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Bible Commentaries

Arthur Peake's Commentary on the Bible

2 Corinthians 2

 

 

Verses 1-4

2 Corinthians 1:23 to 2 Corinthians 2:4. Paul now states the real and sufficient reason for his apparent vacillation. He had already paid a visit to Corinth (cf. 2 Corinthians 13:2) which had been full of pain to himself as well as to others. It had become only too probable that another visit would lead to even sadder experiences. In fact, it was "to spare" them that he had not fulfilled his promise. Not that it was true, as some said, that he wished to "dictate" to them in matters of faith. Far from that, the object of himself and his fellow-workers was simply to cooperate with the church in cultivating their joy. In respect of their faith they were fully established.

Was it likely that the apostle would come a second time to cause pain, when the very people he would pain would be the people on whom he depended for joy? Instead of coming he had sent a letter (the "lost epistle"), in which he probably explained why he was not coming, as well as dealt faithfully with their want of loyalty to himself. By that letter he had hoped to bring them into such a frame of mind that he might exchange sorrow for joy, and once more that joy would not be for himself alone, but shared by them and him. That letter had been written in what was little less than an agony of pain and anxiety—a description which cannot be applied to our "First Epistle"—and yet its purpose was not to give pain but to prove the reality of Paul's affection.


Verses 5-11

2 Corinthians 2:5-11. Someone in the congregation at Corinth who had done wrong is now to be forgiven. There are still some scholars who think that the person here referred to is the same as the wrong-doer of 1 Corinthians 5:1-5, the man who had taken his father's widow (?) to wife. But Paul had solemnly adjured the Corinthian church to "deliver such a one to Satan" (1 Corinthians 5:5*, p. 649), evidently expecting that his death would follow. And whether or not the church had carried out his command, it is hardly credible that he would refer to the same case as he does here, saying that the punishment has been sufficient, pleading for the offender's being pardoned, emphasizing the fact that he, the apostle, has already forgiven him. Everything points, on the other hand, to a different offender and a different kind of offence. In this case it was Paul himself who had suffered injury, probably in the form of an outrageous slander or insult. This may have taken place on the occasion of his second visit, or it may have occurred in his absence, possibly in the presence of Timothy: but what made it peculiarly galling was that the congregation had, at first at least, failed to resent the attack on Paul. It had sympathised rather with the offender. Now, however, in consequence of Paul's written remonstrance and Titus' visit, they had been brought to a better mind. They, or at least the majority of them, had passed severe censure on the offender, Probably they had excluded him from their fellowship. Paul now pleads for him. It is true the injury he did affected not only the apostle, but "in some degree" the congregation also. But Paul does not wish to "press" that. He urges them to forgive the offender, even by an official act to reinstate him in their fellowship, cancelling the excommunication (2 Corinthians 2:8). The purpose of his previous letter had been, in part at least, to test their loyalty to himself. And so far as he had suffered personal insult—if indeed that were worth thinking of—he was only too willing that his forgiveness should accompany theirs. A continuance of the unhappy situation would only expose God's work at Corinth to further attacks of the Evil One acting through Judaizing mischief-makers.


Verses 12-17

2 Corinthians 2:12-17. This will complete the joyful reconciliation already accomplished. Paul had found himself at Troas, restless and uneasy till he heard the result of his letter to Corinth. Even the great opportunity for preaching which he had found there could neither satisfy nor detain him. He had crossed to Europe and was already in Macedonia when at last Titus arrived, bringing better news than he had dared to hope (see further, 2 Corinthians 7:5). At the recollection of that moment of unspeakable relief he breaks out into a rhapsody of thanksgiving. God is advancing like a mighty conqueror in his "Triumph." The apostles of Christ are swept along in the triumphal procession. And the incense belonging to such a procession is not wanting. It is found in that "knowledge of God" which rises from every place as a result of their labour. Then, by a changed application of the same figure, he represents God's messengers as bringing before God a sweet fragrance of Christ whether their message falls on heeding or on unheeding ears. For, he remembers, the message of the Gospel has judgment-power. To the one class God's messengers are a fatal odour, confirming the death which is their portion; to those who are being saved they come as a fragrance which has life for its source and life for its result. The offer of grace, when despised, turns to a curse. The contemplation of so terrible a responsibility brings to his lips the question: "Who is fit for such a task?" The answer has already been suggested in 2 Corinthians 2:14, and is confirmed in 2 Corinthians 3:5. "We are"—not because of any innate fitness, but because God "leadeth us in triumph in Christ." That this is the answer is plain from what follows, in which Paul contrasts the conduct of himself and his fellow-missionaries with that of the mischief-makers who make merchandise of the Divine message, adulterating it to please their hearers. Their utterance by contrast is as crystal in its sincerity; for it has God for its source, God for its witness, and Christ as the medium through which it reaches men.

 


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Bibliography Information
Peake, Arthur. "Commentary on 2 Corinthians 2:4". "Arthur Peake's Commentary on the Bible ". http://odl.studylight.org/commentaries/pfc/2-corinthians-2.html. 1919.

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