New European Commentary


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Deeper Commentary


1:1 Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus through the will of God- Paul often begins his letters by saying this. But "the will of God" should not be understood by us as it is by Islam, where the will of God is understood as fulfilling anyway in a deterministic sense. The word carries the idea of the intention, the wish or pleasure of God. Paul could have turned down the call to be an apostle. He was not forced into obedience by an omnipotent Divine manipulator. All things were created for God's "pleasure" or will [s.w. Rev. 4:11], but clearly enough "all things" do not all perform God's wish. We pray for the Kingdom age when God's will shall be done on earth- for it is now generally not done. We are best therefore to understood the idea of God's wish, His desire, which of course He labours to see fulfilled. But He does not force or impose; He too deeply respects the freewill of His creatures. The art of Christian life is to willingly align ourselves with His will.

And Timothy our brother, to the church of God which is at Corinth, with all the saints that are in the whole of Achaia- The addition of "all the saints" in Achaia could be because the Gospel had spread there since the time of the first letter. But I suggest that 2 Corinthians is largely concerned with the issues surrounding the Jerusalem poor fund, and Paul wished that all the Gentiles in all Achaia would contribute to this fund.


1:2 Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ- Grace, charis, or gift, refers often to the gift of internal spiritual strengthening which the Father and Son wish to share with their people. And knowing the unspirituality of many at Corinth, Paul truly wishes the operation of the Spirit in their hearts.

1:3 Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort- The reference to comfort being sent from the Father is surely a reference to the promise of the Comforter, a personification of the Holy Spirit given by the Lord Jesus, for the internal strengthening of believers. The comforter was to operate within the hearts of the Lord's people (Jn. 14:17). The theme of 'comfort' which Paul now develops may also be a reflection of his gratitude to gracious Barnabas for all he had done for Paul- he was "the son of comfort", a human form of God's comfort (Acts 4:36).

1:3-7 is in poetic form. It seems that hymns developed in the early church, fragments of which are found in the poems of 2 Cor. 1:3-7; Eph. 1:13,14; 5:14; Phil. 2:6-12; Col. 1:15-20; 1 Tim. 3:16; 1 Pet. 2:4 and elsewhere.

1:4 Who comforts us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to comfort those that are in any affliction, through the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God- Our experiences elicit "comfort" spiritually from God, which we are then to mediate on to others who suffer our same afflictions. Paul could therefore speak of how "we were comforted in your comfort" (2 Cor. 7:13). But we must allow the intended flow of the Spirit to occur. Paul concludes the Corinthian correspondence by appealing for them to "be comforted" (2 Cor. 13:11), to allow the operation of the process of comfort, the flow of the Spirit, the work of the Comforter through the members of Christ's body.

This principle is why experiences repeat between the lives of God's children. Our experiences connect with those of Biblical characters- and thus the Biblical records become alive and intensely personal for each of us. And we see similarities in patterns and experiences between our lives and those of others contemporary with us. This is surely to enable the principle of 2 Cor. 1:4- that if we suffer anything, it is so that we can mediate comfort to those who suffer as we do. To go into our shells and not do this not only makes our own sufferings harder, but frustrates the very purpose of them. This is the whole purpose of fellowship, of getting to know each other, of meeting together. The repeating similarities between our lives and those of others also reveal to us that God at times arranges for us to suffer from our alter ego- persons who behave similarly to us, and who through those similarities cause us suffering. In this way we are taught the error of our ways, both past and present. It seems that Jacob the deceiver suffered in this way from Laban the deceiver- in order to teach him and cause his spiritual growth. For example, as Jacob deceived his blind father relating to an important family matter, so Laban deceived Jacob in the darkness of the wedding night. Esau once begged food of Jacob, and he deceived him cruelly. As an old man, Jacob twice had to beg food from the estranged brother, his own son Joseph. No wonder he so tried not to have to send his sons to Egypt to beg for food. He was being taught- even after all those years- how Esau his brother had felt.

Job was a “perfect” man before the afflictions started; and he is presented as a ‘perfect’ man at the end. The purpose of his trials was not only to develop him, but also in order to teach the friends [and we readers] some lessons. The purpose of our trials too may not only be for our benefit, but for that of others. If we suffer anything, it is so that we might help others. Consider too how the palsied man was healed by the Lord in order to teach others that Jesus had the power to forgive sins (Mt. 9:2-6).

So if we suffer anything, it is so that ultimately others may be comforted in our comfort. True Christianity, authentic relationship with God, simply can't be lived out in isolation, with us asking God for things and Him giving them to us just for us. We need to discern how others will be affected by our experience of answered prayer, and bear this in mind when formulating our prayers. And all this is surely the answer to the cynic's complaint that prayer is essentially selfish. It can be, it too often is; but Biblical prayer is not at all. In words which need reading twice, Elizabeth O'Connor drives the point home in Journey Outward: "If engagement with ourselves does not push back horizons so that we see neighbours we did not see before, then we need to examine the appointments kept with self. If prayer does not drive us into some concrete involvement at a point of the world's need, then we must question prayer... the inner life is not nurtured in order to hug to oneself some secret gain". The Psalms have all this as a major theme.

1:5- see on Acts 9:16.

For as the sufferings of Christ are ours in abundance, even so our comfort is also in abundance through Christ- Our trials are specially designed so that we may give comfort to others who suffer in essence the same experiences- and this is how “our comfort aboundeth through Christ” (2 Cor. 1:4,5 RV). He is the comforter insofar as His brethren minister that comfort which He potentially enables them to minister. As we partake in the Lord’s sufferings, so we partake of the comfort which is in Him- but which is ministered through the loving care of those in Him (2 Cor. 1:7). This is why any attitude of insularity is totally impossible for the true brother or sister in Christ. Behind every human face, there is a tragedy behind the brave façade which is put up. Almost everybody has been bruised by life, and is feeling the pressure of temptation or defeat, depression, loneliness or despair. It’s true that some need to be disturbed from their complacency, but the vast majority need above all else to be given by us the comfort of God’s love. People, all people (not just our brethren) are desperate for real comfort and compassion. And it is up to us to mediate it to them.

1:6 If we are afflicted, it is for your comfort and salvation; and if we are comforted, it is for your comfort, which works in the patient enduring of the same sufferings which we also suffer- It could be argued that all our experiences are in order that we might be able to give out to others from our own experience of God's grace (2 Cor. 1:4-6). Paul will use the same words to say that he "begs" [s.w. "comfort"] the Corinthians to "comfort" the disciplined brother by receiving him back (2 Cor. 2:7,8). Paul uses the same word to say that God was begging or comforting the Corinthians through him (2 Cor. 5:20; 6:1). "The same sufferings" doesn't necessarily mean that we shall have identical sufferings to each other. The sufferings in view are those of the Lord Jesus mentioned in :5. Both Paul and the Corinthians were enduring the same sufferings- in that all their sufferings were those of the Lord Jesus. But the comfort, the power of the Spirit, is only mediated if there is some desire for it by those receiving it. The Spirit "comfort" is made effective (Gk.; NEV "which works") only if we patiently endure and participate in the Lord's sufferings. 1 Corinthians opened by stating that Corinth had received the Spirit; but 1 Cor. 3:1 and the rest of the letter is clear that they were "not spiritual". The Spirit is given- but it must be made effectual, the potential must be released, by our willing acceptance of it.

1:7 And our hope for you is steadfast- The Greek idea of elpis, "hope", is not a hope for the best, a kind of optimism that perhaps all might turn out all right. The idea is rather of a confident expectation; and considering the apostasy of the Corinthians, that is quite something. Paul refuses to condemn anyone who has been baptized into Christ and is therefore a partaker in His death and the Spirit-comfort which He makes available. And because Paul will not pre-judge the final judgement, his hope / expectation for them was "steadfast" 

Knowing that, as you are partakers of the sufferings, so also are you of the comfort- The idea may be that if or insofar as they shared in the Lord's sufferings (:5), willingly understanding their experiences as part of His- then they would share in "the comfort", the Comforter, the gift of the Spirit, His life now mediated into the hearts and lives of those open it. If we share in His death, we share in His life. That is the basic significance of baptism, but the principle is ongoing throughout our lives. The association with His life is not simply in that we have hope of a future bodily resurrection, but in that His living, His life, becomes manifest in our mortal flesh right now (2 Cor. 4:11); we live in newness of life after baptism (Rom. 6:4).

1:8 Brothers, we do not want you to be ignorant in regards to the hardships which we encountered in Asia- Paul reminds them of his sufferings in the context of wanting to comfort them. For he has just outlined God's principle of how suffering is experienced in order that we might comfort others. His affliction is for their comfort (:6) and so he doesn't wish them to be ignorant of how much hardship he encountered in Asia.

We were weighed down exceedingly- This is the term used by the Lord in predicting what would happen to the believers immediately prior to His return (Mt. 24:9,21,29). Some of the preconditions for the Lord's return in AD70 were indeed fulfilled, and so Paul eagerly anticipated it. But there were other preconditions which were not fulfilled, and therefore His coming was delayed until our last days.

Beyond our power- The phrase is only used again in the NT in 2 Cor. 8:3. The Macedonians were generous to the Jerusalem Poor Fund beyond their natural power or ability. Paul is urging the Corinthians to learn from his example, and theirs too- that in the power of the Spirit we can do what would be beyond our own dunamis. In Paul's thought, what is beyond human power is the Holy Spirit, the power of God. The Holy Spirit and the power [dunamis] of God are paralleled in Lk. 1:35; 4:14. The gift of the Holy Spirit was the source of dunamis, power (Eph. 3:16; Rom. 15:13; 2 Tim. 1:7). In these passages the Spirit gives psychological, internal power.

So much so that we feared even for our lives- "Feared" is better "despaired", and the Greek word is only again used when Paul writes that through the power of the Spirit he does not despair despite all sufferings (2 Cor. 4:8). He is describing here in this opening chapter his natural powerless situation, but with the implication that the power of the Spirit changes all that. And although the Corinthians had received potentially the Spirit (1 Cor. 1), they were not making use of that potential. And Paul urges them to follow his example in doing so.

1:9 Yes, we ourselves have had the sentence of death within ourselves, that we should not trust in ourselves but in the God who raises the dead- The standard interpretation of this seems to be that when Paul asked himself as to whether he would die, he found the answer ["sentence"] that he would. But this is a very odd way of putting it; and why use the language of the courtroom, let alone a phrase taken from Jewish commentary and midrash on Genesis 3. This sentence of death can be read as an allusion to the sentence which passed upon all men as a result of Adam's sin. Paul is saying that all our sufferings are common in that we each have the same sentence of death. "We had the sentence of death in ourselves ["in our hearts we felt the sentence of death", NIV], that we should not trust in ourselves, but in God which raiseth the dead" (2 Cor. 1:9 AV). The fact we are going to die, relatively soon, and lie unconscious... drives the man who seriously believes it to faith in the God of resurrection. It seems that at a time of great physical distress, Paul was made to realize that in fact he had "the sentence of death" within him, he was under the curse of mortality, and this led him to a hopeful faith that God would preserve him from the ultimate "so great a death" as well as from the immediate problems. Death being like a sleep, it follows that judgment day is our next conscious experience after death. Because death is an ever more likely possibility for us, our judgment is effectively almost upon us. And we must live with and in that knowledge. The tragic brevity of life means that "childhood and youth are vanity", we should quit the time wasting follies of youth or overgrown childhood (and the modern world is full of this), and therefore too "remove anger from thy heart and put away evil from thy flesh" (Ecc. 11:10 AVmg.). Ecclesiastes uses the mortality of man not only as an appeal to work for our creator, but to simply have faith in His existence.

1:10 Who delivered us out of so great a death, and will deliver. On whom we have set our hope, that He will also still deliver us- The "great death" from which Paul was delivered refers to the death sentence received in Asia, apparently to fight to the death with wild animals in the arena, which sentence Paul was miraculously delivered from (see on 1 Cor. 15:32). He uses the same Greek word for "deliver" in reminiscing how there "I was delivered out of the mouth of the lion" (2 Tim. 4:17). "And will deliver" would then refer to Paul's hope of resurrection. For as noted on :9, he is reasoning that no matter how dramatic are our brushes with death in this life, we all have the sentence of death within us. Paul hopes that the Lord will continue to 'deliver him from evil' in this life (s.w. Mt. 6:13). But his greater hope is for the deliverance which will come at the resurrection, when we shall be delivered "from the body of this death" (Rom. 7:24).

1:11 You also helping together on our behalf by your prayers, so that it works out that for the gift bestowed upon us by means of many, thanks may be given by many persons on our behalf- Paul has in view an upcoming evil that he needed deliverance from. He asks them to pray for him, on the basis that the gift of salvation would then lead to all who had prayed for it then thanking God for it, and thus God would be glorified. But to describe his hoped for deliverance as a "gift" may seem strange- until we realize that Paul is framing all this in language he would later use of his pet project, the Jerusalem poor fund. His idea was that if there were many contributions towards that "gift", then there would be many praises given for it. And he paves the way for that by asking them to pray for his deliverance, that he may be given a gift of deliverance, and they would all praise God for it afterwards.

The idea of “helped… by prayer for us” (2 Cor. 1:11 AV) sounds as if Paul’s unaided prayers had less power than when the Corinthians were praying for him too. Stephen believed this to the point that he could pray for the forgiveness of his murderers, fully believing God could hear and grant such forgiveness. Job believed this, in that he prayed God would forgive his children in case they sinned. The friends mocked this in Job 5:4; 8:4; 17:5 and 20:10, saying that the children of the foolish die for their own sins, whereas, by implication, Job had figured that his prayers and sacrifices could gain them forgiveness. Yet in the end, Yahweh stated that Job had understood Him and His principles right, whereas the friends hadn’t.

1:12 For our boasting is this, the testimony of our conscience, that in holiness and Godly sincerity, not in fleshly wisdom but in the grace of God, we behaved ourselves in the world- and more abundantly toward you- "Holiness" is a poor translation; most manuscripts read "simplicity". And this is the word Paul will later use about the 'simplicity' required to support the Jerusalem Poor Fund. The word means both simple and generous. I’ve always sensed that the more complex a person, the harder it is for them to be generous. But we are all commanded to be generous to the Lord’s cause, knowing that nothing we have is our own. And I am not only talking to wealthy brethren. All of us have something, and all of us can give something to our brethren. Consider how the poor believers of the first century such as Corinth [amongst whom there were not many rich or mighty, Paul reminds them] collected funds for the poor brethren in Judea. The Greek word translated “simplicity” occurs eight times in the NT. Five of these are in 2 Corinthians, written as it was in the context of Corinth giving funds for the Jerusalem poor. Consider how the word is translated:
- Paul had “simplicity and Godly sincerity” (2 Cor. 1:12)
- They had “liberality” (2 Cor. 8:2)
- “Bountifulness” (2 Cor. 9:11)
- Their “liberal distribution” (2 Cor. 9:13)
- He feared lest they be corrupted from “the simplicity that is in Christ” (2 Cor. 11:3).

Evidently Paul saw a link between generosity and the simplicity of the faith in Christ. It doesn’t need a lexicon to tell you that this word means both ‘simplicity’ and also ‘generous’. The connection is because the basis for generosity is a simple faith. Not a dumb, blind faith, glossing over the details of God’s word. But a realistic, simple, direct conviction. This is why Paul exhorts that all giving to the Lord’s cause should be done with “simplicity” (Rom. 12:8- the AVmg. translates ‘liberally’). Give, in whatever way, and don’t complicate it with all the ifs and buts which our fleshly mind proposes. Paul warns them against false teachers who would corrupt them from their “simplicity”- and yet he usually speaks of ‘simplicity’ in the sense of generosity. Pure doctrine, wholeheartedly accepted, will lead us to be generous. False doctrine and human philosophy leads to all manner of self-complication. Paul was clever, he was smart; but he rejoiced that he lived his life “in the grace of God” (2 Cor. 1:12).  If our eye is single (translating a Greek word related to that translated ‘simple’), then the whole body is full of light (Mt. 6:22)- and the Lord spoke again in the context of generosity. An evil eye, a world view that is not ‘simple’ or single, is used as a figure for mean spiritedness.

Our fear of what others think of us, of their reactions and possible reactions to who we are, to our words and our actions; our faithless worry about where we will find our food and clothing, how we will be cared for when we are old, whether our health will fail… all these things detract us from a simple and direct faith in the basic tenets of the Gospel, which is what should lead us to humility. “The simplicity that is in Christ… in simplicity and godly sincerity… by the grace of God, we have had our conversation in the world… [doing our daily work] with singleness [s.w. ‘simplicity’] of heart, as unto Christ” (2 Cor. 1:12; 11:3; Eph. 6:5,6). Worries about the material things of life, or deep seated doubt developed during years of atheism or wrong belief… these all so easily distract us from the simplicity of a true and humbled faith.

1:13 For we write no other things to you, than what you read or even acknowledge, and I hope you will acknowledge to the end- This sounds like a reference to the letters being circulated in Paul's name which were not really from him. Hence he concludes some of his letters by signing "with my own hand". Any who feel they have suffered from slander and abuse within the church should take encouragement from what Paul suffered from the Corinthians. But still he loved them because they were in Christ. Just consider what he was suffering from Corinth alone at this time:

Paul: Victim Of Slander In The Church

·       Too physically weak to do the job (2 Cor. 10:10)

·       Underhanded, cunning (2 Cor. 4:2 RSV)

·       Tampering with God's word (2 Cor. 4:2 RSV)

·       Not preaching according to the sanction of the Lord Jesus, but inventing things for himself (in the context of Gentile liberty, Gal. 1:1).

·       Preaching himself as the saviour, not Christ (2 Cor. 4:5)

·       Commending himself, showing himself to be so spiritually strong (2 Cor. 3:1)

·       Trying to build up his own self-image with his listeners as he preached the Gospel (2 Cor. 4:5)

·       Trying to domineer over his brethren (2 Cor. 1:24; 8:8 Gk.)

·       Mentally unstable (2 Cor. 5:13)

·       Causing others to stumble (2 Cor. 6:3)

·       An imposter (2 Cor. 6:8- in the context, Paul is saying that the fact he is so maligned is a kind of proof that he really is a genuine worker for the Lord!).

·       Wronging, corrupting, financially defrauding brethren (2 Cor. 7:2)

·       Demanding so much money from others that they would become impoverished themselves (2 Cor. 8:13,14 J.B. Phillips)

·       But not a real apostle, seeing that if he was then he would do as the Lord had bidden and receive “hire” for being a “labourer”; if he was worthy, he would have accepted it. The fact he didn’t showed he wasn’t a hard labourer. This was so untrue. It's a real cruel example of slander in the church.

·       He only threatened ecclesial discipline but never did anything in practice- he was all talk and no do (2 Cor. 10:1-6)

·       What he wrote was in his letters was a contradiction of the person he was in practice (2 Cor. 1:13)

·       He kept changing his mind over important issues (2 Cor. 1:17-19)

·       They were offended that Paul didn't take money from them (2 Cor. 11:7 RSV), and yet also grudged giving money for the Jerusalem Poor Fund because the Corinthian church slandered Paul that he claimed he was only trying to get the money for himself.

·       Crafty and a liar, not opening his heart to his brethren (2 Cor. 12:16 cp. 6:11)

·       Preaching that we can be immoral because God's grace will cover us (Rom. 3:8)

·       Preached in order to get money and have relationships with women (1 Thess. 2:3-12)

·       Still secretly preached that circumcision was vital for salvation (Gal. 5:11). 

If you can imagine where Paul might have used quotation marks, this helps to reveal certain phrases which he was probably quoting from their claims. Most of the above slander in the church was from just one ecclesia (Corinth): one can be certain that there were many other such slanders.

1:14 As also you did once partially acknowledge us, that we are your boasting, even as you are also ours, in the day of our Lord Jesus- Paul saw his reward as proportionate to the quality of his brethren (2 Cor. 1:14; 1 Thess. 2:19,20; Phil. 2:16; 4:1). The nature or quality of his eternal life was bound up with whether or not they would be accepted at the day of judgment- and that surely was why Paul kept on keeping on with the Corinthians, and why we endure the whole dysfunctional story which is 'church'. With what measure we give to others in spiritual terms, we will be measured to at the judgment (Mk. 4:24 and context). 1 Cor. 3:9-15 likewise teaches that the spiritual "work" of "any man" with his brethren will be proportionate to his reward at the judgment.

1:15 And in this confidence I had decided to come first of all to you, that you might have a second benefit- The neat maps in our Bibles notwithstanding, it is clear that Paul had no such clear plan of where to found ecclesias. He preached in Galatia because illness required that he spend some time there, against his original intention (Gal. 4:13). He was forbidden to preach in Bithynia as he had planned, he fled to Athens for safety and ended up preaching there, then he fled from there to Corinth (Acts 16:6,7). And it seems that he was only in transit through Ephesus, but found the people responsive and therefore continued working there (Acts 18:19). Indeed, his movements were so uncertain that he was open to the charge of vacillating about his plans (2 Cor. 1:15,18). And yet it has been shown that the places where Paul founded ecclesias were strategic points, in that they were centres where different nationalities mixed, where trade routes crossed, where social and religious conditions were better than elsewhere for the spread of the Gospel. Yet this was not due to any conscious desire of Paul for this; the Lord overruled this, so that, e.g., from Thessalonica the message sounded out throughout Asia, due to the many mobile people who heard the Gospel there.

The second benefit or grace / gift may suggest that on each visit, Paul would give them a spiritual gift, just as he promised to do with the Romans in Rom. 1:11. Perhaps his physical presence was necessary because the particular Spirit gift in view would be passed on by the laying on of hands. The two gifts would have been a result of his intended two visits to Corinth- on the way both to and from Macedonia.

1:16 And by you to pass into Macedonia and again from Macedonia to come to you, and from you proceed on my journey to Judea- This plan was it seems changed because he decided to go Macedonia via Troas, because a great opportunity in the Gospel had opened there (2 Cor. 2:12). The journey planned to Judea was in order to take the collection money there. Hence Paul's urging of the Macedonians to contribute. "Proceed on my journey" is literally as AV "to be brought on my way [by you] toward Judea". This alludes to the practice of walking with a departing visitor for the first part of their journey as a sign of support for the journey undertaken. And Paul says that his intention is that Corinth would in this way bless his Jerusalem mission. This was an almost obsessive interest.

1:17 When I planned this, did I show fickleness? Or the things that I plan, do I plan according to the flesh, so that in the same breath I say, Yes, yes and then No, no?- The change in travel plans, going to Macedonia via Troas rather than Corinth, was because of an opening for the Gospel in Troas (2:12). Yet Paul's critics interpreted this as fickleness. Any commitment to the Lord's work immediately opens us up for criticism and wilful misinterpretation of our motives. "Yes, yes" is the language of :20 about the preaching of the Lord Jesus. Not only must we preach because our Lord preached. We must witness as He witnessed. Paul understood us to have been anointed in a similar way to who Christ was anointed; and thereby we become witnesses of Him. In this context, he explains that he wasn’t vague and uncertain in the matter of preaching; he didn’t keep vacillating between yes and no because this was not how Jesus preached- in Him was “yes!” (2 Cor. 1:20,17).

1:18 But as God is faithful, our word toward you is not yes and no- Paul’s preaching was an exact transmission of the person of Jesus; He was not indecisive, He was positive; and likewise Paul’s preaching of Him had the same marks. He quotes this as a counter to the criticism that he was “yes and no”, a man with no sense of truth or decision. ‘If I am a man in Christ, then I will axiomatically act like Him, and therefore this criticism of me cannot be true’. The only other references to the faithfulness of God in the NT are also in Corinthians (1 Cor. 1:9; 10:13). Because "God is true", therefore it ought to be axiomatic that our words are true, as those bearing His Name (so Paul argues in 2 Cor. 1:18; 11:10). It could be that although baptized, the Corinthians were still as it were testing out God, and were tempted to feel that He was not consistently reliable or trustworthy. This mentality can be found amongst many new converts today.

1:19 For the Son of God, Jesus Christ, who was preached among you by us, by me and Silvanus and Timothy, was not yes and no; but in him is yes- The preaching of Paul meant that the person of the Lord Jesus was preached amongst the Corinthians. The message was not only Christ-centred, but the preachers were themselves the manifestation of the Christ they preached. We are “in Christ” to the extent that we are Christ to this world. In this sense He has in this world no arms or legs or face than us. “The Son of God, Jesus Christ, was preached among you through us, even through me and Silvanus” (2 Cor. 1:19 RVmg.). Paul was a placarding of Christ crucified before the Galatians (Gal. 3:1 Gk.); to the Corinthians he was “the face of Christ” (2 Cor. 2:10 RSV). Just as the Lord Jesus is always "yes" with regard to the salvation of others, so was Paul because he was in Him; and so should we be.

1:20 For no matter how many and whatever be the promises of God, in him is the ultimate Yes!- We know that the promises to the Jewish fathers were confirmed by the death of the Lord; and yet “all the promises of God in him are yea, and in him Amen" (2 Cor. 1:20). “In him" is put for ‘on account of His death which confirmed them’. ‘He’ was His death and His cross. In the preceding verse, Paul has spoken of “Christ crucified". He was brought to the cross a man who had already died unto sin; and the very quick time in which He died reflected how physically worn out His body was, in reflection of how sin had virtually already been put to death in Him.

Therefore also through him is the Amen, to the glory of God through us- The connection between the atonement and faith in prayer is brought out in 2 Cor. 1:20 RSV: “For all the promises of God in him are yea. That is, we utter the Amen through him". The promises of God were confirmed through the Lord’s death, and the fact that He died as the seed of Abraham, having taken upon Him Abraham’s plural seed in representation (Rom. 15:8,9). Because of this, “we utter the Amen through [on account of being in] Him". We can heartily say ‘Amen’, so be it, to our prayers on account of our faith and understanding of His confirmation of God's promises. But why this laboured aside about the utter certainty of God's promises, because they have been confirmed in Christ? It is in the context of Paul urging that his promises are to be taken seriously and that he is not unstable or fickle. If he- and we- have had such experiences of God's word of promise made even more sure, then one outflow of this will be in behaviour which is likewise solid and not fickle, changed at the last moment because of our own whims.

1:21 Now he that establishes us with you in Christ and anointed us is God- As noted on :20, the confirmation of God's promises through Christ's death are part of His stabilizing of us. Paul would not have lied to them about his travel plans because he has been established or confirmed, just as they had been ("with you"). This confirming or establishment is paralleled to having been anointed by the Spirit. The language of very special people in Jewish history- prophets and kings- is used of each believer. For no longer are just a few significant individuals anointed. Now, every believer is likewise significant and is similarly anointed; see on Acts 13:9. The Greek translated "establishes" has been used by Paul in 1 Cor. 1:6,8, where he reminds the Corinthians that they have been 'confirmed' by the gift of the Spirit after their initial believing into Christ. Yet they were not spiritual (1 Cor. 3:1); they had not made use of that Spirit gift, just as many fail to today. The same word is used of the psychological confirmation of believers after their baptism and belief in Christ (Col. 2:7; Heb. 2:3). Heb. 13:9 is more specific, saying that the heart [or mind / psychology] is "established with grace", charis, the gift- of the Spirit. This is how I understand 2 Pet. 1:19- the word of prophecy, the word spoken forth by the early preachers, is confirmed / established [AV "made more sure"]. Now in 1 Cor. 1:22, Paul will go on to state specifically that the arena of the Spirit's establishing / confirming operation is within the hearts / minds of believers. The same word is found in Mk. 16:20, where the Lord promised to confirm or establish the believer in the Gospel by miracles. This function of the Spirit has passed away, but the essential confirmation of the Gospel by the Spirit gift in human hearts remains.

But the Greek for 'establish' can also mean to validate, and this was a relevant concern of Paul at this time. This same word keeps cropping up in Ignatius, who uses the Greek bebaion in the sense of ‘valid’. Ignatius [and others] taught that for service of the Lord to be valid by a believer, it had to be validated through obedience to the church leadership. They gave his or her service its validity. “Whatsoever [the Bishop and presbytery] shall approve, this is well-pleasing also to God; that everything which ye do may be sure and valid [bebaion]” (Smyrneans 8.2). Significantly, Paul here addresses this very issue, using the very same Greek word, and in precisely this context- of justifying his service to God even though it was not approved / validated by others who thought they were elders: “He who validates us [bebaion], along with you [the ordinary members of the flock]… is God, who also sealed us” (2 Cor. 1:21,22). God has validated and called each of us to His service. We don’t need approval / validation / authorization from anybody on this earth. Of course we should seek to work co-operatively with our brethren, for such is obviously the spirit of Christ; neither Paul nor myself are inciting a spirit of maverick irresponsibility. But he is clearly saying that the idea of needing authorization / validation from any group of elders in order to minister, preach, break bread and baptize [which is a context of his writing to the Corinthians] is totally wrong.  

1:22- see on 2 Cor. 3:3.

Who also sealed us and gave us the down payment of the Spirit in our hearts- "Also" doesn't have to mean that the statement following is an additional truth to preceding one. Literally "and...", this "and... and" structure can be used [as it is in several Eastern European languages] to express a series of parallel truths or descriptions of the same reality. As noted on :21, Paul has in view the gift of the Holy Spirit after baptism- a transforming power within the human heart. Any claim that the Spirit only worked through miraculous signs is made null and void by this specific statement that we have been given the Spirit in our hearts. After we believe, we are "sealed with the promised Holy Spirit" (Eph. 1:13; 4:30). The promised Holy Spirit is surely a reference to the Comforter, a force which would be within the believer to make the Lord Jesus as real as if He were physically with us. The same gift of the Spirit is promised to all who would be baptized in Acts 2:39. The sealing is therefore "in our hearts". Perhaps this is why the 'sealing' of the faithful in Rev. 7:3 was "in their foreheads"- in their minds. This internal, psychological experience is the foretaste, the guarantee, of our future total transformation at the last day. 2 Cor. 5:4,5 present this "down payment" as the precursor to the literal transformation of the body at the Lord's return: "...that what is mortal may be swallowed up by life. Now He who has prepared us for this very thing [the ending of our mortality by immortality] is God, who also has given us the Spirit as a guarantee". Eph. 1:13,14 speak of this same gift coming after belief: "In whom you also believed, having heard the word of the truth, the gospel of your salvation, and were sealed with the Holy Spirit of promise, which is a guarantee [s.w. "down payment"] of our inheritance, of the final redemption of God's own possession, for the praise of His glory".

1:23 But I call God for a witness upon my soul- David speaks of God enthroned in the court of Heaven judging him and yet also maintaining his right; and yet in the same context, David speaks of how God's throne is prepared for future judgment, He will minister judgment (Ps. 9:4 cp. 7,8,19). The court of Heaven that was now trying him would sit again in the last day. Paul shows the same understanding when, under 'judgment' by his brethren, he calls God as a witness right now (2 Cor. 1:23 RSV), several times saying that he spoke "before God", as if already at judgment day.

That to spare you I came no more to Corinth- In 2:12 Paul seems to excuse his change of travel plans by saying that a great door of opportunity for the Gospel had been opened at Troas. But it could be that this was an outcome of his knowledge that if he were to come to Corinth whilst they were still unrepentant of their gross immorality, the Spirit may have led Paul to severely judge them. Remember that in the first century, the Holy Spirit empowered the judgment of apostate believers with physical sickness or even death. Knowing this, Paul chose to give them more time to repent. We see here how the work of the Spirit through men was not [and is not] irresistible; Paul knew what the Spirit would urge or force him to do if he went there again and he chose not to allow that to happen. God is in dialogue with man, never forcing but always open to working with us.

1:24 Not that we have lordship over your faith but are helpers of your joy. For in faith you must stand fast- Nobody, not even faithful brethren, can have dominion over our faith; by our own faith we stand (2 Cor. 1:24, filling in the ellipsis). Solomon exhorts his son to get wisdom, for “if thou be wise, thou shalt be wise for thyself: but if thou scornest, thou alone shalt bear it" (Prov. 9:12). The understanding of God we gain from His word, and the result of rejecting it, is so intensely personal. "Helpers" translates sunergos, a co-worker. As so often noted, the salvation of the Corinthians was related to Paul's own salvation. His joy at the last day would be their joy- if indeed they were accepted. And yet despite this close inter-relationship, it was by their own faith that they would stand acceptable before the Lord at the last day.