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SermonIndex.net : Christian Books : 2 Corinthians 2:12-17

Commentary On Corinthians Volume 2 by Jean Calvin

2 Corinthians 2:12-17

12. Furthermore, when I came to Troas to preach Christ's gospel, and a door was opened unto me of the Lord,

12. Porro quum venissem Troadem in Evangelium Christi; etiam ostio mihi aperto in Domino,

13. I 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.

13. Non habui relaxationem spiritui meo, eo quod non inveneram Titum fratrem meum; sed illis valedicens profectus sum in Macedoniam.

14. Now 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.

14. Deo autem gratia, qui semper triumphare nos facit in Christo; et odorem cognitionis eius manifestat per nos in omni loco.

15. For we are unto God a sweet savour of Christ, in them that are saved, and in them that perish:

15. Quia Christi suavis odor sumus Deo, in iis qui salvi fiunt, et in iis qui pereunt.

16. To 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?

16. Aliis quidem odor mortis in mortem, illis vero odor vitae in vitam; et ad haec quis idoneus?

17. For 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.

17. Non enim sumus quemadmodum multi, adulterantes sermonem Dei: sed tanquam ex sinceritate, tanquam ex Deo, in conspectu Dei in Christo loquimur.

12. When I had come to Troas By now mentioning what he had been doing in the mean time, in what places he had been, and what route he had pursued in his journeyings, he more and more confirms what he had said previously as to his coming to the Corinthians. He says that he had come to Troas from Ephesus for the sake of the gospel, for he would not have proceeded in that direction, when going into Achaia, had he not been desirous to pass through Macedonia. As, however, he did not find Titus there, whom he had sent to Corinth, and by whom he ought to have been informed respecting the state of that Church, though he might have done much good there, and though he had an opportunity presented to him, yet, he says, setting everything aside, he came to Macedonia, desirous to see Titus. Here is an evidence of a singular degree of attachment to the Corinthians, that he was so anxious respecting them, that he had no rest anywhere, even when a large prospect of usefulness presented itself, until he had learned the state of their affairs. Hence it appears why it was that he delayed his coming. He did not wish to come to them until he had learned the state of their affairs. Hence it appears, why it was that he delayed his coming. He did not wish to come to them, until he had first had a conversation with Titus. He afterwards learned from the report brought him by Titus, that matters were at that time not yet ripe for his coming to them. Hence it is evident, that Paul loved the Corinthians so much, that he accommodated all his journeyings and long circuits to their welfare, and that he had accordingly come to them later than he had promised -- not from having, in forgetfulness of his promise, rashly changed his plan, or from having been carried away by some degree of fickleness, (2 Corinthians 1:17,) but because delay was more profitable for them.

A door also having been opened to me. We have spoken of this metaphor when commenting on the last chapter of the First Epistle. (1 Corinthians 16:9.) Its meaning is, that an opportunity of promoting the gospel had presented itself. For as an opportunity of entering is furnished when the door is opened, so the servants of the Lord make advances when an opportunity is presented. The door is shut, when no prospect of usefulness is held out. Now as, on the door being shut, it becomes us to enter upon a new course, rather than by farther efforts to weary ourselves to no purpose by useless labor, so where an opportunity presents itself of edifying, let us consider that by the hand of God a door is opened to us for introducing Christ there, and let us not withhold compliance with so kind an indication from God.

It may seem, however, as if Paul had erred in this -- that disregarding, or at least leaving unimproved, an opportunity that was placed within his reach, he betook himself to Macedonia. |Ought he not rather to have applied himself to the work that he had in hand, than, after making little more than a commencement, break away all on a sudden in another direction?| We have also observed already, that the opening of a door is an evidence of a divine call, and this is undoubtedly true. I answer, that, as Paul was not by any means restricted to one Church, but was bound to many at the same time, it was not his duty, in consequence of the present aspect of one of them, to leave off concern as to the others. Farther, the more connection he had with the Corinthian Church, it was his duty to be so much the more inclined to aid it; for we must consider it to be reasonable, that a Church, which he had founded by his ministry, should be regarded by him with a singular affection -- just as at this day it is our duty, indeed, to promote the welfare of the whole Church, and to be concerned for the entire body of it; and yet, every one has, nevertheless, a closer and holier connection with his own Church, to whose interests he is more particularly devoted. Matters were in an unhappy state at Corinth, so that Paul was in no ordinary degree anxious as to the issue. It is not, therefore, to be wondered, if, under the influence of this motive, he left unimproved an opportunity that in other circumstances was not to be neglected; as it was not in his power to occupy every post of duty at one and the same time. It is not, however, at all likely that he left Troas, till he had first introduced some one in his place to improve the opening that had occurred.

14. But thanks be to God Here he again glories in the success of his ministry, and shows that he had been far from idle in the various places he had visited; but that he may do this in no invidious way, he sets out with a thanksgiving, which we shall find him afterwards repeating. Now he does not, in a spirit of ambition, extol his own actions, that his name may be held in renown, nor does he, in mere pretense, give thanks to God in the manner of the Pharisee, while lifted up, in the mean time, with pride and arrogance. (Luke 18:11.) Instead of this, he desires from his heart, that whatever is worthy of praise, be recognised as the work of God alone, that his power alone may be extolled. Farther, he recounts his own praises with a view to the advantage of the Corinthians, that, on hearing that he had served the Lord with so much fruit in other places, they may not allow his labor to be unproductive among themselves, and may learn to respect his ministry, which God everywhere rendered so glorious and fruitful. For what God so illustriously honors, it is criminal to despise, or lightly esteem. Nothing was more injurious to the Corinthians, than to have an unfavorable view of Paul's Apostleship and doctrine: nothing, on the other hand, was more advantageous, than to hold both in esteem. Now he had begun to be held in contempt by many, and hence, it was not his duty to be silent. In addition to this, he sets this holy boasting in opposition to the revilings of the wicked.

Who causeth us to triumph If you render the word literally, it will be, Qui nos triumphat -- Who triumpheth over us. Paul, however, means something different from what this form of expression denotes among the Latins. For captives are said to be triumphed over, when, by way of disgrace, they are bound with chains and dragged before the chariot of the conqueror. Paul's meaning, on the other hand, is, that he was also a sharer in the triumph enjoyed by God, because it had been gained by his instrumentality, just as the lieutenants accompanied on horseback the chariot of the chief general, as sharers in the honor. As, accordingly, all the ministers of the gospel fight under God's auspices, so they also procure for him the victory and the honor of the triumph; but, at the same time, he honors each of them with a share of the triumph, according to the station assigned him in the army, and proportioned to the exertions made by him. Thus they enjoy, as it were, a triumph, but it is God's rather than theirs.

He adds, in Christ, in whose person God himself triumphs, inasmuch as he has conferred upon him all the glory of empire. Should any one prefer to render it thus: |Who triumphs by means of us,| even in that way a sufficiently consistent meaning will be made out.

The odor of his knowledge. The triumph consisted in this, that God, through his instrumentality, wrought powerfully and gloriously, perfuming the world with the health-giving odor of his grace, while, by means of his doctrine, he brought some to the knowledge of Christ. He carries out, however, the metaphor of odor, by which he expresses both the delectable sweetness of the gospel, and its power and efficacy for inspiring life. In the mean time, Paul instructs them, that his preaching is so far from being savourless, that it quickens souls by its very odor. Let us, however, learn from this, that those alone make right proficiency in the gospel, who, by the sweet fragrance of Christ, are stirred up to desire him, so as to bid farewell to the allurements of the world.

He says in every place, intimating by these words, that he went to no place in which he did not gain some fruit, and that, wherever he went, there was to be seen some reward of his labor. The Corinthians were aware, in how many places he had previously sowed the seed of Christ's gospel. He now says, that the last corresponded with the first.

15. A sweet odor of Christ The metaphor which he had applied to the knowledge of Christ, he now transfers to the persons of the Apostles, but it is for the same reason. For as they are called the light of the world, (Matthew 5:14,) because they enlighten men by holding forth the torch of the gospel, and not as if they shone forth upon them with their own lustre; so they have the name of odor, not as if they emitted any fragrance of themselves, but because the doctrine which they bring is odoriferous, so that it can imbue the whole world with its delectable fragrance. It is certain, however, that this commendation is applicable to all the ministers of the gospel, because wherever there is a pure and unvarnished proclamation of the gospel, there will be found there the influence of that odor, of which Paul here speaks. At the same time, there is no doubt, that he speaks particularly of himself, and those that were like him, turning to his own commendation what slanderers imputed to him as a fault. For his being opposed by many, and exposed to the hatred of many, was the reason why they despised him. He, accordingly, replies, that faithful and upright ministers of the gospel have a sweet odor before God, not merely when they quicken souls by a wholesome savour, but also, when they bring destruction to unbelievers. Hence the gospel ought not to be less esteemed on that account. |Both odors,| says he, |are grateful to God -- that by which the elect are refreshed unto salvation, and that from which the wicked receive a deadly shock.|

Here we have a remarkable passage, by which we are taught, that, whatever may be the issue of our preaching, it is, notwithstanding, well-pleasing to God, if the Gospel is preached, and our service will be acceptable to him; and also, that it does not detract in any degree from the dignity of the Gospel, that it does not do good to all; for God is glorified even in this, that the Gospel becomes an occasion of ruin to the wicked, nay, it must turn out so. If, however, this is a sweet odor to God, it ought to be so to us also, or in other words, it does not become us to be offended, if the preaching of the Gospel is not salutary to all; but on the contrary, let us reckon, that it is quite enough, if it advance the glory of God by bringing just condemnation upon the wicked. If, however, the heralds of the Gospel are in bad odor in the world, because their success does not in all respects come up to their desires, they have this choice consolation, that they waft to God the perfume of a sweet fragrance, and what is to the world an offensive smell, is a sweet odor to God and angels.

The term odor is very emphatic. |Such is the influence of the Gospel in both respects, that it either quickens or kills, not merely by its taste, but by its very smell. Whatever it may be, it is never preached in vain, but has invariably an effect, either for life, or for death.| But it is asked, how this accords with the nature of the Gospel, which we shall find him, a little afterwards, calling the ministry of life? (2 Corinthians 3:6.) The answer is easy: The Gospel is preached for salvation: this is what properly belongs to it; but believers alone are partakers of that salvation. In the mean time, its being an occasion of condemnation to unbelievers -- that arises from their own fault. Thus

Christ came not into the world to condemn the world, (John 3:17,)

for what need was there of this, inasmuch as without him we are all condemned? Yet he sends his apostles to bind, as well as to loose, and to retain sins, as well as remit them. (Matthew 18:18; John 20:23.) He is the light of the world, (John 8:12,) but he blinds unbelievers. (John 9:39.) He is a Rock, for a foundation, but he is also to many a stone of stumbling. (Isaiah 8:14.) We must always, therefore, distinguish between the proper office of the Gospel, and the accidental one (so to speak) which must be imputed to the depravity of mankind, to which it is owing, that life to them is turned into death.

16. And who is sufficient for these things? This exclamation is thought by some to be introduced by way of guarding against arrogance, for he confesses, that to discharge the office of a good Apostle to Christ is a thing that exceeds all human power, and thus he ascribes the praise to God. Others think, that he takes notice of the small number of good ministers. I am of opinion, that there is an implied contrast that is shortly afterwards expressed. |Profession, it is true, is common, and many confidently boast; but to have the reality, is indicative of a rare and distinguished excellence. I claim nothing for myself, but what will be discovered to be in me, if trial is made.| Accordingly, as those, who hold in common the office of instructor, claim to themselves indiscriminately the title, Paul, by claiming to himself a peculiar excellence, separates himself from the herd of those, who had little or no experience of the influence of the Spirit.

17. For we are not. He now contrasts himself more openly with the false apostles, and that by way of amplifying, and at the same time, with the view of excluding them from the praise that he had claimed to himself. |It is on good grounds,| says he, |that I speak in honorable terms of my apostleship, for I am not afraid of being convicted of vanity, if proof is demanded. But many on false grounds arrogate the same thing to themselves, who will be found to have nothing in common with me. For they adulterate the word of the Lord, which I dispense with the greatest faithfulness and sincerity for the edification of the Church.| I do not think it likely, however, that those, who are here reproved, preached openly wicked or false doctrines; but am rather of opinion, that they corrupted the right use of doctrine, for the sake either of gain or of ambition, so as utterly to deprive it of energy. This he terms adulterating. Erasmus prefers to render it -- cauponari -- huckstering The Greek word kapeleuein, is taken from retailers, or tavern-keepers, who are accustomed to adulterate their commodities, that they may fetch a higher price. I do not know whether the word cauponari is used in that sense among the Latins.

It is, indeed, certain from the corresponding clause, that Paul intended to express here -- corruption of doctrine -- not as though they had revolted from the truth, but because they presented it under disguise, and not in its genuine purity. For the doctrine of God is corrupted in two ways. It is corrupted in a direct way, when it is mixed up with falsehood and lies, so as to be no longer the pure and genuine doctrine of God, but is falsely commended under that title. It is corrupted indirectly, when, although retaining its purity, it is turned hither and thither to please men, and is disfigured by unseemly disguises, by way of hunting after favor. Thus there will be found some, in whose doctrine there will be no impiety detected, but as they hunt after the applauses of the world by making a display of their acuteness and eloquence, or are ambitious of some place, or gape for filthy lucre, (1 Timothy 3:8,) or are desirous by some means or other to rise, they, nevertheless, corrupt the doctrine itself by wrongfully abusing it, or making it subservient to their depraved inclinations. I am, therefore, inclined to retain the word adulterate, as it expresses better what ordinarily happens in the case of all that play with the sacred word of God, as with a ball, and transform it according to their own convenience. For it must necessarily be, that they degenerate from the truth, and preach a sort of artificial and spurious Gospel.

But as of sincerity. The word as here is superfluous, as in many other places. In contrast with the corruption that he had made mention of, he makes use, first of all, of the term sincerity, which may be taken as referring to the manner of preaching, as well as to the disposition of the mind. I approve rather of the latter. Secondly, he places in contrast with it a faithful and conscientious dispensation of it, inasmuch as he faithfully delivers to the Church from hand to hand, as they say, the Gospel which God had committed to him, and had given him in charge. Thirdly, he subjoins to this a regard to the Divine presence. For whoever has the three following things, is in no danger of forming the purpose of corrupting the word of God. The first is -- that we be actuated by a true zeal for God. The second is -- that we bear in mind that it is his business that we are transacting, and bring forward nothing but what has come from him. The third is -- that we consider, that we do nothing of which he is not the witness and spectator, and thus learn to refer every thing to his judgment.

In Christ means according to Christ. For the rendering of Erasmus, By Christ, is foreign to Paul's intention.

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