Summary: The fact that Paul first made an unscheduled visit and then cancelled his second scheduled visit to Corinth gave his opponents another reason to criticize him. He had not carried out his promise.

March 22, 2014

Tom Lowe

The Second Epistle of Paul to the Corinthians

Lesson II.A.1.b: His Plan. (1:15-22)

2nd Corinthians 1:15-22 (NKJV)

15 And in this confidence I intended to come to you before, that you might have a second benefit—

16 to pass by way of you to Macedonia, to come again from Macedonia to you, and be helped by you on my way to Judea.

17 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?

18 But as God is faithful, our word to you was not Yes and No.

19 For the Son of God, Jesus Christ, who was preached among you by us—by me, Silvanus, and Timothy—was not Yes and No, but in Him was Yes.

20 For all the promises of God in Him are Yes, and in Him Amen, to the glory of God through us.

21 Now He who establishes us with you in Christ and has anointed us is God,

22 who also has sealed us and given us the Spirit in our hearts as a guarantee.


15 And in this confidence I intended to come to you before, that you might have a second benefit—

16 to pass by way of you to Macedonia, to come again from Macedonia to you, and be helped by you on my way to Judea.

And in this confidence I intended to come to you before. The confidence that Paul refers to is expressed in the preceding verse—“. . . that we are your boast as you also are ours, in the day of the Lord Jesus” (2 Cor. 1:14). Paul had based his travel plans on the confidence that the Corinthians were taking pride in him, just as he was in them. He had made a quick unscheduled visit to Corinth. But when he had arrived, he discovered quite a different atmosphere at that church. At least a portion of its members had rejected him and renounced his authority. Paul would later call this a “painful visit,” one which caused a breach in the Corinthians’ intimate relationship with him (2 Cor. 2:1{1]). This “painful visit” was quick because Paul had to hurry on to visit the churches in Macedonia. But while he was in Corinth, he had promised to visit the Corinthians on the way back (1 Cor. 16:5-7{23]).

Paul changed his travel plans, however. Instead of visiting Corinth on the way back from Macedonia and Achaia (present day Greece), Paul most likely sailed directly to Ephesus. Paul had made his original plans thinking that the church had solved most of its problems. When the time came for Paul’s scheduled trip to Corinth, however, the crises had not been fully solved (although progress was being made in some areas (see 2 Cor. 7:11-16{2]). So Paul wrote a letter instead (2 Cor. 2:3-4{3]; 7:8{4]). He believed that another visit would only make matters worse.

The fact that Paul first made an unscheduled visit and then cancelled his second scheduled visit to Corinth gave his opponents another reason to criticize him. He had not carried out his promise. Consequently, in 2 Corinthians, Paul spent much of the letter defending his honesty to the Corinthians (1 Cor. 1:12)

The Greek words Paul uses in these verses emphasize his sincerity. First, he wanted to communicate that he had made his plans carefully. Paul used a Greek word for “planned” that conveys a strong act of will—basically, a thought-out decision. Second, Paul wanted to emphasize the motives behind his actions, which he reveals in the rest of the verse . . .

That you might have a second benefit—the root of the Greek word for “benefit” is charis the word commonly translated as “grace.” Paul used charis in this context to mean “joy,” “kindness,” “pleasure,” or “benefit.” Thus he was saying that he would have two opportunities—because of the two visits—to show kindness to the Corinthians. In contrast, the visit turned out not to be a joy but a burden and a source of pain.

With his careful choice of words, Paul was trying to express his motives clearly to the Corinthians. He had made intentional plans for their mutual spiritual benefit. The abrupt change in Paul’s travel plans were for the same reason: He cancelled his visit to Corinth because he wanted the best for them.

The Corinthians had misread Paul, and in this letter he had to explain his motives. Paul’s predicament is a clear warning to all Christians. Christians not only must pursue what is right in all circumstances, but they should also make sure their course of action effectively communicates their sincere motives.

And be helped by you on my way to Judea. Paul hoped that the Corinthian believers would help him on his way to Judea—probably by their hospitality, lodging prayers, and an escort for part of his journey, but not by their money, since he later stated his determination not to accept funds from them (2 Cor. 11:7-10). The only exception would be their contribution to the offering he was accepting from all the churches for the poor in Jerusalem.

17 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?

Therefore, when I was planning this, did I do it lightly? Normally a change of plan would have disappointed his friends, but nothing worse. But in this case, Paul’s change of plans had given his accusers at Corinth reasons to complain about his conduct—and even to complain about his authority. By criticizing him for his erratic travel plans, Paul’s opponents were implying that he could not be trusted. If Paul couldn’t be trusted, then how could they believe his message?

The Greek word Paul used for “lightly” implies that he was quoting the charge of his opponents. The word denotes a person who makes promises he or she doesn’t intend to keep—a person who is fundamentally untrustworthy.

Or the things I plan, do I plan according to the flesh. After his first rhetorical question in this verse, Paul asked another rhetorical question that again quoted the accusations of his opponents. The allegation that Paul made his plans in a worldly manner(according to the flesh) was repeated by Paul in this letter (in v. 10:2{6]). According to Paul the “world” sharply contrasts with the Spirit (Gal. 5:16-17{7]). By the phrase “worldly manner,” Paul meant the standards and mores of this world—that is, human self-interest that governs the behavior of many people. A person governed by pure self-interest and selfish desires would say yes when it was convenient, but then renege on that promise when some other better opportunity afforded itself. This is the predictable behavior of a person who doesn’t say no to his or her own selfish desires.

Throughout his writings, Paul contrasted a person’s worldly desires with being controlled by the Spirit. The Spirit of God living within Christians help them break free from their own selfishness. The Spirit transforms Christians from within, giving them the motivation to act according to a higher standard and not mere self-interest. The higher standard is obedience to God. Paul had come to the Corinthians with the message of the Spirit—not merely a human message. He had proven his sincere motives by refusing to take money from them. Paul wasn’t acting out of self-interest. He wasn’t preaching to them for his own financial benefit. Instead, Paul—empowered by the Holy Spirit—was preaching a divine message, the refreshing truth in a world of falsehoods.

Paul’s opponents at Corinth had used Paul’s own sharp distinction between the world and the Spirit against him. They had labeled his actions as being motivated by the world’s standards. This accusation was in direct contradiction to Paul’s own claim in 1 Corinthians that his preaching was not from himself or any other human authority but from the Spirit of God (1 Cor. 2:4). Labeling his actions as coming from worldly reasoning was a direct assault on Paul’s spiritual authority. These serious accusations circulating in Corinth was the reason why Paul had to write 2 Corinthians. In essence, this letter is a passionate defense of Paul’s apostolic authority and the truth of his message.

That with me there should be Yes, Yes, and No, No? Paul’s original travel plans never came to pass. He journeyed from Ephesus to Troas, and when he did not find Titus there, he went directly to Macedonia, omitting Corinth from his itinerary. So, Paul’s change in travel plans led to two charges being leveled against him: (a) He was vacillating; he was not serious and responsible in his statements and plans. (b) He planned according to the flesh, or as the RSV appropriately puts it, like a worldly man who acts without principle, and in a selfish, God-ignoring spirit. The result of such irresponsible and worldly decisions was that he said yes and no at once, or more likely, said “yes” at one time and arbitrarily changed to “no” in the next breath.

18 But as God is faithful, our word to you was not Yes and No.

19 For the Son of God, Jesus Christ, who was preached among you by us—by me, Silvanus, and Timothy—was not Yes and No, but in Him was Yes.

The charges against him (v. 7), hurts Paul so much, and are so serious, that in his reply, somewhat as is in verse 23[16], he puts himself under an oath. He swears by the faithfulness of God that his statements to the Corinthians have not alternated arbitrarily between yes and no.

But as God is faithful, our word to you was not Yes and No. But as God is faithful is an oath like “God is my witness.” Here our word refers to the doctrine that Paul preaches, but may be extended to include all communications he made with them, including the announcement of his travel plans. Instead of immediately answering his opponent’s criticism of his behavior Paul addressed the fundamental problem at Corinth: the believers in Corinth were questioning the authenticity of Paul’s message to them. Paul clearly saw what was at stake. Questioning the motives and honesty of the messenger would eventually lead to questioning the truth of the message.

Instead of defending himself, Paul reminded the Corinthians of God’s faithfulness. There was no unfaithfulness in God. His promises would be fulfilled. There would be no wavering between “yes” and “no.” Jesus Christ was the primary example of this. All of God’s promises concerning the Messiah, or the Savior of Israel, were fulfilled in Christ. Thus, “in Him it is always ‘yes.’” Jesus was completely faithful in His ministry, fulfilling every promise God had made. He never sinned (1 Pe. 3:18{9]). He faithfully and obediently died for all humanity (Heb. 2:9{10]). And now he faithfully intercedes for all who believe (Rom. 8:34{11]; Heb. 4:14-15). Jesus is the embodiment of God’s faithfulness.

For the Son of God, Jesus Christ, who was preached among you by us—by me, Silvanus, and Timothy. “Silvanus” is the Latin name for Silas, Paul’s companion on his second missionary journey (Acts 16-18) and fellow preacher at Corinth. After reminding the Corinthians of Jesus’ faithfulness in everything, Paul employed a common line of argument in the first century, an argument from the greater to the lesser. If Jesus had proved Himself faithful, then Jesus’ appointed messengers—Paul, Timothy, and Silas—would certainly be fruitfully and trustworthy. Paul had shown his faithfulness as a messenger of Christ by not wavering in his preaching. He had always preached Christ to the Corinthians. The fact that Paul consistently preached Christ—as he had with them—meant that he would be trustworthy in smaller thing—such as travel plans

Was not Yes and No, but in Him was Yes. The argument was that no one who preaches Jesus Christ in the Spirit could possibly act as his critics had accused him.

20 For all the promises of God in Him are Yes, and in Him Amen, to the glory of God through us.

For all the promises of God in Him are Yes, and in Him Amen. This verse reiterated Paul’s point: Christ has fulfilled all of God’s promises. The promises He fulfilled are those given to Israel as recorded in the Old Testament. His earthly ministry is an example of God’s faithfulness to His chosen people. God had promised He would provide a Savior, and He did. Christ faithfully and obediently said “yes” to God and His great promises. Israel was to be God’s witness in the world, and Israel’s mission reached its climax and fulfillment in the coming of Christ and the emergence of the church.

As he did in the beginning of this letter (v. 1:3{13]), Paul once again quoted from first century liturgy. This time it is the Amen. The frequent use of this Old Testament Hebrew word in the letters of the New Testament indicates that first century Christians used this word in their worship services (see 1:20; Rom. 1:25; 9:5; 11:36; 15:33; 16:20, 27; 1 Cor. 14:16; 16:24; Gal. 1:5). The Hebrew word amen conveys a firm agreement with what has been said. The Israelites used this word to express their agreement to God’s law and its blessings and curses (Deut. 27:15). In this verse Paul explains why Christians use the word. It is the way that Christians acknowledge that Jesus has fulfilled all of God’s promises. We finish our prayers by saying, “through Jesus Christ our Lord, Amen.” When we have read scripture we frequently conclude it by saying, “Amen.” Amen means, So let it be, and the great truth is that it is not just a formality and a bit of ritual; it is the word that expresses confidence that we can offer our prayers with every confidence in God and can appropriate with confidence all His great promises, because Jesus is the guarantee that our prayers will be heard and that all the great promises are true. “Jesus is the great “Amen” (Rev. 3:14{14]) because He has been faithful to God. When Christians say “amen” they are joining Jesus in saying “Yes” to God. By doing this, Christians everywhere bring glory to God. They give God the proper respect and honor that He deserves. With this type of reasoning, Paul made it clear that his own integrity stood on Christ’s integrity because his message was consistently Christ’s Gospel.

We open our Bibles at a promise, we look up to God, and God says, “You can have all that through Christ.” Trusting Christ, we say, “Amen” to God. God speaks through Christ, and we believe in Christ; Christ reaches down and faith stretches up, and every promise of God is fulfilled in Jesus Christ. In and through Him we appropriate and take them to ourselves and say, “Yes Lord, I trust you.” This is the believing yes.

To the glory of God through us. The two words through us, remind the Corinthians that it was through the preaching of men like Sylvanus, Timothy, and Paul that they had ever come to claim the promises of God in Christ. If Paul was a fraud as his enemies charged, then could it be that God had used a cheat and a liar to affect such marvelous results? The answer, of course, is no.

Paul’s approach to his opponents in Corinth is enlightening. In the beginning of the letter, he resisted the temptation to defend his actions and attack his opponents. Instead he began his letter by praising God (see 1:3-11). With these praises, Paul spoke to the Corinthians. It was only because of Jesus that they were connected in the first place (1:6{15], 14). Christ had joined Paul and the Corinthians together in the struggle to preach and live out the truth of the Gospel. Their fervent prayers benefitted him, and his sufferings for the Gospel in Asia in turn would benefit them (1:6{15], 11). Their lives were intrinsically inseparably intertwined in order to bring praise and glory to God. In other words, Paul—in this troublesome situation—emphasized the common ground between him and the Corinthians: Jesus Christ and his message. Paul refused to discuss the differences between them until he had reminded the Corinthians of the greater cause of Christ to which they were both dedicated.

Differences will occur in any church. Disputes will break out. In mediating these disputes, the first thing to do is to focus on the primary purpose of the church in the beginning: to spread the Gospel and bring glory to God. Many times when the members resolutely focus on their common Savior, differences begin to fade into the background. The church becomes what it was meant to be: a community of believers who consciously bring glory to God.

21 Now He who establishes us with you in Christ and has anointed us is God,

22 who also has sealed us and given us the Spirit in our hearts as a guarantee.

Now He who establishes us with you in Christ. In these two verses, Paul described how he, his coworkers—Timothy, and Silas—and the Corinthians themselves were all tied together. They had all received God’s Spirit, an indication they all belonged to God through Christ. It was probably this thought that caused Paul to describe himself as a slave of Christ: “Paul, a servant of Christ Jesus, called to be an apostle and set apart for the gospel of God” (Rom. 1:1). It was God’s undeniable work in the lives of all of them that guaranteed Paul’s trustworthiness in such things as his travel plans (see 1:23{16]).

These two verses use four key items to describe how God made them all part of His family.

1. The first, “establishes” (better, “stands firm”), is derived from legal terminology. In the first century Mediterranean world, this was a technical word for a legal guarantee that would confirm a sale as valid. All terms of the sale would be carried out as promised. In the New Testament, the word is used for the miraculous sign and spiritual gifts that confirmed that God was indeed working at that time and place (see Mark 16:20; 1 Cor. 1:6). Here Paul used the word to express that it is God Himself who guarantees the salvation of those who believe in Jesus. Having the guarantee or confirmation of God Almighty would be the greatest amount of security a person could ask for—especially since the Lord God had already proven His faithfulness to His promises in the life of Jesus Christ.

And has anointed us is God, who also has sealed us and given us the Spirit in our hearts as a guarantee.

2. The second word “anointed,” was derived from an Old Testament concept. In the Old Testament, prophets, priests, and kings were anointed to certify their commission to be representatives of God to the Israelites (see Ex. 28:41; 1 Sam. 15:1; 1 Ki. 19:16{18]). The Hebrew word for “anointed” was mashiakh (the English word “Messiah” is derived from this word). The Hebrew word was eventually used to refer to the promised Savior of the Israelites. The Greek translation of the Hebrew word mashiakh is the word christos, or in English, “Christ.” So when Christians speak of Jesus as the Christ, they are confessing Him as the promised Messiah of the Old Testament. Here Paul used the Greek verb chrio for “anointed” to speak of the anointing of God’s spirit. Luke, the author of Acts, used this Greek word in the same way: to speak of the Spirit’s power coming on a person (see Luke 4:18{21]; Acts 10:38). All Christians are anointed by the Spirit. As we yield to the Spirit, He enables us to serve God and to live godly lives. He gives us the special spiritual discernment that we need to serve God acceptably (1 Jn. 2:20, 27{22]).

3. The third word Paul used for salvation, “sealed,” was derived from the commercial language of the first century. The Greek word for “seal” referred to the practice of sealing letters so that they would not be tampered with. The technique consisted of placing soft wax on a document and imprinting the wax with a seal that indicated authorship or ownership, authenticity, and protection. In the first century, a seal might also be used for the packages containing money. A first-century seal was similar to the present-day brand that is burned on the hide of an animal. The brand identifies the owner of the animal and warns others against tampering with this animal. Many people do essentially the same thing when they engrave serial numbers into their valuables as a mark of their owner ship of those items.

Paul used this image of a seal or brand for Christians also. God Himself has sealed, or stamped on us, His mark of ownership when He gave us his Spirit to live in us (see Paul’s use of this word in Ephesians 1:13; 4:30). My friend, if you are a little sheep of his, you are not going to get lost. Oh, you may stray away, but He will come to find you. The Holy Spirit is pictured in Luke’s parable as sweeping the floor, looking for the lost coin until she found it (Luke 15:8).

4. Paul used another legal term of his day “guarantee” (“deposit). The Greek word for “deposit” refers to the down payment that a buyer will give a seller to declare the intent of paying the full amount. In our credit-driven modern society, we pay down payments or earnest money on everything from a house to a coat placed on layaway. Here and Ephesians 1:14{20], Paul used this word to refer to the Holy Spirit. God gives His Spirit to His children as a down payment. It is our guarantee that one day we shall be with Him in heaven and possess glorified bodies (see Eph. 1:14{20]). He enables us to enjoy the blessings of heaven in our hearts today! Because of the indwelling Holy Spirit Paul was able to have a clear conscience and face misunderstandings with love and patience. If you live to please people, misunderstandings will depress you; but if you live to please God, you can face misunderstandings with faith and courage.

With these four key terms, Paul reiterates again and again to whom he, along with the Corinthians, belong. They are owned by God, who has not only placed the down payment of His own Spirit in their hearts but also has guaranteed, sealed, and anointed them in Christ. These four assurances are the basis for a certainty that he or she is saved and will live with God forever in heaven. It is the Spirit of God, not a Christian’s works that guarantee a believer’s salvation. People do not know that we are Christians by some badge that we wear, but only by the evidences of a Spirit-filled life. The presence of the Holy Spirit is the believer’s confirmation that what God has begun He will complete. Present redemption is only a foretaste of what eternity holds: “Not only so, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for our adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies” (Rom, 8:23).

The Holy Spirit enables us to serve others, not as “spiritual dictators” who tell others what to do, but as servants who seek to help others grow. The false teachers who entered the Corinthian church were guilty of being dictators (see 2 Cor. 11), and this had turned the hearts of the people away from Paul, who had sacrificed so much for them. It takes the Holy Spirit to lead and guide us into all truth. You have the Holy Spirit to teach you, Christian friend, and He alone can open the Word of God to you. That is the reason this is a miracle book. The Lord Jesus said to His own men, “I have much more to say to you, more than you can now bear. But when he, the Spirit of truth, comes, he will guide you into all truth. He will not speak on his own; he will speak only what he hears, and he will tell you what is yet to come” (Jn. 16:12-13). He wants to guide you into all truth.

When God saves a man, He gives him the indwelling Holy Spirit. Just as surely as a man receives the Spirit, so surely will he enter into the full inheritance of God. The same kind of blessings which the Holy Spirit makes real in our lives today will be ours in full measure in a day yet in the future.


{1] (2 Cor 2:1) But I determined this within myself, that I would not come again to you in sorrow.

{2] (2 Cor. 7:11-16) See what this godly sorrow has produced in you: what earnestness, what eagerness to clear yourselves, what indignation, what alarm, what longing, what concern, what readiness to see justice done. At every point you have proved yourselves to be innocent in this matter. So even though I wrote to you, it was not on account of the one who did the wrong or of the injured party, but rather that before God you could see for yourselves how devoted to us you are. By all this we are encouraged. In addition to our own encouragement, we were especially delighted to see how happy Titus was, because his spirit has been refreshed by all of you. I had boasted to him about you, and you have not embarrassed me. But just as everything we said to you was true, so our boasting about you to Titus has proved to be true as well. And his affection for you is all the greater when he remembers that you were all obedient, receiving him with fear and trembling. I am glad I can have complete confidence in you.

{3] (2 Cor. 2:3-4) I wrote as I did so that when I came I should not be distressed by those who ought to make me rejoice. I had confidence in all of you, that you would all share my joy. For I wrote you out of great distress and anguish of heart and with many tears, not to grieve you but to let you know the depth of my love for you.

{4] (2 Cor. 7:8) Even if I caused you sorrow by my letter, I do not regret it. Though I did regret it--I see that my letter hurt you, but only for a little while

{5] (2 Cor. 1:12) Now this is our boast: Our conscience testifies that we have conducted ourselves in the world, and especially in our relations with you, in the holiness and sincerity that are from God. We have done so not according to worldly wisdom but according to God's grace.

{6] (2 Cor. 10:2) I beg you that when I come I may not have to be as bold as I expect to be toward some people who think that we live by the standards of this world.

{7] (Gal. 5:16-17) So I say, live by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the sinful nature. For the sinful nature desires what is contrary to the Spirit, and the Spirit what is contrary to the sinful nature. They are in conflict with each other, so that you do not do what you want.

{8] (1 Cor. 2:4) My message and my preaching were not with wise and persuasive words, but with a demonstration of the Spirit's power,

{9] (1 Pe. 3:18) For Christ died for sins once for all, the righteous for the unrighteous, to bring you to God. He was put to death in the body but made alive by the Spirit,

{10] (Heb. 2:9) But we see Jesus, who was made a little lower than the angels, now crowned with glory and honor because he suffered death, so that by the grace of God he might taste death for everyone.

{11] (Rom. 8:34) Who is he that condemns? Christ Jesus, who died—more than that, who was raised to life—is at the right hand of God and is also interceding for us.

{12] (Heb. 4:14-15) Therefore, since we have a great high priest who has gone through the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold firmly to the faith we profess. For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are—yet was without sin.

{13] (2 Cor. 1:3) Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort,

{14] (Rev. 3:14) To the angel of the church in Laodicea write: These are the words of the Amen, the faithful and true witness, the ruler of God's creation.

{15] (2 Cor. 1:6) If we are distressed, it is for your comfort and salvation; if we are comforted, it is for your comfort, which produces in you patient endurance of the same sufferings we suffer.

{16] (2 Cor. 1:23) I call God as my witness that it was in order to spare you that I did not return to Corinth.

{17] (Mark 16:20) Then the disciples went out and preached everywhere, and the Lord worked with them and confirmed his word by the signs that accompanied it.

{18] (1 Ki. 19:16) Also, anoint Jehu son of Nimshi king over Israel, and anoint Elisha son of Shaphat from Abel Meholah to succeed you as prophet.

{19] (Acts 10:38) how God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit and power, and how he went around doing good and healing all who were under the power of the devil, because God was with him.

{20] (Eph. 1:14) who is a deposit guaranteeing our inheritance until the redemption of those who are God's possession--to the praise of his glory.

{21] (Luke 4:18) "The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because he has anointed me to preach good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to release the oppressed,

{22] (1 Jn. 2:20, 27) But you have an anointing from the Holy One, and all of you know the truth. . . As for you, the anointing you received from him remains in you, and you do not need anyone to teach you. But as his anointing teaches you about all things and as that anointing is real, not counterfeit--just as it has taught you, remain in him.

{23] (1 Cor. 16:5-7) After I go through Macedonia, I will come to you--for I will be going through Macedonia. Perhaps I will stay with you awhile, or even spend the winter, so that you can help me on my journey, wherever I go. I do not want to see you now and make only a passing visit; I hope to spend some time with you, if the Lord permits.