1From Paul to God’s called ones, his church in Corinth.
I have been chosen by Jesus Christ to be his apostle according to God’s perfect plan. Our brother Timothy joins me in writing to you and all the holy believers throughout the Roman province of Achaia. # 1:1 Although this letter was addressed primarily to the Corinthians, it was intended to be read by the churches in southern Greece (Achaia). 2May undeserved favor and endless peace be yours continually from our Father God and from our Lord Jesus, the Anointed One!
3All praises belong to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. For he is the Father of tender mercy and the God of endless comfort. # 1:3 Unlike Paul’s other letters, he skips over making his customary pleasant greeting to the Corinthians and begins this letter bursting with exuberant praise to God, who had delivered him from all of his painful ordeals. Tender mercy and compassion originate with God. As a kind father has compassion on his children, so God tenderly cares for each one of us. When suffering greets us, the God of mercy sustains us. His comfort is permanent and endless. See Mic. 7:18–19. 4He always comes alongside us to comfort us in every suffering so that we can come alongside those who are in any painful trial. We can bring them this same comfort that God has poured out upon us. 5And just as we experience the abundance of Christ’s own sufferings, # 1:5 That is, “the sufferings we endure because of faithfully following Christ.” even more of God’s comfort will cascade upon us through our union with Christ.
6If troubles weigh us down, that just means that we will receive even more comfort to pass on to you for your deliverance! For the comfort pouring into us empowers us to bring comfort to you. And with this comfort upholding you, you can endure victoriously the same suffering that we experience. 7Now our hope for you is unshakable, # 1:7 Or “firmly guaranteed.” because we know that just as you share in our sufferings you will also share in God’s comforting strength.
8Brothers and sisters, you need to know about the severe trials we experienced while we were in western Turkey. # 1:8 Or “Asia.” This was not the continent of Asia known today, but the Roman province of Asia comprised of western Turkey. All of the hardships we passed through crushed us beyond our ability to endure, and we were so completely overwhelmed that we were about to give up entirely. # 1:8 We are not told exactly what overwhelming suffering Paul endured that caused him to write these words with such honest emotion. Some believe he had escaped an assassination attempt or perhaps a mob who had gathered to kill him. Regardless, the sufferings Paul endured were many. See 2 Cor. 11:23–33. 9It felt like we # 1:9 The Greek text is extremely emphatic: “It felt like we ourselves, within our very beings, had received the verdict of death!” had a death sentence written upon our hearts, and we still feel it to this day. It has taught us to lose all faith in ourselves and to place all of our trust in the God who raises the dead. 10He has rescued us from terrifying encounters with death. And now we fasten our hopes on him to continue to deliver us from death yet again, 11as you labor together with us through prayer. # 1:11 Or “as you lift up your faces to God in prayer.” Paul knew that intercessory prayer has the power to change the future. Because there are so many interceding for us, our deliverance will cause even more people to give thanks to God. What a gracious gift of mercy surrounds us because of your prayers!
12We rejoice in saying with complete honesty and a clear conscience # 1:12 Or “indeed, our boasting and the testimony of our conscience.” that God has empowered us to conduct ourselves # 1:12 Paul regularly uses “we” and “our” in 2 Corinthians to refer to apostles and apostolic ministry. in a holy manner and with no hidden agenda. # 1:12 Or “We have behaved in the world with holiness and godly sincerity” (Aramaic, “purity”). Our boast and joy in ministry is not what we have done or how many followers we have, but that our conscience is clean and our motives unmixed. Paul is not taking credit for himself but stating clearly that God’s grace was his source of strength and purity. God’s marvelous grace enables us to minister to everyone with pure motives, not in the clever wisdom of the world. This is especially true in all of our dealings with you. 13We write to you with words that are clearly understood, and there is no need for you to try to read between the lines of what we write in hopes that you can completely and accurately understand our hearts. 14We know you have already understood us in a measure and that you will eventually come to understand us fully. # 1:14 Or “to the end.” Then you’ll be able to boast of us even as we will boast of you in the day of our Lord Jesus.
Paul Explains His Changed Plans
15-16With this confidence, I’m wanting to visit you before and after my trip to Macedonia # 1:15–16 Implied and made explicit from v. 15. so that you enjoy a second experience of grace. # 1:15–16 Or “a second pleasure.” It is possible Paul is using a figure of speech for his second trip to visit them. Afterward, I’m hoping you will be able to aid me on my journey to Israel. # 1:15–16 Or “Judea.” 17When I revised my itinerary, was I vacillating? Or do I make my plans with unprincipled motives, # 1:17 Or “according to the [ways of the] flesh.” ready to flip-flop with a “yes” and a “no” in the same breath? Of course not! # 1:17 The change of Paul’s plans was used by his detractors as a sign of him being untrustworthy. But Paul explains that his itinerary change was not an indication of a lack of concern for them, but because he didn’t want to come and have to rebuke them. He wanted to give the Holy Spirit time in their lives to help work out their issues. His longing was to come with joy and to impart his joy to them, rather than causing more pain. This is why he wrote an emotional letter to them pleading with them to change their ways. 18For as God is true to his word, my promise # 1:18 Or “my message.” to you was not a fickle “yes” when I meant “no.”
19Jesus Christ is the Son of God, and he is the one whom Timothy, Silas, and I have preached to you—and he has never been both a “yes” and a “no.” He has always been and always will be for us a resounding “YES!” 20For all of God’s promises find their “yes” of fulfillment in him. # 1:20 The Aramaic can be translated “All of the kingdoms of God are in him.” And as his “yes” and our “amen” # 1:20 The Hebrew word for “amen” means “That’s right!” ascend to God, we bring him glory! # 1:20 This elliptical sentence could imply the following: (1) It is through Christ that we hear and believe God’s promises and say the declaration of our faith, “Amen,” or (2) it is Christ who speaks through us the “Amen” (of faith).
21Now, it is God himself who has anointed us. And he is constantly strengthening both you and us in union with Christ. 22He knows we are his since he has also stamped his seal of love # 1:22 The Greek word for seal is sphragizō. God has sealed believers with a seven-fold seal: (1) a seal of security, sealed tightly and kept secure in God’s love (Deut. 32:34; Job 14:17; Matt. 27:66), (2) a seal of authentication that marks us as God’s very own (1 Kings 21:8; Est. 8:10; John 6:27), (3) a seal to certify genuineness (Est. 8:8, 10; John 3:33), (4) a seal of ownership (Neh. 10:1; Jer. 32:44; 2 Cor. 1:22), (5) a seal of approval (Eph. 1:13–14), (6) a seal of righteousness (Rom. 4:11), and (7) a seal denoting a promise to be fulfilled (2 Cor. 5:5; Eph. 1:13–14; 4:30). The mark given by the beast is upon the forehead and hand, but the “seal” of Christ is over our hearts. Jesus, our Bridegroom, invites us to place him over our hearts like a fiery seal of love, the jealous flame of God that burns continually in our hearts (Song. 8:6). We are born of the Spirit, sealed with the Spirit, indwelt by the Spirit, baptized in the Spirit, filled with the Spirit, made one (unity) in the Spirit, given gifts of the Spirit, and given ministries by the Spirit. He is a promise, a seal, and a guarantee of receiving our full inheritance. The Greek word for “down payment” is arrabōn and is used in Greek culture for “engagement ring.” Notice in vv. 21–22 that the Trinity (Father, Son, and Holy Spirit) is involved in bringing all this to pass. over our hearts and has given us the Holy Spirit like an engagement ring is given to a bride—a down payment of the blessings to come!
A Change in Paul’s Travel Plans
23Now, I call upon this faithful God as a witness against me if I’m not telling you the absolute truth. It was because I hold you in my heart that I decided not to return to Corinth, in order to spare you the humiliation of my rebuke. 24But I don’t want to imply that as leaders we coerce you or somehow want to rule over your faith. # 1:24 Or “dictate what you must believe.” Instead, we are your partners who are called to increase your joy. # 1:24 The Aramaic can be translated “We are helpers of your joy.” True ministry in God’s kingdom is to be coworkers with those we serve, laboring to see them overflow with joy. There is no control that leaders are to have over the people they serve; rather, they are to inspire lives to be filled with the joy of knowing Jesus. And we know that you already stand firm because of your strong faith. # 1:24 The Aramaic can be translated “For it is through faith that you stand.”