Pulpit Commentary - 2 Corinthians 2:1 - 2:17

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Pulpit Commentary - 2 Corinthians 2:1 - 2:17

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This Chapter Verse Commentaries:


Continuation of his reasons for not coming to them direct from Ephesus (2Co_2:1-4). Their treatment of the incestuous offender (2Co_2:5-11). His thankfulness at the news which Titus had brought from Corinth (verses 12-17).


But I determined this
. The division of chapters is here unfortunate, since this and the next three verses belong to the paragraph which began at 2Co_1:23
. The verb means, literally, "I judged," but is rightly rendered "determined," as in 1Co_2:2; 1Co_7:37. He is contrasting his final decision with his original desire, mentioned in 2Co_1:15. With myself; rather, for myself; as the best course which I could take. That I would net come again to you in heaviness. The "again" in the true reading is not placed immediately before the verb, but it seems (as Theodoret says) to belong to it, so that the meaning is not "that I would not pay you a second sad visit," but "that my second visit to you should not be a sad one." There have been interminable discussions, founded on this expression and on 2Co_13:1, as to whether St. Paul had up to the time of writing this letter visited Corinth twice or only once. There is no question that only one visit is recorded in the Acts (Act_18:1-18) previous to the one which he paid to this Church after this Epistle had been sent (Act_20:2, Act_20:3). If he paid them a second brief, sad, and unrecorded visit, it can only have been during his long stay in Ephesus (Act_19:8, Act_19:10). But the possibility of this does not seem to be recognized in Act_20:31, where he speaks of his work at Ephesus "night and day" during this period. The assumption of such a visit, as we shall see, is not necessitated by 2Co_13:1, but in any case we know nothing whatever about the details of the visit, even if there was one, and the question, being supremely unimportant, is hardly worth the time which has been spent upon it. If he had paid such a visit, it would be almost unaccountable that there should be no reference to it in the First Epistle, and here in 2Co_1:19 he refers only to one occasion on which he had preached Christ in Corinth. Each fresh review of the circumstances convinces me more strongly that the notion of three visits to Corinth, of which one is unrecorded, is a needless and mistaken inference, due to unimaginative literalism in interpreting one or two phrases, and encumbered with difficulties on every side. In heaviness. The expression applies as much to the Corinthians as to himself, he did not wish his second visit to Corinth to be a painful one.


For if I make you sorry.
The verse may be rendered. "For if I pain you, who then is it that gladdens me except he who is being pained by me?" The "I" being expressed in the original, is emphatic, and the verse has none of the strange selfish meaning which has been assigned to it, namely, that St. Paul thought "the grief which he had caused to be amply compensated for by the pleasure he received from that grief." It has the much simpler meaning that he was unwilling to pain those who gladdened him, and therefore would not pay them a visit which could only be painful on both sides, when the normal relation between them should be one of joy on both sides, as he has already said (2Co_1:24
). The singular, "he who is being pained by me," does not refer to the offender, but to the Corinthians collectively. Who is he then, etc.? The "then" in the original is classically and elegantly expressed by καὶ , and (comp. Jas_2:4).


And I wrote this same unto you.
And I wrote. He meets the tacit objection. If you shrink from causing us pain, why then did you write to us in terms so severe? The "I wrote" may be what is called the epistolary aorist, and will then be equivalent to our "I write:" "What I write to you now has the very object of sparing you a painful visit." If the aorist has its more ordinary sense, it refers to the First, and not to the present Epistle; and this seems the better view, for the "I wrote" in 2Co_2:9
certainly refers to the First Epistle. This same thing; namely, exactly what I have written (whether in this or in the former Epistle). The words, "this very thing," may also, in the original, menu "for this very reason," as in 2Pe_1:5, and like the εἰς τοῦτο in 2Pe_1:9. Unto you. These words should be omitted, with à , A, B, C. When I came. The emphasis lies in these words. He preferred that his letter, rather than his personal visit, should cause pain. In you all. It is true that in the Corinthian Church St. Paul had bitter and unscrupulous opponents, but he will not believe even that they desired his personal unhappiness. At any rate, if there were any such, he will net believe that they exist, since "love believeth all things, hopeth all things" (1Co_13:7).


. He proceeds to assign the anguish which his First Epistle had caused him as a proof of his confidence that, as a body, they loved him as he loved them. If they had regarded each other with indifference, his letter would not have been written to them, as it were. in his heart's blood. Out of much affliction and anguish of heart. The word for "anguish" means "contraction," "pressure," "spasm" (Luk_21:25
). The expression may seem far too strong to be accounted for by the tone of the first letter. Hence some have supposed that he is referring to some other letter now last; and others that ch. 10-13. of this letter, where the whole tone of affection and tenderness suddenly changes into one of impassioned irony and indignation, really belonged to this intermediate letter. There is no need, however, for these hypotheses. In 1Co 5:1-6:11 he had spoken of the errors of the Church with strong reprobation, and the anguish with which he wrote the letter may have been all the more deeply felt because, in expressing it, he put on his feelings a strong restraint. With many tears. I wrote "out of" anguish, and that anguish showed itself through the tears which bathed my cheeks as I wrote. Such tears, says Calvin, "show weakness, but a weakness more heroic than would have been the iron apathy of a Stoic." It must, however, be remembered that, in ancient times, and in Southern and Eastern lands, men yielded to tears more readily than among Northern nations, who take pride in suppressing as far as possible all outward signs of emotion. In Homer the bravest heroes do not blush to weep in public, and the nervous, afflicted temperament of St. Paul seems to have been often overwhelmed with weeping (Act_20:19, Act_20:31; 2Ti_1:4). Not that ye should be grieved. The "not," by a common Hebrew idiom, means "not only," "not exclusively." His object in inflicting pain was not the pain itself, but the results of godly repentance which it produced (2Co_7:11). The love. In the Greek this word is placed very emphatically at the beginning of the clause. More abundantly. I loved you more than I loved other converts, and the abundance of my love will give you a measure of the pain I felt. The Philippians were St. Paul's best-beloved converts; but next to them he seems to have felt more personal tenderness for the members of this inflated, wayward, erring Church than for any other community, just as a father sometimes loves best his least-deserving son. There was something in the brightness and keenness of the Greek nature which won over St. Paul, in spite of its many faults.


The results of his letter in their treatment of the incestuous offender.


But if any have caused grief.
The word "pain" or "grief" which has been so prominent in the last verses, naturally reminds St. Paul of the person whose misdoings had caused all this trouble. The "any" is in the singular. He hath not grieved me, but in part, etc. Of the various ways of taking this verse, the most tenable seems to be this: "If any one has caused pain, he has not pained me but partly (not to weigh down too heavily) all of you. St. Paul is denying that the feelings with which he hat community (2Co_7:11
). The phrase, "that I press not too heavily," refers then to the offender: "I will not say outright that he has grieved not me, but all of you, because I do not wish to bear too hard on him", "but I will say that he has grieved you and me alike to some extent." The phrase, "in part," occurs also in Rom_11:25.


Sufficient to such a man is this punishment.
What the punishment was we do not know, but of course the Corinthians knew that what St. Paul had directed them to do was to summon the Church together, and there,by excommunicating the man, "to hand him over to Satan." But this handing over to Satan was, as we have seen, designed solely for a merciful purpose, and to awaken his repentance, so as to secure his ultimate salvation (1Co_5:4
. 5). Whether the Corinthians had done exactly as St. Paul bade them is uncertain; but whatever they had done is here acquiesced in by St. Paul, and even if they had dealt more leniently with the offender than he originally intended, he here not only refrains from urging them to use greater severity, but even exhorts them to a still more absolute condonation. St. Paul's object had not been that they should take a particular course of action, but that they should bring about a desired result. The result had been achieved, and now the matter might rest. To such a man. St. Paul mercifully abstains from recording his name or from thrusting him into unnecessary prominence before the assembly in which the letter would be read. The apostle evidently entered into the Jewish feeling that there is a criminal cruelty in needlessly calling a blush of shame into a brother's face. This punishment. The word epitimia, which occurs here only in the New Testament, but is also found in Wis. 3:10, means "punishment," as in later Greek, and is not used in its classical sense of "rebuke" (Vulgate, objurgatio); but the mildness of the word, perhaps, implies that the Corinthians had not resorted to the severest measures. Which was inflicted of many; rather, by the majority. The verb is expressed in the original, and St. Paul seems to allude to the steps taken, whatever they were, with a certain dignified reticence. It is obvious that there were still some opponents of St. Paul in the Church, who retained in this matter their "inflated" sentiments of spurious independence; and this may, perhaps, have driven others into too rigid an attitude of severity.


; i.e. contrary to the line taken or to the view expressed by the severer portion of the community. Rather. The word is omitted in A and B. To forgive him. The word is used of the mutual attitude of gracious forbearance which ought to exist among Christians(Forgiving one another," Eph_4:32
; Col_3:13), so that they might be not only Christians, but as Gentiles ignorantly called them, Chrestians (" kind-hearted," Eph_4:1-32 :82). And comfort; i.e. "strengthen," "encourage." The "him" is emitted in the Greek, with the same delicate, compassionate reticence which leads St. Paul to speak of this person "a man of such of a kind." In Gal_6:11 St. Paul suddenly breaks off the course of his remarks to give similar advice in a tone of peculiar solemnity; and in 2Th_3:15 he warns against any excess in the severity which he enjoins in the previous verse. Such a one. Like the indefinite "one" in 1Co_5:5. In the Greek it is compassionately placed last in the clause. Should be swallowed up. The same metaphor, of being swallowed in an abyss, occurs in 1Co_15:54. In 1Pe_5:8 it is said that Satan is ever striving to "swallow up" men. With overmuch sorrow; rather, with the, or his, excessive grief. Despair might drive the man to suicide, or apostasy, or the wretchlessness of unclean living.


To confirm your love toward him
; literally, to ratify towards him, love.


For to this end also did I write.
This is another reason which he gives for the severe tone of his First Epistle. It was written

(1) to avoid the necessity for a painful visit (2Co_2:3

(2) to show his special love for them (2Co_2:4); and

(3) to test their obedience.

The proof of you. Your proved faithfulness (2Co_8:2; 2Co_9:13; 2Co_13:3; Rom_5:4); your capacity to stand a test.


To whom ye forgive any thing.
In the original there is a conjunction, "but." It would, perhaps, be pressing it too much to imply that their "forgiveness" showed that they had not accurately stood the test of perfect obedience; yet it is difficult to read the whole passage without suspecting that St. Paul, while by temperament he leaned to the side of mercy, is here showing a spirit of generous self-suppression m accepting the course which the Corinthians had followed, although it had, in some way or other, diverged from his exact directions. To whom, Obviously, again, a purposely indefinite reference to the incestuous person. I forgive also. The power of "binding" and "loosing," of "forgiving" and "retaining," had only been given to the apostles representatively and collectively, and therefore to the Christian Church (Joh_20:23
) in its corporate capacity. The Corinthian Church had in this case decided to forgive, and St. Paul ratifies their decision. For if I forgave any thing, to whom I forgave it. The reading here varies between ὅ , what, and ὦ , to whom, which in dictation might be easily confused. The order of the words also varies. The best reading seems to be expressed by the version, "For what I also have pardoned, if I have pardoned anything (I have pardoned it) for your sakes." This represents the reading of à , A, B, C, F, G, etc., and is followed by the Revised Version. There seems to be here an intentional vagueness, and reference to circumstances of which we are not informed, which might, perhaps, have given room for wounded feelings in any one less magnanimous than St. Paul. The line he took in this matter was taken for their sakes—that is all he says, he adopted it as the best relatively, whether it was absolutely the best or not. In the person of Christ; literally, in the face of Christ; which seems to mean "in the presence of Christ," as though he were looking on at what I did. It may be doubted whether the word prosopon ever means "person" in the New Testament, except in a secondary sense.


Lest Satan should get an advantage over us;
literally, lest we should be overreached by Satan, which would have been the case if our severity had resulted in the desperation of the offender, and not in his deliverance. We are not ignorant of his devices. So too in Eph_6:11
we are told of the "crafty wiles of the devil."


Outburst of thanksgiving for the news brought by Titus.'


Furthermore, when I came to Troas.
"Furthermore" is too strong for the "but" of the original. There is an apparently abrupt transition, but the apostle is only resuming the narrative which he broke off at 2Co_2:4
in order that he might finish the topic of the painful circumstance in which his First Epistle had originated. To Troas. Not "the Troas." St. Paul had to do with the city, not with the district. The city (now Eski Stamboul), of which the name had been changed from Antigonia Troas to Alexandria Troas, was at this time a flourishing colony (Colonia Juris Italici), highly favoured by the Romans as representing ancient Troy, and therefore as being the mythological cradle of their race. He visited it on his being driven from Ephesus after the tumult, a little earlier than he would naturally have left it. He had visited Troas in his second missionary journey (Act_16:8-11), but had left it in consequence of the vision which called him to Macedonia. He now stopped there on his journey through Macedonia to Corinth, which he had announced in 1Co_16:5. And a door was opened unto me of the Lord; literally, and a door had been opened to me in the Lord; i.e. and I found there a marked opportunity (1Co_16:9) for work in Christ. Some commentators, in that spirit of superfluous disquisition and idle letter-worship which is the bane of exegesis, here venture to discuss whether St. Paul was justified in neglecting this opportunity or not. Such discussions are only originated by not observing characteristic modes of expression. St. Paul merely means" circumstances would otherwise have been very favourable for my preaching of Christ; but I was in such a state of miserable anxiety that I lacked the strength to avail myself of them." He was no more responsible for this state of mind, which belonged to his natural temperament, than he would have been responsible for a serious illness. To say that he ought to have had strength of mind enough to get the mastery over his feelings is only to say that Paul ought not to have been Paul. The neglect to use the opportunity was a "hindrance" which might in one sense be assigned to God, and in another to Satan. Moreover, that the opportunity was not wholly lost appears from the fact that St. Paul found a flourishing Christian community at Troas when he visit, d it on his return from this very journey (Act_20:6, Act_20:7), and that he stayed there at least once again, shortly before his martyrdom (2Ti_4:13). Indeed, it was probably at Troas that his final arrest took place. Of the Lord; rather, in the Lord; i.e. in the sphere of Christian work.


I had;
literally, I have had. The perfect vividly realizes the scene through which he had passed. I had no rest. St. Paul had evidently told Titus to come from his mission to Corinth and meet him at Troas. But either St. Paul reached the town earlier than he intended, or Titus had been delayed. Now, the apostle was so intensely eager to know how his rebukes had been received—the name of "Corinth" was so deeply engraven on his heart—he could so ill endure the thought of being on angry terms with converts which he so deeply loved, that the non-appearance of Titus filled him with devouring anxiety and rendered him incapable of any other work. In my spirit; rather, to my spirit. It was the loftiest part of St. Paul's nature—his spirit—which was utterly incapacitated from effort by the restlessness of his miserable uncertainty about the Corinthian Church. The disclosure of such feelings ought to have had a powerful influence on the Corinthians. We see from 1Th_3:5
, 1Th_3:9 that St. Paul yearned for tidings of his converts with an intensity which can hardly be realized by less fervent and self-devoted natures. I found not Titus my brother. Not only "the brother," but "my brother;" the man whom in matters of this kind I most trusted as an affectionate and able fellow worker (2Co_7:6; 2Co_8:6; 2Co_12:18). Titus, though not mentioned in the Acts, is the most prominent person in this Epistle, and it is evident that St. Paul felt for him a warm affection and respect (2Co_7:13, 2Co_7:15; 2Co_8:16, 2Co_8:17; 2Ti_4:10). Taking my leave of them; i.e. of the Christians in Troas. The word for "taking leave" is also found in Mar_6:46. Into Macedonia. As he had intended to do (1Co_16:5; Act_20:1). He had doubtless told Titus to look out for him at Philippi, and expected to meet him there on his way to Troas.


Now thanks be unto God.
The whole of this Epistle is the apostle's Apologia pro vita sua, and is more full of personal details and emotional expressions than any other Epistle. But nothing in it is more characteristic than this sudden outburst of thanksgiving into which he breaks so eagerly that he has quite omitted to say what it was for which he so earnestly thanked God. It is only when we come to 2Co_7:5
, 2Co_7:6 that we learn the circumstance which gave him such intense relief, namely, the arrival of Titus with good news from Corinth about the treatment of the offender and the manner in which the first letter had been received. It is true that this good news seems to have been dashed by other remarks of Titus which, perhaps, he withheld at first, and which may only have been drawn from him, almost against his will, by subsequent conversations. But, however checkered, the main and immediate intelligence was good, and the apostle so vividly recalls his sudden uplifting out of an abyss of anxiety and trouble (2Co_7:5) that the mere remembrance of it awakens a thankfulness to God which can only find vent by immediate utterance. Now thanks be unto God. The order of the original is more forcible, "But to God be thanks." The remembrance of his own prostration calls into his mind the power and love of God. Which always causeth us to triumph; rather, who leadeth us in triumph. The verb thriambeuo may undoubtedly have this meaning, on the analogy of choreuo, I cause to dance, basileuo, I cause to reign, etc.; and other neuter verbs which sometimes have a factitive scribe. But in Col_2:15 St. Paul uses this word in the only sense in which it is actually found, "to lead in triumph;" and this sense seems both to suit the context better, and to be more in accordance with the habitual feelings of St. Paul (Gal_6:17; Col_1:24), and especially those with which these Epistles were written (1Co_4:9-13; 2Co_4:10; 2Co_11:23). St. Paul's feeling is, therefore, the exact opposite of that of the haughty Cleopatra who said, Οὑ θριαμβευθήσομαι , "I will not be led in triumph." He rejoiced to be exhibited by God as a trophy in the triumphal procession of Christ. God, indeed, gave him the victory over the lower part of his nature (Rom_8:37), but this was no public triumph. The only victory of which he could boast was to have been utterly vanquished by God and taken prisoner "in Christ." The savour of his knowledge. The mental vision of a Roman triumph summons up various images before the mind of St. Paul. He thinks of the streets breathing with the fragrance of incense offered upon many a wayside altar; of the tumult and rejoicing of the people; of the fame and glory of the conqueror; of the miserable captives led aside from the funeral procession to die, like Vercingetorix, in the Tullianum at the foot of the Capitoline hill. He touches on each of these incidents as they crowd upon him. The triumph of L. Mummius over the conquest of Corinth had been one of the most splendid which the Roman world had ever seen, and in A.D. 51, shortly before this Epistle was written (A.D. 57), Claudius had celebrated his triumph over the Britons and their king Caractacus, who had been led in the procession, but whose life had been spared (Tacitus, 'Ann.,' 13:36). The savour of his knowledge; i.e. the fragrance of the knowledge of Christ. By us. The details of the metaphor are commingled, as is often the case in writers of quick feeling and imagination. Here the apostles are no longer the vanquished who are led in procession, but the spectators who burn and diffuse the fragrance of the incense. In every place. Even at that early period, not twenty-five years after the Crucifixion, the gospel had been very widely preached in Asia and Europe (Rom_15:18, Rom_15:19).


We are unto God a sweet savour of Christ.
The undeveloped metaphor involved in these words is that "we and our preaching diffuse to God's glory the knowledge of Christ which is as a sweet savour." The apostles are identified with their work; they were as the incense, crushed and burned, but diffusing everywhere a waft of perfume. St. Paul is still thinking of the incense burnt in the streets of Rome during a triumph—"Dabimusque Divis Tura benignis" (Horace, 'Od.,' 2Co_4:2
.51)—though his expression recalls the "odour of a sweet smell," of Le 2Co_1:9, 2Co_1:13, 2Co_1:17 (comp. Eph_5:2); see on this passage the excellent note of Bishop Wordsworth. In them that are saved, and in them that perish; rather, among those who are perishing and those who are being saved (comp. Act_2:47). The odour is fragrant to God, though those who breathe it may be variously affected by it.


The savour of death unto death;
rather, a savour from death to death. To those who are perishing, the incense of the Name of Christ which our work enables them to breathe, seems to rise from death, and to lead to death. They (for here again the outlines of the metaphor shift) are like the doomed captives, who, as they breathed the incense on the day of triumph, knew where that triumph would lead them before the victors can climb the Capitol. To them it would seem to bring with it not "airs from heaven," but wafts from the abyss. So Christ was alike for the fall and for the rising again of many (Luk_2:34
). To some he was a Stone of stumbling (Act_4:11; Rom_9:33; 1Pe_2:8), which grinds to powder those on whom it falls (Mat_21:44). This contrast between the intended effect of the gospel as the power and wisdom of God, and its accidental effect, through man's sin and blindness which converts it into a source of judgment, is often alluded to in the New Testament (1Co_1:18, 1Co_1:23, 1Co_1:24; Joh_3:19; Joh_9:39; Joh_15:22, etc.). St. Paul is fond of intensified expressions, like "from death unto death," as in Rom_1:17; "from faith to faith," etc. (2Co_4:17). Savour of life unto life; rather, a savour from life, as before. It came from the Source of life; it is issued in the sole reality of life. Similarly the rabbis spoke of the Law as "an aroma" alike of death and of life. "Why are the words of the Law likened to princes (Pro_8:6)? Because, like princes, they have the power to kill and to give life. Rays said to those that walk on its right, the Law is a medicine of life; to those that walk on the left side, a medicine of death" ('Shabbath,' f. 88, 2; 'Yoma,' f. 72, 2) Everything is as a two-edged sword. All Christian privileges are, as they are used, either blessings or banes (Wordsworth). And who is sufficient for these things? St. Paul always implies that nothing but the grace of God could enable him to discharge the great duty laid upon him (2Co_3:5, 2Co_3:6; 1Co_15:10).


For we are not as many;
rather, as the many. This clause is introduced to show how much courage and effort the work requires. "The many" might, by Greek idiom, mean "the majority." The apparent harshness of the assertion that the majority of teachers in the apostolic age dealt untruly with the Word of God, led to the substitution of οἱ λοιποὶ , the rest, in some manuscripts (D, E, F, G, L). But "the many" here means "the many antagonists of mine," who preach a different gospel (Gal_1:6
). It must be remembered that conceit, Pharisaism, moral laxity, and factions were all at work in the Corinthian Church. Which corrupt. The Word means who are merely" trafficking with," "adulterating,'' "huckstering," the Word of life. The word occurs in the LXX. of Isa_1:22; Ec 26:29; and Plato applies the same metaphor to the sophists, who peddle their wisdom about. The substantive kapelos means "a retail dealer," and especially a vintner, and the verb kapeleuo is always used in a bad sense, like the English "to huckster." Such deceitful dealers with the gospel are described in 2Pe_2:3, and in one of the Ignatian letters they are called Christemporoi, Christ-traffickers. Such were those who altered the perspective of the gospel, lowered its standard, and adulterated it with strange admixtures. Their methods and their teaching are constantly alluded to in these Epistles (1Co_1:17, 1Co_1:31; 1Co_2:1-4; and 2Co_10:12, 2Co_10:15; 2Co_11:13-15, etc.), But as of sincerity, but as of God. lake one who speaks from the sincerity of his heart (2Co_1:12; 2Co_4:2) and by the inspiration of God (1Co_14:25). Before God speak we in Christ. The sphere of our teaching as of our life is Christ; and our work is done

"As ever in our great Taskmaster's eye."



The uniting force of Christian love.

"But I determined this with myself," etc. The subject which these words suggest is the uniting force of Christian love. We see it here uniting all its subjects in a common sympathy, a common punishment, and a common forgiveness. Here is Christian love—

I. UNITING ALL ITS SUBJECTS IN A COMMON SYMPATHY. "But I determined this with myself, that I would not come again to you in heaviness. For if I make you sorry, who is he then that maketh me glad, but the same which is made sorry by me?" The language of Paul in the first four verses implies that the "heaviness" of one would be the heaviness of all, the sorrow of one the sorrow of all, the grief of one the grief of all, the joy of one the joy of all. And this is what Christian love does in all its subjects, wherever it exists. To whatever Church they belong, it gathers them together in one, it binds them together as attraction binds the material universe into one magnificent and harmonious system. What one feels all feel, all affections are drawn to a common centre, all hearts point to a common home. The pulsations of all throb in harmony and make music in the ear of God.

II. UNITING ALL ITS SUBJECTS IN A COMMON PUNISHMENT. "But if any have caused grief, he hath not grieved me, but in part; that I may not overcharge you all. Sufficient to such a man is this punishment, which was inflicted of many." In the whole passage from 2Co_2:5-10 Paul's reference is to that incestuous person of whom he wrote in his First Epistle (see 1Co_5:1-5), and whose excommunication or "punishment" he secured. The retribution which that man received was not the work of any one of them, but all joined in it. They all sympathetically concurred in it, and thus it was inflicted on many. They all loathed the same wrong and all endured the same punishment. True punishment for wrong is the work of love, not vengeance. Therefore punishment is not for destruction, but for restoration. The punishment that destroys the criminal is Satanic, not saintly; devilish, not Divine. Restoration is the work of love, the work of God. This is here distinctly stated. "So that contrariwise ye ought rather to forgive him, and comfort him, lest perhaps such a one should be swallowed up with overmuch sorrow." It would seem from the language of the apostle that the punishment they had inflicted on this guilty person had produced a deep penitential sorrow—lest he "should be swallowed up with overmuch sorrow." His punishment had answered its purpose, therefore restore him and "confirm your love toward him."

III. UNITING ALL ITS SUBJECTS IN A COMMON FORGIVENESS. "To whom ye forgive anything, I forgive also," As if Paul had said, "You and I are so united in loving sympathy that those whom you forgive I forgive." Observe here three things.

1. That forgiveness is the prerogative of Christian love. There is no love that has the true spirit of forgiveness but Christian. It is the highest form of love; higher than gratitude, esteem, adoration. It is the "new commandment."

2. That in the exercise of forgiveness there is a consciousness of Christ. "For your sakes forgive I it in the person of Christ." He who has Christly love in him has the very consciousness of Christ, feels as he feels, "one in the presence of Christ." How often does Christ urge his genuine disciples to proclaim forgiveness where there is genuine repentance! "Whatsoever is loosed on earth shall be loosed in heaven."

3. That the forgiving spirit thwarts the purposes of the devil. "Lest Satan should get an advantage of us; for we are not ignorant of his devices." Forgiveness is not, then, the prerogative of priests, but the prerogative of Christian love. A truly Christly man represents Christ—stands, so to say, in his stead; and "Christ hath power on earth to forgive sins."


The preaching of the gospel.

"Furthermore, when I came to Troas," etc. The subject of these verses is the preaching of the gospel. Notice—

I. THE DIFFICULTIES CONNECTED WITH IT. "Furthermore, when I came to Troas to preach Christ's gospel, and a door was opened unto me of the Lord, 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." Just at the time when the apostle was about opening his mission at Troas, and the prospect of usefulness seemed most suitable, he encountered a serious difficulty, and that difficulty was the absence of Titus, whom he fully expected. The disappointment cost him such great anxiety that he resigned his purpose, retired from the scene, and wended his way in another direction. Strange that an inspired man should have met with such a disappointment, and stranger still that a disappointment should have so disheartened him that he relinquishes for a time the grand message with which Heaven had especially entrusted him. Antecedently we might have supposed that a man going forth in a true spirit to preach the gospel would encounter no difficulties, that Heaven would sweep away all obstructions from his path; but not so. Perhaps no class of men encounter more difficulties in their mission than ministers. Many become so baffled, confounded, and depressed that, like Jeremiah, they exclaim, "I will speak no more in thy Name."

II. THE TRIUMPHS ACHIEVED BY IT. "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? The grandest of all victories is the victory over sin. He who conquers the moral foes of one soul achieves a far grander triumph than he who lays a whole army dead upon the battle plain. There is no grandeur, but infamy, in the latter conquest. It is here taught that these victories were achieved whenever they preached. "Always causeth us to triumph." Wherever they preached, "in every place," and always through God, "thanks be to God." He is the Author of their victory; he constructed the weapon, he instructed the soldiers, he inspired and gave effect to the strokes.

III. THE INFLUENCES RESULTING FROM IT. "For we are unto God a sweet savour of Christ, in them that are saved, and in them that perish." Observe:

1. The manward aspect of gospel preaching.

(1) It quickens some. "To the other the savour of life unto life."

(2) It destroys others. "To the one we are the savour of death unto death." These effects occur wherever the gospel is preached.

2. The Godward aspect of gospel preaching. "We are unto God a sweet savour of Christ." Whatever the results of preaching, baneful or beneficial, it is acceptable to God if rightly discharged. Ay, the preaching of the gospel is the cause of immense good and the occasion of great evil. Like the waters of the sea, the light of the firmament, the breeze of the atmosphere, it is the Divine cause of good; but man, through the perversity of his nature, may make it the occasion of his ruin.

IV. THE SOLEMNITY CONNECTED WITH IT. Paul felt its solemnity and exclaims, "Who is sufficient for these things?" Who, of himself, is "sufficient" to expound the meaning of the gospel, to exemplify the spirit of the gospel, to inwork into human souls the eternal principles of the gospel? Paul adds in another place, Our sufficiency is of God."


The way in which the gospel should be preached.

"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." The words suggests the way in which the gospel should be preached.

I. WITH CONSCIOUS HONESTY. "As of sincerity." This is a state of mind in direct antagonism to all +duplicity. No man who is not true to his convictions and to himself can preach the gospel. He must be a true man who would preach truth, a loving man who would inculcate love. To have conscious honesty he must preach his own personal convictions of the gospel, not the opinions of others.

II. WITH CONSCIOUS DIVINITY. "As of God, in the sight of God."

1. He must be conscious that God sent him. From God, not from schools, sects, Churches, or ecclesiastics, but direct from God himself.

2. He must be conscious that God sees him. "In the sight of God." This consciousness will make him humble, earnest, fearless, caring nothing for the frowns or smiles of his audience.

III. WITH CONSCIOUS CHRISTLINESS. "Speak we in Christ." To be "in Christ" is to be in his character, in his Spirit. "The love of Christ constraineth me," etc. He who is conscious of the Spirit of Christ within him will be free from all self-seeking, all sordid motives, all cravings for popularity and fame.



Further explanations and directions touching matters lust discussed.

The most copious writer in the New Testament is the man whose inward constitution and life are most fully brought into view. If the fact itself is noteworthy, the art of its management is even more significant. Didactic treatises would have excluded this method of blending the abstract and the concrete, and therefore the epistolary form which St. Paul adopted. What do we mean by this form? Much more, indeed, than a facile and graceful way of communicating facts and truths. In the Epistle we have the personality of the writer interblended with doctrine, duty, experience; so that in St. Paul's case we have not merely the gospel as a body of facts and truths, but the gospel in the consciousness of a leading exponent, and, in some respects, the most prominent representative of certain phases of that gospel. Gentile Christianity, as distinguished from the earlier Judaic Christianity, could never have been understood except for this intermingling of Christianity as a system and Christianity as a life in the history of our apostle. Both the conditions met in him as they met in no other apostle. The two things must not be confounded. Many in our day fall into this error and speak of Christianity as if it were only "a life." It is a life, but it is something else besides and something antecedent to life. Now, the epistolary style, and still more its method of thought, allow full play to the wholeness of Christianity. Its dogmas are preserved. Its experimental and practical forces are maintained. Its individuation is provided for. And thus, while seeing the system, we see also its life in the soul. If the psalmist, King David, is the signal representative of formal and spiritual Judaism in the Old Testament, St. Paul is the corresponding figure in the New Testament. At this point we are able to estimate the very great and specific value of the Second Epistle to the Corinthians. Beyond any of his writings, this unfolds the author, and does it with such masterly skill and on so comprehensive a scale as to give a twofold insight into his system and life. What an extension of the "Acts"! No St. Luke could have done this. It was the "Acts" in their secret headsprings in the man, and the man only could record what they were. The account of his personal feelings is resumed in this chapter. Not only for their sakes, but for his own, the visit had been postponed, since he was unwilling to come in sorrow. The "rod" would have been painful to him; they were to exercise discipline under the directions of his letter and thus forestall an occasion of grief to him. If he had made them sorry, who but they could give him joy? This was the reason for his writing, the reason too of deferring his visit; and thus the two things had been designed to cooperate in one result. A controversy is like a disease; the mode of treatment must be varied to suit its stages. No doubt personal presence, conversations, direct appeals, are best at some times for adjusting difficulties; at other times, letters are preferable. The discernment of the apostle prompted him to write and then to await the effect; and it was all in the interest of peace and for his and their consolation. Inspired by this confidence, he had written them a severe rebuke. It was a most painful duty; it was a duty, however, of love; and because of this coincidence, conscience and affection being at work in his soul, he had suffered most keenly. "Out of much affliction and anguish of heart I wrote unto you with many tears." The great soul was not afraid of words nor of the critics of words. He had a rare kind of courage. It was the boldness to say how much he thought and how much he felt, and to send forth his words laden with the meanings they had for him, that they might convey exactly those meanings to others. The love was not overstated, for it was a father's love towards the children of his heart: "More abundantly unto you." Evidently his paramount aim is to assure the Corinthians of his warm affection for them. Other feelings are held in abeyance; no mention now of suspicions, jealousies, backbitings, and other wrongs, by which he had been tortured; only the love, the impassioned love, he cherished for those whose sorrow and joy were his sorrow and joy. How naturally the way is prepared for what follows! "If any have caused grief [referring to the incestuous person], he hath not grieved me, but in part, that I may not overcharge you all." The Revised Version," If any hath caused sorrow, he hath caused sorrow, not to me, but in part (that I press not too heavily) to you all." Conybeare and Howson, "As concerns him who has caused the pain, it is not me that he has pained, but some of you (some, I say), that I may not press too harshly upon all." Many commentators read it thus: "If any have caused grief, he hath grieved not me, but more or less (that I be not too heavy on him) all of you." What is the point of interest is the light in which St. Paul now regarded the offender and the punishment inflicted upon him. Punishment had been punishment; it had expressed righteous indignation, upheld official order, vindicated the holy authority of law. It had been effectual in bringing the flagrant sinner to repentance and had proved a warning to others. But were the effects to stop here? A great work had been done and yet other results were possible—were most desirable. Precisely here the farsighted wisdom of St. Paul attracts our admiration. Discipline of a mechanical or of a military kind is cheap enough. True reformatory and saving discipline is a costly thing, requiring forethought and afterthought, the looking "before and after," which has won its place among the aphorisms of statesmanship. Much fruit falls and rots just as the ripening season approaches, Special care was needed, so the apostle argued, lest Satan should spoil the wholesome act in the sequel. "Sufficient to such a man is this punishment, which was inflicted of many." "Sufficient" leads the sentence. And the "many" has its weight, since in nothing is the power of the many so much felt as in condemnation.

"There is no creature loves me,

And if I die, no soul shall pity me."

This is Gloster perfected in King Richard. St. Paul urges the forgiveness of this gross offender. On the contrary, "Ye ought rather to forgive him, and comfort him, lest perhaps such a one should be swallowed up with overmuch sorrow." Make evident your love to him; so he beseeches them. If he is restored to their affection, this would prove that the Church was "obedient in all things." All through he keeps the dignity and authority of the Church in commanding view, and, as he had laid a most solemn duty on its conscience, so now he recognizes its high relationship in the matter of reconciliation. Would the brethren forgive him? So would be, and that too in the most impressive manner—"in the sight of Christ." The reasoning of the apostle at this point ought to make a most profound and lasting impression on Christian thinkers. Sincere motives and upright intentions do not always preserve good men from terrible blunders in administering Church discipline. All unawares, the imagination exaggerates, right feeling becomes jealous of itself, motives are looked at askance, a spurious consistency sets up its tyrannical claims, and, in no long time, law parts company with authority, and equity is crushed by justice. No attitude in which St. Paul appears before us is so finely characteristic of high manhood as when he pleads for extreme thoughtfulness and tender consideration in the use of legitimate power. Who ever suffered from the numberless forms of injustice as he did? Who died daily as he did? The "beasts" at Ephesus were not merely such as do physical violence, but in their utter want of all moral sensibility to truth and right. Yet this was not the worst. Ask a man who has had a large experience in public life what has occasioned him the greatest amount of vexation, and he will tell you that it was the misrepresentation and carping criticism and wilful littleness of spirit pursuing him continually which had most embittered his career. St. Paul was subjected to these annoyances through all the middle period of his apostolic life. And what did he learn from them? To be distrustful of his own heart, to keep an open and vigilant eye on his infirmities, to be specially guarded as to the ambitious uses of power, and to foreclose every avenue to his soul through which an entrance might be effected of a fanatical temper in rebuke, in the management of Church troubles, and in the relation sustained to the other apostles. In the case of the Corinthian offender we see his lofty bearing. Ready to forgive, glad to forgive, yet he waits till he can say to the Church, "If ye forgive anything, I forgive also." And hear his reason, "Lest Satan should get an advantage of us: for we are not ignorant of his devices." Never could he have been St. Paul, apostle of the Gentiles, without this intense conception intensely realized of Satan as an infernal agent of prodigious power and unceasing activity. In his theology, in his way of looking at men and things, in his calculation of the forces to be met in the great conflict, it would have been inexplicably strange had he ignored or depreciated this gigantic spirit of evil. Elsewhere we have his allusions to Satan in other aspects of his character. Here he is the schemer, the wily plotter, the adroit strategist, observant of every movement, and on the alert forevery opportunity. St. Paul was not afraid to acknowledge that in this matter at Corinth Satan might even yet turn things to his advantage. Recall the words (1Co_5:5), "To deliver such a one unto Satan, for the destruction of the flesh;" and yet they were to labour and intercede "that the spirit may be saved in the day of the Lord Jesus." And now, this repentant and forgiven man, should they not save him from the snares of Satan?—save themselves, too, from being overreached by the arch-enemy of Christ and all goodness?—L.


Coming to Troas (disquietude; defence of his apostleship)

Quite abruptly St. Paul mentions that he came to Troas. Why he left Ephesus he does not say, but we infer it was because of his anxiety to see Titus, and hear from him how his letter to the Corinthians had been received. There was a fine opening at Troas to preach the gospel, and yet he was greatly disquieted as Titus did not meet him. "Taking my leave of them, I went from thence into Macedonia." Here he met Titus, though, in the excitement of joy, he fails to state it. The sudden outburst of gratitude, "Thanks be unto God," expresses his exultation over the good tidings Titus had brought from Corinth, so that here, as is frequently the case, we get the outward history of events from the biography of the apostle's heart. All he had expected, and even more, had been realized, and he breaks forth in thanksgiving.

"Ye that in waters glide, and ye that walk

The earth, and stately tread or lowly creep,

Witness if I be silent, morn or ev'n,

To hill or valley, fountain or fresh shade,

Made vocal by my song, and taught his praise."

St. Paul was not a silent man in his happiness. No depth of emotion satisfied him unless it could be imparted to others. On this occasion his soul found utterance in thanking God, "which always causeth us to triumph in Christ." A military triumph rises before him; the victorious general is returning to the capital; the long procession moves before his eye; and, in the train, the captives brought home are conspicuous. Such a captive is the apostle following the chariot of his Lord. "Yet (at the same time, by a characteristic change of metaphor) an incense bearer, scattering incense (which was always done on these occasions), as the procession moves on" (Conybeare and Howson). Christ is the fragrance; "we are unto God a sweet savour of Christ." Whether men are saved or lost, Christ is Christ, and the fragrance cannot perish. There will be a "savour of death unto death" and a "savour of life unto life;" but, in either issue, the glory of God's government is maintained. For, so far as we can see into the relations of Christ to man and of man to Christ, the fundamental fact in each aspect of the subject is human freedom. Of his own freewill Christ took upon himself our flesh and blood, suffered, and died; and of our own free will, made such by him and acted on as such by the Holy Spirit, we accept his atonement. If we reject the offered mercy, the act of our rejection testifies to the infinitude of the mercy, and the "savour of Christ" is none the less "sweet" in itself, "And who is sufficient for these things?" Here is no one-sided gospel, that accommodates conscience to taste, and allows a compromise between duty and inclination. Here is a gospel that is the "savour of death unto death" and of "life unto life." Who is competent to maintain its stern truthfulness by preaching both these doctrines? The test of a faithful minister lies in the wise and earnest use of each class of facts. Is anything so difficult? Take the natural intellect; take the natural affections; take language as the vehicle of expression; and by what power of culture can a preacher be found who can set forth the gospel in its twofoldness of "death unto death" and "life unto life"? St. Paul, in the seventeenth verse, answers the question as to sufficiency. Now, as always, it is not simply the gospel which is the power and wisdom of God, but his way of preaching it. He declares that "many corrupt the Word of God;" not of this number is he. And where does the danger of corruption exist? In not holding with a balanced mind the "death" and the "life," so as to shun overstatements and understatements in each instance. To preach after St. Paul's manner, one must have sincerity—the truth unmixed with human speculations; he must preach what God has revealed as to his Law and its righteousness, no more, no less; and he must preach it in Christ, himself in Christ, his gospel in Christ, and so preach as to spirit and temper and manner that the fragrance shall breathe in all his words.—L.


2Co_2:3, 2Co_2:4

Sympathy in grief and joy.

How far from a formal or mechanical ministry was that of the apostle! He entered into the circumstances and the feelings of those for whom he had laboured. Nothing which affected their interests was indifferent to him. Some in his position would have said, "We have done our duty; it is no affair of ours how they act; why should we trouble ourselves regarding them?" Not so St. Paul. When the Corinthians acted unworthily, his sensitive heart was distressed; when they repented, that heart bounded with joy. This was not altogether the effect of natural temperament; it was the fruit of true fellowship of spirit with his Lord.

I. THE SPIRIT OF SYMPATHY IS THE SPIRIT OF CHRIST AND OF CHRISTIANITY. In the earthly life of our Saviour we behold evidences of this spirit. He rejoiced in men's joys; he wept by the grave of his friend; he sighed and groaned when he met with instances of unspirituality and unbelief. It was pity which brought him first to earth and then to the cross of Calvary. Similarly with the precepts of the New Testament. The lesson is often virtually repeated, "Rejoice with those who do rejoice, and weep with those who weep."


1. The spectacle of a professing Christian falling into sin awakens commiseration and distress in the mind of every true follower of Christ.

2. The spectacle of a Christian conniving at sin, or regarding it with comparative unconcern, is painful in the extreme to one solicitous for Christian purity.

3. Sorrow, from whatever cause, awakens sorrow in a mind sensitive as was that of Paul.

III. THE SPIRIT OF SYMPATHY IS SOMETIMES THE OCCASION OF JOY. Even amidst personal difficulties and opposition encountered in his ministry Paul was not indifferent to the joys of his converts. And when those whose conduct had pained him came to a better mind and afforded him satisfaction, he rejoiced with them in their happiness. If there is joy in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner that repenteth, surely he most resembles the Father of spirits and his immediate attendants whose heart is lifted up with exhilaration and delight by anything that manifests the growth and victory of the Divine kingdom upon earth.—T.


The devices of Satan.

The course of St. Paul with regard to the Christian Church at Corinth was one of great difficulty. A flagrant case of immorality demanded his decided interference. Yet he wished to deal, both with the offender and with those who made too light of his offence, in such a way as not to endanger his personal influence over the Corinthian Christians generally. If he were too lax or too severe, in either case he would give his enemies an opportunity to malign him. And he knew that there were Judaizing teachers who were ready to attribute the immorality to Paul's doctrines of grace. So that the apostle trod a very difficult path, which Satan had set with snares on either hand. He needed to be on his guard against the insidious machinations of the enemy, and he gave the Corinthians to understand that such was his attitude.

I. SATAN'S DEVICES ARE MANY AND VARIED. The resources of an earthly foe ought not to be underestimated by a general who would gain the victory; and if the tactics vary with circumstances, vigilance and self-possession, courage and care, are all needed. Satan besets Christians with many temptations; if he cannot tempt them into conscious sin, he will endeavour to entrap them into some error of judgment and conduct which may give him an advantage over them.

II. SATAN'S DEVICES ARE SKILFUL AND CRAFTY. In the temptation of our Lord this was abundantly manifest, and the Saviour gave his disciples to understand that they would be called upon to endure the assaults of the same unsleeping foe. Against his ever varying tactics, against his all but inexhaustible resources, it becomes, therefore, every Christian soldier to be upon his guard.

III. SATAN'S DEVICES ARE THE MEANS OF SNARING MANY OF THE UNWARY. Some who once ran well have been hindered. Some who have resisted one enemy have fallen beneath the attack of another. The annals of every Church, however pure, tell of those against whom the adversary has directed his blows only too successfully. "Let him that thinketh he standeth take heed lest he fall."

IV. SATAN'S DEVICES NEED TO BE WITHSTOOD WITH WATCHFULNESS AND PRAYER. It is something not to be ignorant of them. The unwary and unthinking are entrapped through very ignorance. Yet knowledge is no sufficient protection. A distrust of our own ability and a reliance upon superior power and wisdom are indispensably necessary in order to safety and deliverance. Well may the inspired counsel be received with gratitude and acted upon with diligence, "Put on the whole armour of God, that ye may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil."—T.


An open door.

Men are prone to think what doors are open to them to enter, through which they may pass to their own profit, or advancement, or pleasure. Paul's was an unselfish and benevolent nature. He was a true follower of Christ, who came, not to do his own will, and not to be ministered unto, but to minister. Again and again, in the course of his life, his heart was gladdened by the spectacle of a door of holy service set open before him by God's providence, inviting him to enter in and in the name of the Lord to take possession.

I. THE OPEN DOOR LEADS TO OPPORTUNITIES OF WORK FOR CHRIST. To the true Christian this is more desirable than aught beside. Paul went nowhere but some door opened before him. A synagogue was open; he entered it, and reasoned out of the Law or the prophets. A marketplace thronged with citizens afforded him opportunity for preaching the true God and the eternal life. Even a prison door, when it closed upon him, did not shut him off from human souls. It is well that Christians should think, not so much of their own interests, as of the service of their Master.

II. THE OPEN DOOR IS SET OPEN BY DIVINE PROVIDENCE. "Opened of the Lord" is the apostle's expression. We may not see the hand, but we should not ignore it. When God himself makes a way, his doing so is a command to his people to adopt and to follow it. When he opens, "no man can shut."

III. THE OPEN DOOR IS A DOOR OF PROMISE TO THOSE WHO WILL ENTER IN. Why is the door set open? Is there no purpose in this? Surely it is a want of faith to hold back when the Lord himself so manifestly encourages his servants to "go in and possess the land."

IV. THE OPEN DOOR WILL BE SHUT AGAINST THOSE WHOSE NEGLIGENCE OR DISOBEDIENCE HINDERS THEM FROM ENTERING IT. As the door of salvation will be closed against those who fail to enter in, so the door of service will be shut to exclude those who turn aside when the hand of God has opened it and has beckoned them to enter, but has beckoned them in vain.—T.


The solemnity of the ministry.

A Roman triumph, to which the apostle refers in this passage, was the most magnificent of earthly pageants. The conqueror, in whose honour it was given, was an illustrious commander, who had defeated an enemy or gained a province. The route traversed by the triumphal procession lay through Rome to the Capitol itself. The spectators who feasted their eyes upon the sight were the vast population of the city. Before, the victor passed onwards the captiv