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The Epistles of Paul - 2 Corinthians Part 2: Comfort and Mercy
In the opening chapter of his second epistle to the Corinthians, on several occasions Paul had referred to encouragement, or comfort as the word may alternately be rendered. He also spoke about affliction. Ostensibly, the encouragement was being referred to because of the affliction which he had described, as he told his readers that “just as you are partners of the sufferings, in that manner also of the encouragement.” As we had seen from the prophet Isaiah, the Word of Yahweh had mentioned several times that children of Israel were to be afflicted for their apostasy from Yahweh their God, and then at some point in the future they were to be comforted for their affliction. That comfort was to be manifest in the message of the Gospel of Christ. Paul's ministry is the announcement of these things to the “lost” children of Israel, and he described them in 1 Corinthians chapter 10 as they were to be found among the pagan nations of ancient Europe, which he said were “Israel according to the flesh”.
Why is it that what we call Christian Identity is such a fantastic thing to most so-called Christians if Paul of Tarsus, who was chosen by Yahshua Christ to be the minister to the nations, was teaching precisely this very thing in the first century? Paul taught this throughout his epistles, and this was his entire worldview: that his ministry was to reconcile the prophesied nations of the lost children of Israel back to Yahweh their God. The so-called Roman Catholic Church which began to develop three hundred years after Paul may have preserved Paul's epistles, but at the same time it corrupted their interpretation with a universalist and replacement theology that Paul's own words do not support.
The Roman Catholic Church was not formed out of a love for the truth. Rather, it was formed so that it could co-opt true Christianity and perpetuate its own imperial rule over the nations of Europe. It co-opted Christianity because it could not prevail over Christianity although it had tried to suppress it for three hundred years. While many early church leaders may have been sincere Christians, they still complied with and propagated the Roman imperialism which this new church perpetuated, and they assisted in its developing hegemony over the existing assemblies of Christ. In the meantime, in the desire for world conquest on the part of Rome, the original purpose of the Gospel of God had been totally forgotten. This is in spite of the fact that the purpose of the Gospel remains clearly outlined in the writings of the apostles, and especially of Paul of Tarsus. We cannot blame the apostles for the systemization of deception which they themselves had foreseen, and of which they forewarned.
Also quite unlike the later Roman Catholic Church, Paul would never seek to rule over the fledgling Christian assemblies, not even those which he himself had founded. Rather, he only exhorted them with Scripture, so that their obedience would be to Yahweh their God and not to any man. For whatever reason, when they chose to do something differently from what Paul himself had recommended, he did his best to understand and to be forgiving, allowing the Christian assembly itself to determine its own course of action, so long as it was within the bounds of Scripture. This second chapter of 2 Corinthians is exemplary of Paul's refusal to be a “pope” in the sense that the Romish papacy had later claimed its authority through the abuse of the Scriptures. Paul never abrogated the right of a Christian assembly to make its own decisions in ecclesiastical matters, but only exhorted the brethren from the Scriptures. For these reasons and more, Christians should recognize that the medieval popes were indeed worldly authorities acting under the pretense of religion. But they were never truly authorities in Christ. This chapter also exemplifies Paul's own mercy and the comfort which he offered those assemblies upon making such decisions. As Paul himself had said at the end of 2 Corinthians chapter 1, “23 Now I appeal to Yahweh as a witness upon my soul, that sparing you I had not yet come to Korinth. 24 Not because we lord over your faith, rather we are colleagues of your joy: for you are established in the faith.” Now to continue with 2 Corinthians chapter 2:
1 But I have decided this within myself: not to come back to you in grief. 2 For if I grieve you, then who is gladdening me, if not he who is being grieved by me?
In the first presentation of this epistle, we hope to have established the proofs of the facts that Paul had written his first epistle to the Corinthians shortly before he had departed from Ephesus in 56 AD, and that this second epistle was written not long afterwards, in the early months of 57 AD as Paul was wintering in Nicopolis. This second epistle to the Corinthians, as it can be seen in the context of Paul's remarks, must have been written in response to a now-lost letter which had been sent to Paul by the assembly after they had received Paul's first epistle. It is evident from chapter 1 of this epistle, and also from 1 Corinthians chapter 16, that Paul had changed his travel plans several times, having twice delayed his planned visit to Corinth because he was grieved at some of the things which were going on in the Corinthian assembly. Evidently they were just as grieved by his admonitions to them in response to those things.
In the opening chapters of Paul's earlier epistle he had criticized the Corinthians for several things that he felt they were doing wrong, such as the sectarianism that had arisen among them (chapter 1) and their failure to appropriately decide certain matters among themselves (chapter 6). But there was one thing in particular that was very serious, and that was the apparent arguments they had among themselves over what to do with the fornicator among them, the man who had had his father's wife (chapter 5). In 1 Corinthians chapters 4 and 5, it is apparent that the assembly had requested Paul's immediate presence for the resolution of this matter, something with which he did not comply. For that he said “18 Now concerning my not coming to you, some had been indignant; 19 But I will come to you soon, if the Prince wishes, and I will know not the speech of those who have inflated themselves, but the power. 20 For not in speech is the kingdom of Yahweh, but in power. 21 What do you wish? Should I come to you with a rod, or in love and gentleness in Spirit?” Then Paul goes on to say “1 Fornication is generally reported among you, and fornication so bad that such is not even among the heathens, for one to have his father’s wife. 2 And you are inflated, and rather you have not mourned, in order that he who did this deed would be taken from your midst.” There in chapter 5 of the epistle he tells us the reason why in chapter 4 he had referred to people within the assembly who were inflated. Some members of the assembly had evidently tried to force the assembly to make a decision that they did not agree with, throwing their weight around, as we may say in our modern idiom.
Paul went on to demand that the fornicator be expelled from the Christian assembly. Evidently that demand had grieved the entire assembly, and in turn it grieved Paul that the assembly was troubled so greatly. Although the fornicator is not explicitly mentioned here in this epistle, we know that he is the subject of the discourse from the context which Paul provides us with later in this chapter. Paul speaks of love, kindness and forgiveness in reference to a certain individual, and the reference must be to the fornicator, who for some reason the assembly had chosen to forgive rather than to expel. Evidently, the fornicator must have been repentant, since even if Paul is not happy with the decision, he explains that he would consent to the decision, not for the benefit of the fornicator, but for the overall good of the assembly.
3 And I have written this same thing, in order that coming I do not have grief [D has “grief upon grief”] from those whom there is need for me to be delighted with; having confidence in all of you, because my joy is of all of you.
The Majority Text begins verse 18 with the clause “And I have written to you this same thing”; the Codex Alexandrinus (A) has “And I have written this”; the Codex Claromontanus (D) has “And this same thing I have written to you”; the text follows the 3rd century papyrus P46 and the Codices Sinaiticus (א), and Vaticanus (B), and also the Codices Ephraemi Syri (C) and 0285 which vary only in word order.
Paul wants this issue resolved and forgotten before he gets to Corinth, which must have been the reason why he chose not to spend the winter there as he planned and indicated when writing the end of his first epistle to the Corinthians. As we shall see, in the spirit of Christian love and brotherhood, Paul is willing to lay this issue aside for the sake of the assembly because the assembly itself had chosen to forgive this individual, even if he himself is not necessarily forgiving. Insisting that this issue be forgotten, Paul would rather focus on the things that the assembly was doing well, for which they may celebrate at his arrival.
4 From much tribulation and anguish of heart I have written to you through many tears, in order that you would not be grieved, rather that you would know the love which I so abundantly have for you.
Paul loved the Christians of the assembly of Corinth sincerely. He himself had founded that assembly (Acts 18) and had spent 18 months of his ministry among them. In his love for them, it grieved him that he had to say or do anything which had grieved them. This is the pious attitude which Yahweh Himself expresses in the Scripture, for example in Jeremiah chapter 31: “ 20 Is Ephraim my dear son? is he a pleasant child? for since I spake against him, I do earnestly remember him still: therefore my bowels are troubled for him; I will surely have mercy upon him, saith the LORD.”
Christ Himself was often troubled by the evident apostasy of the people, for instance in Matthew chapter 17 where His Own disciples failed to heal a sick man, He exclaimed “O faithless and perverse generation, how long shall I be with you? how long shall I suffer you?” Evidently, He was referring to Israelites who having long been in such apostasy, their faith had no efficacy in the world. As it says in the Proverbs, in chapter 13, “24 He that spareth his rod hateth his son: but he that loveth him chasteneth him betimes.”
5 Now if anyone causes grief, he does not cause me grief, but in some part (at which I should not be burdensome) you all.
Paul expressed grief because the assembly was grieved, but he would not be grieved by those who were causing grief within the assembly. However neither does he want to be burdensome to all of the assembly at the instigation of the few, since the assembly had already been grieved in one way or another by the sin of this man. In his next few statements he clarifies his remark by indicating who it is that has caused such grief, but we can only understand these things upon studying the contents of his previous letter to the Corinthians.
6 Befitting such a one is this penalty, which is by the many.
That many within the assembly were grieved by the sin of this one individual, the individual who had committed the sin in the first place would bear that grief upon his own conscience. As Paul explains it, that would be a sufficient penalty for what he had done. The sinner would have to live with the fact that his sin had caused many of his fellows to be so troubled.
7 Consequently, on the other hand still more you are to show kindness and encourage, lest perchance such a one would be consumed in more abundant grief. 8 On which account I encourage you to confirm love in regard to him.
We are never told why the assembly chose to forgive this individual, rather than expel him as Paul had originally urged. We can only surmise that the individual was fully repentant. However because the assembly chose to forgive him, Paul insisted that their forgiveness be complete, and that they restore the individual into the Christian love which the members of the assembly as a whole should have for one another. This teaches us that forgiveness must be complete, and we are not to bear grudges against forgiven brethren. But as we shall see in verse 10, it is the assembly which chose to forgive this individual, and therefore Paul advises these things in regards to the assembly. But he himself still held out the possibility that he may have reservations, as we see in his expressions in verse 10.
9 For this also I have written, in order that I would know of your tried character, if [P46 wants “if”; A and B have “by which”; the text follows א, C, D, 0285, and the MT] in everything you are obedient.
Here Paul is not speaking of the assembly's obedience to Paul. Quite the contrary, in 1 Corinthians chapter 5 Paul demanded that the assembly ostracize this man, and they instead chose to forgive him. Rather, because they forgave him, evidently they must have believed that the man was truly repentant. Therefore upon forgiving the man, Paul expects the assembly to be obedient to Christ. If the man were not repentant, then ostensibly Paul could not be commending the assembly for its own obedience.
The Gospel of Christ illustrates exactly how Christians must treat one another in these circumstances, here from Matthew chapter 18: “21 Then coming forth Petros said to Him 'Prince, how many times shall my brother do wrong to me, that I shall forgive him? As many as seven?' 22 Yahshua says to him: 'I do not say to you as many as seven, but as many as seventy times seven! 23 For this reason the kingdom of the heavens is compared to a man who is king, who had desired to take an account together with his servants. 24 And upon beginning to take it one had been brought to him, a debtor of ten thousand talents. 25 And not having it to repay the master ordered him to be sold, and the wife and the children and everything whatever he has, and to be repaid. 26 Then falling down the servant made obeisance to him, saying ‘Have patience with me, and I shall repay everything to you!’ 27 Then being deeply moved the master of that servant released him and forgave the loan for him. 28 And departing that servant found one of his fellow-servants, who owed a hundred denarii to him, and seizing him he strangled him saying ‘Repay anything you owe!’ 29 Then falling down his fellow-servant exhorted him saying ‘Have patience with me, and I shall repay you!’ 30 But he did not desire, rather departing he cast him into prison until he would repay that which is owed. 31 Therefore seeing the things which happened his fellow-servants grieved exceedingly and going they explained to their own master all the things which happened. 32 Then summoning him, his master says to him: ‘Wicked servant! I forgave you for all that debt, since you exhorted me! 33 Had it not been necessary also for you to have mercy for your fellow-servant, as even I had mercy for you? 34 And his master being angry handed him over to the torturers until when he should repay all that which is owed. 35 Thusly also shall My heavenly Father do to you, if you would not each forgive his brother from your hearts.'
Since all men are sinners, and since the Gospel of Christ promises to forgive the sins of all men who repent of their sins, then men must in turn forgive their fellows likewise so long as they profess repentance. Yahshua Christ had also cited the Word of God found in Hosea chapter 6: “6 For I desired mercy, and not sacrifice; and the knowledge of God more than burnt offerings.”
10 Now to anyone whom you are obliging, likewise I am; and for my part whomever I oblige, if anyone I oblige, [the MT reverses the order of the clauses having “for my part if anyone I oblige, to whomever I oblige”; the text follows P46, א, A, B, C, and 0285, and D which wants “whomever”] it is for your sakes, in the presence of Christ; 11 in order that we are not taken advantage of by the Adversary [or “Satan”], for we are not ignorant of his designs.
Whatever we may think of a particular brother who has committed some error, if he is accepted by his peers as being repentant, then for the overall good of the assembly we also should accept him as being repentant. So Paul, if he chooses to oblige anyone, will do so for the sake of the assembly even if he himself still has questions or suspicions about the character or sincerity of the individual.
Paul then explains that if for nothing else, he is choosing this path of love and understanding so that Satan, or the Adversary, where he is speaking of the enemies of Christ collectively, does not have an opportunity in his designs against the assembly. As the apostle Peter also says in chapter 5 of his first epistle: “8 Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil, as a roaring lion, walketh about, seeking whom he may devour: 9 Whom resist steadfast in the faith, knowing that the same afflictions are accomplished in your brethren that are in the world.”
12 Now coming to Troas in regard to the good message of the Anointed, and an opportunity being opened to me by the Prince, 13 I had no rest in my Spirit, with my not finding Titos my brother; then taking leave of them, I had gone out into Makedonia.
Here Paul changes the topic, where in a spirit of brotherhood he did not dwell on divisive matters beyond what needed to be said, and he turns to explaining some of the things which had happened to him since the writing of his last epistle. From Paul's having described these things, and reading them in conjunction with Acts chapter 20, we can determine in part when this epistle was written. For the rest of the evidence we must see the epistle to Titus where Paul asks him to join him in Nicopolis, and then later part of this epistle. In 2 Corinthians 12:18 Paul says “I have summoned Titos, and have sent with him the brother”, which must mean that he asked Titus to join him in Nicopolis, then he sent Titus to Corinth bearing this letter. Realizing that this is the timing of the writing of this epistle, this in turn substantiates our interpretation of these last few passages, where we would assert that they can only refer to trouble within the assembly due to the matter of the fornicator of 1 Corinthians chapter 5. Understanding the timing of these epistles, we must conclude that they cannot refer to anyone else.
In 1 Corinthians chapter 16, Paul wrote “8 But I will tarry at Ephesus until Pentecost. 9 For a great door and effectual is opened unto me, and there are many adversaries.” From that statement alone we may imagine that he was speaking of a further opportunity in Ephesus. But instead he may have had the Troad in mind, where he clarifies himself here by mentioning his coming to the Troad in conjunction with an opportunity which the Spirit of Christ had afforded him. Whatever happened in the Troad we do not know. Later in this epistle, he only explains what happened after he left the Troad, where he says in chapter 7 that “5 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.” Speaking of some trouble which happened in Makedonia Paul goes on to explain:
14 But thanks to Yahweh, who is always leading us among the Anointed in triumph, and the essence of the knowledge of Him is being made manifest through us in every place.
We do not know much about this visit of Paul's to Makedonia except to say that Luke was again very modest in his record of Paul's journey, where he says in Acts chapter 20 that “1 And after the uproar was ceased, Paul called unto him the disciples, and embraced them, and departed for to go into Macedonia. 2 And when he had gone over those parts, and had given them much exhortation, he came into Greece”. Ostensibly, where Luke says that in Makedonia Paul had “given them much exhortation”, here in 2 Corinthians chapters 2, 7 and 8 we learn a little something of the reasons why they needed such exhortation. Here we also learn that the Gospel had triumphed, and Paul credits God alone.
Later in this epistle, in 2 Corinthians chapter 8, Paul mentions “the grace of God bestowed on the churches of Macedonia” and “a great trial of affliction” along with “their deep poverty”, which also may lend some insight into the challenges he had faced there as he visited them, that the assemblies of Macedonia were evidently being persecuted at this time.
15 Seeing that we of the Anointed are a sweet fragrance to Yahweh, among these being preserved and among those being destroyed;
The word ὀσμή (Strong's # 3744) is essence here in verse 14, but twice in verse 16 it is rendered as fragrance. The sweet fragrance of verse 15 is εὐωδία (Strong's # 2175). These two words also appear together at Ephesians chapter 5 where Paul used them to refer to Christ and said “1 Be ye therefore followers of God, as dear children; 2 And walk in love, as Christ also hath loved us, and hath given himself for us an offering and a sacrifice to God for a sweet-smelling savour.” In Philippians 4:18 Paul uses the same words again of the assembly there, evidently in reference to the sacrifices which that assembly was making in Christ.
The burning of sweet incense was one of the temple rituals, and had dated to the tabernacle in the wilderness. That it was made from fragrant spices and oils is seen in Exodus chapter 25 where it mentions “oil for the light, spices for anointing oil, and for sweet incense”. But the essence of burnt sacrifices was also considered incense, which is evident in Psalm 66: “15 I will offer unto thee burnt sacrifices of fatlings, with the incense of rams; I will offer bullocks with goats.”
Later in scripture, speaking of the apostasy of the children of Israel we read in Isaiah chapter 65: “ 6 Behold, it is written before me: I will not keep silence, but will recompense, even recompense into their bosom, 7 Your iniquities, and the iniquities of your fathers together, saith the LORD, which have burned incense upon the mountains, and blasphemed me upon the hills: therefore will I measure their former work into their bosom. 8 Thus saith the LORD, As the new wine is found in the cluster, and one saith, Destroy it not; for a blessing is in it: so will I do for my servants' sakes, that I may not destroy them all. 9 And I will bring forth a seed out of Jacob, and out of Judah an inheritor of my mountains: and mine elect shall inherit it, and my servants shall dwell there.”
The recompense for iniquity is the sacrifice which the children of Israel must make as a result of their former sins, and therefore Paul likens the sacrifices of these early Christians to sweet incense. As David had lamented in Psalm 44: “22 Yea, for thy sake are we killed all the day long; we are counted as sheep for the slaughter.” In the Messianic prophecy of Isaiah chapter 53 the prophet used the same language of Christ Himself. Paul quoted that same passage of Psalm 44 in reference to the sacrifices that Christians must make, in Romans chapter 8: “35 Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? 36 As it is written, For thy sake we are killed all the day long; we are accounted as sheep for the slaughter. 37 Nay, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him that loved us.” Once again, here and in Romans chapter 8, Paul was teaching the fulfillment of the Old Testament prophets.
16 Although in those, a fragrance of death into death, yet in these, a fragrance of life into life; and who for these things is befitting?
Paul's reference to those being destroyed must be a reference to those who had opposed the gospel of Christ in Makedonia, which he had alluded to here but, as we have seen, is a little better understood by comparing Acts chapter 20 and Paul's remarks in chapters 7 and 8 of this epistle.
Concerning death and life, Paul humbly asks “and who for these things is befitting?” He infers that those who are opposing the gospel of Christ are a “fragrance of death into death”. In Ezekiel chapter 39 Yahweh speaks to the children of Israel of His enemies who are destroyed in this fashion, referring to them as “my sacrifice which I have sacrificed for you.” He also infers that those who are upholding the gospel of Christ are a “fragrance of life into life”, as death in defense of the gospel should be accounted as honor to the Christian, who is promised eternal life. According to the Scripture, we shall indeed be able to determine “who for these things is befitting”, as Paul explains further on, in chapter 3 of the epistle, that the competence to judge these things comes to us from from Yahweh God. First, however, he makes a digression concerning those who instead seek to please men:
17 For we are not as the many [P46 and D have “as the rest”; the text follows א, A, B, C, and the MT], selling the word of Yahweh in trade, but as from sincerity, rather as from Yahweh. Before Yahweh we speak in respect of the Anointed.
That the phrase ἐν χριστῷ may be interpreted as “in respect of the Anointed” one may refer to Liddell & Scott Greek-English Lexicon at , I. 5. However this is only one of several possible interpretations of the preposition, and the phrase may have been read more simply as “to the Anointed” or “among the Anointed”. We have interpreted here as “in respect of”, or perhaps “concerning”, because of the context of Paul's comments in the verses which have preceded and in those which follow concerning the Anointed.
The Greek word καπηλεύω, (Strong's # 2585), which appears only here in the New Testament, is “to be a retail-dealer...to sell by retail...” according to Liddell & Scott. In that same source, the noun κάπηλος is defined as “a retail-dealer, huckster, hawker, peddlar”. Therefore where the King James Version has corrupt here we have sell in trade. Likewise in Philippians chapter 3 Paul mentioned “those enemies of the cross of Christ, of whom the end is destruction, whose god is the belly”, and in 1 Timothy chapter 6 of those “corrupting the minds of men and defrauding them of the truth, supposing piety to be a means of gain.” Religion has always been a business, and lies have always been all the more profitable.
Here Paul is describing death and life, and asking “and who for these things is befitting?” Those who seek to sell the Word of God in trade are those who seek to please all men, because not wanting to offend anyone they have a greater opportunity for profit. As Paul said in Philippians, their god is their belly. As he opens chapter 3 Paul asks the Corinthians if they need to be introduced to him anew, and he does this in order to remind them that as they came to know him originally that he was a teacher of Yahweh God according to the Scriptures, and his letters and actions have demonstrated that he does not seek to be a pleaser of men, because his God is Christ and not his own belly.
1 Do we begin anew to introduce ourselves? Or do we, as some, need letters of introduction to you, or [D and the MT repeat “introductions”; the text follows P46, א, A, B, and C] from you? 2 You are our letters, having been inscribed in our hearts [א has “your hearts”], being known and being read by all men, 3 being made manifest because you are Christ’s letter, ministered to by us; having been inscribed not with ink but with the Spirit of the living Yahweh; not on tablets of stone, but on fleshly tablets of heart.
Admonishing the Corinthians, Paul in each of these epistles had to remind them that the very existence of the assembly of Christ in Corinth established the validity of his own ministry. In 1 Corinthians chapter 9 he had told them “2 If to others I am not an apostle, yet at any rate to you I am; indeed the assurance of my message is you in the Prince.” Here he is not seeking to lord over them, but only to persuade them that they came to the Gospel of Christ through him, and that should be sufficient evidence to them that he is indeed a sincere teacher of the Gospel of Christ. Reminding them of this, he asserts that he should not have to introduce himself to them all over again, that he is still that same teacher in Christ. Paul spoke likewise in chapter 2 of his first epistle to the Thessalonians where he said “4 but just as we have been approved by Yahweh to be entrusted with the good message, in this manner we speak; not as if pleasing men, but Yahweh, who is examining our hearts.”
Reminding them of this, Paul also alluded to both prophecies and admonishments of Yahweh concerning Israel, showing once again that he was addressing people whom he believed to be of true Israel, which is “Israel after the flesh”. The inscription of Christ's letter on their “fleshly tablets of heart” is an allusion to Jeremiah 31:33 where the Word of Yahweh says “But this shall be the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel; After those days, saith the LORD, I will put my law in their inward parts, and write it in their hearts; and will be their God, and they shall be my people.” It is also an allusion to the appeal Moses makes to Israel in Deuteronomy chapter 10: “16 Circumcise therefore the foreskin of your heart, and be no more stiffnecked.” A similar appeal is found at Jeremiah 4:4.
4 Now confidence such as this we have throughout the Anointed regarding Yahweh, 5 not because we are competent by ourselves to reckon anything [P46 and B want “anything”] as from of ourselves, but our competency is from Yahweh, 6 who also makes us competent servants of a new covenant; not of letter, but of Spirit; for the letter kills, but the Spirit produces life.
Here Paul is explaining how to answer the question which he had asked in chapter 2 concerning death and life, where he asks “and who for these things is befitting?” Men alone cannot fairly judge their neighbors, those around them, or even their brethren from their own judgment, according to their own standards. Instead, men have the Word of God and the Gospel of Christ by which to determine these things.
For this reason, speaking of the sinners which Paul had described in Romans chapter 1, he says in Romans chapter 2, speaking of the hypocritical judgment of men compared to the ultimate judgment of God: “1 On which account you are inexcusable, O man, all who judge, since in that which you judge another, you are condemning yourself: indeed you practice the things which are judged. 2 But we know that the judgment of Yahweh is in accordance with truth towards those who practice such things. 3 And consider this, O man, who is judging those who practice such things, then practicing them yourself, that you will escape the judgment of Yahweh? 4 Or the wealth of His kindness and the tolerance and patience that you think contemptuously of, ignorant that the benevolence of Yahweh leads you to repentance? 5 But in accordance with your stubborn and unrepentant heart you store up to yourself anger at the day of wrath and revelation of the righteous judgment of Yahweh, 6 who "will render to each according to his works". 7 Surely to those with endurance in good works, honor and dignity and incorruptibility they seek, eternal life. 8 But to those of contention, and they who disobey the truth, but are persuaded by injustice: anger and wrath, 9 affliction and strait, on every soul of man who labors to accomplish evil...”
Those who turn to Yahweh God through Christ and repent of their sins are forgiven, should in turn be forgiving of their brethren who also repent. Those who contend against the Gospel and Word of God show themselves to be a “fragrance of death into death”. Being competent servants of a new covenant, we must abide by the Word of God concerning that covenant, as it says in Jeremiah chapter 31, “I will put my law in their inward parts, and write it in their hearts; and will be their God, and they shall be my people.” Therefore speaking of these things in a different context and in greater detail, Paul went on in Romans chapter 2 to say that “when the Nations, which do not have the law, by nature practice the things of the law, these, not having law, themselves are a law; who exhibit the work of the law written in their hearts” (from Romans 2:14-15). In Jeremiah, Yahweh did not say that He would put some different law into the hearts of the children of Israel, but that He would put His law in their hearts. Therefore Paul speaks of the nations who had descended from Israel (Romans 4), who did not have the written law, nevertheless practicing the spirit of the Law of God by their very nature. That exhibits the fact that they by nature are the children of God. Paul goes on to say in Romans chapter 3: “31 Do we then make void the law through faith? God forbid: yea, we establish the law.”
The apostle John explained these things in a different way, in 1 John chapter 2: “1 My children, I write these things to you in order that you do not sin. And if one should sin, we have an Advocate with the Father: the righteous Yahshua Christ. 2 And He is a propitiation on behalf of our sins; yet not for ours only but for the whole Society. 3 And by this we may know that we know Him, if we would keep His commandments. 4 He saying that he knows Him and not keeping His commandments, he is a liar and the truth is not in him. 5 But he whom would keep His word, truly the love of Yahweh is perfected in him: by this we know that we are in Him.” So the children of God are those willing to turn to Christ and keep the Law of God. By this were the wheat and the tares separated as the Christian faith developed among the nations of “lost” Israel. By this Christians of today should know who it is who lives as “a fragrance of death unto death” and who lives as “a fragrance of life unto life”.
7 And if the service of death in letters [B and D have “in writing”], being engraved in stones, had been produced with honor so that the sons of Israel were not able to gaze into the face of Moses, on account of the effulgence of his face (which is being left unemployed,) 8 how not shall the service of the Spirit still more be in honor?
Here Paul makes an analogy of the account which we find in Exodus chapter 34: “ 27 And the LORD said unto Moses, Write thou these words: for after the tenor of these words I have made a covenant with thee and with Israel. 28 And he was there with the LORD forty days and forty nights; he did neither eat bread, nor drink water. And he wrote upon the tables the words of the covenant, the ten commandments. 29 And it came to pass, when Moses came down from mount Sinai with the two tables of testimony in Moses' hand, when he came down from the mount, that Moses wist not that the skin of his face shone while he talked with him. 30 And when Aaron and all the children of Israel saw Moses, behold, the skin of his face shone; and they were afraid to come nigh him. 31 And Moses called unto them; and Aaron and all the rulers of the congregation returned unto him: and Moses talked with them. 32 And afterward all the children of Israel came nigh: and he gave them in commandment all that the LORD had spoken with him in mount Sinai. 33 And till Moses had done speaking with them, he put a vail on his face. 34 But when Moses went in before the LORD to speak with him, he took the vail off, until he came out. And he came out, and spake unto the children of Israel that which he was commanded.”
Perhaps this analogy has several levels. Moses, having accepted the law of God, his face shone with the effulgence of God. We see likewise of Christ, in the event known as the transfiguration on the mount, that when He prayed “the fashion of his countenance was altered, and his raiment was white and glistering” (Luke 9:29). The children of Israel were not able to look into the face of Moses, because of its great effulgence resulting from his reception of the law. Paul makes an analogy of this and relates it to the fact that the children of Israel were never able to receive the law themselves, because they had never kept the law, as the Scriptures tell us in so many places.
However at the transfiguration on the mount, the apostles were able to look upon the glory of Christ: “29 And as he prayed, the fashion of his countenance was altered, and his raiment was white and glistering. 30 And, behold, there talked with him two men, which were Moses and Elias: 31 Who appeared in glory, and spake of his decease which he should accomplish at Jerusalem.” (Luke 9:29-31) Yet even then they could not stay awake, they could not keep their eyes open, and they fell asleep for an unspecified period of time: “32 But Peter and they that were with him were heavy with sleep: and when they were awake, they saw his glory, and the two men that stood with him.” (Luke 9:32) The children of Israel could not look upon the glory of God in Moses. The apostles fell asleep in the presence of the glory of God, but when they awoke they were still able to perceive it. Perhaps we may ask, when shall Christians finally awaken to perceive the glory of God in Christ? In any event, while it is difficult for them to remain alert, the children of Israel can indeed look upon the glory of Yahweh in Christ.
As Paul had explained in verse 6, the letter of the law kills, but the Spirit produces life. In Habakkuk chapter 1 the prophet announces that “4 Therefore the law is slacked, and judgment doth never go forth: for the wicked doth compass about the righteous; therefore wrong judgment proceedeth.” This apostasy would result in the captivity of Judah at the hand of the Babylonians, of whom it is said in verse 7 of that chapter: “7 They are terrible and dreadful: their judgment and their dignity shall proceed of themselves.” Because the people of Judah forsook the law of God, they would be taken captive and subjected to the law of tyrants. The same thing had happened to Israel over the century before this time, as they were taken as captives to Assyria. As it says in Isaiah chapter 5: “because they have cast away the law of the LORD of hosts, and despised the word of the Holy One of Israel. Therefore is the anger of the LORD kindled against his people, and he hath stretched forth his hand against them, and hath smitten them”. So Habakkuk says in chapter 2 of his prophecy that “the just shall live by his faith”, as Paul quotes the prophet concerning that same thing in Romans chapter 1.
This understanding accords with the prophecy of the New Covenant in Jeremiah which indicates that the children of Israel had forsaken the Old Covenant of the law in letters, and would therefore be given a New Covenant with the law written on their hearts. So Habakkuk explains that because the law has failed, the just would live by faith: meaning a faith in Yahweh their God which encompasses a keeping of His law. Therefore, in accord with these prophecies and others, Paul writes here of a transition from the letter of the Law in Moses to the Spirit of the law in Christ. Therefore, as it is recorded in John chapter 6, Christ had said to those opposing Him: “63 It is the spirit that quickeneth; the flesh profiteth nothing: the words that I speak unto you, they are spirit, and they are life.”
9 For if in the service of condemnation there is honor, much more abundant is the service of righteousness in honor.
Paul likens the Old Testament law of propitiation in sacrifices to the “the service of death in letters” and the “service of condemnation”. Then he calls the New Testament law of propitiation in Christ the “service of life”. This is evidently because, as he had explained in Romans chapter 2 in the rhetorical questioned which he had asked in verse 4, the wealth of kindness and the tolerance and patience and benevolence of Yahweh, all of which are of course found in Christ, also all lead His people to repentance. We repent from our sins willingly, even gladly, when we realize the gravity of the penalty for sin under the law from which we have been spared. In that same manner Paul wrote to the Galatians, who were also descendants of the ancient Israelites: “24 Wherefore the law was our schoolmaster to bring us unto Christ, that we might be justified by faith. 25 But after that faith is come, we are no longer under a schoolmaster.” However as Paul had taught in Romans, that does not mean that we disregard the law. Rather, it means that all men being sinners, we too should have mercy as Christ has mercy on us, and as we are granted mercy we should strive to keep His law, recognizing that it is good.
10 And that which had not been honored was being honored in this respect, on account of that surpassing honor.
The law of Moses had not been honored. Rather, the children of Israel had forsaken it, as the prophets had testified. However the surpassing honor is in Yahshua Christ and in respect to the reconciliation to God in Christ the law of Moses which had not been honored would indeed be honored. As Christ had said, “if you love Me, keep My commandments”.
11 If that which is being left unemployed is in a state of honor, much more in honor is that which remains.
The Greek preposition δία (Strong's # 1223), more literally by or through, is “in a state of” here, for which see Liddell & Scott, δία, A., IV.
Paul began this discourse urging the Corinthians to show Christian love for an evidently repentant sinner. His reference to that which is unemployed is a reference to the Old Testament law which the children of Israel had forsaken, and which Christ had come to fulfill. The New Covenant law is still the law of God, but it is upheld in spirit and not in letter. Christ is the propitiation for the sins of men, and not the rituals of the law. From 1 John chapter 4: “10 Herein is love, not that we loved God, but that he loved us, and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins. 11 Beloved, if God so loved us, we ought also to love one another. 12 No man hath seen God at any time. If we love one another, God dwelleth in us, and his love is perfected in us. 13 Hereby know we that we dwell in him, and he in us, because he hath given us of his Spirit.” John then said in chapter 5 of that epistle: “2 By this we know that we love the children of God, when we love God, and keep his commandments. 3 For this is the love of God, that we keep his commandments: and his commandments are not grievous.”
12 Therefore having such expectations we use much openness,
The word for openness may have been rendered as freespokenness. The children of Israel were not able to keep the law of Yahweh, and therefore by the law they were not able to establish the Kingdom of Heaven on earth. Yet Paul says in 1 Corinthians chapter 15 that “22 Just as in Adam all die, then in that manner in Christ all shall be produced alive.” Later in that same chapter Paul spoke of the effulgence of the spiritual body in relation to the resurrection. Ostensibly, the expectation which Paul talks about here is that even though the children of Israel had rejected Moses, in Christ they shall all have a share in that effulgence which was seen in Moses. Having that expectation, one should speak openly in advocation of the Kingdom of Christ.
13 and not as Moses placed a veil upon his face, for the sons of Israel not to gaze into the fulfillment [A has “face”] of that which is being left unemployed. 14 Yet their minds were hardened; even to this day today [the MT wants “today”] the same veil remains upon the reading of the old covenant, which not being uncovered is left unemployed in Christ.
For the Greek word νοήματα (Strong's # 3540) “thoughts” is more literal, but “minds” correct in context, as it is also in 2 Corinthians 4:4. The verb πωρόω (Strong's # 4456) is literally to harden, where the King James Version has used the metaphor, to make blind.
For their disobedience, Yahweh had brought blindness upon the children of Israel. We read from Isaiah chapter 6: “ 9 And he said, Go, and tell this people, Hear ye indeed, but understand not; and see ye indeed, but perceive not. 10 Make the heart of this people fat, and make their ears heavy, and shut their eyes; lest they see with their eyes, and hear with their ears, and understand with their heart, and convert, and be healed.”
The children of Israel being disobedient to Moses, there were things in the law which they could not understand. Christ tells the Judaeans: “45 Do not think that I will accuse you to the Father: there is one that accuseth you, even Moses, in whom ye trust. 46 For had ye believed Moses, ye would have believed me: for he wrote of me. 47 But if ye believe not his writings, how shall ye believe my words?”
15 Then until this day, whenever Moses is read a veil lies upon their hearts. 16 But when perhaps you should turn to the Prince, the veil is taken away. 17 Now the Prince is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Prince is, there is freedom.
The Greek verb ἐπιστρέψῃ is a form of ἐπιστρέφω (Strong's # 1994) which may be classified as an Aorist Subjunctive 3rd person singular verb of the Active Voice, as it is usually used in both the New Testament and the Septuagint, and as the King James and nearly all other versions read it here. However according to the Perseus Project at Tufts University, the same form of this verb, ἐπιστρέψῃ, may also be classified as an Aorist Subjunctive 2rd person singular verb of the Medium Voice. Therefore our translation is seen to be correct, but it may also have been rendered “perhaps when you have turned yourself to the Prince, the veil is taken away.” Once again in Paul's epistles, while the Christogenea New Testament is the only translation which renders the verb in this manner, it can certainly be established that the translation is correct.
While the things in the law of Moses are left unemployed in Christ, but when one is repentant and turns to Christ, he can come to an understanding of those things.
18 And we all [P46 wants “all”], with uncovered faces, are beholding as in a mirror the honor of the Prince. We are being transformed into that same image, from honor into honor, just as a Spirit from the Prince.
If we have the spirit of God bestowed upon the Adamic man, we are spirits from the Prince and we can conform ourselves to His image. As the children of Israel conform themselves to the law of God, they conform themselves to the image of Christ. Paul likens this to having “uncovered faces” which one may behold in a mirror, however that too is an analogy which must not be taken literally. Rather, the children of Israel become clearly manifest in the world as they conform themselves to Christ by keeping His law.
This conformance is also mentioned by Paul in Romans chapter 8: “28 And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose. 29 For whom he did foreknow, he also did predestinate to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brethren. 30 Moreover whom he did predestinate, them he also called: and whom he called, them he also justified: and whom he justified, them he also glorified.”
Paul explains this conforming process in Romans chapter 12: “2 And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God.” Turning to Christ, humbling ourselves before God, the veil is lifted when we read the Old Testament, and we may examine the acceptable and perfect will of God. Doing that, we may begin the process of our transformation.