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2cCORINTHIANS: Written late 56C.E. by Paul in Macedonia after the release from his Ephesian imprisonment.
'2bCorinthians' was the "furious" letter. This one is the "happy one" and also the diplomatic & cautious one. Paul relates of the efforts of Titus, who more than one year ago (before Paul went to jail in Ephesus) had reconciled the Corinthians with Paul (also '2bCorinthians' likely helped!). He fondly recalls his past meeting with Titus, which happened during a trip to Troas and then Macedonia (spring of 56C.E.). This past trip was a replacement for the "threatened" (third) visit to Corinth (2bCorinthians: 2Co12:14,13:1). Paul also explains why he changed his plan.
Now, as a free man, back in Macedonia, at a time when the collection for the saints (of Jerusalem) is about finished here, Paul has Titus to care about the completion of the money collection in Corinth. It had been started after Titus' last visit but got interrupted when Paul lost his freedom.
Except for a mention of "Son of God", there are no theological discussions in this letter or reprimands against some of the believers. Maybe Paul remembered 1cCorinthians, written with overconfidence & treating many contentious items (including a hurried up section asking for a collection), likely to have caused trouble for him during his second visit there (55C.E.).
Introduction to the letter:
1:3 ... Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, 4 who comforts us in all our tribulation, that we may be able to comfort those who are in any trouble, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God. 5 For as the sufferings of Christ abound in us, so our consolation also abounds through Christ. 6 Now if we are afflicted, it is for your consolation and salvation, which is effective for enduring the same sufferings which we also suffer. Or if we are comforted, it is for your consolation and salvation. 7 And our hope for you is steadfast, because we know that as you are partakers of the sufferings, so also you will partake of the consolation.
Paul is reminding the Corinthians about his
ordeal in Ephesus:
However there is no clear reference about Paul being in prison, but the ordeal seems to have been long.
8 For we do not want you to be ignorant, brethren, of our trouble which came to us in Asia: that we were burdened beyond measure, above strength, so that we despaired even of life. 9 Yes, we had the sentence of death in ourselves, that we should not trust in ourselves but in God who raises the dead, 10 who delivered us from so great a death, and does deliver us; in whom we trust that He will still deliver us, 11 you also helping together in prayer for us, that thanks may be given by many persons on our behalf for the gift granted to us through many.
Again, Paul refers to boasting:
12 For our boasting is this: the testimony of our conscience that we conducted ourselves in the world in simplicity and godly sincerity, not with fleshly wisdom but by the grace of God, and more abundantly toward you. 13 For we are not writing any other things to you than what you read or understand. Now I trust you will understand, even to the end 14 (as also you have understood us in part), that we are your boast as you also are ours, in the day of the Lord Jesus.
Remark: another clue that the Day is supposed to happen during the lifetime of Paul's Corinthians.
Paul explains the past change of his travel
As specified at the end of '2bCorinthians', Paul had been threatening to go back to Corinth (spring 56C.E.) but did not. He explains why he did not visit the city as he had promised. Paul also reflects on the content of the earlier letter and is now complimentary towards the Corinthians.
15 And in this confidence I intended to come to you before, that you might have a second benefit; 16 to pass by way of you to Macedonia, to come
again from Macedonia to you, and be helped by you on my way to Judea. 17 Therefore,
when I was planning this, did I do it lightly?
Or the things I plan, do I plan according to the flesh, that with me there should be Yes, Yes, and No, No? 18 But as God is faithful, our word to you was not Yes and No. 19 For the Son of God, Jesus Christ,
[first time that Jesus is called "Son of God" in Paul's letters]
` who was preached among you by us; by me, Silvanus, and Timothy; was not Yes and No, but in Him was Yes. 20 For all the promises of God in Him are Yes, and in Him Amen, to the glory of God through us. 21 Now He who establishes us with you in Christ and has anointed us is God, 22 who also has sealed us and given us the Spirit in our hearts as a guarantee. 23 Moreover I call God as witness against my soul, that to spare you I came no more to Corinth. 24 Not that we have dominion over your faith, but are fellow workers for your joy; for by faith you stand.
2:1 But I determined this within myself, that I would not come again to you in sorrow. 2 For if I make you sorrowful, then who is he who makes me glad but the one who is made sorrowful by me? 3 And I wrote this very thing to you, lest, when I came, I should have sorrow [reference to 2bCorinthians12:20-21] over those from whom I ought to have joy, having confidence in you all that my joy is the joy of you all. 4 For out of much affliction and anguish of heart I wrote to you, with many tears, not that you should be grieved, but that you might know the love which I have so abundantly for you.
Paul forgives a "big" sinner and urges the believers to do the same:
5 But if anyone has caused grief, he has not grieved me, but all of you to some extent; not to be too severe. 6 This punishment which was inflicted by the majority is sufficient for such a man, 7 so that, on the contrary, you ought rather to forgive and comfort him, lest perhaps such a one be swallowed up with too much sorrow. 8 Therefore I urge you to reaffirm your love to him. 9 For to this end I also wrote, that I might put you to the test, whether you are obedient in all things [reference to 2bCorinthians13:5-6]. 10 Now whom you forgive anything, I also forgive. For if indeed I have forgiven anything, I have forgiven that one for your sakes in the presence of Christ, 11 lest Satan should take advantage of us; for we are not ignorant of his devices.
Paul fondly recalls his trip to Troas (spring
56C.E.) and then to Macedonia, in order to
Then, Paul had learned of the Corinthians reaccepting him. Paul again mentions the previous letter ('2bCorinthians': he almost apologizes for it) and he compliments the believers for their change of heart.
when I came to Troas
to preach Christ's gospel, and a door was opened to me by the Lord, 13 I had no rest in my spirit, because
I did not find Titus
my brother; but taking my leave of them, I departed for Macedonia.
['2bCorinthians' inserted here]
7:5 For indeed, when we came to Macedonia, our bodies had no rest, but we were troubled on every side. Outside were conflicts, inside were fears. 6 Nevertheless God, who comforts the downcast, comforted us by the coming of Titus, 7 and not only by his coming, but also by the consolation with which he was comforted
in you, when he told us of your earnest desire, your mourning,
your zeal for me, so that I rejoiced even more. 8 For even if I made you sorry with my letter,
I do not regret it;
[allusion to '2bCorinthians']
` though I did regret it. For I perceive that the same epistle made you sorry, though only for a while. 9 Now I rejoice, not that you were made sorry, but that your sorrow led to repentance. For you were made sorry in a godly manner, that you might suffer loss from us in nothing. 10 For godly sorrow produces repentance leading to salvation, not to be regretted; but the sorrow of the world produces death. 11 For observe this very thing, that you sorrowed in a godly manner: What diligence it produced in you, what clearing of yourselves, what indignation, what fear, what vehement desire, what zeal, what vindication! In all things you proved yourselves to be clear in this matter. 12 Therefore, although I wrote to you, I did not do it for the sake of him who had done the wrong,
[true: in '2bCorinthians', there is no direct reference to the big sinner]
` nor for the sake of him who suffered wrong, but that our care for you in the sight of God might appear to you. 13 Therefore we have been comforted in your comfort. And we rejoiced exceedingly more for the joy of Titus, because his spirit has been refreshed by you all. 14 For if in anything I have boasted to him about you, I am not ashamed. But as we spoke all things to you in truth, even so our boasting to Titus was found true. 15 And his affections are greater for you as he remembers the obedience of you all, how with fear and trembling you received him. 16 Therefore I rejoice that I have confidence in you in everything.
Now, Paul can proceed (again) with the Corinthians
about raising money for the "saint"
In the fall of 57C.E., it is time to complete what Titus started last year, prior to Paul's imprisonment. Paul is very diplomatic & crafty in order to get the Corinthians complying with the collection.
8:1 Moreover, brethren, we make known to you the grace of God bestowed
on the churches of Macedonia: 2 that in a great trial of affliction the abundance of their joy and their deep poverty abounded in the riches of their liberality. 3 For I bear witness that according to their
ability, yes, and beyond their ability, they
were freely willing, 4 imploring us with much urgency that we would
receive the gift and the fellowship of the
ministering to the saints. 5 And not only as we had hoped, but they first gave themselves to the Lord, and then to us by the will of God. 6 So we urged Titus, that as he had begun,
so he would also complete this grace in you
[another reference about the aborted collection of the previous year]
` 7 But as you abound in everything; in faith, in speech, in knowledge, in all diligence, and in your love for us; see that you abound in this grace also. 8 I speak not by commandment, but I am testing the sincerity of your love by the diligence of others. 9 For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though He was rich, yet for your sakes He became poor,
[clear allusion to the earthly Jesus' social status, that certainly Paul knew]
` that you through His poverty might become rich. 10 And in this I give advice: It is to your advantage not only to be doing what you began and were desiring to do a year ago;
[another reference of the aborted collection of 56C.E.]
` 11 but now you also must complete the doing of it; that as there was a readiness to desire it, so there also may be a completion out of what you have. 12 For if there is first a willing mind, it is accepted according to what one has, and not according to what he does not have. 13 For I do not mean that others should be eased and you burdened; 14 but by an equality, that now at this time your abundance may supply their lack, that their abundance also may supply your lack; that there may be equality. 15 As it is written, "He who gathered much had nothing left over, and he who gathered little had no lack." 16 But thanks be to God who puts the same earnest care for you into the heart of Titus.
Titus and an illustrious "brother"
are going to Corinth (with the present letter):
The "brother" is not named but appears to be well known and appreciated (could he be Apollos?). His anonymity might be designed to prevent his critics to get together and organize a "negative" reception for him.
17 For he [Titus] not only accepted the exhortation, but being more diligent, he went to you of his own accord. 18 And we have sent with him the brother whose praise is in the gospel throughout all the churches, 19 and not only that, but who was also chosen by the churches to travel with us with this gift, which is administered by us to the glory of the Lord Himself and to show your ready mind, 20 avoiding this: that anyone should blame us in this lavish gift which is administered by us; 21 providing honorable things, not only in the sight of the Lord, but also in the sight of men. 22 And we have sent with them our brother whom we have often proved diligent in many things, but now much more diligent, because of the great confidence which we have in you. 23 If anyone inquires about Titus, he is my partner and fellow worker concerning you. Or if our brethren are inquired about, they are messengers of the churches, the glory of Christ. 24 Therefore show to them, and before the churches the proof of your love and of our boasting on your behalf.
Paul is taking no chance with the Corinthians:
He wants to make sure they will not cause any problem. He hints at peer pressure (from the Macedonians) and rewards through the prayers of the saints (of Jerusalem).
concerning the ministering to the saints
[in Jerusalem], it is superfluous for me to write to you;
2 for I know your willingness, about which I boast
of you to the Macedonians, that Achaia was
ready a year ago;
[again, about the 56C.E. unfinished collection]
` and your zeal has stirred up the majority. 3 Yet I have sent the brethren, lest our boasting of you should be in vain in this respect, that, as I said, you may be ready; 4 lest if some Macedonians come with me and find you unprepared, we (not to mention you!) should be ashamed of this confident boasting. 5 Therefore I thought it necessary to exhort the brethren to go to you ahead of time, and prepare your generous gift beforehand, which you had previously promised, that it may be ready as a matter of generosity and not as a grudging obligation. 6 But this I say: He who sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and he who sows bountifully will also reap bountifully. 7 So let each one give as he purposes in his heart, not grudgingly or of necessity; for God loves a cheerful giver. 8 And God is able to make all grace abound toward you, that you, always having all sufficiency in all things, may have an abundance for every good work. 9 As it is written: "He has dispersed abroad, He has given to the poor; His righteousness endures forever." 10 Now may He who supplies seed to the sower, and bread for food, supply and multiply the seed you have sown and increase the fruits of your righteousness, 11 while you are enriched in everything for all liberality, which causes thanksgiving through us to God. 12 For the administration of this service not only supplies the needs of the saints, but also is abounding through many thanksgivings to God, 13 while, through the proof of this ministry,
[that is the collection!]
` they glorify God for the obedience of your confession to the gospel of Christ,
[it seems here the gospel is about giving to the poor, as preached by Jesus and the "Nazarenes" (see HJ-2b)]
` , and for your liberal sharing with them and all men, 14 and by their prayer for you, who long for you because of the exceeding grace of God in you. 15 Thanks be to God for His indescribable gift! ...