Reasons for the apostle not coming to Corinth. (1-4) Directions about restoring the repentant offender. (5-11) An account of his labours and success in spreading the gospel of Christ. (12-17)
Verses 1-4 The apostle desired to have a cheerful meeting with them; and he had written in confidence of their doing what was to their benefit and his comfort; and that therefore they would be glad to remove every cause of disquiet from him. We should always give pain unwillingly, even when duty requires that it must be given.
Verses 5-11 The apostle desires them to receive the person who had done wrong, again into their communion; for he was aware of his fault, and much afflicted under his punishment. Even sorrow for sin should not unfit for other duties, and drive to despair. Not only was there danger last Satan should get advantage, by tempting the penitent to hard thoughts of God and religion, and so drive him to despair; but against the churches and the ministers of Christ, by bringing an evil report upon Christians as unforgiving; thus making divisions, and hindering the success of the ministry. In this, as in other things, wisdom is to be used, that the ministry may not be blamed for indulging sin on the one hand, or for too great severity towards sinners on the other hand. Satan has many plans to deceive, and knows how to make a bad use of our mistakes.
Verses 12-17 A believer's triumphs are all in Christ. To him be the praise and glory of all, while the success of the gospel is a good reason for a Christian's joy and rejoicing. In ancient triumphs, abundance of perfumes and sweet odours were used; so the name and salvation of Jesus, as ointment poured out, was a sweet savour diffused in every place. Unto some, the gospel is a savour of death unto death. They reject it to their ruin. Unto others, the gospel is a savour of life unto life: as it quickened them at first when they were dead in trespasses and sins, so it makes them more lively, and will end in eternal life. Observe the awful impressions this matter made upon the apostle, and should also make upon us. The work is great, and of ourselves we have no strength at all; all our sufficiency is of God. But what we do in religion, unless it is done in sincerity, as in the sight of God, is not of God, does not come from him, and will not reach to him. May we carefully watch ourselves in this matter; and seek the testimony of our consciences, under the teaching of the Holy Spirit, that as of sincerity, so speak we in Christ and of Christ.
2 Corinthians 2:1-17 . REASON WHY HE HAD NOT VISITED THEM ON HIS WAY TO MACEDONIA; THE INCESTUOUS PERSON OUGHT NOW TO BE FORGIVEN; HIS ANXIETY TO HEAR TIDINGS OF THEIR STATE FROM TITUS, AND HIS JOY WHEN AT LAST THE GOOD NEWS REACHES HIM.
1. with myself--in contrast to "you" ( 2 Corinthians 1:23 ). The same antithesis between Paul and them appears in 2 Corinthians 2:2 .
not come again . . . in heaviness--"sorrow"; implying that he had already paid them one visit in sorrow since his coming for the first time to Corinth. At that visit he had warned them "he would not spare if he should come again" 2 Corinthians 12:14 , 13:1 ). to the first Epistle. The "in heaviness" implies mutual pain; they grieving him, and he them. Compare 2 Corinthians 2:2 , "I make you sorry," and 2 Corinthians 2:5 , "If any have caused grief (sorrow)." In this verse he accounts for having postponed his visit, following up 2 Corinthians 1:23 .
2. For--proof that he shrinks from causing them sorrow ("heaviness").
if I--The "I" is emphatic. Some detractor may say that this ( 2 Corinthians 2:1 ) is not my reason for not coming as I proposed; since I showed no scruple in causing "heaviness," or sorrow, in my Epistle (the first Epistle to the Corinthians). But I answer, If I be the one to cause you sorrow, it is not that I have any pleasure in doing so. Nay, my object was that he "who was made sorry by me" (namely, the Corinthians in general, 2 Corinthians 2:3 ; but with tacit reference to the incestuous person in particular) should repent, and so "make me glad," as has actually taken place; "for . . . who is he then that?" &c.
3. I wrote this same unto you--namely, that I would not come to you then ( 2 Corinthians 2:1 ), as, if I were to come then, it would have to be "in heaviness" (causing sorrow both to him and them, owing to their impenitent state). He refers to the first Epistle (compare 1 Corinthians 16:7 ; compare 1 Corinthians 4:19 1 Corinthians 4:21 , 1 Corinthians 5:2-7 1 Corinthians 5:13 ).
sorrow from them of whom I ought to rejoice--that is, sorrow from their impenitence, when he ought, on the contrary, to have joy from their penitent obedience. The latter happy effect was produced by his first Epistle, whereas the former would have been the result, had he then visited them as he had originally proposed.
having confidence . . . that my joy is the joy of you all--trusting that you, too, would feel that there was sufficient reason for the postponement, if it interfered with our mutual joy [ALFORD]. The communion of saints, he feels confident in them "ALL" (his charity overlooking, for the moment the small section of his detractors at Corinth, 1 Corinthians 13:7 ), will make his joy ( 2 Corinthians 2:2 ) their joy.
4. So far from my change of purpose being due to "lightness" ( 2 Corinthians 1:17 ), I wrote my letter to you ( 2 Corinthians 2:3 ) "out of much affliction (Greek, 'trouble') and anguish of heart, and with many tears."
not that ye should be grieved--Translate, "be made sorry," to accord with the translation, 2 Corinthians 2:2 . My ultimate and main object was, "not that ye might be made sorry," but that through sorrow you might be led to repentance, and so to joy, redounding both to you and me ( 2 Corinthians 2:2 2 Corinthians 2:3 ). I made you sorry before going to you, that when I went it might not be necessary. He is easily made sorry, who is admonished by a friend himself weeping [BENGEL].
that ye might know the love--of which it is a proof to rebuke sins openly and in season [ESTIUS], ( Psalms 141:5 , Proverbs 27:6 ). "Love" is the source from which sincere reproof springs; that the Corinthians might ultimately recognize this as his motive, was the apostle's aim.
which I have more abundantly unto you--who have been particularly committed to me by God ( Acts 18:10 , 1 Corinthians 4:15 , 9:2 ).
5. grief . . . grieved--Translate as before, "sorrow . . . made sorry." The "any" is a delicate way of referring to the incestuous person.
not . . . me, but in part--He has grieved me only in part (compare 2 Corinthians 1:14 , Romans 11:25 ), that is, I am not the sole party aggrieved; most of you, also, were aggrieved.
that I may not overcharge--that I may not unduly lay the weight of the charge on you all, which I should do, if I made myself to be the sole party aggrieved. ALFORD punctuates, "He hath not made sorry me, but in part (that I press not too heavily; namely, on him) you all." Thus "you all" is in contrast to "me"; and "in part" is explained in the parenthetical clause.
6. Sufficient--without increasing it, which would only drive him to despair ( 2 Corinthians 2:7 ), whereas the object of the punishment was, "that (his) spirit might be saved" in the last day.
to such a man--a milder designation of the offender than if he had been named [MEYER]. Rather, it expresses estrangement from such a one who had caused such grief to the Church, and scandal to religion ( Acts 22:22 , 1 Corinthians 5:5 ).
this punishment--His being "delivered to Satan for the destruction of the flesh"; not only excommunication, but bodily disease
inflicted of many--rather, "by the majority" (the more part of you). Not by an individual priest, as in the Church of Rome, nor by the bishops and clergy alone, but by the whole body of the Church.
7. with overmuch sorrow--Greek, "with HIS overmuch sorrow."
8. confirm your love toward him--by giving effect in act, and showing in deeds your love; namely, by restoring him to your fellowship and praying for his recovering from the sickness penally inflicted on him.
9. For--Additional reason why they should restore the offender, namely, as a "proof" of their obedience "in all things"; now in love, as previously in punishing ( 2 Corinthians 2:6 ), at the apostle's desire. Besides his other reasons for deferring his visit, he had the further view, though, perhaps, unperceived by them, of making an experiment of their fidelity. This accounts for his deferring to give, in his Epistle, the reason for his change of plan (resolved on before writing it). This full discovery of his motive comes naturally from him now, in the second Epistle, after he had seen the success of his measures, but would not have been a seasonable communication before. All this accords with reality, and is as remote as possible from imposture [PALEY, Horæ Paulinæ]. The interchange of feeling is marked ( 2 Corinthians 2:4 ), "I wrote . . . that ye might know the love," &c.: here, "I did write, that I might know the proof of you."
10. Another encouragement to their taking on themselves the responsibility of restoring the offender. They may be assured of Paul's apostolic sanction to their doing so.
for if I forgave anything, to whom I forgave it--The oldest manuscripts read, "For even what I have forgiven, if I have forgiven anything."
for your sakes forgave I it--He uses the past tense, as of a thing already determined on; as in 1 Corinthians 5:3 , "I have judged already"; or, as speaking generally of forgiveness granted, or to be granted. It is for your sakes I have forgiven, and do forgive, that the Church (of which you are constituent members) may suffer no hurt by the loss of a soul, and that ye may learn leniency as well as faithfulness.
in the person of Christ--representing Christ, and acting by His authority: answering to 1 Corinthians 5:4 , "In the name of our Lord Jesus Christ . . . my spirit, with the power of our Lord Jesus Christ."
11. Literally, "That we may have no advantage gained over us by Satan," namely, by letting one of our members be lost to us through despair, we ourselves furnishing Satan with the weapon, by our repulsive harshness to one now penitent. The loss of a single sinner is a common loss; therefore, in 2 Corinthians 2:10 , he said, "for your sakes." Paul had "delivered" the offender "to Satan for the destruction of the flesh, that the Spirit might be saved" ( 1 Corinthians 5:5 ). Satan sought to destroy the spirit also: to let him do so, would be to give him an advantage, and let him overreach us.
not ignorant of his devices--"Ignorant" and "devices" are words akin in sound and root in Greek: we are not without knowledge of his knowing schemes.
12. Paul expected to meet Titus at Troas, to receive the tidings as to the effect of his first Epistle on the Corinthian Church; but, disappointed in his expectation there, he passed on to Macedonia, where he met him at last ( 2 Corinthians 7:5 2 Corinthians 7:6 2 Corinthians 7:7 ) The history (Acts) does not record his passing through Troas, in going from Ephesus to Macedonia; but it does in coming from that country ( Acts 20:6 ); also, that he had disciples there ( Acts 20:7 ), which accords with the Epistle ( 2 Corinthians 2:12 , "a door was opened unto me of the Lord"). An undesigned coincidence marking genuineness [PALEY, Horæ Paulinæ]. Doubtless Paul had fixed a time with Titus to meet him at Troas; and had desired him, if detained so as not to be able to be at Troas at that time, to proceed at once to Macedonia to Philippi, the next station on his own journey. Hence, though a wide door of Christian usefulness opened to him at Troas, his eagerness to hear from Titus the tidings from Corinth, led him not to stay longer there when the time fixed was past, but he hastened on to Macedonia to meet him there [BIRKS].
to preach--literally, "for the Gospel." He had been at Troas before, but the vision of a man from Macedonia inviting him to come over, prevented his remaining there ( Acts 16:8-12 ). On his return to Asia, after the longer visit mentioned here, he stayed seven days ( Acts 20:6 ).
and--that is, though Paul would, under ordinary circumstances, have gladly stayed in Troas.
door . . . opened . . . of the Lord--Greek, "in the Lord," that is, in His work, and by His gracious Providence.
13. no rest in my spirit--rather, "no rest for my spirit" ( Genesis 8:9 ). As here his "spirit" had no rest; so in 2 Corinthians 7:5 , his "flesh." His "spirit" under the Holy Spirit, hence, concluded that it was not necessary to avail himself of the "door" of usefulness at Troas any longer.
taking . . . leave of them--the disciples at Troas.
14. Now--Greek, "But." Though we left Troas disappointed in not meeting Titus there, and in having to leave so soon so wide a door, "thanks be unto God," we were triumphantly blessed in both the good news of you from Titus, and in the victories of the Gospel everywhere in our progress. The cause of triumph cannot be restricted (as ALFORD explains) to the former; for "always," and "in every place," show that the latter also is intended.
causeth us to triumph--The Greek, is rather, as in Colossians 2:15 , "triumphs over us": "leadeth us in triumph." Paul regarded himself as a signal trophy of God's victorious power in Christ. His Almighty Conqueror was leading him about, through all the cities of the Greek and Roman world, as an illustrious example of His power at once to subdue and to save. The foe of Christ was now the servant of Christ. As to be led in triumph by man is the most miserable, so to be led in triumph by God is the most glorious, lot that can befall any [TRENCH]. Our only true triumphs are God's triumphs over us. His defeats of us are our only true victories [ALFORD]. The image is taken from the triumphal procession of a victorious general. The additional idea is perhaps included, which distinguishes God's triumph from that of a human general, that the captive is brought into willing obedience ( 2 Corinthians 10:5 ) to Christ, and so joins in the triumph: God "leads him in triumph" as one not merely triumphed over, but also as one triumphing over God's foes with God (which last will apply to the apostle's triumphant missionary progress under the leading of God). So BENGEL: "Who shows us in triumph, not [merely] as conquered, but as the ministers of His victory. Not only the victory, but the open 'showing' of the victory is marked: for there follows, Who maketh manifest."
savour--retaining the image of a triumph. As the approach of the triumphal procession was made known by the odor of incense scattered far and wide by the incense-bearers in the train, so God "makes manifest by us" (His now at once triumphed over and triumphing captives, compare Luke 5:10 , "Catch," literally, "Take captive so as to preserve alive") the sweet savor of the knowledge of Christ, the triumphant Conqueror ( Colossians 2:15 ), everywhere. As the triumph strikes the eyes, so the savor the nostrils; thus every sense feels the power of Christ's Gospel. This manifestation (a word often recurring in his Epistles to the Corinthians, compare 1 Corinthians 4:5 ) refutes the Corinthian suspicions of his dishonestly, by reserve, hiding anything from them ( 2 Corinthians 2:17 , 2 Corinthians 4:2 ).
15. The order is in Greek, "For (it is) of Christ (that) we are a sweet savor unto God"; thus, the "for" justifies his previous words ( 2 Corinthians 2:14 ), "the savor of HIS (Christ's) knowledge." We not only scatter the savor; but "we are the sweet savor" itself ( Solomon 1:3 ; compare John 1:14 John 1:16 , Ephesians 5:2 , 1 John 2:27 ).
in them that are saved--rather, "that are being saved . . . that are perishing" blinds in darkness the weak, is for all that still light; and honey, though it taste bitter to the sick, is in itself still sweet; so the Gospel is still of a sweet savor, though many perish through unbelief [CHRYSOSTOM, Homilies, 5.467], ( 2 Corinthians 4:3 2 Corinthians 4:4 2 Corinthians 4:6 ). As some of the conquered foes led in triumph were put to death when the procession reached the capitol, and to them the smell of the incense was the "savor of death unto death," while to those saved alive, it was the "savor of life," so the Gospel was to the different classes respectively.
and in them--in the case of them. "Those being saved" (2 Corinthians 3:1-4:2'): "Those that are perishing" ( 2 Corinthians 4:3-5 ).
16. savour of death unto death . . . of life unto life--an odor arising out of death (a mere announcement of a dead Christ, and a virtually lifeless Gospel, in which light unbelievers regard the Gospel message), ending (as the just and natural consequence) in death (to the unbeliever); (but to the believer) an odor arising out of life (that is, the announcement of a risen and living Saviour), ending in life (to the believer) ( Matthew 21:44 , Luke 2:34 , John 9:39 ).
who is sufficient for these things?--namely, for diffusing aright everywhere the savor of Christ, so diverse in its effects on believers and unbelievers. He here prepares the way for one purpose of his Epistle, namely, to vindicate his apostolic mission from its detractors at Corinth, who denied his sufficiency. The Greek order puts prominently foremost the momentous and difficult task assigned to him, "For these things, who is sufficient?" He answers his own question ( 2 Corinthians 3:5 2 Corinthians 3:6 ), "Not that we are sufficient of ourselves, but our sufficiency is of God, who hath made us able (Greek, 'sufficient') ministers," &c.
17. not as many--( 2 Corinthians 11:18 , Philippians 2:21 ). Rather, "the many," namely, the false teachers of whom he treats (tenth through twelfth chapters, especially 2 Corinthians 11:13 , 1 Thessalonians 2:3 ).
which corrupt--Greek, "adulterating, as hucksters do wine for gain" ( 2 Corinthians 4:2 , Isaiah 1:22 , 2 Peter 2:3 , "Make merchandise of you").
as of sincerity . . . as of God--as one speaking from (out of) sincerity, as from (that is, by the command of, and so in dependence on) God.
in Christ's--as united to Him in living membership, and doing His work (compare 2 Corinthians 12:19 ). The whole Gospel must be delivered such as it is, without concession to men's corruptions, and without selfish aims, if it is to be blessed with success ( Acts 20:27 ).