Cornelius a Lapide’s Commentary on 2 Corinthians 1:18-22
Posted by Dim Bulb on February 14, 2012
2Co 1:18 But God is faithful: for our preaching which was to you, was not, It is, and It is not.
I call the true God to witness, who is a faithful and true witness, that in teaching you I did not deceive you, and, therefore, that it was not my intention to fail you when I promised to come to you. For background one should read verses 12-17 of this chapter. One can also profitably consult these footnotes to the RNAB, beginning with the one one the entire section, 1:12-2:13, followed by the notes on 1:1:12-14…1:15… 1:17… and 1:18-22.
This teaches the preacher to beware of lightness and fickleness of life, lest the people infer from it that the truth which he preaches is equally unfixed and uncertain.
2Co 1:19 For the Son of God, Jesus Christ, who was preached among you by us, by me and Sylvanus and Timothy, was not: It is (yes) and It is not (no). But, It is (yes), was in him. I’ve inserted yes and no into the text to represent common renderings of modern translations.
My preaching and teaching about Christ was not variable, inconstant, and contradictory, but was a constant, uniform statement, for I always said and taught the same of Christ.
1 The it is, it is (i.e., the twofold use of “yes”) here, and the saying in S. Matt 5:37, have a threefold signification: (1.) constant asseveration, as opposed to inconstancy and deceit; (2.) truth or reality, as opposed to falsity or unreality; (3.) simple affirmation, as opposed to an oath. Cf. S. James 5:12.
2Co 1:20 For all the promises of God are in him, It is. Therefore also by him, amen to God, unto our glory.
All the promises of God in the Old Testament relating to the Messiah were constant and true, and have been fulfilled in Him.
Amen to God. “And therefore we say, Amen” is the Latin rendering; that is, we affirm that those promises were true. So Chrysostom and Ambrose. For further notes on “Amen,” see 1 Cor 14:16.
Add to this that Amen is usually an adverb denoting truly, firmly, faithfully, and thence came to be the name of the abstract qualities of truth, firmness, and faithfulness. Cf. Isa 65:16; Jer 11:5; Isa 25:1; Rev 3:14, Rev 7:12. The meaning, therefore, here is: Through Him, Christ, the Amen, i.e., truth, faithfulness, and constancy, we give glory to God, saying: All that God promised concerning Christ is Amen, i.e., most true, and has been most truly fulfilled by God
2Co 1:21 Now he that confirmeth us with you in Christ and that hath anointed us, is God:
Now he that confirmeth us. Some think that this is an ellipse, and we must understand the meaning to be, He which confrimeth us prevented, the execution of my purpose. But it is far better to refer these words, as others do, to what immediately precedes them. The promises of God have been fulfilled in Christ; but He who by His power and authority fulfils them is God Himself: as He promised, so in fact does He confirm us, anoint us, and seal us in Christ. In the third place, it would not be amiss to refer these words to what was said in ver. 18, “Our word toward you was not it is and it is not.” In other words—I am not fickle and inconstant in my speech, my preaching, and promises. It is God who gives me this constancy, and therefore let no one think that I am arrogant enough to ascribe it to my own strength and fortitude, since I profess that I have it, not from myself but from God. As God in Himself and in His promises is yea, that is, is ever constant, firm, and unchangeable, so does He strengthen us, and make us firm and constant in the faith and in what we promise.
(Verse 21 continued with verse 22):
and that hath anointed us, is God:
2Co 1:22 Who also hath sealed us and given the pledge of the Spirit in our hearts.
This seal, says Calvin, is that special Divine faith by which each has a certain knowledge that he is predestinated. But this seal is uncertain and unreliable, and this faith is false and foolish presumption. For the Apostle, who had as great faith as possible, fears reprobation in 1 Cor 4:27. His Divine faith, therefore, did not give him certain assurance of his predestination. Moreover, he frequently impresses on all the faithful that they carefully work out their own salvation with fear and trembling, and by so doing he takes from them all ground for assurance of their salvation. Add to this that no one is certain that he has this Divine faith, or that he will always have it; nay, many have fallen away from this faith of Calvin’s who before believed with him that they were of the number of the predestinate.
I say, then, 1. that God hath sealed means, He has confirmed His promises as though He had stamped them with His seal, by giving, according to them, as a pledge of our future inheritance, His grace, by which He has sealed and anointed us to be the sons of God, separated from the sons of the devil. So Chrysostom, Theodoret, Œcumenius. This seal is altogether certainly known to God, but to us is only a matter of probability. This establishing, anointing and sealing take place through one and the self-same grace. Similarly, in Eph 1:13 he says that we have been sealed with the Holy Spirit of promise.
2. This passage may be referred to baptism; for (a) in baptism God anointed us with the oil of His grace; (b) He gave the earnest of the Spirit in the testimony of a good conscience; (c) He sealed us with the ‘character’ of baptism. Cf. Bellarmine (de Effectu. Sacr. lib. ii. c. 20). The exposition of Theophylact and Chrysostom is to be referred to this. They say: “He hath anointed us and sealed us to be prophets, priests, and kings.” Cf. Chrysostom (Hom. 3) on these words, who points out how Christians who govern their passions are kings anointed by God.
3. It is the best explanation which refers these words to the sacrament of Confirmation, which, in olden times, was received by all the faithful to strengthen them against persecution. S. Paul has expressly distinguished, “He hath established us,” “He hath given the earnest of the Spirit,”. “hath anointed us,” “hath sealed us.” But these four things cannot be distinguished anywhere save in the sacrament of Confirmation.
These words point to four effects of the sacrament of Confirmation: (1.) The gift of faith, by which we are strengthened in Christ. Hence, as was said in ver. 18, S. Paul’s faithful preaching of Christ was firm and constant, because God had strengthened him for it in Christ by means of the sacrament of Confirmation, i.e., through Christ and His merits. (2.) The second effect is the grace of charity, with which we are abundantly anointed, as with a spiritual chrism. The Greek, indeed, for anointed is the very word whence come “Christ” and “Christians,” so that “Christians” are “the anointed ones.” Hence S. Augustine (Serm. 342) says: “The word ‘Christ’ is from chrism, i.e., anointing. Every Christian, therefore, is sanctified, in order that he may understand that he not only is made a partaker of the priestly and royal dignity, but also an adversary of the devil.” (3.) The third fruit is the earnest of the Spirit, which is the testimony of a good conscience given by the Holy Spirit, and which is as the earnest of the future glory promised, and to be given by the Holy Spirit. For the sense in which the Holy Spirit is the pledge or earnest, see notes to Eph 1:14. (4.) The fourth fruit is the seal and sign of the Cross on the forehead, signifying the “character” imprinted on the soul, by which we are sealed as His servants, or rather His soldiers and leaders. Cf. Ambrose (de his qui Mysteriis Initiantur, c. vii.), Suarez (pt. iii. qu. 63, art. 1 and 4).