Notes on 2 Corinthians 1:1-7

2 Corinthians 1:1‑7  •  6 min. read  •  grade level: 12
Restorative grace, according to the character and power of life in Christ, is the key-note of this epistle, and that accompanied by the deepest exercise of the heart under the disciplinary ways of God. If the Corinthians had to learn in a manner suited to their state, the apostle too, far more profoundly, that he might be enabled fittingly to carry on and complete the gracious work of humbling and self-judgment begun in them by his first epistle. The Lord called him to pass through the severest personal trial and suffering in order the more effectively to serve and sympathize with them, now that their state interpreted by love admitted of unreserved affection and its free expression to them. The influence of all this, as we may see, is very considerable on the style of his second letter, which abounds in the most rapid transitions and abrupt allusions, as he tells out for their profit his own affliction, and the faithfulness of God, intermingling experience, doctrine, comfort, and warning, most intimately; yet so far from confusion that all helps on the great aim of bringing home the lessons of grace to the annihilation of self-confidence or glorying in man.
“Paul, apostle of Jesus Christ1 by God's will, and Timothy the brother to the assembly that is in Corinth, with all the saints that are in the whole of Achaia; grace to you and peace from God our Father and [our] Lord Jesus Christ.”
The opening words of the second epistle naturally resemble those of the first, yet with well defined marks of difference. There is no repetition here of his calling to the apostolate, nor is the assembly at Corinth qualified as sanctified in Christ Jesus, and saints by the analogous calling of God, which one cannot but judge intrinsically calculated and intended by grace to exercise their consciences in the then state of things in that city. Sosthenes was there graciously associated with the apostle, as one known to and probably of themselves, whom he could honor if they did not; as here we find Timothy from elsewhere, as to whose worthy reception by them the first epistle shows him solicitous. But in the first the apostle had joined the Corinthian church “with all that call on the name of our Lord Jesus Christ in every place, both theirs and ours,” here “with all the saints that are in the whole of Achaia.” It is clear that the first gives a far wider extension than the second, and leaves room for a profession which might not be real, as indeed the apostle evidently feared as to the Corinthians themselves in both epistles, especially the first. But the direct force seems to be to embrace, in the express address, saints here or there in Achaia who might not be gathered into assemblies, or such as called on the Lord's name everywhere. As it was of moment that all these should know their heritage in the privileges given and revealed, and be kept from the snare of unbelief which denies their catholicity and continuance, so it was of moment that all the saints throughout Achaia should know and rejoice in the grace that had wrought restoratively in the Corinthian assembly, whatever might remain to be desired from the Lord. It was their common interest and profit for others as well as those immediately concerned. If one member suffer, all the members with it; and if one member is honored, all the members rejoice with it. In both Epistles he could not but wish them characterized by “grace” the spring and “peace” the effect of love above evil and need, flowing richly and freely “from God our Father and [our] Lord Jesus Christ,” the source and the channel of every blessing, but here again characterizing the desired grace and peace.
“Blessed [be] the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies, and God of all comfort, that comforteth us in all our tribulation, that we may be able to comfort those that are in any tribulation through the comfort into which we are comforted ourselves by God, because even as the sufferings of the Christ abound toward us, so through the Christ2 aboundeth also our comfort. 3But, whether we are in tribulation, [it is] for your comfort and salvation, that worketh in endurance of the same sufferings which we also suffer (and our hope [is] steadfast for you); or whether we are comforted, [it is] for your comfort and salvation, knowing that as ye are partakers of the sufferings, so also of the comfort.” (Vers. 3-7.)
How striking the difference as compared with the opening of the first epistle! There he thanked his God, not indeed for the spiritual state of the Corinthian saints—very far from it, whatever some might but most unintelligently have inferred—but for their rich endowments. Now he can bless the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ for the grace which turns to account all our tribulation, designating Him the Father of compassions, and the God of all comfort. And surely if one adore such a God, that adoration is enhanced when one thus comes in contact with a heart (once how far from it till purified by faith!) which could thus welcome any and every trouble, be it the sorest, comforted by God so as to comfort those that were in any conceivable trouble through the comfort with which He had already comforted itself. It is well to look at the operation of grace in a man of like passions, and not only in the fullness and perfection of all, even in Christ Himself. And certainly, if Paul was remarkable for an energy of loving labor beyond every other, he was yet more so for the variety and greatness of what he suffered for Christ's name. So here he can speak of what he had just proved afresh. The sufferings of the Christ abounded towards us, as he says; so through Him did our comfort, he adds. His faith laid hold of the Lord's way and end, and applied it to his own circumstances, and the working of grace in the face of all. As love never fails, so all things work together for good. And whether we are in tribulation, it is for your comfort and salvation. Love interprets boldly and liberally. He had heard enough to cheer his spirit: “whether we are comforted, it is for your comfort and salvation, that worketh in endurance of the same sufferings which we also suffer.” Far other were the sufferings of the Corinthian saints from his own. But grace delights in sharing all it can; and faith gives the highest character to whatever it can discern to be of God. In this spirit the apostle seems here to regard the sufferings of the saints at Corinth, and to hope the best results, “Knowing that as ye are partakers of the suffering, so also of the comfort.”