The opening follows the usual Pauline form, except that the thanksgiving takes the form of a doxology or glorification of
). This introduces a meditation on the experience of suffering and encouragement shared by Paul and the Corinthians (
), drawn, at least in part, from Paul's reflections on a recent affliction (
). The section ends with a modified and delayed allusion to thanksgiving (
God of all encouragement: Paul expands a standard Jewish blessing so as to state the theme of the paragraph. The theme of “encouragement” or “consolation”
(paraklēsis) occurs ten times in this opening, against a background formed by multiple references to “affliction” and “suffering.”
Through Christ: the Father of compassion is the Father of our Lord Jesus (
); Paul's sufferings and encouragement (or “consolation”) are experienced in union with Christ. Cf Lk 2, 25
: the “consolation of Israel” is Jesus himself.
You also share in the encouragement: the eschatological reversal of affliction and encouragement that Christians expect (cf Mt 5, 4; Lk 6, 24
) permits some present experience of reversal in the Corinthians’ case, as in Paul's.
Asia: a Roman province in western Asia Minor, the capital of which was Ephesus.
The sentence of death: it is unclear whether Paul is alluding to a physical illness or to an external threat to life. The result of the situation
was to produce an attitude of faith in God alone. God who raises the dead: rescue is the constant pattern of God's activity; his final act of encouragement is the resurrection.
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
. 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.
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 (
), the first appearances of a theme that will be important in the letter, especially in chs 10–13
; the term is used in a positive sense here (cf the note on 1 Cor 1, 29–31
I formerly intended to come: this plan reads like a revision of the one mentioned in 1 Cor 16, 5
. Not until
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.
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 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.
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 (
), faithful (
), Amen (
), gives us security (
), faith, stand firm (
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
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 16
). Others conjecture that he did pay the first visit, was offended there (cf 2, 5
), returned to Ephesus, and sent a letter (
) in place of the second visit. The expressions to spare you (
) and work together for your joy (
) 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
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