The Divine Lamp

The unfolding of thy words gives light; it imparts understanding to the simple…Make thy face shine upon thy servant, and teach me thy statutes

Father Callan’s Commentary on 2 Corinthians 1:12-23

Posted by Dim Bulb on February 17, 2018

THE REASON FOR THE APOSTLE’S CONFIDENCE OF BEING HELPED IN
FUTURE BY THE PRAYERS OF THE CORINTHIANS
A Summary of 2 Corinthians 1:12-14

 There has been a mutual sharing of benefits between St. Paul and the Corinthians: the good things which he experienced, like the evils that he suffered, have both turned to the welfare of the faithful; while he, in turn, has been assisted by their prayers in rising above his afflictions. And he is confident that they will continue to help in the future as in the past. This confidence is grounded on the testimony of his conscience that when with them he always acted with the utmost sincerity and candor, and he firmly trusts they will find that same spirit of sincerity in this letter, and that they will continue to acknowledge that they have reason to glory in him and his helpers as their Apostles, while he and his co-workers will rejoice in them as in their spiritual children when Christ comes in judgment.

This section leads up to the first part of the body of the Epistle in which the Apostle gives a general defense of his Apostolic life. The Judaizers at Corinth as in other places sought by defaming the Apostle, to destroy his Apostolic authority, and thus remove the great obstacle to the spread of their errors. They said he was a weak and inconstant man who was always changing his mind and plans, that he was proud and full of conceit, that he forced people to accept his doctrines by constant threats, and so on. Such reports as these naturally made some, if not many, of the faithful suspicious of St. Paul. But when the Apostle learned of conditions at Corinth he lost no time in refuting these calumnies of his adversaries, so that when he would later arrive there the situation might not demand severity. Therefore in the first part of the present Epistle (2 Cor 1:12-7:16) he is chiefly at pains to disprove accusations of fickleness and inconstancy (2 Cor 1:15-2:17); to show that he was not guilty of pride and arrogance (iii. i-iv. 6) ; and finally, by laying bare his motives in preaching and by explaining the reasons that impelled him in the exercise of his ministry, to foil all the efforts of his enemies (2 Cor 4: 7-6:10). The Apostle terminates this part of his letter with an affectionate exhortation to the faithful to entertain towards him the same tender love which he has always cherished for them (2 Cor 6:11-7:16).

2 Cor 1:12. For our glory is this, the testimony of our conscience, that in simplicity if heart and sincerity of God, and not in carnal wisdom, but in the grace of God, we have conversed in this world : and more abundantly towards you.

For our glory is this, etc., i.e., the reason for glorying in the future help of the prayers of the Corinthians is founded on the testimony of his conscience that, while he and his companions were doing the work of God among them, they were at all times moved by candor and sincerity.

In simplicity. This is according to D F L, the Vulgate, Old Latin, and Syriac versions; but the best Greek MSS. read: “In holiness”, and this reading has been adopted by all modern critics.

Sincerity of God, i.e., the sincerity that comes from God, God given sincerity.

Carnal wisdom is here set over against “simplicity” (holiness) and sincerity, and means the product of hypocrisy and duplicity; it is not to be confounded with the “wisdom of this world” (1 Cor. 2:5-6).

In the grace of God, i.e., moved by the grace of God.

We have conversed, etc., i.e., St. Paul and his co-workers have everywhere in their preaching been moved in simplicity and candor by God’s grace, but more especially so at Corinth, where they refused even the support to which they were entitled (2 Cor 11:7-9; 1 Cor. 9:1-15).

Of heart (Vulg., cordis) should be omitted.

 2 Cor 1:13. For we write no other things to you, than what you have read and known. And I hope that you shall know unto the end:
2 Cor 1:14. As also you have known us in part, that we are your glory, as you also are ours, in the day of our Lord Jesus Christ.

You have read and known. Better, “You read and even acknowledge.” The meaning is that he is not writing anything in this Epistle which the Corinthians do not already know from his life and conduct when among them, and from the other letters he has sent them and which they have.

And I hope, etc. This clause should be separated from what follows in verse 14 by a comma only. The Apostle is not quite certain, but he hopes the Corinthians will continue to the end of their lives, even to the end of the world, to acknowledge, as in part, i.e., as some of them have already done, that he and his companions, as Apostles, are their glory, while they are his glory, as his spiritual children, in the day of judgment.

ST. PAUL REFUTES THE CALUMNY OF HIS ADVERSARIES THAT HE IS FICKLE AND INCONSISTENT
A Summary of 2 Corinthians 1:15-22

The Judaizers who sought to destroy the Apostle’s authority and work at Corinth charged him, among other things, with fickleness and instability, and they gave as an instance his change of plan regarding his visit to Corinth from Ephesus. Against these calumniators he now asserts the consistency of his teaching, which is based on the truthfulness of God Himself, and upon the special character as Apostles with which God has consecrated him and his companions for their ministerial labors and duties.

2 Cor 1:15. And in this confidence I had a mind to come to you before, that you might have a second grace:
2 Cor 1:16. And to pass by you into Macedonia, and again from Macedonia to come to you, and by you to be brought on my way towards Judea
.

In this confidence, etc., i.e., in view of the Apostle’s firm belief in the mutual reasons for glorying which existed between the Corinthians and himself, he had at first planned to go directly from Ephesus to Corinth, then to Macedonia, and finally back to Corinth again; and it seems he had made known this plan, or a part of it, to the faithful at Corinth, perhaps through the letter, now lost, which he first sent them (1 Cor. 5:9). When, therefore, he told them in 1 Cor. 16:5 ff. that he had made other arrangements and would go first to Macedonia and then come to Corinth, his enemies seized upon this change to accuse him cf lightmindedness and inconsistency.

A second grace, i.e., a second joy and a spiritual favor. The first joy would be on his way to Macedonia, the second on his return from there. Some, with Estius, hold that the first “grace” was when St. Paul first preached the Gospel at Corinth, and that consequently the “second grace” here would have been his second visit there. But this view would be against the very probable opinion that the Apostle paid a hurried visit to Corinth between the writing of our First and Second Corinthians (see Introduction, 1).

Towards Judea, whither he was to carry the collection for the poor Christians of Palestine.

2 Cor 1:17. Whereas then I was thus minded, did I use lightness? Or, the things that I purpose, do I purpose according to the flesh, that there should be with me, It is and It is not.

Did I use lightness? i.e., did I change my mind out of mere fickleness? That he did not is shown by the fact that his resolutions are not made according to human considerations and passions, but according to the illumination and direction of the Holy Ghost. If he did not go directly from Ephesus to Corinth, it was because the Spirit restrained him, as had happened before, when he and Silas attempted to go into Bithynia (Acts 16:7).

That I purpose. The change here from the past to the present tense draws attention to the Apostle’s general conduct.

That there should be, etc. Better, “So that with me it is now ‘Yea, yea,’ and now ‘Nay, nay.’ ” i.e., that he should resolve to do a thing while at the same time having the intention not to do it.

Both in the English and in the Vulgate here the affirmation and the negation should be repeated twice to agree with the Greek.

2 Cor 1:18. But God is faithful, for our preaching which was to you, was not, It is, and It is not.

Digressing for a moment from the question of his visit to Corinth St. Paul insists upon the consistency of his teaching in general.

God is faithful. This may mean that he calls God, as by an oath, to witness the truth of what he is saying (cf. 2 Cor 11:10; Rom. 14:11) ; or, more likely, that “God is faithful to His promises; He had promised to send you preachers of truth, and therefore since I am sent to you, our preaching is not ‘Yes and No/ i.e., there is no falsity in it” (St. Thomas).

Our preaching . . . was not. Better, “Our preaching . . . is not” (B K A C D F G P), i.e., all the promises and preaching of the Apostle and his companions are reliable and consistent.

The Vulgate qui fuit and in illo are not represented in the Greek.

2 Cor 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 and It is not, but, It is, was in him.

In this and the three following verses St. Paul is proving the faithfulness and consistency of his promises and of his preaching at all times. His argument is: “Just as the Son of God whom we preached to you was faithful to God’s promises (verse 19), since through Him were fulfilled all the promises of God (verse 20), so we ministers of that faithful Christ, having been confirmed and anointed by God (verse 21) and sealed with the pledge of His Spirit (verse 22), are also faithful to our promises and consistent in our preaching.”

The Son of God, etc., whom we preached to you, and who, as God, is truth and immutability itself, was not fickle and unfaithful, but, on the contrary, was the fulfillment of all God’s promises to men.

Silvanus was doubtless the same as Silas (Acts 15:40; 16:1 ff.), who, together with Paul and Timothy, had labored in the foundation of the Church in Corinth (Acts 18:5).

2 Cor 1:20. For all the promises of God are in him. It is; therefore also by him, amen to God, unto our glory.

The last words of the preceding verse are now explained.

For all the promises, etc. Better, “For how many soever are the promises,” etc., i.e., all the Messianic promises made by God to the Patriarchs and Prophets (2 Cor 7:1; Rom. 9:4; Gal. 3:16-21; Heb. 6:12; 7:6; 11:13, etc.) are verified and fulfilled in Christ.

Therefore also by him. Better, “Wherefore also through him.” The meaning is that since through Christ have been fulfilled all the Messianic promises, through Him also is made possible the Amen by which the fulfill ment of those promises is acknowledged. The Apostle is alluding to the practice on the part of the faithful of saying Amen in response to the prayers of the priest in the public religious assemblies (1 Cor. 14:16).

To God, unto our glory. Better, “To God’s glory through us.” The sense is that the acknowledgment of the fulfillment of God’s promises, as preached by Paul and his companions (which is expressed by the word Amen), redounds to the glory of God.

The nostram of the Vulgate should be per nos.

2 Cor 1:21. Now he that confirmeth us with you in Christ, and that hath anointed us, is God:

As Christ, whom the Apostles have announced, is unchangeable, so is their preaching of Him, and this by a special spiritual anointing which they have received from God.

Confirmeth us, i.e., renders us Apostles firm and unchangeable in teaching the doctrines of revelation to the faithful. The words with you imply that the faithful also received from God the firmness and stability with which they retained the doctrines preached to them.

Hath anointed us, i.e., has especially called us to preach the Gospel, and has given us the graces necessary to discharge this high office. The word χρίω (= chriō) from which the name Christ is derived, is used only four times in the New Testament, and in each instance of our Saviour (Luke 4:18; Acts 4:27; 10:38; Heb. 1:9). Therefore the anointing here spoken of must mean that Paul and his companions were especially called to preach the Gospel and perform their ministry. The reference is not to the Sacrament of Confirmation, nor to Baptism, which is received by all the faithful, but more properly to ordination, since God was the anointer and the purpose of the anointing was to enable the Apostles to discharge the spiritual duties of their ministry. In the Old Testament kings, priests, and prophets were anointed before undertaking their offices (1 Sam 9:16; Ex 40:13).

2 Cor 1:22. Who also hath sealed us, and given the pledge of the Spirit in our hearts.

Hath sealed us. Not only did God anoint and consecrate Paul and his companions for the work of preaching the Gospel, but He also stamped upon them, as it were, the seal of His divine authority and sanction by giving them the power of miracles, and by enriching them with the various gifts of the Holy Ghost These gifts were a pledge and an earnest of the still more precious endowments reserved for them in the life to come.

The pledge of the Spirit. The sense is that the Holy Ghost dwelling in the hearts of the Apostles was an earnest of the still greater gifts awaiting them hereafter.

THE REASON WHY ST. PAUL CHANGED HIS PLAN
A Summary of 2 Corinthians 1:23

2 Cor 1:23. But I call God to witness upon my soul, that to spare you, I came not any more to Corinth: not because we exercise dominion over your faith : but we are helpers of your joy: for in faith you stand.

After having proved the firmness and consistency of his promises and preaching the Apostle now returns to the subject of verse 17, and explains why he did not go directly from Ephesus to Corinth as he had planned.

Upon my soul, etc. He calls God to witness against his soul, meaning that God should destroy it, if he is not telling the truth when he says that the reason why he did not come to Corinth as first planned was in order to spare the Corinthians. The condition of the Church there was so bad that the Apostle could not at the time have gone thither without using great severity, and hence he preferred to remain away till later. But even in this he was not acting “according to the flesh”: he was acting under the guidance of the Spirit, as in Acts 16:7 (St. Chrys.).

I came not any more. The Apostle here seems to be repeating the complaint of the Corinthians, who regretted that he “came not any more to Corinth.” He means to say that he did not pay the visit alluded to in verse 15 above. This statement does not interfere with the very probable opinion which holds that St. Paul paid a short and painful visit to Corinth after writing 1 Cor. (2 Cor. 12:14, 21; 13:1), because that painful visit was not of the nature, duration or extent of the one alluded to in verse 15 above, and promised very likely in the lost letter to the Corinthians of which there is question in 1 Cor. 5:9.

Not because we exercise, etc. Better, “Not that we exercise,” etc. Having just spoken of sparing the Corinthians the Apostle now explains his meaning. He does not want the faithful to think that he and his companions desire to tyrannize over their faith, using despotic methods with them: rather he wishes to promote their joy in believing; and since, on account of their factions and disorders he could not do this, he preferred to remain away. As regards their faith they were not in need of correction, but they were at fault in other matters (Theod.).

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