1 Corinthians 2:3
And I was with you in weakness, and in fear, and in much trembling.
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)
(3) And I was with you.—To show that the real force of his teaching lay in its subject-matter, and not in any power with which he may have proclaimed the gospel, the Apostle now dwells upon his own physical weakness. The “weakness and fear and trembling” of which St. Paul speaks here had in it probably a large element of that self-distrust which so noble and sensitive a nature would feel in the fulfilment of such an exalted mission as the preaching of the Cross. I cannot think, however, the allusion is only to that. There is, I believe, a reference also to what we may call a physical apprehension of danger. The bravest are not those who do not experience any sensation of fear, but rather those who keenly appreciate danger, who have an instinctive shrinking from it, and yet eventually by their moral might conquer this dread. There are traces of this element in St. Paul’s character to be found in several places, as, for example, in Acts 18:9, when the Lord encourages him when labouring at Corinth with the hopeful words, “Be not afraid;” again in Acts 23:11, when the terrible scene before Ananias had depressed him, the Lord is with him to strengthen him, “Be of good cheer, Paul;” and in Acts 27:24, when the angel of the Lord appears to him amid the storm and shipwreck, “Fear not, Paul.”

2:1-5 Christ, in his person, and offices, and sufferings, is the sum and substance of the gospel, and ought to be the great subject of a gospel minister's preaching, but not so as to leave out other parts of God's revealed truth and will. Paul preached the whole counsel of God. Few know the fear and trembling of faithful ministers, from a deep sense of their own weakness They know how insufficient they are, and are fearful for themselves. When nothing but Christ crucified is plainly preached, the success must be entirely from Divine power accompanying the word, and thus men are brought to believe, to the salvation of their souls.And I was with you - Paul continued there at least a year and six months. Acts 18:11.

In weakness - In conscious feebleness; diffident of my own powers, and not trusting to my own strength.

And in fear, and in much trembling - Paul was sensible that he had many enemies to encounter Acts 18:6.; and he was sensible of his own natural disadvantages as a public speaker, 2 Corinthians 10:10. He knew too, how much the Greeks valued a manly and elegant species of oratory; and he, therefore, delivered his message with deep and anxious solicitude as to the success. It was at this time, and in view of these circumstances, that the Lord spoke to him by night in a vision, and said, "be not afraid, but speak, and hold not thy peace; for I am with thee, and no man shall set on thee to hurt thee; for I have much people in this city," Acts 18:9-10. If Paul was conscious of weakness, well may other ministers be; and if Paul sometimes trembled in deep solicitude about the result of his message, well may other ministers tremble also. It was in such circumstances, and with such feelings, that the Lord met him to encourage him - And it is when other ministers feel thus, that the promises of the gospel are inestimably precious. We may add, that it is then, and then only, that they are successful. Notwithstanding all Paul's fears, he was successful there. And it is commonly, perhaps always, when ministers go to their work conscious of their own weakness; burdened with the weight of their message; diffident of their own powers; and deeply solicitous about the result of their labors, that God sends down His Spirit, and converts sinners to God. The most successful ministers have been men who have evinced most of this feeling; and most of the revivals of religion have commenced, and continued, just as ministers have preached, conscious of their own feebleness, distrusting their own powers, and looking to God for aid and strength.

3. I—the preacher: as 1Co 2:2 describes the subject, "Christ crucified," and 1Co 2:4 the mode of preaching: "my speech … not with enticing words," "but in demonstration of the Spirit."

weakness—personal and bodily (2Co 10:10; 12:7, 9; Ga 4:13).

trembling—(compare Php 2:12). Not personal fear, but a trembling anxiety to perform a duty; anxious conscientiousness, as proved by the contrast to "eye service" (Eph 6:5) [Conybeare and Howson].

Either in a weakness of style, I used a plain, low, intelligible style, studying rather to be understood by all than admired by any. Or in weakness of state, in a mean and low condition; for we read, Acts 18:3, that he wrought with his hands at Corinth; so Acts 20:34. Or it may be, in a weak state of body; or it may be he means humbleness of mind and modesty, which to worldly eyes looks like a weakness of mind. And in much fear and trembling, either with respect to the Jews, and the danger he was exposed to from them, or with respect to the greatness of his work, lest they should refuse the grace of the gospel, by him brought and offered to them. So as (saith he) you might see that all the work was God’s, I but a poor instrument, contemptible with respect to my outward quality, appearing poor and mean, in my phrase and style, and whole behaviour amongst you. And I was with you in weakness,.... Meaning either the weakness of his bodily presence, the contemptibleness of his voice, and the mean figure he made as a preacher among them, both with respect to the matter and manner of his ministry in the eyes of many; or his lowly and humble deportment among them, not exerting the power and authority Christ had given him as an apostle; but choosing rather to work with his own hands, as he did at Corinth, to minister to his own necessities, and those of others; or the many persecutions which he endured there for the sake of preaching a crucified Christ; and which he sometimes calls "infirmities"; see 2 Corinthians 12:9 wherefore it is added,

and in fear, and in much trembling: not only on account of the greatness and awfulness of the work in which he was engaged, and lest the souls he ministered unto should be drawn aside from the truth, and into a sinful compliance; but because of the violence of men against him, threatening his life, and lying in wait for it: hence, the Lord, to encourage him, spake in a vision to him, and bid him not be afraid, but boldly preach his Gospel, and not be silent; assuring him of his presence, and that no man should set on him to hurt him, for he had many chosen vessels there to call by his grace through his ministry, Acts 18:9 which no doubt greatly served to remove the fears and tremor that attended him.

And I was with you in {c} weakness, and in fear, and in much trembling.

(c) He contrasts weakness with excellency of words, and therefore joins with it fear and trembling, which are companions of true modesty, not such fear and trembling as terrify the conscience, but such as are contrary to vanity and pride.

EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)
1 Corinthians 2:3-4. After the probative sentence, 1 Corinthians 2:2, Paul takes up again the connection of 1 Corinthians 2:1, and that with the simple καί: And I for my part (with others it may have been different!) fell into weakness and into much fear and trembling among you (πρὸς ὑμ.; see on John 1:1).

γίγνεσθαι ἐν, to fall into a state, etc. (and to be in it); so Thuc. i. 78. 1; Plato, Prot. p. 314 C; Dem. p. 179, ult. Comp Luke 22:44; 1Ma 1:27; 2Ma 7:9; Hist. Sus. 8. We might also join πρὸς ὑμᾶς to ἐγενόμην, not, indeed, in the way in which Hofmann interprets it, as if for ἐγενόμην there stood ἤμην (Mark 14:49), but in the sense: I arrived among you (2 John 1:12, and see generally, Fritzsche, Ind. ad Lucian. Dial. Deor. p. 85; Nägelsbach on the Iliad, p. 295, ed. 3); 1 Corinthians 2:4, however, shows that what is here spoken of is not again (1 Corinthians 2:1) the coming thither, but the state when there.

The three phrases, ἀσθ., φόβος, and τρόμος, depict the deep bashfulness with which Paul was in Corinth, through his humble sense of the disproportion between his own powers and the great enterprise to which his conscientiousness kept him bound. In facing it he felt himself very weak, and was in fear and trembling. As for want of natural strength of will and determination, of which Hofmann speaks, there were no signs of anything of the kind in Paul, even judging from his experience at Athens; and no such weakness betrays itself in Acts 18:4-11. The connection forbids us from thinking, with Chrysostom, Theodoret, Theophylact, Erasmus, Cornelius a Lapide, Grotius, and others, of the sufferings and persecutions (ἀσθ.), and of the apprehension of dangers, which he had to undergo in Corinth; for the text hints nothing of persecutions and dangers, and these would not necessarily furnish the motive for simplicity in preaching (1 Corinthians 2:1; 1 Corinthians 2:4 f.), nay, might even excite to the greater rhetorical exertion. The weakness, etc., was of a deep ethical nature, being based on the entire renunciation of human wisdom and strength (1 Corinthians 2:5). Other exegetes wrongly understand ἀσθενεία even of bodily weakness, either generally sickliness (Rückert), or more especially weakness in the chest and voice (Storr, comp Rosenmüller).

φόβος κ. τρόμος] always denote with Paul (comp also Psalm 2:11) the deeply vivid and keen apprehension of humility, lest it should be unable to meet the emergency concerned. See 2 Corinthians 7:15; Php 2:12; Ephesians 6:5.

ὁ λόγος μου κ. τ. κήρυγμά μου] are indeed emphatically separated from each other by the repetition of the μου; but it is an arbitrary distinction to make the former of the two refer to the form, the latter to the contents (Heydenreich), or the former to the privata, the latter to the publica institutio (so Rückert and the majority of commentators). The former is the more general expression, the latter the particular: my speech generally (comp 2 Corinthians 10:10), and especially my public preaching.

οὐκ ἐν πειθοῖς σοφ. λόγοις] sc[337] ἦν, non versabatur in, did not move in the element of persuasive words of wisdom, such words as are philosophically arranged and thereby fitted to persuade. Πειθός is found nowhere else in the whole range of extant Greek literature, πιθανός being the word in use (Xen. Cyr. vi. 4. 5; Thuc. iv. 21; Dem. 928. 14; Josephus, Antt. viii. 9; and the passages from Plato in Ast, Lex. III. p. 102. Meineke, Menand. p. 222). Πειθός, however, is formed from πείθω by correct analogy as φειδός from φείδομαι, etc. Comp Salmasius, de ling. Hellenist, p. 86; Reiche, Comment. crit. I. p. 136 f. It was in all likelihood an adjective belonging only to the colloquial language of common life. Kypke, indeed (Obss. II. p. 193), would find some trace of it in Plato, Gorg. p. 493 A; but what we have there is a play on the words τὸ πιθανόν and πίθος, a cask, which has no connection whatever with πειθός. Pasor and Schrader make πειθοῖς to be the dative plural of πειθώ, suada, and what follows to be in apposition to it: in persuasions, in words of wisdom. But the plural of πειθώ also has no existence; and how abrupt such an apposition would be, as well as wholly at variance with the parallel in 1 Corinthians 2:13! The following are simply conjectures (comp the critical remarks): Beza and Erasmus Schmid (after Eusebius), ἐν πειθοῖ σοφίας λόγων; Grotius, ἐν πιστοῖς κ.τ.λ[340]; Valckenaer, Klose, and Kühn (Commentat. a[341] 1 Cor. ii. 1–5, Lips. 1784), ἐν πιθανοῖς or ΠΕΙΘΑΝΟῖς Κ.Τ.Λ[342] (comp also Alberti, Schediasm. p. 105); Alberti, ἐν πειθοῦς (suadae) σ. λόγοις, or (so, too, Semler, Flatt, Rinck, Fritzsche in the Hall. Lit. Zeit. 1840, Nr. 100) ἐν πειθοῖ σοφίας (without λόγοις).

ἐν ἀποδείξει πνεύματος κ. δυνάμεως] Without there being any necessity for explaining the two genitives by a ἓν διὰ δυοῖν as equivalent to πνεύματος δυνατοῦ (so still Pott, Flatt, Billroth, Olshausen, Maier, with older expositors), the meaning may, according to our interpretation of ἀπόδειξις and to our taking the genitives in an objective or subjective sense, be either: so that I evinced Spirit and power (so Vatablus and others, with Pott and Billroth); or: so that Spirit and power made themselves known through me (Calvin: “in Pauli ministerio … quasi nuda Dei manus se proferebat”); or: so that Spirit and power gave the proof (Rückert, de Wette, Osiander, Neander, and Maier, following older commentators). The latter is most in keeping with the purposely-chosen expression ἀπόδειξις (found here only in the N. T.; Dem. 326. 4; Plato, Phaed. p. 77 C, Theaet. p. 162 E, and often; 3Ma 4:20), and with the significant relation to οὐκ ἐν πειθοῖς σ. λόγοις. Paul means the Holy Spirit (1 Corinthians 2:10 ff.) and the divine power communicating itself therein, 1 Corinthians 2:5 (Romans 1:16; 2 Corinthians 4:7; 1 Thessalonians 1:5), which wrought through his preaching upon the minds of men, persuading them of its truth,—the testimonium Spiritus Sancti internum.[344] At variance with the text is the view of several of the older expositors (following Origen, contra Celsum, i. p. 5), who refer πνεύματος to the oracles of the O. T., and δυνάμ. to the miracles of the apostle; as well as the view of Grotius, that the former applies to the prophecies, and the latter to the cures, by means of which Paul had given the ἀπόδειξις.

[337] c. scilicet.

[340] .τ.λ. καὶ τὰ λοιπά.

[341] d refers to the note of the commentator or editor named on the particular passage.

[342] .τ.λ. καὶ τὰ λοιπά.

[344] Theophylact is right in supposing as regards πνεύματος: ἀῤῥήτῳ τινὶ τρόπῳ πίστιν ἐνεποίει τοῖς ἀκούουσι. He makes δυνάμεως, however, apply to the miracles, as does Theodoret also, who takes the two elements together, and explains the clause of the θαυματουργία τοῦ πνεύματος. So, too, in substance, Chrysostom, according to whom it is by πνεύματος that the miracles are made to appear as true miracles.1 Corinthians 2:3. “In weakness”: cf. 1 Corinthians 1:25; 1 Corinthians 1:27; also 2 Corinthians 10:10; 2 Corinthians 13:3 f. This condition was bodily—the Cor[304] had received an impression of Paul’s physical feebleness; but the phrase expresses, more broadly, his conscious want of resources for the task before him (cf. 2 Corinthians 2:16; 2 Corinthians 3:5). Hence he continues, “and in fear and in much trembling”—the inward emotion and its visible expression (see parls.). P. stood before the Cor[305] at first a timid, shaken man: on the causes see Introd., ch. 1

[304] Corinth, Corinthian or Corinthians.

[305] Corinth, Corinthian or Corinthians.

For γίνομαι ἐν (versari in), to be in a state of, cf. parls.—πρὸς ὑμᾶς qualifies the whole foregoing sentence: “I was weak, timid, trembling before you (when I addressed you)”: ἐγενόμηνπρὸς ὑμᾶς might be construed together, ἐγενόμην becoming a vb[306] of motion—“I came to (and was amongst) you in weakness,” etc. (Ed[307], as in 1 Corinthians 16:10); this would, however, needlessly repeat 1 Corinthians 2:1.

[306] verb

[307] T. C. Edwards’ Commentary on the First Ep. to the Corinthians.3. And I was with you in weakness] No personal advantages assisted his preaching: no eloquence, save that of deep conviction; no self-confidence; nothing but self-mistrust, anxiety, the deepest sense of unworthiness, combined with an infirmity of body, which was a great trial to the Apostle, and of which he makes frequent mention. See 2 Corinthians 10:10; 2 Corinthians 11:30; 2 Corinthians 12:5; 2 Corinthians 12:7; 2 Corinthians 12:9-10; Galatians 4:13-14.1 Corinthians 2:3. Καὶ ἐγὼ, and I) The antithesis is, my speech, 1 Corinthians 2:4; and, to know, 1 Corinthians 2:2. For he describes the subject [1 Corinthians 2:2, to know Christ crucified], the preacher [1 Corinthians 2:3, and I], the mode of speaking [1 Corinthians 2:4, my speech—not with enticing words].—ἀσθενείᾳ, in weakness) It is opposed to, power [1 Corinthians 2:4]. We must not suppose that the apostle’s state of mind was always pleasant and quite free from all perturbations, 2 Corinthians 7:5; 2 Corinthians 11:30; Galatians 4:13.—καὶ ἐν φόβῳ καὶ ἐν τρὁμῳ πολλῷ, and in fear and in much trembling) This is a proverbial saying, and denotes the fear, which abounds to such a degree as even to fall upon the body and its gestures and movements, Mark 5:33; Ephesians 6:5; Php 2:12; LXX., Deuteronomy 11:25. So Isaiah 19:16, LXX., ἔσονται ἐν φόβῳ καὶ ἐν τρόμῳ, “They shall be in fear and trembling.”[17] The world admires any thing but this [the very contrary to all this].—ἐγενόμην,) I began to be, with you, towards you.

[17] An antithesis to “excellency of speech,” 1 Corinthians 2:1.—V. g.Verse 3. - I was with you; literally, I became or proved myself, towards you, as in 1 Corinthians 16:10. In weakness. St. Paul was physically weak and liable also to nervous weakness and depression (1 Corinthians 4:7-12; Galatians 4:13; 2 Corinthians 10:1, 10; 2 Corinthians 12:7, 10). He shows an occasional self distrust rising from the consciousness of personal infirmities. This enhances our sense of his heroic courage and endurance. Doubtless this physical weakness and nervous depression were connected with his "stake in the flesh," which seems to have been an acute and distressing form of ophthalmia, accompanied with cerebral disturbance (see my 'Life of St. Paul,' 1:215-221). In fear, and in much trembling. Probably the words are even literally true, though they are a common phrase (2 Corinthians 7:15; Philippians 2:12, 13; Ephesians 6:5). It must be remembered that in his first visit to Corinth St. Paul had gone through stormy and troubled days (Acts 18:1-12). I was with you (ἐγενόμην πρὸς ὑμᾶς)

I was is rather I became. I fell into a state of weakness, etc., after I had come among you. With you, i.e., in intercourse with. See on with God, John 1:1. The implication is that his condition grew out of the circumstances in which he found himself in Corinth.

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