_3:6.


In part.
Not as a whole Church. Some only of the Corinthians had been faithful to his teaching and to himself. (For the phrase, see Rom_11:25
; Rom_15:15, Rom_15:24; 1Co_11:18; 1Co_12:27; 1Co_13:9) Rejoicing; rather, ground of boast, as in 2Co_9:3; Rom_4:2, "whereof to glory;" 1Co_5:6. In 1Co_5:12 the substantive means "the act of rejoicing." The word is characteristic of this group of Epistles, in which it occurs forty-six times, Even as ye also are ours. This clause takes away all semblance of self-glorification. In 1Th_2:19, 1Th_2:20 and Php_2:16 he expresses the natural thought that a teacher's converts are, and will be in the last day, his "crown of exultation." Here alone he implies that they may glory in him as he in them. The thought, however, so far frond being egotistical, merely indicates the in. tense intercommunion of sympathy which existed between him and them. He does but place himself on a level with his converts, and imply that they mutually gloried in each other. In the day of the Lord Jesus (see on 1Co_3:13).


His change of purpose in visiting Corinth.


In this confidence.
In reliance on the mutual respect and affection which exists between us. I was minded. The stress is partly on the tense: "my original desire was." When speaking of matters purely personal, St. Paul generally reverts to the first person. To come unto you before. I meant to visit you, first on my way to Macedonia, and again on my return from Macedonia, as explained in the next verse. A second benefit; rather, a second grace. There is another reading, χαρὰν , joy, and the word χάρις itself sometimes has this sense (as in Tobit 7:18), but not in the New Testament. Here, again, there is no boastfulness. St. Paul, filled as he was with the power of the Holy Spirit, was able to impart to his converts some spiritual gifts (Rom_1:11
), and this was the chief reason why his visits were so eagerly desired, and why his change of plan had caused such bitter disappointment to the Corinthians. The importance of the Church of Corinth, its central position, and its unsettled state made it desirable that he should give them as much as possible of his personal supervision.


To be brought on my way
(see note on 1Co_16:6
) toward Judaea (1Co_16:4-6).


When I therefore was thus minded.
Without saying in so many words that all this plan was now given up, he proceeds to defend himself against the charges which had been evidently brought against him by his opponents. The Corinthians were aware that he no longer meant to come to them direct from Ephesus. They had certainly been informed of this by Titus, and he had indeed briefly stated it in 1Co_16:5
. Their disappointment had led some of them into angry criticisms upon the "indecision" of the apostle, the more so because he had (out of kindness, as he here shows) spared them the pain of expressing his reasons. Did I use lightness? Was this change of plan a sign of "the levity" with which some of you charge me? Or the things that I purpose, do I purpose according to the flesh, etc.? Every phrase in this clause is of ambiguous meaning. For instance, the "or" may imply another charge, namely, that his purposes are carnal, and therefore capricious; or it may be the alternative view of his conduct, stated by way of self-defence—namely, "Does my change of plan imply that I am frivolous? or, on the contrary, are not my plans of necessity mere human plans, and therefore liable to be overruled by God's will?" Thus the meaning of the "or" is doubtful, and also the meaning of" according to the flesh." Generally this phrase is used in a bad sense, as in 2Co_10:2 and Rom_8:1; but it may also be used to mean "in a human way," as in 2Co_5:16. That with me there should be yea yea, and nay nay. There is probably no clause in the New Testament of which the certain sense must be left so indeterminate as this.

(1) The Authorized Version gives one way of taking the clause. The grammar equally admits of the rendering.

(2) That with me the yea should be yea, and the nay nay. Whichever rendering we adept, it may be explained in accordance with the view indicated in the last note. "I was not showing the levity which my opponents speak of, but my purposes are necessarily mere human purposes, and therefore my 'yes' and 'no' can be only 'yes' and 'no' when I make a plan. My 'yes' or 'no' may be overruled by the Spirit (Act_16:7) or even hindered by Satan, and that more than once (1Th_2:18)." "With me," i.e. as far as I am concerned, I can only say "yes" or" no;" but l'homme propose, Dieu dispose. His intended double visit to them was prevented, not by any frivolity of his, but, as he afterwards shows, by their own unfaithfulness and his desire to spare them. There is yet a third way of taking it which involves a different meaning—"In order that with me the 'yea yea ' may be also ' nay nay,'" Am I inconsistent? or, are my purposes merely carnal purposes, in order that my "yes yes" may be, as far as I am concerned, no better than "no no"—like the mere shifting feebleness of an aimless man? A fourth way of taking the clause, adopted by St. Chrysostom and many others, is, "Do I plan after the flesh, i.e. with carnal obstinacy, so that my ' yea' and 'nay' must be carried out at all costs?' This suggestion can hardly be right; for St. Paul was charged, not with obstinacy, but with indecision. The phrases, "yea" and "nay," as mentioned in Mat_5:37 and Jas_5:12, throw no light on the passage, unless indeed some one had misquoted against St. Paul our Lord's words as a reason for adhering inviolably to a plan once formed. Of these various methods I adopt the first, because it seems to be, on the whole, most in accordance with the context. For on that view of the passage he contents himself with the remark that it cannot be inconsistency or levity on his part to alter plans which are liable to all the chance and change of ordinary circumstances; and then tells them that there was one part of his teaching which has nothing to do with mere human weakness, but was God's everlasting , "yes;" after which he explains to them the reason why he decided not to come to them until he had first visited Macedonia, and so to give them one visit, not two.


But as God is true;
rather, but God is faithful, whatever man may be (1Co_1:9
; 1Co_10:13; 1Th_5:24; 2Th_3:3; 1Jn_1:9). Our word towards you, etc. The verse should be rendered, But God is faithful, because (faithful herein, that) our preaching to you proved itself to be not yea and may. Whatever you may say of my plans and my conduct, there was one thing which involved an indubitable "yea," namely, my preaching to you. In that, at any rate, there was nothing capricious, nothing variable, nothing vacillating. St. Paul, in a manner characteristic to his moods of deepest emotion, "goes off at a word." The Corinthians talked of his "yea" and "nay" as though one was little better than the other, and neither could be depended on; well, at any rate, one thing, and that the most essential, was as sure as the faithfulness of God.


. This is a proof of what he has just said. His preaching was as firm as a rock; for, tried by time, it had proved itself a changeless" yea," being a preaching of Christ, the same yesterday, today, and forever. By me and Silvanus and Timotheus. They are mentioned because they had been his companions in the first visit to Corinth (Act_18:5
), and he wishes to show that his preaching of Christ had never wavered. "Silvanus" (1Th_1:1; 2Th_1:1) is the "Silas" of Act_15:22. He disappears from the New Testament in this verse, unless he be the "Silvanus" of 1Pe_5:12. Was not yea and nay, but in him was yea. "Became not (proved not to be) yes and no (in one breath, as it were, and therefore utterly untrustworthy), but in him there has been a yea." The perfect, "has become," means that in him the everlasting" yes" has proved itself valid, and still continues to be a changeless affirmation (Heb_13:8).


For all the promises of God in him are yea;
rather, For so many as be the promises of God, in him is the yea. All the promises of God find in him their unchangeable fulfilment. He was "a minister to confirm the promises" alike to the Jews and the Gentiles (Rom_15:8
, Rom_15:9); and "the premise of the eternal inheritance" can only be fulfilled in him (Heb_9:15). And in him Amen. The true reading is," Wherefore by him also is the Amen to God, uttered by us to his glory" ( à , A, B, C, F, G, etc.). In Christ is the "yea" of immutable promise and absolute fulfilment; the Church utters the "Amen" of perfect faith and grateful adoration. Here, as in 1Co_14:16, we have a proof of the ancientness of the custom by which the congregation utters the "Amen" at the end of praise and prayer. But as the "yea" is in Christ, so it is only through him that we can receive the grace to utter aright the "Amen" to the glory of God.


Now he that stablisheth us.
They will have seen, then, that steadfastness not levity, immutability not vacillation, has been the subject of their teaching. Who is the Source of that steadfastness? God, who anointed us and confirmed us, and you with us, into unity with his Anointed. With you. We partake alike of this Christian steadfastness; to impugn mine is to nullify your own. In Christ; rather, into Christ, so as to be one with him. They are already "in Christo;" they would aim more and more to be established "in Christurn." Who anointed us. Every Christian is a king and priest to God, and has received an unction from the Holy One (1Jn_2:20, 1Jn_2:27).


Who hath also sealed us
. We cannot be deconsecrated, disanointed. Still less can the confirming seal be broken. He continues to dwell on the conception of the unchangeableness of God and of the gospel into which he had been incidentally led by the charge of "lightness." The earnest of the Spirit. The promises which we have received are not mere promises, they are already so far fulfilled to us and in us as to guarantee hereafter their plenary fruition. Just as in money bargains "earnest money," "money on account," is given, in pledge that the whole will be ultimately discharged, so we have "the earnest of the Spirit" (2Co_5:5
), "the firstfruits of the Spirit" (Rom_8:23), which are to us "the earnest" or pledge money that we shall hereafter enter upon the purchased possession (Eph_1:13, Eph_1:14). We now see the meaning of the "and." It involves a climax—the promise is much; the unction more; the seal a still further security (Eph_4:30; 2Ti_2:19); but beyond all this we have already a part payment in the indwelling of the Present of God (Rom_5:5; Rom_8:9; Gal_4:6). The word arrabon, rendered "earnest," has an interesting history. It is very ancient, for it is found ( ðåÉáøÈòÇ ) in Gen_38:17, Gen_38:18, and comes from a root meaning "to pledge." It seems to be a Phoenician word, which had been introduced into various languages by the universality of Phoenician commerce. In classical Latin it is shortened into arrha, and it still exists in Italian as aura, in French as arrhes. The equivalent Hebrew figure is "firstfruits" (Rom_8:23).


Moreover I call God for a record;
rather, But I call God for a witness. At this point, to 2Co_2:4
, he enters for the first time on the kindly reasons which had led him to forego his intended earlier visit. He uses a similar adjuration in 2Co_11:31; and although these appeals may be due in part to the emotional fervour of his temperament, yet he would hardly have resorted to them in this self defence, if the calumnies of his enemies had not gained much credence. The French proverb, Qui s'excuse s'accuse, is often grossly abused. The refutation of lies and slanders is often a duty, not because they injure us, but because, by diminishing our usefulness, they may injure others. Upon my soul. Not "to take vengeance on my soul if I lie," but to confirm the appeal of its honesty and integrity. By the use of such "oaths for confirmation," St. Paul, no less than other apostles, shows that he understood our Lord's rule, "Let your communication be, Yea, yea; Nay, nay," as applying to the principle of simple and unvarnished truthfulness of intercourse, which requires no further confirmation; but not as a rigid exclusion of the right to appeal to God in solemn cases and for good reasons. To spare you. This postponement of the intended visit was a sign of forbearance, for which they should have been grateful. After all that he had heard of them, if he had come at all, it could only have been "with a rod" (1Co_4:21). I came not as yet. The rendering is erroneous. It literally means "I no longer came," i.e. I forbore to come as I had intended.


Not for that we have dominion over your faith.
The expression, "to spare you," might have been resented as involving a claim "to lord it over their faith." He had, indeed, authority (1Co_4:21
; 2Co_10:6; 2Co_13:2, 2Co_13:10), but it was a purely spiritual authority; it was valid only over those who recognized in him an apostolic commission. St. Peter, no less than St. Paul, discourages the spirit of ecclesiastical tyranny (1Pe_5:3). But are helpers of your joy. We are fellow-helpers of your Christian joy, and therefore I would not come to cause your grief. That was how I desired to spare you. The object of my visits is always "for your furtherance and joy of faith" (Php_1:25). For by faith ye stand. The expression is not a mere general principle, but explains his disclaimer of any desire "to lord it over their faith." As far as their "faith" was concerned, they were not to blame; that remained unshaken, and was independent of any visit or authority of St. Paul. But while "in respect of faith ye stand" (Eph_6:13), there are other points in which you are being shaken, and in dealing with these I should have been obliged to take severe measures, which, if I postponed my visit, would (I hoped) become unnecessary.


2Co_1:1, 2Co_1:2

The will of God.

"Paul, an apostle of Jesus Christ," etc. Here are three subjects of thought.

I. THE SUPREME LAW. "By the will of God."

1. God has a will. He is, therefore, personality, free and intelligent. His will explains the origin, sustenance, and order of the universe. His will is the force of all forces, the law of all laws.

2. God has a will in relation to individual men. He has a purpose in relation to every man, every man's existence, mission, and conduct. His will in relation to moral beings is the standard of all conduct and the rule of all destiny. Love is its primal fount or mainspring.

II. THE APOSTOLIC SPIRIT. Judging from what Paul says here, we observe:

1. The apostolic spirit involves subjection to Christ. "An apostle of Jesus Christ." Christ is the moral Master; he the loving, loyal servant.

2. The apostolic spirit is that of special love for the good. He calls Timothy his "brother," and towards "the Church of God which is at Corinth, with all the saints which are in all Achaia," he glows with loving sympathy. Love for souls, deep, tender, overflowing, is the essential qualification for the gospel apostolate or ministry.


1. Here is the highest good. "Grace and peace." He who has these has the summum bonum.

2. Here is the highest good from the highest Source: "From our Father, and from the Lord Jesus Christ."


The God of Christianity.

"Blessed he God, even the Father," etc. The God of nature is revealed in nature as the Almighty and the All-wise. "The invisible things of the world are clearly seen, being made visible by the things that are seen, even his eternal power and Godhead." But God in Christianity appears in three aspects.

I. AS THE FATHER OF THE WORLD'S REDEEMER. "Blessed be God, even the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ." Jesus Christ is the world's Redeemer, and the world's Redeemer is the Son of God. "This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased."

II. AS THE SOURCE OF MAN'S MERCIES. "The Father of mercies, and the God of all comfort," or the merciful Father. Mercy implies something more than mere benevolence; it is a modification of goodness; it implies sorrow and suffering. God is good to all, but he is merciful to the afflicted—he compassionates and comforts them. God in nature does not appear as the God of mercy and comfort for the fallen and the lost.

III. AS THE COMFORTER OF AFFLICTED SAINTS. "Who comforteth us in all our tribulation, that we may be able to comfort them which are in any trouble," etc. The best of men have their tribulations here. Most, if not all, the men who have entered heaven have passed through much tribulation.

1. He comforts his afflicted people "in all their tribulations." Whatever the nature and variety of affliction, he has suitable and adequate comfort to bestow. Moral remorses, worldly losses, social bereavements,—he has a healing balm for all.

2. He comforts his afflicted people, that they may be able to administer comfort to others. "That we may be able to comfort them which are in any trouble." Affliction is necessary to qualify us to sympathize with and administer comfort to others. "They comfort others who themselves have borne," says Sophocles. By affliction Christ qualified himself to comfort others. "We have not a High Priest that cannot be touched with the feeling of our infirmities," etc.


Personal sufferings.

"And whether we be afflicted, it is for your consolation," etc. The words suggest a few remarks concerning personal sufferings.

I. THEY ARE OFTEN EXPERIENCED IN THE BEST OF ENTERPRISES. What a glorious enterprise Paul and his fellow apostles were engaged in!—nothing less than the restoration of mankind to the knowledge, image, and friendship of the great God. Yet how great their sufferings! "We were pressed out of measure, above strength, insomuch that we despaired even of life."£

II. THEY ARE EVER NECESSARY FOR THE RENDERING OF THE HIGHEST SERVICE TO MANKIND. "Whether we be afflicted, it is for your consolation and salvation, which is effectual in the enduring of the same sufferings which we also suffer." The apostle here teaches that his sufferings and those of his colleagues were vicarious. He and his colabourers incurred them in their endeavours to extend the gospel, and they had the "consolations" which came to him, qualified him to sympathize with and administer comfort to all who were in the same trying condition. Paul could say to the sufferers at Corinth—We were in sufferings and were comforted; you are in sufferings and may participate in the same comfort. If you are partakers of the same kind of suffering, that is, suffering on account of your religion, you shall also be partakers of the same comfort. Suppose a man who had been restored from a certain disease by a certain specific were to meet another suffering under a complaint in all respects identical, and were to say to the man—I can not only sympathize with you, but I can assure you of that which will cure you, for it has cured me;—this, perhaps, may serve as an illustration of the apostle's meaning here; and this every true Christian man who has suffered can say to all—I was in your condition, I was restored; I can sympathize with you, and I urge the same means of restoration,

III. THEIR DETAILMENT PURELY FOR THE GOOD OF OTHERS IS JUSTIFIABLE. Paul says, "We would not, brethren, have you ignorant of our trouble." There is a wonderful tendency in men to parade their sufferings and their trials, to spread them out before men, in order to enlist their sympathy and excite commiseration. This is selfish, is not justifiable. Christ—perhaps the greatest of all sufferers—never did this: in rids respect, "he opened not his mouth." But to declare sufferings in order to benefit others, to give them courage and comfort, and to establish between you and them a holy unity in the Divine cause, this is right, this is what Paul does here. He does it that they may believe in his sympathy and seek the comfort which he himself experienced.

IV. THEIR EXPERIENCE OFTEN PROVES A BLESSING TO THE SUFFERER. They seem to have done two things for Paul.

1. To have transferred his trust in himself to trust in God. "We had the sentence of death in ourselves, that we should not trust in ourselves, but in God." Paul no doubt felt that he was brought near unto death, to the very extreme of suffering, and that led him to look away from self, to put his trust in God. When affliction does this it is indeed a blessing in disguise. When it detaches us from the material and links us to the spiritual, takes us away from self and centres us on God, then, indeed, it worketh out for us a "far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory."

2. To have awakened prayers by others on his behalf. "Ye also helping together by prayer for us, that for the gift bestowed upon us by the means of many persons thanks may be given by many on our own behalf."


Conscience and the inner life of man.

"For our rejoicing is this, the testimony of our conscience, that in simplicity and godly sincerity, not with fleshly wisdom, but by the grace of God, we have had our conversation in the world, and more abundantly to you-ward." Three remarks are suggested.

I. WHAT IS GOING ON IN THE SOUL CONSCIENCE OBSERVES. This is implied in its "testimony." The eye of conscience pierces into the deepest secrets of motives, and is cognizant of all our hidden impulses, thoughts, and aims. We may appear sincere to others, but hypocrites to conscience; hypocrites to others, but true to conscience. Conscience is the best judge.


1. Paul's conscience approved of his inner principles—his "simplicity" or holiness, and "sincerity." On these elements it has ever smiled and will ever smile, but not on "fleshly wisdom," carnal policy, and worldly expediency.

2. Paul's conscience approved of his external demeanour. "We have had our conversation in the world, and more abundantly to you-ward." His outward conduct was the effect and expression of his inner life. Conscience smiles on every holy deed, however mean in the sight of men.

III. WHATEVER IS JOYOUS IN THE SOUL CONSCIENCE OCCASIONS. "Our rejoicing is this," or, "our glorying is this." Where there is not an approving conscience there is no real, moral joy. Its "well done" sets the soul to music; with its approval we can stand, not only calm and serene, but even triumphant, under the denunciations of the whole world. Dr. South says, "Conscience is undoubtedly the grand repository of all those pleasures which can afford any solid refreshment to the soul; when this is calm and serene, then properly a man enjoys all things, and, what is more, himself; for that he must do before he can enjoy anything else. It will not drop but pour in oil upon the wounded heart; it will not whisper but proclaim a jubilee to the mind."


Possessions of a genuine Christian.

"And in this confidence," etc. These verses may he regarded as indicating what every genuine disciple of Christ—that is, every Christly man—possesses now and here.

I. HE POSSESSES MORAL STABILITY. Paul is here writing on the defensive; indeed, the whole tone of his letter is apologetic. Because he did not visit the Corinthians according to his first promise, they perhaps pronounced him fickle, vacillating, untrue to his word. Against this he protests. "And in this confidence I was minded to come unto you before, that ye might have a second benefit; and to pass by you into Macedonia, and to come again out of Macedonia unto you, and of you to be brought on my way toward Judaea." Here he admits his intention and his promise, but in reply says emphatically, "When I therefore was thus minded, did I use lightness?" etc. He claims stability, and the stability which he claims is possessed by all true Christians.

1. A stability of purpose. "As God is true, our word toward you was not yea and nay." What we said we meant; there was no equivocation, no "yea" and "nay" in the same breath. In defending his veracity:

(1) He makes an asseveration. "As God is true," or as God is faithful, we meant to perform what we promised.

(2) He indicates an incongruity. "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. For all the promises of God in him are yea," etc. He means to say that the gospel which he had preached to them necessarily bound him to faithfulness. Christ, in whom he lived and for whom he laboured, was the grand Reality, the "Amen," the Truth. The idea of a man in Christ being unveracious, untruthful, was preposterous. An untruthful man cannot be a Christian. This the apostle means and declares.

2. A stability of character. "Now he which stablisheth us with you in Christ, and hath anointed us, is God." The stability he claims for himself he accedes to all the Christians at Corinth. How blessed to have the heart fixed, their character "in Christ" established, "rooted and grounded in love"!

II. HE POSSESSES DIVINE CONSECRATION. He that "hath anointed us is God." Among the Jews in olden times, kings, priests, and prophets were set apart to their offices by anointing them with oil; hence here the word "anointed" means they were consecrated by God to a Christly life and labour. A truly Christian man is divinely consecrated, not to a mere office, but to the noblest character and the sublimest mission. As such he has God's seal on him, "who hath also sealed us."

III. HE POSSESSES A PLEDGE OF THE HIGHEST PROGRESS. "Given the earnest of the Spirit in our hearts." "Let us," says F.W. Robertson, "distinguish between an earnest and a pledge. A pledge is something different in kind given in assurance of something else, as when Judah gave his staff and ring in pledge for a lamb which he promised should be given afterwards. But an earnest is part of that thing which is eventually to be given, as when the grapes were brought from Canaan, or as when a purchase is made and part of the money is paid down at once." There is no finality in the life of goodness; it passes on from "strength to strength," from "glory to glory." In every step, after the first, up the celestial mountains, the scenes widen and brighten, and the breezes become more balmy and invigorating as we advance. He who has the Christly life within has already Paradise in germ.

2Co_1:23, 2Co_1:24

A threefold theme.

"Moreover I call God for a record," etc. In these verses we have three things worthy of note.

I. THE FULFILMENT OF A PROMISE ADJOURNED. "Moreover I call God for a record upon my soul, that to spare you I came not as yet unto Corinth." Paul here, in the most solemn way, assigns the reason why he had adjourned his promised visit to Corinth. It was not for his personal convenience, or from a change of purpose, or from any indifference towards them, but on the contrary, out of tender regard to their feelings—"to spare you I came not." Knowing the prevalence of the spirit of schism and disorder which had crept into the Church, he shrank from the exercise of that discipline which of necessity would inflict great pain. Hence, hoping that the admonishing letter which he bad addressed to them would have the effect he desired upon them, he delayed. Surely a love so generous, so pure, and exquisitely sympathetic, would justify, if not the breaking of a promise, the postponement of its fulfilment, Regard for the feelings of others, it has been said, is the grand characteristic of the "gentleman." Anyhow, it is an essential element in personal Christianity.

II. AUTHORITY OVER THE FAITH OF OTHERS DISCLAIMED. "Not for that we have dominion over your faith." Had we desired to set up a lordship over you, we might have hastened to you at once, but we respected your feelings, and sought your happiness. The authority which Paul here disclaims has been assumed by priestly ecclesiastics in all times. It is the very spirit of priestism. The minister, whoever he may be, to whatever Church he belongs, who endeavours to make men believe that his own personal ministry, or the ministry of his denomination, is the special ministry of heaven, and essential to the salvation of mankind, has in him the intolerant spirit of the priest, he seeks dominion over the faith of men, he would restrain liberty of thought, and subject the minds of men to his credenda. These men, whether Papists or Protestants, Churchmen or Nonconformists, outrage the spirit of the mission they have received, and inflict untold mischief on the minds of men.

III. THE TRUE WORK OF A GOSPEL MINISTER. "But are helpers of your joy." He is a helper, not a lord; a helper, not a substitute. A true minister is:

1. To help men to think aright. To think aright is to think on the right subject, in the right way.

2. To help men to feel aright. Feel aright in relation to self, mankind, the universe, and God.

3. To help men to believe aright. "By faith ye stand." Spiritually men can only "stand" by faith, and the work of a true minister is to help people to "stand" by "faith" on the right foundation. When will ministers come to feel that they are the spiritual "helpers" of the people; to help them, not by doing their work for them, but to assist them in working for themselves?


2Co_1:1, 2Co_1:2


It is a greeting from Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus, and from "'Timothy our brother," instead of Sosthenes, as in the First Epistle. It is to the Church of God at Corinth, with all the saints in the whole of Achaia, all connected in the province with the central Church at Corinth. "Beginning at Jerusalem"—the holy city was to be the starting point. Antioch, Caesarea, Thessalonica, Corinth, Ephesus, Rome, were to be early reached by the gospel. Community centres were to become Church centres, so that the social idea of Christianity should have prompt and impressive development. As usual with St. Paul, "Grace be to you and peace," opening and closing with the word so comprehensive, so precious, "grace."—L.


Thanksgiving in the midst of tribulation; uses of sorrow; comforting others; personal references.

The ascription begins with "blessed," the strongest term the apostle could employ as representing the highest and strongest emotions, the head-word in the vocabulary of gratitude and praise, found in the Old and New Scriptures, and common to Jews and Gentile Christians. "Blessed;" the best in us acknowledging the God of grace, an anthem in a single utterance, and embodying the whole nature of man in reverence and adoration. "Blessed be God, even the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ;" not only God, but the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, and a Father to us in him. What significance Christ gave to the word "father" we all know. It is the root-word of the Lord's Prayer, every ascription and every petition being but an offshoot from "Our Father which art in heaven." So of the entire Sermon on the Mount; it is the motive to trust Providence, the reason to be like God, the ground of brotherhood, the inducement to forgive those who offend us, the inspiration of each duty, each sacrifice, and the joy and strength of each beatitude. So of the last conversations and discourse—all of the Father and of the Son in him, and the disciples in the Son. So after the Resurrection, "My Father and your Father." St. Paul rejoiced in the word. Nor did he hesitate to use on Mars' Hill the quotation," We are also his offspring," and from this point of view expose the error and sin of idolatry. And wherever he comes to give it the fulness of its import, as in Rom_8:1-39., his heart overflows with feeling. Here (Rom_8:3) he is also the "Father of mercies, and the God of all comfort," and no matter how the mercies reach us and what their nature and connections, they are from the Father as the God of all comfort. Physical and spiritual blessings, a visit from Stephanas, the return of Titus, good news from Corinth,—all alike are mercies from the Father, the God of all comfort. One may lose himself in the omnipresence of Jehovah and be overwhelmed by its sublimity, but it is a very practical doctrine with the apostle, a constant reality, and he feels it deeply because he feels it always. "Not far from every one of us." How can he be, when "we live and move and have our being" in]aim? We say these great words, but with what little consciousness of their massive import! Reason tries in vain to comprehend omnipresence; imagination labours and sinks under its images; while the humble and docile heart accepts the grandeur of God's presence in immensity as the grandeur of his nearness in all the affairs of life. "God of all comfort" because "Father of mercies;" the mercies very welcome to him just then in that sore emergency, and the fatherhood of God in Christ unspeakably dear. it enlivened the sense of special providence in his soul; it was the Comforter whom Christ had promised as more than a compensation for his absence, and. while this Comforter was never taken from him, yet, as occasion demanded, his Divine manifestations were augmented. Just as we need human sympathy, assurances of human friendship and love, more at some times than at others, so need we the Consoler, and to this varying want he adapts himself in the infinitude of his power and tenderness. No soul is saved, we may suppose, on an unvarying plan; no soul is cheered and strengthened by a rigid monotony of spiritual influence. "The wind bloweth where it listeth," a zephyr, a breeze, a gate, but in all the wind. "So is every one that is born of the Spirit." "Blessed be God," not only for "mercies" and "comfort," but for them in particular adaptations to seasons and experiences that doubly endear the gracious offices of the Paraclete. Now, these words of praise naturally lead us to expect a justification of their special utterance, and we have it immediately. "Who comforteth us in all our tribulation," and for what purpose? Titus and Timothy had brought him much cheer and consolation, and why? Was it just to revive his drooping spirit? Just to assuage his personal pain, soothe his unquiet nerves, invigorate his tone of mind? Nay; consolation was not selfish. Happiness is not exclusively or even mainly for its possessor. "Doth God take care for oxen?" Yea; for the owner of oxen too in his providence over the beast. The tribulation had not fallen on St. Paul because of anything peculiar to him; it was vicarious; and the comfort had been granted, not in his behalf alone, but that he might know how to console others. This is his statement: "That we may be able to comfort them which are in any trouble." If the Holy Ghost is the Comforter, we are his agents, and, just as the gospel of doctrine reaches you from him through us, so too the gospel of consolation comes to your hearts through our hearts. Look at what the apostolic office meant. Far more than preacher, organizer, administrator, leader, champion, was included in its high duties and arduous responsibilities. To console was one of its greatest tasks. Everywhere the dejected were to be lifted up, the discouraged animated, the afflicted taught to hope. To be a physician to suffering souls was a cease- less requisition on St. Paul. Think of what it entailed on such a man as he. Think of but one aspect of the matter—tension of sensibility. The exhaustion consequent on the unceasing strain upon sensibility is the hardest of all things to bear. It opens the door to all manner of temptations. It is the crucial test of manly fortitude, Now, the quality of emotion has much more to do with the exhaustion of the nervous system than the quantity. Every preacher knows that a funeral occasion on which he has to officiate is a severer tax on his nerves than half a dozen ordinary pulpit services. The more solemn, and especially the more pathetic, the circumstances, the more rapid and complete the subsequent exhaustion. Think now of what St. Paul had to endure in this kind of apostolic experience, and that too without a respite; how many thorns rankled besides "the thorn in the flesh;" and how many hearts bled in that one bleeding heart of his. Just now, moreover, he was suffering greatly on account of the Corinthians. This will appear hereafter. The main point before us is—How was he qualified to be a consoler? What Ms discipline, what his education, for this beautiful and holy service? Ah, Tarsus and Jerusalem, Gamaliel, all other teachers, pass out of view in this deepest and most personal of all culture, and the Holy Ghost and the man are the only parties to the work. "By the comfort wherewith we ourselves are comforted of God." Talking from the intellect is in such a case of no avail. A man must have been a sufferer, must have felt Christ in his sufferings, must have abounded in these "sufferings of Christ," as St. Paul designates his afflictions, before he can be fitted to minister unto others. Only sorrow can speak to sorrow. Notice the correspondence in the degree; if the sufferings of Christ abounded, so "our consolation also aboundeth by Christ." "By the sufferings of Christ abound in us" ("unto us," Revised Version), we understand the apostle to mean his fellowship with Christ in suffering the ills and sorrows that came ,.Ton him as an apostle and as a man because of his spiritual union with Christ. Mediation in all its offices, in the peculiar and exclusive work of Christ as the one Reconciler and Healer, in the subordinate and imperfect operations of human sympathy, is essentially painful. And allowing for the infinite distinction between the Divine Sufferer and. human sufferers, there is vet a unity in suffering predicable of Christ and the members of his mystical body. For it is the capacity to suffer which is the dignity and glory of our nature. We are God-like in this quality. It is the basis of all grand excellence, nor can our innate love of happiness nor any other ideal of our being have its fulfilment except through that kind of sorrow which Christians undergo in the Man of sorrows. Ver, 6 emphasizes this fact. If we are afflicted, argues he, it is for your good, that we may be instrumental in your salvation, and that grace may abound to yon because of what we endure. And, furthermore, it was for their present consolation; it was "effectual;" the example of their distressed apostle operated to strengthen and establish them, and the consolation wherewith he was sustained availed to animate their souls For this