The second epistle to the Corinthians probably was written about a year after the first. Its contents are closely connected with those of the former epistle. The manner in which the letter St. Paul formerly wrote had been received, is particularly noticed; this was such as to fill his heart with gratitude to God, who enabled him fully to discharge his duty towards them. Many had shown marks of repentance, and amended their conduct, but others still followed their false teachers; and as the apostle delayed his visit, from his unwillingness to treat them with severity, they charged him with levity and change of conduct. Also, with pride, vain-glory, and severity, and they spake of him with contempt. In this epistle we find the same ardent affection towards the disciples at Corinth, as in the former, the same zeal for the honour of the gospel, and the same boldness in giving Christian reproof. The first six chapters are chiefly practical: the rest have more reference to the state of the Corinthian church, but they contain many rules of general application.
The apostle blesses God for comfort in, and deliverance out of troubles. (1-11) He professes his own and his fellow-labourers' integrity. (12-14) Gives reasons for his not coming to them. (15-24)
Verses 1-11 We are encouraged to come boldly to the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy, and find grace to help in time of need. The Lord is able to give peace to the troubled conscience, and to calm the raging passions of the soul. These blessings are given by him, as the Father of his redeemed family. It is our Saviour who says, Let not your heart be troubled. All comforts come from God, and our sweetest comforts are in him. He speaks peace to souls by granting the free remission of sins; and he comforts them by the enlivening influences of the Holy Spirit, and by the rich mercies of his grace. He is able to bind up the broken-hearted, to heal the most painful wounds, and also to give hope and joy under the heaviest sorrows. The favours God bestows on us, are not only to make us cheerful, but also that we may be useful to others. He sends comforts enough to support such as simply trust in and serve him. If we should be brought so low as to despair even of life, yet we may then trust God, who can bring back even from death. Their hope and trust were not in vain; nor shall any be ashamed who trust in the Lord. Past experiences encourage faith and hope, and lay us under obligation to trust in God for time to come. And it is our duty, not only to help one another with prayer, but in praise and thanksgiving, and thereby to make suitable returns for benefits received. Thus both trials and mercies will end in good to ourselves and others.
Verses 12-14 Though, as a sinner, the apostle could only rejoice and glory in Christ Jesus, yet, as a believer, he might rejoice and glory in being really what he professed. Conscience witnesses concerning the steady course and tenor of the life. Thereby we may judge ourselves, and not by this or by that single act. Our conversation will be well ordered, when we live and act under such a gracious principle in the heart. Having this, we may leave our characters in the Lord's hands, but using proper means to clear them, when the credit of the gospel, or our usefulness, calls for it.
Verses 15-24 The apostle clears himself from the charge of levity and inconstancy, in not coming to Corinth. Good men should be careful to keep the reputation of sincerity and constancy; they should not resolve, but on careful thought; and they will not change unless for weighty reasons. Nothing can render God's promises more certain: his giving them through Christ, assures us they are his promises; as the wonders God wrought in the life, resurrection, and ascension of his Son, confirm faith. The Holy Spirit makes Christians firm in the faith of the gospel: the quickening of the Spirit is an earnest of everlasting life; and the comforts of the Spirit are an earnest of everlasting joy. The apostle desired to spare the blame he feared would be unavoidable, if he had gone to Corinth before he learned what effect his former letter produced. Our strength and ability are owing to faith; and our comfort and joy must flow from faith. The holy tempers and gracious fruits which attend faith, secure from delusion in so important a matter.
2 Corinthians 1:1-24 . THE HEADING; PAUL'S CONSOLATIONS IN RECENT TRIALS IN ASIA; HIS SINCERITY TOWARDS THE CORINTHIANS; EXPLANATION OF HIS NOT HAVING VISITED THEM AS HE HAD PURPOSED.
1. Timothy our brother--When writing to Timothy himself, he calls him "my son" ( 1 Timothy 1:18 ). Writing of him, "brother," and "my beloved son" ( 1 Corinthians 4:17 ). He had been sent before to Macedonia, and had met Paul at Philippi, when the apostle passed over from Troas to Macedonia (compare 2 Corinthians 2:12 2 Corinthians 2:13 ;
in all Achaia--comprising Hellas and the Peloponnese. The Gentiles themselves, and Annæus Gallio, the proconsul ( Acts 18:12-16 ), strongly testified their disapproval of the accusation brought by the Jews against Paul. Hence, the apostle was enabled to labor in the whole province of Achaia with such success as to establish several churches there ( 1 Thessalonians 1:8 , 2 Thessalonians 1:4 ), where, writing from Corinth, he speaks of the "churches," namely, not only the Corinthian, but others also--Athens, Cenchrea, and, perhaps, Sicyon, Argos, &c. He addresses "the Church in Corinth," directly, and all "the saints" in the province, indirectly. In Galatians 1:2 all the "churches" are addressed directly in the same circular Epistle. Hence, here he does not say, all the churches, but "all the saints."
3. This thanksgiving for his late deliverance forms a suitable introduction for conciliating their favorable reception of his reasons for not having fulfilled his promise of visiting them ( 2 Corinthians 1:15-24 ).
Father of mercies--that is, the SOURCE of all mercies (compare 1:17 , Romans 12:1 ).
comfort--which flows from His "mercies" experienced. Like a true man of faith, he mentions "mercies" and "comfort," before he proceeds to speak of afflictions ( 2 Corinthians 1:4-6 ). The "tribulation" of believers is not inconsistent with God's mercy, and does not beget in them suspicion of it; nay, in the end they feel that He is "the God of ALL comfort," that is, who imparts the only true and perfect comfort in every instance ( Psalms 146:3 Psalms 146:5 Psalms 146:8 , 5:11 ).
4. us--idiomatic for me ( 1 Thessalonians 2:18 ).
that we may . . . comfort them which are in any trouble--Translate, as the Greek is the same as before, "tribulation." The apostle lived, not to himself, but to the Church; so, whatever graces God conferred on him, he considered granted not for himself alone, but that he might have the greater ability to help others [CALVIN]. So participation in all the afflictions of man peculiarly qualified Jesus to be man's comforter in all his various afflictions ( Isaiah 50:4-6 Hebrews 4:15 ).
5. sufferings--standing in contrast with "salvation" ( 2 Corinthians 1:6 ); as "tribulation" (distress of mind), with comfort or "consolation."
of Christ--Compare Colossians 1:24 . The sufferings endured, whether by Himself, or by His Church, with which He considers Himself identified ( Matthew 25:40 Matthew 25:45 , Acts 9:4 , 1 John 4:17-21 ). Christ calls His people's sufferings His own suffering: (1) because of the sympathy and mystical union between Him and us ( Romans 8:17 , 1 Corinthians 4:10 ); (2) They are borne for His sake; (3) They tend to His glory ( Ephesians 4:1 , 1 Peter 4:14 1 Peter 4:16 ).
abound in us--Greek, "abound unto us." The order of the Greek following words is more forcible than in English Version, "Even so through Christ aboundeth also our comfort." The sufferings (plural) are many; but the consolation (though singular) swallows up them all. Comfort preponderates in this Epistle above that in the first Epistle, as now by the effect of the latter most of the Corinthians had been much impressed.
6. we . . . afflicted . . . for your consolation--exemplifying the communion of saints. Their hearts were, so to speak, mirrors reflecting the likenesses of each other ( Philippians 2:26 Philippians 2:27 ) [BENGEL]. Alike the afflictions and the consolations of the apostle tend, as in him so in them, as having communion with him, to their consolation ( 2 Corinthians 1:4 , 4:15 ). The Greek for "afflicted" is the same as before, and ought to be translated, "Whether we be in tribulation."
which is effectual--literally, "worketh effectually."
in the enduring, &c.--that is, in enabling you to endure "the same sufferings which we also suffer." Here follows, in the oldest manuscripts (not as English Version in the beginning of 2 Corinthians 1:7 ), the clause, "And our hope is steadfast on your behalf."
7. so shall ye be--rather, "So are ye." He means, there is a community of consolation, as of suffering, between me and you.
8, 9. Referring to the imminent risk of life which he ran in Ephesus ( Acts 19:23-41 ) when the whole multitude were wrought up to fury by Demetrius, on the plea of Paul and his associates having assailed the religion of Diana of Ephesus. The words ( 2 Corinthians 1:9 ), "we had the sentence of death in ourselves," mean, that he looked upon himself as a man condemned to die [PALEY]. ALFORD thinks the danger at Ephesus was comparatively so slight that it cannot be supposed to be the subject of reference here, without exposing the apostle to a charge of cowardice, very unlike his fearless character; hence, he supposes Paul refers to some deadly sickness which he had suffered under ( 2 Corinthians 1:9 2 Corinthians 1:10 ). But there is little doubt that, had Paul been found by the mob in the excitement, he would have been torn in pieces; and probably, besides what Luke in Acts records, there were other dangers of an equally distressing kind, such as, "lyings in wait of the Jews" ( Acts 20:19 ), his ceaseless foes. They, doubtless, had incited the multitude at Ephesus ( Acts 19:9 ), and were the chief of the "many adversaries" and "[wild] beasts," which he had to fight with there ( 1 Corinthians 15:32 , 16:9 ). His weak state of health at the time combined with all this to make him regard himself as all but dead ( 2 Corinthians 11:29 , 12:10 ). What makes my supposition probable is, that the very cause of his not having visited Corinth directly as he had intended, and for which he proceeds to apologize ( 2 Corinthians 1:15-23 ), was, that there might be time to see whether the evils arising there not only from Greek, but from Jewish disturbers of the Church ( 2 Corinthians 11:29 ), would be checked by his first Epistle; there not being fully so was what entailed on him the need of writing this second Epistle. His not specifying this here expressly is just what we might expect in the outset of this letter; towards the close, when he had won their favorable hearing by a kindly and firm tone, he gives a more distinct reference to Jewish agitators ( 2 Corinthians 11:22 ).
above strength--that is, ordinary, natural powers of endurance.
despaired--as far as human help or hope from man was concerned. But in respect to help from God we were "not in despair" ( 2 Corinthians 4:8 ).
in God which raiseth the dead--We had so given up all thoughts of life, that our only hope was fixed on the coming resurrection; so in 1 Corinthians 15:32 his hope of the resurrection was what buoyed him up in contending with foes, savage as wild beasts. Here he touches only on the doctrine of the resurrection, taking it for granted that its truth is admitted by the Corinthians, and urging its bearing on their practice.
10. doth deliver--The oldest manuscripts read, "will deliver," namely, as regards immediately imminent dangers. "In whom we trust that He will also (so the Greek) yet deliver us," refers to the continuance of God's delivering help hereafter.
11. helping together by prayer for us--rather, "helping together on our behalf by your supplication"; the words "for us" in the Greek following "helping together," not "prayer."
that for the gift, &c.--literally, "That on the part of many persons the gift (literally, 'gift of grace'; the mercy) bestowed upon us by means of (that is, through the prayers of) many may be offered thanks for (may have thanks offered for it) on our behalf."
12. For--reason why he may confidently look for their prayers for him.
our rejoicing--Greek, "our glorying." Not that he glories in the testimony of his conscience, as something to boast of; nay, this testimony is itself the thing in which his glorying consists.
in simplicity--Most of the oldest manuscripts read, "in holiness." English Version reading is perhaps a gloss from Ephesians 6:5 [ALFORD]. Some of the oldest manuscripts and versions, however, support it.
godly sincerity--literally, "sincerity of God"; that is, sincerity as in the presence of God ( 1 Corinthians 5:8 ). We glory in this in spite of all our adversities. Sincerity in Greek implies the non-admixture of any foreign element. He had no sinister or selfish aims (as some insinuated) in failing to visit them as he had promised: such aims belonged to his adversaries, not to him ( 2 Corinthians 2:17 ). "Fleshly wisdom" suggests tortuous and insincere courses; but the "grace of God," which influenced him by God's gifts ( Romans 12:3 , 15:15 ), suggests holy straightforwardness and sincere faithfulness to promises ( 2 Corinthians 1:17-20 ), even as God is faithful to His promises. The prudence which subserves selfish interests, or employs unchristian means, or relies on human means more than on the Divine Spirit, is "fleshly wisdom."
in the world--even in relation to the world at large, which is full of disingenuousness.
more abundantly to you-ward--( 2 Corinthians 2:4 ). His greater love to them would lead him to manifest, especially to them, proofs of his sincerity, which his less close connection with the world did not admit of his exhibiting towards it.
13. We write none other things (in this Epistle) than what ye read (in my former Epistle [BENGEL]; present, because the Epistle continued still to be read in the Church as an apostolic rule). CONYBEARE and HOWSON think Paul had been suspected of writing privately to some individuals in the Church in a different strain from that of his public letters; and translates, "I write nothing else to you but what ye read openly (the Greek meaning, 'ye read aloud,' namely, when Paul's Epistles were publicly read in the congregation, 1 Thessalonians 5:27 ); yea, and what you acknowledge inwardly."
or acknowledge--Greek, "or even acknowledge." The Greek for "read" and for "acknowledge" are words kindred in sound and root. I would translate, "None other things than what ye know by reading (by comparing my former Epistle with my present Epistle), or even know as a matter of fact (namely, the consistency of my acts with my words)."
even to the end--of my life. Not excluding reference to the day of the Lord (end of 2 Corinthians 1:14 , 1 Corinthians 4:5 ).
14. in part--In contrast to "even to the end": the testimony of his life was not yet completed [THEOPHYLACT and BENGEL]. Rather, "in part," that is, some of you, not all [GROTIUS, ALFORD]. So in 2 Corinthians 2:5 , Romans 11:25 . The majority at Corinth had shown a willing compliance with Paul's directions in the first Epistle: but some were still refractory. Hence arises the difference of tone in different parts of this Epistle.
your rejoicing--your subject of glorying or boast. "Are" (not merely shall be) implies the present recognition of one another as a subject of mutual glorying: that glorying being about to be realized in its fulness "in the day (of the coming) of the Lord Jesus."
15. in this confidence--of my character for sincerity being "acknowledged" by you ( 2 Corinthians 1:12-14 ).
was minded--I was intending.
before--"to come unto you before" visiting Macedonia (where he now was). Compare Note, that the insinuation of some at Corinth, that he would not come at all, rested on the fact of his having thus disappointed them. His change of intention, and ultimate resolution of going through Macedonia first, took place before his sending Timothy from Ephesus into Macedonia, and therefore ( 1 Corinthians 4:17 ) before his writing the first Epistle. Compare Acts 19:21 Acts 19:22 (the order there is "Macedonia and Achaia," not Achaia, Macedonia); Acts 20:1 Acts 20:2 .
that ye might have a second benefit--one in going to, the other in returning from, Macedonia. The "benefit" of his visits consisted in the grace and spiritual gifts which he was the means of imparting ( Romans 1:11 Romans 1:12 ).
16. This intention of visiting them on the way to Macedonia, as well as after having passed through it, must have reached the ears of the Corinthians in some way or other--perhaps in the lost Epistle ( 1 Corinthians 4:18 , 5:9 ). The sense comes out more clearly in the Greek order, "By you to pass into Macedonia, and from Macedonia to come again unto you."
17. use lightness--Was I guilty of levity? namely, by promising more than I performed.
or . . . according to the flesh, that with me there should be yea, yea . . . nay, nay?--The "or" expresses a different alternative: Did I act with levity, or (on the other hand) do I purpose what I purpose like worldly (fleshly) men, so that my "yea" must at all costs be yea, and my "nay" nay [BENGEL, WINER, CALVIN], ( Matthew 14:7 Matthew 14:9 )? The repetition of the "yea" and "nay" hardly agrees with ALFORD'S view, "What I purpose do I purpose according to the changeable purposes of the fleshly (worldly) man, that there may be with me the yea yea, and the nay nay (that is, both affirmation and negation concerning the same thing)?" The repetition will thus stand for the single yea and nay, as in Matthew 5:37 , 5:12 . But the latter passage implies that the double "yea" here is not equivalent to the single "yea": BENGEL'S view, therefore, seems preferable.
18. He adds this lest they might think his DOCTRINE was changeable like his purposes (the change in which he admitted in 2 Corinthians 1:17 , while denying that it was due to "lightness," and at the same time implying that not to have changed, where there was good reason, would have been to imitate the fleshly-minded who at all costs obstinately hold to their purpose).
true--Greek, "faithful" ( 1 Corinthians 1:9 ).
our word--the doctrine we preach.
was not--The oldest manuscripts read "is not."
yea and nay--that is, inconsistent with itself.
19. Proof of the unchangeableness of the doctrine from the unchangeableness of the subject of it, namely, Jesus Christ. He is called "the Son of God" to show the impossibility of change in One who is co-equal with God himself (compare 1 Samuel 15:29 , Malachi 3:6 ).
by me . . . Silvanus and Timotheus--The Son of God, though preached by different preachers, was one and the same, unchangeable. Silvanus is contracted into Silas ( Acts 15:22 ; compare 1 Peter 5:12 ).
in him was yea--Greek, "is made yea in Him"; that is, our preaching of the Son of God is confirmed as true in Him (that is, through Him; through the miracles wherewith He has confirmed our preaching) [GROTIUS]; or rather, by the witness of the Spirit which He has given ( 2 Corinthians 1:21 2 Corinthians 1:22 ) and of which miracles were only one, and that a subordinate manifestation.
20. Rather, How many soever be the promises of God, in Him is the "yea" ("faithfulness in His word": contrasted with the "yea and nay," 2 Corinthians 1:19 , that is, inconstancy as to one's word).
and in him Amen--The oldest manuscripts read, "Wherefore through Him is the Amen"; that is, In Him is faithfulness ("yea") to His word, "wherefore through Him" is the immutable verification of it ("Amen"). As "yea" is His word, so "Amen" is His oath, which makes our assurance of the fulfilment doubly sure. Compare "two immutable things (namely, His word and His oath) in which it was impossible for God to lie" ( Hebrews 6:18 , Revelation 3:14 ). The whole range of Old Testament and New Testament promises are secure in their fulfilment for us in Christ.
unto the glory of God by us--Greek, "for glory unto God by us" (compare 2 Corinthians 4:15 ), that is, by our ministerial labors; by us His promises, and His unchangeable faithfulness to them, are proclaimed. CONYBEARE takes the "Amen" to be the Amen at the close of thanksgiving: but then "by us" would have to mean what it cannot mean here, "by us and you."
21. stablisheth us . . . in Christ--that is, in the faith of Christ--in believing in Christ.
anointed us--As "Christ" is the "Anointed" (which His name means), so "He hath anointed (Greek, "chrisas") us," ministers and believing people alike, with the Spirit ( 2 Corinthians 1:22 , 1 John 2:20 1 John 2:27 ). Hence we become "a sweet savor of Christ" ( 2 Corinthians 2:15 ).
22. sealed--A seal is a token assuring the possession of property to one; "sealed" here answers to "stablisheth us" ( 2 Corinthians 1:21 , 1 Corinthians 9:2 ).
the earnest of the Spirit--that is, the Spirit as the earnest (that is, money given by a purchaser as a pledge for the full payment of the sum promised). The Holy Spirit is given to the believer now as a first instalment to assure him his full inheritance as a son of God shall be his hereafter ( Ephesians 1:13 Ephesians 1:14 ). "Sealed with that Holy Spirit of promise which is the earnest of our inheritance until the redemption of the purchased possession" ( Romans 8:23 ). The Spirit is the pledge of the fulfilment of "all the promises" ( 2 Corinthians 1:20 ).
23. Moreover I--Greek, "But I (for my part)," in contrast to GOD who hath assured us of His promises being hereafter fulfilled certainly ( 2 Corinthians 1:20-22 ).
call God--the all-knowing One, who avenges wilful unfaithfulness to promises.
for a record upon my soul--As a witness as to the secret purposes of my soul, and a witness against it, if I lie ( Malachi 3:5 ).
to spare you--in order not to come in a rebuking spirit, as I should have had to come to you, if I had come then.
I came not as yet--Greek, "no longer"; that is, I gave up my purpose of then visiting Corinth. He wished to give them time for repentance, that he might not have to use severity towards them. Hence he sent Titus before him. Compare 2 Corinthians 10:10 2 Corinthians 10:11 , which shows that his detractors represented him as threatening what he had not courage to perform ( 1 Corinthians 4:18 1 Corinthians 4:19 ).
24. Not for that--that is, Not that. "Faith" is here emphatic. He had "dominion" or a right to control them in matters of discipline, but in matters of "faith" he was only a "fellow helper of their joy" (namely, in believing, Romans 15:13 , Philippians 1:25 ). The Greek is, "Not that we lord it over your faith." This he adds to soften the magisterial tone of 2 Corinthians 1:23 . His desire is to cause them not sorrow ( 2 Corinthians 2:1 2 Corinthians 2:2 ), but "joy." The Greek for "helpers" implies a mutual leaning, one on the other, like the mutually supporting buttresses of a sacred building. "By faith ( Romans 11:20 ) ye stand"; therefore it is that I bestow such pains in "helping" your faith, which is the source of all true "joy" ( Romans 15:13 ). I want nothing more, not to lord it over your faith.