In 2 Cor. 1:17-22, the unexpected change in Paul’s travel plans left him susceptible to criticisms of indecisiveness, unreliability, and dishonesty (1:17). But he reassures the Corinthians that he is not as fickle and inconsistent as some may have charged; he is not in the habit of making contradictory and untruthful statements, like “Yes and No” at the same time (1:17a-19). Just as God is faithful (1:18a), Paul, Silvanus (a.k.a. Silas), and Timothy – the three missionaries who first preached “God’s Son, Jesus Christ” in Corinth (1:19a; cf. Acts 18:5) – proved themselves as men of integrity and faithfulness (cf. 1 Thess. 2:1-13). They communicated a positive (“Yes”) message “in him [Christ]” (1:19b); God’s promises are affirmative (“Yes”) “in him [Christ]” (1:20a) and “amen” (an affirmation of truth = “so be it” or “truly”) “in him [Christ]” (1:20b), “for the glory of God through us” (1:20c) – not self-promoters but genuinely seeking to honor God – and God is confirming “us” [the teachers] with “you” [the Corinthian recipients] “in Christ” (1:21a).
Furthermore, God is the one having anointed [χρίω]1 “us” (1:21b), and the one having sealed [σφραγίζω]2 “us,” and the one having given “us” the Spirit in our hearts as a guarantee [ἀρραβών]3 (1:22) – contextually applicable to Paul, Silvanus, and Timothy (1:19) as distinct from “you” the Corinthian audience.
Attempting to identify those to whom these contrasting pronominal references apply, a number of commentators argue for nuances that fluctuate back and forth, particularly at 1:21-22. But this significantly disrupts the flow of thought and unnecessarily obscures an otherwise cohesive presentation. Since mentioning names is less common in 2 Corinthians than in other Pauline texts, the explicit naming of Paul, Timothy, and Silvanus (1:1, 19) is not without significance in the context of the forty-seven first person plurals in chapter 1. Although three of these betray an inclusive meaning (1:2, 3, 14c),4 the rest are distinguished from “you” and almost certainly do not apply to the readers.
This is the only occurrence in Paul’s writings of the verb χρίω (“anoint”), and elsewhere in the NT it is always applied to Christ [Χριστός = Anointed One] (Luke 4:18; Acts 4:27; 10:38; Heb. 1:9). Whatever the anointing is, it is something that God has done for these first-century evangelists in conjunction with divine confirmation, sealing, and impartation of the Spirit.
Christ had been “anointed” with the Spirit, enabling him to preach the gospel [εὐαγγελίζω = “announce glad tidings”] and to heal (Luke 4:18; Acts 10:38; cf. Isa. 61:1).5 The early disciples were commissioned to proclaim [εὐαγγελίζω] the gospel [εὐαγγέλιον] (Mark 16:15; Acts 5:42; 8:4, 12; etc.) and, in the absence of the compete NT, to confirm the message with accompanying miraculous signs (Mark 16:20; Acts 8:4-8; etc.).
In 2 Corinthians the readers need to understand [1:13-14] that their first preachers (Paul, Silvanus, Timothy) have divine confirmation via God’s Spirit (1:21), irrespective of any false allegations against them. They “also” (καί) have been sealed [σφραγίζω – authenticated as belonging to and representing God] (1:22a), like all other Christians (Eph. 1:13; 4:30), and have been given the Spirit in their hearts as a guarantee [ἀρραβών] (1:22b), like all other Christians (2 Cor. 5:5; Eph. 1:14).6
--Kevin L. Moore
1 The verb χρίω (“anoint”) appears five times in the NT, and only here (2 Cor. 1:21) in Paul; elsewhere in Luke 4:18; Acts 4:27; 10:38; Heb. 1:9, all applied to Christ (the Anointed One). The noun χρίσμα (“anointing”) appears only in 1 John 2:20, 27 (see previous post).
2 The verb σφραγίζω (to “set a seal upon” and thus to “certify” or “authenticate”) occurs fifteen times in the NT, only once in the literal sense (Matt. 27:66). The metaphorical usage is mostly in John’s writings, esp. in Revelation (John 3:33; 6:27; Rev. 7:3, 4, 5, 8; 10:4; 20:3; 22:10), and four times in Paul (Rom. 15:28; 2 Cor. 1:22; Eph. 1:13; 4:30).
3 The noun ἀρραβών (an earnest, pledge, down-payment, security, guarantee) is employed in the NT only in the Pauline writings (2 Cor. 1:22; 5:5; Eph. 1:14).
4 Expressions like “our Lord” and “our Father” more naturally express the inclusion of all believers and not just the Corinthians.
5 In Heb. 1:9 (quotation of Psa. 45:7; cf. Isa. 61:1-3), Christ is metaphorically anointed with “the oil [ἔλαιον] of ecstatic joy [ἀγαλλίασις],” confirming his ministry and the inevitable gladness it brings (cf. Luke 1:14; Acts 2:46; 8:8; Rom. 14:17; Gal. 5:22; 1 Thess. 2:20).
6 See God's Indwelling Spirit
Related Posts: Anointing in 1 John