*Minor differences ignored. Grouped by changes, with first version listed as example.
Knowing therefore. He now returns to speak of himself, or he again applies the general doctrine to himself personally. "I am not ignorant," says he, "nor devoid of the fear of God, which ought to reign in the hearts of all the pious." To know the terror of the Lord, then, is to be influenced by this consideration -- that an account must one day be rendered before the judgment-seat of Christ; for the man who seriously considers this must of necessity be touched with fear, and shake off all negligence.  He declares, therefore, that he discharges his apostleship faithfully and with a pure conscience, (2-Timothy 1:3,) as one that walks in the fear of the Lord, (Acts 9:31,) thinking of the account to be rendered by him. As, however, his enemies might object: "You extol yourself, it is true, in magnificent terms, but who is there that sees what you affirm?" He says, in reply to this, that he discharges indeed the work of a teacher in the sight of men, but that it is known to God with what sincerity of mind he acts. "As my mouth speaks to men, so does my heart to God." And I trust This is a kind of correction of what he had said, for he now boasts that he has not merely God as the witness of his integrity, but also the Corinthians themselves, to whom he had given proof of himself. Two things, therefore, are to be observed here: in the first place, that it is not enough that an individual conducts himself honorably and assiduously  among men, if his heart is not right in the sight of God, (Acts 8:21;) and secondly, that boasting is vain, where evidence of the reality itself is wanting. For none are more bold in arrogating everything to themselves, than those that have nothing. Let, therefore, the man who would have credit given him, bring forward such works as may afford confirmation to his statements. To be made manifest in their consciences is more than to be known by proofs; for conscience reaches farther than carnal judgment.
1 - "Tout mespris et toute nonchalance;" -- "All contempt and all carelessness."
2 - "Vertueusement;" -- "Virtuously."
Knowing therefore - We who are apostles, and who are appointed to preach the gospel, having the fullest assurance of the terrors of the day of judgment, and of the wrath of God, endeavor to persuade people to be prepared to meet Him, and to give up their account.
The terror of the Lord - This is, of the Lord Jesus, who will be seated on the throne of judgment, and who will decide the destiny of all people, 2-Corinthians 5:10; compare Matt. 25. The sense is, knowing how much the Lord is to be feared; what an object of terror and alarm it will be to stand at the judgment-seat; how fearful and awful will be the consequences of the trial of that day. The Lord Jesus will be an object of terror and alarm, or it will be a subject inspiring terror and alarm to stand there on that day, because:
(1) He has all power, and is appointed to execute judgment;
(2) Because all must there give a strict and impartial account of all that they have done;
(3) Because the wrath of God will be shown in the condemnation of the guilty.
It will be a day of awful wailing and alarm when all the living and the dead shall be arraigned on trial with reference to their eternal destiny; and when countless hosts of the guilty and impenitent shall be thrust down to an eternal hell. Who can describe the amazing terror of the scene? Who can fancy the horrors of the hosts of the guilty and the wretched who shall then hear that their doom is to be fixed forever in a world of unspeakable woe? The influence of the knowledge of the terror of the Lord on the mind of the apostle seems to have been two-fold; first, an apprehension of it as a personal concern, and a desire to escape it, which led him to constant self-denial and toil; and secondly, a desire to save others from being overwhelmed in the wrath of that dreadful day.
We persuade men - We endeavor to persuade them to flee from the wrath to come; to be prepared to stand before the judgment-seat, and to be suited to enter into heaven. Observe here the uniqueness of the statement. It is not, we drive people; or we endeavor to alarm people; or we frighten people; or we appeal merely to their fears, but it is, we persuade people, we endeavor to induce them by all the arts of persuasion and argument to flee from the wrath to come. The future judgment, and the scenes of future woe, are not proper topics for mere declamation. To declaim constantly on hell-fire and perdition; to appeal merely to the fears of people, is not the way in which Paul and the Saviour preached the gospel. The knowledge that there would be a judgment, and that the wicked would be sent to hell, was a powerful motive for Paul to endeavor to "persuade" people to escape from wrath, and was a motive for the Saviour to weep over Jerusalem, and to lament its folly, and its doom; Luke 19:41. But they who fill their sermons with the denunciations of wrath; who dwell on the words "hell" and "damnation," for the purpose of rhetoric or declamation, to round a period, or merely to excite alarm; and who "deal damnation around the land" as if they rejoiced that people were to be condemned, and in a tone and manner as if they would be pleased to execute it, have yet to learn the true nature of the way to win people to God, and the proper effect of those awful truths on the mind. The true effect is, to produce tenderness, deep feeling, and love; to prompt to the language of persuasion and of tender entreaty; to lead people to weep over dying sinners rather than to denounce them; to pray to God to have mercy on them rather than to use the language of severity, or to assume tones as if they would be pleased to execute the awful wrath of God.
But we are made manifest unto God - The meaning of this is, probably, that God sees that we are sincere and upright in our aims and purposes. He is acquainted with our hearts. All our motives are known to him, and he sees that it is our aim to promote his glory, and to save the souls of people. This is probably said to counteract the charge which might have been brought against him by some of the disaffected in Corinth, that he was influenced by improper motives and aims. To meet this, Paul says, that God knew that he was endeavoring to save souls, and that he was actuated by a sincere desire to rescue them from the impending terrors of the day of judgment.
And I trust also - And I trust also you are convinced of our integrity and uprightness of aim. The same sentiment is expressed in other words in 2-Corinthians 4:2. It is an appeal which he makes to them, and the expression of an earnest and confident assurance that they knew and felt that his aim was upright, and his purpose sincere.
Knowing therefore the terror of the Lord - This, I think, is too harsh a translation of ειδοτες ουν τον φοβον του Κυριου, which should be rendered, knowing therefore the fear of the Lord; which, strange as it may at first appear, often signifies the worship of the Lord, or that religious reverence which we owe to him; Acts 9:31; Romans 3:18; Romans 13:7; 1-Peter 1:17; 1-Peter 2:18; 1-Peter 3:2. As we know therefore what God requires of man, because we are favored with his own revelation, we persuade men to become Christians, and to labor to be acceptable to him, because they must all stand before the judgment seat; and if they receive not the grace of the Gospel here, they must there give up their accounts with sorrow and not with joy. In short, a man who is not saved from his sin in this life, will be separated from God and the glory of his power in the world to come. This is a powerful motive to persuade men to accept the salvation provided for them by Christ Jesus. The fear of God is the beginning of wisdom; the terror of God confounds and overpowers the soul. We lead men to God through his fear and love, and with the fear of God the love of God is ever consistent; but where the terror of the Lord reigns there can neither be fear, faith, nor love; nay, nor hope either. Men who vindicate their constant declamations on hell and perdition by quoting this text, know little of its meaning; and, what is worse, seem to know but little of the nature of man, and perhaps less of the spirit of the Gospel of Christ. Let them go and learn a lesson from Christ, sweeping over Jerusalem: "O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, how oft would I have gathered you together, as a hen would her brood under her wings!" And another from his last words on the cross, "Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do!"
But we are made manifest unto God - God, who searches the heart, knows that we are upright in our endeavors to please him; and because we are fully persuaded of the reality of eternal things, therefore we are fully in earnest to get sinners converted to him.
Manifest in your consciences - We have reason to believe that you have had such proof of our integrity and disinterestedness, that your consciences must acquit us of every unworthy motive, and of every sinister view.
(5) Knowing therefore the (i) terror of the Lord, we persuade men; but we are made manifest unto God; and I trust also are made manifest in your consciences.
(5) Now he moves on, and taking occasion of the former sentence returns to (2-Corinthians 4:16), confirming his own and his associates sincerity.
(i) That terrible judgment.
Knowing therefore the terror of the Lord,.... Or the fear of the Lord; by which is meant either the grace of the fear of the Lord, implanted in the hearts of the apostles, and in which they acted in their ministry, faithfully dispensing to men the mysteries of grace; from which they could by no means be moved, because the fear of God was before their eyes, and upon their hearts; or rather the terror of the Lord in the last judgment, which will be very great, considering the awfulness of the summons, arise ye dead, and come to judgment; the appearance of the Judge, which will be sudden, surprising, and glorious; the placing of the thrones, the opening of the books, the position of the wicked, the dreadful sentence pronounced on them, and the immediate execution of it; all which the ministers of the word know from the Scriptures of truth; they know the Judge, that there will be a general judgment, and that the day is fixed for it, though they know not the exact time: and therefore
persuade men; not that their state is good because of a little outside morality, nor to make their peace with God, or get an interest in Christ, or to convert themselves, neither of which are in the power of men to do; but they endeavour to persuade them by the best arguments they are masters of, taken from the word of God, and their own experience, that they are in a dangerous state and condition, walking in a way that leads to destruction; that they are liable to the curses of the law, the wrath of God, and everlasting ruin; that present duties of religion will not make amends for past sins, nor can their tears atone for their crimes, or any works of righteousness done by them justify them before God; and that salvation is only by Christ, who is both able and willing to save the chief of sinners: and they endeavour to persuade and encourage poor sensible sinners to venture on Christ, and believe in him to the saving of their souls. So the Arabic version reads it, "we persuade men to believe"; though when they have done all they can, these persuasions of theirs are ineffectual, without the powerful and efficacious grace of the Spirit of God; however, in so doing they discharge a good conscience, and act the faithful part to God and men:
but we are made manifest unto God; who searches the heart, and tries the reins, who knows all actions, and the secret springs of them; to him the sincerity of our hearts, and the integrity of our conduct, are fully manifest; we can appeal to him that it is his glory, and the good of souls, we have in view in all our ministrations:
and I trust also are made manifest in your consciences; that you also can bear witness to our faithfulness and honesty, to the unwearied pains we have taken, and the hearty concern we have shown for the welfare of the souls of men. One of Stephens's copies reads, "and we trust"; which agrees with the apostle's speaking in the first person plural in this, and the preceding verses.
terror of the Lord--the coming judgment, so full of terrors to unbelievers [ESTIUS]. ELLICOTT and ALFORD, after GROTIUS and BENGEL, translate, "The fear of the Lord" (2-Corinthians 7:1; Ecclesiastes 12:13; Acts 9:31; Romans 3:18; Ephesians 5:21).
persuade--Ministers should use the terrors of the Lord to persuade men, not to rouse their enmity (Jde 1:23). BENGEL, ESTIUS, and ALFORD explain: "Persuade men" (by our whole lives, 2-Corinthians 5:13), namely, of our integrity as ministers. But this would have been expressed after "persuade," had it been the sense. The connection seems as follows: He had been accused of seeking to please and win men, he therefore says (compare Galatians 1:10), "It is as knowing the terror (or fear) of the Lord that we persuade men; but (whether men who hear our preaching recognize our sincerity or not) we are made manifest unto God as acting on such motives (2-Corinthians 4:2); and I trust also in your consciences." Those so "manifested" need have no "terror" as to their being "manifested (English Version, 'appear') before the judgment-seat" (2-Corinthians 5:10).
Knowing therefore the terror of the Lord, we the more earnestly persuade men to seek his favour; and as God knoweth this, so, I trust, ye know it in your own consciences.
*More commentary available at chapter level.