1 But I determined this within myself, that I would not come again to you in sorrow.
2 For if I make you sorrowful, then who is he who makes me glad but the one who is made sorrowful by me?
3 And I wrote this very thing to you, lest, when I came, I should have sorrow over those from whom I ought to have joy, having confidence in you all that my joy is the joy of you all.
4 For out of much affliction and anguish of heart I wrote to you, with many tears, not that you should be grieved, but that you might know the love which I have so abundantly for you.
But I decided this in my own interest, and for my own sake, not to come again to you in grief. For, as for myself, if, as is the case, I cause you grief, who then is he who makes me joyful except the one who was made to grieve by me? And I wrote this very thing, lest, when I came, I should have grief from those whom it was a necessity in the nature of the case to be making to rejoice, having confidence in you all that my joy is the joy of all of you, for out of a source of much affliction and anguish of heart I wrote to you through many tears, and not in order that you may be made to grieve, but in order that you may come to know experientially the sacrificial love which I have so abundantly for you. — Wuest, page 419.
This second epistle was written rather than paying the church a visit at this time, when so many were still defiant. Indeed, in his closing words the apostle says: “Therefore I write these things being absent, lest being present I should use sharpness, according to the power which the Lord has give me to edification, and not to destruction” (2 Corinthians 13:10). — Stam, page 47.
[The first] letter, though effective in many ways, had not brought about full restoration. Thus, rather than visiting them now and risking negative results, he was led to write them a second letter, doubtless praying that the further delay in visiting them might provide an occasion for intervening grace to do its work.
The argument in verse 2 is that he ought to be rejoicing in their spiritual restoration and progress, but if the obstinate continuance of some in their permissive ways should call for his rebuke, and cause them sorrow, who then would bring him joy? If his rebuke should discourage them, who would encourage him? Obviously such encouragement could only come from those who had been “made sorry” by him! But it did not follow that if he made them “sorry” they would sincerely repent and make him glad.
If he came to Corinth again and still saw there the blighting effects of party strife, fleshly lusts, and indulgence in worldly pleasures, he would again suffer sorrow from those over whom he “ought to rejoice,” and nothing would satisfy him but their joy in Christ. Thus he writes in the confidence that “my joy is the joy of you all,” that they understood that his aim was the removal of that which had not only grieved him, but had brought sorrow to them all.
In verse 4 he shows by example how church leaders and Christian assemblies should exercise discipline. His first letter and especially his instructions about the man living brazenly in incest had not revealed harsh pride but sorrow and loving concern, and when sincere repentance had resulted his appeal was: “Forgive him heartily, and restore him to full fellowship” (vs. 6-7). — Stam, pages 48-49
21 Now He who establishes us with you in Christ and has anointed us is God,
22 who also has sealed us and given us the Spirit in our hearts as a guarantee.
23 Moreover I call God as witness against my soul, that to spare you I came no more to Corinth.
24 Not that we have dominion over your faith, but are fellow workers for your joy; for by faith you stand.
establishes (v.21) = confirms, secures, make sure — lit. “to walk where it is solid”
anointed (v.21) = consecrated, to clothe with the Holy Spirit
has sealed (v.22) = has (past tense) sealed to attest ownership and the full security carried by the owner
In his first letter to the church at Corinth, Paul corrected the believers because they were falling short in several areas. He wrote, “What do you want? Shall I come to you with a rod, or in love and a spirit of gentleness?” (1 Corinthians 4:21). Now (v.23), he told them that he avoided coming to “spare” them—because if he had come, it would have to be with a rod.
dominion (v.24) = to rule over, have authority over, to exercise rights over. Paul was saying that the faith of the Corinthians was not his to determine. It had been established by God and sealed with the Holy Spirit.
Now, He who is constantly confirming us more firmly in our position in and union with Christ [in conforming us to His likeness] and who anointed us is God, who also placed His seal upon us and gave us the token payment guaranteeing the payment in full of our salvation, which token payment is the Spirit in our hearts. Moreover, as for myself, I call God as a witness against my soul (if I am speaking falsely] that to spare you, I did not come as yet to Corinth, not that we have lordship over your faith, but that we are co-workers in producing your joy; for by faith you stand. — Wuest, pages 418-419.
The One who establishes us—all of us—in Christ, says the apostle, is God, and it is He who “anoints,” or consecrates us to His service.
Furthermore, God has “sealed us.” Our failures notwithstanding, He has placed His stamp of approval, His seal of acceptance upon us, so that we may say with Paul: “It is God that justifieth, who is He that condemneth?” (Romans 8:33-34).
But there is more: God has also “given us the earnest of the Spirit in our hearts” (v.22), the “down payment” on greater blessings purchased for us, for ere long we shall be wholly under His control. Blessed prospect!
In two other passages the apostle uses this terminology: once with regard to the immortality of believers, and once concerning our present security in Christ:
For we who are in this tent groan, being burdened, not because we want to be unclothed, but further clothed, that mortality may be swallowed up by life. Now He who has prepared us for this very thing is God, who also has given us the Spirit as a guarantee. (2 Corinthians 5:4-5)
In Him you also trusted, after you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation; in whom also, having believed, you were sealed with the Holy Spirit of promise, who is the guarantee of our inheritance until the redemption of the purchased possession, to the praise of His glory. (Ephesians 1:13-14)
It is against this background that the apostle says, “I call God for a record upon my soul, that to spare you I came not as yet to Corinth” (v.23).
He does not mean; indeed, against the background of vs. 21-22, he could not mean, “I call upon God to take vengeance on my soul if I lie.” Rather he calls upon God in a prayer to confirm to these Corinthians the validity of his defense.
Clearly, the course the apostle had followed in this matter was no chosen that he might exercise lordship of them, but to promote their greatest welfare. Had the former been the case, he doubtless would have appeared among them exercising the severest apostolic discipline. But it was by faith alone that they must stand, not by apostolic decree. And standing for God and His truth by faith does indeed bring with it the greatest spiritual blessing. —Stam, pages 45-46.
15 Because I was confident of this, I wanted to visit you first so that you might benefit twice.
16 I wanted to visit you on my way to Macedonia and to come back to you from Macedonia, and then to have you send me on my way to Judea.
17 Was I fickle when I intended to do this? Or do I make my plans in a worldly manner so that in the same breath I say both “Yes, yes” and “No, no”?
18 But as surely as God is faithful, our message to you is not “Yes” and “No.”
19 For the Son of God, Jesus Christ, who was preached among you by us—by me and Silas and Timothy—was not “Yes” and “No,” but in him it has always been “Yes.”
20 For no matter how many promises God has made, they are “Yes” in Christ. And so through him the “Amen” is spoken by us to the glory of God.
benefit (v.15) = a token or proof of grace, a gift of grace
fickle (v.17) = levity, lightness, of little weight
worldly manner (v.17) = according to the flesh, human nature
glory (v.20) = honor, renown, splendor
In … confidence in their affection [Paul] planned to visit Corinth; from thence to pass into Macedonia; then to return to Corinth; and from there to set out for Judea—so giving them a double “benefit.” … The Apostle was not guilty of fickleness of purpose because he changed his plans. He was not like men of the world who say “Yes, Yes,” but in action say “No, No”; but just as God is faithful to His “yea” so was the Apostle. … His argument was—how could he act with fickleness when he proclaimed a God that is faithful to His promises; and he reminds them that, let the promises of God be never so many, yet are they all reliable for they are all deposited in the Son of God, Jesus Christ. He is the great “Yes” of these promises.
The promises under the first covenant were deposited in man and depended for realization upon his obedience. There was of course complete failure; but [now] the promises … are all given to Christ, and their realization depends upon Him. There can, therefore, be no failure, for His is the “Amen” as well as the “Yea,” i.e., He is the Performer as well as the Promiser and all His actions in relation to these promises has for its aim the glory of God. — Williams, page 897.
Important circumstances, including their sad state, had prevented him from coming to them sooner. But on the other hand, he insists that he did not make his plans “according to the flesh,” and then stand by them just to prove his own integrity. He sought leading from God, who knows the end from the beginning and leads His children one step at a time. He never needs to change His mind, but they may.
The apostle names Silas and Timothy, who had faithfully labored in their midst, and declares that he and they had not preached to them a “yes” and “no” gospel., but a very positive one, centered in Christ, who is the “yea” and “amen” (yes and so be it) of all God’s promises. — Stam, page 44.
12 For our boasting is this: the testimony of our conscience that we conducted ourselves in the world in simplicity and godly sincerity, not with fleshly wisdom but by the grace of God, and more abundantly toward you.
13 For we are not writing any other things to you than what you read or understand. Now I trust you will understand, even to the end
14 (as also you have understood us in part), that we are your boast as you also are ours, in the day of the Lord Jesus.
boasting (v.12) = glorying, exultation
testimony (v.12) = witness, evidence, proof
Paul’s action with [the members of the Corinthian church] were sincere, disinterested, and affectionate (v.12). He wrote nothing to them but what they had already received and read and acknowledged to be true (v.13); but only a “part” of them acknowledged and recognized his sincerity (v.14). These rejoiced in Paul as he looked forward to rejoicing in them at the coming of the Lord. — Williams, page 897
For our glorying is this, the testimony of our conscience, that in the holiness, purity and unsullied character of God, not in human wisdom, but by God’s grace we ordered our behavior in the world, and this was more abundantly evident to you. For, no other things are we writing to you but those things which you are reading or even acknowledge to be what they really are, and which I hope you will acknowledge to the end, as also certain ones of you acknowledged us for what we really are, that we are even as that in which you glory, and you are that in which we glory in the day of our Lord Jesus. — Wuest, page 418
Paul has much to say about conscience, and how earnestly he strove always to have a clear conscience. What power this lent to his ministry for Christ! He could look the unscrupulous members of the Sanhedrin sternly in the eye, and say to them: “Men and brethren, I have lived in all good conscience before God until this day” (Acts 23:1).
Little wonder this so offended the high priest, whose conscience had already been “seared with a hot iron,” that he commanded those who stood by to smite Paul on the mouth (Acts 23:2). — Stam, page 41.
The marks of Paul’s good conscience and thus of his spiritual integrity, were his “simplicity and Godly sincerity.” Though he was endowed with a keen intellect, yet his preaching was “not with fleshly wisdom” but “by the grace of God.” This was how he conducted himself not only “in the world,” but “more abundantly” toward them. Thus simply, by “manifestation of the truth” he commended [himself] to every man’s conscience in the sight of God” (2 Corinthians 4:2). — Stam, page 41.
The Greek word for “sincerity” in 2 Corinthians 1:12 is a long one: eilikrineis, meaning literally, to judge of in the sunlight, and it is interesting to learn how this phrase-in-a-word became one of the four Greek terms used for sincerity.
The Greeks produced many beautiful urns, vases, bowls and pitchers with colored designs, glistening from the coats of lacquer that covered them. Many of these are still in existence today.
Sometimes, however, the lacquer, or even the vessel itself, would develop a crack, which some dealers in these items would fill with colored wax to match the surrounding color. The defect would thus become virtually invisible—unless the vessel was held up to the sunlight! — Stam, page 41.
In verse 13 the apostle refers, evidently, to his first letter to them, declaring “We write none other things unto you than what ye read or acknowledge.” They had read what he had written and that was exactly what he had meant. There was no “craftiness” in his writings, no hidden meanings. The letter had indeed been one of rebuke and warning, but it had been written “out of much affliction and anguish of heart” and “with many tears” and an abundance of love (2 Corinthians 2:4). Some of its truths, he says, they had already acknowledged and, he hoped, would continue to acknowledge “to the end.” — Stam, page 42.
But even though acknowledge only “in part,” [Paul] says of that “part”: “… we are your rejoicing, even as ye are ours in the day of the Lord Jesus.” This reminds us of what he had previously written to his beloved Thessalonian friends, those faithful partners in persecution: “What is our hope, or joy, or crown of rejoicing? Are not even ye in the presence of our Lord Jesus Christ at His coming?” (1 Thessalonians 2:19).
If he was their “rejoicing,” they were certainly his. it was his deep and constant joy that when finally called to be with Christ at the Rapture, they would be there too as demonstrations of the riches of God’s grace. — Stam, page 43.
8 For we do not want you to be ignorant, brethren, of our trouble which came to us in Asia: that we were burdened beyond measure, above strength, so that we despaired even of life.
9 Yes, we had the sentence of death in ourselves, that we should not trust in ourselves but in God who raises the dead,
10 who delivered us from so great a death, and does deliver us; in whom we trust that He will still deliver us,
11 you also helping together in prayer for us, that thanks may be given by many persons on our behalf for the gift granted to us through many.
ignorant (v.8) = have no knowledge of (sometimes willfully)
trouble (v.8) — Perhaps the riot in Ephesus when the Ephesian silversmiths were angry that Paul’s preaching was ruing their business — Acts 19:23-41.
burdened (v.8) = weighed down
above strength (v.8) = beyond his power to resist
despaired (v.8) = to be utterly without resource. Paul felt that he was about to die and that he had nowhere to turn to escape
So narrow was the Apostle’s escape from death that he had the sentence of death in himself, that is, he had the feelings of a man sentenced to death. But God saved him on that occasion (v.10); and Paul was sure that he would enjoy further similar salvations; and so would also the Corinthians (v.6), they helping by prayer so that this “gift” of deliverance (v.11) would be bestowed, not only upon the Apostle, but upon them also, for those who pray for others to be delivered from trial share the joy of the deliverance. — Williams, pages 896-897.
In 1 Corinthians 15:32 the apostle states that “humanly speaking” he had “fought with beasts at Ephesus,” and his meaning is clear enough. In the Revelation this word “beast,” Gr., theerion, is used 44 times, each time indicating the character of the individual referred to. — For example, men will call the coming world ruler of prophecy a great statesman, and the antichrist a great religious leader, but God calls them both “beasts” (Revelation 13). — Stam, page 37
helping together (v.11) = supplication
gift (v.11) = grace
we had the sentence of death in ourselves (v.9) — Paul felt like he had been literally condemned to death, and that caused him to place his reliance on God, who raises the dead.
Verse 10 may be applied to the believer’s salvation from sin, but we believe that the apostle here refers to the horrible death he might have suffered in Ephesus, from which he had so graciously been delivered, and from which he was being delivered, even though his enemies had hounded him wherever he went—and from which he trusted the Lord to finally deliver him. — Stam, page 38.
I’m not going to pretend I fully understand verse 11. Paul is saying that the Corinthians have engaged—or can engage—in prayers of supplication for him. Most commentaries read this as the apostle thanking the Corinthians for their prayers which resulted in his deliverance from death. But in verse 8, he said he was telling them what happened so they wouldn’t be ignorant, so how could they have prayed for him if they didn’t know what he was facing? The immediate context is trusting that God “will still deliver us.” So is the apostle saying that their prayers will help deliver him in the future? And by future, does he mean future ministry or ultimate deliverance after death? And does he mean physical deliverance or the deliverance of trusting God when persecution occurs?
He goes on to day that many people can be thankful on Paul’s behalf for the grace that was gifted to him through many (who prayed for him). Is this referring to past prayers or future prayers. Is it referring to past deliverance, future deliverance, or the grace that helps him face his trials. Would God have not delivered Paul if people hadn’t prayed? I’m not arguing against praying for others—the Bible makes it absolutely clear that we should. I’m just not sure what Paul said they prayed for and how it changed his circumstances.
5 For as the sufferings of Christ abound in us, so our consolation also abounds through Christ.
6 Now if we are afflicted, it is for your consolation and salvation, which is effective for enduring the same sufferings which we also suffer. Or if we are comforted, it is for your consolation and salvation.
7 And our hope for you is steadfast, because we know that as you are partakers of the sufferings, so also you will partake of the consolation.
consolation (v.5, 6, and 7) = comfort (see post on 2 Corinthians 1:3-4)
sufferings of Christ (v.5) — the persecution He endured, and that we endure because of our faith in Him
afflicted (v.6) = constricted, pressed upon, made to feel hemmed in
salvation (v.6) — deliverance from persecution. The consolation with which Christ fortifies the believer, enables him to endure the persecutions. The Apostle and the Corinthians were join partakers in these common persecutions, and were, therefore, join partakers in the common consolation. — Williams, page 896.
comforted (v.6) = consoled and encouraged
Our Lord … is forever blessed, and exalted “far above all.” It is we redeemed sinners, who suffer their [the rebellious world] rebellion against Him. Indeed, the greatest evidence that the present dispensation is “the dispensation of the grace of God” is found in Acts 28, where Paul, the great apostle of love and grace is left a prisoner, condemned to death. Shortly before this he wrote to the Colossians that he was “filling up that which was behind [Lit., which still remained] of the afflictions of Christ” (Colossians 1:24).
The world does not hate us because we have the same failures as they; they hate us because we represent Christ. Even when our Lord was yet on earth He forewarned His disciples: “If they have persecuted Me, they will also persecute you” (John 15:20).
All other suffering is common to all mankind, the results of the fall. It is “the sufferings of Christ” in particular that God permits us, His children, to bear as training in sympathy, “that we may be able to comfort them which are in any trouble” (v.4). — Stam, page 35.
partakers (v.7) = sharers, partners, companions
As His children and representatives of Christ, “the world,” i.e., this world system, hates us, but may our attitude be such that any sufferings borne as a consequence, may qualify us to “comfort them which are in any trouble, by the comfort wherewith we ourselves are comforted of God.” — Stam, page 36
Other verses on the same theme.
Romans 8:16-17—The Spirit Himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, then heirs—heirs of God and joint heirs with Christ, if indeed we suffer with Him, that we may also be glorified together.
2 Corinthians 4:8-11—We are hard-pressed on every side, yet not crushed; we are perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed— always carrying about in the body the dying of the Lord Jesus, that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our body. For we who live are always delivered to death for Jesus’ sake, that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our mortal flesh.
Philippians 3:10—That I may know Him and the power of His resurrection, and the fellowship of His sufferings, being conformed to His death.
Colossians 1:24—I now rejoice in my sufferings for you, and fill up in my flesh what is lacking in the afflictions of Christ, for the sake of His body, which is the church.
3 Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort,
4 who comforts us in all our tribulation, that we may be able to comfort those who are in any trouble, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God.
blessed (v.1) = speak well of, celebrate by praising, worthy of praise, used only of God the Father and of Christ, because only God is inherently praiseworthy. From the Greek word from which we get the English word eulogize.
mercies (v.1) = compassion, favor, grace — a deep feeling about someone’s difficulty or misfortune.
comfort (v.1) = a calling or summons to one’s aid, consolation and encouragement
This next quote from Stam really got me thinking about what I expect—and should expect—when I got to God for comfort.
The English word comfort had a somewhat different meaning to the translators … than it does to us today. We generally think of comfort as consolation or solace: an effort to assuage another’s grief. But to them it had more of the meaning of encouragement. Indeed, the Greek paraklesis means to be “called alongside,” i.e., to help. The classic example … of the Holy Spirit’s usage of the words rendered “comfort” and “Comforter” is found in Hebrews 6:18-19, and John 14:16 respectively:
“That … we might have strong consolation [Greek, paraklesis] … to lay hold on the hope set before us: which hope we have as an anchor of the soul both sure and stedfast …” (Hebrews 6:18-19).
“And I will pray the Father, and He shall give you another Comforter …” (John 14:16).
Here again, the “Comforter” is not one who would assuage their grief, but one who would always be “alongside to help,” as our Lord had been.
In the “comfort” we read of in 2 Corinthians 1:3, God does not say, “Just lie down here and get a good sleep, and you’ll feel better.” Rather He comes alongside to arouse us from sleep and to en-courage us (i.e., to inspire us with courage)”. — Stam, pages 34-35.
Christ’s followers are not promised exemption from suffering, but they are assured of consolation in suffering. They only can truly comfort others who themselves have suffered and been comforted. — Williams
Some … see believers only as in Christ, already seated in the heavenlies, having been justified from all their sins. But these overlook the fact that the same passage in Ephesians which states that we have been raised from the dead, and made to sit in heavenly places in Christ (Ephesians 2:6), also says that we have “access by one Spirit unto the Father (Ephesians 2:18). The former, of course, has to do with our present position in Christ, while the latter refers to our present condition and our need to take advantage of the free “access” God has given us into His presence by the blood of Christ. This access is given to us that we may “obtain mercy, and find grace to help in time of need” (See Hebrews 4:16; 10:19-20). — Stam, page 33.
1 Paul, an apostle of Jesus Christ by the will of God, and Timothy our brother, to the church of God which is at Corinth, with all the saints who are in all Achaia.
2 Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.
church (v.1) — here referring to the local assembly in Corinth
Again and again, in his epistles, Paul stresses his divine apostleship … He had never been trained for such a ministry as this; it was entirely God’s doing. God chose, him, called him, prepared and equipped him for it. He had been trained for leadership in Judaism, partly under the great Gamaliel (Acts 22:3). He, like his father before him, had been a Pharisee (Acts 23:6), with all the riches, prestige and power of a position on the Sanhedrin, the Supreme Court of his nation. but as such he was a bitter enemy of Christ in His lowly followers, having them scourged and imprisoned, and even put to death for professing faith in Christ. — Stam, page 24.
will of God (v.1) = The Greek word translated will refers to the result hoped for. It’s nearly always used of God and refers to something God has determined shall be done.
Except for [Luke’s] one brief statement in Acts, we would not have known that at this time Paul was evidently accompanied by a considerable number of co-workers. In Acts 20:4 Luke testifies that after three months’ stay in Greece, “there accompanied him into Asia Sopater of Berea; and of the Thessalonians, Aristarchus and Secundus; and Gaius of Derbe, and Timotheus; and of Asia, Tychicus and Trophimus.”
How do we know that Luke was with Paul at this time? By the pronouns “us” and “we,” now found again in the Acts record: “These … tarried for us … we sailed away” (Acts 20:5-6). — Stam, page 26.
Paul’s inclusion of Timothy in his salutation does not, of course, imply that Timothy was in any sense or to any degree a co-author of this epistle, and more than Sosthenes was a co-author of 1 Corinthians. (See 1 Corinthians 1:1.) Paul is the writer, but he includes Timothy in his salutation because they knew him so well and could not but respect him. Also, Timothy might well have supplied Paul with important information about the situation at Corinth. — Stam, page 26.
As we know, the unbelieving Jews were lying in wait for Paul at this time (Acts 20:3). They sought to kill him. Thus Paul decided to return to Asia through Macedonia with Luke, and to sail to Troas from Philippi, or Neapolis, its nearby port.
Perhaps the two hastened to Philippi on foot, though it is very possible, if not probable, that as the seven [others who traveled with Paul] boarded a ship bound for Troas (as though there had been no change in plans) Paul and Luke simply boarded another ship, bound for Philippi, from whence they would then sail to Troas to meet the others.
Thus, in either case, the plot to murder Paul was effectively foiled, the Jews naturally supposing that Paul was one of the seven who had boarded the ship bound for Toras! — Stam, page 27.
all the saints who are in all Achaia (v.1) — There is no record of other churches in Achaia, except at Cenchrea. Paul was probably addressing his letter here to individual saints who lived throughout the area.
According to Psalm 2:4-5; Psalm 110:1 and many other Old Testament Scriptures, judgment and war were to be—and they will be—visited upon man for his rebellion against God and his rejection of Christ (cf. Revelation 19:11).
But just when, prophetically speaking, God was ready to pour out the vials of His judgment in the Great Tribulation, He did a most wonderful thing. he interrupted the prophetic program, saving Saul of Tarsus, the leader of the rebellion, and sending him forth as Paul the Apostle, to proclaim “grace and peace” to all men. Thus was ushered in the present “dispensation of the grace of God” (Ephesians 3:1-3).
The “grace and peace” of Paul’s “mystery,” has been God’s message to this guilty world now for nearly 2,000 years, while “judgment and war” continue to await fulfillment. — Stam, page 30.