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SermonIndex.net : Christian Books : 2 Corinthians 1:6-11

Commentary On Corinthians Volume 2 by Jean Calvin

2 Corinthians 1:6-11

6. And whether we be afflicted, it is for your consolation and salvation, which is effectual in the enduring of the same sufferings which we also suffer: or whether we be comforted, it is for your consolation and salvation.

6. Sive autem affligimur pro vestra consolatione et salute, quae efficitur in tolerantia ipsarum passionum, quas et nos patimur: sive consolationem accipimus pro vestra consolatione et salute:

7. And our hope of you is stedfast, knowing, that as ye are partakers of the sufferings, so shall ye be also of the consolation.

7. Spes nostra firma est de vobis, scientes, quod quemadmodum socii estis passionum, ita et consolationis.

8. For we would not, brethren, have you ignorant of our trouble which came to us in Asia, that we were pressed out of measure, above strength, insomuch that we despaired even of life:

8. Nolo enim vos nescire, fratres, de tribulatione nostra, quae accidit nobis in Asia: nempe quod praeter modum gravati fuerimus supra vires, ita ut de vita quoque anxii essemus.

9. But we had the sentence of death in ourselves, that we should not trust in ourselves, but in God which raiseth the dead:

9. Quin etiam ipsi in nobis ipsis sententiam mortis acceperamus: ne confideremus in nobis, sed in Deo, qui ad vitam suscitat mortuos:

10. Who delivered us from so great a death, and doth deliver: in whom we trust that he will yet deliver us;

10. Qui ex tanta morte eripuit nos, et eripit, in quo spem fixam habemus, quod etiam posthaec eripiet;

11. Ye also helping together by prayer for us, that for the gift bestowed upon us by the means of many persons thanks may be given by many on our behalf.

11. Simul adiuvantibus et vobis per deprecationem pro nobis: ut donum, ex multis personis erga nos collatum, gratiarum actione per multos celebretur pro nobis.

6. Whether we are afflicted. From the circumstance that before the clause our hope of you is steadfast, there is introduced the connecting particle and, Erasmus has conceived the idea, that some word must be understood to correspond with those words -- for your consolation and salvation -- in this way, whether we are afflicted, IT IS for your consolation. I think it, however, more probable, that the connecting particle and is used here as meaning: Thus also, or in both cases. He had already stated, that he received consolation in order that he might communicate it to others. Now he goes a step farther, and says, that he has a steadfast hope, that they would be partakers of the consolation Besides, some of the most ancient Greek manuscripts introduce immediately after the first clause this statement -- and our hope of you is steadfast. This reading removes all ambiguity. For when it is introduced in the middle, we must necessarily refer it to the latter clause, equally as to the former. At the same time, if any one wishes to have a complete sentence in each clause, by supplying some verb, there will be no great harm in this, and there will be no great difference as to the meaning. For if you read it as one continued statement, you must, at the same time, explain the different parts in this manner -- that the Apostle is afflicted, and is refreshed with consolation for the advantage of the Corinthians; and that he entertains, therefore, the hope, that they will be at length partakers of the same consolation, with what is in reserve for himself. For my own part, I have adopted the way that I have judged the more suitable.

It is, however, to be observed, that the word afflicted here refers not merely to outward misery, but also to that of the mind, so as to correspond with the opposite term comforted. (parakaleisthai ) Thus the meaning is, that the person's mind is pressed down with anxiety from a feeling of misery. What we render consolation, is in the Greek paraklesis, -- a term which signifies also exhortation. If, however, you understand that kind of consolation, by which a person's mind is lightened of grief, and is raised above it, you will be in possession of Paul's meaning. For example, Paul himself would well-nigh have fallen down dead under the pressure of so many afflictions, had not God encouraged him, by raising him up by means of his consolation. Thus, too, the Corinthians derive strength and fortitude of mind from his sufferings, while they take comfort from his example. Let us now sum up the whole matter briefly. As he saw that his afflictions were made by some an occasion of holding him in contempt, with the view of calling back the Corinthians from an error of this nature, he shows in the first place that he ought to be in high esteem among them, in consideration of advantage redounding to themselves; and then afterwards he associates them with himself, that they may reckon his afflictions to be in a manner their own. |Whether I suffer afflictions, or experience consolation, it is all for your benefit, and I cherish an assured hope, that you will continue to enjoy this advantage.|

For such were Paul's afflictions, and his consolations also, that they would have contributed to the edification of the Corinthians, had not the Corinthians of their own accord deprived themselves of the advantage redounding from it. He, accordingly, declares his confidence in the Corinthians to be such, that he entertains the assured hope that it will not be vain, that he has been afflicted, and has received consolation for their advantage. The false apostles made every effort to turn to Paul's reproach everything that befell him. Had they obtained their wish, the afflictions which he endured for their salvation, had been vain and fruitless; they would have derived no advantage from the consolations with which the Lord refreshed him. To contrivances of this nature he opposes his present confidence. His afflictions tended to promote the comfort of believers, as furnishing them with occasion of confirmation, on their perceiving that he suffered willingly, and endured with fortitude so many hardships for the sake of the gospel. For however we may acknowledge that afflictions ought to be endured by us for the sake of the gospel, we, nevertheless, tremble through a consciousness of our weakness, and think ourselves not prepared for it. In that case, we should call to mind the examples of the saints, which should make us more courageous.

On the other hand, his personal consolation flowed out to the whole Church, inasmuch as they concluded, that God who had sustained and refreshed him in his emergency, would, in like manner, not be wanting to them. Thus their welfare was promoted in both ways, and this is what he introduces as it were by way of parenthesis, when he says -- which is made effectual in the endurance, etc. For he wished to add this clause, by way of explanation, that they might not think that they had nothing to do with the afflictions which he alone endured. Erasmus takes the participle goumenes in an active sense, but a passive signification is more suitable, as Paul designed simply to explain in what respect everything that befell him was for their salvation. He says, accordingly, that he suffers, indeed, alone, but that his sufferings are of use for promoting their salvation -- not as though they were expiations or sacrifices for sins, but as edifying them by confirming them. Hence he conjoins consolation and salvation, with the view of pointing out the way in which their salvation was to be accomplished.

7. Knowing, that as However there might be some of the Corinthians that were drawn away for the time by the calumnies of the false Apostles, so as to entertain less honorable views of Paul, on seeing him shamefully handled before the world, he, nevertheless, associates them with himself both in fellowship of afflictions, and in hope of consolation. Thus he corrects their perverse and malignant view, without subjecting them to an open rebuke.

8. For I would not have you ignorant He makes mention of the greatness and difficulty of his conflicts, that the glory of victory may thereby the more abundantly appear. Since the time of his sending them the former epistle, he had been exposed to great dangers, and had endured violent assaults. The probability, however, is that he refers here to the history, which Luke relates in Acts 19:23, though in that passage he does not so distinctly intimate the extent of the danger. As, however, he states that the whole city was in a tumult, (Acts 19:29,) it is easy from this to infer the rest. For we know what is the usual effect of a popular tumult, when it has been once kindled. By this persecution Paul declares he had been oppressed beyond measure, nay more, above strength, that is, so as not to be able to endure the burden. For it is a metaphor taken from persons who give way under the pressure of a heavy load, or from ships that sink from being overladen -- not that he had actually fainted, but that he felt that his strength would have failed him, if the Lord had not imparted fresh strength.

So that we were in anxiety even as to life itself -- that is, |So that I thought life was gone, or at least I had very little hope of it remaining, as those are wont to feel who are shut up so as to see no way of escape.| Was then so valiant a soldier of Christ, so brave a wrestler, left without strength, so as to look for nothing but death? For he mentions it as the reason of what he had stated -- that he despaired of life. I have already observed, that Paul does not measure his strength in connection with help from God, but according to his own personal feeling of his ability. Now there can be no doubt, that all human strength must give way before the fear of death. Farther, it is necessary that even saints themselves should be in danger of an entire failure of strength, that, being put in mind of their own weakness, they may learn, agreeably to what follows, to place their entire dependence on God alone. At the same time I have preferred to explain the word exaporeisthai, which is made use of by Paul, as denoting a trembling anxiety, rather than render it, as Erasmus has done by the word despair; because he simply means, that he was hemmed in by the greatest difficulties, so that no means of preserving life seemed to remain.

9. Nay more, we had the sentence of death This is as though we should say -- |I had already laid my account with dying, or had regarded it as a thing fixed.| He borrows, however, a similitude from those who are under sentence of death, and look for nothing but the hour when they are to die. At the same time he says, that this sentence had been pronounced by him upon himself, by which he intimates, that it was in his own view that he had been sentenced to death -- that he might not seem to have had it from any revelation from God. In this sentence, therefore, there is something more implied than in the feeling of anxiety (exaporeisthai) that he had made mention of, because in the former case there was despair of life, but in this case there is certain death. We must, however, take notice, chiefly, of what he adds as to the design -- that he had been reduced to this extremity, that he might not trust in himself For I do not agree with what Chrysostom says -- that the Apostle did not stand in need of such a remedy, but set himself forth to others as a pattern merely in appearance. For he was a man that was subject, in other respects, to like passions as other men -- (James 5:17) -- not merely to cold and heat, but also to misdirected confidence, rashness, and the like. I do not say that he was addicted to these vices, but this I say, that he was capable of being tempted to them, and that this was the remedy that God seasonably interposed, that they might not make their way into his mind.

There are, accordingly, two things to be observed here. In the first place -- that the fleshly confidence with which we are puffed up, is so obstinate, that it cannot be overthrown in any other way than by our falling into utter despair. For as the flesh is proud, it does not willingly give way, and never ceases to be insolent until it has been constrained; nor are we brought to true submission, until we have been brought down by the mighty hand of God. (1 Peter 5:6.) Secondly, it is to be observed, that the saints themselves have some remains of this disease adhering to them, and that for this reason they are often reduced to an extremity, that, stript of all self-confidence, they may learn humility: nay more, that this malady is so deeply rooted in the minds of men, that even the most advanced are not thoroughly purged from it, until God sets death before their eyes. And hence we may infer, how displeasing to God confidence in ourselves must be, when for the purpose of correcting it, it is necessary that we should be condemned to death.

But in God that raiseth the dead As we must first die, in order that, renouncing confidence in ourselves, and conscious of our own weakness, we may claim no honor to ourselves, so even that were not sufficient, if we did not proceed a step farther. Let us begin, therefore, with despairing of ourselves, but with the view of placing our hope in God. Let us be brought low in ourselves, but in order that we may be raised up by his power. Paul, accordingly, having brought to nothing the pride of the flesh, immediately substitutes in its place a confidence that rests upon God. Not in ourselves, says he, but in God

The epithet that follows, Paul has adapted to the connection of the subject, as he does in Romans 4:17, where he speaks of Abraham. For to

believe in God, who calleth those things that are not, as though they were, and to hope in God who raiseth the dead,

are equivalent to his setting before him as an object of contemplation, the power of God in creating his elect out of nothing, and raising up the dead. Hence Paul says, that death had been set before his eyes, that he might, in consequence of this, recognize the more distinctly the power of God, by which he had been raised up from the dead. The first thing in order, it is true, is this -- that, by means of the strength with which God furnishes us, we should acknowledge him as the Author of life; but as in consequence of our dulness the light of life often dazzles our eyes, it is necessary that we should be brought to God by having death presented to our view.

10. Who hath delivered us from so great a death Here he applies to himself personally, what he had stated in a general way, and by way of proclaiming the grace of God, he declares that he had not been disappointed in his expectation, inasmuch as he had been delivered from death, and that too, in no common form. As to his manner of expression, the hyperbole, which he makes use of, is not unusual in the Scriptures, for it frequently occurs, both in the Prophets and in the Psalms, and it is made use of even in common conversation. What Paul acknowledges as to himself personally, let every one now take home as applicable to himself.

In whom we have an assured hope. He promises himself as to the future, also, that beneficence of God, which he had often experienced in the past. Nor is it without good reason; for the Lord, by accomplishing in part what he has promised, bids us hope well as to what remains. Nay more, in proportion to the number of favors that we receive from him, does he by so many pledges, or earnests, as it were, confirm his promises. Now, although Paul had no doubt that God would of his own accord be present with him, yet he exhorts the Corinthians to commend to God in their prayers his safety. For when he assumes it as certain, that he will be aided by them, this declaration has the force of an exhortation, and he means that they would not merely do it as a matter of duty, but also with advantage.

|Your prayers, also,| he says, |will help me.| For God wills not that the duty of mutual intercession, which he enjoins upon us, should be without advantage. This ought to be a stimulus to us, on the one hand, to solicit the intercession of our brethren, when we are weighed down by any necessity, and, on the other, to render similar assistance in return, since we are informed, that it is not only a duty that is well pleasing to God, but also profitable to ourselves. Nor is it owing to distrust that the Apostle implores the friendly aid of his brethren, for, while he felt assured, that his safety would be the object of God's care, though he were destitute of all human help, yet he knew that it was well pleasing to God, that he should be aided by the prayers of the saints. He had respect, also, to the promises that were given, that assistance of this kind would not be in vain. Hence, in order that he might not overlook any assistance that was appointed to him by God, he desired that the brethren should pray for his preservation.

The sum is this -- that we follow the word of God, that is, that we obey his commandments and cleave to his promises. This is not the part of those who have recourse to the assistance of the dead; for not contented with the sources of help appointed by God, they call in to their aid a new one, that has no countenance from any declaration of Scripture. For whatever we find mentioned there as to mutual intercession, has no reference to the dead, but is expressly restricted to the living. Hence Papists act childishly in perverting those passages, so as to give some colour to their superstition.

11. That the gift bestowed upon us through means of many persons. As there is some difficulty in Paul's words, interpreters differ as to the meaning. I shall not spend time in setting aside the interpretations of others, nor indeed is there any need for this, provided only we are satisfied as to the true and proper meaning. He had said, that the prayers of the Corinthians would be an assistance to him. He now adds a second advantage that would accrue from it -- a higher manifestation of God's glory. |For whatever God will confer upon me,| says he, |being as it were obtained through means of many persons, will, also, by many be celebrated with praises:| or in this way -- |Many will give thanks to God in my behalf, because, in affording help to me, he has favorably regarded the prayers, not merely of one but of many.| In the first place, while it is our duty to allow no favor from God to pass without rendering praise, it becomes us, nevertheless, more especially when our prayers have been favorably regarded by him, to acknowledge his mercy with thanksgiving, as he commands us to do in Psalm 50:15. Nor ought this to be merely where our own personal interest is concerned, but also where the welfare of the Church in general, or that of any one of our brethren is involved. Hence when we mutually pray one for another, and obtain our desire, the glory of God is so much the more set forth, inasmuch as we all acknowledge, with thanksgiving, God's benefits -- both those that are conferred publicly upon the whole Church, and also those that are bestowed privately upon individuals.

In this interpretation there is nothing forced; for as to the circumstance that in the Greek the article being introduced between the two clauses by many persons, and the gift conferred upon me appears to disjoin them, that has no force, as it is frequently found introduced between clauses that are connected with each other. Here, however, it is with propriety introduced in place of an adversative particle; for although it had come forth from many persons, it was nevertheless peculiar to Paul. To take the phrase dia pollon (by means of many) in the neuter gender, as some do, is at variance with the connection of the passage.

It may, however, be asked, why he says From many persons, rather than From many men, and what is the meaning of the term person here? I answer, it is as though he had said -- With respect to many. For the favor was conferred upon Paul in such a way, that it might be given to many. Hence, as God had respect to many, he says on that account, that many persons were the cause of it. Some Greek manuscripts have huper humon -- on your account; and although this appears to be at variance with Paul's design, and the connection of the words, it may, nevertheless, be explained with propriety in this manner: |When God shall have heard you in behalf of my welfare, and that too for your own welfare, thanks will be given by many on your account.|

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