Orthodox America

Scripture Commentary - II Corinthians

By Archbishop Averky
Part 19 in a continuing series

(II Corinthians)

The Time and Place of Writing

From all accounts it is obvious that this epistle was written the same year as the first epistle, i.e., in 58 or 59 AD. There is likewise no doubt that it was written in Macedonia, most probably in the city of Phillipi, as is evident from the epistle itself (II Cor. 2:12-13; 7:5-7; 8:1-6; 9:2-4). The epistle was sent with Titus and another brother, whose praise is in the [preaching of the] gospel (II Cor. 818), evidently Luke.

The Epistle's Contents and Composition

The second epistle to the Corinthians contains 13 chapters, which may be grouped according to their content into the following sections:

  1. Introduction, which together with the inscription contains the usual greeting and good wishes (1:1-11);
  2. Theoretical part, in which the holy Apostle outlines the reasons he was unable to come to Corinth (1:12-2:11), then discusses the excellence of the teaching he preaches (2;12-7:1) and, finally, returning to his earlier subject, expresses how gladdened he was by Titus' return and all that he saw and encountered in Corinth (7:2-16);
  3. Practical part, devoted to discussing the collection of alms for the Jerusalem brethren (chaps. 8 and 9);
  4. Defensive part, devoted to defending his preaching activity and his apostolic office (chaps. 10-13:10);
  5. Concluding part, consisting of the last three verses, 13:11-13, containing instruction about peace and oneness of mind, greetings and his apostolic blessing.

An Exegetical Analysis

The entire epistle is permeated by a feeling of grief, brought upon the Apostle's soul by the difficult conditions of his apostolic ministry, but this grief does not oppress the Apostle: it is dispelled without trace in that strength of faith and in that awareness of the rightness of his work and the sanctity of his task, which is a constant, distinguishing characteristic of the Apostle Paul.

The epistle begins with the customary greeting from the name of the Apostle Paul himself and his disciple Timothy, and the bestowing of his apostolic blessing not only upon the Corinthians but upon all the Christians of Achaia. Having then said that the aim of all his sufferings and consolations is to bring consolation and salvation to the Corinthians, the Apostle informs them about the mortal danger which he encountered in Asia and from which the Lord saved him through the prayers of the Corinthians Church (vv. 1-11). Further, beginning with verse 12 of the first chapter and in the second chapter, the holy Apostle tells the Corinthians about the misfortunes and persecutions he endured in Asia Minor; he explains that he delayed coming personally to Corinth, desiring to see them repentant, and expresses his joy at seeing them already laboring to amend themselves. In verses 17-20 of the first chapter the Apostle responds to those slanderers who tried to accuse him of inconsistency and thereby cast a shadow over his preaching as being similarly inconsistent, confused and false. But as God is true, our word toward you was not yea and nay. For the Son of God, Jesus Christ, Who was preached among you by us, even by me and Silvanus and Timotheus, was not yea and nay, but in Him was yea.... unto the glory of God by us (vv. 18-20). The meaning here is that the Apostle's preaching is just as firm and immutable as Christ Himself is immutable.

Now He which stablisheth us with you in Christ, and hath anointed us, is God; Who hath also sealed us, and given the earnest of the Spirit in our hearts (21-22). Here he speaks about the Mystery of Chrismation, in the performance of which rite are used words taken from here: "the seal of the gift of the Holy Spirit". What the Apostle means here is: the proof that what I preach to you is true is the seal of the gift of the Holy Spirit which you receive in being anointed. I call God for a record upon my soul...(v. 23)-an expression which serves as evidence that there are times when oaths are permissible, in certain serious cases. Witnessing to God with an oath, the holy Apostle explains to the Corinthians the real reason for his delay: it was to spare them, to give them time to correct their wrongdoings themselves, for had he come earlier he might have found it necessary to take dominion over their faith, to take matters into his own hands; he preferred to wait in order that when he did come their meeting would be joyous, without offense to either side.

The Apostle continues to speak about this in the second chapter: he did not want to come to the Corinthians "in heaviness", and for this reason gave them opportunity to deal themselves with the man who so grievously offended him and them., i.e., the one who committed incest. Since the man repented, the Apostle allowed them to forgive him, lest he be swallowed up with overmuch sorrow, which would only work to satan's advantage (vv. 1-11).

From chapter 2:12 to 7:1, the Apostle discusses the loftiness of Christian revelation or gospel truth, and how this truth establishes itself on earth. The Apostle was prompted somewhat unexpectedly to speak about this, recalling the change in his itinerary and how, arriving in Macedonia, he met Titus there and was gladdened to hear from him about the favorable effect of his first epistle (vv. 12-13). The Apostle thanks God, Who always causeth us to triumph in Christ, and maketh manifest the savour of his knowledge by us in every place (v. 14).

The primary characteristic and effect of the Gospel Revelation is that it has no need of any secondary approbation, it is sufficient unto itself: it gives itself to be felt, spreading everywhere a sweet savor: We are unto God a sweet savour of Christ, although this sweet savor does not always have the same effect on people, depending on their inner disposition: for some it is vivifying, while for others it is deadly. The apostles are not to blame, for they preach the pure and unspoiled teaching of Christ (vv. 14-17).

(Translated from the Russian, published by Holy Trinity Monastery, Jordanville, NY 1956)