EPISTLE OF S. PAUL, THE APOSTLE,
TO THE CORINTHIANS.
The subject and design of this second Epistle to the Corinthians, is much the same as of the former. He comforts and congratulates with those who were now reformed by his admonitions. He blames the faulty with apostolical liberty; and being forced to justify himself and his proceedings against the upstart false teachers, he gives an ample account of his sufferings, and also of the favours and graces, which God had bestowed upon him. This Epistle was written not long after the first, (an. 57.) some months before that to the Romans, from some place in Macedonia, perhaps from Philippi, as marked at the end of divers Greek copies, though it is observed, that those subscriptions are not much to be relied upon. Wi.
--- In this Epistle S. Paul comforts those who are now reformed by his admonitions to them in the former, and absolves the incestuous man on doing penance, whom he had before excommunicated for his crime. Hence he treats of true penance, and of the dignity of the ministers of the New Testament. He cautions the faithful against false teachers, and the society of infidels. He gives an account of his sufferings, and also of the favours and graces which God hath bestowed on him. Ch.
--- S. Paul, not being able to come to the Corinthians as soon as he had promised, writes this Epistle to inform them, that it was not through inconstancy, but on account of several weighty reasons, which had hitherto hindered him. Several other reasons, likewise, compelled him to write. For during his absence, several false teachers of the Jews had come amongst them, teaching them that it was necessary to observe the law of Moses, in order to be saved. S. Paul, therefore, first excuses himself, by saying, that the afflictions and troubles he had met with, had hindered him from coming to them. He next orders the fornicator to be restored to favour; after which, he extols his apostleship, forming a comparison between the law of Christ, and of Moses, wherein he blames the false teachers. He then subjoins an exhortation to a pious and holy life, with liberality in their alms, after the example of the Macedonians. As the false teachers had been very industrious in establishing their own reputation, by detracting from that of S. Paul, he enumerates his own sufferings, and the favours he had received from God, shewing that he had much more reason to glory than they; and concludes by exhorting them to correct those faults with which they still remained infected. Estius.
--- This letter may be justly appreciated as a perfect masterpiece of that animated and solid eloquence, which all interpreters so much admire in S. Paul. V.
Ver. 1. S. Timothy, it appears, had been sent to Corinth to confirm the faithful in the doctrine which they had received from S. Paul. After he had fulfilled this commission, he returned to S. Paul, and gave him an account how they had behaved, and what good effects his first letter had produced. He styles him brother, to conciliate to him the esteem and respect of the Corinthians. This epistle is not merely addressed to the Corinthians, but to all Achaia, of which Corinth was the capital. Estius.
--- Others think that Timothy had left Corinth before S. Paul's first epistle had arrived thither; and that this determined S. Paul to send Titus with another disciple thither. See 2 Cor. xii. 18. From him S. Paul had the consolation to learn the happy effects produced by his first letter. See ibid. vi. 7. 11.
Ver. 4. Wherewith we also are exhorted by God. The Latin interpreter sometimes translates the same Greek word by exhorted, sometimes by comforted: so the sense may be, with which we are comforted by God. Wi.
--- S. Paul knew that his former letter had afflicted them exceedingly; here he comforts them by telling them that God had filled him with consolation in order to comfort them. The Greek rather signifies, by the consolation with which we are comforted. Either explanation is sufficiently clear, though the latter is stronger. We may here remark the great tenderness S. Paul had for the Corinthians, since he here insinuates that he had received comfort from God merely to communicate it to them. Calmet.
Ver. 5. S. Paul here styles his own sufferings, the suffering of Christ, to shew that Christ takes part, and suffers in all his members. S. Chrys.
--- Though it is generally understood to signify the sufferings undergone for Christ. Estius.
--- If we consider the very intimate union that exists between Jesus Christ, who is the head, and every one of the living members of his body, that is, the Church, that whatever any one suffers, for the cause of truth, Christ is said to suffer, as the Lord said to Saul, why persecutest thou me? and that whatever is given to any indigent brother in the name of a disciple, Christ receives as given to himself, can we want any further proof of the excellence and power of good works, which begin and terminate in charity? A.
Ver. 6. Or whether we be exhorted,† for your exhortation and salvation. These words are not in the present Greek copies; the omission is not of moment, being in a manner a repetition of what is in the same verse: the sense is, that this happens to us for your instruction, and that you may be exhorted, or comforted by our example. This is also signified by the following words, which makes you bear (lit. which worketh the enduring) the like tribulations, as we suffer. Wi.
--- Whatever happens to us, it will always be to your advantage. And certainly it is the greatest comfort when the faithful are in affliction, to see their pastors preaching and planting the faith of Christ, in the midst of afflictions and persecutions. This gives them the greatest courage to bear patiently all adversity, being convinced after the example of their divine master, that by many tribulations we are to enter into the kingdom of heaven. Cajetan.
[†] V. 6. In the Greek we only read, eite de qlibomeqa, uper thV umwn paraklhsewV, kai swthriaV, thV energoumenhV en upomonh twn autwn paqhmatwn, wn kai hmeiV pascomen eite parakaloumeqa, uper thV umwn paraklhsewV kai swthriaV.
Ver. 8. That we were weary even of life.† The Greek seems to imply the condition of one, who knows not what way to turn himself, seeing no prospect to avoid the dangers. Wi.
--- The sufferings which we underwent in Asia were so great, that we despaired of escaping even with our life. We were in daily expectation of death; like the criminal, who has been condemned to death, we had no hopes of escaping, but we trusted in God, who has delivered us from all danger, by your intercession, v. 11. He alludes to the tumult raised at Ephesus, and other afflictions which befell him on that account, which, though not mentioned in the Acts, (c. xix. 24, &c.) were of such a nature as to make him weary of life. S. Chrys.
[†] V. 8. Ita ut tæderet nos etiam vivere, wste exaporhqhnai. See S. Chrys. om. b. p. 550.
Ver. 9. The sentence. Lit. the answer of death, by which death seemed unavoidable; and this God permitted to teach us not to trust, or confide, in ourselves, but in him only, &c. Wi.
Ver. 11. That for this gift,† or favour, obtained for us by many persons, &c. The words and construction are obscure, both in the Latin and Greek. It would seem a tautology if translated, that by many persons thanks may be rendered by many. Therefore the sense must be, that God must now be thanked by many persons for the benefit in preserving my life, and hearing the prayers of many persons, who before had prayed for my life. Wi.
--- S. Paul in soliciting the prayers of the Corinthians, did not suppose that this was derogatory to Christ's mediation, nor to the hope he had in God. And can it be more dishonourable to God to solicit the aid of saints in heaven than of sinners on earth? Or is it to be supposed, asks S. Jerom, that the intercession of our fellow-men beneath, is more available with God, than the prayers of those, who enjoy the beatific vision above. Cont. Vigil.
[†] V. 11. Ut ex multorum personis, ejus, quæ in nobis est donationis, per multos gratiæ agantur pro nobis. The Greek is clearer, ina ek pollwn proswpw, ton eiV hmaV carisma, dia pollwn eucaristhqh uper hmwn.
Ver. 12. And sincerity of God,† which, according to the style of the Scriptures, seems the same as in great sincerity.
--- In the grace of God. and more abundantly towards you: the sense seems to be, that God had wrought more wonders and miracles by him for their conversion, that in other places. Wi.
--- The apostle here indirectly attacks the false teachers, by saying that his doctrine was always the same, in one continued path of sincerity, and that he made no use of the wisdom of this world, like those false doctors, whose whole design was to insinuate themselves into the affections of the Corinthians by speaking what they knew would be agreeable to them. Estius.
--- He declares that the subject of his glory was, the testimony his own conscience afforded him of having uniformly acted in their regard with sincerity and truth.
[†] V. 12. Sinceritate Dei, eilikrineia Qeou, so montes Dei, i.e. magni.
Ver. 13. What you have read, in my former letter, or letters, and known by my preaching: this he says, to clear himself from the accusation of his adversaries, that his words, preaching, and promises were not to be regarded, saying different things at different times, and promising to come to them, which he had not done. Wi.
Ver. 17. When, therefore, I had a mind, and purposed to come to you, did I use levity? was it an effect of levity, of a fickle mind, and of a want of sincerity? or do I purpose and promise things according to the flesh, to human motives and interest, which make me say, and unsay again, so that in me is yes and no? Wi.
Ver. 18. But God is faithful: The sense seems to be, as God is faithful, or I appeal to God, who is faithful, that in what I have preached to you, there is not yes and no; my doctrine concerning the faith in Jesus Christ, is and was always the same. Whether I, or Silvanus, or Timothy preached the Son of God, that is, what we taught concerning the Son of God, was not yes and no, was not first one thing, and then another; but in him was yes only, that is, in him, and his doctrine, which we have taught, all is yes, firm, and unchangeable.
--- And all the promises of God, of sanctification and salvation, made to us in him, by his merits and grace, are equally yes, certain, and infallible; and therefore by him, and his promises are Amen to God, must needs be true, unto our glory, will turn to the salvation and glory of his elect in heaven. Wi.
Ver. 19. It is, was in him. There was no inconstancy in the doctrine of the apostles, sometimes, like modern sectaries, saying, It is, and at other times saying, It is not. But their doctrine was ever the same, one uniform yea, in Jesus Christ, one Amen, that is, one truth in him. Ch.
Ver. 20. The doctrine which the apostle delivered to them was not ambiguous, doubtful, or contradictory, first one thing, then another; on the contrary, it was such, that the apostle could say, (v. 14.) we are your glory.
--- Amen. All the promises made by God, with regard to Christ, are fulfilled in him; therefore we may say Amen, and give glory to God, through Jesus Christ, who hath fulfilled all his promises. Calmet.
--- One of the distinctive marks, as the holy fathers affirm, between separatists and Catholics is; the former are fond of innovation, changes, and reform, the latter are scrupulously tenacious of what has been delivered from the beginning. See S. Irenæus, l. i. c. 18. Tertul. de præscript. S. Basil, ep. 12. Vine: Lyr. See also Les Variations, par Bossuet.
Ver. 21-22. This must needs be true, because he is God, who hath confirmed us with you, both us and you in Christ, in the faith, and grace of Christ crucified, who hath anointed us with divine graces, who hath sealed us, as it were, by an indelible character, in the sacraments of baptism, and confirmation, and ordination, when we were made ministers of Christ, who in this manner hath given the pledge† of his holy Spirit in our hearts, a sufficient pledge and earnest of his graces in this life, and of the glory he has prepared for us in the next. Wi.
--- By these texts, and Eph. iv. the Catholic Church teaches, that we are anointed and consecrated to the service of God, and sealed with a spiritual and distinctive mark, called by divines, a character, (see S. Jer. in Eph. iv. S. Cyril, cateches. 17.) which, as it is indelible, can never be iterated. The same is true of confirmation, and holy orders. See S. Aug. cont. Parm. c. xiii. & Conc. Tarrac. c. vi.
[†] V. 22. Pignus spiritus, ton arrabwna. That by receiving the earnest, says S. Chrys. p. 662. you may be assured to receive the whole.
Ver. 23. Now as to my not coming to you, I call God to witness, that I only deferred my coming out of kindness to you, and that I came not hitherto to Corinth, to spare you, when by reason of the disorders among you, I must have been forced to use severities against those who were not yet reformed.
--- Not that we lord it over your faith, nor desire to treat God's faithful with severity, or by shewing the power that God hath given us: but we rather desire to be helpers and promoters of your joy, that we may rejoice together with you in God. And now I have this greatest comfort to hear that you stand steadfast and firm in the faith of Christ. Wi.