II Corinthians 2

 

 

                        Reasons for Not Coming to Corinth (con’t vs. 1-4)

 

The division of chapters is here unfortunate, since this and the next three verses belong to the

paragraph which began at ch.1:23.

 

1 But I determined this with myself, that I would not come again to you in heaviness.”

Paul contrasts his final decision with his original desire mentioned in ch. 1:15.  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.”  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.  2 For if I make

you sorry, who is he then that maketh me glad, but the same which is made sorry

by me?”  Paul 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 (ch.1:24). The singular,

he who is being pained by me,” does not refer to the offender, but to the Corinthians

collectively.  3 And I wrote this same unto you” – (I Corinthians)  the purpose was sparing

them a painful visit -  “lest, when I came” – He preferred that his letter, rather than his

personal visit, should cause pain -  “I should have sorrow from them of whom I ought to

rejoice;  having confidence in you all, that my joy is the joy of you all.”  It is true that in

the Corinthian Church 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

not believe that they exist, since “love believeth all things, hopeth all things”.  (1 Corinthians 13:7).

4 For out of much affliction and anguish of heart” - The word for “anguish” suno>chv -

soon-okh-ays means “contraction,” “pressure,” “spasm”, “anxiety”, “distress” (Luke 21:25).

 “I wrote unto you with many tears” - . In I Corinthians 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.  The nervous, afflicted temperament of Paul seems to have been often

overwhelmed with weeping (Acts 20:19,31; II Timothy 1:4) -  “not that ye should be

grieved, but that ye might know the love which I have more abundantly unto you.”

His object in inflicting pain was not the pain itself, but the results of godly repentance

which it produced (ch. 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 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 Paul, in spite of its many faults.

 

 

The Results of His letter in Their Treatment of the Incestuous Offender (vs. 5-11)

 

5 But if any have caused grief, he hath not grieved me, but in part:” - Paul says that

this man’s conduct had even to any extent grieved the whole community, his words may

seem to conflict with I Corinthians 5:2; but he is thinking, not of the immediate condonation

of the offender there alluded to, but of the agony of subsequent repentance which his letter

had awoke in the whole (or practically the whole) community (ch. 7:11) – “that I may not

overcharge you all.  6 Sufficient to such a man is this punishment” - What the

punishment was we do not know, but of course the Corinthians knew that what 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 (I Corinthians 5:4-5). Whether the Corinthians had done exactly as 

Paul bade them is uncertain; but whatever they had done is here acquiesced in by Paul,

and even if (as we may suspect) 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. 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 – “which was

inflicted of many.”  Rather, “by the majority”.  7 So that contrariwise ye ought

rather to forgive him” - The word is used of the mutual attitude of gracious forbearance

which ought to exist among Christians (Forgiving one another,” Ephesians 4:32; Colossians

3:13), so that they might be not only Christians, but as Gentiles ignorantly called them,

Chrestians (“ kind-hearted,” Ephesians 4:32) – “and comfort him” – i.e. “strengthen”,

encourage” -  “lest perhaps such a one should be swallowed” - The same metaphor,

of being swallowed in an abyss, occurs in I Corinthians 15:54. In I Peter. 5:8 it is said that

Satan is ever striving to “swallow up” men – “up with overmuch sorrow.”  Rather, with

the, or his, excessive grief. Despair might drive the man to suicide, or apostasy, or the

wretchedness of unclean living.  8 Wherefore I beseech you that ye would confirm

your love toward him.  9 For to this end also did I write, that I might know

the proof of you, whether ye be obedient in all things.”  This is another reason which

he gives for the severe tone of his First Epistle. Besides avoiding a painful visit and to show

his special love for them, Paul wrote to test their obedience!  10 To whom ye forgive

any thing, 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 (John 20:23) in its corporate capacity. The Corinthian

Church had in this case decided to forgive, and Paul ratifies their decision – “for if I

forgave any thing, to whom I forgave it, for your sakes forgave I it” - The reading

here varies between o[, what, and w+, 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.” 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 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 (comp.

ch. 1:11; 3:7,13,18; 4:6).  11 Lest Satan should get an advantage of 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 (comp. I Corinthians 5:5).

 for we are not ignorant of his devices.” So too in Ephesians 6:11 we are told of the

crafty wiles of the devil.”

 

 Here is a church, the Church of Corinth, united in a common sympathy, a common

punishment, and a common forgiveness.  To whatever Church any of us belong, the Spirit

of Christ in it gathers all together in one, binding us 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 center, all hearts point to a common home. The pulsations

of all throb in harmony and make music in the ear of God.  In that church, there was sin,

there was a sinner, there was punishment and there was forgiveness.  The punishment

answered its purpose, therefore there was to be restoration and the members were to

confirm their love toward him” – (v. 8)  FORGIVENESS IS THE PREOGATIVE

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.”  Jesus said, “A new commandment I give unto you, That

ye love one another; as I have loved you, that ye also love one another.”  (John 13:24)

 

In the exercise of forgiveness there is a consciousness of Christ.  For your sakes forgive

I it in the person of Christ.” (v. 10)  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!

until seventy times seven” – (Matthew 18:22) - “Whatsoever is loosed on earth

shall be loosed in heaven.”  (ibid. v. 18)

 

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.”  (v. 11)  Forgiveness is not,

then, the prerogative of priests, BUT THE PREOGATIVE 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.”  (Matthew 9:6)

 

 

 

            An Outburst of Thanksgiving for the News Brought by Titus (vs. 12-17)

 

12 Furthermore, when I came to Troas to preach Christ’s gospel” – Troas was at this

time a flourishing colony (Colonia Juris Italici), highly favored by the Romans as representing

ancient Troy, and therefore as being the mythological cradle of their race. Paul 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 (Acts 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 I Corinthians 16:5.

 and a door was opened unto me of the Lord” – He found there a marked opportunity.

Paul found a flourishing Christian community at Troas when he visited it on his return

from this very journey (Acts 20:6-7), and that he stayed there at least once again, shortly

before his martyrdom (II Timothy 4:13). Indeed, it was probably at Troas that his final

 arrest took place (see my ‘Life of St. Paul,’ 2:569, 576).   13 I had no rest” - Paul had

evidently told Titus to come from his mission to Corinth and meet him at Troas. But

either 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” - to my spirit. It was the loftiest part of 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 I Thessalonians 3:5, 9 that Paul

yearned for tidings of his converts with an intensity which can hardly be realized by less

fervent and self-devoted natures - ”because I found not Titus my brother: but

taking my leave of them, I went from thence into Macedonia.”  As he had intended

to do (I Corinthians 16:5; Acts 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.  14 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 ch. 7:5-6 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 (ibid. v.5) that the mere remembrance of it awakens a thankfulness

to God which can only find vent by immediate utterance “which always causeth us to

triumph in Christ” - 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

(Romans 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 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.  and maketh manifest the savor of His

knowledge by us in every place.”  The mental vision of a Roman triumph summons up

various images before the mind of 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.  The savor 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 (Romans 15:18-19).  15 For we are unto God

a sweet savor 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 savor.” The apostles are identified with their work; they were as the incense,

crushed and burned, but diffusing everywhere a waft of perfume.  Paul is still thinking of

the incense burnt in the streets of Rome during a triumph - “in them that are saved,

and in them that perish” - rather, among those who are perishing and those who

are being saved (comp. Acts 2:47). The odor is fragrant to God, though those who

breathe it may be variously affected by it.  16 To the one we are the savor of death

unto death” - rather, a savor 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 (Luke 2:34). To some

He was a Stone of stumbling (Acts 4:11; Romans 9:33; I Peter. 2:8), which grinds to

powder those on whom it falls (Matthew 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 (I Corinthians 1:18,23-24; John 3:19; 9:39; 15:22). Paul is fond of

intensified expressions, like “from death unto death,” as in Romans 1:17; “from faith to faith,”

(ch. 4:17) - “and to the other the savor of life unto life.” rather, a savor 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 (Proverbs 8:16)?  Because, like princes, they have the power

 to kill and to give life. Rava 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?”  Paul always implies that nothing but the grace of God could enable

him to discharge the great duty laid upon him (ch. 3:5-6; I Corinthians 15:10).

“For we are unto God a sweet savor of Christ, in them that are saved, and in them

that perish.”  (v. 17)  Observe:

 

  • The manward aspect of gospel preaching.

 

ü      It quickens some. “To the other the savor of life unto life.”

ü      It destroys others.To the one we are the savor of death unto death.”

                        These effects occur wherever the gospel is preached.

 

  • The Godward aspect of gospel preaching. “We are unto God a sweet

            savour of Christ.” (v. 15) 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!

 

 

17 For we are not as many” - the “many” here means “the many antagonists of mine,”

who preach a different gospel (Galatians 1:6). It must be remembered that conceit,

Pharisaism, moral laxity, and factions were all at work in the Corinthian Church – “which

corrupt” -  kaphleu>ontev  kap-ale-yoo’-ontes ; The word means who are merely

trafficking with,” “adulterating,’’ “huckstering,the Word of life. The word occurs in the

LXX. of Isaiah 1:22; and Plato applies the same metaphor to the sophists, who peddle

their wisdom about (‘Protag.,’ p. 313 d). The  substantive ka>phlov - kapelos means

a retail dealer,” and especially a vintner, and the verb kaphleu>wkapeleuo

adulterate, corrupt -  is always used in a bad sense, like the English “to huckster.”

Such deceitful dealers with the gospel are described in II Peter 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 (I Corinthians 1:17, 31; 2:1-4; and chps. 10:12,15; 11:13-15) – “the word of

God: but as of sincerity, but as of God, in the sight of God speak we in Christ.”

Like one who speaks from the sincerity of his heart (chps.1:12; 4:2) and by the inspiration

of God (I Corinthians 14:25).

 

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.

 

  • 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.

 

  • WITH CONSCIOUS DIVINITY. “As of God, in the sight of God.”

 

ü      He must be conscious that God sent him. From God, not from schools,

                        sects, Churches, or ecclesiastics, but direct from God himself.

 

ü      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.

 

  • 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,” (ch. 5:14)  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.

 

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