Matthew Poole's English Annotations
on the Holy Bible
2 Corinthians 1
2 CORINTHIANS CHAPTER 1
2 Corinthians 1:1,2 Paul saluteth the Corinthians,
2 Corinthians 1:3-7 and blesseth God for the comforts and deliverances
given him, not solely for his own sake, but for the
comfort and encouragement of others also.
2 Corinthians 1:8-11 He telleth them of a deliverance he had lately had
from a great danger in Asia, and expresseth his trust
in God's protection for the future through their prayers.
2 Corinthians 1:12-14 He calleth both his own conscience and theirs to
witness his sincerity in preaching the gospel,
2 Corinthians 1:15-22 and excuseth his not coming to them, as not
proceeding from lightness,
2 Corinthians 1:23,24 but from lenity towards them.
The will of God here doth not signify the bare permission, but the calling and precept of God; he was called to be an apostle, Romans 1:1 1 Corinthians 1:1, making him a minister and a witness, Acts 26:16. His joining of Timothy with him, showeth both the great humility of the apostle, and his desire to give him a reputation in the churches, though he was a very young man. The Epistle is not directed only to the church of God which was at Corinth, (the metropolis of Peloponnesus), but also to all those Christians which lived in Achaia: by which name probably he doth not understand all Greece, (though that anciently had that name, from one Achaeus, that was king there, from whom the Grecians had the name of Achivi,) but that region of Peloponnesus which lay in a neck of land between the Aegean and Ionian Seas; which obtained that name in a more special and restrained sense.
This was the apostle’s common salutation, Romans 1:7. See Poole on "Romans 1:7". 1 Corinthians 1:3; where it is observable, that not the Father only, but the Lord Jesus Christ is invoked, and made the Author of grace, which is the free love of God, and of peace, which signifieth either reconciliation with God upon the free pardon of our sin, or union with men, and brotherly love amongst themselves. The heathens used to begin their epistles with wishing one another health and prosperity; but the apostle hath shown us a more Christian way, and more suited to the faith of Christians, who believe the love and favour of God the greatest and most desirable blessings.
It is a usual form of thanksgiving, Romans 1:25 9:5. It is in use with us, signifying our sincere and hearty desire that both we ourselves might be enabled, and others by our examples might be quickened, to speak well of God, and to praise his name. This God is called
the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, that is, by eternal generation: he is also called
the Father of mercies, because he is the Fountain of all that good which floweth to poor creatures. And upon the same account he is also called
the God of all comfort.
Who comforteth us in all our tribulation; us, who are the ministers of the gospel, (as it may appear by what followeth), for the apostle saith, that God doth it, that ministers might, from the comforts wherewith God had comforted them, be able to comfort his people when they are under any trouble, either of body or mind, by the same methods and arguments which the Holy Spirit had used and brought to their minds under trouble to relieve any of them. Two things are observable from this verse:
1. That the apostle attributeth all the support, relief, and comfort, which he had under any tribulation, to God, as the Fountain and Author of all mercy; for though possibly our comforts may be caused from the application of some promises in holy writ, either called to our minds by the act of our own minds, or brought to our remembrance by some others; yet it is God who must make those plasters to stick, and to become healing and sanative to our souls: so that he is the principal efficient cause, though the Scriptures, or men, may be instrumental causes.
2. That the gifts, graces, and mercies that God bestowed upon his ministers, are bestowed upon them, not merely for their own use, but for the use and good of others; to enable them to be serviceable in doing good to others’ souls.
He calleth his and the other apostles’ sufferings, the sufferings of Christ, either because they were sufferings for Christ, that is, for doing the work which Christ had given them to do; or his and their personal sufferings, as members of that body of which Christ is the Head. Christ calleth Saul’s persecuting the saints, a persecuting of himself, Acts 9:4. Thus we read of Paul’s filling up that which is behind of the afflictions of Christ, Colossians 1:24.
So our consolation also aboundeth by Christ; but, saith the apostle, blessed be God, as we have many sufferings for Christ, so also we have many consolations by Christ. Christ, as God, is the efficient cause of the saints’ consolation; as Mediator, dying for us, he is the meritorious cause; and it is by his Spirit (who is called the Comforter) that they are applied to us.
And whether we be afflicted, it is for your consolation and salvation; our sufferings tend to your consolation and salvation, your souls being upheld and supported by the sight of our boldness, and courage, and confidence in our sufferings: thus, Philippians 1:13,14: My bonds in Christ are manifest in all the palace, and in all other places; and many of the brethren in the Lord, waxing confident by my bonds, are much more bold to speak the word without fear. And his sufferings also were for their salvation, as they encouraged them to suffer also; and, if we suffer with him, we shall reign with him; and our light and momentary afflictions shall work for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory, 2 Corinthians 4:17.
Which is effectual in the enduring of the same sufferings which we also suffer; and (saith the apostle) our suffering hath had a good effect amongst you, while you, with faith and patience, endure sufferings of the same sort which we endure and suffer.
Or whether we be comforted, it is for your consolation and salvation; and if we be supported, upheld, and comforted under our sufferings, the advantage of this also redoundeth to you, as you are encouraged to suffer for the gospel and profession of Christ, from seeing how God supporteth us under our sufferings.
We have a stedfast hope of you, that as you have endured sufferings for Christ and his gospel, so you will still endure them, as we have done. And we know,
that as you are partakers of the sufferings of Christ and his gospel, so you shall also share in those Divine consolations that those feel who endure such sufferings.
We are at a great loss to determine what these troubles were in Asia, of which the apostle doth here speak. We read of several troubles Paul met with in Asia: it was there he was in danger through the tumult raised by Demetrius, Acts 19:23. It was there (at Ephesus) where he fought with beasts after the manner of men, as he told us in the former Epistle, 1 Corinthians 15:32. Whoso readeth Acts 19:1-41 and Acts 20:1-38, will find the largest account we have in Scripture of the troubles Paul met with in Asia. But this Epistle is thought to have been written at a time that will not agree to the time of those troubles; therefore they are thought to have been some troubles of which we have a mention no where else in holy writ.
We were pressed out of measure, above strength, insomuch that we despaired even of life: whatsoever they were, this text tells us they were very great, and above his natural strength to have borne; some think, above the strength of ordinary Christians, insomuch that if the apostle had not found the more than ordinary assistances of the Spirit of God, he could not have stood under them.
But we had the sentence of death in ourselves; we verily thought we should have been killed; and so it is expounded by the last words of the former verse,
we despaired even of life. And this God did to teach us, that we should, when we are in dangers, look above the creature, and have no confidence in created means, but only look up to him, who
raiseth the dead; as Abraham offered up Isaac, Hebrews 11:17-19, accounting that God was able to raise him up, even from the dead. Abraham had a promise to bottom such a faith upon; God had told him: That in Isaac his seed should be called: so had Paul, God having revealed to him, that he had a farther work for him to do. So have not all Christians; we do not know our courses, nor what work God hath in his eternal counsels laid out for us, and therefore cannot be confident of deliverances in this life by the Almighty power of God; but yet we, under our greatest trials, may trust in God, who will certainly raise us from the dead; of which faith we have an instance in Job, Job 19:25-27. However, for our comfort in our distresses we may observe: That God, in his great deliverances of his people, useth to suffer them first to be brought to the greatest extremities; that in the mount of the Lord it may be seen, and that they may learn to know that their salvations are from him; more from his Almighty power, than from the virtue of any means they can use, though yet it be our duty to use what lawful means his providence affordeth us.
So great a death, in this text, signifies no more than so great a trial of affliction; as he elsewhere saith, he was in deaths often, that is, in dangers of death. Nor (saith the apostle) were we only at that time in danger of our lives, nor had we only at that time an experience of God’s power, goodness, and faithfulness in our deliverance; but we are in jeopardy every hour, and experience the power of God in our deliverance yet every day. And it being for the advantage of the church of Christ, that our lives should be prolonged, (thuogh we desire rather to be dissolved, and to be with Christ), we are confident
that he will yet deliver. Former experiences of God’s goodness in delivering us out of troubles, ought to increase our faith, and beget a confidence in us, that God will yet deliver us, if it may be for his own glory, and our good.
Ye also helping together by prayer for us: faith ought; not to hinder prayer; nor doth God’s principal efficiency, as to any mercy or deliverance bestowed upon us, give a supersedeas to us, as to the use of any means, whether natural or spiritual, by which the mercy may be obtained. Nor are the prayers of the meanest saints useless for the greatest, or beneath their desires; men and women’s favour with God depends not upon their order, station, and repute in the world.
That for the gift bestowed upon us by the means of many persons thanks may be given by many on our behalf: by the gift here he means the deliverance before mentioned; which he calls a gift, to denote, not only God’s principal efficiency in it, but his free bestowing of it: this gift (saith he) is
bestowed by the means of many, because obtained upon the intercession or prayers of many. God doth therefore bestow mercies upon particular persons at the intercession of many others on their behalf, that he may not only have the praises of those persons upon whom he so bestoweth the mercy, but of those who have been so praying. The apostle hereby hinteth to us, that we ought no more to forget to give thanks for others, for whom God hath heard us, than to pray for them when in distress.
He declareth the confidence that he had, that he should not want their prayers, because his own heart told him, to his joy and satisfaction, that however others might reproach him, as if he had carried himself deceitfully, or craftily, yet he had not done so, but had lived in the world in all
simplicity and sincerity of God (so the Greek is). Simplicity is opposed to double-mindedness; where there is a composition in a man, a mixture of truth and falsehood, fairness in speech and falsehood in heart or action. Sincerity is opposed to hypocrisy. It is said to be of God, because he is the God of truth, hath commanded it, approveth it, worketh it, and disposeth the heart of man to it. This is opposed to fleshly wisdom, which prompteth a man to seek his own ends any way, good or bad.
But (saith the apostle) we have had our conversation in the world, not by the guidance of any such corrupt habit or principle, but by the grace of God, the love and fear of God dwelling in us; or, we have done this, not of ourselves, but by the guidance and assistance of Divine grace, helping us so to live, and to have our conversation in the world.
And more abundantly to you-ward; and more especially you are our witnesses of this, amongst whom we have preached the gospel freely, so as we have not made it chargeable to you.
I do not tell you stories; the things which I write, and which you read, either in my Epistles to you, or to other churches of Christ, are what you know, must own and acknowledge, to be truth; and I hope you shall acknowledge them to be so to the end both of my life and yours.
In part, may either refer to persons or things; part of you have so owned and acknowledged us, though others of you have abused us. Or you have in part, or at some times, owned us, that you had cause to bless God for us, and to rejoice that God ever sent us to preach the gospel amongst you. And as some have owned us as their joy, or all of you have at some times acknowledged us as such, so you are also
our rejoicing; we rejoice tllat God hath made our labour successful to your souls, and I trust, in the day when the Lord Jesus shall come to judge the world, you shall be more our rejoicing.
Being confident that my presence with you would be matter of rejoicing both to you and also to me, I purposed: to come unto you before I went into Macedonia, visiting you shortly in my journey thither, that so you might have, a second longer visit in kindness to you. We find, Acts 16:9, that Paul received his first call into Macedonia in a vision; we read again of his passing through Macedonia to go to Jerusalem: the apostle seemeth to speak here of the latter.
He had purposed to take Corinth in his way unto Macedonia, and after he had finished his business in Macedonia, his resolutions were to have come back to Corinth, and to stay with them some time, hoping to have some of their company some part of the way toward Judea: but it seems, though he thus purposed, yet God had otherwise ordered his motions.
When I therefore was thus minded, did I use lightness? Though the apostle doth not in so many words tell us so, yet it is apparent from this verse, that some of the Corinthians had taken occasion from his not coming at this time to Corinth, to charge him with levity and inconstancy, as if his words were not to be regarded. It is very observable, how little things the men of the world will take advantage from, to vilify and lessen the reputation of God’s faithful ministers and people. How many others might have promised to be in such a place at such a time, and have failed, without the reproach of the men of the world! Who would have been so charitable to them, as to have excused them, by saying: They spake according to their present intentions and resolutions, but they were hindered by the providence of God; but if Paul fails, they will interpret it to be from the lightness and inconstancy of his mind: so charitable is the world to its own; so uncharitable to those who are not of the world, but by God called out of the world. From this imputation the apostle cleareth himself, denying that he used lightness, and that his not coming proceeded from any levity or inconstancy of mind; for he did fully purpose to have come.
Or the things that I purpose, do I purpose according to the flesh? Or (saith he) did I purpose after the manner of carnal men, who make no conscience of their word, who promise and deny both in a breath?
That with me there should be yea yea, and nay nay; should there be in me such a spirit as to speak a thing with my lips which my heart doth not agree to? This lets us know, that truth and steadiness are things which do highly commend either a minister or a Christian, but especially him who is a minister of the gospel.
As God is true to his promises, so he hath taught me to be true to mine. Some make these words not to be merely declarative of the truth of God, but a kind of an oath, or calling the God of truth to witness, that his
word toward them; by which some understand the gospel, or the word which he had preached amongst them (and of that indeed he speaketh in the next verse); but to me it seemeth much less strained, to interpret Paul’s word, in this verse, of that word of promise of which he had before spoken, the promise which he owned before that he had made them of his coming to them. That
word, he saith, was not yea and nay, that is, he did not make it with a quite contrary intention; but when he promised, he faithfully intended to have justified his word, and indeed to have come; but the providence of God, to which all men are subjected, had otherwise ordered him and disposed of him; which was the cause why he had not yet been as good as his word. It is very observable, how careful this great apostle was to clear himself from any imputations of levity and falsehood; and it should teach us to be careful to maintain our reputation in the world for truth and steadiness.
The apostle here glveth a reason why he had made truth and sincerity so much his business (which reason obligeth us also, who are as much bound as he to study a conformity to Christ); saith he:
The Son of God, who was preached among you, that is, Jesus Christ; who, though (as some observe) he is in these Epistles no where called God, but Lord, is here called
the Son of God; which can be understood in no other sense, than by eternal generation; for those who are only the sons of God by adoption, are not the subjects of ministers’ preaching. We read of this Silvanus, 1 Thessalonians 1:1 1 Peter 5:12: some think that he was the same person who is called Silas, Acts 16:19.
Timothy we have heard before. They were both ministers who (as well as Apollos before mentioned) had laboured in the gospel amongst the Corinthians.
Was not yea and nay, but in him was yea: now (saith the apostle) that Christ, whom both I, and other ministers of the gospel, have preached to you, is not uncertain and unconstant, one thing at one time, and in one place, another thing at another time, and in another place. He was only one and the same; his doctrine was always certain and uniform, and consistent with itself; and our conversation ought to be suitable to him and his doctrine.
As Christ was yea, and all his doctrine certain and uniform, so all the promises of God are yea; the promises of the Messiah have their yea and Amen in him; all the promises of grace, whatsoever is promised to believers, shall be verified by him, that so God may be glorified, and have from men the honour of being always esteemed a true and faithful God, one that cannot fail and falsify his word. But how are the promises of God yea and Amen in Christ by us?
Answer. As the ministers of the gospel are the ministers of Christ for the explication and application of them. The promises are from the Father, through Christ as the meritorious cause, and internally applied by the Holy Spirit, while they are more externally applied by the ministers of the gospel.
The anointing here mentioned is, doubtless, the same mentioned by St. John, 1 John 2:20,27, by which is understood the Holy Spirit: so as God’s anointing his people signifies his giving them his Holy Spirit, to dwell and to work in them; which Holy Spirit diffuseth itself throughout the whole soul of the believer, as the oil of old poured out upon the heads of the kings, high priests, and prophets. Believers are said to be anointed, because God hath, by his Spirit given to them, declared, that he hath set them apart to be kings and priests, a royal priesthood. The same God also establisheth their souls both in faith and love, and all in Christ; in him as our Head, and through him as the meritorious cause of all that grace wherein we stand. It is observable, that how much soever vain man may ascribe to the power of man’s will, yet the blessed apostle attributeth all to God; both our anointing, the first infusion of gracious habits, and also our establishing. It is grace by which we stand.
The use of a seal is for confirmation of the thing to which it is affixed; the effect of it is the making the impression of itself upon the wax: so as sealing us, both in this and other texts, signifies both the confirmation of the love of God to our souls, and also the renewing and sanctification of our natures, imprinting the image of God upon our souls, making us (as the apostle Peter saith, 2 Peter 1:4) partakers of the Divine nature; but the first seemeth probably to be most intended here.
And given the earnest of the Spirit in our hearts: we have the same expression, 2 Corinthians 5:5 Ephesians 1:14. We read of the first-fruits of the Spirit, Romans 8:23. The giving unto believers the Holy Spirit, and those saving spiritual habits which are his effects in the soul, are both the first-fruits and an earnest; for as the first-fruits assured the harvest, and the earnest is a sure pledge of the bargain, when those who give it are honest and faithful; so the sanctifying habits, wrought in the soul by the Spirit of holiness, are a certain pledge of that glory which shall be the portion of believers.
Here is a perfect form of an oath, which is nothing else but a solemn calling of God to witness the truth of what we speak, whether promising or asserting. Those words,
upon my soul, also have the force of an imprecation; but it is in a very serious thing: the apostle was deeply charged with levity, for not making good his promise in coming; and because he reasonably presumed, that some amongst them would be difficult to believe the true cause, to gain credit with them, he takes a voluntary oath, which in weighty matters is lawful (though sometimes it be done not before a magistrate). The thing he thus attests is: That he hitherto had forborne to come out of kindness to them; to
spare them, (as he phraseth it), which may either be understood of their purses, for he could not have gone without some charge to them, though he took no standing salary from them for preaching: or (as others possibly judge better) to spare their persons; for if he had come before they had reformed those abuses that were amongst them, he must (as he before spake) have come unto them with a rod.
Not for that we have dominion over your faith; not (say some) that we pretend or boast of any dominion over you because of your faith, as if upon that account we would be chargeable, and exact monies of you. But their interpretation is better, who think that by these words the apostle removes from himself, and much more from all inferior ministers, any power of imposing upon people to believe any thing, but what God had in his word revealed as the object of faith. He had in the verse before used the phrase spare you, which he thought might sound harsh in their ears, and give some occasion to carp at him, as if he designed some lordly power over them: No, (saith the apostle), though I speak of sparing you, I intend no exercise of lordly power,
but only to promote your joy, by removing those things which hinder your true rejoicing. Your present glorying is not good, while these disorders, contrary to the will of God, are amongst you; and you are full of contentions and divisions, which hinder your comfortable society and communion together, as one body.
For by faith ye stand; the most of you stand in the faith (so some interpret this). I should rather make this the sense, by faith you must stand; if you err in matters of faith, (as some of this church had done in the business of the resurrection, as the apostle told us in 1 Corinthians 15:1-58), you fall; you no longer stand than you keep the faith pure and uncorrupt. For, because of their errors as to the resurrection, I cannot tell how to make the apostle’s sense to be what some learned men make it to bear, that he had nothing to blame in them in matters of faith, but only in some things referring to order; and therefore they need not to suspect his exercise of any dominion over their faith.
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Poole, Matthew, "Commentary on 2 Corinthians 1". Matthew Poole's English Annotations on the Holy Bible. https://beta.studylight.org/
the Week of Proper 20 / Ordinary 25