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An Exposition Of the Epistles Of Saint Paul And Of The Catholic Epistles Volumes 1&2


The Apostle commences this Epistle with the usual Apostolical salutation (verses 1, 2). In the next place, he returns thanks to God, the source of true consolation, for having consoled him in the several afflictions which he underwent for the gospel; but in proportion to these afflictions, do his consolations abound. This reference to his afflictions will render more intelligible the apology which he is about to offer for the delay in the fulfilment of his promise of coming to them, which apology is to this effect, viz.:—that he had been prevented by persecutions and several obstacles from fulfilling it as he expected (3–6). He conciliates their good will by assuring them, that both his tribulations and consolations tend to their spiritual interest (6–8). He describes the imminence of his perils, out of which he was rescued by the special Providence of God, in whom he has unbounded confidence, not only in reference to the present, but also to all future dangers. He expresses a hope that the Corinthians will intercede for him with God, in order to secure the Divine protection (8–12). He states some special reasons for confidence in God’s protection—arising from the sincerity and purity of his conduct, and the heavenly means which he employed, particularly among the Corinthians, for establishing the faith. He prepares for the refutation of the charge of fickleness preferred against him by the false teachers, by referring to the knowledge and experience of the Corinthians themselves regarding him (12–15), and relying on this knowledge, and their consequent affection for him, he confidently asserts, that he was not guilty of fickleness in changing his purpose of visiting them (16, 17); and as the false teachers endeavoured to make it appear that he was as changeable in his teaching, as he was in his personal purposes, he defers assigning the cause of his not visiting them according to promise, to verse 23, and undertakes to prove the unchangeableness of his doctrine, on several grounds:—First, because his doctrine was derived from a God essentially veracious (18). Again, because the subject of his preaching, viz., Christ Jesus, was unchangeable (19). He assigns a confirmation of the foregoing reason (20). Another reason for the truth and unchangeableness of his doctrine is, that he exhibited the seal of God himself, viz., the external gifts of the Holy Ghost (21, 22). He, finally, assigns his motive for not having visited them (23).


1. Paul, an Apostle of Jesus Christ, not self-commissioned, nor self-sent, but sent by the command and authority of God, and Timothy, who is our brother, by a participation in the same faith, and also by co-operation in the gospel ministry, (salute) the congregation of the faithful believers at Corinth, and all the Christians throughout the entire of Achaia.

2. May you enjoy the abundance of all spiritual blessings, and the undisturbed possession of them, from their efficient cause, God the Father, and their meritorious cause, Jesus Christ, who is, in a special manner, our Lord, by right of redemption.

3. Eternal thanksgiving and praise be rendered to God, who is also the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, and who is, therefore, to us a most merciful Father, and the source and fountain of all consolation.

4. Who consoles us (Apostles) in all our tribulations, so that we may be enabled, in turn, to offer consolation to such as are in any distress, by imparting to them the consolation wherewith we are ourselves consoled by God.

5. For, in proportion as the sufferings which we endure for the gospel of Christ increase in us, so does the same gospel administer to us abundant consolation, which we impart to others.

6. Now, whether we be in tribulation, it is for your encouragement and salvation—inasmuch as our example encourages you to bear up against tribulations, which will finally lead to your salvation—or, whether we be in consolation, it is for your consolation (since we receive consolation from God in order to impart it to others), or whether we be interiorly excited by God, this too is for your exhortation and salvation, which salvation is operated or wrought by the patient endurance of the same sufferings which we also endure.

7. Hence it is, that our hopes for your consolation and salvation are quite firm and secure, owing to a communication of sufferings; because we know, that as you have been partners in suffering, so shall you be (or, rather, are you) sharers in the consolations which God imparts to his faithful servants, even in this life, as a pledge and sure earnest of heavenly consolations.

8. For, that I had my share in suffering, I wish to inform you, brethren—I allude particularly to my sufferings in Asia—sufferings so unmeasurably beyond human strength, that the divine aid alone could enable us to withstand them, and so oppressive, as to render us weary of life, and make us wish for death to interpose and deliver us from them.

9. But even such was the magnitude of our danger, that we had the sentence of death recorded within our own mind, from the certain conviction which we felt, humanly speaking, that we would die and not live. Divine Providence permitting us to be thus perilled, in order that we should not trust in ourselves, but in God, who raises the dead, and can therefore rescue those placed in immediate danger of death, which is a sort of resurrection.

10. It is the same God, who rescued us from such imminent perils, and still continues to rescue us, and in whom we are wont to trust that he will rescue us out of the future dangers that may befall us.

11. Provided you also assist us by your prayers, in order that the gracious gift of my deliverance, obtained for me by the intercession of many persons, may be acknowledged also by many persons for me with thankfulness and gratitude to God.

12. (I do hope that God will rescue me from all future dangers), because I have to glory in the testimony of a good conscience assuring me, that I have everywhere in this world, but more particularly amongst you, behaved with the utmost candour and simplicity, free from all dissimulation in my actions, with the utmost sincerity and purity of motive, such as I can call God to witness, not resorting to carnal wisdom, consisting in the ornaments of rhetoric, nor to the reasonings of philosophy (like the false teachers), but to the power of God’s grace manifested by exterior signs, and the occult efficacy of our words to bring men to the faith.

13. You yourselves are witnesses of my claims to candour in conduct and purity of motive; for, I have written nothing regarding myself, that you may not recognise as leading features in my character, and know from experience to belong to me. I trust you will find me in future, even to the very close of my life, to sustain the same consistency of conduct and character.

14. For, you have hitherto partly known regarding me, that I am for you a subject wherein to glory, not seeking my own profit, but the things of Jesus Christ, as you, in turn, shall be the subject of my glorying in the day of judgment, being the fruit of my labours and apostolic ministry.

15. And it was from a confidence in these your kind dispositions, towards me, that, on a former occasion, I wished to come to you in order that you might have a second favour.

16. I purposed passing by you into Macedonia, and again from Macedonia to come to you, and to be accompanied by some of you to Judea.

17. And in failing to carry out this fixed intention have I given proofs of fickleness and inconsistency, as if I had changed this resolution without sufficient cause? When I come to a deliberate resolution, do I form such a purpose and resolution according to the carnal views of self-interest, passion, or worldly ambition, so as to say and unsay, promise, and break that promise, according as it might suit my caprice or worldly interest?

18. Whatever may be said of my personal fickleness and changeableness of disposition; God is essentially true; and, therefore, our doctrine, or the doctrine which we preached among you, was neither changeable nor unstable.

19. The subject of my preaching, and that of my fellow-labourers among you, viz., Jesus Christ, the Son of God, was not, “it is, it is not,” that is, changeable; but he has been always unchangeably the same; and hence, our doctrine also has been one and the same.

20. For, in Christ, are all the promises of God to man ratified and accomplished. In his merits they are fulfilled; and, therefore, it is by him we firmly believe in God—which belief tends to our glory.

21. It is God, who has confirmed us as the ministers of the gospel of Christ, giving us the grace of constancy to preach it in the midst of you, it is he who has also anointed us with the unction and grace of the Holy Ghost.

22. Who has affixed his seal to the high commission with which he has invested us, by the effusion of the gifts of miracles, tongues, and other external graces, and has given us a sure earnest of our future glory and happiness, in the grace of the Holy Ghost, which he has poured in our hearts.

23. Now, as to my change of purpose—I call God to witness against my soul, if I speak not the truth, that my reason for not visiting you, according to promise, was, to spare you the penalties and censures due to your irregularities; not that mean to tyrannize over you on account of the power which, as the Apostle of your faith, I have over you—but I wish to cooperate in gladdening you, for you deserve to be gladdened on account of your steadfastness in the faith.


1. “Timothy.” He joins Timothy with himself in this salutation, because Timothy was after returning to him from Corinth, whither the Apostle had sent him with authority to confirm the faith of the believers and repress the inroads of the false teachers. From him the Apostle had received favourable accounts of the Church of Corinth, and of the good effects produced by the foregoing Epistle. “Our brother.” (In Greek, ὁ ἀδελφὸς, the brother).—See Paraphrase. “In all Achaia,” of which Corinth was the capital.

2. “Grace,” &c. The usual form of apostolical salutation.

3. “Blessed be the God,” &c. Our benediction, or blessing of God, differs from his benediction of us. His consists in conferring benefits—ours (for we can confer no benefit on him), consists in our good will towards him, expressed in acts of praise and thanksgiving. “The God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ,” may mean, that he is “the God” of the humanity, and “the Father,” or, principle of the Divinity “of our Lord Jesus Christ.” The exposition in the Paraphrase is, however, preferable. “The Father of mercies,” may mean, the source of all mercies, or, by a Hebrew idiom, the most merciful Father—as in Paraphrase.

4. “Who comforteth us.” These words probably refer to St. Paul himself, so as to mean, “who comforteth me” his Apostle. They may also be referred to the Apostles (as in Paraphrase). “By the exhortation.” The Greek word, παρακλησεως, means also, by the consolation wherewith we are consoled, &c. The Apostle, having contristated them in the preceding Epistle, now tells them, that God had favoured himself with consolation, in order that he might be the better enabled to impart it to them; for, as we are told by St. Thomas, qui non est consolatus, nescit consolare. In this passage it is also implied, that the gifts, the graces, and consolations imparted to the ministers of the gospel, should be employed, not for their own private advantage, but for the good of their people. The Greek word for “comforteth,” ὁ παρακαλῶν, literally means, “who calls on us to assume courage.”

5. “The sufferings of Christ.” In Greek, τοῦ Χριστοῦ, of the Christ, may also mean, the sufferings of Christ in his members. The Paraphrase, referring it to the sufferings undergone for Christ, is preferable. As Christ is the occasion of our suffering, so is he the efficient cause of our consolation, which we receive in order to impart it to others, as is expressed in the following verse.

6. The second member of this sentence, “whether we be comforted, it is for your consolation,” is not in the best Greek copies, and its admission into our Vulgate may be accounted for, on this ground, that the corresponding Greek verb for “comforted,” παρακαλουμεθα, having a two-fold meaning—for it also signifies to be exhorted, as translated in the third member of this sentence, “whether we be exhorted,” &c.—it is likely, that the word was rendered both ways by different interpreters, and that both translations were adopted into the Vulgate. In expounding the passage, one of the members ought, however, to be expunged, in order to avoid a useless tautology. “Whether we be in tribulation, it is for your exhortation and salvation:” since it is a great source of encouragement and comfort to the faithful under afflictions, to see the Apostles plant the faith with patience and constancy in the midst of the like tribulations; it encourages them to follow their teachers in treading the only sure road to heaven; for, “by many tribulations must we enter into the kingdom of God.” According to the construction in the Greek, the words, “which worketh the enduring of the same sufferings,” immediately follow the words, “whether we be in tribulation, it is for your exhortation and salvation.” “Salvation” is wanting in this first member, in the reading of the Codex Vaticanus; but, read in the third member. In the English version of the Bible, the words, τῆς ἑνεργουμένης ἐν ὑπομονῇ, are taken in an active signification, “which worketh the enduring,” &c. A passive signification, however, “which (salvation) is worked by the enduring,” &c., is preferable, and the words are understood in this way by St. Chrysostom (see Paraphrase). In some Greek readings the words of the next verse (7), “that our hope for you may be steadfast,” are read immediately after the first member of this verse, thus—“now whether we be in tribulation, it is for your exhortation and salvation, which is effected or wrought by the enduring of the same sufferings which we also suffer (7), that our hope for you may be steadfast (6), whether we be consoled, it is for your consolation.” “Knowing that you are partners,” &c. According to this construction, the words, “that our hope for you” (verse 7), express the Apostle’s hope, that the Corinthians will attain salvation by suffering with patience the crosses which may befall them.

7. The interpretation in the Paraphrase is according to the Vulgate reading. He refers to the spiritual consolations of this life; for, it is of such he is speaking.

8. “In Asia.” He probably refers to the tumult caused at Ephesus by Demetrius the silver smith (Acts, 19.) “Weary even of life,” wished for death. In this, there was no more deordination, than there was in the words of Job—tædet animan meam vita meæ. The Greek, ὥστε ἐξαπορηθῆναι ἡμᾶς καὶ τοῦ, ζῇν, admits of the following meaning also—so that we were despairing of our lives, and perplexed what course to pursue for the avoidance of such imminent danger.

9. He shows the imminence of his danger, by saying, that he felt as certain of not escaping death, as does the man against whom the sentence of death is juridically recorded. He pronounced a similar sentence against himself. “Who raiseth the dead.” He adds these words, to show, that his own deliverance was a kind of resurrection; because, being in certain danger of death, he was rescued from its very jaws; and hence, in a certain sense, resuscitated.

10. “And doth deliver us,” proves that the Apostle’s position, even at the present moment, was by no means free from danger. “We trust.” The Greek word, ἠλπίκαμεν, expresses, we are in the habit of trusting.

11. “Obtained for us by the means of many persons,” may also mean, given us for the sake of many persons—ex multorum personis. Hence, the utility of joint prayer, as also of intercession for others. And if this be true of the intercession made by sinners here on earth, how much more so must it not be, of the intercession of the saints reigning with God and confirmed in glory? Joint thanksgiving also is the more acceptable in the sight of God.

12. “Simplicity of heart” The words, “of heart,” are not in the Greek. They may have probably crept into the text, in consequence of the phrase, “simplicity of heart,” being frequently used in other parts of SS. Scripture.—(Wisdom, 1, Ephes. 6, Colos. 3.) “Simplicity” is opposed to duplicity of conduct—to doing one thing, and pretending another. “Sincerity,” regards the purity of motive and intention. In these words, he arraigns the hypocrisy and selfishness of the false teachers. “Carnal wisdom” means the same, as “the persuasive words of human wisdom” (1 Cor. 2), and “the grace of God,” the same as the “shewing of the spirit and power.”—(1 Cor. 2:4).

13. I write nothing but what you may yourselves recognise or remember to have been leading features in my character, and which you now know from experience to belong to me. Such is the signification of the Greek verbs αναγινωσκετε, and επιγινωσκετε, corresponding to “read” and “known,” and hence, it has been preferred in the Paraphrase: επιγινωσκετε, is wanting in some Greek copies, in the Codex Vaticanus among the rest. If the Vulgate reading of the words, which is not free from difficulty, and the English rendering of them, as in the text, be adopted; then, they are to be explained thus: I have only written what you have read in my former Epistles, and known from my preaching. But how he could refer to his former Epistles in his own justification, and in proof of his sincerity and truthfulness, is not easily seen, since no one can be a witness in his own cause. Hence, the meaning given in the Paraphrase, which is fully warranted, by the Greek, has been preferred.

14. It is a matter of doubt, whether the last words of the preceding verse, “and I hope that you shall know unto the end,” should be construed with the preceding part of the same verse, as has been done in the Paraphrase, or with this verse, thus: I hope you will find me to sustain the same character, which you have already known partly to belong to me. If we adopt this latter construction, then, the following words, “that we are your glory,” mean, “because we are your glory,” a signification which the Greek, ὅτι, admits; either construction may be adopted. The interpretation of Estius, who makes the construction of this verse independent of the preceding, has been followed in the Paraphrase. “In part,” is understood by Commentators to regard the Corinthians themselves; as if he said, “some among you have known me to be your glory,” &c. In these words, he arraigns the preference which many among them were showing the false teachers.

15. In his former Epistle, he expressed his wish and fixed purpose of visiting them. “A second grace,” most likely refers to his second coming amongst them. At his first visit he converted them; at his second contemplated visit, he wishes to instruct them more fully in religion, and confirm them in the faith. In this verse, he accounts for the delay in the fulfilment of his promise (for, this was employed against him by the false teachers, as a proof of fickleness), and he declares that he was determined to come to them and fulfil his promise, had no unforseen events prevented him.

16. It is likely that he intended to pass the winter among them, as he asserts (1 Ep. 16:6). How reconcile his words in this verse with 15:5, where he promises to visit them after having passed through Macedonia—here, he says, his promise was to visit them before going to Macedonia? The more common mode of reconciling both statements is that adopted by St. Thomas, who asserts, that the promise, for the non-fulfilment of which the Apostle apologises here, is different from that referred to (chap. 16 of 1 Ep.) St. Thomas supposes that the Apostle made the promise referred to here, either in an Epistle to the Corinthians now lost (1 Epistle, 5:9), or had it conveyed through a messenger; and that in chapter 16 of his second Epistle (the first according to him being lost), or as it is now termed, his First Epilstle to the Corinthians, he expresses the change of resolution which he was obliged to come to. Hence, there is not question here of the same promise referred to (16, 1 Epistle). And that the Apostle does not refer to that promise made (chapter16, 1 Epistle), is clear from this circumstance, that he needed no apology, as no charge of fickleness or of irresolution could be made against him in that case, because it was yet in his power to fulfil that promise, by going from Macedonia (where, it is supposed, this Epistle was written) to Corinth; whereas the former promise, supposed by St. Thomas, could not be complied with; for he had been in Macedonia without going to Corinth, and this alone needed apology.

17. When wishing to visit you first, and then to go to Macedonia, did I display fickleness? The question is equivalent to a negation. “The things that I purpose (with deliberation), do I purpose according to the flesh?”—(See Paraphrase). And since the false teachers endeavoured to make it appear to the Corinthians, that the Apostle was as inconstant in his teaching, and as changeable in his doctines, as he was in his personal purposes; hence, the Apostle defends at once the truth and unchangeableness of the doctrines which he preached, and defers the defence of his own conduct in not visiting them before going to Macedonia, to the 23rd verse of this, and the beginning of the next chapter. In the common Greek “it is,” “it is not,” are doubled, τὸ ναὶ, ναὶ, καὶ τὸ οὔ, οὔ, it is, it is, it is not, it is not. This, however, does not affect the sense, it only adds greater force to the affirmation and negation. In the Codex Vaticanus, they are not doubled. It supports the Vulgate reading.

18. “For our preaching,” &c. “For” is the same as, therefore (as in Paraphrase), or, if it retain its ordinary meaning, then, the verse will merely convey the following form of obtestation: I appeal to God, who is infinitely and essentially veracious, that the doctrines which we preach to you is not changeable. The first reason assigned by the Apostle for the truth of his doctrine is, that he is the Apostle of a God infinitely veracious. For, although his purpose of visiting, or not visiting, might be from himself, that is to say, human—his doctrine was divine, being from God.

19. The second argument is founded on the unchangeableness of the subject of his preaching, and that of his co-operators, Silvanus and Timothy, which subject was Christ crucified. Nos prædicamus Christum crucifixion (1 Cor. 1); he is unchangeable; and hence, the Apostle’s doctrine regarding him is always the same.

20. In this verse is conveyed a corroboration of the reason referred to in the preceding. Christ, the subject of our preaching, is unchangeable. In him are accomplished the promises made by God in the Old Testament, and from the fulfilment of these promises, is derived an additional reason for firmly believing in God. “Amen to God,” i.e., the firm faith and belief in God, which faith serves for our glory. “Unto our glory.” In Greek, πρὸς δὀξαν δἰ ἡμῶν, unto glory by us, or, unto the glory of God, by us.

21, 22. Another argument of the truth of the doctrine which he preached, viz., his having exhibited the seal of God himself, viz., miracles, the gifts of the Holy Ghost, which are the authentic testimony given by God himself, and which would never be accorded to a man preaching false doctrine. From this passage, some Divines undertake to prove the impression of a spiritual character by some of the sacraments. It is not easy to see how such a proof can be grounded on these words; for, the character referred to, and which three of the sacraments, viz., Baptism, Confirmation, and Orders, most assuredly impress (this is de fide Catholica, Council of Trent, SS. vii. de Sacramentis, canon ix.) is necessarily invisible; whereas, the seal to which the Apostle here refers, must be visible, to prove the truth of his doctrine. It is, therefore, more probable, that the seal, of which mention is made here, is the seal of external gifts of the Holy Ghost, viz., miracles, tongues, &c. By such gifts, God affixes his true and authentic seal to the divine mission of such as are favoured with them.

23. After having refuted the charge of inconstancy, made against him, and established the unchangeable truth of his doctrine, the Apostle now assigns his motive for having changed his purpose of visiting them. His motive in doing so (and he solemnly appeals to God in attestation of the truth of his assertion), was, to spare them the infliction of the censures with which the irregularities of some amongst them would force him to visit them; and lest the words, “to spare you,” might appear to savour too much of arbitrary despotism or domineering tyranny, he says, he is not to be understood as attempting to lord it over them on account of their faith, conceived from his preaching, which circumstance, consequently, gave him authority over them This meaning is warranted by the Greek. The words, on account of, are understood thus: We do not exercise dominion over you (on account of), your faith which we planted. The words may also mean—We do not mean to exercise authority over you, and visit you with censures on account of any errors in faith; for, in this you are firm and blameless. In this latter construction, the words, “in faith you stand,” are connected not with the words immediately preceding; hut, with the words, “we exercise dominion over your faith,” and they are a reason why he lords it over their faith. In this construction also is implied, that they deserved censure rather on account of breaches of moral conduct, than for errors in faith. Others (as in Paraphrase), connect them with the words immediately preceding, “we are helpers of your joy,” and, then, they serve as a reason why the Apostle should endeavour to gladden them, viz., as a reward of their steadfastness in the faith.

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