Having therefore these promises, dearly beloved, let us cleanse ourselves from all filthiness of the flesh and spirit, perfecting holiness in the fear of God.
Verse 1. - Having then these promises. The promises of God's indwelling and fatherly love (2 Corinthians 6:16-18). Dearly beloved. Perhaps the word is added to soften the sternness of the preceding admonition. Let us cleanse ourselves. Every Christian, even the best, has need of daily cleansing from his daily assoilment (John 13:10), and this cleansing depends on the purifying activity of moral effort maintained by the help of God's grace. Similarly St. John (1 John 3:1-3), after speaking of God's fatherhood and the hopes which it inspires, adds, "And every man that hath this hope in him purifieth himself even as he is pure" (comp. James 4:8). From all filthiness; rather, from all defilement. Sin leaves on the soul the moral stain of guilt, which was typified by the ceremonial defilements of the Levitical Law (comp. Ezekiel 36:25, 26). The word used for "filth" in 1 Peter 3:21 is different. Of the flesh and spirit. From everything which outwardly pollutes the body and inwardly the soul; the two being closely connected together, so that what defiles the flesh inevitably also defiles the soul, and what defiles the spirit degrades also the body. Uncleanness, for instance, a sin of the flesh, is almost invariably connected with pride and hate and cruelty, which degrade the soul. Perfecting holiness. This is the goal and aim of the Christian, though in this life it cannot be finally attained (Philippians 3:12). In the fear of God. There is, indeed, one kind of fear, a base and servile fear, which is cast out by perfect love; but the fear of reverential awe always remains in the true and wisely instructed Christian, who will never be guilty of the profane familiarity adopted by some ignorant sectarians, or speak of God "as though he were some one in the next street" (Hebrews 12:28; 1 Peter 3:15).
Receive us; we have wronged no man, we have corrupted no man, we have defrauded no man.
Verse 2. - Receive us; rather, open your hearts to us; make room for us (comp. Mark 2:2; John 2:6). It is an appeal to them to get rid of the narrowness of heart, the constricted affections, of which he has complained in 2 Corinthians 6:12. We have wronged... corrupted... defrauded no man. The "no man" in the original is placed first, and this emphatic position, together with its triple repetition, marks St. Paul's insistence on the fact that, whatever his enemies might insinuate, there was no single member of their Church who could complain of injury, moral harm, or unfair treatment from him. Clearly he is again thinking of definite slanders against himself. His sternness to the offender may have been denounced as a wrong; his generous sanction of broad views about clean and unclean meats, idol-offerings, etc., may have been represented as corrupting others by false teaching (2 Corinthians 2:17) or bad example (2 Corinthians 4:2; 1 Thessalonians 4:6); his urgency about the collection for the saints (2 Corinthians 12:16; Acts 20:33), or his assertion of legitimate authority, may have been specified as greed for power. The verb pleonektein is often used in connection with other verbs, implying sensuality. It is difficult for us even to imagine that St. Paul had ever been charged with gross immorality; but it may have been so, for in a corrupt atmosphere everything is corrupt. Men like Nero and Heliogabalus, being themselves the vilest of men, openly declared their belief that no man was pure, and many in the heathen world may have been inclined to similar suspicions. Of Whitefield, the poet says -
"His sins were such as Sodom never knew,
And calumny stood up to swear all true." We know too that the Christians were universally charged with Thyestean banquets and promiscuous licentiousness. It is, however, more natural to take pleonektein in its general sense, in which it means "to overreach," "to claim or seize more than one's just rights" (see 2 Corinthians 2:11) In 1 Corinthians 9:1-6 he is defending himself against similar charges, as also in this Epistle (2 Corinthians 5:12; 6:3; 10:7-11; 11; 12., passim). For similar strains of defence, see those of Moses and of Samuel.
I speak not this to condemn you: for I have said before, that ye are in our hearts to die and live with you.
Verse 3. - I speak not this to condemn you. "Not by way of condemnation am I speaking." My object is to maintain the old love between us; what I say, therefore, is merely to defend myself, not to complain of you (comp. 1 Corinthians 4:14). I have said before. He has not said it in so many words, but has implied it in 2 Corinthians 3:2, 3; 2 Corinthians 6:11-14. Ye are in our hearts. So he says to his beloved Philippians, "I have you in my heart" (Philippians 1:7). To die and live with you. Similarly he tells the Thessalonians that he was ready to give them even his own life (1 Thessalonians 2:8). This is no mere conventional expression of deep affection, like Horace's, "Tecum vivere amem, tecum obeam libens;" nor is it the description of some compact for life and death like that of the Theban Band. It has the deeper meaning which was involved by the words "life" and "death" on the lips of a Christian (2 Corinthians 4:11; 2 Corinthians 6:9). And one whose life was, for Christ's sake, a daily death, naturally mentions death first.
Great is my boldness of speech toward you, great is my glorying of you: I am filled with comfort, I am exceeding joyful in all our tribulation.
Verse 4. - Boldness of speech. St. Paul feels that he may address them with perfect frankness and openness (2 Corinthians 3:12). My glorying of you. "My boasting on your account" (2 Corinthians 1:14; 2 Corinthians 5:12; 2 Corinthians 8:14; comp. 1 Corinthians 1:4-7). I am filled with comfort. "I have been filled with the consolation." "Consolation" is the word which occurs so frequently in 2 Corinthians 1:3, 4. I am exceeding joyful. "I superabound in my joy" (2 Corinthians 2:2-14). In all our tribulation. The clause belongs to both the preceding clauses. Joy in the very midst of affliction was an essentially Christian blessing (Philippians 2:17).
"Thou shalt have joy in sadness soon;
The pure calm hope be thine
Which brightens the Eastern moon,
When day's wild lights decline." (See 2 Corinthians 6:10; Galatians 5:22; Romans 14:17; John 15:11.)
For, when we were come into Macedonia, our flesh had no rest, but we were troubled on every side; without were fightings, within were fears.
Verse 5. - For, when we were come into Macedonia. "For even when we came." The word "affliction" reminds St. Paul to resume the thread of the narrative which makes this letter almost like an itinerary. He has spoken of his trials in Ephesus (2 Corinthians 1:8) and in the Troad (2 Corinthians 2:12, 13), and now he tells them that even in Macedonia he was no less troubled and agitated. Our flesh had no rest. External troubles assailed him as well as inward anxiety. "Had" seems here to be the best reading (B, F, G, K); not "has had," which may be borrowed from 2 Corinthians 2:13. Rest; rather, remission, respite. But we were troubled on every side; literally, but in everything being afflicted. The style, in its picturesque irregularity, almost seems as though it were broken by sobs. Without were fightings, within were fears. "From without battles, from within fears." No light is thrown on these "battles." The Acts of the Apostles has no details to give us of this brief stay in Macedonia. The "fears" were doubtless still connected with anxiety as to the reception of Titus, and of his First Epistle (1 Corinthians 12:20).
Nevertheless God, that comforteth those that are cast down, comforted us by the coming of Titus;
Verse 6. - Who comforteth those that are cast down. "The Comforter of the humble comforted us, even God." The word "humble" has in classical Greek the sense of "mean," "abject." Pride, not humility, was the virtue even of Stoic morality. Christ was the first to reveal the beatitude of lowliness (Matthew 11:29; Luke 1:52). Doubtless the word still retained some of its old associations, and had been used of St. Paul in a disparaging sense (2 Corinthians 10:1). But he whom his opponents accused of so much egotism, ambition, and arrogance, meekly accepts the term and applies it to himself. God (2 Corinthians 1:4). "The God... of consolation" (Romans 15:5). By the coming of Titus. This was the cause of that outburst of joy in 2 Corinthians 2:13, 14, which passage here finds its explanation. The absence of Titus from the Acts is another proof of the fragmentariness of that book. It is evident that he was an ardent, able, active fellow worker, and most beloved friend of the apostle (Galatians 2:1, 3; 2 Timothy 4:10; Titus 1:4; Titus 3:12). We learn most about him from this Epistle.
And not by his coming only, but by the consolation wherewith he was comforted in you, when he told us your earnest desire, your mourning, your fervent mind toward me; so that I rejoiced the more.
Verse 7. - And not by his coming only. The mere fact of Titus's arrival cheered St. Paul, because Titus seems to have been of a strong and cheery temperament. St. Paul, partly because of his infirmities, was peculiarly dependent on the support of human sympathy (1 Thessalonians 3:1-8; Philippians 2:20; 2 Timothy 4:4; Acts 17:15; Acts 28:15). It was not, however, the mere arrival of Titus which cheered him, but still more the good news which he brought, and which partially lightened his anxieties. In all probability this letter was written almost immediately after the arrival of Titus, and while the joy caused by his presence was still glowing in the apostle's heart. It is characteristic of the seclusion of an austere life that St. Jerome supposes the cause of the apostle's distress to have been that Titus was his interpreter, and that in his absence he could not preach! Your earnest desire. Your yearning to see me once more. Mourning; rather, lamentation (see 2 Corinthians 2:12). They were aroused to lament their past "inflation" (1 Corinthians 5:2) and remissness. Your fervent mind toward me. This rendering well expresses the kindling affection implied by the word zelos. So that I rejoiced the more. More than he had even anticipated could be possible; or, as the next verse may imply, all the more because of his past anguish (2 Corinthians 2:4).
For though I made you sorry with a letter, I do not repent, though I did repent: for I perceive that the same epistle hath made you sorry, though it were but for a season.
Verse 8. - With a letter; rather, with my Epistle. Probably the First Epistle, though some suppose that the allusion is to a lost intermediate letter. I do not repent, though I did repent; better, I do not regret it. Every one has experienced the anxiety which has followed the despatch of some painful letter. If it does good, well; but perhaps it may do harm. The severity was called for; it seemed a duty to write severely. But how will the rebuke be received? Might we not have done better if we had used language less uncompromisingly stern? As St. Paul thought with intense anxiety that perhaps in his zeal for truth he may have irrevocably alienated the feelings of the Corinthians, whom, with all their grave faults, he loved, a moment came when he actually regretted what he had written. He himself assures us that he had this feeling. Those who try all kinds of fantastic hypotheses and tortuous exegesis to explain away this phrase as though it were inconsistent with St. Paul's inspiration, go to Scripture to find there their own a priori dogmas, not to seek what Scripture really says. The doctrine of inspiration is not the fetish into which it has been degraded by formal systems of scholastic theology. Inspiration was not a mechanical dictation of words, but the influence of the Holy Ghost in the hearts of men who retained all their own natural emotions. For I perceive, etc. There are various ways of taking this clause. Nothing, however, is simpler than to regard it as a parenthetic remark (for I see that that Epistle, though it were but for a time, saddened you). Though it were but for a season. (For the phrase, see Philemon 1:15; Galatians 2:5.) He means to say that their grief will at any rate cease when they receive this letter, and he can bear the thought of having pained them when he remembers the brevity of their grief and the good effects which resulted from it.
Now I rejoice, not that ye were made sorry, but that ye sorrowed to repentance: for ye were made sorry after a godly manner, that ye might receive damage by us in nothing.
Verse 9. - Not that ye were made sorry. They might have drawn this mistaken conclusion from his remark that he "rejoiced" when he heard of their "lamentation" (ver. 7). After a godly sort; literally, according to God; i.e. in a way which he would approve (Romans 8:27). In nothing. Not even when we rebuked you, and caused you pain.
For godly sorrow worketh repentance to salvation not to be repented of: but the sorrow of the world worketh death.
Verse 10. - For godly sorrow, etc. "For the sorrow Which is according to God worketh out a repentance unto salvation which bringeth no regret." Sin causes regret, remorse, that sort of repentance (metomeleia) which is merely an unavailing rebellion against the inevitable consequences of misdoing; but the sorrow of self-reproach which follows true repentance (metanoia, change of mind) is never followed by regret. Some take "not to be regretted" with "salvation," but it is a very unsuitable adjective to that substantive. The sorrow of the world. Here sorrow for the loss, or disappointment, or shame, or ruin, or sickness caused by sin; such as the false repentance of Cain, Saul, Ahithophel, Judas, etc. Death. Moral and spiritual death always, and sometimes physical death, and always - unless it is followed by true repentance - eternal death, which is the opposite of salvation (Romans 5:21).
For behold this selfsame thing, that ye sorrowed after a godly sort, what carefulness it wrought in you, yea, what clearing of yourselves, yea, what indignation, yea, what fear, yea, what vehement desire, yea, what zeal, yea, what revenge! In all things ye have approved yourselves to be clear in this matter.
Verse 11. - For behold, etc. The effects produced by their repentance showed that it was "according to God;" for it brought forth in them "the fruits of good living to the honour and glory of God." Carefulness; rather, earnestness, active endeavour. Yea what. There is an untranslatable energy about the original Greek. The same use of ἀλλὰ (Latin, immo vero) in a climax is found in 1 Corinthians 6:11. Clearing of yourselves; literally, apology, self-defence, addressed to me through Titus. Indignation. Against themselves for their neglect. Fear. Of the measures which I might take, if I came to you "with a rod" (1 Corinthians 4:21). Vehement desire. Longing that I should return to you (see ver. 7). Zeal. To make up for past remissness. Revenge. Judicial punishment of the incestuous offender. The "apology" and "indignation" referred to themselves; the "fear" and "yearning" to the apostle; the "zeal" and "judicial retribution" to the offender. In all things. His summing up is, "In every respect ye approved yourselves to be pure in the matter." Whatever may have been your previous carelessness and connivance, the steps you took on receiving my letter vindicated your character. In this matter; rather, in the matter. It is quite in accordance with St. Paul's usual manner that "he speaks indefinitely of what was odious" (1 Thessalonians 4:6).
Wherefore, though I wrote unto you, I did it not for his cause that had done the wrong, nor for his cause that suffered wrong, but that our care for you in the sight of God might appear unto you.
Verse 12. - Wherefore, though I wrote unto you. "So then, even if I did write you," namely, about that matter. For his cause that had done the wrong, etc. My object in writing was not to mix myself up with the personal quarrel. I had in view neither the wronger nor the wronged, directly and primarily, but wrote for the sake of the whole Church (1 Corinthians 5:1, 2; 1 Corinthians 6:7). Nor for his cause that suffered wrong. Apparently the father of the offender (1 Corinthians 5:1). Our care for you, etc. Among the diversity of readings in this clause, which seem to be still further confused by mere mistakes of copyists, the best supported reading is "your care for us" (B, C, E, K, L, and various versions, etc.). The Sinaitic manuscript has "your care for yourselves." The variations have partly risen from the apparent strangeness of the remark that his letter had been written in order that their care for him might be manifested to themselves; in other words, that they might learn from their own conduct the reality of their earnest feelings for him. He has already spoken of this "earnest care" of theirs (ver. 11), but not in quite the same sense. Certainly, however, the reading followed by our Authorized Version, even if it be a correction, furnishes a more natural meaning (comp. 2 Corinthians 2:4), and the other may have arisen from a clerical error.
Therefore we were comforted in your comfort: yea, and exceedingly the more joyed we for the joy of Titus, because his spirit was refreshed by you all.
Verse 13. - Therefore we were comforted, etc. Since my Epistle secured the result of manifesting your true feelings towards me, "we have been comforted." The Revised Version and many editions put the stop here, and continue (reading δὲ after ἐπὶ), and in addition to our consolation, abundantly the more did we rejoice at the joy of Titus, because his spirit has been refreshed by you all. Exceedingly the more. In the Greek this is expressed by double comparatives (comp. 2 Corinthians 12:9; Philippians 1:23). Was refreshed; rather, has been (and is) refreshed. The same verb is used in 1 Corinthians 16:18; Philemon 1:7, 20.
For if I have boasted any thing to him of you, I am not ashamed; but as we spake all things to you in truth, even so our boasting, which I made before Titus, is found a truth.
Verse 14. - I am not ashamed. The due rendering of the tenses brings out the sense much more accurately. "Because if I have boasted anything to him on your behalf, I was not put to the blush;" in other words, "One reason of my exceeding gladness was that you fully justified that very favorable picture of you which I had drawn for Titus when I was urging him to be the bearer of my letter." Is found a truth; literally, proved itself to be a truth. Here again there is a most delicate reference to the charge of levity and unveracity which had been brought against him (2 Corinthians 1:17). I always spoke the truth to you; but I might well have feared that, in speaking of you to Titus, my affection for you had led me to overstep the limits of perfect accuracy. But you yourselves, by proving yourselves worthy of all I said of you, have established my perfect truthfulness, even in the only point where I might have thought it doubtful. Nothing could exceed the tact and refinement, the subtle delicacy and beauty, of this gentle remark.
And his inward affection is more abundant toward you, whilst he remembereth the obedience of you all, how with fear and trembling ye received him.
Verse 15. - His inward affection. The same word which is so needlessly rendered "bowels" in 2 Corinthians 6:12. More abundant. His love for you has been increased by his recent visit. With fear and trembling. On this Pauline phrase, see 1 Corinthians 2:3.
I rejoice therefore that I have confidence in you in all things.
Verse 16. - I rejoice therefore. The "therefore" concludes the whole paragraph, but is omitted in many manuscripts. I have confidence in you; literally, I am bold in you; i.e. I feel courage about you. The phrase in 2 Thessalonians 3:4 expresses a calmer and less hazardous trust.