2 Corinthians 2:14-17

14 Now thanks be to God who always leads us in triumph in Christ, and through us diffuses the fragrance of His knowledge in every place.

15 For we are to God the fragrance of Christ among those who are being saved and among those who are perishing.

16 To the one we are the aroma of death leading to death, and to the other the aroma of life leading to life. And who is sufficient for these things?

17 For we are not, as so many, peddling the word of God; but as of sincerity, but as from God, we speak in the sight of God in Christ.

triumph (v.14) = lead around, make a show, lead one as my prisoner in a triumphal procession

Now, thanks be to God who always leads us in triumph in the Christ and makes known the aroma of the experiential knowledge of himself through us in every place, because a fragrance of Christ we are to God among those who are being saved and among those who are perishing, to the one, an odor proceeding from death resulting in death, and to the other, an aroma proceeding from life resulting in life. And who is sufficient for these things? For we are not as the many who are adulterating the word of God, but as of an unadulterated, unsullied purity of character, but as from God we are speaking in the sight of God in Christ. — Wuest, page 420.

[Paul] comforted himself [for having to leave Troas and being concerned with the Corinthians—vs.12-13] with the knowledge that continually and everywhere he was being led in triumph by God in Christ; that he was Christ’s willing captive; that both he and his message were a sweet savour of Christ to God; that he was a faithful preacher of the Gospel—not adulterating it as many did—and that though incompetent in himself to originate any spiritual matter, yet he had been made fully competent by God for the ministry of His Word.

The scene before the Apostle’s mind was evidently that of a Roman triumph. The advent and the presence of the victorious general were announced by slaves scattering sweet odours all along the historic way that ended at the Capitol. The victor was followed by a multitude of captives, some destined to life, others to death. On reaching the Capitol those doomed to death were slain; those assured of life, liberated. The glory of the conqueror was published by the condemnation of the one group and by the liberation of the other.

The odour of the incense was a savour of death to the captives condemned to death, and of life to the captives ordained to life. The glory of Christ is the subject and purpose of the Gospel. It announces everlasting destruction to those who refuse to obey it (2 Thessalonians 1:8-9) but eternal salvation to those who accept it (1 Thessalonians 5:9). A Gospel that excludes either of these doctrines is a false Gospel—it is not a sweet savour of Christ to God—and it does not glorify, but, on the contrary, it dishonours Him. — Williams, page 898.

Who is sufficient? (v.16) — Not that we are sufficient of ourselves to think of anything as being from ourselves, but our sufficiency is from God, who also made us sufficient as ministers of the new covenant, not of the letter but of the Spirit; for the letter kills, but the Spirit gives life (2 Corinthians 3:5-6).

sufficient (v.16) = sufficiently strong, worthy, suitable

of sincerity (v.17) — 2 Corinthians 1:12

“For we,” [Paul] says, “are unto God a sweet savor of Christ, i.e., when we proclaim the good news about Christ, it is like a sweet fragrance to God; He is pleased.

And, says the apostle, this applies whether we preach Christ to those who are saved or to those who perish. God is vindicated in either case. Our success or failure, i.e., the results of our preaching, in no wise affect the fact that we are always victorious if we preach Christ in truth. It is not success, but faithfulness that pleases God.

But note: It is not merely the mention of Christ that pleases the Father, but the proclamation of the blessed truth that He died for our sins and arose again as our living Savior. This is clearly stated in Ephesians 5:2: “… Christ also hath loved us and hath given Himself for us an offering and a sacrifice to God for a sweet-smelling savor.” — Stam, page 55-56.

Is the apostle asking who is “sufficient” to comprehend these things? By no means. He asks, rather, who is equal to such responsibilities. What manner of preacher ought he to be who preaches a gospel that may determine the eternal destiny of some of his hearers, indeed, that may prove fatal to some who come in contact with it?

Surely Paul did not consider himself “sufficient for these things.” In the very next chapter, verse 5, he says: “Not that we are sufficient of ourselves to think anything of ourselves; but our sufficiency is of God.” — Stam, page 57

The Greek kapeluontes means literally “making gain by corrupting,” and is rendered variously as “peddling an adulterated message,” “bartering the Word of God,” “trying to make a petty profit out of the Word of God,” “a peddler of God’s message,” and (mostly), “corrupting the Word of God.” It appears evident that the word came to be used of the tricks used by petty peddlers or hucksters to sell their goods, and thus of any corruption for base gain.

Paul was by no means a petty peddler of the Word, “but as of sincerity, but as of God in the sight of God,” he says, “speak we in Christ.” And, certainly, his message was not cheap. — Stamp, page 58.

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2 Corinthians 2:12-13

12 Furthermore, when I came to Troas to preach Christ’s gospel, and a door was opened to me by the Lord,

13 I had no rest in my spirit, because I did not find Titus my brother; but taking my leave of them, I departed for Macedonia.

To the simple matter of a journey from Toras to Philippi was, as always with Paul, lifted up into the highest realm of the Divine purposes and activities. As a proof of his deep affection for the Corinthians, he left a delightful field of Gospel success at Troas, and hastened to Macedonia to meet Titus and hear news of them (2 Corinthians 7:6-7). The principle here appears that shepherding the sheep is more important than preaching the Gospel. But it was painful to him to discontinue preaching at Troas, and to leave people who were willing to listen to, and to obey the Gospel. — Williams, page 898

Paul doubtless wrote the above verses to show how strong was his feeling of concern and responsibility toward his Corinthians friends, yet they do raise a serious question. Did he fail, or disobey God by leaving Troas (where the Lord  had opened a door to him) simply because of his own personal feelings toward the Corinthians?

He had visited Troas once before, only to have God call him away by the “Macedonian Vision,” in which he saw a man from Macedonia pleading, “Come over into Macedonia and help us” (Acts 16:9).

Could it be that he now chose Troas as a field in which to “preach Christ’s gospel,” because he had had to leave them the first time? Indeed, we must not forget, in connection with the “Madeconian Vision,” that at this juncture he had been “forbidden of the Holy Ghost to preach the Word in Asia,” and when “they assayed to go into Bithynia … the Spirit suffered them not” (Acts 16:6-7). And then, at Troas, the “Macedonian Vision” had called him away. Evidently, for God’s own reasons, that whole area was not to have the gospel preached to them at that time. Rather, Paul was called into Europe.

But the situation was not entirely the same now, for Paul assures us that when he reached Troas, “a door was opened unto me of the Lord” to “preach Christ’s gospel.” This must mean that the Lord opened hearts to give him an interested hearing, but he explains that he had no rest in his spirit, because of his failure to find Titus, with news from Corinth. Thus, he had left Troas to go into Macedonia in search of Titus.

Was Paul disobedient to God in not remaining at Troas when God Himself had opened a door to him to preach the gospel there? … Paul [was] so troubled in spirit that it had hindered his preaching of the good news he had come to bring. He could not find Titus, whom he had expected to meet there on his return from Corinth, and he could not rest until he knew how the Corinthian brethren were doing. his responsibility toward them weighed heavily on his heart. Thus every day he grew more deeply concerned that Titus did not appear and, “taking leave,” of the brethren at Troas, he went into Macedonia where, evidently, he hoped to find Titus—and did. If only the Corinthians had known how heavily their welfare weighed upon his heart.

Let us not assume, however, that nothing was accomplished during Paul’s brief stay at Troas, much less entertain the notion that he spent virtually no time there. He does not say, “I did not stop at Troas.” Indeed, from Acts 20:6-7 we learn that he “abode there seven days,” and that “on the first day of the week,” (his last day there) “Paul preached unto them … and continued his speech until midnight.” This was when the young man fell out of the third story window, was killed, and then raised from the dead by Paul (vs.8-10). And then they all talked together “a long while, even till the break of day” (v.11), when he had to hurry to Macedonia to seek Titus.

So it is a mistake to suppose that Paul completely failed to enter the door that the Lord had opened to him. … Clearly, Paul had regretted that it had become necessary to leave the people at Troas for the second time, but in the week that God did give him there, he surely made good use of the opportunity, toiling tirelessly to bring them to Christ and to establish them in the faith. — Stam, page 51-53.

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2 Corinthians 2:5-11

But if anyone has caused grief, he has not grieved me, but all of you to some extent—not to be too severe.

This punishment which was inflicted by the majority is sufficient for such a man,

so that, on the contrary, you ought rather to forgive and comfort him, lest perhaps such a one be swallowed up with too much sorrow.

Therefore I urge you to reaffirm your love to him.

For to this end I also wrote, that I might put you to the test, whether you are obedient in all things.

10 Now whom you forgive anything, I also forgive. For if indeed I have forgiven anything, I have forgiven that one for your sakes in the presence of Christ,

11 lest Satan should take advantage of us; for we are not ignorant of his devices.

The statement in verse 5 appears to mean that the evil teaching of the wrong-doer did not grieve Paul only but also the Corinthians; and so he generously disclaimed any intention of charging them with sympathy with the evil. On the contrary he recognizes them as partners, i.e. as having “part” with him in the sorrow.

“In the person of Christ” (v.10), i.e., as Christ’s apostolic representative invested by Him with punitive power. — Williams, page 898.

severe (v.5) = to put a burden on

comfort (v.7) = lit. “to call to one’s side”

swallowed (v.7) = devoured, consumed

test (v.9) = prove, approved

Paul longed to know assuredly, from Titus’ own testimony, whether the Corinthian believers were now “obedient in all things.” To discipline the immoral brother was an important responsibility, but now that he had so heartily repented, did they forgive him? This was no less important—and no less a responsibility. Also, they had accepted Paul’s rebuke of their own permissiveness—his case against them was so unanswerable—but was their attitude toward him now what it should be toward a God-appointed apostle?

He assures them that he has forgiven the repentant backsliders among them for their sakes “in the person of Christ,” i.e., representing Christ. But he did this expecting them to join him, “Lest Satan should get an advantage of us; for we are not ignorant of his devices.”

Satan accomplishes his aims through “wiles” and “devices.” If he cannot defeat us through inducing us to condone evil, he will do so by instilling a self-righteousness that looks down on the fallen brother and refuses to forgive him when restored. — Stam, page 50.

devices (v.11) = schemes, purposes, designs

I believe it is generally thought that the man Paul referred to in these verses who should be forgiven is the one he wrote about in 1 Corinthians 5:1-5.

It is actually reported that there is sexual immorality among you, and such sexual immorality as is not even named among the Gentiles—that a man has his father’s wife! And you are puffed up, and have not rather mourned, that he who has done this deed might be taken away from among you. For I indeed, as absent in body but present in spirit, have already judged (as though I were present) him who has so done this deed. In the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, when you are gathered together, along with my spirit, with the power of our Lord Jesus Christ, deliver such a one to Satan for the destruction of the flesh, that his spirit may be saved in the day of the Lord Jesus.

That man had now repented of his sin, but the members of the church who were slow to punish him were now refusing to stop punishing him.

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2 Corinthians 2:1-4

1 But I determined this within myself, that I would not come again to you in sorrow.

For if I make you sorrowful, then who is he who makes me glad but the one who is made sorrowful by me?

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.

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

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2 Corinthians 1:21-24

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.

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2 Corinthians 1:15-20

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.

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2 Corinthians 1:12-14

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.

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2 Corinthians 1:8-11

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.

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.

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2 Corinthians 1:5-7

For as the sufferings of Christ abound in us, so our consolation also abounds through Christ.

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.

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 8:16-17The 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.

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2 Corinthians 1:3-4

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort,

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.

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