Greeting. 1* Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God, and Timothy our brother, to the church of God that is in Corinth, with all the holy ones throughout Achaia:a 2grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.
Thanksgiving. 3b Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and God of all encouragement,* 4who encourages us in our every affliction, so that we may be able to encourage those who are in any affliction with the encouragement with which we ourselves are encouraged by God.c 5For as Christ’s sufferings overflow to us, so through Christ* does our encouragement also overflow. 6If we are afflicted, it is for your encouragement and salvation; if we are encouraged, it is for your encouragement, which enables you to endure the same sufferings that we suffer. 7Our hope for you is firm, for we know that as you share in the sufferings, you also share in the encouragement.*
8We do not want you to be unaware, brothers, of the affliction that came to us in the province of Asia;* we were utterly weighed down beyond our strength, so that we despaired even of life.d 9Indeed, we had accepted within ourselves the sentence of death,* that we might trust not in ourselves but in God who raises the dead.e 10He rescued us from such great danger of death, and he will continue to rescue us; in him we have put our hope [that] he will also rescue us again,f 11as you help us with prayer, so that thanks may be given by many on our behalf for the gift granted us through the prayers of many.g
II. The Crisis Between Paul and the Corinthians
A. Past Relationships*
Paul’s Sincerity and Constancy. 12* 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. 13For we write you nothing but what you can read and understand, and I hope that you will understand completely, 14as you have come to understand us partially, that we are your boast as you also are ours, on the day of [our] Lord Jesus.h
15With this confidence I formerly intended to come* to you so that you might receive a double favor, 16namely, 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.i 17So when I intended this, did I act lightly?* Or do I make my plans according to human considerations, so that with me it is “yes, yes” and “no, no”?j 18As God is faithful,* our word to you is not “yes” and “no.” 19For 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.k 20For 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.l 21* But the one who gives us security with you in Christ and who anointed us is God;m 22he has also put his seal upon us and given the Spirit in our hearts as a first installment.n
Paul’s Change of Plan. 23o But I call upon God as witness, on my life, that it is to spare you that I have not yet gone to Corinth.* 24Not that we lord it over your faith; rather, we work together for your joy, for you stand firm in the faith.
* [1:1–11] The opening follows the usual Pauline form, except that the thanksgiving takes the form of a doxology or glorification of God (2 Cor 1:3). This introduces a meditation on the experience of suffering and encouragement shared by Paul and the Corinthians (2 Cor 1:4–7), drawn, at least in part, from Paul’s reflections on a recent affliction (2 Cor 1:8–10). The section ends with a modified and delayed allusion to thanksgiving (2 Cor 1:11).
* [1:3] 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.”
* [1:5] Through Christ: the Father of compassion is the Father of our Lord Jesus (2 Cor 1:3); Paul’s sufferings and encouragement (or “consolation”) are experienced in union with Christ. Cf. Lk 2:25: the “consolation of Israel” is Jesus himself.
* [1:7] 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.
* [1:8] Asia: a Roman province in western Asia Minor, the capital of which was Ephesus.
* [1:9–10] 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.
* [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.