Lectionary Calendar
Sunday, March 3rd, 2024
the Third Sunday of Lent
There are 28 days til Easter!
Attention!
Tired of seeing ads while studying? Now you can enjoy an "Ads Free" version of the site for as little as 10¢ a day and support a great cause!
Click here to learn more!

Bible Commentaries
2 Corinthians 2

Contending for the FaithContending for the Faith

Search for…
Enter query below:
Additional Authors

Verse 1

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

The division between chapter one and chapter two is an unfortunate division. The first four verses of chapter two are a continuation of Paul’s teaching in chapter one in which he gives reasons for his postponing another trip to Corinth.

But I determined this with myself: The word "But" (de) is a transitional term to tie these words with his previous words and does not suggest that Paul is about to give a contrast to what he has previously said. The word "determined" (krino) means to "resolve" (Thayer 361-1-2919) or make up one’s mind. It is Paul’s prerogative to change his plans about going to Corinth. He loves the church at Corinth, but he determines to visit at a time when it would be the most beneficial. Alford explains the expression "with myself" (emautou) means "for my own sake" (636). Paul is considering how a visit to Corinth at this time will affect not only the Corinthians but himself personally.

that I would not come again to you in heaviness: Paul determines he will not return to Corinth in "heaviness." The word "heaviness" (lupe) means "sorrow, pain (or) grief" (Thayer 383- 2-3077). The Revised Standard Version translates more clearly: "For I made up my mind not to make you another painful visit." Paul’s statement, "I would not come again to you in heaviness," indicates he has made a second, non-documented visit in which he rebuked them for their sins, thus creating a heartbreaking, sorrowful visit. Later in this letter Paul proves that a second visit has already taken place because he mentions a plan for a third trip:

Behold, the third time I am ready to come to you; and I will not be burdensome to you: for I seek not yours, but you: for the children ought not to lay up for the parents, but the parents for the children. This is the third time I am coming to you. In the mouth of two or three witnesses shall every word be established (12:14; 13:1).

It is not Paul’s desire to cancel his trip to Corinth. He wants to visit them again, but he determines not to "come again" with grief as he did during his last trip.

Verse 2

For if I make you sorry, who is he then that maketh me glad, but the same which is made sorry by me?

For if I make you sorry: Paul makes a conditional statement: "For if I make you sorry," followed by a rhetorical question: "who is he then that maketh me glad, but the same which is made sorry by me?" Paul chooses to postpone his visit with them because a visit at the present time would result in making them "sorry." The word "sorry" (lupeo) means "to affect with sadness (or) to cause grief" (Thayer 383-1-3076).

who is he then that maketh me glad, but the same which is made sorry by me: Paul wants to be "glad" (euphraino), meaning to be "joyful" (Thayer 263-1-2165) himself during his visit in Corinth. He knows, however, if he goes to Corinth before they obey him and remedy their problems that the only ones (the Corinthians) who could make him glad will be those he makes sad because of his rebuke. Bloomfield translates: "And who, then, is there to soothe my sorrows, but the grieved person?" (210).

Verse 3

And I wrote this same unto you, lest, when I came, I should have sorrow from them of whom I ought to rejoice; having confidence in you all, that my joy is the joy of you all.

In verse 3 and verse 4, Paul mentions a previous letter that he wrote to the Corinthians to let them know that his plans for visiting them have changed. (Note: See the Introduction under the heading, "The Apostle Paul’s Letters to the Corinthians," for an explanation of Paul’s recorded and non-recorded letters to the Corinthians).

And I wrote this same unto you, lest, when I came, I should have sorrow from them of whom I ought to rejoice: The word

"sorrow" (lupe) translated "heaviness" in verse 1 means "grief" (Thayer 383-2-3076). The word "rejoice" (chairo) means to "be glad" (Thayer 663-1-5463) or to get joy from someone. Paul has two options: (1) Visit Corinth at that present time when grief to the Corinthians and to himself would certainly come; or (2) Postpone his trip to give them a longer opportunity to take care of some sinful activities among them and then visit them at a time that they all could be benefited and be happy for his visit, thereby causing Paul to receive joy.

having confidence in you all, that my joy is the joy of you all: The word "confidence" (peitho) means "trust" (Thayer 497-2- 3982). Paul has confidence that the majority of the Corinthians will find joy in his receiving joy. Bloomfield says, "As their humiliation and grief would be a grief and sorrow to him, so would his joy for their reformation be a source of joy to them" (210).

Verse 4

For out of much affliction and anguish of heart I wrote unto you with many tears; not that ye should be grieved, but that ye might know the love which I have more abundantly unto you.

For out of much affliction and anguish of heart I wrote unto you with many tears: Paul describes how difficult it was for him to write the letter about his postponing his visit with them. He gives three descriptions to explain his feelings. First, writing the letter was "out of much affliction." The word "affliction" (thlipsis) means "anxiety, burden of heart" (Thayer 291-1-2347). Second, Paul says writing the letter was with "anguish of heart." The word "anguish" (sunoche) means "distress" (Thayer 66-1-4928). Third, Paul says the letter was written "with many tears" or the letter was "accompanied by tears" (Robertson 216). Paul often writes in his letters about the tears he sheds for sinners. In his letter to the Christians in Philippi, Paul says:

(For many walk, of whom I have told you often, and now tell you even weeping, that they are the enemies of the cross of Christ: Whose end is destruction, whose God is their belly, and whose glory is in their shame, who mind earthly things.) (Philippians 3:18-19).

Paul also mentions tears he shed in his speech at Miletus:

And from Miletus he sent to Ephesus, and called the elders of the church. And when they were come to him, he said unto them, Ye know, from the first day that I came into Asia, after what manner I have been with you at all seasons, Serving the Lord with all humility of mind, and with many tears, and temptations, which befell me by the lying in wait of the Jews… Therefore watch, and remember, that by the space of three years I ceased not to warn every one night and day with tears (Acts 20:17-19; Acts 20:31).

not that ye should be grieved, but that ye might know the love which I have more abundantly unto you: Paul explains the reason he does not want to visit them is because of the sadness that would come from his visit. He wants them to know that postponing his visit is not to cause them to be "grieved." The word "grieved" (lupeo), translated "sorry" in verse 2, means "to throw into sorrow" (Thayer 383-1-3076). His not coming to Corinth at that time is not to make them sad, but it is because of the love he has for them. The words "that ye might know the love" mean that Paul desires for the Corinthian Christians to "come to know" the love he has for them. His announcement in the previous letter about his postponing his visit with them was a sad and difficult letter for Paul to write, but it was one that was necessary. He loves them and wants to visit them, but he knows it would not be best at that time.

Verse 5

Paul Encourages Forgiveness for the Offender

But if any have caused grief, he hath not grieved me, but in part: that I may not overcharge you all.

But if any have caused grief: The conclusion of many commentators is that by the word "any" Paul is speaking only about the incestuous man who committed fornication with his father’s wife, addressed in 1 Corinthians chapter five. There is, however, nothing mentioned in the context to suggest that the word "any" should be limited only to this man. Paul addresses many sins and sinners in Corinth, including, but not limited to, "fornicators" (1 Corinthians 5:9); "covetous," "extortioners," "idolaters" (5:10); "railer" and "drunkard" (5:11). The word "any" should be applied to any impenitent person. All people guilty of one or more of these sins could be included in Paul’s decision for postponing his visit to Corinth at that time and, therefore, would have been the cause of grief.

he hath not grieved me, but in part: The scandalous conduct within the church at Corinth is shameful. The grief caused by the Corinthian Christians is the result of several controversies, questioning Paul’s authority as an apostle among other things; however, Paul shows that the greater injury is not done to him but to the whole congregation. Paul does not mean that he is not distressed by some of the Corinthians’ action. He loves them and grieves for them up to a point. His disciplinary instruction in 1 Corinthians chapter five is given out of love for them and his desire for them to be saved (5:5). Paul expects the offenders to be disciplined in a way that will cause them to repent and be restored to the faithful.

that I may not overcharge you all: Because of his love for the Corinthians, Paul is cautious not to "overcharge" (epibareo), meaning "to be burdensome" (Thayer 236-2-1912) by "overstress(ing)" (Bratcher 22) or "bear(ing) hard upon" (Bloomfield 210) the problems in Corinth. He does not want to "be too severe" (NKJV) in condemning those whose sins caused him to postpone his visit. Paul’s delay in visiting the church at Corinth is a hindrance to the Corinthian Christians and not to Paul.

Verse 6

Sufficient to such a man is this punishment, which was inflicted of many.

Paul shows tact by not identifying the offenders by name or by stating the specific sins committed that caused the grief. The word "sufficient" (hikanos) means "it is enough (Thayer 300-2-2425), indicating Paul believes the public "punishment" imposed upon the offenders is deserved and adequate; but, as severe as it was, it was not too harsh. The "punishment" for those refusing to repent is:

1. "Deliver such a one to Satan for the destruction of the flesh" (1 Corinthians 5:5).

2. "Purge out the old leaven" (5:7).

3. "Not to keep company with" (5:9).

4. "Not even to eat with such a person" (5:11).

The aforementioned punishment was not issued exclusively by Paul nor was it carried out only by a few leaders of the church in Corinth. Instead, the sufficient punishment came from "many" (pleion), meaning "the more part" (Thayer 516-1-4119) within the congregation. By stating the punishment was "sufficient," Paul indicates the punishment accomplished the intended function— the disciplined sinners acknowledged their wrongdoings and returned to the church through repentance.

Verse 7

So that contrariwise ye ought rather to forgive him, and comfort him, lest perhaps such a one should be swallowed up with overmuch sorrow.

So that contrariwise ye ought rather to forgive him: In his previous letter to the Corinthians, Paul demands disciplinary actions for the unrepentant sinners; however, now he acts as the advocate on behalf of the repentant offenders. The sins committed were horrible; but Paul instructs the faithful Christians not to look upon the acts as unforgivable. Philip Edgcumbe Hughes says:

The danger which the Church, with its desire for a pure and unsullied membership, must avoid is that of a discipline so inflexible and so inexorable that it thereby sets a false limit to the grace of God (67).

Because of the grace of God when a Christian repents of his sins, the sinner is promised forgiveness through Jesus Christ. John says:

My little children, these things write I unto you, that ye sin not. And if any man sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous (1 John 2:1).

The punishment was righteous and sufficient enough to fulfill its task in bringing the sinners to repentance; therefore, Paul encourages all the Christians to treat them "contrariwise" (tounantion) ("contrary," Thayer 629-2-5121) to the way they have been treating them. Instead of continuing to punish, Paul encourages them to "forgive" (charizomai), meaning "to pardon" (Thayer 5483-2-5483) the penitent sinners.

and comfort him: Not only are the righteous to pardon the sinners, they also are to "comfort" (parakaleo) them, meaning "to encourage and strengthen" (Thayer 483-1-3870) them.

lest perhaps such a one should be swallowed up with overmuch sorrow: A Christian’s failure to forgive and encourage one who has repented of his sins could cause him to be "swallowed up" (katapino), meaning that he can be "destroy(ed)" (Thayer 335-2-2666) or "overwhelmed" (Bloomfield 211) with "overmuch" (perissoteros) sorrow or overwhelmed with "excess of his sorrow" (Bloomfield 211).

Verse 8

Wherefore I beseech you that ye would confirm your love toward him.

The instruction for the Corinthians to "confirm" (kuroo) their love means they are "to confirm publicly or solemnly… to make a public decision that love be shown to a transgressor by granting him pardon" (Thayer 366-2-2964). The faithful Christians are to express publicly their love and forgiveness toward the penitent sinner and encourage him. Bloomfield says:

The context and circumstances of the case rather require the sense, "to make him assured of your love;" namely, by some public testimony of it; i.e. the annulment of the act of excommunication, in order to confirm that reconciliation (211).

Verse 9

For to this end also did I write, that I might know the proof of you, whether ye be obedient in all things.

For to this end also did I write: By the words "this end also" (toutokai), Paul refers to another purpose of his previous letter mentioned in verse 3 and verse 4.

that I might know the proof of you: The word "proof" (dokime) means "tried character" (Thayer 154-2-1382). Paul is testing the faithful Christians and wants to know the results or how well the Corinthians are obeying his instructions to discipline the unfaithful Christians and in forgiving the penitent sinners mentioned in 1 Corinthians chapter five.

whether ye be obedient in all things: Paul believes the majority of the Corinthian Christians are obedient and loyal to him. The word "obedient" (hupekoos) means "giving ear" (Thayer 641-2- 5255), that is, they listen to him. Paul realizes, however, that disciplinary actions toward friends and loved ones is difficult and is an extremely emotional task; he is concerned about whether or not they will continue obeying his instruction "in all things," including disciplinary actions. The Revised Standard Version correctly translates Paul’s words: "For this is why I wrote, that I might test you and know whether you are obedient in everything."

After learning of the sins of some in Corinth, Paul originally instructed the faithful to excommunicate the unrepentant sinners; however, now he is instructing, as Bloomfield says:

Forgive him, I say; for the chief object I had in writing that you should punish him is answered; and that was, that I might know the proof of you (i.e. that I might put you to the test), whether you be obedient in all things (211).

Verse 10

To whom ye forgive any thing, I forgive also: for if I forgave any thing, to whom I forgave it, for your sakes forgave I it in the person of Christ;

To whom ye forgive any thing, I forgive also: Paul expresses his satisfaction in leaving the matter of forgiveness of their members to the discretion of the faithful in Corinth. When they forgive those who repent, Paul says he likewise forgives them.

for if I forgave any thing, to whom I forgave it, for your sakes forgave I it in the person of Christ: Paul, in a diplomatic way, is urging a reconciliation between the faithful and the penitent sinners. He emphasizes that forgiveness is a Christian’s responsibility performed in the presence of the Christ who forgives us. Paul says "for your sakes forgave I it in the person of Christ." The expression "in the person of Christ" (enprosopon Christos) means Paul will forgive the sinner with "Christ looking on (and approving)" (Thayer 551-2-4383). As long as it is with the approval of Christ, Paul will also forgive.

Verse 11

Lest Satan should get an advantage of us: for we are not ignorant of his devices.

A few in Corinth are hesitant to forgive those who have repented. Paul explains that excessive punishment and the refusal to forgive will cause the previous sinners to be tempted by Satan. Bloomfield says:

These words seem to give a reason why he and they should be always disposed to show lenity on repentance; namely, lest, by their excessive severity, Satan might obtain an advantage over them, by tempting the offender either to despair or to apostacy; thus bringing Christianity into evil report, as a harsh religion, and deterring others from embracing it; or, by exciting divisions in the Church, and preventing the success of the Gospel (211).

The words "should get an advantage of" (pleonekteo) mean "to gain or take advantage of another" (Thayer 516-2-4122). Paul encourages forgiveness to keep Satan from gaining the advantage. The pronoun "us" refers to Paul and the entire body of Christians in Corinth. Paul knows the "devices" (noema) or the "purpose" (Thayer 427-1-3540) of Satan. He knows how Satan reacts to problems between Christians in the Lord’s church; therefore, he is urging forgiveness and unity in the church when sinners repent.

Verse 12

Paul’s Anxiety in Troas

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

Furthermore, when I came to Troas to preach Christ’s gospel:

"Troas" was a port city on the Aegean Sea in the western part of the Roman province of Asia. After leaving Ephesus, Paul travels to Troas to receive Titus’ report of the Corinthian Christians’ reaction to his previous letter.

and a door was opened unto me of the Lord: Paul’s plan was to go to Macedonia; however, while in Troas, a "door" was opened by the Lord. The word "door" (thura) refers to an "opportunity of teaching others" (Thayer 293-2-2374). Paul is disappointed that Titus is not in Troas; however, he rejoices that this door of opportunity is made available for him to spread the gospel to the people there for seven days (Acts 20:6-1). Paul uses the same metaphor in another letter to the Corinthians, speaking about his work in Ephesus: "For a great door and effectual is opened unto me, and there are many adversaries" (1 Corinthians 16:9). He uses this metaphor again in writing to the Christians in Colosse, asking them to continue praying, specifically for him to be able to continue teaching the gospel. He says:

Praying also for us, that God would open unto us a door of utterance, to speak the mystery of Christ, for which I am also in bonds: That I may make it manifest, as I ought to speak (Colossians 4:3).

Paul says that the door "was open" (anoigo) meaning that "an opportunity (was) offered" (Thayer 48-1-455) by the Lord for him to spread the gospel of Jesus Christ in Troas.

Verse 13

I had no rest in my spirit, because I found not Titus my brother: but taking my leave of them, I went from thence into Macedonia.

I had no rest in my spirit, because I found not Titus my brother: Paul expects to be relieved of concern about the problems in Corinth by receiving a good report from Titus; however, he is disappointed as is indicated when he says, "I had no rest in my spirit, because I found not Titus my brother." The word "rest" (anesis) means "relief from anxiety" (Thayer 44-2- 425). Paul’s concern is about the spiritual welfare of the Christians in Corinth. It seems that every day that passes without his receiving updated information is torturous to him.

but taking my leave of them, I went from thence into Macedonia: Since Titus is not in Troas, Paul decides to take his "leave" (apotassomai) from them, that is, to "bid farewell" (Thayer 69-1-657) to them and continue his journey to Macedonia in hopes of meeting Titus there. Titus does meet Paul in Macedonia and gives him an encouraging report about the Christians in Corinth.

Verse 14

As an Apostle, Paul Is Accountable to God

Now thanks be unto God, which always causeth us to triumph in Christ, and maketh manifest the savour of his knowledge by us in every place.

Paul digresses in verse 14 through chapter seven, verse 4, to prove his work as an apostle of Jesus Christ.

Now thanks be unto God, which always causeth us to triumph in Christ: Paul has mentioned the negative side and his concern about not receiving peace of mind since Titus was not in Troas. At this point, he does not tell the Corinthians about his meeting Titus and receiving the good report in Macedonia. He does, however, imply that he receives a wonderful report about the Corinthians’ obedience to his previous letter. The implication is recognized when he erupts in thanksgiving to God. Paul was negative in talking about his lack of mental "rest," but now he expresses the positive side of "triumph" where Christ "causeth" (thriambeuo), meaning Christ always "leads (him) in triumph" (Arndt and Gingrich 364). The words "to triumph" (thriambeuo) mean "to grant one complete success" (Thayer 292-1-2358). Paul gives praise and glory to God for all successful conversions and restorations attributed to him by his preaching the gospel.

And maketh manifest the savour of his knowledge by us in every place: The words "maketh manifest" (phaneroo) mean to "know what has been hidden or unknown" (Thayer 648-1-5319). By the words "the savour of his knowledge," Paul speaks figuratively to compare the gospel message, that is, the "knowledge" about Christ to the "savour" (osme), meaning "fragrance" or pleasant aroma of incense. Bratcher translates:

"God uses us to proclaim the message about Christ; it is like a pleasant smell that spreads everywhere" (27). Robertson says, "The knowledge of God is here the aroma which Paul had scattered like an incense bearer" (218). Paul’s analogy is showing that the knowledge of Christ is represented as a fragrance brought to the lost by him and other apostles.

Verse 15

For we are unto God a sweet savour of Christ, in them that are saved, and in them that perish:

For we are unto God a sweet savour of Christ: The pronoun "we" can refer to any preacher of the gospel; however, contextually Paul uses the pronoun to refer to himself. He continues his figurative language, speaking of incense, by saying, "For we are unto God a sweet savour of Christ." The expression "a sweet savour" (euodia) means a "fragrance" (Thayer 264-1- 2175). Paul is speaking metaphorically of his actions of spreading the gospel throughout the area being like the spreading of incense.

in them that are saved, and in them that perish: The gospel, Paul says, is spread to "them that are saved" (sozo) and "them that perish" (apollumi). In other words, as incense spreads to everyone throughout an area, so also Paul preaches the gospel to everyone.

Verse 16

To the one we are the savour of death unto death; and to the other the savour of life unto life. And who is sufficient for these things?

To the one we are the savour of death unto death; and to the other the savour of life unto life: Continuing with the metaphor of incense, Paul says to some people his preaching of the gospel is "the savour of death." These are those who "perish" (2:15) because they reject the gospel of Jesus Christ. The "other" is those who are "saved" (2:15); therefore, Paul says his preaching of the gospel is "the savour of life." These are the ones who accept Paul’s gospel about Jesus Christ.

The expressions "death unto death" and "life unto life" indicate the results of the fragrance—the results of Paul’s preaching the gospel. McGarvey says:

The gospel, which arises from Christ and which is preached through us, is to the unbelieving, but the incense arising from one crucified and dead, and so it is to them a savor from the dead and producing death. But to the believing it is a savor from the living, producing life (180).

Paul’s point is that he preaches the gospel to everyone. If the hearers reject his preaching about Christ or if they fail to obey the gospel, there is "death." The gospel, however, has a double effect because if the hearers accept Paul’s teaching and obey the gospel, there is "life." The same gospel leads to "death" and to "life."

And who is sufficient for these things: This question is not rhetorical. The word "sufficient" (hikanos) means "sufficient in ability" (Thayer 300-2-2425). Paul refers to the fact that because Jesus called him to be an apostle, he has the ability to spread the gospel and recognizes his responsibility to spread it to everyone. He is sufficient because Christ blessed him with the ability to know the true gospel of Christ. Jesus calls Paul to be a minister:

Rise, and stand upon thy feet: for I have appeared unto thee for this purpose, to make thee a minister and a witness both of these things which thou hast seen, and of those things in the which I will appear unto thee; Delivering thee from the people, and from the Gentiles, unto whom now I send thee, To open their eyes, and to turn them from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan unto God, that they may receive forgiveness of sins, and inheritance among them which are sanctified by faith that is in me (Acts 26:16-18).

Verse 17

For we are not as many, which corrupt the word of God: but as of sincerity, but as of God, in the sight of God speak we in Christ.

For we are not as many, which corrupt the word of God: Paul unconditionally answers the question asked in the previous verse.

Question: Who is capable of the task of spreading the gospel to everyone?
Answer: Because of the calling of Jesus Christ, I am.

The reason Paul is capable of spreading the gospel of Christ is that he is not like the "many," that is, the majority of the anti-Pauline teachers. He is not like them because he does not "corrupt" (kapeleuo) or "adulterate" (Thayer 325-1-2585) the word of God—he never alters God’s word to benefit himself.

but as of sincerity, but as of God: Instead of changing God’s message, Paul teaches the need for "sincerity" (heilikrineia), meaning "purity" (Thayer 175-1-1505) or the state of being pure. When Paul preaches the gospel of Jesus Christ, it is delivered with only the pure word of God and without human traditions.

in the sight of God speak we in Christ: The words "in the sight" (katenopion) "metaphorically (is) having one as it were before the eyes, before one as witness" (Thayer 339-1-2714). The message Paul wants the Corinthians to understand is that the all-seeing eye of God is upon him, and God is his witness that his preached message of Christ does not change.

Bibliographical Information
Editor Charles Baily, "Commentary on 2 Corinthians 2". "Contending for the Faith". https://studylight.org/commentaries/eng/ctf/2-corinthians-2.html. 1993-2022.
adsFree icon
Ads FreeProfile