2 Cor. 2:5-11
5 But if any one has caused pain, he has caused it not to me, but in some measure—not to put it too severely—to you all. 6 For such a one this punishment by the majority is enough; 7 so you should rather turn to forgive and comfort him, or he may be overwhelmed by excessive sorrow. 8 So I beg you to reaffirm your love for him. 9 For this is why I wrote, that I might test you and know whether you are obedient in everything. 10 Any one whom you forgive, I also forgive. What I have forgiven, if I have forgiven anything, has been for your sake in the presence of Christ, 11 to keep Satan from gaining the advantage over us; for we are not ignorant of his designs.
56. – After giving the reason for his delay, namely, to avoid paining them, and after telling them of his sadness, the Apostle then treats here of the one causing his sadness. In regard to this he does three things: first, he speaks more fully of the guilt of the one who causes this sadness; secondly, of his punishment for the injury he inflicted (v. 6); thirdly, he urges them to have mercy on this person (v. 7).
57. – He says, therefore: I have written to you with many tears, which I shed because of the sadness I fell and because of the punishment to be inflicted on the sinner, but if any one has caused me pain, he, namely, the heinous fornicator of whom he writes in 1 Corinthians (5:1): “It is actually reported that there is immorality among you, and of a kind that is not found even among pagans”: that one, I say, even if he has caused sorrow, he has caused it not to me, but in some measure, i.e., he has caused it not to me alone, but you and us. Not all, but in some measure. And I say this, not to put it too severely to you all, i.e., that I may not lay this burden on all of you by speaking derisively. As if to say: you are not so good or love me so much that all of you would weep over my sadness and over the sin of a brother. Or, not to put it too severely to you all, not only those who did not grieve over the sin.
58. – Or it could be said and better: he has caused it not to me, but in some measure. For it should be noted that sometimes a person is completely saddened and sometimes not. He is completely saddened when he is engrossed by pain with his grief. This is the sadness that works death, as he says below (7:10), but that, according to the Philosopher, does not happen to a wise man. He is not completely sad when, although he is sad about some evil he is suffering or seems to be on its way, he nevertheless rejoices for other good reasons. This sadness is according to God and does happen to a wise man. Therefore, because the Apostle says that he was very sad, he adds that he was sad in some measure, as though not entirely, lest they suppose that he was altogether engrossed by sadness, which does not befit a wise man. According to this, the meaning is: He, i.e. the fornicator, has pained me on account of his sin, but he has not pained me entirely. For although I grieved for him because of his sin, yet I take joy in you because of the many good things you do, and in him because of his repentance. I say, in some measure, that I may not burden you all, i.e., that I may not lay this burden on you, namely, that you should grieve me.
59. – But lest they should wish to punish him more on account of the Apostle’s sadness, he shows them that the punishment was sufficient, saying, for such a one, namely, he who pained me so much by sinning, this punishment by the majority is enough, i.e., such a harsh public correction that he was excommunicated from the Church and delivered to Satan (1 Cor. 5:5). Therefore this punishment is enough for the above reasons. Or it can be called sufficient, not as to God’s judgment, but as was expedient for the time and the person. For it is better to observe such a spirit of leniency in correcting, that the fruit of correction follows on the penance, than to correct so harshly that the sinner despairs and falls into worse sins. Therefore is says in Sirach (21:4): “Terror and violence will lay waste riches.”
60. – Therefore, because that punishment was sufficient and he did penance, he urges them to show mercy, saying, so you should rather turn to forgive and comfort him. Here he does three things: first, he commands them to spare the sinner; secondly, he gives the reason (v. 7); thirdly, he urges them to observe this admonition (v. 8).
61. – He says first, therefore: I say that the punishment is sufficient for him, so much that you should rather turn to forgive him: “Forgive, and you will be forgiven” (Lk. 6:37); “Forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you” (Eph. 4:32). You should not only forgive, but what is more, you should comfort him, and this by recalling to themselves the example of sinners who were restored to the state of grace, such as David, Peter, Paul and Magdalene, and through the Word of God: “For I have no pleasure in the death of any one, says the Lord GOD; so turn, and live” (Ez. 18:32); “Admonish the idlers, encourage the fainthearted, help the weak, be patient with them all” (1 Th. 5:14).
62. – He gives the reason for this admonition, saying, or he may be overwhelmed by excessive sorrow. For some are sometimes so steeped in sorrow because of sin and punishment of sin, that they are overcome, when they have no one to comfort them; and this is bad, because it does not result in the hope for the fruit of repentance, namely reformation, but in despair he delivers himself over to all sins, as Cain, when he said: “My punishment is greater than I can bear” (Gen. 4:13); “Who, despairing, have given themselves up to licentiousness, greedy to practice every kind of uncleanness” (Eph. 4:19). For this reason, despair is called a dangerous thing in 2 Samuel (2:26), so that David said in Psalm 69 (v. 15): “Let not the flood sweep over me, or the deep swallow me up, or the pit close its mouth over me.” Therefore, in order to prevent this, he says, comfort him, so that he will cease sinning: “This will be the full fruit of the removal of his sin” (Is. 27:9).
63. – Then the Apostle urges them not only by reason, but from other causes to do this, when he says, so I beg you to reaffirm your love for him. And he urges them in three ways: first, by his appeal, saying, so, i.e., that he not be overwhelmed, I, who can command, beg you: “Though I am bold enough in Christ to command you to do what is required, yet for love’s sake I prefer to appeal to you” (Phlm. 1:8-9). Evil prelates do the opposite: “With force and harshness you have ruled them” (Ez. 34:4). To reaffirm your love for him, which happens if you show your charity for him and not hate him for his sins, or despise him, but for your consolation make him hate his sin and love justice: “Strengthen your brethren” (Lk. 22:32).
64. – Secondly, he urges them with a command, saying, for this is why I wrote, namely, that I might test you and know whether you are obedient in everything. He says, in everything, namely, whether they are pleasing or displeasing to you. For he had first commanded them to excommunicate him, and they obeyed the Apostle’s command. But now he commands them to be sparing; hence he says, whether you are obedient in everything.
65. – Thirdly, he urges them by reminding them of a gift, when he says, any one whom you forgive, I also forgive. As if to say: you should do this because I also have done it. For if you have forgiven someone and asked me to forgive, I have forgiven. And this is what he says: any one whom you forgive, I also forgive.
66. – And this is obvious, for what I have forgiven, if I have forgiven anything, has been for your sake in the [person] of Christ. In this he touches four things required for such pardon or forgiveness. The first is discernment, so that pardon is not granted indiscriminately and rashly; hence he says, if I have forgiven anything, namely, in the proper way: “Let your eyes look directly forward” (Prov. 4:25). The second is the end, because it should be done not for love or hatred, but for some benefit to the Church or others; hence he says, it has been for your sake. The third is authority, because it should not be done on one’s own authority, but Christ’s, who forgives sin by authority, but the others to whom it has been entrusted, forgive as ministers and members of Christ; hence he says, in the [person] of Christ, namely, not by my own authority. Yet whatever is forgiven, Christ forgives: “If you forgive the sins of any they are forgiven” (Jn. 20:23). The fourth is need; hence he says, to keep Satan from gaining the advantage over us. For the devil had deceived many: some by leading them to commit sins, and others by excessive rigor against sinners; so that if Satan cannot get them for having committed sin, he at least destroys those he already has by the severity of prelates who drive them to despair by not correcting them in a compassionate way. Hence, he destroys these, and the others he puts in the snare of the devil: “Be not righteous overmuch” (Ecc. 7:16); “Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour” (1 Pet. 5:8). And this will happen to us if we do not forgive sinners. Therefore that we might not be deceived by Satan, to keep Satan from gaining the advantage over us, I have forgiven, if I have forgiven anything, for we are not ignorant of his designs, namely, those of Satan. This is true in general, but in particular no one can know his thoughts but God alone: “Who can strip off his outer garment? Who can penetrate into the midst of his mouth?” (Jb. 41:13, Vulgate).
2 Cor. 2:12-17
12 When I came to Troas to preach the gospel of Christ, a door was opened for me in the Lord; 13 but my mind could not rest because I did not find my brother Titus there. So I took leave of them and went on to Macedonia. 14 But thanks be to God, who in Christ always leads us in triumph, and through us spreads the fragrance of the knowledge of him everywhere. 15 For we are the aroma of Christ to God among those who are being saved and among those who are perishing, 16 to one a fragrance from death to death, to the other a fragrance from life to life. Who is sufficient for these things? 17 For we are not, like so many, peddlers of God’s word; but as men of sincerity, as commissioned by God, in the sight of God we speak in Christ.
67. – Having stated the first reason for his delay, namely, that he might avoid coming to them in sadness, he now states the second reason, which is the fruit he was producing elsewhere. In regard to this he does two things: first, he mentions his travels; secondly, their result (v. 14). In regard to the first he does two things: first, he mentions the obstacle he met at Troas; secondly, his journey into Macedonia (v. 13b).
68. – He says, therefore: When I came to Troas to preach the gospel of Christ, i.e., to preach Christ: “But I chose you and appointed you that you should go and bear fruit” (Jn. 15:16), a door was opened for me, i.e., men’s minds were prepared and disposed to receive the words of preaching and Christ: “for a wide door for effective work has opened to me” (1 Cor. 16:9); “Behold, I stand at the door and knock” (Rev. 3:20). But not in anyone, but in the Lord, because this preparation of the human mind is accomplished by God’s power. For although the ease with which minds are prepared is the cause of conversion, God is the cause of that ease and of the preparation: “Convert us to yourself, O Lord, that we may be converted” (Lam. 5:21, Vulgate). When, I say, a door was thus opened for me in the Lord my mind [spirit] could not rest, i.e., I was unable to do what my spirit wished, i.e., dictated. For the spirit is said to have rest, when it achieves what it wishes, just as the flesh is said to rest when it has what it desires: “Soul, you have ample goods laid up for many years; take your ease” (Lk. 12:19). The Apostle does not say, I had no rest in my flesh or my body, but in my mind, i.e., in my spiritual will, which is to establish Christ in the hearts of men. And I was hindered because I saw hearts prepared and disposed, and was unable to preach.
69. – Then he tells why he had no rest in his spirit, when he adds, because I did not find my brother Titus there, i.e., because of Titus’ absence. And this for two reasons. One reason was that although the Apostle knew all their languages, so that he could say: “I thank God that I speak in tongues more than you all” (1 Cor. 14:18), he was more skilled in Hebrew than in Greek, but Titus more in Greek. Therefore, he wanted to have him present to preach in Troas. And because he was absent, for the Corinthians had detained him, he says, my spirit could not rest. But because God’s gifts are not imperfect, and the gift of tongues was specifically given to the apostles for preaching throughout the whole world: “Their voice goes out through all the earth, and their words to the end of the world” (Ps. 19:4), the other reason is better, namely, that many things remained for the Apostle to do in Troas. For on the one hand, he had to preach to those who were prepared to receive Christ by faith; and on the other, he had to resists the adversaries who opposed him; therefore, because he could not do these things alone, he was grieved by the absence of Titus, who could concentrate on preaching and converting the good, while the Apostle withstood the adversaries. And he is at pains to write this to them in order to suggest that not only the first, but also the second reason for his delay was due to them. For on account of their hardness and quarreling, they delayed Titus for a long time. Hence he says, because I did not find my brother Titus there, either in Christ or in my co-worker: “A brother helped is like a strong city” (Prov. 18:19).
70. – Because I did not find Titus in Troas, I did not stay there; I took leave of them who were converted and in whom a door had been opened, and I went on to Macedonia, where I expected to find him. But his reason for going into Macedonia is given in Acts (16:9), where it says: “A man of Macedonia was standing beseeching him and saying, ‘Come over to Macedonia and help us.’”
71. – Then when he says, But thanks be to God, he describes the progress of his journey, and does two things: first, he describes the order of his progress; secondly, he excludes the false apostles from that progress (v. 16b). In regard to the first he does two things: first, he hints at the progress he made; secondly, he explains something he had said (v. 15).
72. – In regard to the first it should be noted that the Apostle did not attribute to himself the progress and fruit he had produced, or to his own power, but to God: “On the contrary, I worked harder than any of them, though it was not I, but the grace of God which is with me” (1 Cor. 15:20): “Give thanks in all circumstances” (1 Th. 5:18); “Always and for everything giving thanks in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ to God the Father” (Eph. 5:20). Who in Christ always leads us in triumph, i.e., makes us triumph in preaching Christ against our adversaries. Here it should be notes that preachers of truth should do two things: namely, to exhort in sacred doctrine and to refute those who contradict it. This they do in two ways: by debating with heretics and by practicing patience toward persecutors. The Apostle touches on these in order; hence he says, who leads us in triumph, as to those who contradict: “We are more than conquerors” (Rom. 8:37); “It is not on the size of the army that victory in battle depends, but strength comes from Heaven” (1 Macc. 3:19); and through us spreads the fragrance of the knowledge of him everywhere, as to exhorting in sacred doctrine.
73. – A Gloss explains the fragrance of the knowledge of him, i.e., of his Son; but it is better to suppose that this is said to distinguish between knowledge of God obtained by other sciences and that obtained by faith. For the knowledge of God obtained by other sciences enlightens the intellect only by showing that God is the first cause, that he is one and wise and so on. But the knowledge of God obtained by faith both enlightens the intellect and delights the affections, because it not only says that God is the first cause, but that he is our Savior, that he is our Redeemer, that he loves us and that he became incarnate for us: all of which inflame the affections. Therefore is should be said that the fragrance of the knowledge of him, i.e., the knowledge of his sweetness, he spreads to those who believe by everywhere, because that fragrance is diffused far and wide: “Like a vine I cause loveliness to bud” (Sir. 24:17); “See, the smell of my son is as the smell of a field which the Lord has blessed” (Gen. 27:27).
74. – But because some might say, What is the fragrance of God in every place? For there are many places in which our preaching is not accepted. The Apostle explains this, saying: I do not care, because whether they accept our preaching or not, the knowledge of God is manifest everywhere through us, because we are the aroma of Christ to God, namely, to the honor of God. He says this in a likeness to the Law, where it is said that a sacrifice becomes the sweetest fragrance of sweetness to God. As if to say: we are a holocaust offered to God as a fragrance of sweetness among those who are being saved, namely, that they not perish, which is theirs from God; and among those who are perishing, which is theirs from themselves. Hence, it is written in Hosea (13:9, Vulgate): “Destruction is your own, O Israel, your help is only in me”. But is that fragrance related to the good and the wicked in the same way? No, but to one a fragrance from death to death, i.e., of envy and malice, which are the occasion of bringing them to eternal death, i.e., those who envy the good reputation of the Apostle and strive against the preaching of Christ and the conversion of the faithful: “This child is set for the fall and rising of many in Israel, and for a sign that is spoken against” (Lk. 2:34). To the other a fragrance from life to life, of love and good opinion leads them to eternal life, namely, to those who rejoice and are converted by the preaching of the Apostle: “For the word of the cross is folly to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God” (1 Cor. 1:18). Thus, from the fragrance of the Apostle the good live and the wicked die, as it is read that serpents die from the smell of flourishing vines.
75. – Then when he says, Who is sufficient for these things? He excludes the false apostles from the progress, saying, Who of those false apostles is sufficient for these things? which we true apostles accomplish. As if to say: None: “But to me your friends, O God, are exceedingly honorable” (Ps. 138:17, Vulgate). But on the other hand, it says in Proverbs (27:2): “Let another praise you, and not your own mouth; a stranger, and not your own lips.” Gregory, in his commentary on Ezekiel, answers this by saying that the saints praise themselves for two reasons, and not for their own glory and vanity. The first reason is that they not despair in tribulations, as Job, when his friends tried to bring him to despair, recalled to his mind the good things he had done, in order to comfort himself and not despair. Hence, he said: “I have made a covenant with my eyes; how then could I look upon a virgin?” (31:1). We read of a holy father, that when he was tempted to despair, he recalled to mind the good things he had done, in order to comfort himself; when he was tempted to pride, he recalled the evil he had done, in order to be humbled. The second reason is for profit, namely, that he obtain a greater reputation and that his teaching be believed more readily. This is the reason why the Apostle praises himself here. For the Corinthians had preferred false apostles to him and disdained him. As a result they were not ready to obey him. Therefore, to assure that they would not disdain but obey him, he prefers himself to them and praises himself, saying, Who is sufficient for these things? as we are. Not the false apostles, because even though they preach, they adulterate God’s word—which we do not do.
76. – Hence, he says, for we are not, like so many, namely, the false apostles, peddlers of God’s word, mingling contrary doctrines, as the heretics, who although they confess Christ, do not admit that he is true God. This is what the false apostles do, who say that along with the Gospel the legal observances must be kept. Hence he says, for we are not, like so many, peddlers [adulterers] of God’s word, i.e., preaching for gain or for praise. For thus are women called adulteresses, when they receive seed from another man for the propagation of children. In preaching, the seed is nothing less than your end or intention. Therefore, if your end is gain, if your intention is your own glory, you adulterate God’s word. This the false apostles were doing who were preaching for gain: “We refuse to practice cunning or to tamper with God’s word, but by the open statement of the truth we would commend ourselves to every man’s conscience in the sight of God” (2 Cor. 4:2). But the apostles preached neither for monetary gain nor their own glory, but for the praise of God and the salvation of their neighbor. Hence, he adds, but as men of sincerity, i.e., with a sincere intention; not for gain and without corrupted admixtures: “We have behaved in the world, and still more toward you, with holiness and godly sincerity” (2 Cor. 1:12).
77. – He points out three aspects of this sincerity: the first is taken from the dignity of the one who sent them. For it is expected of a messenger of the truth to speak the truth; hence he says, as commissioned by God, i.e., with that sincerity which befits a messenger of God: “Whoever speaks as one who utters oracles of God” (1 Pet. 4:11). The second is taken from the authority of the one presiding, before whom he stands. Hence he says, in the sight of God, in whose presence we should speak with sincerity: “As the Lord the God of Israel lives, before whom I stand” (1 Kg. 17:1). The third is taken from the dignity of the subject of which he speaks. For the preaching of the apostles is about Christ; therefore, it should be sincere, as also Christ and God are. Hence, he says, we speak in Christ alone, and not in the ceremonies of the Law, as false apostles do: “For I decided to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ and him crucified” (1 Cor. 2:2).