2 Corinthians 1:12-2:13
New American Bible (Revised Edition)
II. The Crisis Between Paul and the Corinthians
A. Past Relationships[a]
Paul’s Sincerity and Constancy. 12 [b]For our boast is this, the testimony of our conscience that we have conducted ourselves in the world, and especially toward you, with the simplicity and sincerity of God, [and] not by human wisdom but by the grace of God. 13 For we write you nothing but what you can read and understand, and I hope that you will understand completely, 14 as you have come to understand us partially, that we are your boast as you also are ours, on the day of [our] Lord Jesus.(A)
15 With this confidence I formerly intended to come[c] to you so that you might receive a double favor, 16 namely, to go by way of you to Macedonia, and then to come to you again on my return from Macedonia, and have you send me on my way to Judea.(B) 17 So when I intended this, did I act lightly?[d] Or do I make my plans according to human considerations, so that with me it is “yes, yes” and “no, no”?(C) 18 As God is faithful,[e] our word to you is not “yes” and “no.” 19 For the Son of God, Jesus Christ, who was proclaimed to you by us, Silvanus and Timothy and me, was not “yes” and “no,” but “yes” has been in him.(D) 20 For however many are the promises of God, their Yes is in him; therefore, the Amen from us also goes through him to God for glory.(E) 21 [f]But the one who gives us security with you in Christ and who anointed us is God;(F) 22 he has also put his seal upon us and given the Spirit in our hearts as a first installment.(G)
Paul’s Change of Plan. 23 (H)But I call upon God as witness, on my life, that it is to spare you that I have not yet gone to Corinth.[g] 24 Not that we lord it over your faith; rather, we work together for your joy, for you stand firm in the faith.
1 For I decided not to come to you again in painful circumstances. 2 For if I inflict pain upon you, then who is there to cheer me except the one pained by me? 3 And I wrote as I did[h] so that when I came I might not be pained by those in whom I should have rejoiced, confident about all of you that my joy is that of all of you. 4 For out of much affliction and anguish of heart I wrote to you with many tears, not that you might be pained but that you might know the abundant love I have for you.
The Offender.[i] 5 If anyone has caused pain, he has caused it not to me, but in some measure (not to exaggerate) to all of you. 6 This punishment by the majority is enough for such a person, 7 so that on the contrary you should forgive and encourage him instead, or else the person may be overwhelmed by excessive pain.(I) 8 Therefore, I urge you to reaffirm your love for him. 9 For this is why I wrote, to know your proven character, whether you were obedient in everything.(J) 10 Whomever you forgive anything, so do I. For indeed what I have forgiven, if I have forgiven anything, has been for you in the presence of Christ, 11 so that we might not be taken advantage of by Satan, for we are not unaware of his purposes.(K)
Paul’s Anxiety.[j] 12 When I went to Troas for the gospel of Christ, although a door was opened for me in the Lord,(L) 13 [k]I had no relief in my spirit because I did not find my brother Titus.(M) So I took leave of them and went on to Macedonia.
- 1:12–2:13 The autobiographical remarks about the crisis in Asia Minor lead into consideration of a crisis that has arisen between Paul and the Corinthians. Paul will return to this question, after a long digression, in 2 Cor 7:5–16. Both of these sections deal with travel plans Paul had made, changes in the plans, alternative measures adopted, a breach that opened between him and the community, and finally a reconciliation between them.
- 1:12–14 Since Paul’s own conduct will be under discussion here, he prefaces the section with a statement about his habitual behavior and attitude toward the community. He protests his openness, single-mindedness, and conformity to God’s grace; he hopes that his relationship with them will be marked by mutual understanding and pride, which will constantly increase until it reaches its climax at the judgment. Two references to boasting frame this paragraph (2 Cor 1:12, 14), the first appearances of a theme that will be important in the letter, especially in 2 Cor 10–13; the term is used in a positive sense here (cf. note on 1 Cor 1:29–31).
- 1:15 I formerly intended to come: this plan reads like a revision of the one mentioned in 1 Cor 16:5. Not until 2 Cor 1:23–2:1 will Paul tell us something his original readers already knew, that he has canceled one or the other of these projected visits.
- 1:17 Did I act lightly?: the subsequent change of plans casts suspicion on the original intention, creating the impression that Paul is vacillating and inconsistent or that human considerations keep dictating shifts in his goals and projects (cf. the counterclaim of 2 Cor 1:12). “Yes, yes” and “no, no”: stating something and denying it in the same or the next breath; being of two minds at once, or from one moment to the next.
- 1:18–22 As God is faithful: unable to deny the change in plans, Paul nonetheless asserts the firmness of the original plan and claims a profound constancy in his life and work. He grounds his defense in God himself, who is firm and reliable; this quality can also be predicated in various ways of those who are associated with him. Christ, Paul, and the Corinthians all participate in analogous ways in the constancy of God. A number of the terms here, which appear related only conceptually in Greek or English, would be variations of the same root, ’mn, in a Semitic language, and thus naturally associated in a Semitic mind, such as Paul’s. These include the words yes (2 Cor 1:17–20), faithful (2 Cor 1:18), Amen (2 Cor 1:20), gives us security (2 Cor 1:21), faith, stand firm (2 Cor 1:24).
- 1:21–22 The commercial terms gives us security, seal, first installment are here used analogously to refer to the process of initiation into the Christian life, perhaps specifically to baptism. The passage is clearly trinitarian. The Spirit is the first installment or “down payment” of the full messianic benefits that God guarantees to Christians. Cf. Eph 1:13–14.
- 1:23–24 I have not yet gone to Corinth: some suppose that Paul received word of some affair in Corinth, which he decided to regulate by letter even before the first of his projected visits (cf. 2 Cor 1:16). Others conjecture that he did pay the first visit, was offended there (cf. 2 Cor 2:5), returned to Ephesus, and sent a letter (2 Cor 2:3–9) in place of the second visit. The expressions to spare you (2 Cor 1:23) and work together for your joy (2 Cor 1:24) introduce the major themes of the next two paragraphs, which are remarkable for insistent repetition of key words and ideas. These form two clusters of terms in the English translation: (1) cheer, rejoice, encourage, joy; (2) pain, affliction, anguish. These clusters reappear when Paul resumes treatment of this subject in 2 Cor 7:5–16.
- 2:3–4 I wrote as I did: we learn for the first time about the sending of a letter in place of the proposed visit. Paul mentions the letter in passing, but emphasizes his motivation in sending it: to avoid being saddened by them (cf. 1 Cor 2:1), and to help them realize the depth of his love. Another motive will be added in 2 Cor 7:12—to bring to light their own concern for him. With many tears: it has been suggested that we may have all or part of this “tearful letter” somewhere in the Corinthian correspondence, either in 1 Cor 5 (the case of the incestuous man), or in 1 Corinthians as a whole, or in 2 Cor 2:10–13. None of these hypotheses is entirely convincing. See note on 2 Cor 13:1.
- 2:5–11 The nature of the pain (2 Cor 2:5) is unclear, though some believe an individual at Corinth rejected Paul’s authority, thereby scandalizing many in the community. In any case, action has been taken, and Paul judges the measures adequate to right the situation (2 Cor 2:6). The follow-up directives he now gives are entirely positive: forgive, encourage, love. Overwhelmed (2 Cor 2:7): a vivid metaphor (literally “swallowed”) that Paul employs positively at 2 Cor 5:4 and in 1 Cor 15:54 (2 Cor 2:7). It is often used to describe satanic activity (cf. 1 Pt 5:8); note the reference to Satan here in 2 Cor 2:11.
- 2:12–13 I had no relief: Paul does not explain the reason for his anxiety until he resumes the thread of his narrative at 2 Cor 7:5: he was waiting to hear how the Corinthians would respond to his letter. Since 2 Cor 7:5–16 describes their response in entirely positive terms, we never learn in detail why he found it necessary to defend and justify his change of plans, as in 2 Cor 1:15–24. Was this portion of the letter written before the arrival of Titus with his good news (2 Cor 7:6–7)?
- 2:13 Macedonia: a Roman province in northern Greece.