Notes on 2 Corinthians 1:15-20

2 Corinthians 1:15‑20  •  7 min. read  •  grade level: 8
The apostle now explains circumstances which some in Corinth were as quick to misunderstand as ready to turn to his advantage. He is free to explain now as things are, but he is more anxious to turn all to the account of Christ and the truth, and this in the truest interests of the saints.
“And with this confidence I was intending previously to come unto you, that ye might have a second favor,1 and through you to pass into Macedonia, and again from Macedonia to come unto you, and by you to be sent forward into Judea. Having, then, this intention, did I, pray, use lightness? Or what I purpose2 do I purpose according to flesh, that with me may be the yea yea and the nay nay? Now God [is] faithful that our word that [was] unto you is3 not yea and nay. For the Son of God, Christ Jesus, that was preached among you by us, by me, and Silvanus, and Timothy, became not yea and nay, but is become yea in Him. For as many as [are] God's promises, in him [is] the yea; wherefore also by him [is] the amen for glory to God by us.” (Vers. 15-20.)
The injurious impression, and even charge, of some at Corinth against the apostle was based on the slenderest appearances, and these severed from the action in him of power and love and a sound mind. How opposed to the Spirit were not such thoughts in them! The modification of his plans in not going before to visit them was as distinctly in subjection to the Lord, as his actual desire to see and help them. It was not dread of any there, still less was it from lack of moral purpose in himself. His heart was toward them in the large and holy activity of divine love. Blessed before to them, he sought that they might be favored of the Lord again, on his way to and from Macedonia for Judea; and their affectionate care in sending him on to the East he valued and counted on. His true motives he let them know afterward. Those who yielded to such surmisings proved both their own bad state, and their ignorance of the apostle; for character and state are according to the object before the man. If it be Christ in love to His own, and even to man generally, the result follows in a walk according to God. This is to imitate God, and serve the Lord. If there be an absence of purpose on the one hand, or on the other a planning according to flesh, in either way self governs, and there could be for others no just ground of confidence. The man is as he loves, or loves not. He that dwells in love, dwells in God, and God in him. He that lacks an object, lacks character, and can only be frivolous and inconstant; he that seeks personal influence, power, honor, money, &c., is degraded according to what his heart is set on. What is of the flesh is worthless, and its purpose untrustworthy. In God only is continuance, and His Spirit alone works it in the heart and ways, where Christ displaces self as the object. For man otherwise is incapable of walking or serving according to God. He is either and evidently fickle, or his planning, however positive, is without God's guidance and strength.
Beautifully does he turn, in a spirit of grace, from their insinuations against himself to the doctrine he preached. “Now God [is] faithful, that our word that [was] unto you is not yea and nay.” There is no shift of purpose, no uncertainty, in the gospel, whatever may be thought of the man. God Himself is pledged to, and concerned in, it. His glory and His grace are not more concerned in it than His truth and righteousness. In the mighty work of redemption, all that God is shone out as nowhere else in past or future. There He vindicated His own nature in everlasting hatred of sin; there He demonstrated His love, rising above the worst evil of the creature. Did He compromise His word? He accomplished it, letter and spirit, to the full. Did He abandon His holiness? Never was His absolute separation from it so manifested, nor His righteous judgment of it ever so seen as then; yet then it was that every obstacle to the outflow of all-overcoming grace toward sinners, whatever and wherever they might be, fell before the efficacy of the one offering and sacrifice of Christ. And as in the work which is its ground, so in the preaching, there is no inconsistency. On the contrary, every fact and thought, otherwise irreconcilable, are there brought into harmony. Our only absolute consistency is in Christ and His cross.
Here it will be observed that the apostle associates others with himself. For the grace and truth that Game through Jesus Christ over enlarges the heart, and gives enduring fellowship; and this appears still more clearly in what follows. “For the Son of God, Christ Jesus, that was preached among you by us, by me, and Silvanus, and Timothy, became not yea and nay, but is become yea in him.” The glory of the person proclaimed answers to the certainty guaranteed. Doubt, difficulty, hesitation, or inconsistency can have no place in the Son of God, now the glorified Man, who suffered on the cross for the annulling of sin; and the apostle and his companions knew and preached no other doctrine. As the truth is one, and they believed, so is the doctrine the same which they preached. Others might seek novelties, and it is natural to the active, restless, spirit of man. They could not so deal with such a person, such a work, or such a message. That divine person, in His infinite grace, governed their minds and filled their hearts; and out of the abundance of their hearts they preached the word of truth, the gospel of their salvation, and this as consistently each with himself, as all with each other.
Thus he declares most unequivocally that the preaching of him and his companions had none of the vacillation or conflict common to the schools of human opinion, and this because all truth is verified in Christ's person. It is become yea in Him. It abode the same. Perfection is come in Him, and also as available for others. This is far more than the witness's agreement with themselves and one another, which is eclipsed by Christ, who is personally the truth, and all is become verified in Him. Nothing more distant from the subdued, hesitating, style of Greek thought and expression, where even what was not doubted they put as opinion. Here all is sure, and unclouded, and peremptory. The gospel, as Paul preached it, admits of no doubtful answer, any more than doable dealing; and this, because it is revealed in the Second man, who has set aside the first, with his darkness and doubt, no less than with his guilt and corruption.
More than this: “For how many soever [are] God's promises, in him is the yea; wherefore4 also through him [is] the amen to God for glory, by us.” Hence it is not only that there is the affirmation of all promised of God in Christ, and therefore in the highest way, before the fulfillment in others, as the effect, and the outward display before every eye in the universe, but there is a present application of the surest character, through apostolic ministration, to God's glory. God is glorified in the Son of man, as the Son of man is glorified; but there are results of the deepest sort which God vouchsafes now to faith, in the administration of which (not the kingdom merely, as Peter) our apostle had the chief place, and the Christian is entitled to reap the blessing, as heartily and in the Holy Spirit assenting to the truth. So Bengel, long ago, said tersely enough, “Nae respectu Dei promittentis, Amen respectu oredentium.” But to bring the believer into the enjoyment of what God has wrought in Christ more has to be said, and immediately follows. Here it is the firm foundation, not God's promises as of old, still less the law, which proved that man could not make them good, but all accomplished in Christ, but also as surely verified through Him, for glory to God by us.