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Bible Commentaries
2 Corinthians 2

McGarvey's Commentaries on Selected BooksMcGarvey'S Commentaries

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Verse 1

But I determined this for myself, that I would not come again to you with sorrow.

Verse 2

For if I make you sorry, who then is he that maketh me glad but he that is made sorry by me? [But I call God, who knows all things, even the searcher of hearts, to look upon the secret purposes of my soul, and to confirm the truth if I speak it, and to testify against and punish me if I lie (Malachi 3:5), that I delayed to come to Corinth in order that you might have time to repent, and show your repentance by obedience; for had I come at the time which I first mentioned to you, I would have been compelled to discipline you, and therefore make you sorry (1 Corinthians 4:21). Not that I have lordship over your faith, for in this realm I am only a fellow-helper of your joy by confirming you in your belief (Romans 15:13; Philippians 1:25); for by your faith you stand as free and independent, full-aged children of God (Galatians 3:23-26; Galatians 4:1-7; Galatians 4:31; Galatians 5:1). But when through lack of faith you fall into sinful practices I must discipline you. But I determined that for my own gladness I would not come speedily so as to bring you sorrow as I did on my last visit. For if I make you sorry, who will make me glad? will I not have made that very people sorry to whom I myself look for gladness?]

Verse 3

And I wrote this very thing, 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.

Verse 4

For out of much affliction and anguish of heart I wrote unto you with many tears; not that ye should be made sorry, but that ye might know the love which I have more abundantly unto you. [I wrote this very thing to you (viz.: how my coming endangered your joy, and how you must repent before I came (1 Corinthians 4:21); and how I would delay my coming, and come by the long and not the short route (1 Corinthians 16:5-8), lest when I came I should have sorrow from those to whom I looked for joy. And I do look for joy from you, for I have this confidence in you all, that, though many of you oppose me, yet there is none of you that does not desire my personal happiness. Moreover, my feelings at the time of writing are a witness unto God of the spirit in which I wrote, for I wrote out of much affliction and anguish of heart and with many tears, which shows that I took no pleasure in thus administering correction. I did not correct you to cause you grief, but that you might know the love which I have more abundantly unto you, and which can not keep quiet when it sees you injuring yourself (Psalms 141:5; Proverbs 27:6). By referring to 1 Corinthians 4:21 and 1 Corinthians 5:1; it will be found that the threat of correction at his coming, and the case of the incestuous person, were twin thoughts in the apostle’s mind. The punishment of this offender was one of the principal items that Paul wished them to attend to before he came; in fact, the whole subject of visits, delays, corrections, etc., centered in this offender, and very naturally, therefore, while here explaining the causes for his delay, the case of this incestuous person comes to mind, and the apostle uses him to flood the entire situation with light.]

Verse 5

But if any [thus delicately does the apostle introduce this sinner] hath caused sorrow, he hath caused sorrow, not to me, but in part (that I press not too heavily) to you all. [As I have said, I did not write to cause you sorrow. But if the incestuous person has caused you sorrow, he has caused sorrow not to me, but to a large part of you. I will not weigh him down with a greater burden of guilt by saying to whom else he has caused sorrow. The apostle is not to be understood too literally. This sinner had added to the sorrows which he has just mentioned (verse 4). But the apostle’s sorrow was so small compared with the great grief of the Corinthian church as to not be worth mentioning. Comp. Luke 23:28]

Verse 6

Sufficient to such a one is this punishment which was inflicted by the many;

Verse 7

So that contrariwise ye should rather forgive him and comfort him, lest by any means such a one should be swallowed up with his overmuch sorrow. [Paul’s purpose had been to save this sinner (1 Corinthians 5:5). It seems that a minority had espoused his cause, but the majority had excommunicated him according to the apostle’s instruction at 1 Corinthians 5:13 . The apostle here writes that this punishment has already proved sufficient, and should not be continued, but that, on the contrary, the offender should be forgiven, received back and comforted, lest he should be swallowed up by despair, and thus the punishment should defeat the very end for which it was designed. We should note here that excommunication and restoration are actions of the church, and not of the officers.]

Verse 8

Wherefore I beseech you to confirm your love toward him.

Verse 9

For to this end also did I write, that I might know the proof of you, whether ye are obedient in all things. [This shows that Paul had made his instructions concerning the incestuous man a test. If they obeyed him, in this, he could come to them bringing joy: if they disobeyed, their condition would call for further delay and more letters on his part. Where, then, is laid bare before the Corinthians the inner thoughts which were governing the actions of the apostle at the time when he was penning the fifth chapter of his first epistle. They could see now for themselves that their own foolish conduct, and not the fickleness of the apostle, had caused the delay and the change of plan; that so far as the apostle was concerned, he had always intended to visit them, and that all his statements about his visits had been made in good faith. Observe that as the apostle had become the leader in punishment or discipline, he here becomes the leader in forgiveness.]

Verse 10

But to whom ye forgive anything, I forgive also: for what I also have forgiven, if I have forgiven anything, for your sakes have I forgiven it in the presence of Christ;

Verse 11

that no advantage may be gained over us by Satan: for we are not ignorant of his devices. [There is a close correlation between verse 10 and 1 Corinthians 5:3 . There Paul identified himself with the church, and, though absent, anticipated its action and acted with it. Here he ratifies beforehand the action which he bids it take. There he acted in the name of the Lord and here he does it in the presence of Christ. He forgives the sinner for the sake of the church, that he may not be lost to the church. When a church, through carelessness in exercising mercy and forgiveness, loses a member, it is permitting Satan to overreach it. Paul was too well versed in Satan’s methods to be thus outwitted by that adversary.]

Verse 12

Now when I came to Troas for the gospel of Christ [i. e., intending to preach], and when a door [an opportunity-- 1 Corinthians 16:9 and note] was opened unto me in the Lord,

Verse 13

I had no relief for my spirit [worrying about you], because I found not Titus my brother [who had agreed to bring me word about you, and meet me at Troas]: but taking my leave of them [the brethren at Troas], I went forth into Macedonia. [hoping to meet Titus there. For fuller details of Paul’s movements and intentions see the Introduction. The relief which came to him in Macedonia when he met Titus causes him at this point to break forth into an expression of thanksgiving. But as it does not at this time suit his purpose to give a detailed statement of his reason for thankfulness, he curbs his rising emotion and directs his thought in another channel.]

Verse 14

But thanks be unto God, who always leadeth us in triumph in Christ, and maketh manifest through us the savor of his knowledge in every place.

Verse 15

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

Verse 16

to the one a savor from death unto death; to the other a savor from life unto life. And who is sufficient for these things?

Verse 17

For we are not as the many, corrupting the word of God: but as of sincerity, but as of God, in the sight of God, speak we in Christ. [But thanks be unto God for the relief which we received in Macedonia. And God’s readings are ever thus. He leads us as a bound, anxious, trembling captive in his triumphal procession, but is constantly showing us mercy; for the procession is the triumph of Christ. He leads us in this procession as a priest bearing a censer, of which the gospel is the incense, giving forth, as a sweet-smelling savor, the knowledge of Christ at Ephesus, Troas, Macedonia or every place whither he leads us. Yea, we ourselves (because Christ liveth in us-- Philippians 1:21) are a sweet savor of Christ unto God, both to them that are saved and to them that perish. To the one the incense of our presence is a deadly savor, and to the other a veritable source of life, for we make them all conscious of the triumph of Christ of which they are part. Now in every triumph some captives know that they are being led to death, and others that they are approaching the moment of forgiveness and life, and of these fates the incense keeps them in mind. And who, therefore, is sufficient to the task of being such a warning, despair-dealing, hope-dispensing, life-giving savor? who is able to preach this gospel of life and death befittingly? Realizing our insufficiency to such a task, we nevertheless do our best, for we are not like the many who oppose us ready to adulterate the word of God to make it popular or to suit our own selfish ends; but, discharging our duty in all sincerity as men inspired of God, and laboring in the sight of God, we speak under authority of Christ. It will be remembered that Paul wrote these words in an age when all the world was familiar with the glorious pageantry of a Roman triumph. When L. Mummius had conquered Corinth, the procession in his honor was one of the most splendid which the world had ever seen. In A. D. 51, just a short while before Paul penned these words, the emperor Claudius had celebrated his triumph over the Britons, and their king Caractacus was led in the triumph, but was spared. Ordinarily when the victor reached the capitol it was the signal for the slaying of many of the captives in his honor, and for the forgiveness of others. Thus the incense of the procession which permeated the air, and kept the captives conscious of the nature of the journey on which they marched, was redolent with hope or sorrow, according to the expectations held out to them by their victors. The phrases "from death unto death" and "from life unto life" are regarded by some as mere Hebrew superlatives; but "from" indicates source: the meaning therefore is, 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.]

Bibliographical Information
McGarvey, J. W. "Commentary on 2 Corinthians 2". "J. W. McGarvey's Original Commentary on Acts". https://studylight.org/commentaries/eng/oca/2-corinthians-2.html. Transylvania Printing and Publishing Co. Lexington, KY. 1872.
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