2 Corinthians 1:9
Indeed, we felt we were under the sentence of death, in order that we would not trust in ourselves, but in God, who raises the dead.
The Sentence of Death in OurselvesD. Fraser 2 Corinthians 1:9
Thanksgiving in the Midst of TribulationC. Lipscomb 2 Corinthians 1:3-11
A Great DeliveranceThomas Horton, D. D.2 Corinthians 1:6-11
Death a SentenceHomilist2 Corinthians 1:6-11
God's DeliverancesR. Sibbes, D. D.2 Corinthians 1:6-11
Personal SufferingsD. Thomas, D. D.2 Corinthians 1:6-11
Sentence of Death, the Death of Self-TrustC. H. Spurgeon.2 Corinthians 1:6-11
The Peculiar Afflictions of God's PeopleR. Sibbes, D. D.2 Corinthians 1:6-11
The TensesC. H. Spurgeon.2 Corinthians 1:6-11
In the Depths and Out of ThemE. Hurndall 2 Corinthians 1:8-11
The Sanctifying Influence of Nearness to DeathR. Tuck 2 Corinthians 1:8-11

St. Paul had just recovered from a depression of spirit under which his frame, never very robust, had been bowed down almost to the grave. He was no Stoic. No spiritual man is. Regenerate life brings quickened sensibility. The new heart is both deep and rapid in its appreciations, and feels intensely both joy and sorrow. St. Paul had not lost faith or comfort in his distress. Tie trusted in the living and life-giving God. All spiritual men find that faith thrives when they have to endure hardness. If they occupy places of ease or walk on sunny heights, they look down into the sorrows of life and call them dark and dismal. But when their path lies through the valley on which death shadows fall, they lift their eyes to the hills whence help comes. The hills are near and strong, and the sky above reveals its golden stars. It is in houses of comfort that we often find doubt and discontent; but Divine serenity floats over the tried saints, and the secret prayers of God's stricken ones have the sweetest tones of hope. The reason of this is not obscure. If your chamber is full of light by night, and you look out through the window, you discern little or nothing - all is dark. But if your chamber be in darkness, and you look forth, you see the moon and stars ruling the night, the trees standing as solemn sentinels in the valley, and the mountain casting a broad shadow on the sea. So, when you have worldly ease and pleasure, heavenly things are very dim to you. But, when the world is darkened, heaven brightens, and you trust in God who raises the dead. There is a heathen conception of death which makes all vigorous limb shrink and recoil. Tim dead are thought to go away into a mournful stillness, or move through the air and haunt lonely places, as pallid shades or ghosts. There is also a Hebrew conception of death which sufficed in the time of the Old Testament, but falls quite short of what is now brought to light by the gospel (see Psalm 115:17; Isaiah 38:18, 19). But Christ has delivered from the fear of death. Every believer in Christ may enter into the consolation of St. Paul. If he is in sickness and has a sentence of death in himself, or sees that sentence written on the wan countenance of one whom he loves, he is not without a strong solace. It is not the mere philosophical tenet of the immortality of the soul, which implies an endless being, but by no means attains to the Christian doctrine of eternal life. It is faith in God who raises the dead. Father Abraham had this comfort when he strode up the hill, with the knife to slay and the fire to consume in sacrifice his dear son, "accounting that God was able to raise him up even from the dead; from whence also he received him in a figure." We read of certain Hebrew women who through faith "received their dead brought to life again." We remember one instance in the ministry of Elijah, and another in that of Elisha. In those times it was an object to live long in the land which Jehovah God had given to his people; and so it was a blessed resurrection to be restored so as to prolong one's days on the earth. In the beginning of the gospel a few such cases are reported. We allude to the ruler's daughter, the widow's son, Lazarus, and Tabitha or Dorcas. But the gospel being fully unfolded, and the hope laid up in heaven made known, there are no more instances of restoration to mortal life. To depart out of the world and be with Christ is far better than to remain in it. So the resurrection for which we wait is that of the just at the appearing of Jesus Christ. When we believe in God who raises the dead, the first and chief reference is to his having raised up the slain Jesus (see Romans 4:24; Romans 10:9; 1 Corinthians 15:15). This is in the very heart of the gospel, and this carries with it the sure and certain dickhead hope of the resurrection of" the dead in Christ." "God hath both raised up the Lord, and will also raise up us by his own power." The sentence of death which St. Paul had felt was not executed till years had passed; but it was well to be forearmed. Ere long, warned or unwarned, we all must endure death, if the Lord tarry. And before we die we may have to see the sentence carried out in others whom we love and for whom we must go mourning. There is no help in facing death but that which comes of faith; there is no comfort in regard to those who have endured it but in the belief that they are already with God, "breathers of an ampler day," and in the hope that he will raise them up complete and glorious at his coming. - F.

And whether we be afflicted... or whether we be comforted, it is for your consolation and salvation.



IV. THEIR EXPERIENCE OFTEN PROVES A BLESSING TO THE SUFFERER. They seem to have done two things for Paul —

1. To have transferred his trust in himself to God (ver. 9).

2. To have awakened the prayers of others on his behalf (ver. 11).

(D. Thomas, D. D.)


1. To try what mettle they are made of. Light afflictions will not try them thoroughly, great ones will. What we are in great afflictions, we are indeed.

2. To try the sincerity of our estate, to make us known to the world and known to ourselves. A man knows not what a deal of looseness he hath in his heart, and what a deal of falseness, till we come to extremity.

3. To set an edge upon our desires and our prayers (Psalm 130:1).

4. To exercise our faith and patience.

5. To perfect the work of mortification.

6. To prepare us for greater blessings. Humility doth empty the soul, and crosses do breed humility. The emptiness of the soul fits it for receipt. Why doth the husbandman rend his ground with the plough? Is it because he hath an ill mind to the ground? No. He means to sow good seed there, and he will not plough a whir longer than may serve to prepare the ground (Isaiah 28:24). So likewise the goldsmith, the best metal that he hath, he tempers it, he labours to consume the dross of it, and the longer it is in the fire the more pure it comes forth.

7. That we might set a price upon the comforts when they come.

8. Learn, then —(1) Not to pass a harsh, rigid censure upon ourselves or others for any great affliction or abasement in this world.(2) Not to build overmuch confidence on earthly things.

II. AS GOD'S CHILDREN ARE BROUGHT TO THIS ESTATE, SO THEY ARE SENSIBLE OF IT. They are flesh and not steel (Job 6:12). They are men and not stones. They are Christians and not Stoics.

III. WE MAY TRIUMPH OVER DEATH BY FAITH AND GRACE. That we may not fear death overmuch, let us look upon it in the glass of the gospel as it is now in Christ, and meditate on the two terms, from whence and whither. What a blessed change it is if we be in Christ!

(R. Sibbes, D. D.)


Death a sentence: — Death is —


1. Universal.

2. Just.

3. Irrevocable.

II. As a sentence IN MAN. "We have the sentence of death in ourselves."

1. The sentence of death is in man's body. It is born with him, and it continues to work within until the organisation falls back to its original dust. "The moment we begin to live we all begin to die."

2. The sentence of death is in man's mind. There it dwells as a dark thought spreading a gloom over the whole of his life. It haunts the memory, it terrifies the conscience. It is in us, we cannot get rid of it. No science can expel it from the body, no reason can argue it from the soul.

III. As a sentence in man for USEFUL ENDS. What are the spiritual uses it is designed to answer?

1. Nontrust in self. "Not trust in ourselves." There is a self-reliance that is a duty. But there is a self-confidence that is sinful and ruinous. Now the sentence of death tends to check this. It makes man feel his frailty. Thank God for death, it keeps down the arrogant spirit of humanity.

2. Devout trust in God. "But in God that raiseth the dead." Man's well-being is essentially dependent upon trust in God.


1. We are justified in speaking about our own experience when it will be for the benefit of others. Especially is this the case with leaders in the Church such as Paul. As to our own experience of trial and delivering mercy, it is sent for our good, and we should endeavour to profit to the utmost by it; but it was never intended that it should end with our private benefit. We are bound to comfort others by the comfort wherewith the Lord hath comforted us.

2. The particular experience of which Paul speaks was a certain trial, or probably series of trials, which he endured in Asia. You know how he was stoned at Lystra, and how he was followed by his malicious countrymen from town to town. You recollect the uproar at Ephesus, and the constant danger to which Paul was exposed from perils of all kinds; but he appears to have been suffering at the same time grievous sickness of body, and the whole together caused very deep depression of mind. His tribulations abounded.Note —

I. THE DISEASE — the tendency to trust in ourselves is —

1. One to which all men are liable, for even Paul was in danger of it. Where a sharp preventive is used it is clear that a strong liability exists. I should have thought that Paul was the last man to be in this danger. Self-confidence he is always disclaiming. He looks upon his own righteousness as dross, and "By the grace of God," saith he, "I am what I am." It is plain, then, that no clearness of knowledge, no purity of intent, and no depth of experience can altogether kill the propensity to self-reliance.

2. Evil in all men, since it was evil in an apostle. Paul speaks of it as a fault which God in mercy prevented. At first sight it seems that there was somewhat in him whereof he might glory. What folly would be ours, then, if we became self-sufficient! If a lion's strength be insufficient, what can the dogs do? If the oak trembles, how can the brambles boast?

3. Highly injurious, since God Himself interposed to prevent His servant from falling into it by sending a great trouble. Depend upon it, He is doing the same for us, since we have even greater need. Anything is better than vain-glory and self-esteem.

4. Very hard to cure; for to prevent it in Paul it was necessary for the Great Physician to go the length of making him feel the sentence of death in himself.

II. THE TREATMENT. "We had the sentence of death in ourselves," which means that —

1. He seemed to hear the verdict of death passed upon him by the conditions which surrounded him. So continually hounded by his malicious countrymen, etc., he felt certain that one day or other they would compass his destruction. The original conveys the idea, not only of a verdict from without, but of an answer of assent from within, a sort of presentiment that he was soon to die. And yet it was not so: he survived all the designs of the foe. We often feel a thousand deaths in fearing one. Into a low state of spirit was Paul brought, and this prevented his trusting in himself. The man who feels that he is about to die is no longer able to trust in himself. What earthly thing can help us when we are about to die? Paul felt as every dying Christian must, that he must commit his spirit unto Christ and watch for His appearing.

2. The sentence of death which he heard outside wrought within his soul a sense of entire helplessness. He was striving to fight for the kingdom of Christ, but he saw that he must be baffled if he had nothing to rely upon but himself. Paul's mind was so struck with death within himself that he could not stem the torrent, and would have drifted to despair had he not given himself up into the hands of grace Divine.

III. THE CURE. It was sharp medicine, but it worked well with Paul.

1. He argued, If I die, what matters it? God can raise me from the dead. "I know that my Redeemer liveth."

2. He inferred, also, that if God could raise him from the dead He could preserve him from a violent death. Immortal is every believer till his work is done.

3. He argued yet further that if God can raise the dead He could take his fainting powers, over which the sentence of death has passed, and He could use them for His own purposes.

(C. H. Spurgeon.)

Who delivered us from so great a death
1. God hath a time, as for all things, so for our deliverance.

2. God's time is the best time. He is the best discerner of opportunities.

3. This shall be when He hath wrought His work upon our souls, specially when He hath made us trust in Him. As here, when Paul had learned to trust in God, then He delivered him.

(R. Sibbes, D. D.)

First, we have here the terms of the deliverance, or the thing delivered from — "so great a death." For the evil itself — "death," and for the aggravation of it — "a great death." , together with some others, gives it in the plural number, so great deaths. And, indeed, there are more deaths than one which God does undertake to deliver His servants from, and from which He delivered St. Paul and his companions. First, from spiritual death, the death of sin; that is a very great death, not only as exposing to wrath and future condemnation, but likewise as disabling to the actions of grace and holiness, depriving us of that life of God which should be in us (Ephesians 4:18). And this death of sin is to be numbered among great deaths, and the deliverance from it reckoned among great deliverances. Secondly, eternal death, the death of wrath and condemnation, that is another great death also, and such as follows likewise upon the former without recovery from it. The third, and that which is here particularly aimed at, is temporal death, which is the least death of all. The greater aggravations we may take in these following particulars. First, from the nature and kind of it, a violent death, not a natural. This is a great death, and so consequently a great mercy to be delivered from it, to be kept from accidents. As for wicked men, it is threatened as a judgment upon them that a tempest shall steal them away (Job 27:20). The second is, from the quality and manner of it, a painful death, not a gentle and easy. Death is unpleasing in itself; but when to this we shall add pain and torture, this makes it to be so much the more. This was that which the many of godly martyrs endured (Hebrews 11:35). Thirdly, take in another from the coming and proceeding of it — a sudden death and not an expected. Fourthly, from the time and season of it, when it is an hastened death, not a mature one (Ecclesiastes 7:17; Psalm 4:23). It is said of bloody and deceitful men that they shall not live out half their days; for men not to live out half their days is reckoned in the catalogue of great deaths. Fifthly, the greatness of death has an aggravation of it from its latitude and extent. That is a great death which devours multitudes at once. And then what kind of "us" were they? Take in, secondly, the quality of persons, such as were especially useful — an apostle and the ministers of Christ; for these to be delivered from death, it was to be delivered from a great death. The death of none is to be slighted, though never so mean; but the death of men who are eminent for their gifts and graces is much to be set by. Sixthly, a great death in regard of the proximity and nearness of the evil itself. It was, as it were, at the very next door. A great death, that is, indeed, a great danger, so some read the words. Lastly, a great death also in regard of the apprehensions of those which were in danger of it. That which is great in our thoughts, to us it is great. And so was this here to the Apostle Paul and his company, as we may see in the verse before the text, "We had the sentence of death in ourselves," that is, we gave ourselves for dead men. So great a death! Here is now the nature of thankfulness, to extend the mercies of God, and to make them as great as may be. The second particular is the preservation or deliverance itself, "And doth deliver," etc. And here again take notice of two things more. First, for the thing itself; this is that which we may here observe how ready God is to deliver His people from death, and from great death (Psalm 57:13; 116:8; 118:18). And so in like manner other of the saints. There are many gracious promises to this purpose, as Job 5:20, "He shall redeem thy soul from death." First, out of pity and compassion towards them. Look how much sweetness there is in life, so much mercy in preservation from death. Secondly, He has work for them to do, and some service which He requires from them. When we put ourselves out of service we put ourselves out of protection. When we lay ourselves aside as to our work, we do in a manner hasten our end, and ring our own passing bell. Thirdly, God does further delight to frustrate the attempts of enemies, and those that conspire the death of His servants, and for this cause will deliver them from it. We may in the second place look upon it in the reflection, as coming from the apostle, God had delivered him, and he did not now let it pass without notice. This is a duty, to take notice of those deliverances which God at any time has vouchsafed unto us. Thankfulness is the least which we can return upon God for deliverance. That God has delivered us, and from a great death. First, for the person delivering, it was God. Secondly, for the persons delivered, we may add also "us," it is we which are delivered. The deliverance of others has cause for joy. But when ourselves are interested in any deliverance, this should more work upon us. Thirdly, for the terms also of deliverance, "so great a death," so great as it is hard to declare how great it was. The second now follows, and that is the signification of a deliverance present, in these words, "And doth deliver, He that hath delivered, does deliver." It is very fitly put in the present tense, and also indefinitely, because God is never out of this work of deliverance of us. This may be made good according to a twofold explication. First, God does still deliver so far forth as He does confirm and make good His former deliverance. God, when He delivers His people, but He still pursues them with His deliverance further. As there is preventing and antecedent grace, so there is following and subsequent grace. And as there is the grace of conversion, so there is likewise the grace of confirmation. Thus, for example, when God delivered the Israelites from the Egyptians at the Red Sea. What, did He only deliver them in that juncture of time? No, but even all the time after they did reap the fruit of that deliverance till they came to Canaan. Secondly, God does deliver, even after that He has delivered already. In renewing upon us the like mercies again, and in vouchsafing the same deliverances for kind as He has formerly done. So likewise for spiritual deliverances, God does deliver after deliverances. The efficacy of Christ's death is extended beyond the time of His sufferings to all following generations. The third and last is the prognostication of a deliverance to come, "In whom we trust also, that He will yet deliver us." We see this excellent gradation how the apostle proceeds from one thing to another, from time past to time present, and from time present to time to come. What we may observe from hence. That deliverances which are past are a very good ground for expecting of deliverances to come; or if ye will thus, God that has delivered hitherto He will likewise deliver again. This is the sweetest heavenly reasoning of the saints and servants of God, even to argue thus with themselves and to draw deductions of expectation from former experience. What God will do from what He has done, and that also upon weighty considerations. First, His ability and power. In men this is many times defective, so that we cannot so happily conclude of the one from the other, of future goodness from former, because their power and opportunity may be gone. And then further, here is an argument likewise from the greater to the less, He that has done the one He can do the other too; He that has delivered from so great a death He can much more deliver from a smaller danger. Secondly, there is in God a perpetuity of affection too. "It is of the Lord's mercy that we are not consumed, because His compassions fail not" (Lamentations 3:22). Thirdly, there is in God exactness and a desire to perfect His own work; now this He should not be able to do, if together with deliverances which are past He should not join deliverances to come. The improvement of it may be in a double way of application. First, for our own private and particular, we should learn from this present doctrine to treasure up unto ourselves ground of expectation of more from God in a way of deliverance and preservation, by considering what He has done for us heretofore in like exigencies. Thus the mariner or traveller by sea may reason, God has delivered me in such a storm and in such a tempest, I am now in the same lawful way and He will deliver me again. So likewise in the second place we may also carry it (as more pertinent to the occasion) to the Church and State in general, and reason so for that. He has delivered and does deliver, and we trust that He will yet deliver us. God does not do things all at once, but by time and degrees, He makes one thing a preparation to another, and a ground and argument for the expectation of it, and so as we may in a manner see His footsteps in it.

(Thomas Horton, D. D.)

The text —


1. Memory tells of deliverance in the past. From —

(1)Violent death.

(2)Our death in sin: "So great a death," indeed.

(3)Fierce despair when under conviction.

(4)Total overthrow when tempted by Satan.

(5)Faintness under daily tribulation.

(6)Destruction by slander and the like. The Lord has graciously delivered us hitherto. Let us express our gratitude.

2. Observation calls attention to present deliverance. By the good hand of the Lord we are at this time preserved from —

(1)Unseen dangers to life.

(2)The subtle assaults of Satan.

(3)The rampant errors of the times.

(4)Inbred sin and natural corruption.

(5)The sentence of death within, and the greater danger of self-trust (ver. 9).Our present standing is wholly due to the grace of God, and, trusting in that grace, we may indulge a happy confidence.

3. Expectation looks out of the window upon the future.(1) Faith rests alone in God, "in whom we trust," and through Him she looks for future deliverance.

(a)From all future common trials.

(b)From coming losses and afflictions, and from sicknesses, which may be coming upon us.

(c)From the infirmities and wants of age.

(d)From the peculiar glooms of death.(2) This expectation makes us march on with cheerfulness.

II. SUPPLIES THREE LINES OF ARGUMENT. That the Lord will preserve us to the end is most sure. We can say of Him, "In whom we trust that He will yet deliver us."

1. From the Lord's beginning to deliver we argue that He will yet deriver, for —(1) There was no reason in us for His beginning to love us. If His love arises out of His own nature it will continue.(2) He has obtained no fresh knowledge. He foreknew all our misbehaviours: hence there is no reason for casting us off.(3) The reason which moved Him at first is operating now, and none better can be required.

2. From the Lord's continuing to deliver we argue that He will yet deliver; for —

(1)His deliverances have been so many.

(2)They have displayed such wisdom and power.

(3)They have come to us when we have been so unworthy.

(4)They have continued in such an unbroken line. That we feel sure He will never leave nor forsake us.

3. From the Lord Himself — "In whom we trust": we argue that He will yet deliver; for —

(1)He is as loving and strong now as aforetime.

(2)He will be the same in the future.

(3)His purpose never changes, and it is to His glory to complete what He has begun.


1. That we shall always be so in danger as to need to be delivered; wherefore we are not high-minded, but fear.

2. Our constant need of God's own interposition. He alone has met our case in the past, and He only can meet it in the future; wherefore we would ever abide near our Lord.

3. That our whole life should be filled with the praise of God, who, for past, present, and future, is our Deliverer.

(C. H. Spurgeon.)

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