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Bible Commentaries
2 Corinthians 2

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Verse 1

1But I had determined Whoever it was that divided the chapters, made here a foolish division. For now at length the Apostle explains, in what manner he had spared them. “I had determined,” says he, “not to come to you any more in sorrow,” or in other words, to occasion you sorrow by my coming. For he had come once by an Epistle, by means of which he had severely pained them. Hence, so long as they had not repented, he was unwilling to come to them, lest he should be constrained to grieve them again, when present with them, for he chose rather to give them longer time for repentance. (311) The word ἔκρινα (I determined) must be rendered in the pluperfect tense, (312) for, when assigning a reason for the delay that had occurred, he explains what had been his intention previously.

(311)De se repentir et amender;” — “For repentance and amendment.”

(312)Et de faict il faut necessairement traduire, l’auoye delitere: non pas, l’ay deliberé;” — “And indeed we must necessarily render it — I had determined: not I have determined. ”

Verse 2

2.For if I make you sorry Here we have the proof of the foregoing statement. No one willingly occasions sorrow to himself. Now Paul says, that he has such a fellow-feeling with the Corinthians, (313) that he cannot feel joyful, unless he sees them happy. Nay more, he declares that they were the source and the authors of his joy — which they could not be, if they were themselves sorrowful. If this disposition prevail in pastors, it will be the best restraint, to keep them back from alarming with terrors those minds, which they ought rather to have encouraged by means of a cheerful affability. For from this arises an excessively morose harshness (314) — so that we do not rejoice in the welfare of the Church, as were becoming.

(313)C’est à dire vne telle conuenance et conionction de nature et d’affections, entre luy et les Corinthiens;” — “That is to say, such an agreement and connection of nature and affections between him and the Corinthians.”

(314)La seuerite trop grande et chagrin;” — “An excessive severity and chagrin.”

Verse 3

3.I had written to you. As he had said a little before, that he delayed coming to them, in order that he might not come a second time in sorrow and with severity, (2 Corinthians 2:1,) so now also he lets them know, that he came the first time in sadness by an Epistle, that they might not have occasion to feel this severity when he was present with them. Hence they have no ground to complain of that former sadness, in which he was desirous to consult their welfare. He goes even a step farther, by stating that, when writing, he did not wish to occasion them grief, or to give any expression of displeasure, but, on the contrary, to give proof of his attachment and affection towards them. In this way, if there was any degree of keenness in the Epistle, he does not merely soften it, but even shows amiableness and suavity. When, however, he confesses afterwards, what he here denies, he appears to contradict himself. I answer, that there is no inconsistency, for he does not come afterwards to confess, that it was his ultimate object to grieve the Corinthians, but that this was the means, by which he endeavored to conduct them to true joy. Previously, however, to his stating this, he speaks here simply as to his design. He passes over in silence, or delays mentioning for a little the means, which were not so agreeable.

Having confidence This confidence he exercises towards the Corinthians, that they may thus in their turn be persuaded of his friendly disposition. For he that hates, is envious; but where joy is felt in common, there must in that case be perfect love. (315) If, however, the Corinthians are not in accordance with Paul’s opinion and judgment as to them, they shamefully disappoint him.

(315)Il faut bien dire que l’amitie y est entiere;” — “We cannot but say that there is entire friendship.”

Verse 4

4.For out of much affliction Here he brings forward another reason with the view of softening the harshness which he had employed. For those who smilingly take delight in seeing others weep, inasmuch as they discover thereby their cruelty, cannot and ought not to be borne with. Paul, however, declares that his feeling was very different. “Intensity of grief,” says he, “has extorted from me every thing that I have written.” Who would not excuse, and take in good part what springs from such a temper of mind, more especially as it was not on his own account or through his own fault, that he suffered grief, and farther, he does not give vent to his grief, with the view of lightning himself by burdening them, but rather, for the purpose of shewing his affection for them? On these accounts, it did not become the Corinthians to be offended at this somewhat severe reproof.

He adds, tears — which, in a man that is brave and magnanimous are a token of intense grief. Hence we see, from what emotions of mind pious and holy admonitions and reproofs must of necessity proceed. For there are many noisy reprovers, who, by declaiming, or rather, fulminating against vices, display a surprising ardour of zeal, while in the mean time they are at ease in their mind, (316) so that it might seem as if they exercised their throat and sides (317) by way of sport. It is, however, the part of a pious pastor, to weep within himself, before he calls upon others to weep: (318) to feel tortured in silent musings, before he shows any token of displeasure; and to keep within his own breast more grief, than he causes to others. We must, also, take notice of Paul’s tears, which, by their abundance, shew tenderness of heart, but it is of a more heroical character than was the iron-hearted hardness of the Stoics. (319) For the more tender the affections of love are, they are so much the more praiseworthy.

The adverb more abundantly may be explained in a comparative sense; and, in that case, it would be a tacit complaint — that the Corinthians do not make an equal return in respect of affection, inasmuch as they love but coldly one by whom they are ardently loved. I take it, however, in a more simple way, as meaning that Paul commends his affection towards them, in order that this assurance may soften down every thing of harshness that might be in his words.

(316)Ils ne s’en soucient point, et n’en sont nullement touchez;” — “They feel no concern as to it, and are in no degree affected by it.”

(317)En criant;” — “In crying.”

(318) There can be little doubt that our author had here in his eye the celebrated sentiment of Horace, in his “Ars Poetica,” 50:102 — “Si vis me flere, dolendum primum ipsi tibi;” — “If you would have me weep, weep first yourself.” — Ed.

(319)Qui vouloyent apparoistre comme insensibles;” — “Who wished to seem as if they were devoid of feeling.”

Verse 5

5.But if any one. Here is a third reason with the view of alleviating the offense — that he had grief in common with them, and that the occasion of it came from another quarter. “We have,” says he, “been alike grieved, and another is to blame for it.” At the same time he speaks of that person, too, somewhat mildly, when he says, if any one — not affirming the thing, but rather leaving it in suspense. This passage, however, is understood by some, as if Paul meant to say: “He that has given me occasion of grief, has given offense to you also; for you ought to have felt grieved along with me, and yet I have been left almost to grieve alone. For I do not wish to say so absolutely — that I may not put the blame upon you all.” In this way the second clause would contain a correction of the first. Chrysostom’s exposition, however, is much more suitable; for he reads it as one continued sentence — “He hath not grieved me alone, but almost all of you. And as to my saying in part, I do so in order that I may not bear too hard upon him.” (320) I differ from Chrysostom merely in the clause in part, for I understand it as meaning in some measure. I am aware, that Ambrose understands it as meaning — part of the saints, inasmuch as the Church of the Corinthians was divided; but that is more ingenious than solid.

(320) “The words may be rendered: ‘But if any one (meaning the incestuous person) have occasioned sorrow, he hath not so much grieved me, as, in some measure (that I may not bear too hard upon him) all of you ᾿Επιβαρῶ῎῝8217; must, with the Syr. version and Emmerling, be taken intransitively, in the sense — ‘ne quid gravius dicam,’ (that I may not say anything too severe,) i.e., ‘ne dicam nos solos,’ (that I may not say — us alone.) Of this sense of ἐπιβαρεῖν τινι, to bear hard upon, two examples are adduced by Wetstein from Appian.” — Bloomfield. — Ed.

Verse 6

6.Sufficient. He now extends kindness even to the man who had sinned more grievously than the others, and on whose account his anger had been kindled against them all, inasmuch as they had connived at his crime. In his showing indulgence even to one who was deserving of severer punishment, the Corinthians have a striking instance to convince them, how much he disliked excessive harshness. It is true, that he does not act this part merely for the sake of the Corinthians, but because he was naturally of a forgiving temper; but still, in this instance of mildness, the Corinthians could not but perceive his remarkable kindness of disposition. In addition to this, he does not merely show himself to be indulgent, but exhorts others to receive him into favor, in the exercise of the same mildness.

Let us, however, consider these things a little more minutely. He refers to the man who had defiled himself by an incestuous marriage with his mother-in-law. As the iniquity was not to be tolerated, Paul had given orders, that the man should be excommunicated. He had, also, severely reproved the Corinthians, because they had so long given encouragement to that enormity (321) by their dissimulation and patient endurance. It appears from this passage, that he had been brought to repentance, after having been admonished by the Church. Hence Paul gives orders, that he be forgiven, and that he be also supported by consolation.

This passage ought to be carefully observed, as it shows us, with what equity and clemency the discipline of the Church ought to be regulated, in order that there may not be undue severity. There is need of strictness, in order that the wicked may not be rendered more daring by impunity, which is justly pronounced an allurement to vice. But on the other hand, as there is a danger of the person, who is chastised, becoming dispirited, moderation must be used as to this — so that the Church shall be prepared to extend forgiveness, so soon as she is fully satisfied as to his penitence. In this department, I find a lack of wisdom on the part of the ancient bishops; and indeed they ought not to be excused, but on the contrary, we ought rather to mark their error, that we may learn to avoid it. Paul is satisfied with the repentance of the offender, that a reconciliation may take place with the Church. They, on the other hand, by making no account of his repentance, have issued out canons as to repentance during three years, during seven years, and in some cases during life. By these they exclude poor unhappy men from the fellowship of the Church. And, in this way, the offender is either alienated the more from the Church, or (322) is induced to practice hypocrisy. But even if the enactment were more plausible in itself, this consideration would, in my view, be enough to condemn it — that it is at variance with the rule of the Holy Spirit, which the Apostle here prescribes.

(321)De ce qu’ils auoyent si longuement nourri ce mal — heureux en son peche;” — “Because they had so long encouraged that unhappy man in his sin.”

(322)Ou pour le moins;” — “Or at least.”

Verse 7

7.Lest such an one should be swallowed up by overmuch sorrow The end of excommunication, so far as concerns the power of the offender, is this: that, overpowered with a sense of his sin, he may be humbled in the sight of God and the Church, and may solicit pardon with sincere dislike and confession of guilt. The man who has been brought to this, is now more in need of consolation, than of severe reproof. Hence, if you continue to deal with him harshly, it will be — not discipline, but cruel domineering. Hence we must carefully guard against pressing them beyond this limit. (323) For nothing is more dangerous, than to give Satan a handle, to tempt an offender to despair. Now we furnish Satan with arms in every instance, in which we leave without consolation those, who are in good earnest affected with a view of their sin.

(323)Plus qu’il est yci demonstré;” — “Beyond what is here pointed out.”

Verse 9

9.For I had written to you also for this purpose. He anticipates an objection, that they might bring forward. “What then did you mean, when you were so very indignant, because we had not inflicted punishment upon him? From being so stern a judge, to become all at once a defender — is not this indicative of a man, that wavers between conflicting dispositions?” (324) This idea might detract greatly from Paul’s authority; but he answers, that he has obtained what he asked, and that he was therefore satisfied, so that he must now give way to compassion. For, their carelessness having been corrected, there was nothing to hinder their lifting up the man by their clemency, when now prostrate and downcast. (325)

(324)D’vn homme inconstant, et qui est mené de contraires affections;” — “Of a man that is unsteady, and is influenced by conflicting dispositions.”

(325)Ce poure homme le voyans bien confus et abbatu;” — “This poor man, on seeing him much abashed and overcome.”

Verse 10

10.To whom ye forgive. That he might the more readily appease them, he added his vote in support of the pardon extended by them. (326) “Do not hesitate to forgive: I promise that I shall confirm whatever you may have done, and I already subscribe your sentence of forgiveness.” Secondly, he says that he does this for their sake; and that too, sincerely and cordially. He had already shown how desirous he was, that the man’s welfare should be consulted: he now declares, that he grants this willingly to the Corinthians.

Instead of the expression in the sight of Christ, some prefer person, (327) because Paul in that reconciliation was in the room of Christ, (328) and did in a manner represent his person. (329) I am, however, more inclined to understand him as declaring, that he forgives sincerely and without any pretence. For he is accustomed to employ this phrase to express pure and undisguised rectitude. If, however, any one prefers the former interpretation, it is to be observed that the person of Christ is interposed, because there is nothing that ought to incline us more to the exercise of mercy.

(326)A ce pecheur;” — “To this offender.”

(327)Aucuns aiment mieux dire, En la personne de Christ;” — “Some prefer to say, In the person of Christ.”

(328)Estoit comme lieutenant de Christ;” — “Was as it were Christ’s lieutenant.”

(329) Raphelius, in his Semicent. Annot., quotes a passage from Eusebius, (Hist. Eccl. lib. in. cap. 38,) in which he makes mention of the Epistle of Clement, ἣν ἐκ προσώπου τὢς’” Ρωμαίων ᾿Εκκλησίας” τὣ Κορινθίων διετυπώσατο — “which he wrote in the name of the Church of the Romans to that of the Corinthians.” — Ed.

Verse 11

11.That we may not be taken advantage of by Satan. This may be viewed as referring to what he had said previously respecting excessive sorrow. For it is a most wicked (330) fraud of Satan, when depriving us of all consolation, he swallows us up, as it were, in a gulf of despair; and such is the explanation that is given of it by Chrysostom. I prefer, however, to view it as referring to Paul and the Corinthians. For there was a twofold danger, that beset them from the stratagems of Satan — in the event of their being excessively harsh and rigorous, or, on the other hand, in case of dissension arising among them. For it very frequently happens, that, under colour of zeal for discipline, a Pharisaical rigour creeps in, which hurries on the miserable offender to ruin, instead of curing him. It is rather, however, in my opinion, of the second danger that he speaks; for if Paul had not to some extent favored the wishes of the Corinthians, Satan would have prevailed by kindling strife among them.

For we are not ignorant of his devices That is, “We know, from being warned of it by the Lord, that one stratagem to which he carefully has recourse is, that when he cannot ruin us by open means, he surprises us when off our guard by making a secret attack. (331) As, then, we are aware that he makes an attack upon us by indirect artifices, and that he assails us by secret machinations, we must look well before us, and carefully take heed that he may not, from some quarter, do us injury. He employs the word devices in the sense in which the Hebrews make use of the term זמה (zimmah,) but in a bad sense, (332) as meaning artful schemes and machinations, which ought not to be unknown to believers, and will not be so, provided they give themselves up to the guidance of God’s Spirit. In short, as God warns us, that Satan employs every means to impose upon us, and, in addition to this, shows us by what methods he may practice imposture upon us, it is our part to be on the alert, that he may have not a single chink to creep through.

(330)Tres dangereuse;” — “Very dangerous.”

(331) The reader will find the same sentiment expressed more fully by Calvin, in the Argument on the First Epistle to the Corinthians, vol. 1, p. 38. — Ed.

(332) The Hebrew term, זמה,(zimmah,) is used in a bad sense, (as meaning a wicked device,) in Proverbs 21:27, and Proverbs 24:9. The word employed by the apostle — νοήματα — is made use of by Homer, (Iliad 10:104, 18:328,) as meaning schemes or devices. — Ed.

Verse 12

12.When I had come to Troas By now mentioning what he had been doing in the mean time, in what places he had been, and what route he had pursued in his journeyings, he more and more confirms what he had said previously as to his coming to the Corinthians. He says that he had come to Troas from Ephesus for the sake of the gospel, for he would not have proceeded in that direction, when going into Achaia, had he not been desirous to pass through Macedonia. As, however, he did not find Titus there, whom he had sent to Corinth, and by whom he ought to have been informed respecting the state of that Church, though he might have done much good there, and though he had an opportunity presented to him, yet, he says, setting everything aside, he came to Macedonia, desirous to see Titus. Here is an evidence of a singular degree of attachment to the Corinthians, that he was so anxious respecting them, that he had no rest anywhere, even when a large prospect of usefulness presented itself, until he had learned the state of their affairs. Hence it appears why it was that he delayed his coming. He did not wish to come to them until he had learned the state of their affairs. Hence it appears, why it was that he delayed his coming. He did not wish to come to them, until he had first had a conversation with Titus. He afterwards learned from the report brought him by Titus, that matters were at that time not yet ripe for his coming to them. Hence it is evident, that Paul loved the Corinthians so much, that he accommodated all his journeyings and long circuits to their welfare, and that he had accordingly come to them later than he had promised — not from having, in forgetfulness of his promise, rashly changed his plan, or from having been carried away by some degree of fickleness, (2 Corinthians 1:17,) but because delay was more profitable for them.

A door also having been opened to me. We have spoken of this metaphor when commenting on the last chapter of the First Epistle. (1 Corinthians 16:9.) Its meaning is, that an opportunity of promoting the gospel had presented itself. (334) For as an opportunity of entering is furnished when the door is opened, so the servants of the Lord make advances when an opportunity is presented. The door is shut, when no prospect of usefulness is held out. Now as, on the door being shut, it becomes us to enter upon a new course, rather than by farther efforts to weary ourselves to no purpose by useless labor, so where an opportunity presents itself of edifying, let us consider that by the hand of God a door is opened to us for introducing Christ there, and let us not withhold compliance with so kind an indication from God. (335)

It may seem, however, as if Paul had erred in this — that disregarding, or at least leaving unimproved, an opportunity that was placed within his reach, he betook himself to Macedonia. “Ought he not rather to have applied himself to the work that he had in hand, than, after making little more than a commencement, break away all on a sudden in another direction?” We have also observed already, that the opening of a door is an evidence of a divine call, and this is undoubtedly true. I answer, that, as Paul was not by any means restricted to one Church, but was bound to many at the same time, it was not his duty, in consequence of the present aspect of one of them, to leave off concern as to the others. Farther, the more connection he had with the Corinthian Church, it was his duty to be so much the more inclined to aid it; for we must consider it to be reasonable, that a Church, which he had founded by his ministry, should be regarded by him with a singular affection (336) — just as at this day it is our duty, indeed, to promote the welfare of the whole Church, and to be concerned for the entire body of it; and yet, every one has, nevertheless, a closer and holier connection with his own Church, to whose interests he is more particularly devoted. Matters were in an unhappy state at Corinth, so that Paul was in no ordinary degree anxious as to the issue. It is not, therefore, to be wondered, if, under the influence of this motive, he left unimproved an opportunity that in other circumstances was not to be neglected; as it was not in his power to occupy every post of duty at one and the same time. It is not, however, at all likely that he left Troas, till he had first introduced some one in his place to improve the opening that had occurred. (337)

(334) Elsner, when commenting on 1 Corinthains 16:9, “a great door and effectual is opened, ” after quoting a variety of passages from Latin and Greek authors, in which a corresponding metaphor is employed, observes that Rabbinical writers employ in the same sense the term פתח, (phethach,) a gate. Thus Raschi, when speaking of the question proposed to Hagar by the angel, (Whence camest thou ? Genesis 16:8,) remarks: “Noverat id (angelus) sed (interrogavit) ut פתח, januam, ei daret colloquendi;” — “He (the angel) knew this, but (he proposed the question) that he might afford her an opportunity of speaking to him.” — Ed.

(335)Ne refusons point de nous employer en ce que nous pourrons seruir, quand nous voyons que Dieu nous y inuite si liberalement;” — “Let us not refuse to employ ourselves in rendering what service we can, when we see that God invites us so kindly.”

(336)Fust aimee de luy d’vne affection singuliere et speciale;” — “Should be loved by him with a singular and special affection.”

(337)L’ouuerture que Dieu auoit faite;” — “The opening that God had made.”

Verse 14

14.But thanks be to God Here he again glories in the success of his ministry, and shows that he had been far from idle in the various places he had visited; but that he may do this in no invidious way, he sets out with a thanksgiving, which we shall find him afterwards repeating. Now he does not, in a spirit of ambition, extol his own actions, that his name may be held in renown, nor does he, in mere pretense, give thanks to God in the manner of the Pharisee, while lifted up, in the mean time, with pride and arrogance. (Luke 18:11.) Instead of this, he desires from his heart, that whatever is worthy of praise, be recognised as the work of God alone, that his power alone may be extolled. Farther, he recounts his own praises with a view to the advantage of the Corinthians, that, on hearing that he had served the Lord with so much fruit in other places, they may not allow his labor to be unproductive among themselves, and may learn to respect his ministry, which God everywhere rendered so glorious and fruitful. For what God so illustriously honors, it is criminal to despise, or lightly esteem. Nothing was more injurious to the Corinthians, than to have an unfavorable view of Paul’s Apostleship and doctrine: nothing, on the other hand, was more advantageous, than to hold both in esteem. Now he had begun to be held in contempt by many, and hence, it was not his duty to be silent. In addition to this, he sets this holy boasting in opposition to the revilings of the wicked.

Who causeth us to triumph If you render the word literally, it will be, Qui nos triumphatWho triumpheth over us. (338) Paul, however, means something different from what this form of expression denotes among the Latins. (339) For captives are said to be triumphed over, when, by way of disgrace, they are bound with chains and dragged before the chariot of the conqueror. Paul’s meaning, on the other hand, is, that he was also a sharer in the triumph enjoyed by God, because it had been gained by his instrumentality, just as the lieutenants accompanied on horseback the chariot of the chief general, as sharers in the honor. (340) As, accordingly, all the ministers of the gospel fight under God’s auspices, so they also procure for him the victory and the honor of the triumph; (341) but, at the same time, he honors each of them with a share of the triumph, according to the station assigned him in the army, and proportioned to the exertions made by him. Thus they enjoy, as it were, a triumph, but it is God’s rather than theirs. (342)

He adds, in Christ, in whose person God himself triumphs, inasmuch as he has conferred upon him all the glory of empire. Should any one prefer to render it thus: “Who triumphs by means of us,” even in that way a sufficiently consistent meaning will be made out.

The odor of his knowledge. The triumph consisted in this, that God, through his instrumentality, wrought powerfully and gloriously, perfuming the world with the health-giving odor of his grace, while, by means of his doctrine, he brought some to the knowledge of Christ. He carries out, however, the metaphor of odor, by which he expresses both the delectable sweetness of the gospel, and its power and efficacy for inspiring life. In the mean time, Paul instructs them, that his preaching is so far from being savourless, that it quickens souls by its very odor. Let us, however, learn from this, that those alone make right proficiency in the gospel, who, by the sweet fragrance of Christ, are stirred up to desire him, so as to bid farewell to the allurements of the world.

He saysin every place, intimating by these words, that he went to no place in which he did not gain some fruit, and that, wherever he went, there was to be seen some reward of his labor. The Corinthians were aware, in how many places he had previously sowed the seed of Christ’s gospel. He now says, that the last corresponded with the first. (343)

(338)Qui triomphe tousiours de nous;” — “Who always triumpheth over us.”

(339)Θριαμβεύειν with the accusative is used here like the hiphil of the Hebrew in the same way as μαθητεύειν (to make a disciple) (Matthew 13:52.) βασιλεύειν (to make a king) (1 Samuel 8:22) and others.” — Billroth on the Corinthians. — Bib. Cab. No. 23, p. 181 The meaning is — “maketh us to triumph.” — Ed.

(340) On such occasions the legati (lieutenants) of the general, and military tribunes, commonly rode by his side. (See Cic. Pis. 25.) — Ed.

(341) “A triumph among the Romans, to which the Apostle here alludes, was a public and solemn honor conferred by them on a victorious general, by allowing him a magnificent procession through the city. This was not granted by the senate unless the general had gained a very signal and decisive victory; conquered a province, etc. [...] The people at Corinth were sufficiently acquainted with the nature of a triumph: about two hundred years before this, Lucius Mummius, the Roman consul, had conquered all Achaia, destroyed Corinth, Thebes, and Chalcis; and, by order of the senate, had a grand triumph, and was surnamed Achaicus. ” — Dr. A. Clarke. — Ed.

(342)C’est plustot au nom de Dieu, que en leur propre nom;” — “It is in God’s name, rather than in their own.”

(343)La benediction de Dieu continue sur son ministere comme on l’y auoit apperceue au commencement;” — “The blessing of God continues upon his ministry, as they had seen it do at the beginning.”

Verse 15

15.A sweet odor of Christ The metaphor which he had applied to the knowledge of Christ, he now transfers to the persons of the Apostles, but it is for the same reason. For as they are called the light of the world, (Matthew 5:14,) because they enlighten men by holding forth the torch of the gospel, and not as if they shone forth upon them with their own lustre; so they have the name of odor, not as if they emitted any fragrance of themselves, but because the doctrine which they bring is odoriferous, so that it can imbue the whole world with its delectable fragrance. (344) It is certain, however, that this commendation is applicable to all the ministers of the gospel, because wherever there is a pure and unvarnished proclamation of the gospel, there will be found there the influence of that odor, of which Paul here speaks. At the same time, there is no doubt, that he speaks particularly of himself, and those that were like him, turning to his own commendation what slanderers imputed to him as a fault. For his being opposed by many, and exposed to the hatred of many, was the reason why they despised him. He, accordingly, replies, that faithful and upright ministers of the gospel have a sweet odor before God, not merely when they quicken souls by a wholesome savour, but also, when they bring destruction to unbelievers. Hence the gospel ought not to be less esteemed on that account. “Both odors,” says he, “are grateful to God — that by which the elect are refreshed unto salvation, and that from which the wicked receive a deadly shock.”

Here we have a remarkable passage, by which we are taught, that, whatever may be the issue of our preaching, it is, notwithstanding, well-pleasing to God, if the Gospel is preached, and our service will be acceptable to him; and also, that it does not detract in any degree from the dignity of the Gospel, that it does not do good to all; for God is glorified even in this, that the Gospel becomes an occasion of ruin to the wicked, nay, it must turn out so. If, however, this is a sweet odor to God, it ought to be so to us also, or in other words, it does not become us to be offended, if the preaching of the Gospel is not salutary to all; but on the contrary, let us reckon, that it is quite enough, if it advance the glory of God by bringing just condemnation upon the wicked. If, however, the heralds of the Gospel are in bad odor in the world, because their success does not in all respects come up to their desires, they have this choice consolation, that they waft to God the perfume of a sweet fragrance, and what is to the world an offensive smell, is a sweet odor to God and angels. (345)

The term odor is very emphatic. “Such is the influence of the Gospel in both respects, that it either quickens or kills, not merely by its taste, but by its very smell. Whatever it may be, it is never preached in vain, but has invariably an effect, either for life, or for death.” (346) But it is asked, how this accords with the nature of the Gospel, which we shall find him, a little afterwards, calling the ministry of life? (2 Corinthians 3:6.) The answer is easy: The Gospel is preached for salvation: this is what properly belongs to it; but believers alone are partakers of that salvation. In the mean time, its being an occasion of condemnation to unbelievers — that arises from their own fault. Thus

Christ came not into the world to condemn the world,
(John 3:17,)

for what need was there of this, inasmuch as without him we are all condemned? Yet he sends his apostles to bind, as well as to loose, and to retain sins, as well as remit them. (Matthew 18:18; John 20:23.) He is the light of the world, (John 8:12,) but he blinds unbelievers. (John 9:39.) He is a Rock, for a foundation, but he is also to many a stone of stumbling. (347) (Isaiah 8:14.) We must always, therefore, distinguish between the proper office of the Gospel, (348) and the accidental one (so to speak) which must be imputed to the depravity of mankind, to which it is owing, that life to them is turned into death.

(344) “Elsner and many other commentators think, with sufficient reason, that there is here an allusion to the perfumes that were usually censed during the triumphal processions of Roman conquerors. Plutarch, on an occasion of this kind, describes the streets and temples as being θυμιαματων πληρει ” — ‘full of incense,’ which might not improperly be called an odour of death to the vanquished, and of life to the conquerors. It is possible that in the following verses the Apostle further alludes to the different effects of strong perfumes, to cheer some, and to throw others into various disorders, according to the different dispositions they may be in to receive them. There is, perhaps, not equal foundation for another conjecture which has been offered, that the expression, causeth us to triumph in Christ, contains an allusion to the custom of victorious generals, who, in their triumphal processions, were wont to carry some of their relations with them in their chariot.” — Illustrated Commentary. — Ed.

(345) “‘We are unto God a sweet savor (or odour, rather, as the word ὀσμὴ more properly signifies) of Christ in them that are saved and in them that perish. To the one we are the odour of death unto death; to the other, the odour of life unto life.’ And this lay with a mighty weight upon his spirit. O that ever we should be the savor of death unto death to any! Who is sufficient for these things! But whether of life or death, we are a sweet odour to God in Christ, as to both; when he sees the sincerity of our hearts, and how fain we would fetch souls out of the state of death into this life. So grateful and pleasant to him is the work effected of saving souls, that the attempt and desire of it is not ungrateful.“ — Howe’s Works, (Lond. 1834,) p.999.

(346)We are the savor of death unto death. It is probable that the language here used is borrowed from similar expressions which were common among the Jews. Thus in Debarim Rabba, section. 1. fol. 248, it is said, ‘As the bee brings some honey to the owner, but stings others; so it is with the words of the law.’ ‘They (the words of the law) are a savor of life to Israel, but savor of death to the people of this world.’ Thus in Taarieth, fol. 7:1, ‘Whoever gives attention to the law on account of the law itself, to him it becomes an aromatic of life, סם חיים (sam chiim); but to him who does not attend to the law on account of the law itself, to him it becomes an aromatic of death, סם מות,(sam maveth)’ — the idea of which is, that as medicines skilfully applied will heal, but if unskilfully applied will aggravate a disease, so it is with the words of the law. Again, ‘The word of the law which proceeds out of the mouth of God is an odour of life to the Israelites, but an odour of death to the Gentiles.’” — Barnes. — Ed.

(347)De scandale et achoppement;” — “Of offense and stumbling.”

(348)Le propre et naturel office de l’Euangile;” — “The proper and natural office of the Gospel.”

Verse 16

16.And who is sufficient for these things? This exclamation is thought by some (349) to be introduced by way of guarding against arrogance, for he confesses, that to discharge the office of a good Apostle (350) to Christ is a thing that exceeds all human power, and thus he ascribes the praise to God. Others think, that he takes notice of the small number of good ministers. I am of opinion, that there is an implied contrast that is shortly afterwards expressed. “Profession, it is true, is common, and many confidently boast; but to have the reality, is indicative of a rare and distinguished excellence. (351) I claim nothing for myself, but what will be discovered to be in me, if trial is made.” Accordingly, as those, who hold in common the office of instructor, claim to themselves indiscriminately the title, Paul, by claiming to himself a peculiar excellence, separates himself from the herd of those, who had little or no experience of the influence of the Spirit.

(349) Among these is Chrysostom, who, when commenting upon this passage, says: ᾿Επειδὴ μεγάλα ἐφθέγξατο, ὃτι θυσία ἐσμὲν τοῦ῎῝ ’ Χριστοῦ῎῝ ’ καὶ εὐωδία, καὶ θριαμβευόμεθα πανταχοῦ πάλιν μετριάζει τῷ῎῝ ’ θεῷ῎῝ ’ πάντα ἀνατίθει διὸ καὶ φησὶ, καὶ πρὸς” ταῦτα τίς” ἱκανός; τὸ γὰρ πᾶν τοῦ῎῝ ’ Χριστοῦ, φησιν, εστιν οὐδὲν ἡμέτερον ὁρᾶς’”ἐπεναντίας” ψευδαποστόλοις” φθεγγόμενον οἱ μὲν γὰρ καυχῶνται ὡς” παρ ᾿ ἑαυτῶν εἰσφέροντές” τι εἰς” τὸ κήρυγμα οὗτος” δὲ διὰ τοῦτό φησι καυχᾶσθαι, ἐπειδὴ οὐδὲν αὐτοῦ῎῝ 8217;φησιν εἶναι. — “Having uttered great things — that we are an offering, and a sweet savor of Christ, and that we are made to triumph everywhere, he again qualifies this by ascribing everything to God. Accordingly he says: And who is sufficient for these things? For everything, says he, is Christ’s — nothing is ours: you see that he expresses himself in a manner directly opposite to that of the false apostles. For these, indeed, boast, as if they of themselves contributed something towards their preaching, while he, on the other hand, says, that he boasts on this ground — because nothing, he says, is his.” — Ed.

(350)Loyale et fidele Apostre;” — “A loyal and faithful Apostle.”

(351)C’est vne vertu excellente, et bien clair semee;” — “It is a distinguished excellence, and very thin sown.”

Verse 17

17.For we are not. He now contrasts himself more openly with the false apostles, and that by way of amplifying, and at the same time, with the view of excluding them from the praise that he had claimed to himself. “It is on good grounds,” says he, “that I speak in honorable terms of my apostleship, for I am not afraid of being convicted of vanity, if proof is demanded. But many on false grounds arrogate the same thing to themselves, who will be found to have nothing in common with me. For they adulterate the word of the Lord, which I dispense with the greatest faithfulness and sincerity for the edification of the Church.” I do not think it likely, however, that those, who are here reproved, preached openly wicked or false doctrines; but am rather of opinion, that they corrupted the right use of doctrine, for the sake either of gain or of ambition, so as utterly to deprive it of energy. This he terms adulterating. Erasmus prefers to render itcauponarihuckstering (352) The Greek word καπηλεύειν , is taken from retailers, or tavern-keepers, who are accustomed to adulterate their commodities, that they may fetch a higher price. I do not know whether the word cauponari is used in that sense among the Latins. (353)

It is, indeed, certain from the corresponding clause, that Paul intended to express here — corruption of doctrine — not as though they had revolted from the truth, but because they presented it under disguise, and not in its genuine purity. For the doctrine of God is corrupted in two ways. It is corrupted in a direct way, when it is mixed up with falsehood and lies, so as to be no longer the pure and genuine doctrine of God, but is falsely commended under that title. It is corrupted indirectly, when, although retaining its purity, it is turned hither and thither to please men, and is disfigured by unseemly disguises, by way of hunting after favor. Thus there will be found some, in whose doctrine there will be no impiety detected, but as they hunt after the applauses of the world by making a display of their acuteness and eloquence, or are ambitious of some place, or gape for filthy lucre, (1 Timothy 3:8,) or are desirous by some means or other to rise, they, nevertheless, corrupt the doctrine itself by wrongfully abusing it, or making it subservient to their depraved inclinations. I am, therefore, inclined to retain the word adulterate, as it expresses better what ordinarily happens in the case of all that play with the sacred word of God, as with a ball, and transform it according to their own convenience. (354) For it must necessarily be, that they degenerate from the truth, and preach a sort of artificial and spurious Gospel.

But as of sincerity. The word as here is superfluous, as in many other places. (355) In contrast with the corruption that he had made mention of, he makes use, first of all, of the term sincerity, which may be taken as referring to the manner of preaching, as well as to the disposition of the mind. I approve rather of the latter. Secondly, he places in contrast with it a faithful and conscientious dispensation of it, inasmuch as he faithfully delivers to the Church from hand to hand, (356) as they say, the Gospel which God had committed to him, and had given him in charge. Thirdly, he subjoins to this a regard to the Divine presence. For whoever has the three following things, is in no danger of forming the purpose of corrupting the word of God. The first is — that we be actuated by a true zeal for God. The second is — that we bear in mind that it is his business that we are transacting, and bring forward nothing but what has come from him. The third is — that we consider, that we do nothing of which he is not the witness and spectator, and thus learn to refer every thing to his judgment.

In Christ means according to Christ. For the rendering of Erasmus, By Christ, is foreign to Paul’s intention. (357)

(352)Erasme l’a traduit par vn autre mot Latin que moy, qui vient d’vn mot qui signifie tauernier;” — “Erasmus has rendered it by a Latin word different from what I have used — derived from a word that signifies a tavern — keeper.”

(353) Raphelius adduces a passage from Herodotus, (lib. in. page 225,) in which, when speaking of Darius Hystaspes, who first exacted tribute from the Persians, he says that the Persians said, “ὠς Δαρειος μεςν ἠν καςπηλος, ὃτι εκαπελευε παντα τὰ πραςγματα,” — “that Darius was a huckster, for he made gain of everything.” Herodian (lib. 6, cap. 11) uses the expression, “Εἰρήνην χρύιου καπηλευοντες,” — “Making peace for money. ” The phrase, Cauponari bellum , is employed in a similar sense by Cicero (Off 1:12) as meaning, “to make war for money. ” In Isaiah 1:22, the Septuagint version reads as follows: “Οἱ κάπηλοί σου μισγοῦσι’τον οἰνον ὕδατι;” — “Thy vintners mix the wine with water.” Kaphlo, as Dr. Bloomfield shows by two passages from Plato, properly means a retail-dealer, one who deals at second hand. “The κάπηλοι,” he observes, “were petty chapmen, (and that chiefly in eatables or drinkables,) exactly corresponding to our hucksters.” — Ed.

(354) The reader will find this class of persons referred to at greater length by Calvin, when commenting on 2 Corinthians 1:19. — Ed.

(355) Thus in Acts 17:14, we read that the brethren sent away Paul to go (ὡς” ἐπὶ την θαλασσαν) as to the sea, where ὡς (as) is redundant, in accordance with various instances cited by Wetstein from Pausanias and Arrian of the very same expression. — Ed.

(356) See Calvin on the Corinthians, vol. 1, pp. 150, 373, and vol. 2, p. 9.

(357) The expression is rendered by Dr. Bloomfield, “In the name of Christ, as his legates.” — Ed.

Bibliographical Information
Calvin, John. "Commentary on 2 Corinthians 2". "Calvin's Commentary on the Bible". https://studylight.org/commentaries/eng/cal/2-corinthians-2.html. 1840-57.
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