2 Corinthians 1:18-22


In every generation the Lord's ministers are, at times, falsely accused. This is Satan's way of discrediting the Gospel and its Author. In our time faithful Lutheran pastors are sometimes accused of being narrow minded, too conservative, or perhaps unable to relate to people. Jesus, too, was falsely accused. People called him a glutton, a drunkard, a friend of tax-collectors and outcasts. Luke 7:34. Before Pilate the Pharisees accused Him of being a deceiver. Matthew 27:63. The Galatians accused Paul of being an inferior apostle. And the Corinthians, or at least some of them, accused Paul of being fickle, of changing his mind and purpose without reason and cause.

Originally Paul had planned to visit the Corinthians on his way from Ephesus to Macedonia. Then, after visiting Macedonia, he planned to visit the Corinthians a second time after which they were to provide him companions for further journeys. But, owing to changed conditions in Corinth and for the Corinthians' own good, Paul went directly to Macedonia and thereafter visited Corinth only once. Paul's adversaries in Corinth seized upon this change in plans and accused Paul of fickleness.

Kretzmann: Because Paul had changed his original plan as to his visit to Corinth, some of his personal enemies in that city were trying to represent him as an unreliable person . . . He confesses to a change of his plans, but that fact does not argue for fickleness of purpose . . . The insinuation of his enemies was that Paul either did not reflect sufficiently upon his plan and the way in which he might carry it out, or he had changed it without valid reasons and therefore had little regard to the binding quality of promises . . . If he actually were unreliable in such small matters as promises, his personal affairs, then he might be untrustworthy in the greater matters of his word to them, in every form of teaching.

2 Corinthians 1:18 But as surely as God is faithful, our message to you is not "Yes" and "No." 

The verse previous to our text reads: "Therefore, when I was planning this, did I do it lightly? Or the things I plan, do I plan according to the flesh, that with me there should be Yes Yes, and No, No?" 

There are two ways of reading verse 18:

  1. As an adjuration: "But God is faithful, our word to you is not yes and no" (NASB.) Thus all our versions. KJV and NKJV read "was" not "is." 
  2. But Lenski and Plummer take it thus: "God is faithful in that our word toward you is not a wavering between 'yes' and 'no'." 

The first translation draws a comparison between God's faithfulness and Paul's integrity. The second makes God's faithfulness the cause of Paul's integrity. Because of the context we favor the second translation.

The words "our message" are not to be limited to the Gospel and religious instruction. Paul is saying that they are utterly trustworthy in everything they say to the Corinthians because God Himself causes them to be faithful. By the way, look at 1 Corinthians 10:13. The parallel passages favor translation number 2 above.

2 Corinthians 1:19 For the Son of God, Jesus Christ, who was preached among you by me and Silas and Timothy, was not "Yes" and "No," but in him it has always been "Yes." 

Verses 19-22 are an explanation of verse 18. In this verse Paul gives us the first reason for his own integrity. His reason is no less than Jesus Christ, God's Son. Note the length of the subject: "The Son of God, Jesus Christ, the One who was preached among you through us." Stress is laid on the divinity of Jesus.

Paul feared that the accusation of fickleness would be extended to what he and his helpers had preached. Furthermore, to call Paul fickle would mean that Silas and Timothy were also fickle. All three agreed in teaching and trustworthiness. Christianity is the only true, reliable religion which is devoid of lies and ambiguities. It is like its Author, Jesus Christ. The message makes the preachers thereof reliable. Paul is thinking primarily of his message.

Lenski: Nothing in Christ or in His Word ever was or is now even questionable . . . No mighty yea-Christ could have been transmitted by yea and nay heralds . . . If he is a yea and nay man, what about Silvanus and Timothy? Did they know his character and still work with him?
Tasker: Never did Christ hesitate to give an unqualified assent to all that His Father demanded of Him.
Hughes: In Jesus Christ the Corinthians have a further compelling proof of his personal integrity. Not only had his preaching proved true and trustworthy, but Jesus Christ Himself in whom, through his preaching, the Corinthians had believed, was not yes-and-no; on the contrary, in Him one unequivocal affirmative has become the great and lasting reality of their experience . . . They know their Apostle, as they know his Master, to be not yes-and-no, but sincere and trustworthy in both word and character.
Plummer: Here he is appealing to the probability that there is moral resemblance between master and servant. The Son of the God who cannot lie is one who may be trusted and has proved to be trustworthy. Therefore the message which His ministers bring is likely to be trustworthy.

2 Corinthians 1:20 For no matter how many promises God has made, they are "Yes" in Christ. And so through him the "Amen" is spoken by us to the glory of God.

Verse 20 amplifies verse 19. At Revelation 3:14 Christ is called "The Amen, the faithful and true Witness, the Beginning of the creation of God" (NASB). He fulfills all the promises of God, no matter what those promises are, not only the great promises of salvation in the Old Testament, but also the lesser promises, for example Genesis 8:22 and 9:12-16. Why does the sun rise each morning? Because of Christ Jesus. Why does the rainbow appear after a shower? Because of Christ Jesus.

In the second part of the verse KJV and NKJV read: "and in him." All other version read: "for which reason also through him." The former translation makes "yea" and "Amen" synonyms: "For all the promises of God in him are yea, and in him Amen, unto the glory of God by us" (KJV). But the latter translation makes "Amen" the response of believers to the promises of God: "For all the promises of God find their yes in him. That is why we utter the Amen through him, to the glory of God" (RSV) Thus all our versions except KJV and NKJV.

Furthermore, the last "by us" some commentators fell refers only to Paul, Silas, and Timothy, not all Christians. Thus the integrity of Paul and his helpers stands out all the more. But Kretzmann feels the term should include all Christians:

Kretzmann: Jesus Christ in His own person is the embodiment and fulfillment of all the promises of God to mankind. . . Therefore He is also the Amen, therefore all our prayers in His name are fitly closed with this confession of our trust in the willingness of God to give us all the spiritual blessings which we need throughout our lives . . . The believers give their joyful assent by their confession at the end of all creeds and prayers.

Lenski limits the term to Paul and his helpers:

Lenski: What Paul writes is that he as an apostle and his helpers are God's instruments to win 'glory' for God by establishing Christ, 'the yea,' 'the Amen' in men's hearts.
Tasker: When Christians sound the Amen, they do so unto the glory of God.
Hughes: How illogical, then, while by their 'Amen' attesting the trustworthiness of God, to suspect the trustworthiness of the Apostle who taught them to do so! Any charge of inconsistency must be levelled at them, not at him.
Plummer: It is the Corinthians who are inconsistent if, in the fact of their own public asseveration, they tax their teachers with inconsistency.

2 Corinthians 1:21 Now it is God who makes both us and you stand firm in Christ. He anointed us,

"Now" has the meaning of "furthermore." Paul's argument has advanced step by step since verse 18. His final argument, found in verses 21 and 22, centers in the Triune God. God has done four things for his people:

  1. He has confirmed them,
  2. anointed them,
  3. sealed them,
  4. and given His Holy Spirit as a down-payment for them.

Since Paul makes a distinction between "us and you" some feel that he refers only to himself and his helpers. We think that since Paul says: "us with you" he is referring equally to all believers in verses 21 and 22. We think that "in Christ" emphasizes Christ alone as Mediator and Savior. Except for Christ none of this would be true or effective. The four participles denote what God has done for believers through the preaching of the Gospel. Note that "stand firm" is present tense:  "He constantly confirms us." The other three are aorist, denoting what He has done for us through the Gospel.

Rienecker: The anointing here refers to the anointing of the Holy Spirit at conversion which every believer receives.

Note in the margin of the Greek text 1 John 2:27:  "And as for you, the anointing which you received from Him abides in you, and you have no need for any one to teach you; but as His anointing teaches you about all things, and is true and is not a lie, and just as it has taught you, you abide in Him" (NASB). Lutherans consider this anointing a reference to Baptism.

Lenski: Christ and we are anointed with the Spirit . . . The act occurred in our Baptism, as it did immediately after Christ's baptism. By means of his anointing Christ was placed into his high office and position; our anointing did the same for us.

2 Corinthians 1:22 set his seal of ownership on us, and put his Spirit in our hearts as a deposit, guaranteeing what is to come.

Rienecker: 'His seal.' Goods were sealed as a guarantee indicating not only ownership but also guaranteed the correctness of the contents.
Tasker: He sets his seal upon them, marking them out from the rest of mankind as those who really belong to Him and are eternally the objects of His loving care.
Rienecker: The term 'deposit' means a deposit which is in itself a guarantee that the full amount will be paid . . . here the guarantee consisting of the Spirit.
Kretzmann: A more definite promise and assurance of the certainty of salvation in the case of those that accept the redemption of Christ by faith can hardly be conceived of: God pays the earnest-money in the blood of His Son.

Here a reference to Romans 8:23:  "And not only this, but also we ourselves, having the first fruits of the Spirit, even we ourselves groan within ourselves, waiting eagerly for our adoption as sons, the redemption of our body" (NASB). And also Ephesians 1:14: "Who (the Holy Spirit) is given as a pledge of our inheritance, with a view to the redemption of God's own possession, to the praise of His glory" (NASB).

The final phrase, "in our hearts," makes the guarantee very personal and one of utter conviction. We like the translation of the NIV above.

When Paul's integrity was called into question, he did not argue nor did he have hurt feelings. He simply appealed to the Son of God, the promises of God in Christ Jesus and the wonderful and eternal activity of the Triune God in behalf of him, his helpers, and all the Corinthian believers. Paul is quietly asking: "If I am fickle, what about God Himself and His message which I have been preaching?" This is the way the maligned pastor should answer his parishioners. That's the way Paul did it when he was falsely accused by the Galatians and the Corinthians.


Adapted from Exegetical Notes, Series B, Festival Season Sundays Epistle Texts, by Harold H. Buls, Concordia Theological Seminary Press: Ft Wayne IN, 1987, pp. 54-56. Used with permission.

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