Introduction to 2 Corinthians
"Sent from: Paul, in northern Greece, joined by Timothy.
Sent to: Members at Corinth, provincial capital of southern Greece.
Date: About A.D. 57, in the fall.
Purpose: To express joy on the repentance of many Corinthians, to warn others of discipline for rebellion, and to plan the welfare collection for the Jerusalem Saints.
Main themes: Christ's atonement; the principle of sacrifice; repentance; welfare contributions; priesthood authority; three heavens." (Richard Lloyd Anderson, Understanding Paul, 130)
Bruce R. McConkie
"In First Corinthians, Paul reproved the philosophical and worldly saints in Corinth with sharpness. By the power of the Spirit he warned them to believe sound doctrine and live godly lives. Now he is showing forth an increase of love toward these same church members lest they esteem him to be their enemy. At least he is for the first nine chapters, although for the last four he picks up again some of his blunt and harsh mode of exhortation.
"Second Corinthians is not a definitive epistle; it does not analyze and summarize gospel doctrines as such. Instead it applies already known doctrines to the circumstances of the Corinthians, much as an inspired sermon applies the gospel to the congregation in which it is preached.
"Yet, wise counselor that he was, Paul wove in sufficient doctrinal data to leave modern readers with a great sense of thanksgiving for the epistle. In it we read, among other things, of how God comforteth and careth for his saints; of the law of reconciliation; that there is no second chance for salvation for the saints; of how God's ministers gain approval; of the true principle of glorying in the Lord; of false apostles and the signs of true apostles; and we learn that Paul, like the three Nephites, was caught up into heaven and heard and saw things beyond mortal comprehension." (Doctrinal New Testament Commentary, 3 vols. [Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1965-1973], 2: 407.)
2 Cor. 1:3 Blessed be God...the Father of mercies
Jeffrey R. Holland
"For anyone seeking the courage to repent and change, I remind you that the Church is not a monastery for the isolation of perfect people. It is more like a hospital provided for those who wish to get well. Do whatever you have to do to come into the fold and be blessed. For some of you that is simply to live with greater faith, to believe more. For some of you it does mean to repent-right here. Today...
"This reliance upon the forgiving, long-suffering, merciful nature of God was taught from before the very foundation of the world. It was always to give us hope and help, a reason to progress and improve, an incentive to lay down our burdens and take up our salvation. May I be bold enough to suggest that it is impossible for anyone who really knows God to doubt his willingness to receive us with open arms in a divine embrace if we will but 'come unto him.' There certainly can and will be plenty of external difficulties in life; nevertheless, the soul that comes unto Christ dwells within a personal fortress, a veritable palace of perfect peace. 'Whoso hearkeneth unto me,' Jehovah says, 'shall dwell safely, and shall be quiet from fear of evil' (Prov. 1:33).
"That is exactly what Paul said to the Corinthians. Trying to help them keep their chins up-and the Corinthians had a lot to be grim about-he wrote: 'Blessed be God, even the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies, and the God of all comfort; who comforteth us in all our tribulation, that we may be able to comfort them which are in any trouble, by the comfort wherewith we ourselves are comforted of God' (2 Cor. 1:3-4)." ("Come unto Me," Ensign, Apr. 1998, 18-19)
Marion D. Hanks
"He waits to be gracious! He loves to be merciful! The prophets call him 'the Father of mercies.' (2 Cor. 1:3.) They speak of his 'abundant mercy,' (1 Pet. 1:3), and declare that 'whosoever repenteth, and hardeneth not his heart, he shall have claim on mercy' (Alma 12:34). They declare his 'wisdom ... mercy, and grace.' (2 Ne. 9:8.) And crowning all of this is the testimony that our Father 'delighteth in mercy.' (Micah 7:18.)
"The specialty of the Father is mercy." ("My Specialty Is Mercy," Ensign, Nov. 1981, 74)
2 Cor. 1:3-4 the God of all comfort; Who comforteth us in all our tribulation
"The kinds of virtues I wish to stand for, if I am able, are personal, not professional. I would like to be known as a wife, a mother, and a friend-a personal, caring friend. I would hope these modest goals can qualify one as an exemplary woman...
"In order to speak about service, I must begin where all things begin: with God. Many of us want to serve but we do not-or feel we cannot-either because we are consumed with our own problems or because we simply lack the confidence to reach out. All of us want to be more charitable, more generous, and more loving. We have been told over and over again that a true sense of self-worth comes from service-that to find your life you must lose it. Yet too often something blocks our ability and our efforts.
"It is to those who desire to serve, but who feel they lack the courage, strength, or ability, that I wish to speak. To do so I need to speak about God.
"While praying one evening about how to address this perplexing problem, I felt that I was led directly to the words of Paul. In a little known and seldom quoted line from 2 Corinthians, I read: 'Blessed be God, even the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies, and the God of all comfort; who comforteth us in all our tribulation, that we may be able to comfort them which are in trouble, by the comfort wherewith we are comforted of God.' (2 Corinthians 1:3.)
"I cannot express the power and peace I felt when I read that scripture. What a world of meaning and instruction condensed into those simple lines! Concentrate with me for a moment on the first promise-that God is the God of all comfort...Inasmuch as all of us need comfort at so many different moments every day of our lives, it is wonderfully reassuring that our God, our Father, is 'the God of all comfort.' That phrase 'of all comfort' means to me not only that there is no greater source available for solace and strength, but that technically speaking there is no other source...God comes to us as 'the Father of mercies, and the God of all comfort.' What a reassurance and reward just to know that such all-encompassing help is available to us in our anxious times. No wonder we lovingly call him Father." (Jeffrey R. Holland and Patricia T. Holland, On Earth As It Is in Heaven [Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Co., 1989], 35-37.)
"I will try to be contented with my lot knowing that God is my friend. In him I shall find comfort." (Encyclopedia of Joseph Smith's Teachings, edited by Larry E. Dahl and Donald Q.Cannon [Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1997], "Comfort".)
2 Cor. 1:5 as the sufferings of Christ abound...so our consolation also aboundeth by Christ
Those who are called to suffer for the cause of Christ receive their consolation from Christ as well. Certainly, his comforting and succoring powers can heal all the wounds inflicted by Satan's henchmen. His comfort can come in the form of spiritual reassurance or direct intervention. In one instance, the Lord sent an angel to free Peter from prison and death (Acts 12:5-7). In another, Paul's life was endangered by a tempest at sea when he received a promise of the Lord, 'For there stood by me this night the angel of God...saying Fear not, Paul' (Acts 27:23-24).
Even when the persecutions and tribulations persist, seemingly unnoticed by God, He is still there to help. Hence Joseph Smith declared, "I saw the Twelve Apostles of the Lamb, who are now upon the earth, who hold the keys of this last ministry, in foreign lands, standing together in a circle, much fatigued, with their clothes tattered and feet swollen, with their eyes cast downward, and Jesus standing in their midst, and they did not behold Him. The Savior looked upon them and wept." (History of The Church, 2: 381) One of our many consolations in Christ is that our sufferings for His cause never go unnoticed.
2 Cor. 1:9-10 we should not trust in ourselves, but in God which raiseth the dead...we trust that he will yet deliver us
"Paul sees fit to remind the saints at Corinth of the great afflictions and sufferings he has been called to bear in his missionary labors in Asia. Even though his trials were so great that at one point he says he 'despaired even of life' (1:8), he has trust in the 'God which raiseth the dead' (1:9)-probably a reference to the detailed exposition he had already sent them on resurrection in 1 Corinthians 15. Paul has experienced God's deliverance from death as a mortal and furthermore has the assurance that God will ultimately deliver him when he finally does succumb to death in the future. Trust in God's eventual deliverance from suffering provides comfort to all persons faced with affliction. Referring to the trials endured by many of the saints at Corinth, Paul assures them that just as the victory over death was wrought by Christ through suffering, so too it is through suffering that mortals can receive consolation and salvation: 'For as the sufferings of Christ abound in us, so our consolation also aboundeth by Christ.' (1:5-7.)" (Robert L. Millet, ed., Studies in Scripture, Vol. 6: Acts to Revelation [Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Co., 1987], 74.)
2 Cor. 1:15 I was minded to come unto you beforehand
"In his original plans, the Apostle had purposed to visit Corinth twice by going directly from Ephesus to Corinth and thence into Macedonia and back to Corinth again, from whence he would set sail for Judea. (2 Cor. 1:15-16) This plan had been made before Paul had written I Corinthians, and his intentions had been made known to the saints at Corinth either by a messenger or through a Corinthian letter now lost to us. The Apostle would probably have never made any mention of his original plan had not his critics in Corinth charged him with being fickle. In defending himself against their accusations, he tells us about his first plan, which later underwent revision." (Sidney B. Sperry, Paul's Life and Letters [Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1955], 140.)
2 Cor. 1:18 as God is true, our word toward you was not yea and nay
"At the heart of the contention in the church at Corinth are those who have ridiculed Paul and denied his authority. His necessary response is a bold and vigorous defense of his apostolic authority and his work in the ministry. (2 Cor. 10:1-13:10.) Some had accused him of 'walk[ing] according to the flesh' (2 Cor. 10:2), and others had ridiculed his physical appearance and his inelegant speech (10:10). Elsewhere in the same letter he addressed the charges that he was vacillating and indecisive. (2 Cor. 1:17-18; 4:1-2.)" (David R. Seely, Studies in Scripture, Vol. 6: Acts to Revelation, ed. by Robert Millet, [Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Co., 1987], 77 - 78.)
2 Cor. 1:21-22 God hath anointed us...who hath also sealed us, and given the earnest of the Spirit in our hearts
An "earnest" is "something of value given by a buyer to a seller, to bind the bargain" or a "token or installment of what is to come" (Webster's New International Dictionary, 2nd ed., 1934). Brother Robert L. Millet discussed this concept in connection with purchasing his first home:
"[A] friend offered to lend us the down payment. It was at this time that Shauna and I became acquainted with the concept of 'earnest money.' We made a goodwill payment to the owner of the home, a small amount, to be sure, but an amount sufficient to evidence our seriousness about purchasing the place. That amount was called the earnest money. It was a token payment, a gesture indicating our desire to acquire that home, a promissory note of sorts.
"God works with us in a similar way. He communicates to us that we are following a proper course by sending his Spirit. The Holy Ghost thus represents God's 'earnest money' on us, his down payment, his goodwill gesture and assurance to us that he is serious about saving us and that one day he will own us and claim us fully as his." (Robert L. Millet, Alive in Christ: The Miracle of Spiritual Rebirth [Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Co., 1997], 170-171.)
Paul speaks of a three-step process, being first anointed, second sealed, and third being 'given the earnest of the Spirit.' It is one thing to be anointed and another to be sealed. An anointing without the sealing means nothing, 'All covenants...that are not...sealed by the Holy Spirit of promise...are of no efficacy' (DC 132:7). On the other hand, once the anointing is sealed by the Holy Spirit of promise, the contract is valid in the next world, almost without exception (DC 132:26-27).
The next step is to be given the knowledge that the anointing has been sealed. The 'earnest of our inheritance,' as Paul calls it, is to know that you have been 'sealed with that holy Spirit of promise' (Eph. 1:13-14). We can be 'given the earnest of the Spirit' in two ways, indirectly through the companionship 'of the Spirit in our hearts,' or as a direct promise of the Lord.
"...there is a way we can know that our efforts are acceptable, that our covenant is recognized and valid before God. If we experience the gifts of the Spirit or the influence of the Holy Ghost, we can know that we are in the covenant relationship, for the gifts and companionship of the Holy Ghost are given to none else. This is one reason why the gift of the Holy Ghost is given-as a token and assurance of our covenant status and as a down payment to us on the blessings and glory to come if we are faithful. Paul refers to the Holy Ghost as 'the earnest of our inheritance' (Eph. 1:14), a reference to 'earnest money,' which, though only a token payment, makes a deal binding when it changes hands. Thus the 'earnest [money] of the Spirit in our hearts' (2 Cor. 1:22; 5:5) assures us of the validity and efficacy of our deal, our covenant, with God.
"Do you feel the influence of the Holy Ghost in your life? Do you enjoy the gifts of the Spirit? Then you can know that God accepts your faith, repentance, and baptism and has agreed that '[you] may always have his Spirit to be with [you].' (D&C 20:77.) This is perhaps one reason why the Holy Ghost is called the Comforter, because if we enjoy that gift, we can know that our efforts are acceptable-for now-and that we are justified before God by our faith in Christ. And that is comfort indeed." (Stephen E. Robinson, Believing Christ: The Parable of the Bicycle and Other Good News [Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Co., 1992], 94.)
"The Holy Spirit of Promise is, of course, the Holy Ghost, the Holy Spirit promised the Saints. The Lord continued: 'This Comforter is the promise which I give unto you of eternal life, even the glory of the celestial kingdom' (D&C 88:4). It is by that Holy Spirit of Promise that the Saints of the Most High receive what the Apostle Paul called the 'earnest of our inheritance' (Ephesians 1:13-14; see also 2 Corinthians 1:21-22; 5:5), by which they come to know that their lives are in order, that they are on course and in covenant, that they are 'in Christ' and thus in line for eternal life. It is through that Holy Spirit of Promise that the people of God receive their reward, 'even peace in this world, and eternal life in the world to come' (D&C 59:23). Elder Marion G. Romney observed that 'the fulness of eternal life is not attainable in mortality, but the peace which is its harbinger and which comes as a result of making one's calling and election sure is attainable in this life.' That peace, unlike anything the world has to offer (see John 14:27), a peace that 'passeth all understanding' (Philippians 4:7), comes through the Spirit." (Robert L. Millet, Selected Writings of Robert L. Millet: Gospel Scholars Series [Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Co., 2000], 201.)
"But is there any way to know we are saved other than receiving the more sure word of prophecy? I think there is. That same Holy Spirit of Promise that searches the hearts of men and women, that ratifies and approves and seals ordinances and lives, that same Holy Spirit serves, as Paul indicates, as the 'earnest of our inheritance' (Ephesians 1:14).
"Though this passage refers specifically to being sealed up unto eternal life, I believe the principle is also true in regard to our qualifying for and cultivating the gift and influence of the Holy Ghost. That is, the Lord sends to us 'the earnest of the Spirit' (2 Corinthians 1:21-22; 5:5) as an evidence that our lives are in order. The Lord's 'earnest money' on us, his down payment, his indication to us that he will save us, is the Holy Spirit. We know that we are on course when we have the companionship of the Spirit. We know that our lives are approved of God when we have the companionship of the Spirit. We know that we are in Christ, in covenant, when we have the companionship of the Spirit. And we know, I suggest, that we are saved when we truly have the constant companionship of the Spirit." (Robert L. Millet, Within Reach [Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Co., 1995], 78.)