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Clarke's Commentary on the Bible
The apostle farther explains the reasons why he did not pay his intended visit to the Corinthians, 2 Corinthians 2:1. And why he wrote to them in the manner he did, 2 Corinthians 2:2-5. He exhorts them also to forgive the incestuous person, who had become a true penitent; and therefore he had forgiven him in the name of Christ, 2 Corinthians 2:6-11. He mentions the disappointment he felt when he came to Troas in not meeting with Titus, from whom he expected to have heard an account of the state of the Corinthian Church, 2 Corinthians 2:12, 2 Corinthians 2:13. Gives thanks to God for the great success he had in preaching the Gospel, so that the influence of the name of Christ was felt in every place, 2 Corinthians 2:14. Shows that the Gospel is a savour of life to them that believe, and of death to them that believe not, 2 Corinthians 2:15, 2 Corinthians 2:16. And that he and his brethren preached the pure, unadulterated doctrine of God among the people, 2 Corinthians 2:17.
1But I determined this with myself, that I would not come again to you in heaviness.
But I determined this - The apostle continues to give farther reasons why he did not visit them at the proposed time. Because of the scandals that were among them he could not see them comfortably; and therefore he determined not to see them at all till he had reason to believe that those evils were put away.
2For if I make you sorry, who is he then that maketh me glad, but the same which is made sorry by me?
For if I make you sorry - Should he have come and used his apostolical authority, in inflicting punishment upon the transgressors, this would have been a common cause of distress. And though he might expect that the sound part of the Church would be a cause of consolation to him, yet as all would be overwhelmed with trouble at the punishment of the transgressors, he could not rejoice to see those whom he loved in distress.
3And I wrote this same unto you, 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.
And I wrote this same unto you - This I particularly marked in my first epistle to you; earnestly desiring your reformation, lest, if I came before this had taken place, I must have come with a rod, and have inflicted punishment on the transgressors. See 1 Corinthians 5:1-13.
My joy is the joy of you all - I know that ye wish my comfort as much as I wish yours.
4For out of much affliction and anguish of heart I wrote unto you with many tears; not that ye should be grieved, but that ye might know the love which I have more abundantly unto you.
For out of much affliction, etc. - It is very likely that the apostle's enemies had represented him as a harsh, austere, authoritative man; who was better pleased with inflicting wounds than in healing them. But he vindicates himself from this charge by solemnly asserting that this was the most painful part of his office; and that the writing of his first epistle to them cost him much affliction and anguish of heart, and many tears.
5But if any have caused grief, he hath not grieved me, but in part: that I may not overcharge you all.
But, if any have caused grief - Here he seems to refer particularly to the cause of the incestuous person.
Grieved me, but in part - I cannot help thinking that the εκ μερους and απο μερους, which we render in part, and which the apostle uses so frequently in these epistles, are to be referred to the people. A part of them had acknowledged the apostle, 2 Corinthians 1:14; and here, a part of them had given him cause of grief; and therefore he immediately adds, that I may not overcharge you all; as only a part of you has put me to pain, (viz. the transgressor, and those who had taken his part), it would be unreasonable that I should load you all, επιβαρω παντας ὑμας, with the blame which attaches to that party alone.
6Sufficient to such a man is this punishment, which was inflicted of many.
Sufficient to such a man is this punishment - That is, the man has already suffered sufficiently. Here he gives a proof of his parental tenderness towards this great transgressor. He had been disowned by the Church; he had deeply repented; and now the apostle pleads for him.
7So that contrariwise ye ought rather to forgive him, and comfort him, lest perhaps such a one should be swallowed up with overmuch sorrow.
Ye ought rather to forgive him - He had now suffered enough; for the punishment inflicted had answered the end for which it was inflicted; and there was some danger that, if this poor culprit were not restored to the bosom of the Church, his distress and anguish would destroy his life, or drive him to despair.
8Wherefore I beseech you that ye would confirm your love toward him.
That ye would confirm your love toward him - You do love him, notwithstanding the reproach he has brought on the Gospel; and notwithstanding your love to him, ye were obliged to cut him off for the credit of the Gospel. Now that he has repented, I beseech you to confirm, κυρωσαι, to ratify, by a public act of the Church, your love to him; give him the fullest proof that you do love him; by forgiving him and restoring him to his place in the Church.
9For to this end also did I write, that I might know the proof of you, whether ye be obedient in all things.
For to this end also did I write - Εγραψα, I have written this also, the advices and commands which I now give you, that I might know whether ye be obedient in all things.
10To whom ye forgive any thing, I forgive also: for if I forgave any thing, to whom I forgave it, for your sakes forgave I it in the person of Christ;
To whom ye forgive any thing - Here he farther shows them that his sole object in the punishment inflicted on the transgressor, was his amendment and therefore promises to ratify, in the name and authority of Christ, the free pardon which he exhorts them to dispense.
In the person of Christ - As I believe Christ acts towards his penitent soul, so do I. Christ forgives his sin, and takes him to his favor; let us forgive him his offense against the Church, and restore him to its communion.
11Lest Satan should get an advantage of us: for we are not ignorant of his devices.
Lest Satan should get an advantage - If the man who has given sufficient proof of the sincerity of his repentance be not restored, he may be overwhelmed with sorrow, and sink into despair; and then the discipline of the Church will be represented, not as emendatory, but as leading to destruction. Of this our enemies would most gladly avail themselves, as they wish to discredit this ministry; and there is always at hand a devil to suggest evil, and prompt men to do it; for in this respect we have thorough acquaintance with his devices. Let us therefore be careful to remove, both from Satan and his partisans, all those occasions which might turn to the disadvantage or disparagement of the Gospel of Christ.
12Furthermore, when I came to Troas to preach Christ's gospel, and a door was opened unto me of the Lord,
When I came to Troas - After having written the former epistle, and not having heard what effect it had produced on your minds; though the Lord had opened me a particular door to preach the Gospel, in which I so especially rejoice and glory;
13I had no rest in my spirit, because I found not Titus my brother: but taking my leave of them, I went from thence into Macedonia.
I had no rest in my spirit - I was so concerned for you, through the love I bear you, that I was greatly distressed because I did not find Titus returned to give me an account of your state.
But taking my leave of them - I went thence into Macedonia, expecting to find him there; and thither he did come; and gave me a joyous account of your state. See 2 Corinthians 8:6, 2 Corinthians 8:7.
14Now thanks be unto God, which always causeth us to triumph in Christ, and maketh manifest the savour of his knowledge by us in every place.
Now, thanks be unto God - His coming dispelled all my fears, and was the cause of the highest satisfaction to my mind; and filled my heart with gratitude to God, who is the Author of all good, and who always causes us to triumph in Christ; not only gives us the victory, but such a victory as involves the total ruin of our enemies; and gives us cause of triumphing in him, through whom we have obtained this victory.
A triumph, among the Romans, to which the apostle here alludes, was a public and solemn honor conferred by them on a victorious general, by allowing him a magnificent procession through the city.
This was not granted by the senate unless the general had gained a very signal and decisive victory; conquered a province, etc. On such occasions the general was usually clad in a rich purple robe, interwoven with figures of gold, setting forth the grandeur of his achievements; his buskins were beset with pearls, and he wore a crown, which at first was of laurel, but was afterwards of pure gold. In one hand he had a branch of laurel, the emblem of victory; and in the other, his truncheon. He was carried in a magnificent chariot, adorned with ivory and plates of gold, and usually drawn by two white horses. (Other animals were also used: when Pompey triumphed over Africa, his chariot was drawn by elephants; that of Mark Antony, by lions; that of Heliogabalus, by tigers; and that of Aurelius, by deer.) His children either sat at his feet in the chariot, or rode on the chariot horses. To keep him humble amidst these great honors a slave stood at his back, casting out incessant railings, and reproaches; and carefully enumerating all his vices, etc. Musicians led up the procession, and played triumphal pieces in praise of the general; and these were followed by young men, who led the victims which were to be sacrificed on the occasion, with their horns gilded, and their heads and necks adorned with ribbons and garlands. Next followed carts loaded with the spoils taken from the enemy, with their horses, chariots, etc. These were followed by the kings, princes, or generals taken in the war, loaded with chains. Immediately after these came the triumphal chariot, before which, as it passed, the people strewed flowers, and shouted Io, triumphe!
The triumphal chariot was followed by the senate; and the procession was closed by the priests and their attendants, with the different sacrificial utensils, and a white ox, which was to be the chief victim. They then passed through the triumphal arch, along the via sacra to the capitol, where the victims were slain.
During this time all the temples were opened, and every altar smoked with offerings and incense.
The people at Corinth were sufficiently acquainted with the nature of a triumph: about two hundred years before this, Lucius Mummius, the Roman consul, had conquered all Achaia, destroyed Corinth, Thebes, and Chalcis; and, by order of the senate, had a grand triumph, and was surnamed Achaicus. St. Paul had now a triumph (but of a widely different kind) over the same people; his triumph was in Christ, and to Christ he gives all the glory; his sacrifice was that of thanksgiving to his Lord; and the incense offered on the occasion caused the savour of the knowledge of Christ to be manifested in every place. As the smoke of the victims and incense offered on such an occasion would fill the whole city with their perfume, so the odour of the name and doctrine of Christ filled the whole of Corinth and the neighboring regions; and the apostles appeared as triumphing in and through Christ, over devils, idols, superstition, ignorance, and vice, wherever they came.
15For we are unto God a sweet savour of Christ, in them that are saved, and in them that perish:
For we are unto God a sweet savor of Christ - The apostle still alludes to the case of a triumph; the conqueror always represented the person of Jupiter; as even the heathens supposed that God alone could give the victory: and as the punishment of death was inflicted on some of the captives, who had often rebelled and broken leagues and covenants; so others were spared, made tributaries, and often became allies. Alluding to this, the apostle says: We are a sweet savour to God - we have fulfilled his will in faithfully proclaiming the Gospel, and fighting against sin. And as he has determined that those who believe shall be saved, and those who believe not shall perish, we are equally acceptable to him though we unsuccessfully preach the Gospel to some who obstinately reject it, and so perish, as we are in preaching to others who believe, and are saved.
16To the one we are the savour of death unto death; and to the other the savour of life unto life. And who is sufficient for these things?
To the one we are the savour of death unto death - There are several sayings among the ancient Jewish writers similar to this. In Debarim Rabba, sec. i. fol. 248, it is said: "As the bee brings home honey to its owner, but stings others; so it is with the words of the law;" סם חיים לישראל sam chaiyim leyisrael, "They are a savour of lives to the Israelites:" וסם המות לאומות העולם vesam hammaveth leomoth haolam, "And a savour of death to the people of this world." The learned reader may see much more to this effect in Schoettgen. The apostle's meaning is plain: those who believe and receive the Gospel are saved; those who reject it, perish. The meaning of the rabbins is not less plain: the Israelites received the law and the prophets as from God, and thus possessed the means of salvation; the Gentiles ridiculed and despised them, and thus continued in the path of death. The same happens to the present day to those who receive and to those who reject the Gospel: it is the means of salvation to the former, it is the means of destruction to the latter; for they are not only not saved because they do not believe the Gospel, but they are condemned because they reject it. For how can they escape who neglect so great a salvation? The sun which nourishes the tree that is planted in a good soil, decomposes and destroys it if plucked up and laid on the surface.
That the saved, σωζομενοι, and they that perish, απολλυμενοι, mean those who receive and obey the Gospel, and those who reject it and live and die in sin, needs no proof. No other kinds of reprobate and elect, in reference to the eternal world, are known in the Book of God, though they abound in the books of men. The Jews were possessed with such an exalted opinion of their own excellence that they imagined that all the love and mercy of God were concentrated among themselves, and that God never would extend his grace to the Gentiles.
Such sentiments may become Jews but when we find some Gentiles arrogating to themselves all the salvation of God, and endeavoring to prove that he has excluded the major part even of their own world - the Gentiles, from the possibility of obtaining mercy; and that God has made an eternal purpose, that the death of Christ shall never avail them, and that no saving grace shall ever be granted to them, and that they shall infallibly and eternally perish; what shall we say to such things? It is Judaism in its worst shape: Judaism with innumerable deteriorations. The propagators of such systems must answer for them to God.
Who is sufficient for these things? - Is it the false apostle that has been labouring to pervert you? Or, is it the men to whom God has given an extraordinary commission, and sealed it by the miraculous gifts of the Holy Ghost? That this is the apostle's meaning is evident from the following verse.
17For we are not as many, which corrupt the word of God: but as of sincerity, but as of God, in the sight of God speak we in Christ.
For we are not as many, which corrupt the word of God - God has made Us sufficient for these things by giving us his own pure doctrine, the ministry of reconciliation, which we conscientiously preserve and preach; and we act, not like many among you, who, having received that doctrine, corrupt it; mingling with it their own inventions, and explaining away its force and influence, so as to accommodate it to men of carnal minds.
The word καπηλευοντες, from καπηλος, a tavernkeeper, signifies acting like an unprincipled vintner; for this class of men have ever been notorious for adulterating their wines, mixing them with liquors of no worth, that thereby they might increase their quantity; and thus the mixture was sold for the same price as the pure wine. Isaiah 1:22, Thy wine is mixed with water, the Septuagint thus translate: οἱ καπηλοι σου μισγουσι τον οινον ὑδατι· "Thy vintners mix thy wine with water;" that is, thy false prophets and corrupt priests adulterate the word of God, and render it of none effect, by their explanations and traditions.
The word has been used, both among the Greeks and Latins, to signify a prostitution of what was right and just, for the sake of gain. So Herodian, lib. vi. cap. 11; Ειρηνην χρυσιου καπηλευοντες, "Making peace for money." So cauponari bellum is, "To make war for money." In short, the word is used to signify any artifice employed to get gain by making a thing look more or better than it is; or mingling that which is excellent with what is not so to promote the gain of the adulterater.
It is used by Aristophanes, Plut. Act. iv., scene 5, ver. 1064, to express an old woman who was patched and painted to hide her deformity.
Ου δητ', επει μεν νυν καπηλικως εχει·
Ει δ' εκπλυνειται τουτο το ψιμυθιον,
Οψει καταδηλα του προσωπου γε τα ῥακη.
Not at all; the old woman is painted:
If the paint were washed off, then you
Would plainly see her wrinkled face.
Where see the note of the Scholiast, who observes that the term is applied to those who deal in clothes, patching, mending, etc., as well as to those who mix bad wine with good. Καπηλικως εχει· Πανουργικως· επει οἱ καπηλοι χριειν και αναποιειν τα ἱματια ειωθασι, και τον οινον δε νωθυλευουσι, συμμιγνυντες αυτῳ σαπρον. Vid. Kusteri Aristoph., page 45.
But as of sincerity - Εξ ειλικρινειας. See the note on 2 Corinthians 1:12. We receive the doctrine pure from God; we keep it pure, and deliver it in its purity to mankind. For we speak in Christ - in the things of his Gospel, as being in the sight of God - our whole souls and all their motives being known to him. As the unprincipled vintner knows that he adulterates the wine, his conscience testifying this; so we know that we deliver the sincere truth of God, our conscience witnessing that we deliver it to you, as we receive it, by the inspiration of the Spirit of truth.
1. That St. Paul was a man of a very tender and loving spirit is evident from all his epistles; but especially from this, and particularly from the chapter before us. It was not an easy thing with him to give a reproof; and nothing but a sense of his duty to God and his Church could have led him to use his apostolical power, to inflict spiritual punishment on transgressors. He felt like a loving and tender father, who, being obliged to correct his froward and disobedient child, feels in his own heart the pain of a hundred blows for that occasioned by one laid on the body of his son. There are some ministers who think nothing of cutting off members from the Church of Christ; they seem to do it, if not cheerfully, yet with indifference and unconcern! How can this be? Nothing but absolute duty to God should induce any man to separate any person from the visible Church; and then it must be on the conviction that the case is totally hopeless. And who, even in those circumstances, that knows the worth of a soul, can do it without torture of heart?
2. We must not only love the doctrines, but also the morality of the Gospel. He who loves this will not corrupt it; but, as Quesnel says truly, in order to love the truth a man must practice it; as in order to practice it he must love it. That a minister, says he, may preach the word of God in such a manner as is worthy of him, he must, with St. Paul, be always mindful of these three things:
1. That he be sent by God, and that he speak directly from him, and as his ambassador.
2. That he speak as in his presence, and under his immediate inspection.
3. That he consider himself as being in the place of Christ, and endeavor to minister to the souls of men, as he has reason to believe Christ would do, were he in the place; and as he knows Christ did, when he sojourned among men.
The minister of the Gospel is Christ's ambassador; and he prays men in Christ's stead to be reconciled to God. See 2 Corinthians 5:20. The people should consider the nature of this embassage, and receive it as coming immediately from God, that it may accomplish the end for which he has sent it.