A Question I Was Asked:

"What Did Paul Mean By His Comments in 2 Corinthians 1:17?"

My Reply:

Okay, we need to start our consideration of this from verse 12. Paul states that the apostles had been careful to conduct themselves in a decent and worthy manner, that is, in their evangelism and work with the early Christian congregations. Paul states that they had purposely avoided worldly wisdom (verse 12), then he goes on to write about a change of his plans to visit the church at Corinth (verses 15-16). The point he makes in verse 17 is expressed this way (NIV),

'When I planned this, did I do it lightly? Or do I make my plans in a worldly manner so that in the same breath I say, "Yes, yes" and "No, no"?'

Paul's opponents at Corinth had been stirring up mischief against him and been suggesting that he was unreliable. As those of us who have studied Paul's writings in depth have noted, in response to criticism, he was a master of sarcasm! Now we can see why in verse 12 he had stated,

'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.'

He sarcastically uses two rhetorical questions in verse 17 (rhetorical questions are questions that don't expect a response),

'When I planned this, did I do it lightly?'

'Do I make my plans in a worldly manner so that in the same breath I say, "Yes, yes" and "No, no"?

In other words, Paul is saying, 'Do you expect my word to be unreliable as in the world?'

However, as is also very typical of Paul, he then turns defense into a opportunity for superb doctrinal teaching!

'But as surely as God is faithful, our message to you is not "Yes" and "No." 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." 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.' (verses 18-20).

Many centuries later certain strands of theology almost appeared to turn this teaching on it's head. Paul said that the evangelistic approach was "Yes" in Christ and not "Yes" and "No" - but much later certain uncompromising schools of theology almost seemed to say that it was "No" and "No" in Christ (or maybe "No" ...and a tiny little "yes").

But the specific point of a worldly unreliability in Paul's visiting plans is rejected by Paul. Paul's plan to visit Corinth had not been fully abandoned, simply modified.

Robin A. Brace, 2007.