The Participation of Comfort
you also joining in helping us through your prayers, so that thanks may be given by many persons on our behalf for the favor bestowed on us through the prayers of many. (1:11)
As noted in the previous point, the apostle was confident that God would continue to comfort him in the future. But he urged the Corinthians to participate in that gracious work of God by joining in helping him through their prayers. Paul understood, as did James, that “the effective prayer of a righteous man can accomplish much” (James 5:16). Therefore he viewed the prayers of the saints as crucial to his ministry. He implored the believers at Rome, “Now I urge you, brethren, by our Lord Jesus Christ and by the love of the Spirit, to strive together with me in your prayers to God for me” (Rom. 15:30). To the Ephesians he wrote, “With all prayer and petition pray at all times in the Spirit, and with this in view, be on the alert with all perseverance and petition for all the saints, and pray on my behalf, that utterance may be given to me in the opening of my mouth, to make known with boldness the mystery of the gospel” (Eph. 6:18–19; cf. Col. 4:3; 2 Thess. 3:1). He wrote confidently to the Philippians, “I know that this will turn out for my deliverance through your prayers and the provision of the Spirit of Jesus Christ” (Phil. 1:19; cf. Philem. 22). In 1 Thessalonians 5:25 he said simply, “Brethren, pray for us.” Paul understood the balance between God’s sovereign purpose and believers’ responsibility.
In prayer, human impotence casts itself at the feet of divine omnipotence. When God’s people intercede for each other, His power and sovereign purposes are realized. Thus, the purpose of prayer is not to manipulate God but to exalt His power and submit to His will. When God answered the Corinthians’ prayers for Paul, thanks would be given by many persons on the apostle’s behalf for the favor bestowed on him through the prayers of many. Prayer, like everything else in a Christian’s life, is to glorify God (cf. 1 Cor. 10:31).
Katharina von Schlegel’s magnificent hymn “Be Still, My Soul” expresses the confident hope of every believer in God’s comfort:
Be still my soul: the Lord is on thy side;
Bear patiently the cross of grief or pain.
Leave to thy God to order and provide;
In ev’ry change He faithful will remain.
Be still, my soul: thy best, thy heavenly Friend
Thro’ thorny ways leads to a joyful end.
Be still, my soul: thy God doth undertake
To guide the future as He has the past.
Thy hope, thy confidence let nothing shake;
All now mysterious shall be bright at last.
Be still, my soul: the waves and winds still know
His voice who ruled them while He dwelt below.
Be still, my soul: the hour is hastening on
When we shall be forever with the Lord,
When disappointment, grief, and fear are gone,
Sorrow forgot, love’s purest joys restored.
Be still, my soul: when change and tears are past,
All safe and blessed we shall meet at last.
11 The genitive absolute συνυπουργούντων καὶ ὑμῶν (synypourgountōn [GK 5348] kai hymōn) may be conditional in sense: “provided you, too, work together with us.” The bestowal of divine favor is intimately related to the offering of human prayer (Php 1:19; Phm 22). And the verb implies that prayer is cooperative work (Ro 15:30), expressive of the interdependence of the members of Christ’s body (1 Co 12:25–26).
1:11 / Paul has set his hope on God for continued deliverance from death (v. 10b). In verse 11a, Paul indirectly requests the Corinthians to pray for him in his ongoing apostolic ministry. The Corinthians’ prayers function not only as entreaty on behalf of the apostle for deliverance from death but also as a sign of solidarity with him in the face of opposition (see also Rom. 15:30–31; Phil. 1:19). Prayer is just one way to achieve unity (cf. also 1 Thess. 5:25; Phlm. 22).
In verse 11b the ultimate purpose (hina, lit., “in order that”) of the Corinthians’ prayers on behalf of the apostle is doxological, that is, praise to God for Paul’s ministry. By intervening and saving Paul from death, God enabled him to continue ministering. Therefore, when they meet together for worship, many believers should give thanks to God for Paul’s deliverance, which is here called a gracious favor (charisma; cf. 12:9). Even Paul’s most severe crisis must contribute to the praise of God. Certainly Paul’s approach to his own apostolic experience of suffering and dying differs sharply from that of his opponents in Corinth, who believe that these things demonstrate that Paul is an apostolic pretender, a fraud (cf. 5:16).
11. As also you help us through your prayers for us. Then from many people thanks may be expressed on our behalf for the blessing granted us through the prayers of many people.
This text presents a number of difficulties that are apparent from the intricate word order. First, should the first clause of verse 11 serve as the conclusion to verse 10? The context seems to favor such a linkage. Next, the verse repeats the phrase from/of many people. Some translators change the second occurrence to “in answer to many prayers” (RSV), “because of their many prayers” (NCV), or “through many” (NKJV). Third, is Paul accommodating himself to the Jewish custom of avoiding the use of the divine name? His wording implies that God has granted a blessing to those who are praying (NCV, NJB, REB, SEB).
- “As also you help us through your prayers for us.” Paul commends the readers for being prayer warriors on his behalf (compare Rom. 15:30; Phil. 1:19). He alludes to the bond of fellowship they have by praying for one another. The act of helping is a continuous one and points to two parties cooperating in a certain cause, which in this case is praying. The Corinthians are asking God to rescue Paul from mortal danger and to do so continually. The Greek gives the word prayer in the singular, but English usage demands the plural.
- “Then from many people thanks may be expressed on our behalf.” Those people who prayed for Paul’s deliverance could now with Paul thank God (4:15; 9:11–12) The Greek has a word that literally means “faces” but is translated “persons.” We are not amiss, however, to see that the Greek term portrays faces lifted upward to God in prayer.
- “For the blessing granted us through the prayers of many people.” The blessing that God granted refers to Paul’s rescue from lethal danger. The Greek gives the term charisma, which in the Corinthian correspondence usually signifies a spiritual gift. But here Paul has in mind the gift of restoring his life by rescuing him from the clutches of death. Finally, the Greek text is remarkably brief by saving “through many.” This phrase can mean either “many people” or “many prayers.” Of the two translations, the first one is favored because Paul wants to emphasize the involvement of his readers.
11. Paul “remembers that God acts through the prayers of his people” (Barrett, 67) in a sequence of thought similar to Phil 1:19. The picturesque verb (συνυπουργούντων; lit., “working together to support [me]”), a participle which asv translates as an implied imperative (“you also must help us by prayer,” but tev renders the verb form as a clause of attendant circumstances, “as you help us by means of your prayers”; our translation offers a third option), recalls the part played by the intercessions of Paul’s friends who stood with him in his apostolic mission (2 Thess 3:1–3). The value Paul set upon these prayers of supplication is seen in the consequence: many people will have occasion to give thanks to God for the “favor” (χάρισμα; i.e., his deliverance [Dunn, Jesus and the Spirit, 206]) freely granted (εὐχαριστηθῇ) by God in answer to “the many,” i.e., the loyal Corinthians who have prayed for Paul. Normally we associate Paul’s prayers for his congregations with what he has to say regarding prayer; here it is their prayers for him that are praised. “The many” (οἱ πολλοί) suggests the majority of the Corinthian church who had recently declared their allegiance to the apostolic ministry in a time of testing and had dissociated themselves from the recalcitrant person(s) who had fomented a rebellion against Paul (2:6; 7:12). This exegesis, we submit, is preferable to that which sees two classes of persons in Paul’s word “many” (ἐκ πολλῶν … διὰ πολλῶν). If the text is not corrupt—a suggestion made because it looks overloaded and convoluted—Paul’s wording is deliberately emphatic in praising “the many” who were on his side. Otherwise, with Bratcher’s suggestion (Translator’s Guide, 12), we might think that Paul’s commendation of the first group of “many” is meant to influence a second group. So he translates: “Many people will pray [to God] for us, and God will answer their prayers and bless us. And so many [others] will thank God for blessing us.” But this seems a needless expedient. Cf. Baumert, Täglich Sterben, 106.
11. That the gift bestowed upon us through means of many persons. As there is some difficulty in Paul’s words, interpreters differ as to the meaning. I shall not spend time in setting aside the interpretations of others, nor indeed is there any need for this, provided only we are satisfied as to the true and proper meaning. He had said, that the prayers of the Corinthians would be an assistance to him. He now adds a second advantage that would accrue from it—a higher manifestation of God’s glory. “For whatever God will confer upon me,” says he, “being as it were obtained through means of many persons, will, also, by many be celebrated with praises:” or in this way—“Many will give thanks to God in my behalf, because, in affording help to me, he has favourably regarded the prayers, not merely of one but of many.” In the first place, while it is our duty to allow no favour from God to pass without rendering praise, it becomes us, nevertheless, more especially when our prayers have been favourably regarded by him, to acknowledge his mercy with thanksgiving, as he commands us to do in Psalm 50:15. Nor ought this to be merely where our own personal interest is concerned, but also where the welfare of the Church in general, or that of any one of our brethren is involved. Hence when we mutually pray one for another, and obtain our desire, the glory of God is so much the more set forth, inasmuch as we all acknowledge, with thanksgiving, God’s benefits—both those that are conferred publicly upon the whole Church, and also those that are bestowed privately upon individuals.
In this interpretation there is nothing forced; for as to the circumstance that in the Greek the article being introduced between the two clauses by many persons, and the gift conferred upon me appears to disjoin them, that has no force, as it is frequently found introduced between clauses that are connected with each other. Here, however, it is with propriety introduced in place of an adversative particle; for although it had come forth from many persons, it was nevertheless peculiar to Paul. To take the phrase διὰ πολλῶν (by means of many) in the neuter gender, as some do, is at variance with the connection of the passage.
It may, however, be asked, why he says From many persons, rather than From many men, and what is the meaning of the term person here? I answer, it is as though he had said—With respect to many. For the favour was conferred upon Paul in such a way, that it might be given to many. Hence, as God had respect to many, he says on that account, that many persons were the cause of it. Some Greek manuscripts have ὑπὲρ ὑμῶν—on your account; and although this appears to be at variance with Paul’s design, and the connection of the words, it may, nevertheless, be explained with propriety in this manner: “When God shall have heard you in behalf of my welfare, and that too for your own welfare, thanks will be given by many on your account.”
|12 For our rejoicing is this, the testimony of our conscience, that in simplicity and godly sincerity, not with fleshly wisdom, but by the grace of God, we have had our conversation in the world, and more abundantly to you-ward.
||12 Nam gloriatio nostra hæc est: testimonium conscientiæ nostræ, quod in simplicitate et puritate Dei, non in sapientia carnali, sed in gratia Dei versati sumus in mundo; abundantius autem erga vos.
|13 For we write none other things unto you than what ye read or acknowledge, and I trust ye shall acknowledge even to the end;
||13 Non enim alia scribimus vobis quam quæ recognoscitis vel etiam agnoscitis: spero autem, quod usque in finem agnoscetis:
|14 As also ye have acknowledged us in part, that we are your rejoicing, even as ye also are ours in the day of the Lord Jesus.
||14 Quemadmodum et agnovistis nos ex parte: siquidem gloriatio vestra sumus: sicuti et vos nostra in die Domini Iesu.
1:11 Here Paul generously assumes that the Corinthian Christians had been praying for him while he was going through this time of deep testing. Actually, many of the believers had become critical of the great apostle, and there could have been a serious question whether they were remembering him before the throne of grace at all. However, he is willing to give them the benefit of the doubt. The expression the gift granted to us through many refers to the gift of Paul’s deliverance which was brought about through the prayers of many persons. He sees his escape as a direct result of the intercession of the saints. He says that because many had prayed, many persons can now give thanks because their prayers were answered.
1:11 As Paul trusted the Lord and as the Corinthians prayed, God delivered him (v. 10). We should pray for one another so that thanks may be given. If many people intercede, many will thank God when He answers. Whenever we face difficulties, we should let others know so they can pray and God can be praised. Answers to prayer should always receive public praise, for our Deliverer deserves our adoration.
 MacArthur, J. F., Jr. (2003). 2 Corinthians (pp. 27–28). Chicago: Moody Publishers.
 Harris, M. J. (2008). 2 Corinthians. In T. Longman III &. Garland, David E. (Ed.), The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Romans–Galatians (Revised Edition) (Vol. 11, p. 445). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan.
 Scott, J. M. (2011). 2 Corinthians (p. 30). Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books.
 Kistemaker, S. J., & Hendriksen, W. (1953–2001). Exposition of the Second Epistle to the Corinthians (Vol. 19, pp. 50–51). Grand Rapids: Baker Book House.
 Martin, R. P. (1998). 2 Corinthians (Vol. 40, pp. 16–17). Dallas: Word, Incorporated.
 Calvin, J., & Pringle, J. (2010). Commentaries on the Epistles of Paul the Apostle to the Corinthians (Vol. 2, pp. 123–125). Bellingham, WA: Logos Bible Software.
 MacDonald, W. (1995). Believer’s Bible Commentary: Old and New Testaments. (A. Farstad, Ed.) (p. 1822). Nashville: Thomas Nelson.
 Radmacher, E. D., Allen, R. B., & House, H. W. (1999). Nelson’s new illustrated Bible commentary (pp. 1494–1495). Nashville: T. Nelson Publishers.