A Catholic Reading of 2 Corinthians
Posted by Tony Listi on December 17, 2010
Often in theological debates, Christians start throwing Scripture verses around from all parts of the Bible. While all Scripture is the Word of God and thus must be consistent in such a way that a coherent, non-contradictory message is present, I think this haphazard cafeteria/smorgasbord style of using Scripture can be very unhelpful, even dangerous at times. This practice also makes it easier for Christians to cherry-pick the verses that they like (often out of context) and that support their denominational beliefs and to avoid verses that they don’t like and that contradict their denominational beliefs.
We Christians cannot forget or deny that human beings, with their own human stylistic traits, emphases, and paradigms, did indeed write the Bible. Thus it seems certain that Christians can more fully understand the written Word by digesting it book by book, carefully examining and taking into account the unique context, tradition, and perspective contained within and historically surrounding each book and author. This method also seems to me an eminently, though perhaps not distinctly, Catholic approach to Scripture and its interpretation. None of the books were written by their authors with the Bible’s compilation in mind.
Thus I’d like to present how a traditional, conservative Catholic reads and interprets Scripture on a book by book basis. In this way, a Protestant may come to know what exactly a Catholic sees, thinks, and feels when he reads the Bible. Perhaps in this way and on this basis of what is our common ground, our common tradition, namely certain books of Scripture, the Body may be made one and whole again as Jesus prayed it would be and intended it to be…. Plus I’m tired of Protestants telling me that I’ve never read the Bible (when I have) and that they are the “champions” of Scripture (when they aren’t).
St. Paul’s Second Letter to the Corinthians
This is a short and a bit of an odd letter. It primarily focuses upon the relationship between Paul and the Corinthians, not doctrinal teachings. This fact should give pause to Protestants who claim exclusive authority for Scripture, which includes such letters by Paul, rather than the writings of the Church fathers which claim apostolic authority for their teachings. The specifics of the relationship between Paul and the Corinthians are of limited relevance today, but the general character is of great importance.
There are two overarching Catholic doctrinal themes in this letter: apostolic authority and the necessity and ministry of reconciliation. In the face of doubters and false apostles, Paul is forced to reassert his apostolic authority. In dealing with a repentant sinner, Paul exercises his apostolic authority to forgive sins in the person of Christ and to indulge the repentant sinner in comfort rather than require more penance of him, demonstrating the ministry of reconciliation he mentions in the letter.
Paul’s letter does the following things with regard to the Protestant-Catholic divide:
- Contradicts the heresy of sola Scriptura and upholds the authority of oral apostolic preaching and discipline in person (1:19, 23-24; 2:1, 3-4, 17; 3:2-6; 4:5-7; 5:5; 10:5, 9-11, 16; 12:19; 13:10-11)
- Affirms apostolic/Church authority over lay believers (1:1, 21-24; 2:1; 6:11-13; 7:15; 10:8; 11:17; 12:14, 19; 13:2-4, 10-11)
- Contradicts the fallibilism of Protestantism (2:17; 3:4-6, 12; 4:5-7; 5:5, 18-20; 10:5; 11:5-6, 10; 13:3)
- Affirms the Catholic sacrament of reconciliation (2:5-11; 5:17-20; 13:2)
- Affirms the necessity of perseverance in obedience and repentance for salvation/to obtain heaven (1:24; 2:11, 15-16; 5:20; 6:1; 7:8-13; 11:3-4; 12:21; 13:2-5)
- Contradicts certainty of knowledge of others’ or one’s own salvation (1:6-7; 5:20; 6:1; 7:13; 11:3-4; 12:20-21; 13:5)
- Contradicts sola fide (5:10-11, 15; 7:1, 15; 10:15)
- Affirms the necessity of the institutional and doctrinal unity of the Church (1:1; 11:2-4, 12-15)
- Affirms the Catholic view of suffering (1:5-7; 4:9-11; 12:7-9)
- Affirms the Catholic custom of referring to priests as father (6:13; 12:14)
- Supports the Catholic doctrine of praying to dead saints (1:11)
- Supports the Catholic doctrine of Purgatory (12:2-4)
I’m not going to comment on every single verse but rather on the ones relevant to the Protestant-Catholic divide or general conservative Christian doctrine. Very often, I will supplement my commentary with that of St. John Chrysostom (347-407). His was the earliest publicly available complete commentary on this letter that I could find. All emphases are mine. All verses are taken from the Revised Standard Version.
1:1 “Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God, and Timothy our brother.….” Paul is an apostle, one who has been sent out by those with authority (namely, Peter and James) to spread the gospel. Click here to learn more about the difference between a disciple and an apostle.
Notice that this letter is also from another person other than Paul, namely Timothy, another bishop, the same Timothy to whom Paul at least two letters which we have in the Bible. When St. Paul says “we” at times in the letter, he is often referring to himself and other apostles or ministers in the Church, not all believers.
St. John Chrysostom comments thus: “It is meet to enquire, first, why to the former Epistle he adds a second…. Why then does he add a second Epistle? Whereas in the first he had said, ‘I will come to you, and will know not the word of them which are puffed up, but the power’ (1 Corinthians 4:19); and again towards the end had promised the same in milder terms, thus, ‘I will come unto you when I shall have passed through Macedonia; for I do pass through Macedonia; and it may be that I shall abide, or even winter with you’ (1 Corinthians 16:5-6); yet now after along interval, he came not; but was still lingering and delaying even though the time appointed had passed away; the Spirit detaining him in other matters of far greater necessity than these. For this reason he had need to write a second Epistle, which he had not needed had he but a little out-tarried his time. But not for this reason only, but also because they were amended by the former; for him that had committed fornication whom before they applauded and were puffed up about, they had cut off and separated altogether. And this he shows where he says, ‘But if any has caused sorrow, he has caused sorrow not to me, but in part (that I press not too heavily) to you all. Sufficient to such a one is this punishment which was inflicted by the many’ (2 Corinthians 2:5-6). And as he proceeds, he alludes again to the same thing when he says, ‘For behold that you were made sorry after a godly sort, what earnest care it wrought in you, yea, what clearing of yourselves, yea, what indignation, yea, what fear, yea, what longing, yea, what zeal, yea, what avenging! In every thing ye approved yourselves to be pure in this matter’ (2 Corinthians 7:11). Moreover, the collection which he enjoined, they gathered with much forwardness. Wherefore also he says, ‘For I know your readiness of which I glory on your behalf to them of Macedonia, that Achaia has been prepared for a year past’ (2 Corinthians 9:2). And Titus too, whom he sent, they received with all kindness, as he shows when he says again, ‘His inward affection is more abundantly toward you, while he remembers the obedience of you all, how with fear and trembling ye received him’ (2 Corinthians 7:15). For all these reasons he writes the second Epistle. For it was right that, as when they were in fault he rebuked them, so upon their amendment he should approve and commend them. On which account the Epistle is not very severe throughout, but only in a few parts towards the end…. But first, it is necessary to speak of the very beginning, and inquire why he here associates Timothy with himself. For, he says, ‘Paul an Apostle of Jesus Christ through the will of God, and Timothy our brother.’ In the first Epistle he promised he would send him; and charged them, saying, ‘Now if Timothy come, see that he be with you without fear’ (1 Corinthians 16:10). How then is it that he associates him here in the outset with himself? After he had been among them, agreeably to that promise of his teacher, ‘I have sent unto you Timothy who shall put you in remembrance of my ways which be in Christ’ (1 Corinthians 4:17), and had set everything in order, he had returned back to Paul; who on sending him, had said, ‘Set him forward on his journey in peace that he may come to me, for I expect him with the brethren’ (1 Corinthians 16:11).”
1:1 “To the church of God which is at Corinth, with all the saints who are in the whole of Acha’ia….” Notice that Paul says there is only one Church; the Church just happens to be “at Corinth” and many other places on earth.
St. John Chrysostom comments thus: “Again he calls them ‘the Church,’ to bring and bind them all together in one. For it could not be one Church, while those within her were sundered and stood apart. With all the saints which are in the whole of Achaia. In thus saluting all through the Epistle addressed to the Corinthians, he would at once honor these, and bring together the whole nation. But he calls them ‘saints,’ thereby implying that if any be an impure person, he has no share in this salutation.”
1:5-7 “For as we share abundantly in Christ’s sufferings, so through Christ we share abundantly in comfort too. If we are afflicted, it is for your comfort and salvation; and if we are comforted, it is for your comfort, which you experience when you patiently endure the same sufferings that we suffer. Our hope for you is unshaken; for we know that as you share in our sufferings, you will also share in our comfort.” The suffering that the apostles endured for the sake of the faith did not end with them; we are called to suffer to for the faith. It is impossible to avoid such suffering, and it is the means of our comfort (and our salvation, as Pauls says elsewhere).
Notice also that Paul has hope for the salvation of the Corinthians, not absolute certainty; otherwise, it would not be hope. One does not hope for what is already realized or accomplished.
Again, to repeat, Paul says something very un-Protestant: his sufferings contribute in some mystical way to the salvation of the Corinthian Christians. These verses having nothing to do with the gospel being proclaimed and embraced. The Christians at Corinth are already Christian! They have already heard the gospel and embraced it. So supposedly, according to Protestantism, they would already be saved and Paul could add nothing else to their salvation (“Jesus did/paid it all! Get lost Paul!”).
St. John Chrysostom comments thus: “Having spoken of one, and that the chief ground of comfort and consolation, namely, having fellowship [by sufferings] with Christ: he lays down as second this which he now mentions, namely, that the salvation of the disciples themselves was procured thereby…. For if through lack of spirit and fear of danger we had not preached unto you the word whereby ye learned the true knowledge, your situation had been desperate…. For, says he, the greater the intensity of our persecutions, the greater should be the increase of your good hope; because the more abundant also in proportion is your salvation and consolation…. For to the words, ‘Whether we be afflicted, it is for your comfort and salvation:’ he adds, ‘which works in the patient enduring of the same sufferings which we also suffer’ (2 Corinthians 1:7)…. For what he says is this, ‘Your salvation is not our work alone, but your own as well; for both we in preaching to you the word endure affliction, and you in receiving it endure the very same; we to impart to you that which we received, you to receive what is imparted and not to let it go.’ Now what humility can compare with this, seeing that those who fell so far short of him he raises to the same dignity of endurance? For he says, ‘Which worked in the enduring of the same sufferings;’ for not through believing only comes your salvation, but also through the suffering and enduring the same things with us. For like as a pugilist is an object of admiration, when he does but show himself and is in good training and has his skill within himself, but when he is in action , enduring blows and striking his adversary, then most of all shines forth, because that then his good training is most put in action , and the proof of his skill evidently shown; so truly is your salvation also then more especially put into action, that is, is displayed, increased, heightened, when it has endurance, when it suffers and bears all things nobly. So then the work of salvation consists not in doing evil, but in suffering evil. Moreover he says not, ‘which works,’ but, ‘which is wrought,’ to show that together with their own willingness of mind, grace also which wrought in them did contribute much.”
1:11 “You also must help us by prayer, so that many will give thanks on our behalf for the blessing granted us in answer to many prayers.” The prayers of saints, whether alive or dead, are effective. The distinction between life and death is arbitrary when it comes to asking fellow Christians to pray for us. There is absolutely nothing in Scripture that forbids praying to Christians in heaven and asking them to pray for us. The only difference between that and asking a fellow Christian here on earth to pray for us is that our brothers and sisters in heaven are one with Christ, are in Christ. We know that their prayers carry weight in a way that ours do not. Click here for more biblical evidence for prayers to dead saints.
1:13-15 “I hope you will understand fully, as you have understood in part, that you can be proud of us as we can be of you, on the day of the Lord Jesus. Because I was sure of this, I wanted to come to you first….” This is not evidence of Paul having absolute certainty that all the Corinthian Christians will be saved. He merely has confidence in them, not a certain knowledge of their eternal fate. Plus as we’ll see, he knows that they are standing firm in the faith now for the time being.
St. John Chrysostom comments thus: “‘And I hope you will acknowledge even to the end.’ Do you see again how from the past he draws pledges for the future; and not from the past only, but also from the power of God? For he affirmed not absolutely, but cast the whole upon God and his hope in Him.”
1:19 “For the Son of God, Jesus Christ, whom we preached among you, Silva’nus and Timothy and I, was not Yes and No; but in him it is always Yes.” The primary mode of authoritative teaching was preaching in person, which Paul and others did, not the writing of letters. Letters were written when circumstances prevented visits and preaching in person.
St. John Chrysostom comments thus: “For on this account he brings before them the company of the teachers also, as thence too giving credibility to the testimony by those who taught, and not who heard it only. And yet they were disciples; however in his modesty he counts them as in the rank of teachers. But what is, ‘was not yea and nay?’ I have never, he says, unsaid what before I said in the Preaching. My discourse to you was not now this, now that. For this is not of faith, but of an erring mind. ‘But in Him was the yea.’ That is, just as I said, the word abides unshaken and steadfast.”
1:21-22 “But it is God who establishes us with you in Christ, and has commissioned us; he has put his seal upon us and given us his Spirit in our hearts as a guarantee.” Paul is referring to his and Timothy’s apostolic authority. Apostles have the seal of the Spirit in a way that the lay believer does not.
1:23-24, 2:1 ”But I call God to witness against me — it was to spare you that I refrained from coming to Corinth. Not that we lord it over your faith; we work with you for your joy, for you stand firm in your faith. For I made up my mind not to make you another painful visit.” Spare the Corinthians what? Pain apparently. In First Corinthians, he threatens to visit them with the rod (1 Cor 4:21). It is possible that after that first letter he did visit the Corinthians with the rod and is now saying in this letter that he did not want to make another such visit. Or perhaps he had made a painful visit before he wrote First Corinthians and decided that his letter and other ministers would be enough to exact obedience from the Corinthians. It is not exactly clear what Paul means.
The point is that Paul’s letters were not the primary means of disciplining the churches. He exercised authority primarily in person. This is a blow to the heresy of sola Scriptura.
Notice also that he says they are standing firm in their faith now. In his previous letter, he was exhorting them to do just that (1 Cor 15:1-2, 58; 16:13).
St. John Chrysostom comments thus: “What is the expression, ‘to spare you?’ I heard, he says, that some among you had committed fornication; I would not therefore come and make you sorry: for had I come, I must needs have enquired into the matter, and prosecuted and punished, and exacted justice from many. I judged it then better to be away and to give opportunity for repentance, than to be with you and to prosecute, and be still more incensed. For towards the end of this Epistle he has plainly declared it, saying, ‘I fear lest when I come, my God should humble me before you, and that I should mourn for many of them that have sinned heretofore, and repented not of the lasciviousness and uncleanness which they committed’ (2 Corinthians 12:20-21). This therefore here also he intimates, and he says it indeed as in his own defence; yet rebukes them most severely and puts them in fear; for he implied that they were open to punishment, and will also have somewhat to suffer, unless they be quickly reformed. And he says the same thing again at the end of the Epistle thus; ‘If I come again, I will not spare’ (2 Corinthians 13:2)…. For seeing the expression was that of one asserting great authority, (for a man spares those whom he has also power to punish,) in order to relieve it, and draw a shade over what seems harsh, he says, ‘Not for that we have lordship over your faith.’ That is, I did not therefore say, ‘To spare you I came not,’ as lording it over you. Again, he said not you, but ‘your faith,’ which was at once gentler and truer. For him that has no mind to believe, who has power to compel?… For since, says he, your joy is ours, I came not, that I might not plunge you into sorrow and increase my own despondency; but I stayed away that you being reformed by the threat might be made glad…. Behold him again speaking repressedly. For he was afraid to rebuke them again; since he had handled them severely in the former Epistle, and they had made some reformation. And if, now that they were reformed, they again received the same reproof, this was likely to throw them back. Whence this Epistle is much gentler than the former…. The expression ‘again’ proves that he had already been made sorry from thence, and while he seems to be speaking in his own defence he covertly rebukes them. Now if they had both already made him sorry and were about again to make him sorry, consider how great the displeasure was likely to be.”
2:3-4 “And I wrote as I did, so that when I came I might not suffer pain from those who should have made me rejoice, for I felt sure of all of you, that my joy would be the joy of you all. For I wrote you out of much affliction and anguish of heart and with many tears, not to cause you pain but to let you know the abundant love that I have for you.” In First Corinithians, Paul wrote about many problems he saw in the Church at Corinth. This writings is probably what Paul is referring to in these verses. What he wrote in the previous letter was meant to prepare for his coming to the Corinthian church.
The point is that Paul’s letters were not the primary means of disciplining the churches. He exercised authority primarily in person. This is a blow to the heresy of sola Scriptura.
2:5-11 “But if any one has caused pain, he has caused it not to me, but in some measure –not to put it too severely — to you all. For such a one this punishment by the majority is enough; so you should rather turn to forgive and comfort him, or he may be overwhelmed by excessive sorrow. So I beg you to reaffirm your love for him. For this is why I wrote, that I might test you and know whether you are obedient in everything. Any one whom you forgive, I also forgive. What I have forgiven, if I have forgiven anything, has been for your sake in the presence of Christ, to keep Satan from gaining the advantage over us; for we are not ignorant of his designs.” Paul here exercises his authority with regard to forgiving sins in the presence of Christ and to reconciling a repentant sinner (perhaps the man mentioned in Paul’s previous letter who committed incest) to the Church. In this way also do Catholic clergy forgive sins in the Sacrament of Reconciliation. The Protestant view that Church leaders have no authority or involvement in the “binding and loosing” of the sins of Christians is false.
Notice that Paul implies it is quite possible for Satan to gain an advantage over the Christian by means of diabolical designs (though not against our free will).
St. John Chrysostom comments thus: “I know, he says, that you shared in my anger and indignation against him that had committed fornication, and that what had taken place grieved in part all of you. And therefore said I ‘in part,’ not as though you were less hurt than I, but that I might not weigh down him that had committed fornication. He did not then grieve me only but you also equally, even though to spare him I said, ‘in part.’ Do you see how at once he moderated their anger, by declaring that they shared also in his indignation. And he says not ‘
to him that has committed fornication,’ but here again ‘
to such a one,’ as also in the former Epistle. Not however for the same reason; but there out of shame, here out of mercy. Wherefore he no where subsequently so much as mentions the crime; for it was time now to excuse. He bids them not only take off the censure; but, besides, restores him to his former estate; for if one let go him that has been scourged and heal him not, he has done nothing. And see how him too he keeps down lest he should be rendered worse by the forgiveness. For though he had both confessed and repented, he makes it manifest that he obtains remission not so much by his penitence as by this free gift. Wherefore he says, ‘to forgive him and to comfort him,’ and what follows again makes the same thing plain. ‘For’ says he, ‘it is not because he is worthy, not because he has shown sufficient penitence; but because he is weak, it is for this I request it.’ Whence also he added, ‘lest by any means such a one should be swallowed up with overmuch sorrow.’ And this is both as testifying to his deep repentance and as not allowing him to fall into despair. But what means this, ‘swallowed up?’ Either doing as Judas did, or even in living becoming worse. For, says he, if he should rush away from longer enduring the anguish of this lengthened censure, perchance also despairing he will either come to hang himself, or fall into greater crimes afterwards. One ought then to take steps beforehand , lest the sore become too hard to deal with; and lest what we have well done we lose by want of moderation. Now this he said, (as I have already observed,) both to keep him low, and to teach him not to be over-listless after this restoration. For, not as one who has washed all quite away; but as fearing lest he should work anything of deeper mischief, I have received him, he says. Whence we learn that we must determine the penance, not only by the nature of the sins, but by the disposition and habit of them that sin. As the Apostle did in that instance. He no longer commands but beseeches, not as a teacher but as an equal; and having seated them on the judgment seat he placed himself in the rank of an advocate; for having succeeded in his object, for joy he adopts without restraint the tone of supplication…. Herein, again, he bears testimony to their virtue as very great; since they who were so friendly and so applauded him as even to be puffed up, were so estranged that Paul takes such pains to make them confirm their love towards him. Herein is excellence of disciples, herein excellence of teachers; that they should so obey the rein, he so manage their motions. If this were so even now, they who sin would not have transgressed senselessly. For one ought neither to love carelessly, nor to be estranged without some reason. ‘For to this end also did I write to you, that I might know the proof of you, whether you are obedient in all things;’ not only in cutting off but also in reuniting…. For the former instance might have seemed to proceed even of envy and malice, but this shows very especially the obedience to be pure, and whether you are apt unto loving kindness. For this is the test of right minded disciples; if they obey not only when ordered to do certain things, but when the contrary also. Therefore he said, ‘in all things,’ showing that if they disobey, they disgrace not him so much as themselves, earning the character of lovers of contention; and he does this that hence also he may drive them to obey. Whence also he says, ‘For to this end did I write to you;’ and yet he wrote not for this end, but he says so in order to win them. For the leading object was the salvation of that person. But where it does no harm, he also gratifies them. And by saying, ‘In all things,’ he again praises them, recalling to memory and bringing forth to view their former obedience. ‘To whom you forgive any thing, I forgive also.’ Do you see how again he assigns the second part to himself, showing them as beginning, himself following. This is the way to soften an exasperated, to compose a contentious spirit. Then lest he should make them careless, as though they were arbiters, and they should refuse forgiveness; he again constrains them unto this, saying, that himself also had forgiven him. ‘For what I also have forgiven, if I have forgiven any thing, for your sakes have I forgiven it.’ For, this very thing I have done for your sakes, he says. And as when he commanded them to cut him off, he left not with them the power to forgive, saying, ‘I have judged already to deliver such an one unto Satan’ (1 Corinthians 5:3-5), and again made them partners in his decision saying, ‘ye being gathered together to deliver him,’ (ib. 4, 5.) (thereby securing two most important things, viz., that the sentence should be passed; yet not without their consent, lest herein he might seem to hurt them;) and neither himself alone pronounces it, lest they should consider him self-willed, and themselves to be overlooked, nor yet leaves all to them, lest when possessed of the power they should deal treacherously with the offender by unseasonably forgiving him: so also does he here, saying, ‘I have already forgiven, who in the former Epistle had already judged.’ Then lest they should be hurt, as though overlooked, he adds, ‘for your sakes.’ What then? Did he for men’s sake pardon? No; for on this account he added, ‘In the person of Christ.’ What is ‘in the person of Christ?’ Either he means according to [the will of] God, or unto the glory of Christ. ‘That no advantage may be gained over us by Satan: for we are not ignorant of his devices.’ Do you see how he both commits the power to them and again takes away that by that he may soften them, by this eradicate their self will. But this is not all that he provides for by this, but shows also that should they be disobedient the harm would reach to all, just as he did at the outset also…. And throughout, he makes this forgiveness the joint act of himself and them…. Having thus again made the whole their act, he passes to his own authority…. Then both theirs and his, ‘For,’ says he, ‘if I have forgiven any thing, for your sakes forgave I it in the person of Christ,’ either [that is] for the glory of Christ, or as though Christ commanding this also, which was most effectual to prevail with them. For after this they would have feared not to grant that which tended to His glory and which He willed. Then again he signifies the common harm should they disobey, when he says, ‘Lest Satan should get an advantage of us;’ well naming it, getting advantage…. For not only by leading into fornication can he destroy, but even by the contrary, the unmeasured sorrow following on the repentance for it…. For he is not content with striking down by sin, but even by repentance he does this except we be vigilant. Wherefore also with reason did he call it getting advantage, when he even conquers our own weapons. For to take by sin is his proper work; by repentance, however, is no more his; for ours, not his, is that weapon. When then even by this he is able to take, think how disgraceful the defeat, how he will laugh at and run us down as weak and pitiful, if he is to subdue us with our own weapons. For it were matter for exceeding scorn and of the last disgrace, that he should inflict wounds on us through our own remedies. Therefore he said, ‘for we are not ignorant of his devices,’ exposing his versatility, his craftiness, his evil devices, his malice, his capacity to injure under a show of piety. These things then having in mind, let us too never despise any one; nor ever, though we fall into sin, despair; on the other hand, again, let us not be easy-minded afterwards, but, when we transgress, afflict our minds and not merely give vent to words. For I know many who say indeed that they bewail their sins, but do nothing of account. They fast and wear rough garments; but after money are more eager than hucksters, are more the prey of anger than wild beasts, and take more pleasure in detraction than others do in commendations. These things are not repentance, these things are the semblance and shadow only of repentance, not repentance itself. Wherefore in the case of these persons too it is well to say, Take heed ‘lest Satan should get an advantage of us, for we are not ignorant of his devices;’ for some he destroys through sins, others through repentance; but these in yet another way, by suffering them to gain no fruit from repentance. For when he found not how he might destroy them by direct [attack,] he came another road, heightening their toils, while robbing them of the fruits, and persuading them, as if they had successfully accomplished all they had to do, therefore to be neglectful of what remains…. God has showed how He remits sins. Why then forsaking that path, do ye carve another for yourselves. In old time the Ninevites sinned, and they did the things which you too now are doing. Let us see however what it was that availed them…. ‘God,’ says He, ‘saw that they turned every one from his evil way, and He repented of the evil that He had said He would do unto them’ (Jonah 3:10). He said not, He saw [their] fasting and sackcloth and ashes. And I say not this to overturn fasting, (God forbid!) but to exhort you that with fasting ye do that which is better than fasting, the abstaining from all evil. David also sinned. (2 Samuel 12:17), etc. Let us see then how he too repented. Three days he sat on ashes. But this he did not for the sin’s sake, but for the child’s, being as yet stupefied with that affliction. But the sin by other means did he wipe away, by humbleness, contrition of heart, compunction of soul, by falling into the like no more, by remembering it always…. for he had a contrite and humbled heart, and it was this especially which wiped away his sins. For this is confession, this is repentance. But if while we fast we are proud, we have been not only nothing profited but even injured. Humble then your heart, thou too, that you may draw God unto you. ‘For the Lord is near unto them that are of a contrite heart’ (Psalm 33:19)…. Groan when you have sinned, not because you are to be punished, (for this is nothing,) but because you have offended your Master, one so gentle, one so kind, one that so loves you and longs for your salvation as to have given even His Son for you. For this groan, and do this continually: for this is confession. Be not today cheerful, tomorrow of a sad countenance, then again cheerful; but continue ever in mourning and self contrition. For, ‘Blessed,’ says he, ‘are they that mourn,’ that is, that do this perpetually. Continue then to do this perpetually, and to take heed to yourself, and to afflict your heart; as one who had lost a beloved son might mourn. ‘Rend,’ says he, ‘your hearts, and not your garments’ (Joel 2:13)…. Remit offenses to those who have transgressed against you, for this too remits sins. And concerning the former He says, ‘I saw that he went sorrowful, and I healed his ways’ (Isaiah 57:17-18; Septuagint); and in Ahab’s case, this appeased the wrath of God: (1 Kings 21:29) concerning the latter, ‘Remit, and it shall be remitted unto you.’ There is also again another way which brings us this medicine; condemning what we have done amiss; for, ‘Declare first your transgressions, that you may be justified’ (Isaiah 43:26. Septuagint). And for one in afflictions to give thanks looses his sins; and almsgiving, which is greater than all. Reckon up therefore the medicines which heal your wounds, and apply all unremittingly , humbleness, confession, forgetting wrongs, giving thanks in afflictions, showing mercy both in alms and actions, persevering in prayer…. What excuse then can we deserve if with so many ways leading us up to heaven, and so many medicines to heal our wounds, even after the Laver we continue where we were?”
2:15-16 “For we are the aroma of Christ to God among those who are being saved and among those who are perishing, to one a fragrance from death to death, to the other a fragrance from life to life.” If the present progressive tense is correctly translated from the Greek, then this is evidence against the Protestant notion that salvation is instantaneous and guaranteed rather than a life-long process.
St. John Chrysostom comments thus: “Whether, says he, one be saved or be lost, the Gospel continues to have its proper virtue: and as the light, although it blinds the weakly, is still light, though causing blindness; and as honey, though it be bitter to those who are diseased, is in its nature sweet; so also is the Gospel of sweet savor, even though some should be lost who believe it not. For not It, but their own perverseness, works the perdition. And by this most of all is its sweet savor manifested, by which the corrupt and vicious perish; so that not only by the salvation of the good, but also by the perdition of the wicked is its excellence declared.”
2:17 “For we are not, like so many, peddlers of God’s word; but as men of sincerity, as commissioned by God, in the sight of God we speak in Christ.” There is a rebuke of Protestant fallibilism. Paul and Timothy “speak in Christ” and thus they speak with authority, not mere human wisdom.
And notice he writes “speak,” not “write.” The spoken words of the apostles were just as authoritative as their written words. Spoken or written, their words were the Word of God. And their successors, the early Church fathers, wrote down what the apostles had taught them in person. Thus the writings of the Fathers contain authoritative apostolic teachings, though they were not included in the canon of Scripture by the Catholic Church.
St. John Chrysostom comments thus: “Not by our own wisdom, but instructed by the power that comes from Him. Those who glory speak not in this way, but as bringing in something from themselves. Whence he elsewhere also turns them into ridicule, saying, ‘For what have you that thou did not receive? But if you received it, why do you glory as if you had not received it’ (1 Corinthians 4:7). This is the highest virtue, to refer every thing to God, to consider nothing to be our own, to do nothing out of regard to men’s opinion, but to what God wills. For He it is that requires the account.”
3:2-3 “You yourselves are our letter of recommendation, written on your hearts, to be known and read by all men; and you show that you are a letter from Christ delivered by us, written not with ink but with the Spirit of the living God, not on tablets of stone but on tablets of human hearts.” Basically, human beings themselves can be metaphorical letters of Scripture, of the Word of God. One need not have letters written with ink in order to have the Spirit of God, to have authoritative teachings. Such language by Paul undermines the notion of sola Scriptura.
3:4-6 “Such is the confidence that we have through Christ toward God. Not that we are competent of ourselves to claim anything as coming from us; our competence is from God, who has made us competent to be ministers of a new covenant, not in a written code but in the Spirit; for the written code kills, but the Spirit gives life.” Paul is speaking about himself and Timothy as ministers of the new covenant, not all believers. Catholic clergy too, including the pope, are not competent in themselves but receive their competence from God with regard to the sacraments and authoritative teaching.
It is interesting to note how St. Paul says that the new covenant is “not in a written code but in the Spirit.” Obviously, Paul is referring specifically to the Old Testament and the Old Law, but he speaks in general of what is written. Again, such language undermines the notion of sola Scriptura. The Church, which received the Spirit at Pentecost, speaks in the Spirit and is not limited to only what was written down in the Bible, for there was much apostolic preaching that was not communicated by letter.
St. John Chrysostom comments thus: “Yet these things he says not absolutely; but in allusion to those who prided themselves upon the things of Judaism. And by ‘letter’ here he means the Law which punishes them that transgress; but by ‘spirit’ the grace which through Baptism gives life to them who by sins were made dead…. In the Law, he that has sin is punished; here, he that has sins comes and is baptized and is made righteous, and being made righteous, he lives, being delivered from the death of sin. The Law, if it lay hold on a murderer, puts him to death; the Gospel, if it lay hold on a murderer, enlightens, and gives him life. And why do I instance a murderer? The Law laid hold on one that gathered sticks on a sabbath day, and stoned him. (Numbers 15:32-36) This is the meaning of, ‘the letter kills.’ The Gospel takes hold on thousands of homicides and robbers, and baptizing delivers them from their former vices. This is the meaning of, ‘the Spirit gives life.’ The former makes its captive dead from being alive, the latter renders the man it has convicted alive from being dead. For, ‘come unto me, you that labor and are heavy laden’ (Matthew 11:28), and, He said not, ‘I will punish you,’ but, ‘I will give you rest.’ For in Baptism the sins are buried, the former things are blotted out, the man is made alive, the entire grace written upon his heart as it were a table…. Since then It has given us life, let us remain living and not return again to the former deadness: for ‘Christ dies no more; for the death that He died, He died unto sin once: (Romans 6:9-10) and He will not have us always saved by grace: for so we shall be empty of all things. Wherefore He will have us contribute something also from ourselves. Let us then contribute, and preserve to the soul its life.”
3:12 “Since we have such a hope, we are very bold….” Again, no fallibilism here. Paul, Timothy, and the rest of the apostles speak with authority and certainty. And yet, not with certainty about the eternal fate of any individual, just with hope and confidence.
3:17 “Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom.” Freedom is not freedom to do evil but to do good. When we use our free will to sin, we are no longer free but a slave of sin. True freedom is found only in the Spirit of the Lord, in his commandments which are fulfilled in loving God and one another.
4:3-4 “And even if our gospel is veiled, it is veiled only to those who are perishing. In their case the god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelievers, to keep them from seeing the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the likeness of God.” In a certain sense, the devil is involved in all unbelief, blinding unbelievers from seeing and accepting the truth. In another sense, unbelievers blind themselves with the assistance of Satan. Or perhaps God blinds unbelievers (as He hardens hearts), giving them what they justly deserve.
St. John Chrysostom comments thus: “But what is ‘the God of this world?’ Those that are infected with Marcion’s notions, affirm that this is said of the Creator, the just only, and not good; for they say that there is a certain God, just and not good. But the Manichees say that the devil is here intended, desiring from this passage to introduce another creator of the world besides the True One, very senselessly. For the Scripture uses often to employ the term God, not in regard of the dignity of that so designated, but of the weakness of those in subjection to it; as when it calls Mammon lord, and the belly god. But neither is the belly therefore God, nor Mammon Lord, save only of those who bow down themselves to them. But we assert of this passage that it is spoken neither of the devil nor of another creator, but of the God of the Universe, and that it is to be read thus; ‘God has blinded the minds of the unbelievers of this world.’ For the world to come has no unbelievers; but the present only. But if any one should read it even otherwise, as, for instance, ‘the God of this world;’ neither does this afford any handle, for this does not show Him to be the God of this world only. For He is called ‘the God of Heaven’ (Psalm 136:26), etc. yet is He not the God of Heaven only; and we say, ‘God of the present day;’ yet we say this not as limiting His power to it alone. And moreover He is called the ‘God of Abraham, and the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob’ (Exodus 3:6), etc. and yet He is not the God of them alone. And one may find many other like testimonies in the Scriptures. How then ‘has’ He ‘blinded’ them? Not by working unto this end; away with the thought! But by suffering and allowing it. For it is usual with the Scripture so to speak, as when it says, ‘God gave them up unto a reprobate mind.’ For when they themselves first disbelieved, and rendered themselves unworthy to see the mysteries; He Himself also thereafter permitted it. But what did it behoove Him to do? To draw them by force, and reveal to those who would not see? But so they would have despised the more, and would not have seen either.”
4:5-7 “For what we preach is not ourselves, but Jesus Christ as Lord, with ourselves as your servants for Jesus’ sake. For it is the God who said, ‘Let light shine out of darkness,’ who has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Christ. But we have this treasure in earthen vessels, to show that the transcendent power belongs to God and not to us.” Again, there is no human fallibilism here. Again, he is talking about himself and Timothy as apostles. Apostolic preaching is of God, not men. The apostles were merely servants of the Word. So also, Catholic clergy are merely servants, and the pope in communion with the bishops preach with apostolic authority on the faith; they speak with the authority of God as Paul did. Clergy are weak “earthen vessels,” and yet the power of God is all the more glorious in that it cannot fail even with such vessels.
St. John Chrysostom comments thus: “I am a servant, I am [but] a minister even of those who receive the Gospel, transacting every thing for Another, and for His glory doing whatsover I do. So that in warring against me you throw down what is His. For so far am I from turning to my own personal advantage any part of the Gospel, that I will not refuse to be even your servant for Christ’s sake…. this very thing is indeed the chiefest marvel and a very great example of the power of God, that an earthen vessel has been enabled to bear so great a brightness and to keep so high a treasure…. For both the greatness of the things given and the weakness of them that receive show His power; in that He not only gave great things, but also to those who are little. For he used the term ‘earthen’ in allusion to the frailty of our mortal nature, and to declare the weakness of our flesh. For it is nothing better constituted than earthenware; so is it soon damaged, and by death and disease and variations of temperature and ten thousand other things easily dissolved. And he said these things both to take down their inflation, and to show to all that none of the things we hold is human. For then is the power of God chiefly conspicuous, when by vile it works mighty things. Wherefore also in another place He said, ‘For My power is made perfect in weakness’ (2 Corinthians 12:9). And indeed in the Old [Testament] whole hosts of barbarians were turned to flight by gnats and flies, wherefore also He calls the caterpillar His mighty force ; (Joel 2:25) and in the beginning, by only confounding tongues, He put a stop to that great tower in Babylon. And in their wars too, at one time, He routed innumerable hosts by three hundred men; at another He overthrew cities by trumpets; and afterwards by a little and poor stripling, David, He turned to flight the whole army of barbarians. So then here also, sending forth twelve only He overcame the world; twelve, and those, persecuted, warred against.”
4:9-11 “…persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed; always carrying in the body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be manifested in our bodies. For while we live we are always being given up to death for Jesus’ sake, so that the life of Jesus may be manifested in our mortal flesh.” Christians are supposed to hold the suffering and death/life of Jesus in their hearts and even in their bodies. We are not to mutilate our bodies but to mortify them, deaden them to the lusts of this world through fasting and other discipline. We are to bear humbly the sufferings that involuntarily come our way. In the case of the apostles and other martyrs, these words took on a literal meaning when persecutors inflicted violence. In the case of some saints, the stigmata, the wounds of Jesus, appear miraculously on their bodies, on their hands, feet, side, and brow with corresponding sufferings.
4:14 “…knowing that he who raised the Lord Jesus will raise us also with Jesus and bring us with you into his presence.” Again, this is not evidence of Paul having absolute certainty that all the Corinthian Christians will be saved. He merely has confidence in God’s faithfulness to those who are faithful to Him. Plus as we saw above, Paul knows now that the Corinthian Christians are standing firm in the faith now.
5:5-6 “He who has prepared us for this very thing is God, who has given us the Spirit as a guarantee. So we are always of good courage; we know….” Again, this is not evidence of Paul having absolute certainty that he and Timothy will be saved. He merely has confidence in God’s faithfulness to those who are faithful to Him. We have a guarantee from God that if we have a living faith that keeps his commandments, we shall have eternal life.
However, this verse is strong support for the notion that Paul believes that he and Timothy have been given a guarantee by the Spirit that their teaching is without error.
5:10-11 “For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each one may receive good or evil, according to what he has done in the body. Therefore, knowing the fear of the Lord, we persuade men; but what we are is known to God, and I hope it is known also to your conscience.” Notice that Paul says we will be judged according to our actions in the body, not by mere mental assent to this or that belief. We are to both love and fear the Lord, not just love. It is in fearing God that we can truly love Him. We fear failing those we love.
St. John Chrysostom comments thus: “By saying these words, he both revives those who have done virtuously and are persecuted with those hopes, and makes those who have fallen back more earnest by that fear…. Let us then hear the voice of Paul, saying, that ‘we must stand at the judgment-seat of Christ;’ and let us picture to ourselves that court of justice, and imagine it to be present now and the reckoning to be required. For I will speak of it more at large. For Paul, seeing that he was discoursing on affliction, and he had no mind to afflict them again, did not dwell on the subject; but having in brief expressed its austerity, ‘Each one shall receive according to what he has done,’ he quickly passed on…. For suppose there were no hell, yet in the midst of so great brightness to be rejected and to go away dishonored—how great the punishment!”
5:15 “And he died for all, that those who live might live no longer for themselves but for him who for their sake died and was raised.” Jesus died not so that we could sin with impunity but so that we could be forgiven of our sins and sincerely strive to sin no more. Those who profess Jesus to be Lord and Savior yet do not sincerely strive to “live no longer for themselves but for” Jesus, according to His commandments, will not be saved.
St. John Chrysostom comments thus: “And he assigns besides an indubitable argument by which he shows that the thing is a debt. For if through Him we live who were dead; to Him we ought to live through Whom we live.”
5:17-20 “Therefore, if any one is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has passed away, behold, the new has come. All this is from God, who through Christ reconciled us to himself and gave us the ministry of reconciliation; that is, in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting to us the message of reconciliation. So we are ambassadors for Christ, God making his appeal through us. We beseech you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God.” Paul says that he and Timothy have been given the “ministry” and the “message” of reconciliation. Do you see how Paul uses both terms? Reconciliation is not merely a message that the apostles proclaimed; it was a ministry that they also administered! In fact, this ministry is exactly what Paul does above in 2:5-11, when he forgives the sinner in the person of Christ. And so Paul and Timothy are begging the Corinthian Christians to be reconciled to God, to accept His forgiveness through their ministry and to sin no more. Why would Paul ask these Christians to be reconciled to God if they were already irrevocably reconciled and saved with certainty?
St. John Chrysostom comments thus: “So that for this cause also, he says, we ought to live unto Him, not because we are not our own only, nor because He died for us only, nor because He raised up our First-fruits only, but because we have also come unto another life. See how many just grounds he urges for a life of virtue…. For instead of the Jerusalem below we have received that mother city which is above (Galatians 4:26); and instead of a material temple have seen a spiritual temple; instead of tables of stone, fleshy ones; instead of circumcision, baptism; instead of the manna, the Lord’s body; instead of water from a rock, blood from His side; instead of Moses’ or Aaron’s rod, the Cross…. Here again he sets forth the dignity of the Apostles; showing how great a thing was committed to their hands, and the surpassing greatness of the love of God. For even when they would not hear the Ambassador that came, He was not exasperated nor left them to themselves, but continues to exhort them both in His own person and by others. Who can be fittingly amazed at this solicitude? The Son Who came to reconcile, His True and Only-Begotten, was slain, yet not even so did the Father turn away from His murderers; nor say, ‘I sent My Son as an Ambassador, but they not only would not hear Him, but even slew and crucified Him, it is meet henceforth to leave them to themselves:’ but quite the contrary, when the Son departed, He entrusted the business to us; for he says, gave unto us the ministry of reconciliation…. For seeing he had said, ‘Who gave unto us the ministry of reconciliation;’ he here used a corrective, saying, ‘Think not that we act of our own authority in the business: we are ministers; and He that does the whole is God, Who reconciled the world by the Only-Begotten.’… For neither have we come now on any odious office; but to make all men friends with God…. So greatly does He prize mankind that He gave up even the Son, and that knowing He would be slain, and made us Apostles for your sakes; so that he said with reason, ‘All things are for your sakes’ (2 Corinthians 4:15). ‘We are therefore ambassadors on behalf of Christ,’ that is, instead of Christ; for we have succeeded to His functions.’ But if this appears to you a great thing, hear also what follows wherein he shows that they do this not in His stead only, but also in stead of the Father. For therefore he also added, ‘As though God were entreating by us.’ ‘For not by the Son Himself only does He beseech, but also by us who have succeeded to the office of the Son. Think not therefore,’ he says, ‘that by us you are entreated; Christ Himself, the Father Himself of Christ, beseeches you by us.’”
6:1 “Working together with him, then, we entreat you not to accept the grace of God in vain.” Is it not clear that we can accept God’s grace at one point in our lives and reject it at another point? Is it not clear that by our disobedience God’s grace can be accepted in vain? “Once saved, always saved” is false.
St. John Chrysostom comments thus: “For since he said, God beseeches, and we are ambassadors and suppliants unto you, that you be ‘reconciled unto God:’ lest they should become supine, he hereby again alarms and arouses them, saying: ‘We intreat that you receive not the grace of God in vain.’ ‘For let us not,’ he says, ‘therefore be at ease, because He beseeches and has sent some to be ambassadors; nay, but for this very reason let us make haste to please God and to collect spiritual merchandise;’ as also he said above, ‘The love of God constrains us’ (2 Corinthians 5:14), that is presses, drives, urges us, ‘that you may not after so much affectionate care, by being supine and exhibiting no nobleness, miss of such great blessings. Do not therefore because He has sent some to exhort you, deem that this will always be so. It will be so until His second coming; until then He beseeches, so long as we are here; but after that is judgment and punishment.’ Therefore, he says, ‘we are constrained.’ For not only from the greatness of the blessings and His loving kindness, but also from the shortness of the time he urges them continually. Wherefore he says also elsewhere, ‘For now is our salvation nearer’ (Romans 13:11). And again; ‘The Lord is at hand’ (Philippians 4:5). But here he does something yet more. For not from the fact that the remainder of the time is short and little, but also from its being the only season available, for salvation, he incited them. For, ‘Behold,’ he says, ‘now is the acceptable time; behold, now is the day of salvation.’ Let us therefore not let slip the favorable opportunity but display a zeal worthy of the grace. For therefore is it that we also press forward, knowing both the shortness and the suitableness of the time…. But if it is even with God that he speaks of working together, he repudiates not even this [interpretation]; for he says in another place, ‘we are God’s fellow-workers’ (1 Corinthians 3:9): in this way, says he, to save men…. But what we beseech is that you would receive the benefit and not reject the gift. Be persuaded therefore by us, and ‘receive not the grace in vain.’ For lest they should think that this of itself is ‘reconciliation,’ believing on Him that calls; he adds these words, requiting that earnestness which respects the life. For, for one who has been freed from sins and made a friend to wallow in the former things, is to return again unto enmity, and to ‘receive the grace in vain,’ in respect of the life. For from ‘the grace’ we reap no benefit towards salvation, if we live impurely; nay, we are even harmed, having this greater aggravation even of our sins, in that after such knowledge and such a gift we have gone back to our former vices. This however he does not mention as yet: that he may not make his work harsh, but says only that we reap no benefit. Then he also reminds of a prophecy, urging and compelling them to bestir themselves in order to lay hold of their own salvation…. Whilst then we are yet in the lists , while we are at work in the vineyard, while the eleventh hour is left [us], let us draw near and show forth life; for it is also easy. For he that strives for the mastery at such a time, when so great a gift has been shed forth, when so great grace, will early obtain the prizes…. Let us too therefore strive for the mastery in the time of this gift. It is a day of grace, of grace divine; wherefore with ease even we shall obtain the crown. For if when laden with so great evils He both received and delivered us: when delivered from all and contributing our part, shall He not rather accept us?”
6:11-13 “Our mouth is open to you, Corinthians; our heart is wide. You are not restricted by us, but you are restricted in your own affections. In return — I speak as to children – widen your hearts also.” Paul speaks as a father to his children, children who still have a lot of growing and maturing to do.
6:14-16 “Do not be mismated with unbelievers. For what partnership have righteousness and iniquity? Or what fellowship has light with darkness? What accord has Christ with Be’lial? Or what has a believer in common with an unbeliever? What agreement has the temple of God with idols?” Paul implicitly tells Christians not to marry unbelievers. Christians are to not to enter into partnership and fellowship with unbelievers in general.
7:1 “Since we have these promises, beloved, let us cleanse ourselves from every defilement of body and spirit, and make holiness perfect in the fear of God.” Paul is calling the Corinthians to perfect holiness which comes with the fear of God. Again, we are called to both love and fear God, not just love. It is in fearing God that we can truly love Him. We fear to fail those we love.
St. John Chrysostom comments thus: “For not to touch the unclean thing does not make clean, but there needs something else besides to our becoming holy; earnestness, heedfulness, piety. And he well said, ‘In the fear of God.’ For it is possible to perfect chasteness, not in the fear of God but for vainglory. And along with this he implies yet another thing, by saying, ‘In the fear of God;’ the manner, namely, whereafter holiness may be perfected. For if lust be even an imperious thing, still if you occupy its territory with the fear of God, you have stayed its frenzy. Now by holiness here he means not chastity alone, but the freedom from every kind of sin, for he is holy that is pure. Now one will become pure, not if he be free from fornication only, but if from covetousness also, and envy, and pride , and vainglory, yea especially from vainglory which in every thing indeed it behooves to avoid….”
7:3-4 “I do not say this to condemn you, for I said before that you are in our hearts, to die together and to live together. I have great confidence in you; I have great pride in you; I am filled with comfort.” See, Paul has great confidence in the Corinthians, but he would not speak of our acceptance of God’s grace potentially being in vain (6:1) or of the fear of God (5:11; 7:1) if he knew with absolute certainty that the Corinthians were already saved and unable to lose their salvation.
St. John Chrysostom comments thus: “‘Therefore I venture upon such things,’ he says, ‘not to condemn you by what I say, but out of my great boldness of speech,’ which also farther signifying, he said, ‘Great is my glorying on your behalf.’ ‘For think not indeed,’ he says, ‘that because I thus speak, I speak as though I had condemned you altogether; (for I am exceedingly proud of, and glory in, you;) but both out of tender concern and a desire that you should make greater increase unto virtue.’ And so he said to the Hebrews also after much rebuke; ‘But we are persuaded better things of you, and things that accompany salvation, though we thus speak: and we desire that each one of you may show the same diligence to the fullness of hope even to the end’ (Hebrews 6:9-11)…. What comfort? ‘That coming from you; because that you, having been reformed, comforted me by your conduct.’”
7:8-13, 15-16 ”For even if I made you sorry with my letter, I do not regret it (though I did regret it), for I see that that letter grieved you, though only for a while. As it is, I rejoice, not because you were grieved, but because you were grieved into repenting; for you felt a godly grief, so that you suffered no loss through us. For godly grief produces a repentance that leads to salvation and brings no regret, but worldly grief produces death. For see what earnestness this godly grief has produced in you, what eagerness to clear yourselves, what indignation, what alarm, what longing, what zeal, what punishment! At every point you have proved yourselves guiltless in the matter. So although I wrote to you, it was not on account of the one who did the wrong, nor on account of the one who suffered the wrong, but in order that your zeal for us might be revealed to you in the sight of God. Therefore we are comforted. And besides our own comfort we rejoiced still more at the joy of Titus, because his mind has been set at rest by you all…. And his heart goes out all the more to you, as he remembers the obedience of you all, and the fear and trembling with which you received him. I rejoice, because I have perfect confidence in you.” It is quite possible that Paul is referring to the First Corinthians in our Bibles (“my letter”), for that letter had a harsher tone while this letter is much softer and conciliatory.
Many Protestants like to complain about the supposed excesses of “Catholic guilt.” But notice that Paul references a “godly grief” that “produces a repentance that leads to salvation.” Even after baptism and confirmation, even after the “the hour I first believed,” repentance for the sins we commit afteward is necessary to achieve salvation. To skip the step of grief and repentance and go straight to “Jesus has already forgiven me” is to not take sin seriously and to not be forgiven. Such an approach doesn’t take God and His holiness seriously. We should not presume forgiveness without confession, sincere repentance, and the ministry of reconciliation that the Church was given by Our Lord.
Notice also that Paul and Titus were anxious about the Corinthians and their faith. But now these apostles are comforted and their minds are at rest, knowing that the Corinthians have repented and proved their obedience and zeal for apostolic teaching and discipline. What cause would there be for anxiety if the Corinthian Christians were “already saved”?
St. John Chrysostom comments thus: “For a father also when he sees his son under the knife rejoices not that he is being pained, but that he is being cured; so also does this man…. ‘For had we not done this,’ he says, ‘we had done you damage.’ And he affirms that indeed which was well achieved to be theirs, but the damage his own, if indeed he had been silent. For if they are likely to be corrected by a sharp rebuke, then, if we did not sharply rebuke, we should have done you damage; and the injury would not be with you alone, but also with us. For just as he that gives not to the merchant what is necessary for his voyage, he it is that causes the damage; so also we, if we did not offer you that occasion of repentance, should have wrought you damage. Do you see that the not rebuking those that sin is a damage both to the master and to the disciple?… ‘Therefore,’ he says, ‘though I did regret before I saw the fruit and the gain, how great they were I do not regret now .’ For such a thing is godly sorrow. And then he philosophizes about it, showing that sorrow is not in all cases a grievous thing, but when it is worldly. And what is worldly? If you be in sorrow for money, for reputation, for him that is departed, all these are worldly. Wherefore also they work death…. For only in respect to sins is sorrow a profitable thing; as is evident in this way. He that sorrowes for loss of wealth repairs not that damage; he that sorrowes for one deceased raises not the dead to life again; he that sorrowes for a sickness, not only is not made well but even aggravates the disease: he that sorrowes for sins, he alone attains some advantage from his sorrow, for he makes his sins wane and disappear. For since the medicine has been prepared for this thing, in this case only is it potent and displays its profitableness; and in the other cases is even injurious. ‘And yet Cain,’ says one, ‘sorrowed because he was not accepted with God.’ It was not for this, but because he saw his brother glorious in honor; for had he grieved for this, it behooved him to emulate and rejoice with him; but, as it was, grieving, he showed that his was a worldly sorrow. But not so did David, nor Peter, nor any of the righteous. Wherefore they were accepted, when grieving either over their own sins or those of others. And yet what is more oppressive than sorrow? Still when it is after a godly sort, it is better than the joy in the world. For this indeed ends in nothing…. But not such as this is godly sorrow; but it possesses two advantages, that of not being condemned in that a man grieves for, and that this sorrow ends in salvation…. For no one will condemn himself if he have sorrowed for sin, if he have mourned and afflicted himself. Which also when the blessed Paul has said he needs not to adduce from other sources the proof of what he said, nor to bring forward those in the old histories who sorrowed, but he adduces the Corinthians themselves; and furnishes his proof from what they had done; that along with praises he might both instruct them and the rather win them to himself…. ‘For not only,’ he says, ‘did your sorrow not cast you into that condemning of yourselves, as having acted idly in so doing; but it made you even more careful.’… For so great carefulness and very speedy reformation was the part of men who feared exceedingly…. Here, however, there is yet another rule, higher than the political rule. And what is this? That in the Church. And this also itself Paul mentions, saying, ‘Obey them that have the rule over you and submit to them; for they watch in behalf of your souls as they that shall give account’ (Hebrews 13:17). For this rule is as much better than the political as heaven is than earth; yea rather, even much more. For, in the first place, it considers principally not how it may punish sins committed, but how, they may never be committed at all; next, when committed, not how it may remove the deceased [member], but how they may be blotted out. And of the things of this life indeed it makes not much account, but all its transactions are about the things in heaven. ‘For our citizenship is in heaven’ (Philippians 3:20). And our life is here. ‘For our life,’ says he, ‘is hid with Christ in God’ (Colossians 3:3). And our prizes are there, and our race is for the crowns that be there. For this life is not dissolved after the end, but then shines forth the more. And therefore, in truth, they who bear this rule have a greater honor committed to their hands, not only than viceroys but even than those themselves who wear diadems, seeing that they mould men in greater, and for greater, things. But neither he that pursues political rule nor he that pursues spiritual, will be able well to administer it, unless they have first ruled themselves as they ought, and have observed with all strictness the respective laws of their polity…. Here also [in the Church] there is death and life, and throes and procreation, just as with men. For here happen instances both of being cut off, and of bearing fruit, and of dying, and of being born (the same that was dead) over again, wherein the earth discourses to us both variously and clearly of a resurrection. For when the root bears fruit, when the seed shoots, is not the thing a resurrection?… And the rulers of the present life again are as much inferior to that [rule], as it is better to have mastery over the willing than the unwilling. For this is also a natural rule; for truly in that case every thing is done through fear and by constraint; but here, what is done aright is of choice and purpose. And not in this point alone does this excel the other, but in that it is not only a rule, but a fatherhood so to speak; for it has the gentleness of a father; and while enjoining greater things, [still] persuades. For the temporal ruler indeed says, ‘If you commit adultery, you have forfeited your life,’ but this, should you look with unchaste eyes, threatens the highest punishments. For awful is this judgment court, and for the correction of soul, not of body only. As great then as the difference between soul and body, is that which separates this rule again from that. And the one indeed sits as judge of things that are open; yea, rather, not of all these even, but of such as can be fully proved; and ofttimes moreover, even in these deals treacherously, but this court instructs those that enter it that He that judges in our case, will bring forward ‘all things naked and laid open’ (Hebrews 4:13), before the common theatre of the world, and that to be hidden will be impossible. So that Christianity keeps together this our life far more than temporal laws. For if to tremble about secret sins makes a man safer than to fear for such as are open; and if to call him to account even for those offenses which be less does rather excite him unto virtue, than to punish the graver only; then it is easily seen that this rule, more than all others, welds our life together. But, if you will, let us consider also the mode of electing the rulers; for here too you shall behold the difference to be great. For it is not possible to gain this authority by giving money, but by having displayed a highly virtuous character; and not as unto glory with men and ease unto himself, but as unto toils and labors and the welfare of the many, thus, (I say,) is he that has been appointed inducted unto this rule…. whereas in the Church one may see that these are the subjects of every discourse. Wherefore also with justice may one call it by all these names, a court of justice, and a hospital, and a school of philosophy, and a nursery of the soul, and a training course for that race that leads unto heaven…. For the Church is a spiritual bath, which wipes away not filth of body, but stains of soul, by its many methods of repentance…. For if you thus order yourselves, you will be able, having displayed a deportment worthy of heaven, to obtain the promised good things….”
8:1-8 “We want you to know, brethren, about the grace of God which has been shown in the churches of Macedo’nia, for in a severe test of affliction, their abundance of joy and their extreme poverty have overflowed in a wealth of liberality on their part. For they gave according to their means, as I can testify, and beyond their means, of their own free will, begging us earnestly for the favor of taking part in the relief of the saints – and this, not as we expected, but first they gave themselves to the Lord and to us by the will of God. Accordingly we have urged Titus that as he had already made a beginning, he should also complete among you this gracious work. Now as you excel in everything — in faith, in utterance, in knowledge, in all earnestness, and in your love for us — see that you excel in this gracious work also. I say this not as a command, but to prove by the earnestness of others that your love also is genuine.” Paul tells the Corinthians that the churches in Macedonia have been very generous so as to spur them to into generosity. Titus has been urged to complete this charitable work among the Corinthians. Notice that Paul does not command them to give, for genuine love gives freely, not begrudgingly. The state/government had absolutely no role to play in charity either.
8:13-15 “I do not mean that others should be eased and you burdened, but that as a matter of equality your abundance at the present time should supply their want, so that their abundance may supply your want, that there may be equality. As it is written, ‘He who gathered much had nothing over, and he who gathered little had no lack.’” Christians should indeed seek material equality but not by force or coercion. Those with abundance should freely share with those who lack. Love freely shares; theft coerces.
9:5-7 “So I thought it necessary to urge the brethren to go on to you before me, and arrange in advance for this gift you have promised, so that it may be ready not as an exaction but as a willing gift. The point is this: he who sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and he who sows bountifully will also reap bountifully. Each one must do as he has made up his mind, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver.” Again, charity for the relief of the poor should be voluntary, willing, freely and cheerfully given. This is the Christian way, not taxes that take unwillingly and government bureaucracies that distribute impersonally and wastefully.
St. John Chrysostom comments thus: “‘Think not,’ he says, ‘that we take it as extortioners, but that we may be the cause of a blessing unto you.’ For extortion belongs to the unwilling, so that whoso gives alms unwillingly gives of extortion…. For if it is a work of virtue, and yet all that is done of necessity is shorn of its reward, with reason also he labors at this point.”
10:3-6 “For though we live in the world we are not carrying on a worldly war, for the weapons of our warfare are not worldly but have divine power to destroy strongholds. We destroy arguments and every proud obstacle to the knowledge of God, and take every thought captive to obey Christ, being ready to punish every disobedience, when your obedience is complete.” Arguments and prideful obstacles to the truth are destroyed by apostolic teaching and authority. Disobedience to this authority is punished.
10:8-11 “For even if I boast a little too much of our authority, which the Lord gave for building you up and not for destroying you, I shall not be put to shame. I would not seem to be frightening you with letters. For they say, ‘His letters are weighty and strong, but his bodily presence is weak, and his speech of no account.’ Let such people understand that what we say by letter when absent, we do when present.” Notice that Paul explicitly mentions that he and the other apostles have authority from God. Notice also that he uses letters when his absence prevents him from teaching and disciplining in person.
St. John Chrysostom comments thus: “And he did not say, ‘if any man trust that he is Christ’s let him think that he is far short of us. For I possess much authority from Him, so as to punish and to kill whomsoever I choose;’ but what? “For though I should glory even somewhat abundantly.” And yet he possessed more than can be told, but nevertheless he lowers it in his way of speaking. And he said not, ‘I glory,’ but, ‘if I should glory,’ if I should choose to do so: at once both showing modesty, and declaring his superiority.”
10:15-16 “We do not boast beyond limit, in other men’s labors; but our hope is that as your faith increases, our field among you may be greatly enlarged, so that we may preach the gospel in lands beyond you, without boasting of work already done in another’s field.” It seems very odd to think of Protestantism and faith increasing. If faith alone irrevocably saves, then what is there to increase that has any significance?
Also, chapter 10 seems to imply that St. Paul was not the only evangelist spreading the gospel and boasting in the Lord. This fact begs the question: where are their letters? Where are the letters from Timothy, Titus, Barnabas, Apollos, and other apostles? Why should only written letters be accounted authoritative when letters were not the primary mode of teaching among the apostles?! Again, sola Scriptura is shown to be a sham.
St. John Chrysostom comments thus: “‘for I have hope that as your faith grows;’ for he does not assert absolutely, preserving his own character, but, ‘I hope,’ he says, ‘if you make progress, that our province will be extended even farther, ‘to preach the Gospel in the regions beyond.’”
11:2-6 “I feel a divine jealousy for you, for I betrothed you to Christ to present you as a pure bride to her one husband. But I am afraid that as the serpent deceived Eve by his cunning, your thoughts will be led astray from a sincere and pure devotion to Christ. For if some one comes and preaches another Jesus than the one we preached, or if you receive a different spirit from the one you received, or if you accept a different gospel from the one you accepted, you submit to it readily enough. I think that I am not in the least inferior to these superlative apostles. Even if I am unskilled in speaking, I am not in knowledge; in every way we have made this plain to you in all things.” Paul seems to be defending his own authority and knowledge to the Corinthians relative to other apostles. There is no Protestant fallibilism here. He fears that the Corinthians could be led astray by others.
St. John Chrysostom comments thus: “…he does not leave them to get shameless. And therefore he says, ‘lest at any time.’ For this neither condemns nor is silent; for neither course were safe, whether to speak out plainly or to conceal perpetually. Therefore he employs this middle form, saying, ‘lest at any time.’ For this is the language neither of one that entirely distrusts, nor entirely relies on them, but of one who stands between these two. In this way then he palliated, but by his mention of that history threw them into an indescribable terror, and cuts them off from all forgiveness. For even although the serpent was malignant, and she senseless, yet did none of these things snatch the woman from punishment. ‘Beware then,’ he says, ‘lest such be your fate, and there be naught to screen you. For he too promising greater things, so deceived…. ‘For I reckon that I am not a whit behind the very chiefest Apostles,’ no longer making comparison of himself with them, but with Peter and the rest. ‘So that if they know more than I do, [they know more] than they also.’ And observe how here also he shows modesty. For he did not say, ‘the Apostles said nothing more than I,’ but what? ‘I reckon,’ so I deem, ‘that I am not a whit behind the very chiefest Apostles.’ For since this also appeared to bespeak an inferiority in him, that those having preceded him were of greater name; and more respect was entertained for them, and these persons were intending to foist themselves in; therefore he makes this comparison of himself with them with the dignity that becomes him. Therefore he also mentions them with encomiums, not speaking simply of ‘the Apostles,’ but ‘the very chiefest,’ meaning Peter and James and John…. When therefore it was necessary to institute a comparison in those things which were great, he compares himself with the Apostles: but when to show that which appeared to be a deficiency, he no longer does this, but grapples with the thing itself and shows that it was a superiority. And when indeed no necessity urged him, he says that he is ‘the least of the Apostles,’ and not worthy even of the title; but here again when occasion called, he says that he is ‘not a whit behind the very chiefest Apostles.’ For he knew that this would most advantage the disciples.”
11:10 “As the truth of Christ is in me, this boast of mine shall not be silenced in the regions of Acha’ia.” Again, no fallibilism.
11:12-15 “And what I do I will continue to do, in order to undermine the claim of those who would like to claim that in their boasted mission they work on the same terms as we do. For such men are false apostles, deceitful workmen, disguising themselves as apostles of Christ. And no wonder, for even Satan disguises himself as an angel of light. So it is not strange if his servants also disguise themselves as servants of righteousness. Their end will correspond to their deeds.” Chapter 11 seems to imply that there were false apostles going around spreading heresy even in St. Paul’s time. He seeks to undermine them, whom he calls the servants of Satan. Later on, Paul mentions the “danger of false brethren” (11:26).
St. John Chrysostom comments thus: “‘Deceitful workers,’ for they do work indeed, but pull up what has been planted. For being well aware that otherwise they would not be well received, they take the mask of truth and so enact the drama of error…. But at present he accuses them on another account, saying, ‘fashioning themselves.’ They had only a ‘fashion;’ the skin of the sheep was but outside clothing.”
11:17-18 “(What I am saying I say not with the Lord’s authority but as a fool, in this boastful confidence; since many boast of worldly things, I too will boast.)” Notice how Paul says that he can speak “with the Lord’s authority” or without it. So also can the Catholic bishops and pope.
12:2-4 “I know a man in Christ who fourteen years ago was caught up to the third heaven – whether in the body or out of the body I do not know, God knows. And I know that this man was caught up into Paradise – whether in the body or out of the body I do not know, God knows — and he heard things that cannot be told, which man may not utter.” Notice how Scripture tells us of different other-worldly realms and of different divisions of heaven. This passage implies different levels of heaven. And Paradise refers to a realm neither of heaven or hell. These verses also seem to imply something along the lines of near-death experiences.
12:7-9 “And to keep me from being too elated by the abundance of revelations, a thorn was given me in the flesh, a messenger of Satan, to harass me, to keep me from being too elated. Three times I besought the Lord about this, that it should leave me; but he said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.’ I will all the more gladly boast of my weaknesses, that the power of Christ may rest upon me.” Perhaps Paul tells us that a demon, a fallen angel and servant of Satan, harassed him. Or perhaps Paul is referring to a particular human being who opposed him. He prayed that the Lord would remove the thorn, but God seems to have refused.
The weaknesses and sins of hypocritical clergy throughout history from St. Peter and St. Paul to the Renaissance popes to abusive priests and weak bishops today only make more manifest and amazing the perfect power of God to preserve the Church from the gates of death and its original doctrines from error.
St. John Chrysostom comments thus: “There are some then who have said that he means a kind of pain in the head which was inflicted of the devil; but God forbid! For the body of Paul never could have been given over to the hands of the devil, seeing that the devil himself submitted to the same Paul at his mere bidding; and he set him laws and bounds, when he delivered over the fornicator for the destruction of the flesh, and he dared not to transgress them. What then is the meaning of what is said? An adversary is called, in the Hebrew, Satan; and in the third Book of Kings the Scripture has so termed such as were adversaries; and speaking of Solomon, says, ‘In his days there was no Satan,’ that is, no adversary, enemy, or opponent (1 Kings 5:4). What he says then is this: God would not permit the Preaching to progress, in order to check our high thoughts; but permitted the adversaries to set upon us. For this indeed was enough to pluck down his high thoughts; not so that, pains in the head. And so by the ‘messenger of Satan,’ he means Alexander the coppersmith, the party of Hymenæus and Philetus, all the adversaries of the word; those who contended with and fought against him, those that cast him into a prison, those that beat him, that led him away to death; for they did Satan’s business. As then he calls those Jews children of the devil, who were imitating his deeds, so also he calls a ‘messenger of Satan’ every one that opposes. He says therefore, ‘There was given to me a thorn to buffet me;’ not as if God puts arms into such men’s hands, God forbid! not that He does chastise or punish, but for the time allows and permits them…. That is to say, ‘It is sufficient for you that you raise the dead, that you cure the blind, that you cleanse lepers, that you work those other miracles; seek not also exemption from danger and fear and to preach without annoyances. But are you pained and dejected lest it should seem to be owing to My weakness, that there are many who plot against and beat you and harass and scourge you? Why this very thing does show My power. “For My power,” He says, “is made perfect in weakness,” when being persecuted ye overcome your persecutors; when being harassed ye get the better of them that harass you; when being put in bonds ye convert them that put you in bonds. Seek not then more than is needed.’”
12:14 “Here for the third time I am ready to come to you. And I will not be a burden, for I seek not what is yours but you; for children ought not to lay up for their parents, but parents for their children.” See again how Paul refers to himself as a father and lay believers as his children.
12:19 “Have you been thinking all along that we have been defending ourselves before you? It is in the sight of God that we have been speaking in Christ, and all for your upbuilding, beloved.” Again, no fallibilism. Just authority.
12:20-21 “For I fear that perhaps I may come and find you not what I wish, and that you may find me not what you wish; that perhaps there may be quarreling, jealousy, anger, selfishness, slander, gossip, conceit, and disorder. I fear that when I come again my God may humble me before you, and I may have to mourn over many of those who sinned before and have not repented of the impurity, immorality, and licentiousness which they have practiced.” Again, Paul is not certain of the eternal fate of all the Corinthians. He fears for the souls of some even now, for those who have not repented. And he wishes to strike fear into the Corinthians so that he does not have to visit punishment upon them.
St. John Chrysostom comments thus: “For it was not here out of arrogance nor the authority of a teacher, but out of a father’s tender concern, when he is more fearful and trembling than the sinners themselves at that which is likely to reform them. And not even so does he run them down or make an absolute assertion; but says doubtingly, ‘lest by any means when I come, I should not find you such as I would.’ He did not say, ‘not virtuous,’ but ‘not such as I would,’ everywhere employing the terms of affection…. ‘Because had it not been for His sake, I should have paid no attention nor been anxious. For it is not as possessing authority and for my own pleasure, that I demand satisfaction, but because of His commandment.’… ‘Who have not repented.’ And he said not, ‘all,’ but ‘many;’ nor made it clear who these were either, thereby making the return unto repentance easy to them; and to make it plain that a repentance is able to right transgressions, he bewails those that repent not, those who are incurably diseased, those who continue in their wounds. Observe then Apostolic virtue, in that, conscious of no evil in himself, he laments over the evils of others and is humbled for other men’s transgressions. For this is the special mark of a teacher, so to sympathize with the calamities of his disciples, and to mourn over the wounds of those who are under him.”
13:2-4 “I warned those who sinned before and all the others, and I warn them now while absent, as I did when present on my second visit, that if I come again I will not spare them – since you desire proof that Christ is speaking in me. He is not weak in dealing with you, but is powerful in you. For he was crucified in weakness, but lives by the power of God. For we are weak in him, but in dealing with you we shall live with him by the power of God.” Paul turns to threats again, warning the Corinthians of the power of God within him in dealing with sinners.
St. John Chrysostom comments thus: “He neither kept silence nor punished, but he both foretells often, and continues ever threatening, and puts off the punishment, and if they should continue unamended, then he threatens to bring it to the proof…. having made his excuse unto them, namely, that he had told them before, once and twice and thrice, and that he does and contrives all he can so as to hold back the punishment, and by the fear of his words to make them better, he then used this unpleasing and terrifying expression, ‘If I come again, I will not spare.’ He did not say, ‘I will avenge and punish and exact satisfaction:’ but again expresses even punishment itself in paternal language; showing his tender affection, and his heart to be grieved along with them; because that he always to ‘spare’ them put off…. Now what he means is this: ‘I will no longer put off, if (which God forbid) I find you unamended; but will certainly visit it, and make good what I have said.’… For he said this, dealing at once a blow at these, and at the same time lashing those also. Now what he means is this; ‘Since you are desirous of proving whether Christ dwells in me, and call me to an account, and on this score make a mock of me as mean and despicable, as if I were destitute of that Power; you shall know that we are not destitute, if you give us occasion, which God forbid.’… For he said not, ‘Since ye seek a proof of me,’ but ‘of Christ that speakest in me, showing that it was against Him they sinned.’ And he did not say merely, ‘dwelling in me,’ but ‘speaking in me,’ showing that his words are spiritual. But if he does not display His power nor punish, (for thenceforward the Apostle transferred what he said from himself to Christ, thus making his threat more fearful,) it is not from weakness; for He can do it: but from long suffering. Let none then think His forbearance to be weakness…. Then, as I said, by transferring the argument from himself to Christ, he enhances their fear, he increases his threat. And what he says is this; ‘for even supposing I should do something and chastise and take vengeance on the guilty ones, is it I that chastise and take vengeance? It is He that dwells in me, Christ Himself. But if you do not believe this, but are desirous of receiving a proof by deeds of Him that dwells in me, you shall know presently….’”
13:5 “Examine yourselves, to see whether you are holding to your faith. Test yourselves. Do you not realize that Jesus Christ is in you? — unless indeed you fail to meet the test!” If the Christian does not hold to the faith, then Jesus Christ is not in him. The Christian must regularly examine himself to see whether he is holding to the faith, holding to Christ and the salvation He has won for us.
St. John Chrysostom comments thus: “For since by what he has said he has shown that even if he does not punish, it is not because he has not Christ in himself, but because he intimates His long-suffering, Who was crucified and yet avenged not Himself; he again, in another manner, produces the same effect, and still more irrefragably, establishing his argument by the disciples…. Do you see how again he terrifies them, and shows even to superfluity that Christ is with Him. For he seems to me to be here alluding to them, even as to their lives. For since faith is not enough [by itself] to draw down the energy of the Spirit, and he had said that ‘“if you are in the faith” you have Christ in you,’ and it happened that many who had faith were destitute of that energy; in order to solve the difficulty, he says, ‘except ye be reprobate,’ except [that is] you are corrupt in life.”
13:10-11 “I write this while I am away from you, in order that when I come I may not have to be severe in my use of the authority which the Lord has given me for building up and not for tearing down. Finally, brethren, farewell. Mend your ways, heed my appeal, agree with one another, live in peace, and the God of love and peace will be with you.” Again, notice Paul’s appeal to his authority from the Lord. Paul commands them to shape up, listen to him, and be of one mind in agreement.
St. John Chrysostom comments thus: “He was sensible he had spoken more vehemently than his wont, and especially towards the end of the Epistle…. Since then he had said these things and more besides, terrifying, shaming, reproaching, lashing them, he says, in excuse for all, ‘For this cause I write these things while absent, that I may not when present deal sharply.’ For I am desirous the sharpness should lie in my letters and not in my deeds. I wish my threats to be vehement, that they may continue threats and never go forth into action. Again even in this his apology he makes what he says more terrible, showing that it is not himself who is to punish, but God; for he added, ‘according to the authority which the Lord gave me;’ and again, to show that he desires not to use his power to their punishment, he added, ‘not for casting down, but for building up.’ And he hinted indeed this now, as I said, but he left it to them to draw the conclusion that if they should continue unamended, even this again is building up, to punish those that are of such a mind…. ‘For all my part has been done; I have suffered long, I have delayed, I have forborne to cut off, I have besought, I have advised, I have alarmed, I have threatened, so as by every means to gather you in unto the fruit of repentance. And now it behooves that your part be done, and so your joy will be unfading.’… ‘Be of the same mind, live in peace.’ The request he made in the former Epistle also, at the opening. For it is possible to be of one mind, and yet not to live in peace, [for instance], when people agree in doctrine, but in their dealings with each other are at variance. But Paul requires both.”
This entry was posted on December 17, 2010 at 6:11 am and is filed under Biblical Exegesis, Catholicism vs. Protestantism, Religion and Theology. Tagged: apostolic, authority, Bible, confess, confession, Corinthians, forgiveness, hierarchy, indulgence, Paul, penance, priest, reconciliation, salvation, Scripture, sin, sola fide, sola scriptura. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.