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2 Corinthians 1


Salutation Greetings Salutation and Thanksgiving Salutation Address and Greetings
1:1-2 1:1-2 1:1a 1:1a 1:1-2
    1:1b 1:1b  
    1:2 1:2  
Paul's Thanksgiving after Affliction Comfort in Suffering   Paul Gives Thanks to God Thanksgiving
1:3-7 1:3-7 1:3-7 1:3-7 1:3-7
  Delivered from Suffering      
1:8-11 1:8-11 1:8-11 1:8-11 1:8-11
The Postponement of Paul's Visit Paul's Sincerity Recent Relations with the Church The Change in Paul's Plans Why Paul Changed His Plans
    (1:12-2:13) (1:12-2:4) (1:12-2:11)
1:12-14 1:12-14 1:12-14 1:12-14 1:12-14
  Sparing the Church      
1:15-22 1:15-24 1:15-22 1:15-22 1:15-22
1:23-2:4   1:23-2:4 1:23-2:4 1:23-2:4

* Although they are not inspired, paragraph divisions are the key to understanding and following the original author's intent. Each modern translation has divided and summarized the paragraphs. Every paragraph has one central topic, truth, or thought. Each version encapsulates that topic in its own distinct way. As you read the text, ask yourself which translation fits your understanding of the subject and verse divisions.
In every chapter we must read the Bible first and try to identify its subjects (paragraphs), then compare our understanding with the modern versions. Only when we understand the original author's intent by following his logic and presentation can we truly understand the Bible. Only the original author is inspired—readers have no right to change or modify the message. Bible readers do have the responsibility of applying the inspired truth to their day and their lives.
Note that all technical terms and abbreviations are explained fully in the following documents: Brief Definitions of Greek Grammatical Structure Textual Criticism, and Glossary.

READING CYCLE THREE (from "A Guide to Good Bible Reading")


This is a study guide commentary, which means that you are responsible for your own interpretation of the Bible. Each of us must walk in the light we have. You, the Bible, and the Holy Spirit are priority in interpretation. You must not relinquish this to a commentator.

Read the chapter in one sitting. Identify the subjects. Compare your subject divisions with the five modern translations. Paragraphing is not inspired, but it is the key to following the original author's intent, which is the heart of interpretation. Every paragraph has one and only one main subject.

1. First paragraph

2. Second paragraph

3. Third paragraph

4. Etc.



A. II Corinthians was written about six to eighteen months after I Corinthians, following Paul's visit in Macedonia with Titus, who reported the response of the church to Paul's overtures (cf. 2:12-13; 7:11-16).


B. This is a very intense personal letter. Paul's emotional state can even be observed in the grammar (i.e., lack of conjunctions and incomplete sentences).


C. Paul was being viciously attacked by a minority within the church. The minority seems to be both from the local Corinthian congregation and an itinerant Jewish group. Their charges were:

1. Paul had impure motives, 1:12

2. Paul was fickle, 1:15ff

3. Paul was weak, 10:10

4. Paul was physically ugly, 10:10

5. Paul was not a good orator, 10:10; 11:16

6. Paul preached for money 11:7ff; 12:13ff

7. Paul was not a true apostle, 11:5,13; 12:4

8. Paul was not an orthodox Jew, 11:21ff

9. they had direct revelation, but Paul did not, 12:1ff.



Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God, and Timothy our brother,

1:1a "Paul" Saul of Tarsus is first called Paul in Acts 13:9. It is probable that most Jews of the "diaspora" had a Hebrew name and a Greek name. If so, then Saul's parents gave him this name but why, then, does "Paul" suddenly appear in Acts 13? Possibly (1) others began to call him by this name or (2) he began to refer to himself by the term "little" or "least." The Greek name Paulos meant "little." Several theories have been advanced about the origin of his Greek name.

1. his physical stature, the second century tradition that Paul was short, fat, bald, bow-legged, bushy eye-browed, and had protruding eyes is a possible source of the name, deriving from a non-canonical book from Thessalonika called Paul and Thekla

2. passages where Paul calls himself the "the least of the saints" because he persecuted the Church as in Acts 9:1-2 (cf. I Cor. 15:9; Eph. 3:8; I Tim. 1:15). Some have seen this "leastness" as the origin of the self-chosen title. However, in a book like Galatians, where he emphasized his independence and equality with the Jerusalem Twelve, this rationale is somewhat unlikely (cf. II Cor. 11:5; 12:11; 15:10).


▣ "an apostle" This is a common Greek word for "send" (i.e., apostellō). See Special Topic at I Cor. 4:9. This term has several theological usages.

1. The rabbis used it as one called and sent as an official representative of another, something like our English "ambassador" (cf. II Cor. 5:20).

2. The Gospels often use this term of Jesus being sent by the Father (cf. Matt. 10:40; 15:24; Mark 9:37; Luke 9:48). In John the term takes on Messianic overtones (cf. John 4:34; 5:24,30,36,37,38; 6:29,38,39,40,57; 7:29; 8:42; 10:36; 11:42; 17:3,8,18,21,23,25; 20:21). It is used of Jesus sending believers (cf. John 17:18; 20:21).

3. The NT used it for disciples.

a. the original Twelve who were an inner circle of disciples (cf. Luke 6:13; Acts 1:21-22)

b. a special group of Apostolic helpers and co-workers

(1) Barnabas (cf. Acts 14:4,14)

(2) Andronicus and Junias (KJV, Junia, cf. Rom. 16:7)

(3) Apollos (cf. I Cor. 4:6-9)

(4) James, the Lord's brother (cf. Gal. 1:19)

(5) Silvanus and Timothy (cf. I Thess. 2:6)

(6) possibly Titus (cf. II Cor. 8:23)

(7) possibly Epaphroditus (cf. Phil. 2:25)

c. an ongoing gift in the church (cf. I Cor. 12:28-29; Eph. 4:11)

4. Paul uses the noun as a title for himself in most of his letters as a way of asserting his God-given call and authority as Christ's representative (cf. Rom. 1:1; I Cor. 1:1; II Cor. 1:1; Gal. 1:1; Eph. 1:1; Col. 1:1; I Tim. 1:1; II Tim. 1:1; Titus 1:1).


▣ "Christ" This is the Greek equivalent of the Hebrew term messiah (see Special Topic at I Cor. 1:23), which meant "an anointed one." It implies "one called and equipped by God for a specific task." In the OT three groups of leaders were anointed: priests, kings, and prophets. Jesus fulfills all three of these anointed offices (cf. Heb. 1:2-3).

▣ "Jesus" The Hebrew name meant "YHWH saves" or "YHWH brings salvation." This name was revealed to his parents by an angel (cf. Matt. 1:21). "Jesus" is derived from the Hebrew word for salvation, hosea, suffixed to the covenant name for God, YHWH. It is the same as the Hebrew name Joshua.

The Greek manuscripts are divided as to the order of these terms.

1. Jesus Christ, A, D, G, K, L (Peshitta, KJV, NKJV)

2. Christ Jesus, P46, א, B, M, P (NASB, NRSV, TEV, NJB, NIV)


There seems to be no theological significance to the order. See SPECIAL TOPIC: NAMES FOR DEITY at I Cor. 2:8.

▣ "by the will of God" This same introductory phrase is used in I Cor. 1:1; II Cor. 1:1; Eph. 1:1; Col. 1:1 and II Tim. 1:1. Paul was convinced that God had chosen him to be an Apostle. This special sense of calling started at his Damascus road conversion (cf. Acts 9:1-22; 23:3-16; 26:9-18). Paul often asserted his God-given authority and calling to affirm his writings as being uniquely from God (i.e., inspired, cf. II Tim. 3:16; I Cor. 2:9-13; I Thess. 2:13).

▣ "Timothy our brother" In I Cor. 1:1 "Sosthenes" is mentioned; here Timothy is named, possibly as co-worker, co-author, or scribe. Also it is possible that Paul mentioned Timothy because this church was so unresponsive to him when he delivered Paul's letter of I Corinthians to them.


To the church of God which is at Corinth with all the saints who are throughout Achaia:

1:1b "church" This is the Greek term ekklesia (see Special Topic at I Cor. 1:2). It is from two words, "out of" and "called," therefore, the term implies the divinely called-out ones. The early church took this word from secular use (cf. Acts 19:32,39,41) and because of the Septuagint's use of this term for "congregation" of Israel (cf. Num. 16:3; 20:4). They used it for themselves as a continuation of the OT people of God. They were the new Israel (cf. Rom. 2:28-29; Gal. 6:16; I Pet. 2:5,9; Rev. 1:6), the fulfillment of God's worldwide mission (cf. Gen. 3:15; 12:3; Exod. 19:5:6).

▣ "of God which is at Corinth" This phrase expresses two distinct senses about "the church."

1. It is a local body of born again, baptized believers. Most of the places in the NT that the word ekklesia is used reflect this local sense.

2. It is also the universal expression of the body of Christ. This is seen in Matt. 16:18 (i.e., the first of the rare usage of this term by Jesus, cf. Matt. 18:17 [twice]); Acts 9:31 uses the singular "church" for all the local congregations in Judea, Galilee, and Samaria; and finally the use of the term in Ephesians, which is a cyclical letter to the churches of Asia Minor (cf. 1:22; 3:10,21; 5:23-32).

There is one large body of Christ made up of all believers (some now dead, some alive) and there are local expressions of that universal body.

▣ "with all the saints who are throughout Achaia" This greeting shows that the letter was for a wider audience than one church (as all of Paul's letters came to be). It may have functioned as a cyclical letter to a whole region as did Galatians and Ephesians. However, it uniquely focuses on problems at Corinth.

▣ "saints" This means they have been declared holy by the work of Jesus through the agency of the Spirit (cf. 6:11). The verb (hagiazō) is related to the word "holy" (hagios) and "saints" (i.e., "holy ones" hagioi). It speaks of our separation to God for service. Here it refers to our position in Him as v. 3 does, but in other places in the NT believers are to strive toward "holiness." It is a position to be possessed. Paul encourages this factious, prideful church by calling them "saints," in spite of their failures and sins! See SPECIAL TOPIC: SAINTS at I Cor. 1:2.

Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.

1:2 "Grace to you and peace from God" The traditional opening of Hellenistic letters was "greetings" (cf. Acts 23:26; James 1:1), not "grace." Paul made a word play from "chairein" to "charis," which made it uniquely Christian (cf. I Thess. 1:1; Gal. 1:3). Some assert that "peace" reflects a Hebrew term "shalom" (see Special Topic at I Cor. 1:3). It is possible that Paul knew this combination of terms from the Aaronic blessing of Num. 6:24-26. Most Hellenistic letters and NT epistles begin with a prayer of thanksgiving, but because of the problems between Paul and this congregation, the opening prayer of thanksgiving is directed toward God (cf. 1:3-7).

▣ "from God our Father" This puts the emphasis on intimate family interpersonal relationships (cf. Matt. 6:9). In the OT God is the father of Israel (cf. Isa. 64:8; Hos. 1-3;11). Because God is personal the best metaphors to describe His relationship with other members of the Trinity and His people are Jewish family terms. As the Father relates to Jesus in an analogous way, He relates to believers. See Special Topic: The Fatherhood of God at I Cor. 1:3.

Both "grace" and "peace" come from the Father and the Son. The Father and Jesus are linked grammatically as one unit (i.e., one preposition, but two objects). This is a common way for NT authors to assert Jesus' deity (cf. I Thess. 1:1; 3:11; II Thess. 1:2,12; 2:16).

▣ "and the Lord Jesus Christ" These terms are part of the fuller title "the Lord Jesus Christ" (cf. vv. 2,3,7,8,9,10). These three (cf. vv. 2,3,7,8,9,10) titles all have individual significance.

1. "Christ" is the Greek translation of the Hebrew Messiah (i.e., an Anointed One). It asserts Jesus' OT title as YHWH's promised One sent to set up the new age of righteousness.

2. "Jesus" is the name given to the baby in Bethlehem by the angel (cf. Matt. 1:21). It is made up of two Hebrew nouns: "YHWH," the covenant name for deity, and "salvation" (i.e., hosea). It is the same Hebrew name as Joshua. When used alone it often identifies the man, Jesus of Nazareth, son of Mary (ex. Matt. 1:16, 25; 2:1; 3:13,15,16).

3. "Lord" (used in 1:1 in KJV) is the translation of the Hebrew term adon, which meant "owner, husband, master, or lord." The Jews became afraid of pronouncing the sacred name YHWH lest they take it in vain and break one of the Ten Commandments. Whenever they read the Scriptures, they substituted Adon for YHWH. This is why our English translations use all capitals Lord for YHWH in the OT. By transferring this title (kurios in Greek) to Jesus, the NT authors assert His deity and equality with the Father.


Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, 4who comforts us in all our affliction so that we will be able to comfort those who are in any affliction with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God. 5For just as the sufferings of Christ are ours in abundance, so also our comfort is abundant through Christ. 6But if we are afflicted, it is for your comfort and salvation; or if we are comforted, it is for your comfort, which is effective in the patient enduring of the same sufferings which we also suffer; 7and our hope for you is firmly grounded, knowing that as you are sharers of our sufferings, so also you are sharers of our comfort.

1:3 "Blessed" We get the English word "eulogy" from this Greek word. This term (following the Septuagint) is always used of humans blessing God (cf. Luke 1:68). In Mark 14:61 is a periphrasis for the name of God (i.e., "the Blessed One"). Paul uses the term for the Father in Rom. 1:25; 9:5; II Cor. 1:3; 11:31; and Eph. 1:3.

▣ "the God" This prayer of praise, vv. 3-11, describes God in three ways.

1. He is the Father of Jesus

2. He is the Father of all mercy

3. He is the God of all comfort

The usual Greek letter form was a prayer of thanksgiving for the recipients of the letter, but in this letter the prayer of thanksgiving was directed to God.

YHWH as the Father of Yeshua (i.e., Hebrew for Jesus), is known only by revelation. No argument from philosophical necessity or design could ever give this relational theology. Be careful of "proofs" for God that are logic-based instead of Scripture based, but they do help many people who refuse to accept Scripture as truth. See Elton Trueblood, The Logic of Belief.

▣ "the Father of mercies" There are three Greek terms which are related to "mercy" or "compassion."

1. eleos, usually referring to feelings of mercy or piety (cf. 4:1; Rom. 9:15, which is a quote from Exod. 33:19)

2. splanchna, which refers to the supposed physical location of compassion or mercy in the lower viscera (cf. Phil. 2:1; Col. 3:12)

3. oiktirmos, to feel or express a sense of mercy or compassion at another's condition (cf. 1:3,4-6; Rom. 12:1)

This term characterizes God's actions and feelings toward fallen humanity. This is our great hope-the unchanging mercy and grace of God.

The NT often uses "Father" plus a genitive to describe deity.

1. Father of mercies (cf. II Cor. 1:3)

2. Father of glory Eph. 1:17 (cf. Acts 7:2; I Cor. 2:8)

3. Father of all (cf. Eph. 4:6)

4. Father of spirits (cf. Heb. 12:9; Rev. 22:6)

5. Father of light (cf. James 1:17)

6. again and again in Paul's writings, "the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ"


1:4-11 "comfort" This term, paraklēsis, in its different forms, is used ten times in vv. 3-11. It is the key term throughout the entire passage and also in chapters 1-9, where it is used twenty-five times. The word means "to call alongside." It was often used in a judicial sense of an advocate who rendered legal aid, comfort, and guidance.

In this context it is used in the sense of encouragement and consolation. A related term, paraklētos, is used of the Holy Spirit in John 14:16,26; 15:26; 16:7; and of Jesus in I John 2:1. In this context it is used of the Father.

The verb form of parakaleō is used in several senses.

1. the Septuagint

a. exhort, Deut. 3:28

b. comfort, Gen. 24:67; 37:35; Ps. 119:50 (in a Messianic sense; Isa. 40:1; 49:13; 51:3; 61:2)

c. have compassion, Deut. 32:36; Jdgs. 2:18; Ps. 135:14

d. console, Isa. 35:4

e. call, Exod. 15:13

2. Paul's writings to Corinth

a. exhort, I Cor. 1:10; 4:16; 14:30-31; 16:15-16; II Cor. 2:8; 5:20; 6:1; 8:4,6; 10:1

b. comfort, cheer up, II Cor. 1:4,6; 2:7; 7:6,7,13; 13:11

c. have compassion, console, I Cor. 4:13

d. implore, entreat, request, I Cor. 16:12; II Cor. 9:5; 12:18


1:4 "so that we will be able to comfort those who are in any affliction" There are two reasons stated in this context why Christians suffer: (1) so they can comfort others, v. 4 and (2) to keep us from depending on ourselves, v. 9. Believers live in a fallen world. Bad things happen; some are statistical, some are personal evil, but all can be used (not sent, but allowed) by God for our maturity and ministry (cf. Rom. 8:28-29). See John W. Wenham, The Goodness of God

The term, affliction, (i.e., thlipsis), etymologically meant "to squeeze or crush" (i.e., like processing grapes or crushing wheat to make flour), but came to be used figuratively for physical (cf. 1:6) or emotional (cf. 2:4; 11:28) trauma (cf. 4:8; 7:5).

Just a brief personal comment. It is so difficult in this book to know who Paul refers to by the plural pronouns, "we," "us," and "our." It can refer to (1) himself alone; (2) him and his mission team; (3) him and the other Apostles; or (4) all believers. Only context can determine and sometimes it is ambiguous.


1:5 "the sufferings of Christ are ours in abundance" The Greek term pathēma is used here of Christ's sufferings (cf. Luke 22:15) and in vv. 6 and 7 of believers' suffering. Paul uses a different word for the mission team's sufferings/afflictions (thlipsis) in v. 4.

Paul mentions believers as co-sufferers with Christ several times (cf. 4:10-11; Rom. 8:17; Phil. 3:10; Col. 1:24). As we share His death and resurrection, so too, we share His suffering and persecution. The concept of the suffering Christian is often spoken of (cf. Acts 14:22; Rom. 5:3-4; 8:17; Gal. 6:17; Phil. 1:29; 3:10; Col. 1:24; I Thess. 3:3-4; II Tim. 3:12; Heb. 13:13; James 1:1-4; I Pet. 2:19-23; 3:14; 4:12-19). This is the norm for all Christians. This subject seems to be a unifying theme of II Corinthians. Christ's sufficiency is also abundant and running over! Yes, believers will suffer in a fallen world for being Christian, but our God will supply our every need, physically, emotionally, and spiritually through Christ. Christ's death and resurrection are not only for heaven, but for now also!

▣ "abundance" Paul's literary style in II Corinthians can be illustrated by his use of "abundance."

1. perissos, over and above (cf. 2:7; 9:1)

2. perissoterōs, more abundantly (cf. 2:4; 7:13)

3. perisseuō, over and above (cf. 1:5; 3:9; 4:15; 8:2; 9:8)

4. perisseauma, more than enough (cf. 8:13,14)

5. perisseia, superabundance (cf. 8:2; 10:15)

When it comes to what God in Christ has done for believers, it is always "superabundant," "extravagant," "above and beyond"! See full note at 2:7.

1:6 "if. . .if" These are two first class conditional sentences. In this fallen world Christian leaders will be afflicted, but this provides a wealth of help and salvation to those who hear. Suffering has a divine purpose (cf. v. 7).

▣ "it is for your comfort and salvation" Because comfort is linked to salvation, it seems that this is following the OT sense of the term, sosō, which means physical deliverance (cf. Matt. 9:22; Mark 6:56; James 5:20).

There are several Greek manuscript variants connected to vv. 6-7. The most obvious reason is that the word "comfort" (paraklēseōs) in v. 6a is confused with the very same form in 6b, which the intervening text left out. With the omission, other words are added by scribes to make the text understandable.

▣ "patient enduring" In the Septuagint this term was used of hope or expectation (cf. Jer. 14:8; 17:13; 50:7). In Paul's writings it implies an "active, steadfast, voluntary endurance," which is only produced by the sufferings caused by the gospel: being believed, being lived, and being proclaimed. There is an association in Paul's writings between "hope" (cf. v. 7) and "patient endurance" (cf. Rom. 5:3-5; 8:25; 15:4-5; and I Thess. 1:3; I Tim. 6:11).

1:7 As believers share persecutions, as Jesus did, they also share God's comfort, as Jesus did.

Paul's hope for them was:

NASB"firmly grounded"
TEV"never shaken"

This is the same term (bebaios) used in I Cor. 1:8 and II Cor. 1:21.


For we do not want you to be unaware, brethren, of our affliction which came to us in Asia, that we were burdened excessively, beyond our strength, so that we despaired even of life; 9indeed, we had the sentence of death within ourselves so that we would not trust in ourselves, but in God who raises the dead; 10who delivered us from so great a peril of death, and will deliver us, He on whom we have set our hope. And He will yet deliver us, 11you also joining in helping us through your prayers, so that thanks may be given by many persons on our behalf for the favor bestowed on us through the prayers of many.

1:8 "we do not want you to be unaware, brethren" Paul uses this phrase often to introduce either new information or a conclusion (cf. Rom. 1:13; 11:25; I Cor. 10:1; 12:1; II Cor. 1:8; I Thess. 4:13).

▣ "our affliction which came to us in Asia, that we were burdened excessively" It is uncertain exactly what Paul refers to by this intense phrase.

1. the riot caused by Demetrius in Acts 19:23-41

2. "fighting wild beasts at Ephesus" of I Cor. 15:32

3. an imprisonment, possibly with a death sentence (cf. vv. 9-10)

4. some type of physical illness

Whatever it was, it was a life-or-death experience for Paul (cf. vv. 8-10) and apparently the church in Corinth had heard about it because Paul does not feel the need to identify it.

For "excessively" (huperbolē) see Special Topic: Paul's Use of Huper Compounds at I Cor. 2:1.

 1:9 "we had the sentence of death within ourselves" This is a strange statement. First, the word "sentence" is used only here in all ancient Greek writing, only later does it mean "death sentence" (cf. Josephus, Antiquities 14:10:6). Paul does not seem to be referring to a judicial decree, but to a personal sense of his impending death. This forced him and his companions to throw themselves totally on God's help, compassion, and power.

The verb is perfect active indicative. Some have seen this as a way of referring to a disease which Paul and his mission companion encountered, which had continuing results. However, it can be interpreted as an aorist, the same form as in 2:13.

All of this adds up to make this phrase quite ambiguous with many different interpretations. Although the exact physical circumstances are uncertain, Paul's spiritual meaning is clear-suffering helps believers trust more fully and completely in God, in Christ!

▣ "we would not trust in ourselves" As v. 4 expresses the first purpose of Christian suffering, this verse expresses the second purpose. This same truth can be seen in Paul's "thorn in the flesh" (cf. 12:7-9). In the spiritual realm human weakness accompanied with faith releases the power of God.

▣ "God who raises the dead" Is Paul thinking of

1. OT examples of people God brought back to physical life ( cf. I Kgs. 17:17-22; II Kgs. 4:32-37)

2. OT theological statements (cf. Deut. 32:39; I Sam. 2:6; II Kgs. 5:7)

3. his discussion of resurrection in I Corinthians 15


1:10 "He on whom we have set our hope" The pronoun refers to God the Father (cf. v. 9; I Tim. 4:10). What a wonderful descriptive title for God. Paul coins powerful, wonderful, descriptive titles for God often (See full list at 1:3), such as

1. "the Father of mercies" (cf. 1:3)

2. "God of all comfort" (cf. 1:3)

3. "unto Him who is able" (cf. Rom. 16:25; Eph. 3:20)

The verb is a perfect active indicative, which implies a past completed act with abiding results (cf. I Cor. 15:19; I Tim. 5:5; 6:17).

▣ "deliver" This term is used three times in v. 10. This follows the OT sense of physical, social, emotional, spiritual deliverance. Paul used this term several times (cf. Rom. 7:24; 11:26; 15:31; II Cor. 1:10; Col. 1:13; I Thess. 1:10; II Thess. 3:2; II Tim. 3:11; 4:17-18). He really thought that he was going to die at Ephesus (cf. vv. 8-10).

NASB"from so great a peril of death"
NKJV"from so great a death"
NRSV"from so deadly a peril"
TEV"from such terrible dangers of death"
NJB"from such a death"

There is a Greek manuscript variant between the singular "so great a death" (i.e., MSS א, A, B, C, D, F, G) and the plural (i.e., MS P46 and the Syriac translation, as well as the Greek text used by Origen, Basil, Chrysostom, Theodoret, Jerome, and Augustine). The plural (cf. TEV) is the most unusual and the most ancient. This plural may be seen in Paul's list of problems he faced internally and externally in 4:8-12; 6:3-10; 11:23-29. The UBS4 gives the plural a "B" rating (almost certain).


NASB"joining in helping us through your prayers"
NKJV"helping together in prayer for us"
NRSV"join in helping us by your prayers"
TEV"help us by means of your prayers for us"
NJB"your prayers for us will contribute to this"

Several scholars believe this grammatical construction (Murry J. Harris in The Expositor's Bible Commentary, vol. 10, p. 322) is used in a conditional sense (The Anchor Bible, vol. 32A, p. 115). If believers do not pray, somehow the Sovereign God has chosen not to act (cf. James 4:2). This shows the benefits of intercessory prayer (cf. Eph 6:18-20). Paul felt that the prayers of Christians linked with God's graciousness saved him from death and it continued to protect and deliver him. Paul's deliverance by God would be acknowledged and praised by many who would be blessed by Paul's ongoing ministry.

"persons" This is literally "face" (i.e., prosōpon) Paul uses this term often in II Corinthians (cf. 2:10; 3:7 [twice],13,18; 4:6; 5:12; 8:24; 10:1,7; 11:20). It may be an OT allusion to the standard physical position of Jewish prayer with head lifted, which exactly fits this context.

Paul uses this term in several senses in II Corinthians:

1. for persons, 1:11; 2:10; 4:6

2. for the face of a person, 3:7 (twice),13,18; 10:1,7; 11:20

3. metaphor for before in the sense of "in front of" (i.e., position, not time), 8:24

4. metaphor for outward appearance (cf. NRSV), 5:12


For our proud confidence is this: the testimony of our conscience, that in holiness and godly sincerity, not in fleshly wisdom but in the grace of God, we have conducted ourselves in the world, and especially toward you. 13For we write nothing else to you than what you read and understand, and I hope you will understand until the end; 14just as you also partially did understand us, that we are your reason to be proud as you also are ours, in the day of our Lord Jesus.

1:12 "our proud confidence" These Greek terms kauchaomai, kauchēma, and kauchēsis are used about thirty-five times by Paul and only twice in the rest of the NT (both in James). Its predominate use is in I and II Corinthians.

There are two main truths connected to boasting:

1. no flesh shall glory/boast before God (cf. I Cor. 1:29; Eph. 2:9)

2. believers should glory in the Lord (cf. I Cor. 1:31; II Cor. 10:17, which is an allusion to Jer. 9:23-24)

Therefore, there is appropriate and inappropriate boasting/glorying (i.e., pride).

1. appropriate

a. in the hope of glory (cf. Rom. 4:2)

b. in God through the Lord Jesus (cf. Rom. 5:11)

c. in the cross of the Lord Jesus Christ (i.e., Paul's main theme, cf. I Cor. 1:17-18; Gal. 6:14)

d. Paul boasts in

(1) his ministry without compensation (cf. I Cor. 9:15,16; II Cor. 10:12)

(2) his authority from Christ (cf. II Cor. 10:8,12)

(3) his not boasting in other men's labor (as some at Corinth were, cf. II Cor. 10:15)

(4) his racial heritage (as others were doing at Corinth, cf. II Cor. 11:17; 12:1,5,6)

(5) his churches

(a) Corinth (cf. II Cor. 7:4,14; 8:24; 9:2; 11:10)

(b) Thessalonika (cf. II Thess. 1:4)

(6) his confidence in God's comfort and deliverance (cf. II Cor. 1:12)

2. inappropriate

a. in relation to Jewish heritage (cf. Rom. 2:17,23; 3:27; Gal. 6:13)

b. some in the Corinthian church were boasting

(1) in men (cf. I Cor. 3:21)

(2) in wisdom (cf. I Cor. 4:7)

(3) in freedom (cf. I Cor. 5:6)

c. false teachers tried to boast in the church at Corinth (cf. II Cor. 11:12)


▣ "the testimony of our conscience" Paul uses the term "conscience" often in the Corinthian letters (cf. 4:4; 8:7,10,12; 10:25,27,28,29; II Cor. 1:12; 4:2; 5:11). It refers to that moral inner sense of what is appropriate or inappropriate (cf. Acts 23:1; Rom. 2:15). The conscience can be affected by our past lives, our poor choices, or by the Spirit of God. It is not a flawless guide (cf. I Cor. 4:4; 8:7; I Tim. 4:2), but it does determine the boundaries of individual faith (cf. I Tim. 1:5,19). Therefore, to violate our conscience, even if it is in error or weak, is a major faith problem.

The believer's conscience needs to be more and more formed by the Word of God and the Spirit of God (cf. I Tim. 3:9). God will judge believers by the light they have, but all believers need to be increasingly open to the Bible and the Spirit for more light and in order to continue to grow in the knowledge of the Lord Jesus Christ. In this context, the end-time judgment is in view (cf. vv. 13-14). God will judge humans in light of their understanding, their conscience (cf. Rom. 2:15-16; 9:1; 13:5).

Paul's motives and actions were severely criticized by a minority of false teachers at Corinth (cf. chapters 10-13). It seems that there were two groups: (1) a local group of opponents and (2) an itinerant Palestinian Jewish group of false teachers.

▣ "holiness" Some Greek manuscripts have "holiness" (i.e P46, א*, A, B, C, K, P, and Coptic NASB, NIV, and NJB translations). Others have "simplicity" (i.e., אi2, D, F, G, and the Vulgate, Peshitta, NKJV, NRSV, and TEV translations). Bruce Metzger in A Textual Commentary on the Greek New Testament, comments that the translation committee for the UBS3 preferred "simplicity" (haplotēti), but gave it a "D" rating, meaning a very high degree of doubt (p. 575). However, the UBS4 edition gives it a "B" rating, meaning almost certain (p. 612). This increased certainty comes from the fact that Paul uses the term "simplicity" in 11:3 (and the same term translated "liberality" in 8:2; 9:11,13), but never in any of his writings does he use hagiotēti.

▣ "sincerity" This term had two connotations, "generous" or "sincere." It was a metaphor related to vision. In the OT the eye was used as a metaphor for motive in two ways (1) evil eye (stingy, BDB 949, cf. Deut. 15:9-10) and (2) good eye (generous, BDB 373 III, cf. Pro. 22:9). Jesus followed this usage (cf. Matt. 6:22-23; 20:15). Paul used this term in two senses.

1. "simplicity, sincerity, purity" (i.e., no hidden agendas or false pretenses, cf. II Cor. 1:12; 11:3; Eph. 6:5; Col. 3:22)

2. "liberality" (cf. Rom. 12:8; II Cor. 8:2; 9:11,13)


▣ "not in fleshly wisdom" Paul discusses worldly wisdom extensively in I Corinthians (cf. 1:18-31; 2:1-16; and 3:18-23 and sarcastically in 4:10; 6:5 and possibly 10:15). Paul uses similar phrases referring to human wisdom in I Cor. 1:17; 2:4,13-14. In this paragraph he makes a play on worldly wisdom versus grace living in the world. Paul's evidence of his leadership is not in logic or rhetoric only, but godly living and a clear conscience before God. Paul claims to have written to them in plain, obvious, east-to-understand terms. If they are so wise, they should have quickly and effortlessly understood his words, motives, and lifestyle implications, but they did not.

Paul uses this term "flesh" in several ways. See Special Topic at I Cor. 1:26.

1:13-14 These verses are in a parallel structure and seem to refer to Paul's previous letters to Corinth (which one is uncertain). He wrote to be understood. However, their attitudes and lifestyles show they only partially understood.

Does the term telous in this context mean "complete" (TEV, NJB, NIV) or "end" (NASB, NKJV, NRSV)? Both make sense. If "complete" (i.e., completely in contrast to partially) it would link up with the first part of v. 14. If "end" it would parallel "the day of our Lord Jesus" at the last of v. 14.

"we are your reason to be proud as you also are ours" The church at Corinth is confirmation of Paul's apostolic effectiveness. Paul desires that their words, motives, and actions will be a source of pride and appropriate boasting when the Lord returns to judge (i.e., "the day of our Lord Jesus," cf. I Cor. 1:8; 5:5; Phil. 1:6,10; 2:16; I Thess. 5:2; II Thess 2:2).

1:14 "in the day of our Lord Jesus" The phrase "in the day" is an OT idiom. See the note from my commentary on Amos 2:16.



In this confidence I intended at first to come to you, so that you might twice receive a blessing; 16that is, to pass your way into Macedonia, and again from Macedonia to come to you, and by you to be helped on my journey to Judea. 17Therefore, I was not vacillating when I intended to do this, was I? Or what I purpose, do I purpose according to the flesh, so that with me there will be yes, yes and no, no at the same time? 18But as God is faithful, our word to you is not yes and no. 19For the Son of God, Christ Jesus, who was preached among you by us-by me and Silvanus and Timothy-was not yes and no, but is yes in Him. 20For as many as are the promises of God, in Him they are yes; therefore also through Him is our Amen to the glory of God through us. 21Now He who establishes us with you in Christ and anointed us is God, 22who also sealed us and gave us the Spirit in our hearts as a pledge.

1:15 "In this confidence" See full note at 3:4.

▣ "I intended at first to come to you" "I intended" is an imperfect tense which denotes repeated actions, here thoughts, in past time. In I Cor. 16:2-8 Paul told them of his proposed travel plans. Because of their actions, he later changed his mind because he did not want to come in judgment, but joy! The vocal minority accused him of fickleness, not only in his travel plans, but in his gospel (cf. vv. 18-20).

NASB"so that you might twice receive a blessing"
NKJV"that you might have a second benefit"
NRSV"so that you might have a double favor"
TEV"in order that you might be blessed twice"
NJB"so that you would benefit doubly"

There is a Greek manuscript variant here. Some manuscripts have charin, which comes from charis, which means benefit or favor (i.e., א*, A, C, D, F, G, and the Syriac and Armenian translations).

Other manuscripts have charan, which comes from chara, which means joy, gladness, or rejoicing (i.e., א2, B, L, P). The UBS4 Greek text gives charin a "B" (almost certain) rating. In context (i.e., v. 16) it refers to Paul coming twice to Corinth with them having the opportunity of supplying his needs as he travels on (cf. Gordon D. Fee, To What End Exegesis?, pp. 99-104).

1:16 "and by you to be helped on my journey to Judea" Paul would not take any money from the Corinthian church while he was ministering to them. He was afraid he would be attacked over this issue. As it turns out he was attacked for not taking money from them.

This phrase implies that he was going to let this church provide his missionary travel needs (cf. I Cor. 16:6; Rom. 15:24). This may have been a way to test their loyalty to him and the gospel and to silence his critics.

1:17 "do I purpose according to the flesh" This phrase may reflect Paul's critics (cf. 10:2-3; 11:18) or Paul seeking after the will of God in all that he does, including travel (cf. I Cor. 4:19; 16:7; Acts 18:21; Rom. 1:10; 15:32).

That the second option fits this context best can be seen from v. 18a. God's faithfulness is a recurrent theme in Paul's writings (cf. I Cor. 1:9; 10:13; I Thess. 5:24; II Thess. 3:3).

For "flesh" see Special Topic at I Cor. 1:26.

1:18 "God is faithful" Faithful is placed first for emphasis. In Paul's writings this becomes a descriptive title for God (cf. I Cor. 1:9; 10:13; I Thess. 5:24; II Thess. 3:3). In the OT faith is usually understood as faithfulness. This is the crucial characteristic of God (cf. Deut. 7:9; Isa. 49:7). His gracious, faithful character is unchanging (cf. Mal. 3:6). Mankind's hope is not in human performance or devotion, but in the character and promises of God (cf. 1:12,15,20)!

1:19 "the Son of God, Christ Jesus" Paul does not use the phrase "Son of God" often (cf. Rom. 1:4; here, and Gal. 2:20). However, the concept and related phrasing is very common. See Special Topic at I Cor. 1:9.

"Silvanus" Silas, or Silvanus, was the man Paul chose to go with him on the second missionary journey after Barnabas and John Mark went back to Cyprus.

1. He is first mentioned in the Bible in Acts 15:22 where he is called a chief man among the brethren of the Jerusalem Church.

2. He was also a prophet (cf. Acts 15:32).

3. He was a Roman citizen like Paul (cf. Acts 16:37).

4. He and Judas Barsabbas were sent to Antioch by the Jerusalem Church to inspect the situation (cf. Acts 15:22,30-35).

5. Paul mentions him in II Cor. 1:19 as a fellow gospel preacher.

6. Later he is identified with Peter in writing I Peter. (cf. I Pet. 5:12).

7. Both Paul and Peter call him Silvanus while Luke calls him Silas (the Aramaic form of Saul). It is possible that Silas was his Jewish name and Silvanus his Latin name (cf. F. F. Bruce, Paul: Apostle of the Heart Set Free, p. 213).


1:19-20 "but is yes in Him" Verses 19 and 20 are theologically packed! Paul is asserting that the mission team (himself, Silvanus, and Timothy) preached Jesus as God's fulfilling promise as God's Son and as mankind's only hope to them as the apex of OT revelation! Their preaching was not wishy-washy, but definite (cf. v. 18). Jesus is the Father's "yes" for every promise, every need, every hope (i.e., perfect active indicative of ginomai). By affirming Jesus, they give glory to the Father's provision.

All of the church at Corinth's knowledge (1) of God, (2) of His Son, (3) of His promises (cf. Rom. 9:4) and (4) of His grace provisions come through Paul's mission team. If they start doubting the motives and message of Paul, they lose confidence in the gospel!

1:20 "Amen" See fuller note at I Cor. 14:16c.

▣ "glory" See SPECIAL TOPIC: GLORY (DOXA) at I Cor. 2:7.

1:21-22 There is a definite structure to these two verses that describes what God (i.e., "The One who") has done to equip and affirm the missionary team.

1. God establishes us, v. 21 (cf. I Cor. 1:8). This is a present active participle which points toward a continuing action. It means to confirm, establish, make constant, unwavering (cf. 1:7; Rom. 4:16). This term is used in the papyri to denote a legal guarantee (cf. Moulton and Milligan, p. 107).

2. God anointed us, v. 21 (cf. I John 2:20,27). This is an aorist active participle. The tense points to a completed, one-time act. The term itself reflects an OT concept of God's choosing and equipping for ministry of certain leaders of Israel

a. prophets, cf. I Kgs. 19:16 and possibly parallelism of I Chr. 16:22; Ps 105:15

b. priests, cf. Exod. 40:15; Lev. 4:3; Ps. 105:15

c. kings, cf. I Sam. 9:16; Ps. 2:2; 18:50; 20:6; Hab. 3:13)

It is the term that in Greek is translated "Christ" when referring to the Messiah (i.e., the Anointed One). Believers are also chosen and equipped by God to serve His kingdom purposes.

3. God sealed us, v. 22 (cf. John 3:33; 6:27; Rom. 4:11; 15:28; I Cor. 9:2; Eph. 1:13; 4:30; II Tim. 2:19; Rev. 7:3-8). This is an aorist middle participle which means to mark something or someone as ones property, or genuine, or as safely delivered. Believers belong to God!

4. God gave us the Spirit in our hearts as a pledge, v. 22 (cf. 5:5; Rom. 8:9-16,23,26-27; Eph. 1:13-14).

The term "given" is another aorist active participle, implying a completed action. God has fully provided for His children.

■ establishes (present tense)

■ anointed (aorist tense)

■ sealed (aorist tense)

■ given the Spirit (aorist tense)

All of these provisions relate to Paul's confidence in vv. 15,19-20. Paul's confidence was in the Father's and the Son's and the Spirit's actions and provisions.

▣ "Christ. . .God. . .Spirit" Notice that the Trinity is active in our assurance (see Special Topic following). Although the term "Trinity" does not appear in the Bible, the concept is recurrent (cf. I Cor. 12:4-6; II Cor. 13:14). Christianity is a monotheistic faith (cf. Deut 6:4). However, if Jesus is divine and the Holy Spirit is a person we have three persons of one divine essence. A Triune Unity! See Special Topic at I Cor. 2:10.


1:22 "sealed us" See SPECIAL TOPIC: SEAL at I Cor. 9:2.

"hearts" See Special Topic at I Cor. 14:25.

▣ "as a pledge" It speaks both of promise of full payment in the future and partial payment now. God's down payment was the life of His Son and the full presence of His Spirit (cf. Eph. 1:3-14). See full note at 5:5.

But I call God as witness to my soul, that to spare you I did not come again to Corinth. 24Not that we lord it over your faith, but are workers with you for your joy; for in your faith you are standing firm. 


NASB"But I call God as witness to my soul"
NKJV 'Moreover I call God as witness against my soul"
NRSV"But I call on God as witness against me"
TEV"I call God as my witness-he knows my heart"
NJB"By my life I call on God to be my witness"

This is an oath of truthfulness. Paul often uses oaths to confirm his words (cf. 11:11,31; Rom. 1:9; Gal. 1:20; Phil. 1:8; I Thess. 2:5).

 ▣ "to spare you" Paul's change of travel plans was not an example of his fickleness, but of his love. He chose not to return in an atmosphere where his only option was judgment and contention. The false teachers had impugned his motives and actions. Paul sets the record straight!

▣ "I did not come again to Corinth" There is much debate about the number of visits Paul made from Ephesus to Corinth and the number of letters he wrote to the church in Corinth. For more information see the introduction to II Corinthians, D.

1:24 "Not that we lord it over your faith" Here we see the balance between Paul as an authoritative Apostle, 1:1, and the liberty of this local congregation. Biblical faith, covenant faith, starts and develops through volitional choices which are meant to produce joy, stability, and maturity.

"for in your faith you are standing firm" Paul mentions this concept in I Cor. 15:1 (cf. Rom. 5:2; 11:20). This may have an OT background (cf. Ps. 76:7; 130:3; Nah. 1:6; Mal. 3:2; see Special Topic at I Cor. 1:9). It speaks of confident faith in God's presence. In light of the problems at Corinth this is a shocking statement. The Corinthian church was at least not as affected by the arrival of false teachers as the Galatian churches had been. Some of the house churches were strong and pure (i.e., perfect tense, "you have been and continue to stand firm"). See Special Topic: Stand (Histēmi)at I Cor. 15:1.


This is a study guide commentary, which means that you are responsible for your own interpretation of the Bible. Each of us must walk in the light we have. You, the Bible, and the Holy Spirit are priority in interpretation. You must not relinquish this to a commentator.

These discussion questions are provided to help you think through the major issues of this section of the book. They are meant to be thought-provoking, not definitive.

1. If Paul is writing to a local problem in Corinth, why was the letter to be read throughout Achaia? (v. 1)

2. What are the two benefits of suffering mentioned in vv. 4 and 9?

3. What did Paul suffer in Asia that almost killed him? (vv.8-10)

4. Why was Paul attacked for his change in travel plans? (I Cor. 16:1-8 versus II Cor. 1:12-20)

5. Why do we believe in a Trinity?


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