2 Cor 1:1-7:16
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Verses 1:1-11: Greeting and introduction
- 2 Cor 1:4. Why must we pass through tribulation? Paul gives a possible answer: that we might be able to comfort and help others who also pass through tribulation. This is what Christ did for us. Christ would not have known how to "succor his people according to their infirmities" if He had not come down to earth to partake of our sufferings with us. Alma 7:12 It is only because Christ suffered that he is able to truly comfort and understand us. Likewise, when we suffer, we can begin to comfort and understand others. In the process, we become more like the Savior.
- 2 Cor 1:8-9. Paul describes a trial above and beyond even his strength to endure. It was so great that he "despaired even of life," or lost the will to live. However Paul sees great meaning in this trial, for this desire for death within him, this "sentence of death" helped him to stop trusting in his own strength and instead rely entirely on God, who has the power to raise the dead. In this case, that power to "raise the dead" is the power to rebuke the "death-wish" within Paul, and restore him to life and hope. The words of Christ are apt here: "Whoso loseth his life for my sake, shall find it." Matt 10:39
- Like Paul, some of us today are faced with trials which take us to the breaking point, beyond our own ability to cope with them. At these moments, sometimes death seems the only relief. Why does God give some of us trials this severe? We find a possible answer here. "That we should not trust in ourselves, but in God." Many of us, if we had the strength to endure all things, would be tempted never to turn to God, for it would seem we didn't really need His help. However, when we get to the breaking point, we may realize that God is our only hope, so we turn to Him with all our hearts. This has always been God's design for us. He wants us to rely completely on Him, continually turning to him with "a broken heart and a contrite spirit." 3 Ne 9:19
- 2 Cor 1:10: Deliver. The verb deliver is repeated three times in this verse, in the past, present and future tenses. Deliverance plays into the larger theme of grace that is developed in the entirety of this book. For example, in the penultimate chapter of this same book, Paul glories in weakness which makes manifest the grace of Christ (cf. 2 Cor 12:9-10). Deliverance also resonates with many scriptural themes and symbols regarding exodus, like in the beginning chapters of the Old Testament (Adam and Eve leaving the Garden, Abraham leaving his homeland) and the Book of Mormon (Lehi's family leaving Jerusalem). Declaring Christ as the Deliverer, in this case from death, is a declaration of Christ as the ultimate giver and source of grace.
- 2 Cor 1:17-18. "When I therefore was thus minded, did I use lightness?" Some Corinthians apparently had claimed that he was fickle and ambiguous in his promises to visit them. It is unclear exactly what the circumstances of his change of plans were. His original plan might have been conveyed in an earlier letter which has not come down to us, referenced in 1 Cor 5:9. The plans he references in this verse were first mentioned in 1 Cor 16:5.
- In any case, Paul defends himself, and proclaims that his promises are sure. In fact, they are just as sure as God's: "as God is true," so also "our word toward you was not yea and nay." "Yea and nay" is an expression implying doublemindedness or uncertainty. When Paul makes a promise, he insists that he will be true to his word. This is a good lesson for all of us. If we promise to visit, call, or contact someone, let us take our promise seriously, as an oath or a bond, as certain as God's word. Too often, the case today is that we hear someone say, "Oh, I'll give you a call" and then, likely we never hear from them.
- 2 Cor 1:21. "And hath anointed us." Biblical commentators typically interpret this "anointing" as the gift of the Holy Ghost bestowed upon believers. The oil used to anoint people in Old Testament times is also frequently interpreted as a symbol of the Holy Ghost. For LDS readers, the verse takes on additional meaning because we practice a literal anointing in temples.
- It is also interesting to look at the Greek of this scripture. "He which stablisheth us with you in "Criston," (the Anointed One) and hath "crisas" (anointed) us, is God. Paul, using these two versions of the word "anoint" means to emphasize the unity which we all have with Christ, whose very name means "the Anointed One."
- 2 Cor 1:22. "And given the earnest of the Spirit." Anyone who has taken out a home mortgage, knows the meaning of the word "earnest" as in "earnest money." This is the money given by the purchaser for a down payment. The meaning of "earnest" is same in the case of this scripture. Paul means to say that God has purchased us, and gives us the Spirit as a "down payment," or first installment of blessings, to assure us of our full inheritance as sons and daughters of God in the hereafter. This "earnest of the Spirit," is but a foretaste of the glory to come.
- 2 Cor 2:1. Paul gives a possible explanation for delaying the visit referred to in 2 Cor 1:23. There had been a previous visit to the Corinthians which was very difficult, where Paul likely had to chastise the people. Paul determined not to come again in the same spirit of reproof, and thus had to wait until things had settled themselves.
- 2 Cor 2:4. This verse gives some insight into Paul's personality: a man of deep passion and great love for his converts. It pains him cause sorrow to another, even if it is a sinner in need of reproof. It is interesting to compare this Paul to the Saul of Tarsus who once had persecuted the Christians.
- 2 Cor 2:5. Paul moves on to the subject of the "incestuous person" referred to in 1 Cor 5:1. The syntax of the scripture is a bit confusing. Paul seems to be saying that "if any" (referring to this incestuous person), caused me grief, he didn't really cause me too much grief, but just a little, (but in part) so that I won't be too hard on all of you (overcharge you).
- 2 Cor 2:6-10. Paul revisits an issue with a particular incestuous member from 1 Cor 5:11-13, this time with a much softer tone. Originally he had stated: "Purge out therefore the old leaven...I have written unto you not to keep company, if any man that is called a brother be a fornicator. Therefore put away from among yourselves that wicked person."
- Here, Paul's tone is much softer: "forgive him, comfort him, lest he be swallowed up with overmuch sorrow." Perhaps Paul regretted the harsh tone of his previous epistle, or perhaps he felt that the sinner had repented sufficiently enough. In any case, forgiveness is an ideal that we should strive for at all times. Even "notorious" sinners such as this man must be forgiven, even if they must be dealt with in sometimes harsh ways for their own good, or for the protection of others.
- 2 Cor 2:9. Here Paul brings up a very interesting point on the nature of obedience. Here he states that he was "proving" the Corinthians to see if they would be obedient to his council, by shunning the company of the incestuous member. Although Paul may have regretted his previous hard-line tone, he did not regret the test of obedience which he gave to the Saints, which they passed. They shunned the man, according to Paul's council, and Paul commends them for their obedience.
- Even if a prophet or apostle's counsel is imperfect, if we will obey it as from the Lord's mouth, it is counted unto us for righteousness. "Whether by mine own voice, or by the voice of my servants, it is the same." We do not believe that prophets and apostles are infallible, but we do believe that we should obey them, even if they sometimes have imperfections. This is the safest way, and we will be blessed for it. The test of Zion's camp is a perfect example. In hindsight, the tactical wisdom of the venture was arguably less than inspired, but those who embarked with Joseph Smith on the camp came to learn essential lessons in the gospel that they never regretted.
- 2 Cor 2:14-15. The word "savour" (from the original Greek "osome") does not mean taste, as we understand it today, but rather "aroma" or "smell." In the ancient world, sweet fragrances were highly prized to mask the foul odors created by the lack of sanitation, plumbing and infrequent bathing. The use of "fragrance" as a metaphor for the life of a Christian would have resonated strongly with members in that day.
- 2 Cor 3:1-2. Paul alludes to an ecclesiastical practice later codified in the thirteenth canon of the Council of Chalcedon (A.D. 451) which ordained that "clergymen coming to a city where they were unknown, should not be allowed to officiate without letters commendatory from their own bishop." The first known example of this custom is Acts 18:27: "When Apollos was disposed to pass into Achaia [Corinth], the brethren [of Ephesus] wrote, exhorting the disciples to receive him." See the Jamieson-Fausset-Brown bible commentary 
- Paul calls his converts at Corinth his "epistle," indicating that he believes their righteousness is the only formal recommendation he needs to proceed with authority. It is interesting to note that "recommendations" played a role in unifying the early church, just as our current temple recommends do. Perhaps there was some confusion about the need of Paul to have such a recommendation in his ministry to the Corinthians. In any case, his reference to this practice gives us a taste of the organizational confusion that led to the eventual apostasy of the early church.
- Additionally, it is interesting to contemplate Paul's use of an "epistle" as a metaphor for the life of a Christian. In our day, we might say that our lives should be "living scriptures" for all to see. He alludes the the Law of Moses with it's "tables of stone" and books of law which Jews literally bind upon their heads and arms. Unlike those Jews, our scriptures are to be written in our hearts, "not with ink, but with the Spirit of the living God."
- 2 Cor 3:3: Tables of the heart. For more on the notion of God's law written in the heart, see Deuteronomy 6:5-9; Deuteronomy 11:18; Deuteronomy 30:11-14; Psalm 37:30, 31; Psalm 40:7,8; Psalm 119:11; Proverbs 3:3-6; Proverbs 4:20-23; Proverbs 7:1-3; Isaiah 51:7; Jeremiah 31:31-34; Hebrews 10:14-23; Hebrews 8:10-12; (link is to complete text of these verses at lds.org). The idea first occurs (sequentially) in Deuteronomy and it is repeated in the Writings and Prophets, in addition to the New Testament.
- 2 Cor 3:5. When Paul says, "but our sufficiency is of God," this highlights a kind of tension at work in these verses. On the one hand, Paul is saying (via his rhetorical question) that letters of recommendation are not needed, as it is with "some others" (v. 1). On the other hand, Paul is saying that the sufficiency attained without letters of recommendation is not a self-sufficiency, but a sufficiency attained only in God. As mentioned above, this God-sent sufficiency is nicely symoblized today in the form of temple recommends.
- 2 Cor 3:6: For the letter killeth. The Greek word for "killeth" here is apekteino which is also used in Rom 7:11. There, Paul is talking about the sense in which the law, if not accompanied by faith in Christ, leads to death. See in particular, the JST rendition of these verses. There may also be a play here regarding the Jewish practice of reading "dead" texts by "breathing" life (the vowels) into the Hebrew consonants in holy writ. In this sense, it might be the law as an unread (i.e., unlived) text that kills. In the Book of Mormon, Nephi also talks about death in relation to the law in 2 Ne 25:25, "wherefore the law hath become dead unto us," and in 2 Ne 25:27, "we speak concerning the law that our children may know the deadness of the law." Although the teachings of Paul and Nephi should not be conflated, nor should they be reduced to one another, it is interesting nonetheless that this contrast between life and death (killing for Paul) is common to both of these writers who are miles and epochs apart. Nephi enriches the symbolism at play here in 2 Ne 26:1 by advocating that, "when Christ shall have risen from the dead . . . the words which he shall speak unto you shall be the law which ye shall do." In contrast to the disciples in Old World, the disciples in the New World will be given Christ's words only after Christ has risen from the dead. Hence, Nephi is able to make a more literal play on the concepts of life and death than Paul is able to do (since the deliverance of Christ's words come in the New World only after Christ has overcome death). This difference in Nephi's writing underscores the sense in which Paul is able to contrast the life of the Spirit, and the life of Christ-in-the-flesh (before and after his resurrection, but after being born in the flesh), to the deadness of the written law (written on the tablets of stone for Moses). Moreover, all of this underscores the fact that in both cases, Christ himself is physically absent (and hence dead in this symbolic sense), and yet has a living effect through the Spirit (of prophecy and remembrance, for Nephi and Paul respectively).
- 2 Cor 3:6: The letter killeth, but the spirit giveth life. The debate over "the spirit versus the letter of the law" is one that we hear frequently in discussions both in and out of the LDS church. This debate has its roots in this scripture and several other passages in the New Testament. (see also Rom 2:29 and Rom 7:6-7) Additionally, the gospels notes an instance where Jesus disregarded the "letter of the law" in favor of the "spirit of the law," Jesus justified this by asking "Which of you shall have an ass or an ox fallen into a pit, and will not straightway pull him out on the sabbath day?" Luke 14:5 However, our modern scriptures rarely note any discrepancy between the "spirit and the letter." (Two important exceptions are the slaying of Laban by Nephi, 1 Ne 4:10-11 and plural marriage, D&C 132:36-37 both of which are dramatic and exceptional cases.)
- Today, when we speak of "the spirit verses letter of the law" we should remember that the roots of this debate are centered in Paul's personal mission to encourage Christians to move beyond the Jewish traditions of the Law of Moses and receive Gentiles into their congregations. In this scripture, Paul was referring specifically to the Law of Moses, which was administered without the power of the Holy Ghost, and which was later fulfilled in Christ. Paul does not mean to say that the Ten Commandments and other Old Testament admonitions are completely invalidated by the spirit, but that without the Holy Spirit's cleansing power, these commandments bring death upon us, because we inevitably break them.
- Outside of this context it becomes easy to use the "spirit of the law" as an excuse to ignore vital commandments. The reality is that God gives the letter of the law thro?ugh his prophets and confirms these laws with his Spirit. Additionally, he gives us individual guidance and direction with the Spirit. Occasionally, the guidance we feel from the Spirit may contradict the letter of the law, or more likely, an overly dogmatic interpretation of the law. In these cases, we must follow the Spirit rather than the letter. However, most of the time, the Spirit of the law will tell us to obey the letter.
- Paul's most important message in this scripture is that without the spirit, the works we do by the letter mean nothing. If Christ is not alive in our hearts, than our obedience is meaningless. However, the opposite is also true. We cannot disregard the letter of the law and pretend that Christ is alive in our heart and that we are saved. Christ said, "If ye love me, keep my commandments." John 14:15 The Jamieson, Fausset and Brown Commentary says of this scripture: "The letter is nothing without the spirit...The spirit is nothing without the letter." 
- 2 Cor 3:7-18: Midrash on Ex 34:29-35. Verses 7-18 seem to be a midrash on Ex 34:29-35 where the glory of Moses's face is described after conversing with the Lord on Mount Sinai, and how Moses would veil his face because of this. Although it is not clear in the Exodus account why Moses veils his face, Paul suggests that this is because the people could not look at Moses's face unless it was veiled, because it was too glorious. Paul uses this idea to compare the glory of the old covenant to the new covenant. There is a danger here, for Paul, that in describing the glory of the new covenant, he will disparage the old covenant. However, by referring to this passage in Exodus illustrating the glory of the old covenant, Paul is able to affirm the glory of the old covenant while simultaneously affirming the greater glory of the new covenant since it "remaineth" and is "much more . . . glorious" (v. 11).
- There are several senses in which Moses's glory "was to be done away." Moses himself was not to abide on the earth. Moreover, the Mosaic Law would be done away with after the coming of Christ. Some believe that the veil that Moses wore was only worn temporarily. Regardless of these various senses, Paul's point is that the glory presented during the epoch of Moses was transient, but nevertheless great. So, all the more, the glory of the instransient, everlasting gospel of Christ is great.
- The fact that Paul refers to the law of Moses as "written" and "engraven in stones" (v. 7) suggests that this passage (vv. 7-18) is an elaboration of the foregoing discussion of the spirit and the letter. For Mormons, this tension that Paul is discussing between the old and the new covenants might be understood in terms of the scripture vis-a-vis ongoing revelation: scripture is glorious, but revelation is more glorious—and, moreover, scripture can only be understood by the spirit of revelation (which is a key message of the Restoration).
- 2 Cor 3:12: Plainness. The Greek word parresia is translated "plainness." This is particularly interesting in light of many of the things written in the Book of Mormon regarding plainness. For example, Nephi contrasts his glorying in plainness with Isaiah's writings which he declared "not plain" to his people (2 Ne 25:4). The Greek word also has connotations of "confidence" (cf. Acts 28:31; Eph 3:12; Heb 3:6; Heb 10:35; 1 Jn 2:28; 1 Jn 3:21; 1 Jn 5:14 and "boldness" (cf. Acts 4:13; Acts 4:29; Acts 4:31; 2 Cor 7:4; Eph 3:12 Philem 1:20; 1 Tim 3:13; Heb 10:19; 1 Jn 4:17). Again, this is particularly interesting for Mormons because of the oft-quoted phrase in D&C 121:45, "then shall they confidence wax strong in the presence of God."
- 2 Cor 3:14: Blinded. The Greek word for "blinded" here is poroo, which is translated "blinded" in Rom 11:7, but is translated "hardened" in Mark 6:52, Mark 8:17, and John 12:40. This theme of covering and uncovering (i.e., revelation) is a major theme in the Old Testament and in much of the New Testament, and it is related to many tensions that Paul wrestles with (e.g., the taking of the gospel to the Gentiles as a consequence of the Jews hardening their hearts, as discussed in Romans 9-11, see especially Rom 11:8). This theme is perhaps most prominently introduced by the prophet Isaiah, and the commentary at Isa 6:9ff discusses these themes in more depth.
- 2 Cor 3:13-16. The boldness and "great plainness" (v. 12) of Paul's testimony is contrasted here in verse 13 with the veil that Moses covered his face with in Ex 34:33. The veil, in this sense, might be read as a symbol of the Law of Moses which came to an "end" and was "abolished" when Christ came (cf. 2 Ne 25:25).
- Here, Paul does not directly address the reason for Moses's veiling of his face, or why the Israelites hardened their hearts against the law, though Paul will take up this question in more detail in Romans 9-11. Here Paul refers to a kind of blindness (cf. verse 14) that existed among the Israelites at the time of Moses, a blindness that persists among those who read the Old Testament without regard to Christ.
- 2 Cor 3:18: With open face. Most modern translations render the Greek word here, anakalypto ("open"), as "unveiled," underscoring the theme of the veil through these verses.
- 2 Cor 3:16-18. The turning of the heart to the Lord (v.16) reflects the Hebrew expression for repentance and conversion, which is based on the idea of turning (to face the Lord). The Spirit discussed here (vv. 17-18) continues the theme of, for example, verse 3, where the Spirit is contrasted with the merely written ("with ink") letter of the law. The spirit of the law, then, for Paul, is tantamount to the unveiling of the Lord. The "letter killeth" (v. 6) whereas the unveiling of the Lord is the end of the law, and thus the Lord's spirit is what overcomes or fulfills this limitation of the law by itself.
- 2 Cor 4:2: Hidden things. This phrase translates the Greek word kryptos. This is the same root that the English word cryptic is based on, and is related to the Greek root kalypto that occurs in 2 Cor 3:13ff (translated "vail") and in 2 Cor 4:3 (translated "hid") and forms the basis of the English word kleptomaniac. This theme of hiddenness is contrasted with the theme of openness, revelation, and light in the surrounding verses, underscored by the fact that "truth" in this verse translates the Greek term aletheia which literally means "not covered."
- 2 Cor 4:3: Hid. The word "hid" here translates the Greek word kalypto. Most modern translations of this verse use the word "veiled" here, presumably to strengthen the rhetorical tie back to the veil theme in the previous section (2 Cor 3:13ff).
- 2 Cor 4:8-9. Examining the Greek words of each of these adjectives can help enhance the powerful meaning of the scripture:
1. Troubled on every side: θλίβω, meaning "afflicted," "pressed" or "hemmed in." 2. Yet not not distressed: στενοχωρέω, meaning "to be made narrow" or "crushed." 3. Perplexed: ἀπορέω, meaning, "to stand at a loss," or "to be in doubt." 4. But not in despair: ἐξαπορέομαιmeaning "to be utterly at a loss," or "in despair" 5. Persecuted: διώκω meaning, "persecuted," or "put to flight" or "pursue." 6. But not forsaken: ἐγκαταλείπω meaning "left behind" or "deserted." 7. Cast down: καταβάλλω, meaning to be "cast down." 8. But not destroyed: ἀπόλλυμι, meaning "utterly destroyed."
- A more literal Greek translation might read:
We are pressed in on all sides, but not crushed, We stand at a loss, but not completely at a loss, We are persecuted, but not deserted by God We are cast down, but not utterly destroyed.
- Additionally, the Greek ἀπορέω, meaning "to be in doubt" gives doubters cause for hope. Doubt is usually such a negative word in the scriptures that we rarely hear it discussed as a legitimate trial that many saints have to bear at various times in their life. However, Paul's view of the gospel includes times when saints may become "perplexed" or even "have doubts" or who are "at a loss" to truly understand. However, God will never leave us "utterly at a loss" or completely in despair.
- 2 Cor 4:10. In this verse, Paul suggests that we should continually remind ourselves of the sufferings of Christ. We should see our own sufferings as a "type and a shadow" of the things Christ suffered. This is also the message of our sacrament prayer: "that we might always remember him" we take the emblems of his broken flesh and spilled blood. Although Mormons frequently state that we "celebrate the living Christ, not the dying Christ," we should also remember that this scripture, and our own sacraments teach us that we must never forget the dying Christ. And through this constant "dying with Jesus," the "life of Jesus" will be manifest in us.
- 2 Cor 4:12: But life in you. This verse is translated by Ralph P. Martin as “thus death is at work in our case, but it is life for you" (Word Biblical Commentary : 2 Corinthians. Dallas : Word, Incorporated, 2002, p. 89). The idea seems to be that the hardships that Paul and others are suffering can be consecrated for and by the Corinthians to whom Paul is writing (cf. verse 15).
- 2 Cor 48. Paul makes a connective transition here form his disucssion of the veil that Moses wore (2 Cor 3:13ff), and the revelation of Jesus and the Spirit (2 Cor 4:1ff), to a discussion of what is more real, permanent and significant, that which is present and visible, or that which is not visible. The idea, drawing (presumably) on the Platonic notion of (unseen) forms, is that the world of appearances is transient and passes away easily, whereas the guidance of principles, goals, or other causes, has more lasting effects and yet is less visible.
- 2 Cor 5:5.' If so be that being clothed. This phrase is rendered "if indeed, after we have put on our heavenly house" by the NET. This is similar to the KJV (but more clear). The NRSV, in contrast, renders this phrase "if indeed, when we have taken it off." The reason for this discrepancy in meanings ("put on" vs. "taken it off") has to do with conflicting manuscript evidence, an issue that is discussed in an NET footnote.
- 2 Cor 5:6: At home in the body while absent from the Lord. Paul here seems to presuppose that being in the body is incompatible with the presence of the Lord. How can this be made sense of in light of the Mormon theology of embodiment, that God has a body and we will be resurrected in a physical body? (Note that this tension is also present in verse 8.)
- The tension here between being "at home in the body" and "absent from the Lord" might be understood in terms of faith and our mortal probation. That is, rather than thinking about embodiment as necessarily tantamount to absence from the Lord (as some Christian interpreters advocate), it seems that Paul's point here is to contrast the faith necessary to be exercised when the Lord is absent. So, it is the visibility and presence of our mortal bodies that is being contrasted with the invisibility and absence of God (during our probationary state).
- 2 Cor 5:8. Paul's willingness to be absent from the body might be understood as applying to the mortal body (not necessarily an immortal, resurrected body). The things of this world are transient (cf. 2 Cor 4:18), and this is what Paul is saying he is willing to leave behind for the sake of entering the presence of the Lord. In this sense, Paul is echoing Christ's teaching that one must lose one's (mortal) life in order to find it (eternal life). Paul's teaching here should be compared to his teaching in 1 Cor 15:42 on the resurrection.
- 2 Cor 5:9-10. Paul closes this section (vv. 1-10) by talking about the judgment. This is in line with the comments above which emphasize the probationary sense of our mortal existence. Thus, Paul is not drawing a contrast between embodiment and the spirit, but between presence (and visibility) and absence (and invisibility). This also alludes back to the theme of veiling and unveiling which Paul discussed at the end of chapter 3 and beginning of chapter 4.
- 2 Cor 5:11: Manifest. The 2 occurrences of this word, phaneroo in Greek, echo the theme of manifestation in chapters 2-4, in particular 2 Cor 2:14, "manifest"; 2 Cor 3:3, "manifestly declared"; 2 Cor 4:10-11, "manifest" (more generally, however, the theme of what is visible and unveiled vs. hidden and veiled recurs in these chapters).
- 2 Cor 5:12: Commend. This Greek word, synistemi, also occurs in this epistle at 2 Cor 3:1; 2 Cor 4:2; 2 Cor 6:4 ("approving"); 2 Cor 7:11 ("approved"); 2 Cor 10:12; 2 Cor 10:18; 2 Cor 12:11.
- 2 Cor 5:12: Glory. This verb, kauchaomai, is also frequently translated as "boast" and recurs frequently in the later chapter of this epistle. See 2 Cor 7:14; 2 Cor 9:2; 2 Cor 10:8; 2 Cor 10:13; 2 Cor 10:16; 2 Cor 10:17; 2 Cor 11:12; 2 Cor 11:18; 2 Cor 11:30; 2 Cor 12:1; 2 Cor 12:5; 2 Cor 12:6; 2 Cor 12:9; 2 Cor 12:11. This theme of boasting and commending in Paul could also be productively studied in light of Ammon's boasting of God, not himself, in Alma 26:10-36.
- 2 Cor 5:11-15. The NRSV groups 2 Cor 5:11 through 2 Cor 6:13 as one section under the heading "The Ministry of Reconciliation," broken into 4 paragraphs: 2 Cor 5:11-15; 2 Cor 5:16-21; 2 Cor 6:1-10; 2 Cor 6:11-13. This first paragraph in this section begins by connecting this discussion with the earlier theme of commendation since it is not a self-initiated or self-centered ministry that Paul is undertaking, but a ministry that is initiated by God for the benefit of all. Since God is veiled and not visible, the theme of appearance vs. veiled ("in heart," v. 12).
- The end of this first paragraph connects this not-self-initiated, non-self-aggrandizing theme to the idea of Chist's atonement as the ultimate example of self-sacrificing love for the benefit of communal reconciliation.
- 2 Cor 5:13. The meaning of this verse is difficult for scholars to determine, but it seems that Paul is continuing his justification about his non-self-aggrandizing motivation in his ministry by explaining that ecstatic ("beside ourselves") behavior is not for other's benefit, but for God's, and rational ("sober") behavior is for other's benefit.
- 2 Cor 5:16: After the flesh. The term for "flesh," sarx, should be understood in terms of the human sphere and mode of existence, in contrast to the heavenly. Paul uses this term frequently in his epistles, including this one, and in a manner that seems similar to Jacob's expression in 2 Ne 10:24: "reconcile yourselves to the will of God, and not the will of the devil and the flesh." The NET translates this phrase "from an outward human point of view." This translation underscores the connection to previous themes in this epistle where what is human is that which is externally visible and present, as opposed to that which is not seen, veiled, and taken on faith (cf. 2 Cor 5:7).
- 2 Cor 5:18: Reconciliation. The Greek term katallagē seems to have connotations of an exchange that helps to resolve differences. This might be understood in light of Christ's atonement which "paid" the price of our sins, and made it possible for us to be reconciled with God. This issue of exchange, or reciprocity, seems to be taken up again in 2 Cor 6:1 where Paul admonishes not "receive not the grace of God in vain." This question of vanity, or uselessness, could then be read as an echo of this exchange-of-value connotation of the word reconciliation here and in verse 19. To receive God's grace in the spirit of katallagē implies, perhaps, that we will reciprocate with obedience, patience, long-suffering, etc.
- 2 Cor 5:16-21. Paul seems to be describing the change that occurs within a disciple's life, and how this change opens up new ways of being-in-the-world. In this sense, the "new creature" (v. 17) that we become, has new forms of understanding that are no longer "after the flesh" (v. 16). This change is what makes reconciliation possible, and this new unity with God is what makes it possible to be "ambassadors for Christ" (v. 20).
- When you come unto Christ and truly trust in him and trust in his saving power old habits are done away. We have no more a desire to do things that hurt the Lord. We are his friends and when we are someone's friend we want to gain their trust and to not hurt them. Christ has called us his friends and we should merit that. After King Benjamin gave his discourse they had no more a desire to sin. When we understand Christ's doctrine we realize how much he has done for us and we want to be good to him.
- 2 Cor 6:1: In vain. The Greek word kenos denotes futility or, as the Theological Dictionary of the New Testament puts it, "no true content to correspond to the form" (v. 3, p. 659). Paul uses this term and concept somewhat frequently (e.g., see Gal 2:2; Gal 4:11; Philip 2:16; 1 Thes 3:5). In the LXX, Isa 29:8 uses kenos to express unquenched thirst (see, for example, the NET translation, and footnote 2). This idea may also be theologically related to other expressions of potential failure of the gospel to take effect, as expressed in Heb 6:4ff, for example.
Points to ponder
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